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Wrestler and F-5 emerge victorious, but you can shrug off Ayn

click to enlarge Fast Five
  • Fast Five

WIN WIN. Regular moviegoers know not to trust trailers. In addition to regularly including plot spoilers and often, especially for comedies, revealing the film's best lines, trailers can be significantly misleading. Such is the case with Win Win. From the trailer I saw too many times, I would have put this film down as a lightweight comedy. As it turns out, that is hardly the case with this fine film, although it has its share of comedic situations.

For one thing Paul Giamatti, as barely scraping by attorney Mike Flaherty, is playing to his strength, which means he is the very picture of despair and depression. His character has good reason for despair: His law practice is in the toilet, he's behind on paying the bills and the high school wrestling team he coaches on the side hasn't won a match in memory. His saving grace is his wife Jackie (the always excellent Amy Ryan) and their two young daughters, but even that seems tenuous.

But then he miraculously catches two breaks. Leo (Burt Young), a client he is representing, is declared incompetent and Mike gets appointed his guardian, which gets him a monthly check, and out of the blue Leo's teen grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer in his film debut) materializes, trying to escape his damaged mother back in Ohio. And, wouldn't you know it, he was a champion wrestler back there.

Thus, Mike has achieved what seems to be a guaranteed "win-win" situation. But Mike has already sown the seeds of destruction. He puts Leo in a rest home and doesn't inform the court, nor does he tell Kyle the real legal situation.

One would expect solid acting from veterans such as Giamatti and Ryan, but the real find here is the young Shaffer. Until an injury, Shaffer was himself a champion wrestler, a factor that brings realism to the wrestling matches; he also brings an unusual maturity to his role. This is a heartfelt, affecting, worthwhile film. Rated (bizarrely) R for language. 106m. At the Minor.

~ Charlie Myers

ATLAS SHRUGGED. It's difficult for me to articulate my feelings about this adaptation of Ayn Rand's monstrous turd of a novel without digressing into vehement curses and spitting and then eventually curling into the fetal position. I read the book years ago at the urging of a close friend who had become enamored of Rand's up-by-your-bootstraps pontificating. Needless to say, it didn't really work for me. I was continually frustrated by Rand's insistence on (thinly) disguising a half-baked sociopolitical treatise as a fictional narrative.

Apparently I am vastly outnumbered by fans of the book. And some of those fans have enough money and influence to produce and distribute a film adaptation that makes the ceaselessly hammering, pure capitalist diatribe of the source material seem delicate and nuanced.

To start with, the filmmakers have chosen to set the story in the very near future (2016), in case anybody in the audience doesn't understand where they're coming from. I'm halfway surprised they didn't insert a cartoon version of Barack Obama cackling under a hammer and sickle. But anyway... the gist is that the United States is on the verge of total economic collapse. Titans of industry, staunch, strong, good and true, keep disappearing. Whatever will become of us?

It would be futile and tedious to catalog the faults of the movie -- basically everything about it -- but the main failing is this: the acting and directing turn characters that already seem one-dimensional on the page into insultingly thin caricatures. The bad guys are all obvious: pale and twitchy and completely unredeemable. The good guys are Nietzschean super-people, the would-be gods who set the world in motion and keep it spinning, all while bearing its weight on their shoulders (like the title, get it?).

I fear that my criticism is only going to add another almost inaudible note to a screaming political debate. I should probably go back and address this specifically as a movie, rather than a polemic from an ideologue who I suspect would have nothing but contempt for my world view. Thing is, there isn't enough to it to build a critique. Rather than attempting any sort of adaptation, the filmmakers have undertaken a direct translation of the book to the extent that, despite being set in the future, almost every aspect of the production is drawn from the late '50s, including the costuming, set design, overwrought music, thoughtless visual style and editing, grandstanding dialog and McCarthyesque sensibility. 103m. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality. At the Broadway.

FAST FIVE. I can't begin to express the sublime, unmitigated relief of seeing a straight-up summer blockbuster done right after having the weight of Atlas Shrugged crush my spirit for two hours. I've been a fan of the Fast franchise since the first one. I felt then, as I do now, that this is what a B movie can/should be. Granted, the sequels have gotten progressively bigger, and the possibility of taking themselves too seriously looms large. But since Justin Lin took over directing duties for the third installment (Tokyo Drift), he's managed to sidestep that hazard. He's also consistently raised the bar on the visual style and action sequences.

One of the most entertaining aspects of Fast Five is that most of our favorite characters from the previous four installments are back, tearing it up on the streets of Rio and cracking wise. If you like movies about pretty people and fast cars, crammed with well-executed action sequences and exotic locations, you'll dig this. If none of those things appeal to you, well, you might prefer *Atlas Shrugged*. Then again, maybe not. 130m. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Fortuna and the Minor.

-- John J Bennett


THOR. High-end 3-D superhero actioner based on the Marvel comic, directed by Kenneth Branagh. Norse God of Thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth), exiled to Earth by pop Odin (Anthony Hopkins), meets scientist/love interest Jane (Natalie Portman). Meanwhile, trouble brewing in Asgard involving Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) escalates when Loki follows Thor to Earth. 130m. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence. Opening in 3-D at the Broadway and the Fortuna, in 2-D at Mill Creek and the Minor.

SOMETHING BORROWED. Rom-com based on Emily Giffin's bestseller stars Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) as successful lawyer and single gal Rachel, who's been in love with Dex (Colin Egglesfield) since law school. Trouble is, her self-centered best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson) is engaged to the dude. It's complicated. 103m. Rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, and some drug material. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.

JUMPING THE BROOM. Romantic comedy about a couple, Sabrina (Paula Patton) and Jason (Laz Alonso), who meet, fall in love and are to be married. A culture clash ensues when Jason's uptown family, led by matriarch Mrs. Taylor (Loretta Devine) get together for the wedding at the Martha's Vineyard home of Sabrina's downtown mom (Angela Bassett). 101m. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and language. Opening at the Broadway.

HUMBOLDT FILM FESTIVAL. The oldest student-run film fest still around is already underway with screenings all week in HSU's Van Duzer Theatre. The 44th annual fest takes a "Revolution" theme: "Films can change the way people look at the world," says festival co-director Jeff Cronise. Competition screenings begin Wednesday, May 4. with a program of experimental and animated films. Festival judge Kevin M. Kearney from Public Media Works gives a workshop at 3 p.m. that day. Thursday's Documentary Night is hosted by film exec Al Hayes, who also leads a Thursday workshop at 3. Friday it's Narrative Night with film director Jessica Mae Stover, who, again, has a 3 p.m. workshop. She also serves as host for the grand finale "Best of the Fest Night" on Saturday when awards will be announced. All events are at the JVD and are free to HSU students and $5 for non-students. For more on he judges and a list of films go to

OCEAN NIGHT FILM SCREENING. Doc duo: BUSTIN' DOWN THE DOOR tells the story of the dawn of professional surfing in Hawaii in the mid-'70s and the culture clash it caused. WEATHER THE STORM contrasts the environmental consequences of industrial "floating factories" with small-scale "artisanal fish harvesters." Guess which one's better. Thursday at Arcata Theatre Lounge sponsored by Surfrider, Baykeeper and Ocean Conservancy.

ME FACING LIFE: CYNTOIA'S STORY. PBS Independent Lens documentary about how a teenage girl ended up convicted of murder and sentenced to life in Tennessee Prison for Women. Shown for First Thursday Film Night at Morris Graves Museum of Art.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor star in a classic musical comedy directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen about the end of the silent era in Hollywood and the coming of talking pictures. Bring your umbrella. Sunday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.

SCI-FI PINT'N'PIZZA NIGHT. Two '70s films on the "apocalyptic conquest of Earth" theme: DOOMSDAY MACHINE has the planet destroyed by the Chinese after a U.S. space mission takes off with a mixed male/female crew. In END OF THE WORLD, a scientist and his wife discover an alien plot to destroy Earth because it's become a hotbed of disease. Wednesday, May 11, at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.

~ Bob Doran


AFRICAN CATS. Samuel L. Jackson narrates this family-friendly documentary about big cats on the savanna. Rated G. 89m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODERICK RULES. Mom and dad force the wimpy kid to bond with his brother and chief tormentor Roderick. Parents just don't understand. Rated PG. 100m. At Garberville.

HANNA. A young girl is trained by her father as the world's greatest assassin and then travels across Europe kicking ass. Rated PG-13. 111m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

HOODWINKED TOO! More CGI fairytale mashups! Rated PG. 85m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

PROM. The title of this film doubles as its synopsis. Rated PG. 103m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

RIO. A domesticated Macaw named Blu believes he is the last of his kind, until he hears there may be another Macaw in Rio de Janeiro. Vacation! Rated G. 99m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

SCREAM 4. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown on a book tour to pave the way for more of Wes Craven's onscreen gore and wisecracks. Rated R. At the Broadway and Mill Creek

SOUL SURFER. True story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark. Rated PG. 106m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson fall in love due to their compassion for a special circus elephant. Rated PG-13. 121m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

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