HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1. The seventh and final episode in J. K. Rowling's Boy Wizard franchise finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and friends Ron and Hermione leaving Hogwarts on the trail of the Horcruxes, the secrets to the immortality of evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Prepare for a cliffhanger: D.H. Part 2 doesn't come out until July 2011. 150m. Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images. Opening midnight Thursday at the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Fortuna and the Minor.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS. Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks star in a prison break thriller directed by Paul Haggis based on the French film Pour Elle. College prof John (Crowe) is married to Lara (Banks). When she goes to jail for murder she says she did not commit, he risks everything to break her out. 122m. Rated PG-13 for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements. Opening at the Broadway and Mill Creek.
Humboldt County Independent Business Alliance kicks off its "Shop Local First for the Holidays" campaign on Thursday with a local foods potluck at Democracy Unlimited's Duck House and a screening of Independent America: The Two-lane Search for Mom and Pop, a film by Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes about their cross-country road trip looking at independent businesses and the resistance to big-box culture. Yes, the couple stopped in Humboldt.
Friday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, Humboldt Pride presents the 1997 Belgian film Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink), the debut for director Alain Berliner. It tells the story of young Ludovic, who believes he/she was born into the wrong sort of body and thus dresses in girl's clothes. This seems natural enough to Ludovic, but the reaction of others proves problematic and at times traumatic. The Pride folks will follow the film with a discussion of related gender issues.
Warm up for Thanksgiving weekend Sunday at the ATL with director Michael Mann's take on the James Fenimore Cooper classic The Last of the Mohicans. The epic tale set during the French and Indian War stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye, the adopted son of Mohican Chief Chingachgook (played by AIM activist Russell Means).
-- Bob Doran
MORNING GLORY. I don't think I really knew the meaning of effervescent until I experienced Rachel McAdams in the working girl/romantic comedy movie Morning Glory. McAdams is endlessly perky, upbeat and ever in motion, and it is impossible not to find pleasure in this otherwise mediocre example of its genre because of her performance and the solid backup provided by the supporting cast.
McAdams is Becky, a young TV news producer who had always been encouraged by her now-deceased father to follow her dream. When she loses her high-paying job at a Jersey station due to restructuring, her unsupportive mother tells her to get a realistic job. But you can't keep a bubbly Becky down -- she lands a job at a low-rated morning show in New York thanks to doubtful executive Jerry Barnes (a smooth, unobtrusive Jeff Goldblum), who expects the show to be canceled anyway.
After firing the co-host of the fluffy program, she discovers that multi-award winning former hard news anchor Mike Pomeroy (a good Harrison Ford) is actually under contract to the station even if he never shows up. Convinced that he can save the show by co-hosting with Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), the main plot revolves around their contentious relationship, while Patrick Wilson provides a potential love interest for Becky as Adam Bennett.
It is easy to see why some observers have dubbed McAdams the next "America's sweetheart." I hope she eventually seeks out more challenging roles, but in the meantime there's all those bubbles. 102m. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, including dialog, language and brief drug references. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor.
UNSTOPPABLE. Director Tony Scott and Denzel Washington seem to like working together. Unstoppable is their second straight train thriller, following 2009's remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. This time out, though, Washington gets to operate in the field as Frank, a veteran locomotive engineer. On a seemingly routine task of moving a train to a different location with rookie conductor Will (Chris Pine), Frank and the newbie become involved with a runaway, conductor-less train carrying a hazardous material -- and, of course, its own diesel fuel -- toward a populous area of Pennsylvania. How to stop it?
As in Pelham, the narrative shifts back and forth between the dispatch room, the executives and the train itself, which is being shadowed by every news station in sight. Also like the earlier film, bits of Frank's and Will's personal lives are worked into the plot. Frank's wife has died, leaving him to raise two daughters, both Hooters employees, one mad at him. Will and his wife are estranged, and she has a restraining order. So, will Frank and Will succeed despite the actions of the train executives, and against all odds, while solving their family problems as well? Is Denzel Washington the film's star?
Scott has a fondness for rapid, abrupt cuts that certainly keep the action flowing and suspenseful. Unstoppable lacks Pelham's interesting byplay between Washington and Travolta, but it is still passable entertainment. Plus there's nothing like becoming a hero to solve marital/family difficulties. What's unstoppable here is Washington, not the train. 98m. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and peril, and some language. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
STONE. Stone is a strange film. It acts like a psychological thriller much of the time, but the subtext clearly has to do with belief, religious and otherwise. The story is B-movie familiar. Stone (Edward Norton) is up for parole following his participation in the murder of his grandparents and the subsequent burning of their house nine years prior. He must convince by-the-book and about-to-retire parole officer Jack (Robert De Niro) that he has rehabilitated himself.
Not trusting in his persuasive ability alone, Stone enlists the help of his very sexy wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) to seduce Jack, who is married to the religious Madelyn (Frances Conroy). As we already know, Jack is far from perfect, and we wait for the hammer to fall. The film works on this level, but underneath is the implication that the obvious ploy works because Jack believes in nothing, including himself, and is easy prey for someone who at least pretends to a belief.
The acting is very good, and even if the film doesn't quite hold together, it was the most interesting film I saw this week. 105m. Rated R for strong sexuality and violence, and pervasive language.
SKYLINE. Skyline, an ill-conceived sci-fi invasion film directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause, whose previous work has been primarily in the area of visual effects, has one of the worst scripts and dialog that I've encountered in some 62 years of filmgoing. And isn't hating Los Angeles getting a little old?
At one point in the film, Elaine (Scottie Thompson of TV series Trauma and NCIS), one of a small group of people hiding out in a condo from ravenous aliens, mutters, "I hate L.A." -- a comment that had me pondering how many times the city has been invaded by space creatures, and to so little effect.
For reasons not apparent, the film begins briefly with the arrival of the aliens, then flashes back 15 hours before drearily catching up again. The dialog is sparkling. Confronted by an alien intent on a meal, one character helpfully says "Run," while another yells "Open the door" as one of group struggles with it. And those are just the highlights. The majority of the film consists of seeing people pulled into the unimaginatively created alien creatures, and they seem to go through all of L.A. with great speed.
Not fast enough, though. Even for alien invasion junkies, Skyline must represent a new low. Wikipedia indicates that this is first of a series. Now that's scary. 92m. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
DUE DATE. Good rule: If your wife is expecting, don't go on a cross country road trip with Zach Galifianakis. Rated R. 95m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Mill Creek and the Minor.
HEREAFTER. Three people dealing with death become involved in each other's lives. Rated PG-13. 129m. At the Broadway.
MEGAMIND. The world's most brilliant supervillain is also its least successful. More CGI for the kids. Rated PG. 96m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. Does a larger budget mean scarier? You decide. Rated R. 91m. At the Broadway.
RED. Being privy to CIA secrets is all well and good when you're a part of the agency. But when you try and leave, watch yourself. Rated PG-13. 111m. At the Broadway and Garberville.
SECRETARIAT. This is a different movie than Seabiscuit. Barely. Rated PG. 123m. At the Broadway.