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Woodstock Bildungsroman 

Plus: Gabrielle Chapin's stunning big-screen debut

click to enlarge Taking Woodstock
  • Taking Woodstock


Opening Friday, Sept. 4, Sandra Bullock stars as a crossword puzzle designer who has designs on newsman Steve (Bradley Cooper) after one blind date in All About Steve. Her growing obsession with Steve is encouraged by reporter Hartman (Thomas Hayden Church), for his own purposes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos. 98m. At the Broadway.

In the comedy Extract, Jason Bateman plays the owner of a firm that manufactures food extracts who has to face all sorts of crises, including a possible lawsuit from an injured employee, a frigid wife and a best friend (Ben Affleck) urging him to have an affair. Gosh. Rated R for language, sexual references and some drug use. 91m. At the Broadway.

Set in the near future, Gamer is a thriller with the concept that gaming has evolved into a sophisticated genre that lets people control other people. The latest? A game called Slayers. With Gerard Butler, Kyra Sedgwick and Alison Lohman. Rated R for frenetic sequences of strong brutal violence throughout, sexual content, nudity and language. 95m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Ponyo is an English language version of the Japanese animated film about a goldfish who wants to be human. Voiced by Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin and others. Rated G. 103m. At the Broadway.


HALLOWEEN II: According to Wikipedia, Rob Zombie originally passed on directing a sequel to his 2007 remake of the classic John Carpenter film because he believed he had no energy for another Halloween film. He should have listened to his feelings. Halloween II is so lame I was limping when I left the theatre. The film is a one-note bore that is completely lacking in horror film imagination.

As the film opens, we see Deborah Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie) in a flashback visiting her young son, Michael (Chase Vanek), in a sanitarium, where she gives him a white horse sculpture. Jumping ahead 15 years, we watch Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) shoot the adult Michael (Tyler Mane), apparently killing him. Taken to the hospital, Laurie is followed by a very alive Michael, who kills everyone in sight except Laurie. The rest of the film is one long bloodfest culminating in an obvious and largely telegraphed climactic scene.

On the surface, the film delivers what horror fans apparently can't get enough of: lots of graphic violence, liberal use of variations on "fuck," and gratuitous female nudity. But the problem here is that the film is almost completely lacking in horror or any sense of style. Instead, Michael stabs his victims the same way each time, with enough knife thrusts to reduce their bodies to mincemeat. As Dr. Loomis, who is exploitatively pushing his book about Michael, Malcolm McDowell is clearly phoning it in. He does have a plot purpose though: His book reveals that Laurie is actually Angel Myers, Michael's sister.

Of course, actual acting is an extra in horror filmland so I shouldn't complain about its lack. This film would not have been made had the first remake not done well at the box office, so I guess venality can explain Zombie's performance here. Either that or he's turned into his last name. Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, terror, disturbing graphic images, language, and some crude sexual content and nudity. 101m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

TAKING WOODSTOCK: Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock is an amiable and enjoyable fictional version of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Based on Elliot Tiber's memoir Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life, the accuracy of which has been challenged, Lee's film mostly sidelines the actual music played from the stage to focus on Elliot (Demetri Martin); his parents, Jake (Henry Goodman) and Sonia (Imelda Staunton); how the event came to be held near Bethel, N.Y.; the concert promoters; and a few of the hordes of people who attended the now famous event.

As such, the film is not that much of a departure from the themes Lee has dealt with in some of his previous films, particularly The Ice Storm. The main story centers on Elliot, who has returned to Bethel to save his parents' rundown motel. He also becomes president of the Chamber of Commerce and as such is able to pave the way for dairy farmer Max Yasgur (a likeable Eugene Levy) to lease his land for the concert.

Through split screen and montage editing, the viewer follows Elliot's interactions with his parents, with the promoters, the hostile town residents, Vietnam War vet and friend Billy (Emile Hirsch), the cross-dressing Vilma (an amusing Liev Schreiber), who provides security and a few concert-goers, two of whom introduce the uptight Elliot to acid.

At the core of the film, though, is a focus on a generation gap. The Bethel natives don't like or understand the "hippies" who invade their town (although they have no problem making a profit off them) and Elliot clearly has no idea what his mother, a Russian Jewish immigrant, went through in her youth. He just sees a nasty, controlling woman, and the scene where Elliot asks his father how he could live with her for 40 years is one of the film's more affecting moments.

Lee's mostly lighthearted film is consistently watchable and entertaining even if, like me, you never desired to attend Woodstock. Rated R for graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language. 110m. At the Broadway and Minor.

THE FINAL DESTINATION: Let's see. In the first Final Destination in 2000, a teen foresees his friends dying in a plane crash and saves them. They die off one by one anyway (que sera sera). In No. 2 in 2003, a young woman foresees a freeway crash and blocks the road, saving some people. Oh, wait -- they die off one by one anyway. In No. 3 (2006), a young woman has a premonition about a roller coaster accident involving her friends, so makes a commotion and once again ... This brings us, sadly, to No. 4, The Final Destination. "Sadly" not because it might be the end, but for the fact that it has exactly the same plot as the first three, down to the one obligatory topless sex scene.

Here, Nick O'Bannon (Bobby Campo) has a vision while at a car race that a terrible accident will kill a lot of people, including his friends. He awakes, recognizes the danger, and ... The film focuses primarily on Nick, his girlfriend Lore (Shantel Van Santen) and friends Hunt (Nick Zano) and Janet (Haley Webb), along with security guard George (Mykelti Williamson). The actors and the plot do what they have to in order to get to the end of the film, all in front of me and three other possibly confused viewers who meandered in some five minutes after the film started.

But I'd like to give particular notice to Gabrielle Chapin who, for her first film credit, is listed as "Girl on Top" (of Hunt). Perhaps she was more spectacular in the 3-D version, but no matter -- she gets another chance in the upcoming Dead of Night, where she's "Go Go Dancer." Don't miss it. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality. 82m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.


500 DAYS OF SUMMER. Tom is dumped by Summer, causing him to reflect on their 500 days together. Rated PG-13. 100m. At Broadway.

DISTRICT 9. What will humanity do with the aliens of South Africa? Rated R. 120m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

G-FORCE. Government-trained guinea pigs out to save the world. With the voices of Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. Rated PG. 90m. At the Movies.

G.I. JOE. Elite military squad kicks ass all over the world, with the aid of their super-suits. Rated PG-13. 120m. At Mill Creek and the Movies.

THE HANGOVER. Getting severely trashed with your bros at a Vegas-based bachelor party can have serious consequences, especially when no one remembers what happened. Rated R. 100m. At The Movies.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE. The Hogwarts boy wizard saga continues. Don't mess with Voldemort. Rated PG. 153m. At The Movies.

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS. The gang makes a rescue mission for Sid that takes them into a mysterious underground world where they have close encounters with dinos and generally run amuck. Rated PG. 87 m. At The Movies.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. A special unit of Jewish-American soldiers is sent behind enemy lines to spread shock and awe among German troops in Nazi-occupied France. 153m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

JULIE & JULIA. Two chicks for the price of a flick! N. Ephron intersperses Julia Child biopic with tale of bored 30-something New Yorker seeking inspiration. Rated PG-13. 123m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

POST GRAD. After graduating college, Ryden's best laid plans go awry, leading her back to her hometown and eccentric family. Rated PG-13 100m. At the Movies.

SHORTS. A rainbow colored rock falls from the sky that grants wishes. Uh-oh now spaceships are swarming the neighborhood. What's a kid to do? Rated PG. 100m. At Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. Clare continues to love Henry despite his genetic time traveling problem. With Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. 120m. At Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. Once again, Sam Witwicky finds himself in the middle of the war between the Autobots and the Decipticons with the fate of the universe at stake. Rated PG-13. 151m. At The Movies.

THE UGLY TRUTH. A romantically challenged morning show producer is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous tests by her chauvinistic correspondent to prove his theories on relationships and help her find love. Rated R. 97m. At The Movies.


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Charlie Myers

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