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Puppets at the End

Plus: Whiteout is a gray celluloid mess and Sorority Row is really awful

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Previews

Opening Friday, Sept. 18, is Steven Soderbergh's latest film The Informant! Based on the 2000 nonfiction book by Kurt Eichenwald about whistle blower Mark Whitacre, the film stars Matt Damon in a comic take on the story. Rated R for language. 108 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor.

Megan Fox is everywhere, and now she's the evil high school cheerleader hottie in Jennifer's Body, a darkly comic horror film written by Diablo Cody (Juno). When Jennifer suddenly becomes available to the panting high school guys, they might not like the price of admission. Amanda Seyfried costars as Jennifer's best friend Needy. Rated R for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use. 102m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston star in the romantic drama Love Happens. Eckhart plays a widowed self-help author who can't help himself and Aniston a Seattle florist who's given up on dating. He comes to Seattle to lead a seminar, they meet, and ... Rated PG-13 for some language, including sexual references. 109m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Inspired by the cleverly titled children's book of the same name, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a computer animated film about a scientist who solves world hunger by inventing a machine that converts water into food. Then the machine runs amok. Rated PG for brief mild language. 90m. At the Broadway (2D and 3D) and Mill Creek.

Reviews

9: I've always had a weakness for dystopia stories and post-apocalyptic fare. Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which centers on a father and his son as they attempt to get to the Pacific Coast following some cataclysmic event, was one of the most powerful novels I have read in recent years. I'm hoping the upcoming Oct. 16 film release starring Viggo Mortensen as the father will capture the novel's power. Likewise, I am eagerly anticipating the imminent release of Margaret Atwood's follow-up to her dystopian novel Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood.

This is an indirect way of saying that I went to 9, cleverly released on 9/9/09, with some positive expectations, much unlike me. In the end, I have slightly mixed but mostly positive feelings about the film. Unfortunately, I have not seen Shane Acker's animated short of the same title but I gather it followed, without dialog, the sentient rag doll 9 as he battles the Cat Beast who has destroyed 1 through 8 and captured their souls.

The feature film opens as 9, looking like some burlap-covered doll, is being stitched by the about-to-die scientist whose invention of The Machine has destroyed all human life. In this version, most of 9's fellow dolls are still alive and trying to avoid destruction by the remnants of the machine creatures. 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) turns out to be inquisitive and adventurous, a trait that leads him to inadvertently resuscitate The Machine. 9 wants to do battle with The Machine, which as in the short is capturing souls and discarding the doll carcasses, but 1 (Christopher Plummer) wants to find a hiding place.

The animation itself is effective and the barren landscape of ruined buildings has a sort of grandeur. The film has its share of battles, but Acker's primary concern is, as in District 9, the nature of what constitutes "humanity." The sentient dolls have souls and they debate the proper course of action when facing adversity. My only real reservation is a sometimes stop-and-go plot that occasionally lurches rather than develops. Overall, though, this is an effective film, and since there appears to be no way for the dolls to reproduce, the future is satisfying bleak. Rated PG-13 for violence and scary images. 79m. At Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.

SORORITY ROW: As I sat all by myself in Theatre No. 3 at Mill Creek, I began to feel sorry for the advertisers. First up was a Coke product, and I haven't drunk any soda for years. This was followed by an ad for one of those phones that does everything. As it happens, I use a hand-me-down cell phone only under duress (and only five people have the number). Ford then weighed in with some six-cylinder product that had the pickup of an eight. My newest car is Japanese. Finally, the Coast Guard said they were looking for some intelligent people who wanted to serve their country. Now, I thought, maybe that's for me. Oh wait, maybe I'm too old.

Then the feature began, and I started to feel really sorry for myself. Sorority Row, a remake of 1983's The House on Sorority Row, a film that I either never saw or have happily suppressed, is a sort of frat party-meets-slasher film. It's not a happy marriage. And no matter that it's a sorority hosting the party, the elements are the same: semi-unclad women, everyone guzzling alcohol, lots of sex and rude behavior all around. They all seemed to be having a good time; what's wrong with me? (I don't expect an answer.)

The film centers on a group of senior Theta Pi sisters who decide to punish a straying boyfriend. It goes awry and eight months later the group is killed off one by one in the usual slasher mode at yet another tiresome party. I'm afraid that even "Bra-Clad Sister" (debut of Teri Andrzejewski, remember that name) couldn't arouse my interest. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and partying. 101m. At Broadway and Mill Creek.

WHITEOUT: Whiteout isn't a bad film, just a terminally mediocre thriller. Based on the 1998 graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, the story, after an opening prologue set in the 1950s, takes place in the present at a research station in Antarctica just three days before winter sets in.

Among the inhabitants of the station, and due to return to Miami, is U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, played by the comely Kate Beckinsale. The film being set in a really cold place, the story takes an early opportunity to show Carrie taking off her layers of clothes in a sort of genteel striptease, and then stepping into a carefully fogged shower as she discards her underwear.

Voyeurs should enjoy the scene while they can because the rest of the film takes place largely in the frozen, windy and snowy outdoors, where the good guys and bad guys are barely distinguishable. Disturbing the tranquility of the remote base are the first two murders ever to happen at Antarctica. What's a marshal to do? Her job, of course, and with a storm approaching, she has less than three days to solve the murders if she wants to leave the base.

The plot's primary interest lies in which of the men (Carrie is the only woman featured in the film) is sticking an ice pick in the base's scientists? The candidates: handsome U.N. investigator (or so he says) Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), Carrie's friendly pilot Delfy (Columbus Short), Aussie Russell Haden (Alex O'Loughlin), the base's doctor John Fury (Tom Skerritt) with the suspicious last name, or....

Complicating the situation for Carrie is that her old partner back in the States, shown in a series of flashbacks, betrayed her and she never suspected him. I have to say that if you've seen one whiteout you get the picture. This film spends too much time with shots of blowing snow. Rated R for violence, grisly images, brief strong language and some nudity. 101m. At Broadway and Mill Creek.

Continuing

500 DAYS OF SUMMER. Tom is dumped by Summer, causing him to reflect on their 500 days together. Rated PG-13. 100m. At the Movies.

ALL ABOUT STEVE. Sandra Bullock makes crosswords for a living and is set up on a blind date with cameraman Thomas Haden Church. Hilarity ensues. Rated PG-13. 99m. At Broadway.

DISTRICT 9. What will humanity do with the aliens of South Africa? Rated R. 120m. At the Movies, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

EXTRACT. Business owner played by Jason Bateman is wrapped up in a convoluted scheme to get him to cheat on his wife. A Mike Judge film. Rated R. 92m. At Broadway.

THE FINAL DESTINATION. Nick has a premonition and predicts the killing of his friends. Then teens die. Surprise! Rated R. 81m. At Broadway, Mill Creek, the Movies and Fortuna.

GAMER. Entertainment evolves to include gory, real, live human gaming. Throw out your Xbox. Rated R. 95m. At the Movies.

G-FORCE. Government-trained guinea pigs out to save the world. With the voices of Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. Rated PG. 90m. At the Movies.

G.I. JOE. Elite military squad kicks ass all over the world, with the aid of their super-suits. Rated PG-13. 120m. At Mill Creek and the Movies.

HALLOWEEN II. Rob Zombie's sequel to his re-imagining of the teen slasher yuckfest. Rated R. 115m. At Broadway 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. Wow, this is still in theaters! Rated R. 100m. At The Movies.

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

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. 87 m. At The Movies.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. A special unit of Jewish-American soldiers is sent behind enemy lines to spread shock and awe among German troops in Nazi-occupied France in Quentin Tarantino's latest film. 153m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

JULIE & JULIA. Two chicks for the price of a flick! N. Ephron intersperses Julia Child biopic with tale of bored 30-something New Yorker seeking inspiration. Rated PG-13. 123m. At Broadway and Fortuna.

PONYO. "The Little Mermaid" through the lens of Japanese animation Rated G. 103m. At Broadway.

SHORTS. A rainbow colored rock falls from the sky that grants wishes. Uh-oh now spaceships are swarming the neighborhood. What's a kid to do? Rated PG. 100m. At the Movies, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

TAKING WOODSTOCK. Take a trip with Demitri Martin back in time to the 1960s musical lovefest. Rated R. 121m. At the Minor.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. Clare continues to love Henry despite his genetic time traveling problem. With Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. 120m. At the Movies, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

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