For those who didn’t get enough of Sex and the City from Candace Bushnell’s book of her collected newspaper columns about young, single, professional women in Manhattan, one of whom was the author herself, or from the six-season HBO series, May 30 brings fans the big screen version, and it remains to be seen if the film adds anything to the series or just rehashes the same old material. At any rate, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth are all back as their respective series characters in what I guess can be labeled a romantic comedy, directed and written by Michael Patrick King, who also directed 10 episodes of the TV series. The film takes up four year after the series finale and, based on the trailers, involves Carrie’s possible wedding and Charlotte’s pregnancy. Despite my admiration for Parker, I could never get into the series; guess I can be accused of being just a guy. Nonetheless, I will, of course, approach the film with my usual lack of bias. Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. 148 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Mill Creek and Minor.
For all those guys out there without girlfriends, also opening locally is the latest horror thriller The Strangers, which uses the device of a home invasion to ratchet up the tension. Using such tried and true genre devices as a flashback from a brief opening scene, an isolated house and an unhappy couple who are about to find out how good they actually had it. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman (xXx: State of the Union; the Underworld films) are Kristen McKay and James Hoyt, a couple who discover that getting married may never be an option if the man with a bag over his head has his way. As Kristen intones in the trailers, “Why are they doing this to us?” Not that I’m pre-judging. Rated R for violence/terror and language. 90 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL: I really wanted to like this film, having fond memories of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. The first episode in this series captured a nice balance between adventure and humor while Harrison Ford, fresh from the first two Star Wars movies, seemed the perfect protagonist for the film, which was a lot of fun. The two sequels were decent but not standouts, although Sean Connery was a nice addition in Last Crusade.
Now some 19 years after the previous sequel, the indefatigable Harrison Ford returns as the professor/adventurer who, this time, tangles with Russian military members, the latest in the cardboard villains of this series, over some crystal skull artifacts that supposedly will give their possessors great power. Not that anyone will really care about the plot, which exists to provide the flimsy framework for a series of action scenes that virtually take over the film, leaving little time, the filmmakers hope, for any sort of reflection.
The film is set in 1957, a time period that explains using the Russians as the bad guys, although the more recent tension with Russia under Vladimir Putin certainly figures in this decision as well. The film does start with a nice sequence set at an American military base in a remote location in a desert in the Western U.S. In addition to referencing atomic bomb testing (Indy and the Soviets briefly end up in a fake town setup for a bomb test), the action sequence has much of the playfulness of past films in the series, including Indy being blown through the air inside a lead-lined refrigerator.
Plus, we are introduced to Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko, head of the Soviet team, in full bad girl regalia that includes black gloves and boots along with a sword. If only the film had gone in that direction.
But from that point on, the film hits all its standard plot marks. We briefly see Jones lecturing before all hell breaks loose and he once again sets off to save the free world. I assume the casting of Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams, a school dropout with attitude, is an attempt by the production company to broaden the film’s target audience to those born after 1981, or shortly before. In any case, the pairing of LaBeouf and Ford allows for an endless string of age jokes (“For an old guy, you ain’t bad in a fight”), which Ford usually wins.
For this viewer, though, all the action sequences seemed somewhat hollow, reminiscent of an old energy that has gradually dissipated in the series. Crystal Skulls even brings back Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, Indy’s love interest from Raiders, but the rekindling of their affection hardly brought back the feeling from the original film. I guess my idea of nostalgia runs in a different direction, wondering, for example, how Cate Blanchett would handle Pussy Galore in a remake of Goldfinger. Who do I contact?
Although Ford claims he is finished with this series, there is a hint at the end of the film that the mantle might pass on to the younger generation, so perhaps fans have something to anticipate. Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images. 124 m. At the Broadway, Minor, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
YOUNG@HEART: I was so skeptical of this film that I skipped it while in Portland. The trailers made it seem potentially sentimental, even cutesy if not downright condescending, and as I get that attitude too often already from any number of younger folk, I avoided the documentary, originally made for UK’s Channel 4.
Happily, Young@Heart totally avoided all of those imagined attributes. Every time it seemed to be slipping toward sentimentality, the humor and incredible joy of life exhibited by the film’s subjects brought the story back to a hard but uplifting reality.
The film’s subject is a group of singers whose average age is 80. The group began in 1982 in Northampton, Mass., as a collective arts project. Since that time, it has toured internationally and become incredibly popular in New England; the concert that concludes the film is totally sold out and the audience wildly enthusiastic.
Most of the film details a six-week rehearsal by the current group in preparation for a concert at the Academy Theatre in Northampton in 2006. Along the way, the viewer is introduced to many members of the chorus through interviews with them and their family members, so along with scenes of the actual rehearsals, we also get to know something about some of the individuals.
Interestingly, when several chorus members are asked early in the film what their favorite music is, two respond that it’s opera and another says Broadway musicals. But here they are, tackling the Clash, the Ramones and Coldplay amongst songs by other rock groups.
Some of the new material proves to be extremely difficult, but for the most part the singers handle it with humor and doggedness, in some cases in spite of debilitating physical conditions. One song, “Yes We Can Can,” is never mastered during rehearsal but comes together triumphantly in performance.
Clearly, for this group, to sing is to joyously prolong life. As one singer says, about the brain, “use it or lose it.” Interestingly, the lyrics of the songs they tackle take on new meanings when sung by people in their 70s, 80s and 90s. “I Wanna Be Sedated,” for example, has a whole new life for me now, as does “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Interspersed in the film are several music videos featuring chorus members, including a very intriguing “Road to Nowhere.”
The film is not totally happy. Two members of the 2006 group die in the course of shooting, and another following the film’s completion. But the way the surviving members handle the news is instructive for all of us facing mortality. This is one of the better films I’ve seen recently, and totally unexpected. Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements. 107 m. At the Broadway.
BABY MAMA.Infertile business woman hires working-class woman as unlikely surrogate. Rated PG-13. 99 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
BRA BOYS.Documentary about the surfing “Bra Boys” of Maroubra, warring gangs from a beach side suburb in Australia. Rated R. 90 m. At the Broadway.
CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN.Newest installment of series based on C.S. Lewis’s sci-fi/fantasy books. Rated PG. 144 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.
FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.American teen is transported back in kung fu time when he finds weapon of ancient warrior in pawn shop. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At The Movies.
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL.Loser musician goes on vacation to escape his TV star ex only to find her and her new rocker beau staying in the same hotel. Rated R. 111 m. At The Movies.
HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY.Harold and Kumar are mistaken for terrorists and have to run from the law. Rated R. 102 m. At The Movies.
HORTON HEARS A WHO.Mocked do-gooding elephant attempts to rescue a microscopic civilization. Rated G. 87 m. At The Movies.
IRON MAN.Action/adventure flick based on Marvel’s iconic comic-book super hero. Rated PG-13. 126 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
LEATHERHEADS.A ragtag team in early (1920s) professional football league is saved by golden-boy war hero. Rated PG-13. 114 m. At The Movies.
MADE OF HONOR.Man realizes his love for his best friend when she becomes engaged to another. Rated PG-13. 101 m. At the Broadway.
NIM’S ISLAND.Author’s literary creation inspires young girl’s fantasy island; author and girl unite to conquer Nim’s Island. Rated PG. 94 m. At The Movies.
PROM NIGHT.Tragedy revisits Donna when prom night turns deadly, and she knows the one man to blame. Rated PG-13. At The Movies.
SPEED RACER.Full-length live action film adaptation of classic Japanese anime series. Rated PG. 135 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS.Two strangers wake up married after a night of debauchery in Sin City; comic chaos ensues. Rated PG-13. 99 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.