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Fable, Western, Comedy

This week rates a rare three-for-three thumbs-up from Charlie

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Previews

Opening Friday, Oct. 10 is The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley as the Duchess of Devonshire. Set in the 18th century, the film co-stars Ralph Fiennes and Charlotte Rampling. Rated PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway.

Adapted from the spy novel by David Ignatius, Body of Lies stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a journalist trying to penetrate a terrorist group. Co-starring Russell Crowe. Rated R. 128m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

The Express stars Rob Brown as Ernie Davis, the first black athlete to win the Heisman Trophy, and Dennis Quaid as his coach. Rated PG. 130m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

In a remake of a Spanish film, Quarantine is about a TV reporter (Jennifer Carpenter, Dexter) and her cameraman (Steve Harris), who are trapped in an apartment that might house a deadly disease. Rated R. 89m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

A group of teens seek escape from a failing city of the future in City of Ember, with Bill Murray, Tim Robbins and Mary Kay Place. Rated PG. 95m. At The Movies.

Sex Drive is a comedy about a Chicago teen (Josh Zuckerman) who travels to Knoxville to meet a girl who saw his fake picture on Facebook. Rated R. 101m. Sneak Preview on Saturday at the Broadway.

The Eureka Library film series continues with the early Hitchcock classic The 39 Steps, Bob Doran hosting. Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Main Branch, 6:30 p.m.

Reviews

BLINDNESS: Blindness is an adaptation of the 1995 novel by Nobel laureate Portuguese author José Saramago. The novel is clearly meant as a sort of parable about how easily the order imposed by civilization can descend into chaos, and director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener; City of God; City of Men) chose to present this allegory in a somewhat naturalistic style, although the blindness is heavily coded as metaphor.

Set in an unnamed city in the present day, the film begins eerily when a man driving a car suddenly goes blind, represented by a sort of whiteout, and in an early indication of what's to come, the man who offers to help him steals his car. The "white blindness" gradually spreads and the story centers on a small band of people quarantined in a rapidly overcrowded asylum guarded by armed soldiers.

As this is a fable, the characters are named by function: Doctor's wife (Julianne Moore), Doctor (Mark Ruffalo), Woman with Dark Glasses (Alice Braga), Man with Black Eye Patch (Danny Glover), and so on. As the conditions in the jail/asylum deteriorate, the members of the group struggle to maintain some sense of their civilized dignity in the face of increasing degradation, and Meirelles delivers some truly horrific scenes and images in this part of the film. The fact that, for unknown reasons, the Doctor's Wife can still see gives her group a significant edge over the competing factions in the asylum's wards.

Ultimately, the blindness afflicts the entire city (and presumably the world) so the group is able to "escape" back to the city now full of desperate people scrounging for food. They find refuge at the Doctor and his Wife's house, where they form a bond with each other. The story ends on a note of hope as individuals learn to write anew on their "blank slate." The most effective aspect of the film is Meirelles' beautifully stark images and his rendering of the blindness. A worthwhile film; just don't expect the novel. Rated R for violence including sexual assaults, language and sexuality/nudity. 120m At the Broadway.

APPALOOSA: Having made a number of negative comments about recent screenwriting, it is gratifying to come across a truly good script, in this case co-written by director Ed Harris and Robert Knott. Based on the novel by Robert B. Parker, whose day job is author of the very popular Spencer mystery series, Appaloosa is unabashedly an "old-fashioned" western that would not look out of place in the 1950s.

The situation is classic: A small isolated town that is being terrorized by rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his hands decides to hire and deputize gunslingers Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) and Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) to counter Bragg's iron grip. Everett and Virgil, old friends, have been doing this peace-officer-for-hire work for years, and they have their own set of ethics. But their relationship is tested when Allie French (Renée Zellweger) arrives, with only a dollar and a nice dress to her name.

Things come to a head when Virgil and Everett manage to arrest Bragg for the murder of a deputy, and become complicated when Virgil announces that he intends to marry Allie whose morality, we learn, is simple: Attach yourself to the alpha dog but keep beta as a reserve.

Sure, all the western marks are hit: the showdown (but not between who you might expect), the trial, the chase, the black and white morality and the hint of a new world that's coming. But the film lays all these elements out so cleanly, along with a few surprises, that it's like wiping a layer of dirt off an heirloom and seeing it shine again. You've seen this story before, but not often so well acted and accomplished as here. Last year brought The Assassination of Jesse James and 3:10 to Yuma, and now Appaloosa comes along continuing to breathe life into a classic American genre. Rated R for some violence and language. 114m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a nicely written, directed and acted teen version of the meet cute romantic comedy/screwball comedy. And I don't think I'm overloading the film by placing it in genres with such a long and storied history, even if most contemporary examples fall short of the mark.

Peter Sollett's (Raising Victor Vargas) film quickly sets up its romantic principals. We first see New Jersey high school student Nick (Michael Cera from Juno) obsessing over his girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena), the film's mean girl, who has dumped him. He is rescued by fellow Jerk-Offs band members Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) who convince him to join them for a gig at a club.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Norah (a wonderful Kat Dennings, The House Bunny) and her friend Caroline (Ari Graynor, who pulls off a character that is totally blasted through most of the film), who attend high school with the hated Tris. Norah meets Nick at the club when she walks up on stage, kisses him and asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for five minutes.

For the rest of the film, Nick and Norah stumble around Manhattan ostensibly looking for indie band Where's Fluffy? and Norah's missing drunken friend Caroline, but actually fumbling toward a romantic relationship. The writing is smart, the acting is very good all around, and the mostly indie soundtrack is a delight. This may not be the deepest film you'll ever see, but it's a lot of fun and the two main characters make an appropriate couple. What more can you ask for in a romantic comedy?

According to Wikipedia, the film was shot almost entirely on location in New York City in 29 days, mostly at night. Maybe there's a lesson here. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior. 90m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

Continuing

AN AMERICAN CAROL. Left-wing activist campaigns to end Fourth of July celebrations. Rated PG-13. 83 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA. Pampered dog winds up on the mean streets of Mexico. Rated PG. 91 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

BURN AFTER READING. CIA agent's memoir lands in hands of unwise gym employees intent on exploiting their find. Rated R. 95 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.

DARK KNIGHT. Batman walks the line between hero and vigilante when he faces the Joker to save Gotham once again. Rated PG-13. 152 m. At The Movies.

EAGLE EYE. People forced into dangerous situations while tracked and threatened by mysterious woman. Rated PG-13. 118 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

FIREPROOF. Firefighter and wife take on 40-day "Love Dare" in an attempt to save their marriage. Rated PG. 122 m. At The Movies.

FLASH OF GENIUS. Professor/inventor versus corporate auto industry titans. Rated PG-13. At the Broadway.

HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE. Bumbling journalist ruins chance at making high society connections. Rated R. 110 m. At The Movies and Fortuna.

HUMBOLDT COUNTY. Straight-laced city guy gets caught up in The Lost Coast's counterculture. Rated R. 97 m. At the Broadway and the Minor.

IGOR. Lowly hunchback lab assistant dreams of becoming bonafide scientist. Rated PG. 86 m. At the Broadway.

LAKEVIEW TERRACE. New interracial couple on the block harassed by psycho-cop neighbor. Rated PG-13. 110 m. At The Movies.

NIGHTS IN RODANTHE. Life changing romance sparks when two wayward souls batten down for a hurricane. Rated PG-13. 97 m. At the Broadway.

WALL-E. Robot love/adventure story from the director of Finding Nemo. Rated G. 98 m. At The Movies.

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