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Meet the Fosters

Carell plus Fey plus madcappery equals pleasant-enough rom-com

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The Misfits
  • The Misfits

Previews

Opening Friday, April 16, is the much-hyped Kick-Ass, based on the comic of the same name. Giving hope to nerdy high school students everywhere, the film features Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski, a high school student of little note who decides he can become a superhero by donning an outfit, creating a MySpace page and calling himself Kick-Ass. Joined by Hit-Girl (Chloé Grace Moretz), the two slay baddies and curse up a storm. Nicolas Cage plays Hit-Girl's father Big Daddy. Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use -- some involving children. 117m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Mill Creek and Minor.

Death at a Funeral is a remake of the 2007 British black comedy about the secrets and hidden bodies that pop up during the funeral for a family's father. The American version features a mostly African-American cast that includes Danny Glover and Regina Hall, but Peter Dinklage reprises his role from the British version as the gay dwarf who was the father's lover. Ah, those Brits. Rated R for language, drug content and some sexual humor. 90m. At the Broadway

John Huston month at the Eureka Library continues with his 1961 film The Misfits, with a screenplay by Arthur Miller. Although a bit of a box office dud when released, the film was a critical hit. It was the final film appearance for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable who play, respectively, a divorcée and an aging cowboy. The film also features Montgomery Cliff, Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach. Hosted by the Journal's Bob Doran, the program begins at 6:30 p.m.

Catch a special first-time preview screening of the independent feature A River of Skulls on Saturday, April 17, at the Arkley Center. Writer/director/producer Suza Lambert Bowser, an Arcata resident, describes the film as a feminist Western.

"It's the story of a young woman named Eula Jane Seeley [Kelly Nixon], who is growing up in the Gold Country." The time in 1871; Eula Jane's mother died in childbirth, leaving her father distraught. While working in a boarding house she is seduced by a rich young entrepreneur, which over time leads to her working in a brothel and to a struggle to improve her situation. "What I found fascinating was that the brothel experience did not mean that your life was over as a young women. A lot depended on attitude," says Lambert Bowser.

"There are lots of twists and turns to the story and she eventually meets a man, Jack Rivers [Aleph Ayin], who is a half-breed: half Mexican, half Miwok Indian. He's going through a similar struggle: He's lost his parents and is going down the dark road," said Lambert Bowser, explaining that she borrowed ideas from Bret Harte's "The Luck of Roaring Camp."

She's hoping the story will resonate with a modern audience. "As a feminist, looking a younger women today, I see a lack of challenge and a certain level of acceptance of society as it is. I think it's inspirational for women to see other women's struggles and their successes -- to see their survival. There's a certain strength that comes out of dealing with things face on. I'm hoping my story shows women who have faced loss and figured out how to survive."

The film was shot in Calaveras County by a crew of Humboldt filmmakers including Matt St. Charles -- known for his own indie features Remote Control Grandpa and The Making Of. The same crew is currently in pre-production on a new feature with a contemporary storyline -- Flea -- to be shot in and around Arcata in coming weeks. Note: The Arkley box office opens at 6:30 p.m. Showtime is 7 p.m.

The Quorum Incendiarios Silent Soviet Classics Series at the Arcata Playhouse concludes with ¡Que Viva Mexico! a fascinating assemblage of footage from pioneering Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's never-finished film about the culture and history of Mexico from before the days of the Conquistadors to the Mexican Revolution. The screening begins at 8 p.m. on Monday, April 19.

The Arcata Theater Lounge will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger when they host a late night screening of Pulp Fiction (1994) on Friday, April 16, at 11 p.m. Be warned of the dangers that this week's Godwit Days Spring Migration Festival may inflict on Humboldt with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) on Sunday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. Also, check out the Banff Mountain Film Festival on both Monday and Tuesday, April 19 and 20, at 7 p.m. for some thrilling mountain sports-themed action.

Review

DATE NIGHT: It was a pleasure to finally see a drama/comedy/romance that was actually funny and even, in its own way, romantic. Date Night is a subset of the genre featuring the estranged/divorced/bored couple who rekindle the romance.

Of course, the bar for this group of films is rather low (think of Did You Hear About the Morgans?). Still, Date Night is a minor pleasure. The enjoyment is certainly not due to the efficiently formulaic plot, but rather to the presence as the featured couple of Tina Fey and Steve Carell, who manage to carry along the story with intermittent but persistent humor along with the rest of the cast.

The setup has some similarity to that in the Morgans. Phil and Claire Foster (Carell and Fey) are a married couple with children whose lives have settled into a monotonous and largely sexless routine. They both work full-time, Claire as a realtor and Phil as a tax consultant, and Claire, who can't remember why she used to love Phil, is too tired at night to have sex.

In between bickering about the usual couple stuff, their relationship has devolved into a date night at a local Jersey steak house. In a desperate attempt to escape their personal black hole, Phil decides on the spur of the moment to take Claire into an "in" over-priced Manhattan restaurant where, of course, there is no table available. When the Tripplehorns are called and don't respond, Phil pretends to be them and he and Claire are seated.

It's a running joke in the film that taking someone's reservations is worse than murder and, of course, this no-no sets the rest of the madcap plot in motion. It turns out that the Tripplehorns are using a stolen flash drive to blackmail the wrong person, as the Fosters discover when they are removed from the restaurant by Collins (Common) and Armstrong (Jimmi Simpson).

The rest of the film finds the bumbling but surprisingly resourceful couple getting in and out of one bad situation after another. One of the nice things about Fey and Carell is that they look like they could be married couple with children. Although Carell, at 48, is eight years older than Fey, he looks younger, and while both are attractive neither is burdened with matinee-idol looks.

Neither Fey nor Carell are as sharply comic as they have been elsewhere, but I attribute this to the romantic plot line that tends to soften all the hard edges as it trudges its way to a preordained conclusion. Fey and Carell fight this as much as possible, and it would have been great to see them in a film with sharper writing.

The cast is nicely rounded out by a shirtless Mark Wahlberg, who helps out the couple, and particularly by James Franco and Mila Kunis (Solara in The Book of Eli; TV's Family Guy), who may be the funniest actors in the film. William Fichtner (Prison Break) as the D.A. who carries around a broom to symbolize how he is going to clean up the city, and Ray Liotta as the mob guy (not a stretch) also add some extra humor. Director Shawn Levy (the two Night at the Museum films) makes little attempt to elevate the script but moves things along appropriately.

This is a minor effort, but at least an enjoyable one. If you go, stick around for the outtakes during and after the end credits. Rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference. 88m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

Continuing

ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's very public love affair takes a journey down the rabbit hole. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

AVATAR. Military forces attempt to control and exploit a region and its people, which they know little about. Rated PG-13. 162m. At the Broadway.

BOUNTY HUNTER. A professional bounty hunter gets his dream assignment when he is called on to track down his bail-jumping ex-wife. Rated 111m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

CLASH OF THE TITANS. Release the Krakken! Rated PG-13. 118m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. A young boy in middle school deals with the horrors of adolescence. Based on the best-selling illustrated novel by Jeff Kinney. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

THE GHOST WRITER. A successful British ghostwriter agrees to complete the memoirs of a former Prime Minister. Rated PG-13. 128m. At the Broadway and the Minor.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. It's not your average hot tub. ’Nuff said. Rated R. 99m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. A Viking teenager has trouble fitting in with his tribe until he gets a dragon. Rated PG. 98m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and the Minor.

THE LAST SONG. Miley Cyrus stars in the Miley Cyrus film that comes before the Miley Cyrus film about Orick. Rated PG. 107m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

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