THE TOWN. Ben Affleck wrote, directed and stars in this adaptation of Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves. Affleck plays Doug MacRay, leader of a band of Boston bank robbers. Complicating matters is a relentless FBI agent (Jon Hamm from Mad Men) and Doug's relationship with a beautiful bank manager (Rebecca Hall). 123m. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.
I'M STILL HERE. It's double-Affleck week, as Ben's brother Casey Affleck directs this documentary (or perhaps mockumentary) following Joaquin Phoenix as he makes the transition from actor to bearded hip hop artist (with Sean "Diddy" Combs as his manager). If you saw Phoenix on Letterman you were wondering if he was serious -- this film may or may not clear up that confusion. Not rated, but contains scenes that some may find disturbing. Opening Friday at the Minor.
DEVIL. This, the first in an M. Night Shyamalan horror trilogy, The Night Chronicles, focuses on five people trapped in an elevator who come to believe that the Devil himself (or herself) may be among the passengers. Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references. Opening at the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
EASY A. Teen comedy stars Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland) as Olive, a high-schooler who pretends she's lost her virginity, thus improving the rep of her gay boyfriend. When she's asked for repeat performances, she provokes the wrath of Christian goody-two-shoes Marianne (Amanda Bynes). It happens that their class is studying Nathanial Hawthorne's classic The Scarlet Letter at the time, thus providing a literary reference (and the title). 92m. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material. Opening at the Broadway and Mill Creek.
ALPHA AND OMEGA. Cartoon romantic comedy about a mismatched pair of wolves, Kate (voiced by Hayden Panettiere) and Humphrey (Justin Long), thrown together when they are relocated. The title reference to personality types is probably over the head of the target audience. This has the distinction of being the last film project for the late Dennis Hopper, who did voice work. 88m. Rated PG for rude humor and some mild action. Opening at the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
The Arcata Theatre Lounge has the Wachowski brothers' psy-fi classic The Matrix on Friday, with Keanu Reeves as Neo leading a revolution against the machine-system that has taken over the world. Saturday it's "YouTube Tons of Fries Night," with special deals on fries and hours of YouTubage curated by Michel Sargent ("parental guidance suggested"). On Sunday, the ATL heads Back to the Future, with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly in Robert Zemeckis' comic tale of time travel. ATL's Sci-fi and Pizza Night Wednesday, Sept. 22, has a pair of campy psychedelic Italian space flicks: Battaglie Negli Spazi Stellari (Cosmos: War of the Planets), with John Richardson as a spaceship captain battling a dangerous computer, and Pianeta Degli Uomini Spenti (Battle of the Worlds), with Claude Raines as a professor working to save Earth from a planet-sized spaceship and its fleet of flying saucers.
Saturday at sundown, the Humboldt Fun Club presents something different -- its first Bike-In Movie night, an outdoor screening of the organic farm activism documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John, about farm-raised Midwesterner John Peterson and his struggle to maintain his family farm through a quarter of a century. Pack your camp chairs and blankets on a bike rack, wheel out to R and Iverson streets in Arcata and enjoy an evening of fun with minimal carbon footprint. Sorry, the screening may be susceptible to climate change: Rain or heavy fog cancels.
-- Bob Doran
FLIPPED. The basic premise of Flipped is common in romantic comedies: A couple of opposites who can't stand each other eventually find love. The twist here is that it's young kids finding their first love who are those opposites.
Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) meets Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) when they're both in second grade. Initially he can't stand her, but she is immediately enamored of him. As the years go by, they find themselves in eighth grade, with slightly more complex feelings. She tries to save the sycamore tree that is her refuge, but he is overly concerned with his social status in school. When he finally realizes she is something special, she witnesses him betray her in a conversation with one of his friends and comes to the conclusion that he may be a moral coward who's not worthy of her.
The young actors who play the leads are engaging, as is John Mahoney as Bryce's wise grandfather. Unfortunately the rest of the film lets them down with an overly sentimental script and a failure to reframe the source material cinematically.
The "he said/she said" literary device used in the young adult novel that's the source of the story, with each of the main characters telling their version, may be a good one on paper, but the adaptation doesn't go far enough. Ultimately, the film relies too heavily on voiceover narration, telling rather than showing. It's stilted and schematic.
Visually, Flipped has that bright bogus patina that lazy filmmakers use to signify the ’50s as some kind of cliché of innocence. The special effects-sweetened treetop vistas make it even more unreal and cheesy.
The film is especially weak and bland when compared to director Rob Reiner's Stand By Me, set in roughly the same time period. Unlike Flipped, that film didn't gloss over the darker parts of its young characters' lives. Here, those darker notes seem tacked on, and the movie varies wildly in tone. Bryce's father (a miscast Anthony Edwards) is a snarky alcoholic with shattered dreams, though this is only made clear in one awkward dinner party scene. When he erupts in violence at one point, it comes out of nowhere and strains credibility. The money problems of Juli's parents (Aidan Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller) seem more realistic and believable.
It's interesting that the original novel is set in the present day. There's no good reason that director Reiner switched the film version to the ’50s other than pandering to baby boomer nostalgia. The result is a sappy Hallmark card of a film. Rated PG for language. 90m. At the Minor.
-- Jay Aubrey-Herzog
THE AMERICAN. Professional assassin played by George Clooney kills enemies in Europe with his good looks. Rated R. 105m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
THE EXPENDABLES. Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down this film for artistic reasons. There you have it. Rated R. 103m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. The second film based on Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy. Rated R. 129m. At the Minor.
GOING THE DISTANCE. Long distance relationships can be difficult ... and hilarious! Rated R. 103m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
INCEPTION. Still not sure what happns when you die in the fourth level and your top stops spinning, but Leonardo is a total dream-boat. Geddit?!? See it three dozen times more. Rated PG-13. 148m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
THE LAST EXORCISM. There is no such thing as a routine exorcism. Rated PG-13. 107m. At the Broadway.
MACHETE. Danny Trejo stars as a renegade federale. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rated R. 102m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS. Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical children's disciplinarian. Rated PG. 109m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE OTHER GUYS. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star as a cop odd couple. PG-13. 108m. At Broadway, Garberville and Mill Creek.
THE SWITCH. Jennifer Aniston decides artificial insemination is the only way she'll ever have a baby. But something goes wrong! Rated PG-13. 101m. At the Broadway.
TAKERS. A group of bank robbers take on one job too many. Rated PG-13. 107m. At the Broadway.
VAMPIRES SUCK. What do you think this movie might have in common with vampires? PG-13. 85m. At Fortuna.