Arts + Scene » Filmland

Orphan adopts horror formula

Plus: Something fun-Ugly for the guy-chicks, and a Food, Inc. screed for the believers


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Opening Friday, July 31, is the third film from Judd Apatow as director, Funny People. Adam Sandler is stand-up comedian George who is given a year to live by his doctor. When he meets struggling comic Ira (Seth Rogen), George becomes his mentor. Rated R for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality. 146m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

The family fantasy adventure film Aliens in the Attic finds a group of kids trying to fight off alien invaders out to destroy the Earth. The parents are useless but the kids have an advantage: The aliens' weapons don't work on children. Rated PG for action violence, some suggestive humor and language. 86m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

The Collector is a horror thriller set in motion when a burglar (Josh Stewart) breaks into a house intending to rob it, but discovers that a masked man is already there and threatening the family. Theft becomes the last thing on his mind. Also starring Madeline Zima from Californication. Rated R for pervasive sadistic bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. 88m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Moon is a science fiction film about an astronaut (Sam Rockwell) who is completing a three-year mission on our satellite where he oversees a mining operation that supplies earth with its energy. Kevin Spacey provides the computer's voice. In his first feature, Duncan Jones emphasizes minimalism over special effects. Rated R for language. 97m. At the Minor.


ORPHAN: In the world of horror films, Orphan is far from the worst example of the genre. Firmly in The Bad Seed sub-category, the film is a marked advance for director Jaume Collet-Serra over his debut in 2005 with House of Wax, although Wax did have one very satisfying moment when Paris Hilton met a particularly grisly end.

The aspect of the film that lifted it somewhat above its formulaic plot was the strong acting of Vera Farmiga (The Departed; the only good thing about The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) and the appropriately creepy performance by Isabelle Fuhrman as adopted orphan Esther.

The long, fairly slow buildup might make some genre fans antsy, but I enjoyed the setup knowing that the blood was sure to flow eventually, although the series of cutesy, fake surprise shots meant to elicit horror film gasps that were intermingled senselessly along the way were entirely unnecessary. Of course, viewers will, as usual, have to mightily suspend their disbelief.

The film opens with Kate (Farmiga) having a nightmare about the loss of her unborn baby. Eventually, she and her husband, John (a bland Peter Sarsgaard), decide to adopt, even though they have two other children: a son, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), and a daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer in her film debut). John, of course, becomes enamored of the only girl in the orphanage not playing with anyone and who, even more sinister, has an apparent Russian accent.

Fairly quickly everyone in the family realizes that "there's something wrong with Esther" (the film's tag line) except John who believes his wife is the nutty one, supported by Dr. Browning (Margo Martindale) who wants to commit Kate to a facility. Since Kate's children are cowed by Esther, the film becomes a "lone woman in peril" story as well. Any horror film fan can easily write the rest of the script and, indeed, there are no real surprises but there are some genuinely scary moments. Rated R for disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language. 123m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

FOOD, INC.: There is an unintended irony watching this documentary about the multinational corporate food industry that is present at every chain theatre I've visited. The pre-screening ads at these theatres are dominated by Coke and, indeed, the one that was shown at the Minor prior to the movie was the "cute" one where various bugs steal and successfully open a bottle of Coke from a sleeping picnicker. At the end of the ad, a woman sitting to my right and down one row shouted out, "No self-respecting bug would ever drink that stuff."

Ah, I thought, Food, Inc. has found its audience. It's too bad that it consisted only of myself, the politically vocal woman and three other adults, two of whom brought their young daughters with them. And that's probably the sad fact about this political activist documentary: It's likely to be seen only by those who already believe that unhealthful food is being foisted on us by a powerful, corrupt and politically connected industry and not by those who load up on junk food every day.

To be fair, and the film does touch on this issue, many people cannot economically afford to eat healthfully — or think they can't. But besides showing viewers the usual horror images of how cattle, chickens and other food animals are rendered into supermarket packages, the film is also a plea for everyday shoppers to change their buying habits, pointing out that thanks to demand, even Walmart now carries an organic food line.

Effectively narrated by Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") and Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation"), the film arouses anger calmly and matter-of-factly without strident polemics. For those who believe the corporate food industry is too powerful to fight, the film points to the fate of Big Tobacco. I appreciated the pep talk, but I must admit I left the theatre depressed. Recommended. Rated PG for some thematic material and disturbing images. 94m. At the Minor.

THE UGLY TRUTH: I've had a personal revelation recently caused by some external events. First, my wife Claudia ran into a woman we both know and she asked her why I had to be so negative in my reviews. Then, a growing legion of women friends and acquaintances have told me how much they enjoyed the guy film The Hangover. One even said she "laughed her head off" (a figure of speech, I hope). So, either they've joined, Stepford wives-like, the brain-dead guy universe or I'm just an effete, ex-academic, intellectual snob who can't appreciate real humor when it's thrust, as it were (did I mention academic?), at me.

Happily, this revelation came just in time for The Ugly Truth, a hybrid guy film/romantic comedy starring the genuinely talented Katherine Heigl and the interesting Gerard Butler. So even though the film embodies many of the stereotypes of both genres and contains no real narrative surprises, I still laughed (although more a series of chuckles than guffaws, but it's a start).

Happily, Heigl and Butler have good screen chemistry, and the best thing about the film is their interchanges. The story itself is just a shell: There is never any doubt that the proper TV producer Abby (Heigl) and the rude misogynist Mike (Butler) will get together, both learning a few lessons about themselves along the way. The sparkling Heigl and the rugged Butler almost make viewers forget the underlying sexual politics of the film.

Anyway, who cares about sexist comments these days except professors who don't have tenure yet? Frankly, the "guy" parts of the films were more interesting than the romantic comedy aspects. In fact, I'm going out to rent Animal House as soon as I finish here. If you don't hear from me next week, you'll know I actually laughed at the thing. Rated R for sexual content and language. 97m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.


AWAY WE GO. An expectant couple (John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph) encounter misadventures looking for a place to call home. Rated R. 98m. At the Minor.

BRUNO. Sacha Baron Cohen is at it again, this time as a gay Austrian supermodel on a quest to become famous in the U.S. Rated R. 88m. At the Movies.

G-FORCE. Government-trained guinea pigs out to save the world. With the voices of Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. At Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

THE HANGOVER. Getting severely trashed with your bros at a Vegas-based bachelor party can have serious consequences, especially when no one remembers what happened. Rated R. 100m. At the Broadway.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE. The Hogwarts boy wizard saga continues. Don't mess with Voldemort. Rated PG. 153m.

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS. The gang makes a rescue mission for Sid that takes them into a mysterious underground world where they have close encounters with dinos and generally run amuck. Rated PG. At the Broadway (3-D), Mill Creek and Fortuna (3-D).

MY SISTER'S KEEPER. Parents with sick daughter have another child just to harvest her organs; harvested kid takes a stand when she gets old enough. Rated PG-13. 109m. At The Movies.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN. Museum exhibits come to life leading to a history-packed battle of good versus evil. Rated PG. 105m. At The Movies.

THE PROPOSAL. When a high-powered book editor faces deportation to her native Canada, she declares she's actually engaged to her assistant, whom she's tormented for years. Rated PG-13. 108m. At the Movies and Fortuna.

PUBLIC ENEMIES. A Depp-alicious true crime drama set during the dawn of the FBI. Rated R. 140m. At the Broadway.

STAR TREK. Get the action-packed backstory on Kirk and Spock's rivalry-ridden relationship. Rated PG-13. 127m. At The Movies.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. Once again, Sam Witwicky finds himself in the middle of the war between the Autobots and the Decipticons with the fate of the universe at stake. Rated PG-13. 151m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

UP. In Pixar's latest, an elderly gentleman sets out to fulfill lifelong dream despite annoying Boy Scout tagalong. Rated PG. 101m. At The Movies.


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