For my money, the pick of the week has gotta be Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which, believe it or not, is a sequel to the great Cate Blanchett Elizabeth pic from a few years ago. (Sorry, Internet’s down.) Blanchett is back for the sequel, as is Geoffrey Rush as Walsingham, the devious Machiavelli-quoting proto-spy. Enter the dashing Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, throw in some devious Spanish maneuvers and this little thing they call the Armada, and you’ve got yourself a genuine film pleasure, no guilt necessary. Again directed by Shekhar Kapur. Rated PG- 13 for violence, some sexuality and nudity. 115 m. At the Broadway.
We Own the Night is a promising Brighton Beach Russian mob drama. The director, James Gray, clearly knows the dark corners of N.Y.C., having previously helmed quality flicks like Little Odessaand The Yards. Here he arranges a boss cast, including Joaquin Phoenix, “Markie” Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes. Rated R for strong violence, drug material, sexual content and brief nudity. 118 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
Another top-notch cast graces Michael Clayton, a legal thriller directed by Tony Gilroy (screenwriter for the Bourne movies). George Clooney is a raffish former prosecutor currently cashing checks at a big corporate law firm. He’s sold his soul, turned to sleaze. Then one of his colleagues sabotages a case, and he slowly comes back to life. Also starring Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollock. Rated R for language. 120 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
Judging by the number of screens it’s opening on, the big new release is Seeker: The Dark is Rising, which aims for the lucrative goth teen market. Like I said, the Internet is down. Here’s the press release: “A young man learns he is the last of a group of warriors who have dedicated their life to fighting the forces of the Dark.” Good luck. Starring C. Eccleston, I. McShane. Only rated PG, surprisingly. 99 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
Onward. 11th Hour is an enraged leftie documentary. Seems sort of unfocused, at least judging from the press. The filmmakers interview “50 leading scientists, thinkers and leaders who discuss the most important issues facing our planet and people.” But it’s narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, and surely Leo will bring some focus to the thing. Rated PG for mildly disturbing images and “thematic elements.” So it does have some kind of thematic element, anyway. 95 m. At the Minor.
*Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? Four couples who were friendly in college get together every year; they all find out that one of them has been cheating and it throws the whole thing into a thirty-something find-yourself tizzy. Rated PG-13 for “mature thematic elements,” sexual references and language. 118. At The Movies.*
Final Season: Underdog baseball team, true story, tears, inspiration. Starring Powers Boothe, Rachel Leigh Cook (?!), Tom Arnold and Sean Astin, the fat hobbit. Rated PG for language, thematic elements and teen smoking. 118 m. At the Broadway.
—by Hank Sims
RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR: One of the good things about an independent, relatively low-budget disaster film is that there is not a lot of money for special effects or computer-generated images. Right at Your Door, then, takes the only other reasonable route: it focuses on the human. Director Chris Gorak, in his feature debut, makes this 9/11-influenced film a mostly two-person drama and, with some effective camera work, creates some genuine creepy moments.
The setup is simple. At the beginning of a seemingly normal day in a Los Angeles neighborhood, we see one couple making preparations for the morning commute. In this case, Lexi (Mary McCormack, The West Wing) is the working member of the couple while Brad (Rory Cochrane, CSI: Miami), a sometime musician, stays at home. Shortly after Lexi leaves for work, several dirty bombs are set off in Central LA and LAX. Unable to reach Lexi, Brad follows instructions and seals up his house. When Lexi improbably manages to get back to the house, he won’t let her in because she is infected, creating the central ethical dilemma of the film.
The overwhelming feel of the film is claustrophobia, as the point of view is primarily from inside. The film also effectively depicts the helplessness of ordinary citizens in such a situation; they never know if what is being broadcast on the radio is accurate or truthful and as we learned from 9/11, in real life it is frequently neither. McCormack and Cochrane turn in completely credible performances. As the situation is static by design, the film does run out of narrative ideas after awhile, but I’ve seen many worse disaster films. The ending is heavy with irony, but there is a nice bite underneath.
As the film will be gone when this review is published, I suppose the comments may be useful for potential DVD rentals. Or not. Rated R for pervasive language and some disturbing violent content. 106 m.
THE HEARTBREAK KID: Playwright Neil Simon adapted the short story by Bruce Jay Friedman for Elaine May’s 1972 version of The Heartbreak Kid, a story that was set in Manhattan and dealt with the sort of male sexual confusion and anxiety that Philip Roth became famous for.
In the latest adaptation of this story, directed by the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary), the setting has been removed to California and Mexico and unfortunately the filmmakers forgot to bring along the comedy, unless your idea of funny is total blandness.
The story is titularly similar. No-longer-young Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller), who owns a sporting goods store in San Francisco, has had trouble making a commitment to a woman. He meets cute Lila (Malin Akerman, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) after her purse is snatched on the street, and he seems to have finally met his true love.
After a fitful courtship they marry, but on the way to their honeymoon in Mexico Eddie discovers some unfortunate things about Lila. She sings along incessantly with the radio, she has a deviated septum that causes pieces of food to come out her nose, and she has a voracious sexual appetite (Eddie is 40) and favors positions that don’t include the missionary one. In Mexico, to top off the wedding disaster, Eddie meets his real soul mate in the person of Miranda (Michelle Monaghan, MI:III) who is vacationing with a very extended family. What’s a guy to do? See film title.
Monaghan has the only vaguely witty lines in the film, and there are precious few of those, but at least she holds her own. Akerman comes off as a Cameron Diaz wannabe. She doesn’t come close, but I’m not sure anyone could have salvaged her ridiculous role. Stiller tries to make do with his overused facial takes; he needs some new tricks. What a total waste of time. It got the five-snore rating from my partner, who at least emerged refreshed for the next film. Rated R for brief nudity and attempted acrobatic sex, general crudity and dialog that tries to pass for language. 125 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB: The Jane Austen Book Club exists almost entirely on the surface, but the acting by the wonderful ensemble cast is so delicious that it’s a surface I happily glided around with them. Plus, there’s those magic words: Jane Austen.
Based on the popular 2004 novel by Karen Joy Fowler, the story centers on a group of five women and one guy in Sacramento who form a book club dedicated to “all Jane Austen, all the time.” Not unexpectedly, the people assigned to lead the discussions on each of Austen’s six novels resemble the main character in the book, and the problems the individuals face in their own lives bear a remarkable resemblance to those faced by the novels’ characters. Most of these problems are romantic in nature, but the viewer is comforted from the beginning by knowing that things always work out in the end in Austen’s novels.
The group is started by Bernadette (Kathy Baker), a woman in her 50s who’s been married multiple times. Her friend Jocelyn (Maria Bello) seems to like dogs more than people; they obey her. Jocelyn spends a lot of energy trying to help her friend Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), who’s just been dumped by her husband (Jimmy Smits) for another woman. To that end, she invites the very handsome, young Grigg (Hugh Dancy) to the group “for a male perspective.”
The group is rounded out with Prudie, a seemingly prim but secretly smoldering high school French teacher whose husband prefers sports on TV to her, and Sylvia’s lesbian daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), an aspiring writer. The whole enterprise is a lot of fun as we watch the group work out their lives while reading and discussing Austen’s books.
It is seldom that any Hollywood film gives viewers such a tight ensemble cast and the acting here is absolutely spot-on, without exception. Recommended, unless you’re a fan of brain-dead guy films. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, brief strong language and some drug use. 116 m. At the Broadway.
—by Charlie Myers
3:10 TO YUMA: Remake of the 1957 Western that made “yuma” universal Cuban slang for “America.” Stars R. Crowe, C. Bale. Rated R. 117 m. At the Broadway, Minor, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. Jason Bourne (M. Damon) returns to America to seek out the baddies who scrambled his brain. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At The Movies.
THE BRAVE ONE. J. Foster prowls the streets of NYC, looking to pay back the murderers of her fiancé. N. Jordan directs. Rated R. 122 m. At the Broadway.
DRAGON WARS: Korean kaiju set in L.A., with a touch of Highlanderto complement the marauding monsters. Rated PG-13. 89 m. At The Movies.
EASTERN PROMISES. D. Cronenberg’s Russian mob flick, set in London. With V. Mortensen, N. Watts. Rated R. 100 m. At the Minor.
FEAST OF LOVE: Annoying Portlanders struggle to find themselves, semi-communally. Starring M. Freeman, G. Kinnear. Rated R. 102 m. At the Minor.
GAME PLAN. Superstar quarterback (T. Rock) discovers he has a daughter. Rated PG. 110 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
GOOD LUCK CHUCK. Magic dentist gets all the women he wants, but only once. Then he falls in love — oh noes! Rated R. 96 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH: An Iraq veteran goes mysteriously missing, his parents question their attitudes while trying to find him. Starring T.L. Jones, S. Sarandon. Directed by P. Haggis. Rated R. 121 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
KINGDOM. All-star FBI team (J. Foxx, C. Cooper, J. Garner) investigates terror bombing in Saudi Arabia, negotiating tricky geopolitics along the way. Rated R. 111 m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.
MR. WOODCOCK. Man finds his mother has fallen in love with his former high-school gym coach (B.B. Thorton). PG-13. 88 m. At The Movies and the Fortuna.
RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. Nothing to add. Rated R. 94 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
STARDUST: Young man travels to a magical word, seeking a fallen star that will capture the heart of his true love. With C. Danes, M. Pfeiffer, R. De Niro. Rated PG-13. At The Movies.
SUPERBAD. Two awkward teen boys — one crude, one shy — set out to excise their boyhood in one night of partying. Rated R. 113 m. At The Movies.
SYDNEY WHITE. In retelling of Snow White, sparky college girl is cast out of her sorority; takes up with the Seven Dorks. Rated PG-13. 108 m. At the Fortuna.
TRANSFORMERS: A poignant ode to ’80s-era Saturday morning cartoons. Also, a bunch of shapeshifting robots blow each other up. Rated PG-13. 154 m. At The Movies.