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Converted to Apatow

Plus: Forecast calls for yet another outbreak of ’80s-era cheese

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Previews

It's back to the ’80s this weekend, with two major openings based on cultural touchstones from that era.

The A-Team updates the kitschy ’80s TV series about rebellious commandos turned mercenaries. The new cast has Liam Neeson as Col. John "Hannibal" Smith (the George Peppard role), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Alias) as Lt. Templeton "Faceman" Peck, Sharlto Copley (lead in District 9) as Capt. H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock and pro-wrestler Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as mohawked Sgt. B.A. "Bad Attitude" Baracus (the role immortalized by Mr. T). The action-packed story is like the TV storyline, but with the Gulf War subbing for Vietnam. Director Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces) knows his action, as do producers Ridley and Tony Scott. Expect explosions galore. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking. Opens Friday at the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and the Fortuna.

The Karate Kid is a remake of the 1984 hit about a kid learning martial arts from a wise teacher/father figure. The original spawned several sequels and essentially made the careers of Ralph Macchio (the Kid) and Pat Morita (the Sensei). The update keeps the same storyline, but with a significant change: In the first film the kid was a fish out of water who'd moved from Jersey to SoCal; the new version has a single mom and her son moving from Detroit to China. Young Jaden Smith, who plays the kid, is the real-life son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, who are among the movie's producers. He's paired with action comedy superstar Jackie Chan. When the kid is tormented by a bully, the maintenance man at his school (Chan) intercedes and becomes his teacher, preparing for a big showdown. Rated PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language. Opens Friday at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.

Want to see some real karate kids in action? Before the Friday, June 11, screenings of The Karate Kid at Mill Creek, students from Sun Yi's Tae Kwon Do Academy will perform Tae Kwon Do demonstrations in the theater lobby -- one after the first show and one just before the second show. There's also a drawing for Karate Kid merch.

Continuing the back to the ’80s theme, the Arcata Theatre Lounge has The Goonies playing twice on Friday, June 11 (7 and 11 p.m.). It's hard to explain how director Richard Donner's 1985 kids adventure-comedy became a cult classic, but it did. The story, adapted by Chris Columbus from a story by Steven Spielberg, has a pack of kids (Corey Feldman, Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, etc.) searching for lost treasure in a cave in an effort to save their parents' homes from evil real estate developers.

Saturday at the ATL, Greenhouse Boardshop presents Taylor Steele's new surf movie, Castles In The Sky, a sequel to Steele's travelogue/surf flick Sipping Jetstreams with more top surfers riding waves in exotic locations. The screening is a benefit for Surfrider Foundation Humboldt and Arcata Skatepark Phase II.

Sunday the ATL has Zoolander, a comedy lampooning the fashion and modeling industry written and directed by Ben Stiller, who also plays the title role. Stiller created top male model Derek Zoolander (with great looks but no brains) for a short shown during the The VH1 Fashion Awards. The film expansion has him eclipsed by a hipper rival, Hansel (Owen Wilson), then involved with fashion magnate Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and an assassination plot. The film has been very influential on the Humboldt rock world: At least two local bands derive their names from elements in Zoolander.

-- Bob Doran

Reviews

GET HIM TO THE GREEK. I'm admittedly a latecomer in my appreciation for the planet Apatow. While I found The 40-Year-Virgin, Knocked Up and even Funny People enjoyable, I could never fathom the immense praise heaped on them and why the screwball comedy baton had been passed to Judd and his posse of frequent offenders. Mostly, I think, I'm bitter about his collaborations with Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Talladega Nights), which -- sorry if this is a sacrilegious thing to say -- are both on my bummer list. Maybe it's the music element that cast its spell on me, but Get Him to the Greek may be the movie encounter that broke my prejudice. I think I've been converted to Apatowism.

Again, maybe it's the music biz theme that won my heart. Through Russell Brand's almost-too-convincing rock star turn as Aldous Snow (a reprisal of the role he played in 2008's under-appreciated Forgetting Sarah Marshall), the film takes a very knowing look at the culture of the music industry, its stars and its exploiters. After years of mass appeal and critical praise, Snow's latest release, "African Child" -- which includes a music video depicting him as a sort of Bling Christ-like figure who showers his riches on impoverished black youths -- is viewed as culturally insensitive and is cited, alongside famine and disease, as being one of the continent's most debilitating calamities. His career misfortune, added to the dissolution of his marriage to pop star Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), leads him to delve into the most extreme examples of celebrity depravity and decadence. And, like many of our real-life stars, the world eats popcorn while watching his implosion.

Snow's music career looks to be all but over. But an opportunist, low-level employee at a major Los Angeles music company has other plans. Jonah Hill, a regular in the Apatow universe, plays Aaron Green, a huge fan of Snow's early work. With his company hard pressed for new lucrative avenues in the era of dwindling record sales, Green suggests capitalizing on the 10-year anniversary of Aldous Snow's iconic performance at L.A.'s Greek Theater. Green's boss, Sergio (Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in a shockingly outstanding and hilarious role -- really) green-lights the project on the condition that the young up-and-comer can travel to the U.K., retrieve his hard-partying hero and get him to the show in a short, set amount of time. The table is set for comedy. Will the chefs deliver?

Uh, yes. Get Him to the Greek succeeds on the individual performances and often awkward chemistry of its two main stars. In other films I've seen featuring Hill, I've found myself annoyed by the obnoxious, know-it-all stock character he seems to play over and again. But here, he has added a mixture of overly awkward, endearingly humble, yet intelligently sensitive elements to his usual sarcasm. Opposite Hill, I'd have to call Brand's performance tastefully over-the-top, if that's possible. An Apatovian staple is the marriage of raunchy and sentimental, which is also a good description of Aldous Snow. The inside joke is that apparently Brand doesn't appear to have to stretch that far to play the reckless rocker and, as such, the superstar/superfan interplay between him and Hill feels genuine.

Director Nicholas Stoller (who also helmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall) provides gloriously famous but random eye candy in cameos sprinkled throughout the film. Snow makes the media rounds to The Today Show, Showbiz Tonight, TMZ and Extra (all featuring their actual hosts) and countless celebrities weave their way into the journey. Most notably, Snow's ex-wife shacks up with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who seems apathetic towards the two's continued interest in each other. Greek also scores major points for finding a way to exploit the untapped acting talents of New York Times economist Paul Krugman, in what feels like the cameo of the decade.

With it's mastery of slapstick, parody and starpower, Get Him to the Greek gets you to the laughs. Take note, those of you who want to know how to make a comedy drenched in sex, drugs and rock ’n' roll that somehow does not make its audience feel cheap. I doubt a more hilarious film will find its way to a theater near you in 2010. Rated R for sex drugs and rock ’n' roll. 109m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

-- Andrew Goff

Continuing

DEATH AT A FUNERAL. Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence mourn their father's death as wackiness ensues. Rated R. 91m. At Garberville.

GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A determined uncle hires a team to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of his niece. In Swedish with English subtitles. Not rated. 152m. At the Minor.

IRON MAN 2. Now with twice the iron! Rated PG-13. 124m. At the Broadway.

KILLERS. Ashton Kutcher plays a former assassin trying to live a domestic life with new wife Katherine Heigl. One of the most critically panned films of the year! Rated PG-13. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

LETTERS TO JULIET. A young American in Verona joins a team of writers who respond to letters seeking love advice. Rated PG. 105m. At the Broadway and Garberville.

MARMADUKE. Yup. The comic strip dog. You aren't seeing things. Rated PG. 88m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the heroic, royal video game icon. Rated PG-13. 116m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

ROBIN HOOD. Russell Crowe shows Kevin Costner how it's done. First, you steal from the rich ... Rated PG-13. 140m. At the Broadway.

SEX AND THE CITY 2. The girls travel to Abu Dhabi... or was it Dubai... Morocco? Whatever. They have sex. Rated R. 147m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

SHREK FOREVER AFTER. Shrek endures a midlife crisis. Bring the kids! Rated PG. 93m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

SPLICE. Silly humans attempt to play God by fusing various DNA to create new species. God and/or the new species smite them. Rated R. 104m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

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