THE SITTER. If you're among the David Gordon Green faithful, and are therefore holding out some germ of hope that he'll make a return to the ruminative, atmospheric style of his early work (George Washington, All The Real Girls), you will likely be disappointed by The Sitter.
If instead you're the kind of person who might get a kick out of Adventures in Babysitting reimagined as a Jonah Hill vehicle, complete with oral sex, cocaine and exploding toilets, this might just be your lucky day.
Plot is fairly incidental to the proceedings; suffice it to say Hill plays Noah Griffith, a down-on-his-luck slacker who's too nice for his own good. To help out his struggling, lonely mom he agrees to babysit her friend's kids, a motley crew of emotional and behavioral problems. Eventually he ends up dragging the kids through Manhattan in the middle of the night at the behest of a girl who's stringing him along. They run afoul of an insane coke dealer, the cops and almost everybody else in the process.
The Sitter relies on Hill to carry it, and thanks to a script that plays to his comic strengths and a director willing to let him do his thing, he just about pulls it off. His brand of caustic sarcasm accented with flashes of childlike optimism has always entertained me, and this is an entirely suitable forum for it. Sam Rockwell is equally good as his foil, the weirdly huggy, psychopathic dealer with a penchant for surrounding himself with scantily clad bodybuilders and packaging his product in hand-painted dinosaur eggs. The child actors, especially Max Records (Where the Wild Things Are), also turn in convincing, layered performances.
I was pleasantly surprised at the number of laugh-out-loud moments in The Sitter, but even more so at the serious, honestly observed emotional stuff it pulls off. Without crossing over into "message movie" territory, we get some well-placed insights into childhood loss of innocence, parent-child relationships, the coarseness of contemporary media, the difficulty of burgeoning sexuality and the importance of self-respect.
But there are still exploding toilets and a 9-year-old girl in prostitot makeup singing along to 2 Live Crew, so don't say I didn't warn you. R. 81m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
-- John J. Bennett
NEW YEAR'S EVE. I truly don't know where to start. Layer upon layer of wretched film-making must be plied apart in order to sum up just how horrendously awful New Year's Eve is. I have a limited word count, so there is no possible way for me to expound on every fault and foible. Instead I'll have to home in on the vital flaws, pinpointing exactly why New Year's Eve is complete and absolute dreck.
Flaw No. 1 is the decision to make the film in the first place. In 2003, the UK film Love Actually captured the hearts of American filmgoers, and Hollywood directors and writers have been trying to imitate it ever since. These incessant American attempts always fall short in the charm and story departments.
New Year's Eve is screenwriter Katherine Fugate's second attempt at duplicating the allure and enchantment of Love Actually, her first being Valentine's Day (2010). It's hard to imagine something worse than Valentine's Day, but Fugate is obviously determined to keep churning out the crap until she runs out of holidays. (I'm anxiously awaiting her rendition of Passover or Yom Kippur.)
Abetted by director Garry Marshal, Fugate's formula consists of parading one recognizable actor or actress after another in the hopes that the audience won't notice the complete lack of interesting or original storylines. Just to show the ridiculousness of the film's demographic-grabbing approach I'll list a few: Ludacris, Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jon Bon Jovi, Robert De Niro, Zac Efron and Sofia Vergara. That's less than a quarter of the notable cast.
Fugate leaves no stereotypical stone unturned, as each storyline is more contrived and obvious than the last: lonely man on his deathbed, woman balancing career and love, unlikely couple trapped in an elevator, two pregnancies, overwhelmed single parents who find love in an unexpected place, and on and on and on. The entire film is inherently unoriginal and completely devoid of any evocation of empathy, laughter or even mild interest. Avoid it at all costs. PG13. 117m. At the Broadway, Minor, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
-- Devan King
YOUNG ADULT. Remember the Juno backlash? One month, everyone loved the adorably sardonic pregnant teen; the next, your finicky friends were complaining that the script was too precious, or whatever. Haters gonna hate, I suppose. But tattooed screenwriter/ex-stripper Diablo Cody has re-teamed with director Jason Reitman for this dark comedy, which follows a popular-bitch-turned-teen-lit-author (Charlize Theron) as she returns to her small hometown and preys on a happily married man. Co-starring my favorite stand-up comedian, Patton Oswalt. R. 93m. At the Minor.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS. It's been two years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's discerning detective was dragged with his sidekick, Watson, into the frenetic, slow-mo-explosion-filled world of director Guy Ritchie (Snatch). The imminently charismatic Robert Downey, Jr., returns as Holmes with Jude Law as Watson. This time out, the dapper duo must thwart a criminal mastermind, which, judging by the preview, requires a great deal of cross-dressing. PG13. 129m. At every theater but Garberville.
ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIP-WRECKED. If computer-generated rodents singing Lada Gaga on a cruise ship sounds like fun, then here you go. G. 87m. They'll infest the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE -- GHOST PROTOCOL. It's the fourth one; you'd think they might downgrade "impossible" to "very, very difficult." Animation master Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) takes the helm for the latest M:I, which finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his new team forced into going rogue by their corrupt superiors. PG13. 133m. Starts Tuesday, Dec. 20, at the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The late Stieg Larsson's bleak and violent crime novel (the first in an unfinished series) gets a big-budget American film adaptation courtesy of director David Fincher (The Social Network). Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) searches for a missing woman with help from a troubled and brilliant young computer hacker, who happens to be a sexy goth minx on a motorcycle (Rooney Mara). Meow. R. 158m. Starts Tuesday, Dec. 20, at the Broadway and Mill Creek.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN 3D. Steven Spielberg transforms the classic comic strip from Belgian artist Georges Rémis into a computer-generated, motion-capture adventure a la The Polar Express. The towheaded young reporter and his fox terrier sidekick get thrust into a world of high adventure, as often happens to reporters. PG. 107m. Starts Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
On Friday night, the Arcata Theatre Lounge brings in the Christmasy 1988 action blockbuster Die Hard, which launched Bruce Willis to superstardom. R. 8 p.m. And, hark! The following night they have maybe my favorite Christmas movie of all time, the foul-mouthed, alcohol-fueled Bad Santa, starring Billy Bob Thornton as the world's worst shopping mall Santa (and a pretty lousy thief, too) who somehow ends up with a misfit kid under his whiskey-swinging arm. R. 8 p.m. Sunday night the ATL will screen Drop Dead Fred, a truly odd little 1991 comedy in which a young divorced woman (Phoebe Cates) moves back to her childhood home and re-conjures her demented, imaginary childhood friend. PG13. 6 p.m. On Wednesday, Dec. 21, Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night takes a week off to make room for some classic Christmas claymation, including Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (1964) and A Year Without a Santa Claus (1974). All-ages. 6 p.m.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Another 3D, CG-animation family film, this one about the high-tech operation beneath the North Pole where Santa's dysfunctional family orchestrates the Christmas Eve present-delivery mission. PG. 100m. In 3D and 2D at the Broadway and Mill Creek.
HAPPY FEET TWO. Emperor penguins with famous voices dance to save the world from global warming. Go, penguins! PG. 103m. In 3D and 2D at the Broadway.
HUGO. Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed, 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret follows the adventures of an orphan boy living a secret life inside the walls of a 1930s Paris train station. PG. 127m. In 3D at the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
IMMORTALS. Armies of shirtless bodybuilders stab each other for the future of humanity while the Gods of Olympus, I dunno, nap or something. R. 110m. At the Broadway.
J. EDGAR. Leonardo DiCaprio and seven pounds of makeup star as the late, tortured FBI director. Directed by Clint Eastwood. R. 138m. At the Broadway.
JACK AND JILL. A feature-length parody of a bad Adam Sandler movie in which no one, including costar Al Pacino, realizes that it's a parody. PG. 91m. At the Broadway.
THE MUPPETS. It's time to start the music. It's time to light the lights. It's time to get nostalgic with a new Muppet delight. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
TOWER HEIST. Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy are avenging 99 percenters, and a Central Park skyscraper is America. Plus jokes. PG13. 105m. At the Broadway.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN, PART 1. Teen girl marries hunky vampire, gestates spawn of his undead seed. Meanwhile, jealous werewolf pal fumes. PG13. 118m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and Garberville.