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Witch Kitsch 

While America abounds in good film, Humboldt is stuck with the latest Nick Cage snoozer

Previews

THE GREEN HORNET. Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Superbad, etc.) stars as The Green Hornet, a millionaire playboy turned crime fighter in a story (co-written by Rogen) loosely based on the old radio/TV serials. With sidekick Kato (Taiwanese musician/actor/superstar Jay Chou) the Hornet battles criminals including a powerful Russian mobster (Christoph Waltz). Rogen and director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) mix action with comedy and don't take it too seriously. In 3-D where available. 108m. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content. Opening at the Broadway and the Fortuna in 3-D, at Mill Creek and the Minor in 2-D.

THE DILEMMA. Comedy directed by Ron "Opie" Howard stars Vince Vaughn and Kevin James as Ronny and Nick, best friends and partners in some sort of automotive business. Ronny's dilemma comes from learning that Nick's wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), is slipping around with some tattooed dude. How much should he tell his buddy? 118m. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving sexual content. Opening at the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

THE KING'S SPEECH. A rather obscure story from British history, with Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist who worked with the king to overcome his stuttering. Guy Pearce plays George's brother, King Edward VIII (aka the Duke of Windsor); Helena Bonham Carter shows up as Queen Elizabeth. 111m. Rated R for some language. Opening at the Broadway.

Last Friday's screening of *The General *at the Arcata Playhouse was a sold-out affair. Turns out we received bad intel regarding the Saturday show at Ferndale Rep -- it's actually this coming Saturday (Jan. 15), not last. So, that's one more opportunity to see the Buster Keaton classic, with a soundtrack by Gregg Moore and played by Bandette. Showtime is 8 p.m.

Another screening in the Classic Movie Musicals series over at the Humboldt County Library Eureka branch next Tuesday: Next up: Singin' in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. While you probably only remember Kelly's iconic dancing in the rain scene, it's also a story about silent movie stars making the transition to talkies. Your host for the evening is Wynston Jones.

It's a Stanley Kubrick weekend at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, with his 1968 psychedelic sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey on Friday (script co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke). On Sunday, a menacing Jack Nicholson announces "Heere's Johnny!" in Kubrick's The Shining, based on Stephen King's horror novel. Jack plays Jack, a blocked writer who goes a bit crazy while wintering in a cold old hotel with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and creepily psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd). "Redrum!"

-- Bob Doran

Reviews

SEASON OF THE WITCH. Somewhere in the country promising films are showing, with titles such as Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole, Somewhere, The Illusionist and Another Year, to name a random few. So what opens in the movie backwater known as Humboldt County? The latest crap featuring -- inevitably, it seems -- go-to crap-film guy Nicolas Cage.

I wish I could say the film was laughably bad, but unfortunately it's just numbingly awful. I'll say one thing, though: Hollywood seems determined to make sure we never forget the Crusades, even if historians of the period may not recognize them as such.

Season of the Witch, which has been rotting on the vine since MGM bought the script idea in 2000, opens in the early 14th century as we watch three accused witches hanged and drowned on orders of a priest. Having established the fanaticism and general nastiness of the church, the scene shifts to a montage of battles that are supposed to depict the cruelty of the church and the growing disillusionment of at least two of the knights at what they regard as the senseless slaughter of women and children -- probably not what they signed on for.

The knights in question, Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman, with his trademark skeptical expression), break ranks, thus setting in motion the main narrative when the deserters wander into a town and agree to transport a young girl accused of being a witch (Claire Foy in her feature film debut) to a monastery to be tried. (Road trip!) As she is also accused of causing the outbreak of the black plague that is devastating the land, the outcome of the trial does not seem in question.

Nonetheless, the two knights set off in the company of The Girl, their putative guide (Stephen Graham), a fanatical but sincere priest (Stephen Campbell Moore), a knight whose family died of the plague (Ulrich Thomsen) and a young man who wishes to be a knight (Robert Sheehan). The astute viewer (who, I hope, will never see this film) will easily guess who survives to tell the tale, and as a trial is out of the question, since it would get in the way of what passes for action, the only vaguely interesting remaining question is what surprise awaits the members of the group who make it to the abbey.

Of the cast, only Foy holds any interest. She manages to make her dialog fit her character and actually produces a few genuine laughs (as opposed to unintended ones). As for Cage, I believe I have discovered his secret. Somewhere around 1997, when he was in Con Air and Face/Off, he discovered he didn't need to work so hard by actually acting, with all that bother of character development, invention, subtlety and the like, and he developed a program where he cloned himself. Now, he doesn't need to show up on the set: He sends an agent who tweaks the program to fit the latest knockoff film. There is a rumor, though, that he has to occasionally show up for a re-shoot. Remember, you heard it here first.

In the film's final scene, The Girl (okay, this may be a spoiler but I won't tell you her actual name) says something like, "In the future, I will tell this tale because I was there." Sadly, so was I. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content. 95m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.

-- Charlie Myers

Continuing

BLACK SWAN. Darren Aronofsky's latest features Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis competing for the top spot in the New York City ballet's production of Swan Lake. Sounds innocent enough, right? Rated R. 109m. At the Minor and Garberville.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. Prince Caspian, the Prevensies and the rest must save Narnia from unfathomable doom. Three down. Four to go. Rated PG. 115m. At Mill Creek.

THE FIGHTER. Marky Mark and Batman put aside sibling rivalry so they can train for an historic title bout. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS. A re-imagining of a classic tale. Jack Black finds himself as a giant among men in a foreign land in this giant flop. Rated PG. 87m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS PART I. The final chapter begins! If you can't wait for Part II, the script is available in book stores everywhere! Rated PG-13. At the Broadway.

HOW DO YOU KNOW. Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson battle for the affections of old, washed-up Reese Witherspoon. Rated PG-13. 121m. At the Broadway.

LITTLE FOCKERS. You met the parents. You met the Fockers. If you're still paying attention, here's some cute kids and more hijinks! Rated PG. 98m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

TANGLED. Disney checks the Rapunzel box off its "fairy tales to animate" list with its latest kid-seducing 3D computer generated release. Rated PG for brief, mild violence. 100m. At Garberville.

THE TOURIST. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie do Europe and get caught in a game of cat and mouse that you'll want to forget. Rated PG-13. 103m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

TRON: LEGACY. If you see one movie starring Jeff Bridges this holiday season ... uh, see below. Rated PG. 125m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

TRUE GRIT. The Dude conjures The Duke in the Coen Brother's latest outing. You decide who's Grittiest. Rated PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

YOGI BEAR. Mr. Ranger is not going to like this. And neither will you. Rated PG. 83m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

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Charlie Myers

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