WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. Sequel to the 1987 film, again directed by Oliver Stone. Michael Douglas is back as Gordon "Greed is Good" Gekko, just out of jail and trying to avert the Wall Street crash of 2008 while mending the relationship with his daughter (Carey Mulligan) and mentoring her trader boyfriend (Shia LaBeouf). Music by David Byrne. 127m. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and thematic elements. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Fortuna and the Minor.
CASH CROP. Documentary filmmaker/musician Adam Ross takes you on "a California road trip into the heart of the Emerald Triangle, where marijuana is grown in lush and pungent abundance, where it is the No. 1 cash crop, and where it is often the mainstay of the local rural economy," as they put it in their PR. Ross says his hope was to "approach the subject without an agenda" and "not to make an advocacy film or a tedious didactic talking heads polemic." Judging from the trailer and clips on YouTube, though, he's made a film that definitely pro-pot. Not rated, but contains scenes of drug use. Opening Friday at the Minor.
YOU AGAIN. Catty comedy/chick flick about simmering rivalry has Marni (Kristen Bell, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) freaked because her brother is marrying her evil rival from high school, Joanna (Odette Yustman, The Unborn). Complicating matters further is the fact that Marni's mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) has a similar rivalry with Joanna's aunt (Sigourney Weaver). Rated PG for brief mild language and rude behavior. Opening at the Broadway and Mill Creek.
LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE. Are you ready for owlmania? CGI-animated fantasy adventure about warrior owls based on the series of books by Kathryn Lasky, directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen). 90m. Rated PG for some sequences of scary action. Opening at the Broadway and the Fortuna in 3D, at Mill Creek in 2D.
RACE TO NOWHERE. A special engagement of director Vicki Abeles' advocacy documentary focused on "the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform." Abeles apparently does not like No Child Left Behind or Obama's Race to the Top. One screening a night on Thursday, Sept. 30, and Monday, Oct. 4, at the Broadway.
Friday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge it's Fight Club, a twisted tale based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel, with Edward Norton fighting inner demons and brawling with Brad Pitt.
On Sunday, catch Tim Burton's take on Batman at the ATL, with Michael Keaton in the title role battling The Joker (Jack Nicholson). Burton's 1989 flick reinvigorated this particular comic book hero franchise and in many ways set the tone for the blockbuster superhero movies that followed.
-- Bob Doran
THE TOWN. Somewhere in the middle of The Town, an FBI agent doing surveillance on four men he suspects of perpetrating a series of bank and armored car robberies says, "We'll never get 24-hour surveillance unless one of those idiots becomes a Muslim." A viewer can take this comment as a non-PC joke or as a political comment on the state of our country and its skewed priorities.
Similarly, The Town -- after Charlestown, a section of Boston -- straddles the line between a standard heist film and a more ambitious project involving the effects of environment on individuals and the occasional attempt to escape that tyranny.
A helpful note in the opening titles informs us that Charlestown, home of the Bunker Hill Monument, is also the national center for bank and armored car robberies. Appropriately, then, the main female character, bank manager Claire Keesey (the excellent Rebecca Hall from Vicki Cristina Barcelona), who becomes intimately involved with one of the robbers, is a "toonie," an outsider who is ignorant of local customs. As such, Claire still has a sort of innocence denied the working class people born and raised in Charlestown.
When her bank is invaded by a masked gang of robbers, which consists of lifelong friends Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner, Hurt Locker), Gloansy (the rapper Slaine) and Dez Elden (Owen Burke), she is briefly taken hostage. Jem takes her driver's license so he can track her down should she talk. When he discovers she lives only four blocks from Gloansy, he wants to eliminate the potential problem, but Doug intervenes and grabs the license.
It should come as no surprise that Doug becomes attracted to Claire. In fact, she represents both a romantic possibility and a possible pathway out of Charlestown for Doug. Meanwhile, the FBI, in the form of agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm, Don Draper on Mad Men), is closing in on the gang. As is often the case in this genre of film and the novels they are based on, the so-called "good guys" seem more morally corrupt than the people they are after, which makes it easy for the viewer or reader to root for the robbers.
In this case, the film, co-written and directed by Affleck, is based on the fine novel Prince of Thieves (winner of the 2005 Hammett Prize) by Chuck Hogan. Even without the demonizing of the FBI, though, it is easy to root for Doug, thanks to the very good, affecting performance by Affleck, who gives a depth to his conflicted character not often found in heist films.
I emphasize Affleck's contributions here since I have frequently made negative comments about his acting, usually comparing him unfavorably to his friend Matt Damon. Maybe it's time to let go of films such as Gigli and acknowledge that with this film, and 2007's Gone Baby Gone, Affleck is following Clint Eastwood in becoming a good director.
The cast -- which includes Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) as Jem's sister and Doug's sometime lover and Chris Cooper as Doug's jailed father -- is uniformly effective. Ultimately, you may have no trouble figuring out whether Doug will be able to escape and preserve his romance with Claire. Still, it's great to see a commercial film that is completely entertaining, appropriately suspenseful and a bit thought provoking as well. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use. 125m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor.
I'M STILL HERE. It is difficult to know what to make of this film. Is the documentary about Joaquin Phoenix's two-year sojourn to find his true self as a rapper after giving up acting a "mockumentary" (as Wikipedia describes it)? Is it an extended exercise in performance art and "gonzo filmmaking" (as director Casey Affleck told the New York Times)? Or a "deadpan satire" (as the Times film reviewer noted)?
Well, I could go with any of these options and probably many others, including the very real possibility that the whole thing is completely staged (save the opening footage of Phoenix as a child and his appearance on Letterman), but what I do know that this is a very difficult film to sit through. It's not just the tediousness of the film's subject, but also that watching Phoenix abuse his friends and his body just makes him seem like a self-indulgent asshole, performance art notwithstanding.
Phoenix's decision to "retire" from acting followed the release of his final film, Two Lovers, co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow, at Cannes on May 18, 2008. In this film, Phoenix says that he was tired of interpreting someone else's words; that it was all phony. He proceeds to grow a massive beard, sport scraggly unwashed hair, abuse his friends and acquaintances, snort cocaine frequently, have random sex, strut his potbelly, delude himself (or pretend) that P. Diddy is going to make a record with him and perform a deliberately (?) embarrassingly rap show in Florida.
I can't help but believe that all of this is orchestrated by Phoenix, who, thanks to his fame, found a number of willing friends and acquaintances to support his latest performance piece, including brother-in-law Casey Affleck, who directed Phoenix's "script." Or perhaps Phoenix grew tired of all the hoopla and hangers-on associated with Hollywood fame and this is his way of giving them the finger. In any case, Affleck's directing is spare and seemingly transparent. Too bad he didn't have a better script. Rated R for nudity, including full-frontal male, what is coyly referred to as sexual situations, defecation on a sleeping face, and pervasive language including the f-word and c-word.
-- Charlie Myers
Editor's note: I'm Still Here is in fact a "mockumentary."
ALPHA AND OMEGA. Two wolves try to get home after being captured by park rangers and shipped halfway across the country. Rated PG. 88m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
THE AMERICAN. Professional assassin played by George Clooney kills enemies in Europe with his good looks. Rated R. 105m. At the Broadway.
DEVIL. A group of people become trapped in an elevator and discover that one of them is the devil. Rated PG-13. 80m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
EASY A. A teenager's white lie about losing her virginity hurts her social standing. Mega bummer. Rated PG-13. 93m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
INCEPTION. Still not sure what happens when you die in the fourth level and your top stops spinning, but Leonardo is a total dream-boat. Geddit?!? See it 12 dozen more times. Rated PG-13. 148m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
MACHETE. Danny Trejo stars as a renegade federale. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rated R. 102m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS. Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical children's disciplinarian. Rated PG. 109m. At Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE OTHER GUYS. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star as a cop odd couple. PG-13. 108m. At Broadway.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. More undead yuckyness. Enjoy. Rated R. 98m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
SCOTT PILGRAM VS. THE WORLD. When selecting girls to date, make sure she doesn't have seven evil exes that might want to kill you. Rated PG-13. 108m. At Garberville.