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A Coot in Love

Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson lift Last Chance Harvey

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Note: My Supporting Actress pick didn't pan out, so congratulations to Ryan Burns who bested me in our Oscar picks, which appeared last week in this column. Fortunately, my separate, friendly Oscar contest was more successful.

Previews

It didn't win the Foreign Language Oscar, but happily local viewers will get to see Waltz with Bashir anyway as it opens on Friday, Feb. 27. An animated documentary from Israel, the film follows a 1982 Lebanon war veteran, film director Ari Folman, as he tries to remember the awful events of the conflict. The film's confrontation with history has been somewhat controversial, particularly the ending. Rated R for some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity and a scene of graphic sexual content. 90m. At the Minor.

Based on the video game, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li stars Kristin Kreuk (TV's Smallville) in the title role, a fighter on a quest for justice. Maybe you can actually find justice in a video game. The film also features Neal McDonough (Traitor; 88 Minutes) and Black Eyed Peas singer Taboo. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and martial arts action, and some sensuality. 97m. At the Broadway.

Round up the teenage woo girls ... Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience opens this Friday for all the young music lovers to enjoy. The film follows the Jo-bros as they cross the nation on their "Burning Up Tour." Plus, there's footage of the bros kickin' it backstage and a brand new song for gettin' your groove on. Rated G for good times. 106 m. At Fortuna.

Review

LAST CHANCE HARVEY: Viewers may initially think they are watching a contemporary secularized version of the Biblical Job story with Last Chance Harvey. After all, our protagonist Harvey (Dustin Hoffman, in a geezer version of his character in The Graduate) suffers a series of major setbacks as this film opens.

We first see Harvey playing a jazz composition on a piano, but soon discover that his actual job as a musician is writing jingles for TV ads. But his boss thinks he's over-the-hill even at that task and urges Harvey, who is off on a quick trip to London for his daughter's wedding, to stay there as long as he wants while a younger guy takes over.

On the crowded flight from New York to London, a nervous Harvey can't even engage the person next to him in a conversation. Arriving at his somewhat seedy hotel in London, he discovers that the rest of the wedding party has been put up in a house rented by his ex (Kathy Baker). At the rehearsal dinner, an ill-at-ease and anxious-about-his-job Harvey is told by his daughter Susan (Liane Balaban) that she wants her step-father (James Brolin) to give her away after Harvey tells her he has to skip the reception to return to New York. Rushing away after the wedding, traffic makes him miss his flight and when he phones his boss he is told that he is fired.

Okay, maybe this doesn't really compare to what happened to Job, but it's still a shitty day by modern standards. All of these setbacks serve as well to set up the romantic "meet cute." Doing what any contemporary guy would following a really bad day, Harvey goes to the airport bar to drown his sorrows with Johnnie Walker Black. He meets airline employee Kate (Emma Thompson) reading alone at a table.

Kate has her own problems, including an almost pathological mistrust of men (we see her hiding in a stairwell and the bathroom on a blind date) and a mother who calls her every five minutes on her mobile. Nonetheless, one thing leads to another and ... do you really need to know the rest?

In my preview for this film, I said that Thompson and Hoffman did not seem a likely romantic duo. But the two are such solid actors and likeable screen presences that they made me not care about the age difference or the usual improbabilities of the romantic film genre. There may not be any huge romantic spark, but Hoffman and Thompson play off each other with great effectiveness, and what the film may lack in young romantic lust it more than makes up for in mature interactions.

Writer/director Joel Hopkins may not surmount the romance formula, but he makes good use of the elements he works with. Nothing is extraneous; even Harvey's frustrated desire to write and play jazz is utilized in a major plot point.

As it turns out, the deprivations suffered by Harvey set up more than the meet cute; they also serve to make him open to a new life. For Job, belief in God may ultimately have been enough even when all else was taken away. For Harvey, late-life romance serves that purpose. Critics haven't treated this film very kindly, but it seemed to me better than most romantic comedies I've sat through. Maybe my age is affecting my taste. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. 92m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Continuing

BRIDE WARS. Best friends and brides-to-be find themselves at war when their wedding plans go awry. Rated PG. 94m. At The Movies.

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC. Fun-loving metro girl kicks ass at shopping while pursuing her life dreams. Rated PG. 105m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

CORALINE. Girl finds a secret door leading to a parallel, better reality. But there's a catch. Rated PG. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and in 3-D at the Fortuna.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. Brad Pitt ages backward, Cate Blanchett ages forward, they enjoy blissful moments in the middle and confusion at either end. Rated PG-13. 166 m. At The Movies.

DEFIANCE. In 1941, Jewish brothers work to keep faith alive when they escape Nazi doom in the woods of Eastern Europe. Rated R. 137m. At Mill Crek.

FIRED UP. High school football stars hatch a scheme that lands them in a sea of sexy ladies instead of summer football camp. Rated PG-13. 90m. At the Broadway.

FRIDAY THE 13TH. Title says it all. Rated R. 95m. At the Broadway.

GRAN TORINO. Veteran/racist/retired autoworker versus the local Asian gang-bangers. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway.

HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. Women, men and their relationships. Rated PG-13. 132m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

HOTEL FOR DOGS. Kids faced with "no pets" rule in their new foster home convert abandoned hotel into foster home for doggies. Rated PG. 100m. At The Movies.

INKHEART. Beware of reading aloud: You may get sucked into the book's pages while a character gets released into the real world. Rated PG. 106m. At The Movies.

INTERNATIONAL. Interpol agent and Manhattan DA team up to bring justice to one of the world's most corrupt banks. Rated R. 122m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

MILK. Chronicle of the political life and 1977 assassination of Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay public office-holder. Rated R. 128m. At the Minor.

NEW IN TOWN. Up-and-coming executive based in Miami takes assignment in the cuts and finds her life changed for the better. Rated PG. 96m. At The Movies.

PAUL BLART: MALL COP. Mall cop must man up to save the day when Santa's helpers at the mall stage a coup. Rated PG. 91m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

PINK PANTHER 2. Inspector Jacques Clouseau is at it again. Rated PG. 93m. At Mill Creek and The Movies.

PUSH. Trouble arises when shady government agency genetically transforms citizens into an army of psychic warriors. Rated PG-13. 111m. At Mill Creek and the Broadway.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Orphan from slums of Bombay who rocks India's Who Wants to be a Millionaire must clear his name of cheating before claiming his prize. Rated R. 121m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

TAKEN. Former spy launches one-man war to bring down gang that kidnapped his daughter. Rated PG-13. 91m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

TWILIGHT. Teen girl gets swept up in unorthodox romance with vampire. Rated PG-13. 122m. At The Movies.

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS. The Death Dealers, a group of aristocratic vampires, versus the Lycans, barbaric werewolves. Rated R. 93m. At The Movies.

WRESTLER. Retired wrestler who rocked in the 1980s attempts to stage a comeback in the ring. Rated R. 110m. At the Minor.

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