Knocked Up failed to dislodge Pirates from atop the box office, but perhaps Ocean's Thirteen will accomplish that feat. Happily set back in Las Vegas after the European setting of the disastrous Twelve, Steven Soderbergh returns as director and Pitt, Clooney and Damon now face a new enemy and scamee in Al Pacino, one of the best scenery chewers around. But for me, the appearance of the ever-fresh Ellen Barkin is all I need to know. Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality. 132 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and the Fortuna.
Except for Barkin, more promising for my taste is the comedy/romance Waitress , written and directed by Adrienne Shelly. Sadly, this will be her final project due to her murder in Manhattan on Nov. 1, 2006. Keri Russell (MI:III) plays Jenna, a pregnant waitress in an unhappy marriage. But a new person in town may be her last chance for happiness. Shelly plays one of Jenna's co-workers. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and thematic elements. 117 m. At the Broadway.
The box office success of made-on-the-cheap Hostel in 2006 made Hostel: Part II, again directed by Eli Roth, inevitable. The story picks up where Hostel left off, and this time three traveling women art students replace the three guys from Part I in the torture chamber. What an imaginative variation. Rated R for sadistic scenes of torture and bloody violence, terror, nudity, sexual content, language and some drug content. 103 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
Surf's Up is an animated family film with the premise that penguins invented surfing. The film takes the form of a fake documentary that follows the action at the Penguin World Surfing Championship. Featuring the voices of Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, John Heder, James Woods and others. Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor. 95 m. At The Movies, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
MR. BROOKS: In Mr. Brooks, Kevin Costner plays compulsive serial killer Earl Brooks (called the Thumbprint Killer by the police and press), who attempts to mitigate his unfortunate addiction by attending AA meetings but who always gives in to his seductive Mr. Hyde persona (named Marshall here), embodied by the seductive William Hurt, who haunts Mr. Brooks' every moment like the bad angel in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, or perhaps like some enabling bartender who knows a lush when he sees one. Having panned Costner in the past, an actor who's made a bunch of films while exhibiting little discernible talent, I must say that in this film, writer/director Bruce A. Evans makes good use of Costner's limitations as an actor. Costner does well as a seemingly nice guy, good husband, and Portland's Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, and he brings that quality to his nasty deeds, which he enjoys but never really gets carried away with. The film's weakness is that it throws in too many narrative lines, as though someone didn't trust the primary story. The most irrelevant of these revolves around Thornton Meeks (Matt Schulze), a.k.a. the Hangman, an escaped serial killer who's out to wreak revenge on beleaguered but wealthy Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore), as though she didn't have enough problems with her sleazebag husband who's trying to take her for five million in a divorce settlement. The primary plot has some nice twists and a satisfactory conclusion. Marg Helgenberger, the feisty investigator in CSI, is totally wasted as Mr. Brooks' wife, but Danielle Panabaker, the troublesome and disobedient daughter on Shark, gives new meaning to the bad seed as Mr. Brooks' daughter, Jane. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, nudity and language. 130 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
KNOCKED UP: Based on Judd Apatow's previous film as writer and director, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and a bevy of positive reviews ("strikes me as an instant classic" trumpets A.O. Scott in the New York Times), I went to Knocked Up with high expectations. Initially, I was very let down; the film seemed yet another litany of lame adolescent sexual humor with an overdose of slacker and stoner jokes thrown in. But the film grew on me and by the end I realized it accomplishes what few comedies manage to do: it actually explores some serious social issues without condescension while being totally entertaining. Seldom has the sugarcoated pill aesthetic been handled so effectively. In fact, the strength of the film lies in the fact that it can be viewed and enjoyed on one level (the obvious comedy) or several. Apatow also benefits from a strong ensemble cast, some of whom he has worked with before. The story is simple: somewhat overweight slacker Ben (Seth Rogen) meets the up and coming on-air interviewer and drop-dead gorgeous Alison (Katherine Heigl from Grey's Anatomy) at a nightclub and they have sex after drinking a lot. Can this mismatched couple find love amidst an unplanned pregnancy and Ben's immaturity? The film also has a well-developed side plot as we follow the travails of Alison's married sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann, who's married to Apatow), and her husband Pete (an excellent Paul Rudd) as they struggle with a troubled marriage. The film is full of surprising touches. A small example is the scene where Alison stops her car in traffic and kicks Ben out. No one behind Alison's car honks and no one takes note of Ben as he walks in the middle of the heavy traffic; the scene is left to the two main characters. Knocked Up is a deceptively engaging film. Rated R for sexual content, drug use and language. 139 m. At The Movies, Mill Creek and the Minor.
GRACIE: Gracieis a heartfelt underdog story that follows the familiar narrative line of almost all such tales, but does it reasonably well. What sets the film apart, though, is the spirited and unaffected performance by young actor Carly Schroeder in the title role. Schroeder is Gracie, whose high school soccer star brother, and her best friend, is killed in a car accident early in the film. Gracie also has soccer skills and the film, set in 1978, details her efforts to tryout for the men's soccer team (there is no women's team due to "lack of interest") despite the animosity of the male players, her female friends and classmates, the opposition of the school authorities and the school board, and the initial lack of support from her parents (played by Dermot Mulroney and Elizabeth Shue), particularly her Dad, a former soccer star himself who trained her older brother. The story plays out as you would expect but TV director Davis Guggenheim puts the familiar pieces together effectively. Shue herself, one of the film's producers, made the boys soccer team in the 6th grade and played on it for three years, there being no girls' team available. The film is dedicated to her brother William, a medical student who died in 1988; her brother Andrew, a star of Melrose Place, was also a soccer player, so this film is personal for Shue. Rated PG-13 for brief sexual content. 102 m. At the Broadway.
AWAY FROM HER: Away From Her,a first feature from Canadian actress Sarah Polley, who also wrote the screenplay, deserves all the accolades it has received. Based on the story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Canadian writer Alice Munro, the film tells the deceptively simple story of the effect of Alzheimer's on Fiona (Julie Christie in a note perfect performance), who is suffering from the disease, and her husband Grant (a very good Gordon Pinsent who began his career as a stage actor), who reluctantly agrees to let her check into an assisted-living facility as her condition worsens. But the film is nicely complicated by thought-provoking ambiguities and complex relationships. At the facility, Fiona forms a very close attachment with another patient, Aubrey (Michael Murphy), and seems to no longer recognize Grant ("My, but you're persistent," she says to Grant during his daily visits). But is it the disease, or is she "paying him back" for his indiscretions with students when he was a professor (and was she one of his students?)? Further complicating the situation is the relationship that develops between Grant and Aubrey's wife, Marian (a quietly effective Olympia Dukakis). In the end, though, this is a truly moving and emotionally complex love story. Christie, still beautiful and an actor of great maturity, gives the viewer a portrait of a woman who may be disappearing but who still radiates life. Highly recommended. Rated PG-13 for sexual references and adult situations. 120 m. At the Broadway.
AVENUE MONTAIGNE(FAUTEUILS D'ORCHESTRE)Avenue Montaigne(Fauteuils D'Orchestre) is a thoroughly entertaining, whimsical French comedy/drama directed by Danièle Thompson, who wrote the script with her son Christopher, who also plays one of the main roles. The story centers on naïve young Jessica (nicely portrayed by Cécile De France), who comes to Paris after hearing her grandmother's stories and lands a job at an Avenue Montaigne café. As a result, she becomes involved with concert pianist Jean-François (Albert Dupontel), who wants to give up what he sees as an empty, soulless career; TV soap star Catherine (an excellent Valérie Lemercier), who is unhappily cast in a classic French farce but really wants to work with famous American film director Brian Sobinsky (played with relish by Sydney Pollack) on his film about Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; and self-made millionaire Jacques Grumberg (Claude Brasseur), who is selling off his art collection while not dealing with his estranged son Frédéric (Christopher Thompson). As Jessica touches on the lives of the other characters, she enriches her own while being the catalyst that enables them to change theirs. Avenue Montaigne is both delightful and insightful, a good way to spend two hours. Rated PG-13 for some strong language and brief sexuality. 110 m. At the Minor.
28 WEEKS LATER. Assuming they've stamped out a nasty virus, health officials give Brits the go-ahead to re-inhabit London. Big mistake. Rated R. 109 m. At the Broadway.
BLADES OF GLORY. Male Olympic ice skaters (W. Ferrell, J. Heder) compete as a pair. Rated PG-13. 103 m. At The Movies.
BUG. A Gulf War vet (M. Shannon) convinces a down-and-out waitress (A. Judd) of his paranoid notion that he contracted a bug in the Middle East. Rated R. 111 m. At the Broadway.
HOT FUZZ.A top London cop gets transferred to a small town and whips up action where there seems to be none. Rated R. 131 m. At the Broadway.
THE NAMESAKE.The son of Indian immigrants struggles to find his identity in NYC. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). Based on the book by Jhumpa Lahiri. Rated PG-13. 132 m. At the Minor.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END. The action moves to Singapore where Davy Jones (Nighy) and Capt. Jack (Depp) continue their battle, with the profession of piracy in danger of extinction. Rated PG-13. 178 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
SHREK THE THIRD.When the lovable ogre is crowned King he tries to find someone more suitable for the role. Voices by M. Myers, C. Diaz, E. Murphy, A. Banderas. Rated PG. 102 m. At The Movies, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
SPIDER-MAN 3.The web-slinger (T. Maguire) tussles with baddies and wrestles internal demons. Rated PG-13. 150 m. At the Broadway.
WILD HOGS.Weekend bikers tango with a real motorcycle gang. Stars J. Travolta. Rated PG-13. 109 m. At The Movies.