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Vile Village 

Creeps rule in Haneke's White Ribbon


Opening Friday, March 26, is Hot Tub Time Machine. The title would seem to say it all, but if you need to know, the film is about four bored guys who are able to travel back to their glory days in the ’80s thanks to an unusual hot tub. I suppose you can get hangovers and piss on the bathroom floor in the ’80s as well as now. With John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and Clark Duke. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language. 98m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

From Dreamworks comes the animated adventure story How to Train Your Dragon, about a teen Viking, Hiccup, who wishes to be a dragon fighter like the other men in his village. However, he seems to be better at befriending dragons. Will he be able to change his village's attitude toward the creatures? Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language. 98m. At the Minor and Mill Creek.

Also, make sure to bring your shine box to the Arcata Theater Lounge this week for a showing of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas on Sunday, Mar. 28 at 6 p.m.


THE WHITE RIBBON: The White Ribbon, written and directed by Michael Haneke (The Piano Player; Caché), was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film this year. Although many Oscar prognosticators picked it to win, it lost to a film from Argentina. Since it is the only one of the nominated films I have seen, I can make no comparisons.

But in its own strange way, I found the film reminiscent of Blue Velvet. Both films are set in small rural communities where the seemingly peaceful surface conceals the evils that lurk beneath. Of course, fans of German director Haneke, who wrote the screenplay from his own story, will expect that things in his films are never what they seem. Caché demonstrated this quality very effectively, and its teasing final shot may give the viewer a hint about the deliberately deceptive narrative.

The final shot in The White Ribbon does the opposite. The film ends in the town's church, where the narrator's future father-in-law is visiting. The only discordant note is the announcement that Archduke Franz Ferdinand has been assassinated in Sarajevo. The events depicted in the story seem almost not to have happened, but at the same time nothing will ever be the same again.

Set in Germany just before WWI erupts, the film is narrated by the town teacher, depicted on-screen by Christian Friedel and in an older voice-over by Ernst Jacobi. The town is a patriarchy headed by the Baron (Ulrich Tukur), whose fields provide employment for farm workers, the Pastor (Burghart Klaußner) and the Doctor (Rainer Bock).

The women and the children are generally subjugated and abused. The Pastor harshly disciplines his children. The doctor is more interested in the midwife (Susanne Lothar) than his wife. The Baron is cold and dismissive to his own wife (Ursina Lardi), and fires his children's nanny Eva (Leonie Benesch) for no apparent reason. It's possible that the teacher, who romantically pursues Eva, may be the only decent adult in the film.

But when strange things start to happen, the first of which involves a rope stretched between trees that causes the doctor's horse to fall and results in the doctor's hospitalization, it may be that the school children are even more evil than the adults. But the viewer will never know for sure -- this is a Haneke film. Even the Teacher's voice-over may not be reliable.

Told with deliberate effectiveness, the story unfolds leisurely but with an increasingly gripping tension. The White Ribbon is a chillingly effective film. Rated R for some disturbing content involving violence and sexuality. 144m.

BROOKLYN'S FINEST: Since almost everyone has better taste than I do, no one reviewed this film while I was in Portland. Brooklyn's Finest is the latest example of the corrupt-city-cop-in-trouble genre. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) from a competent script by Michael C. Martin (a former NYC transit worker), the film is effective entertainment even if it follows a well-trod path.

As you would expect, this is a male universe. Women are represented as prostitutes, teen girls who are kidnapped for forced sex or, in the one significant exception, a hard-nosed ambitious federal agent (played effectively by Ellen Barkin).

The story follows three police officers who work in Brooklyn. Detective Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke) is desperate for more money so he can provide a new house for his wife (Lili Taylor) and growing family. This fact leads him to pocket money during drug busts. Eddie (Richard Gere) is due to retire in one week. His attitude toward being a cop is so lackadaisical that the rookie assigned to him requests a new partner after just one day. His sad life is a mixture of alcohol and visits to a prostitute. Tango (Don Cheadle) is a detective assigned to undercover drug work. His boss has promised him a promotion that never seems to come and he faces a dilemma when asked to rat out a good friend who happens to be a dealer.

There is no real moral ambiguity here -- it seems crystal clear that all three know they have crossed the line. Still, the film intermixes their stories effectively, and even if the viewer guesses which one will come out the best, it's a satisfying conclusion. The acting is solid all around. Rated R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language. 132m.

REPO MEN: Finally, a health reform plan that Republicans can enthusiastically support. In the near-future science fiction film Repo Men, a conglomerate called the Union has developed synthetic replacements for every part of the body so no one has to die or have a less-than-full life when an organ fails or is damaged in an accident.

Of course, the parts are a bit pricey -- the cheapest mentioned in the film is north of $600,000. But that's private enterprise when you have a monopoly. Anyway, the Union has a payment plan for everyone. The penalty for falling behind on payments is a little harsh, but, as one repo man notes, it's not rules that are most important, it's the enforcement of the rules that is paramount.

The enforcers that are the center of the film are Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker). They carry handheld devices that can identify organs in people who have lagged in their payments. Then, like a medical show on steroids, they use their scalpels to repossess the organs so they can be sold to other customers.

The plot takes a turn, though, when Remy himself is injured by a defective repo device and has to have a synthetic heart implanted. Remy is in for a tough time. His wife ditches him, he meets nightclub singer Beth (Alice Braga), most of whose body is artificial, and they both become the repo targets he used to hunt.

Repo Men seems to exist primarily to show graphic scalpel work. There's a twist at the end, but this is mostly a by-the-numbers exercise. Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity. 111m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.


ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's very public love affair takes a journey down the rabbit hole. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

AVATAR. Military forces attempt to control and exploit a planet and its people, which they know little about. Rated PG-13. 162m. At the Broadway.

BOUNTY HUNTER. A professional bounty hunter gets his dream assignment when he is called on to track down his bail-jumping ex-wife. Rated 111m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

THE CRAZIES. Something is infecting the citizens of Ogden Marsh with insanity. Bummer. Rated R. 101m. At the Broadway.

CRAZY HEART. Jeff "The Dude" Bridges won Oscar gold by playing a washed up country singer. Rated R. 112m. At the Broadway, Garberville and the Minor.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. A young boy in middle school deals with the horrors of adolescence. Based on the best-selling illustrated novel by Jeff Kinney. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

GREEN ZONE. Matt Damon searches Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. He doesn't find them. Rated R. 115m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

REMEMBER ME. Twilight-heart throb Robert Pattinson plays a rebellious youth. Get ready to swoon. Rated PG-13. 112m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

SHUTTER ISLAND. U.S. marshals investigate the disappearance of a criminally insane murderer on a remote island. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Rated R. 138m. At the Broadway.

SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE. Nerd is a TSA agent at the airport. Babe loses her phone in his line. Nerd helps babe get her phone back. Commence unlikely relationship. Rated R. 105m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

THE YOUNG VICTORIA. Dramatization of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria's rule. Rated PG. 105m. At the Minor.

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Charlie Myers

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