Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
THE AMERICAN George Clooney stars in this suspense drama as an American assassin in Europe who takes a break from death for awhile to embrace life in a rural Italian village with a gorgeous woman (Violante Placido)—until his past begins to catch up with him. Anton Corbijn (Control) directs. (R) 103 minutes. Starts Wednesday (September 1).
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED Reviewed this issue. (R) 100 minutes. (★★★1/2) Starts Friday.
THE LAST EXORCISM It’s The Exorcist meets The Blair Witch Project in this shoestring horror melodrama about an evangelical preacher (Patrick Fabian) who agrees to allow a documentary crew to film his attempt to exorcise a demon out of a possessed young woman (Ashley Bell). Daniel Stamm directs. (PG-13) 87 minutes. Starts Friday.
MAO’S LAST DANCER Reviewed this issue. (PG) 117 minutes. In English and subtitled Mandarin. (★★★) Starts Friday.
RESTREPO Co-directors Sebastian Junger (he wrote the non-fiction book, The Perfect Storm) and Tim Hetherington turn their documentary cameras on the soldiers on the ground, the “grunts” who do the heavy lifting and pay the steepest price in any war, at any time. Specifically, the film concerns a US Army platoon on a 15-month deployment who fight to establish an outpost in the volatile Korengal Valley in Afghnistan, and the daily struggle to defend it and each other from Taliban incursions. (R) 93 minutes. Starts Friday.
TAKERS Idris Elba, Paul Walker, and Chris Brown lead a gang of thieves planning the $20 million heit of a lifetime; Matt Dillon is the cop determined to stop them. Hayden Christiansen co-stars for director John Luessenhop. (PG-13) Starts Friday.
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CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAR On hiatus until September 17, 2010.
CONTINUING SERIES: WEEKEND MATINEE CLASSICS AT APTOS CINEMA If you’ve only ever seen them on TV, don’t miss this series of classic movie matinees unspooling each weekend at Aptos Cinema. This week: THE AWFUL TRUTH The inimitable Cary Grant and the vivacious and classy Irene Dunne star in this classic 1937 screwball comedy about a “perfect couple” whose marriage is disrupted by a little white lie. Leo McCarey (who also wrote the smart script) won an Oscar for his breezy direction. (Not rated) 91 minutes. (HHH) Lisa Jensen. (Sat-Sun matinee only, 11 a.m. Admission $6. At Aptos Cinema.
CONTINUING SERIES: FLASHBACK FEATURES Oldies and goodies on Thursday nights at the Cinema 9, presented by your genial host, Joe Ferrara. $5 gets you in. This week: BLAZING SADDLES. (R) 93 minutes. (★★★)
Lisa Jensen. Tonight (Thursday) only,
8 p.m., at the Cinema 9.
CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit www.ltatm.org.
ANTON CHEKHOV’S THE DUEL It’s all about ennui in this delicately rendered drama of morality and malaise, discontent and redemption. Shot in lovely Croatia with a mostly Irish/British cast, and directed by Russian Georgian-born Israeli filmmaker Dover Kosashvili, it captures to perfection the small-minded, all-consuming boredom of its protagonist—a feckless young aristocrat from St. Petersburg who’s run off to the seaside with another man’s wife. But once this premise is set up, it’s explicated tediously for another hour while nothing much happens. The narrative pulse is reactivated briefly in the plight of the ripe young mistress (Fiona Glasscott) who finds herself without male protection. But we wish Kosashvili had come up with a better way to convey boredom than asking the audience to sit through 95 enervating minutes that feel like days. (Not rated) 95 minutes. (★★) Lisa Jensen
CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE It’s fun, but here’s hoping this franchise doesn’t have nine lives. In this sequel, a feline secret agent hatches a plan to rule the world. (PG)
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS Oh, it’s so easy to see how this must have worked much better as a French comedy, which actually inspired it. Paul Rudd teams with Steve Carell who embraces his inner nerdball. The premise finds Rudd, who’s trying to work his way up in his company. He must impress his boss by attending the boss’ annual dinner party where “idiots” are made fun of. There are some surprisingly sweet moments here and some of the schtick in Schmucks works but, once again, Hollywood often lacks the depth and quirky nuances to pull of a redux that requires both ingredients. Jay Roach (Meet The Parents; Meet the Fockers) directs (PG-13) (★★1/2) Greg Archer
DESPICABLE ME It’s about the de-grinching of a befuddled criminal who uses an army of minions to thwart justice. Steve Carell voices the main character; Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, and Jermaine Clement are also on board. One of the more amusing animated features of the year. The film has heart and you can’t help be won over by its charm. (PG) 95 minutes. (★★★1/2) Greg Archer
EAT PRAY LOVE Julia Roberts, try as she might, cannot elevate Eat Pray Love to the heavenly place it so wants to reside at. Based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, the film stumbles mainly because co-writer director Ryan Murphy doesn’t evoke much believable emotion from Roberts.. Wait for Netflix. In the meantime, rent Under the Tuscan Sun, a better outing that tries to serve the same purpose. (★★) (PG-13) 140 minutes.
THE EXPENDABLES Sylvester Stallone directs himself (and every other action star they can still prop up behind an automatic weapon) in this shoot-em-up about skullduggery in South America when a group of mercenaries discover their mission to take down a ruthless dictator is fraught with complications. Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, and Bruce Willis join in the fun, with a special guest appearance with soon-to-be ex-gov Arnold Schwarzenegger. (R) 103 minutes.
THE EXTRA MAN Kevin Kline in a winning role here. He stars as a broke but “sophisticated” New Yorker who gets by as a paid escort for wealthy older widows. Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) somehow becomes his protege—it’s some of Dano’s best work. This gem of an offbeat comedy has some real heart. Look for a surprisingly good Katie Holmes in a costarring role. John C. Reilly and Cathy Moriarty also star. Based on the Jonathan Ames novel. (R) 105 minutes. (★★★) Greg Archer
FAREWELL As in his last film, Joyeux Noel, French filmmaker Christian Carion again adapts an amazing true story for the screen in this haunting, heartbreaking spy drama. In 1981, a disillusioned KGB agent (the wonderful Emir Kusturica), in search of a better life for his people, opens up discreet communications with a timid young French engineer (Guillaume Canet) in Moscow for the leaking of state secrets that will ultimately lead to the fall of the Soviet Union. Caught up in their spymasters’ web, finding commonality in French poetry, the rock group Queen, and hope for their children, the personal relationsip between these two very different men carries the story in a Cold War thriller brimming with suspense, wry humor, and melancholy. (Not rated) 113 minutes. In French with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
GET LOW Robert Duvall stages a cinematic love-feast for the profession he loves in this tall tale about an old backwoods, Depression-era hermit who decides to throw himself a “funeral party” while he’s still alive to participate. His gradually unfolding story provides a muted and involving setting for the rough-cut gem that is Duvall’s performance. He acts his heart out beneath his character’s taciturn façade, and if we catch him at it a bit too often, and other story elements don’t always add up, at least his entertaining performance is its own reward. Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek co-star for director Aaron Schneider. (PG-13) 100 minutes. (★★1/2)
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE Good news for fans of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: the two protagonists from that film (played by the same actors, the excellent Mikael Nyqvist and the incendiary Noomi Rapace) return in this sequel, the second Swedish film made from the Stieg Larsson trilogy. Incoming director Daniel Alfredson crafts a fleet, taut thriller from this “second act” book. (R) 129 minutes. In Swedish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2)
INCEPTION One of the best pictures of the year. Sublime, hypnotic and downright thought-provoking. Most of all, director Christopher Nolan (Memento; The Dark Knight). creates an intelligent sci-fi thriller that–imagine this—doesn’t play down to its audience. Leonardo DiCaprio is a master thief who steals corporate ideas from the dreams of his victims. (Somebody give this man an Oscar soon.) He’s hired by a corporate giant to commit the perfect crime—implanting an idea into the dream of an heir of a business foe..Take note: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Berenger deliver powerful turns here. Michael Caine co-stars. (PG-13) 150 minutes. (★★★★) Greg Archer
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Nic and Jules are a devoted, long-married couple raising their two kids in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Their family has its quirks, but the kids respect their parents, each other, and themselves. That this movie is NOT about the fact that Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple is just one of the things that make Lisa Cholodenko’s family comedy so fresh, fun, and appealing. A sublimely subtle Annette Bening and warm, disarming Julianne Moore star. Mark Ruffalo is great as the anonymous sperm donor “dad” who disrupts their family life. These kids may have two moms, but this perceptive tale of family dynamics should resonate with anyone who’s ever been a parent, a spouse, or a child. (R) 106 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
LIFE DURING WARTIME This new film from Todd Solondz purports to be a sequel of some sort to his 1998 drama, Happiness, except with an entirely different cast. Well, anyway, look for the minutiae of modern daily life to be dissected in great detail, in all its complexity, pathos, and weird humor. Ciaran Hinds stars; Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Lerner, and Paul Reubens pop up in the cast. (Not rated) 98 minutes.
LOTTERY TICKET When a guy in the projects finds out he holds the winning numbers in a $370 million lottery, he has to defend his ticket against rapacious friends, family, and neighbors over a three-day weekend before he can claim his prize. Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, and Keith David star in this urban comedy from director Erik White. (PG-13) 99 minutes.
NANNY McPHEE RETURNS Emma Thompson returns as the gnarly-looking, but magical nanny from Christianna Brand’s children’s book series; this time she comes to the aid of a young mother trying to cope with running the family farm, raising her own kids and their spoiled cousins while her husband is away at war. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes, and Maggie Smith co-star for director Susanna White. (PG) 109 minutes.
PIRANHA 3-D Director Aja Alejandre dives into this gore-spewing remake—in 3-D, natch—of the trashy 1978 horror thriller about prehistoric man-eating fish unleashed at a lakeside resort after a geological shift. Richard Dreyfuss, Elisabeth Shue, and Jerry O’Connell star. (R)
SALT A surprisingly fascinating thriller. It’s as if The Bourne Identity crawled under the covers with, well, Angelina Jolie. The temptress stars as a CIA agent wrongfully (or maybe not?) accused of being a Russian spy. There are many twists and turns here and Jolie is pitch perfect in a stellar role in a film that is captivating from beginning to end. And these days, there aren’t many movies that are capable of doing that. Directed by Phillip Noyce.(R) 99 minutes. (★★★) Greg Archer
SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD Michael Cera stars in this adaptation of the Bryan Lee O’Malley comic book series about a guy who has to cope with his new girlfriend’s seven ex-boyfriends. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, and Anna Kendrick co-star. Edgar Wright directs. (PG-13)
STEP UP 3-D The moves get even wilder in this third installment of the street-dancing saga, shot in Digital 3-D.. (PG-13)
THE SWITCH Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman star in this romantic comedy about a single woman who decides to get pregnant, her angsty best (male) buddy, and a mix-up at the sperm bank. Patrick Wilson plays the designated donor; Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis also co-star for directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck. (PG-13)
THE OTHER GUYS Trouble ensues for lowly NYPD precinct detectives Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg when they try to emulate their idols. But can the film rise above mediocrity? Not really. (PG-13) 107 minutes. (★★) Greg Archer
VAMPIRES SUCK Spoof-meisters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Scary Movie; Disaster Movie, etc.) try to horn in on the Twilight phenomenon in this parody of teen vampire movies. Matt Lanter, Jenn Proske and Chris Riggi star. (PG-13)