Happily, we are getting one film on Friday, June 6, that is not a summer blockbuster: Then She Found Me, directed by and starring the talented Helen Hunt. Based on the novel by popular writer Elinor Lipman, this directing debut features Hunt as a 39-year-old woman who hears her biological clock ticking very loudly and who becomes pregnant during breakup sex (with Matthew Broderick as the husband). Then she loses the mother who adopted her and meets another woman claiming to be the biological mom (Bette Midler). Then she has an affair with another man (Colin Firth as Frank). Some people really know how to approach 40. I'm a Helen Hunt fan and I'm looking forward to her performance. As an aside, the writer Salman Rushdie plays April's obstetrician. Rated R for some language and sexual content. 100 m. At the Broadway.
From Dreamworks comes the animated family comedy Kung Fu Panda, wherein the titular panda, Po, uses his ability at martial arts to become the unlikely hero in the Valley of Peace when enemies threaten his friends. Po is voiced by Jack Black with other voices being supplied by Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu and Ian McShane. Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action. 88 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
You Don't Mess with the Zohan stars Adam Sandler as a Mossad officer who fakes his death in order to pursue his dream of becoming a hairdresser in New York. Sandler co-wrote the screenplay with Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel, and the film co-stars John Turturro. Did I mention it's a comedy? Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language and nudity. 113 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Fortuna and the Minor.
SEX AND THE CITY: I am here to praise Sex and the City, not dis it. So I tried a couple episodes of the TV series and found it boring despite the attractive women. And maybe I never read a single one of Candace Bushnell's columns, but I have been to Manhattan. Perhaps my designer outfits don't include Dior or Louis Vuitton, but I proudly wear my Hustler Legendary Gold jeans and Asics athletic shoes. And sure, I'm not a 20-something (now 40-something) well-to-do professional woman hitting the pavements and drinking establishments in the city; I'm not young and I'm the wrong gender.
At any rate, as it turns out, most of the women who adore Sex and the City don't wear clothes like Carrie Bradshaw does, and they don't live in Manhattan, yet they still identify with the swinging quartet in search of love, sex and large clothes closets, perhaps not always in that order, in the city that appears to house mostly worthless members of the male species.
So, on to the eulogy. Let's see, almost no one wears designer outfits as well as Sarah Jessica Parker, nor looks as good in them, despite the catty remark by my film companion that Parker is too skinny (she actually said her legs were ugly!). It's not just that she looks good, though; she knows how to pose and move in the outfits to show them at their best.
But, continuing on to the more important things such as character, script, narrative and other elements that presumably add up to a film. First, I should note the balance when it comes to nudity; there is very brief full-frontal (maybe more full-sidal) male nudity (not Chris Noth's, despite the fact his character name is Mr. Big) to go along with the perhaps more lingering breast shots.
As to character, it's fair to say that the men are at least as superficial as the women, and altogether more marginalized, as seems to befit films whose target audience is probably primarily female. Notice how careful I am not to use the term "chick flick," because I'm way too enlightened to employ that condescending label and, anyway, I usually like chick flicks.
As for the script, there is the occasionally clever line and it is head and shoulders above What Happens in Vegas and Made of Honor — although as I think about it, they may be two of the worst films to open recently.
Pushing on to narrative, I'm guessing that fans of the TV series will find that almost everything is comfortably familiar some four years after the final episode. Doing my research, I discovered that the series finale had Carrie and Mr. Big reuniting in Paris (boy, I hope I have that right). Now, they embark on an ill-fated path to marriage, one aspect of the bitter part of this sweet story, the other being the seeming breakup of Miranda's (Cynthia Nixon) relationship because Steve (David Eigenberg) does a typical guy thing.
Meanwhile, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is shacked up with a hunky actor in Malibu but peeping in on an even more hunky neighbor while he has athletic sex with a variety of women, not always singly, while Charlotte (Kristin Davis) pursues pregnancy bliss. And, the film goes on for a really long time to provide maximum enjoyment. Oh yeah, Jennifer Hudson makes an appearance as Carrie's assistant, Louise, and gets to sing one of the soundtrack songs.
I really can't begin to express how interesting all of this was, so I won't even try, nor does it matter. Most fans of the series will love the film and I guess that's enough for everyone but an old curmudgeon who clearly doesn't know how to have fun. Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. 148 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.
THE STRANGERS: In my preview last week, I suggested that this release was for the guys who don't have girlfriends who would drag them to Sex and the City. As it turns out, I was unfair. The Strangers is a better horror film than most I've seen so far this year (a rather low bar, I admit), although committed horror fans might not agree.
First-time director Bryan Bertino, who also wrote the screenplay, taps into the home invasion category, a thriller sub-genre that at its best creates fear based on the violation of a sacred and presumably safe place. Hitchcock used this sort of violation effectively in Psycho (the safe space here, of course, being a shower), and playwright Harold Pinter made a career out of creating this sort of terror in his theatre pieces.
Although the film begins with a title suggesting it is "based on real events," it would appear that it was inspired by a combination of any number of events, particularly those involving Charles Manson, according to an interview with the director that appears on shocktillyoudrop.com.
The narrative begins with a brief shot of what appears to be the end of the story before flashing back to Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman, the Underworld films), who are leaving a friend's wedding after James' failed marriage proposal. The unhappy couple arrive at an isolated summer home that James has prepared as though Kristen was going to say yes, and it all goes downhill from there. But while the film has most of the familiar elements of the genre, Bertino effectively builds the tension in a slow, deliberative fashion, often by using silence punctuated by sounds emanating from within and outside the house.
The tension is created as well with very simple but eerie masks, and invaders who speak just two lines in the entire film and who have no apparent motivation for their actions. "Because you were home" is the response to Kristen's terrified query, "Why are you doing this?"
Liv Tyler, who as an actor has all too often just been asked to look pretty, is particularly good in this low-budget film, especially in her facial expressions and in the way she deals with her character's dual tasks of trying to talk to James about their relationship and in how she deals with the increasing terror.
The film is certainly not a masterpiece, but within the confines of its genre, it delivers the goods in an interesting fashion. Those who desire more splatter and desire closure are likely to be disappointed. Rated R for violence/terror and language. 90 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
BABY MAMA.Infertile business woman hires working-class woman as unlikely surrogate. Rated PG-13. 99 m. At the Broadway.
BRA BOYS.Documentary about the surfing "Bra Boys" of Maroubra, warring gangs from a beach side suburb in Australia. Rated R. 90 m. At The Movies.
CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN.Newest installment of series based on C.S. Lewis's sci-fi/fantasy books. Rated PG. 144 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.American teen is transported back to kung-fu time when he finds weapon of ancient warrior in pawn shop. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At The Movies.
HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY.Harold and Kumar are mistaken for terrorists and have to run from the law. Rated R. 102 m. At The Movies.
HORTON HEARS A WHO.Mocked do-gooding elephant attempts to rescue a microscopic civilization. Rated G. 87 m. At The Movies.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.Intrepid archaeologist becomes entangled in Soviet plot to uncover secret behind mysterious Crystal Skulls. Rated PG-13. 112 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.
IRON MAN.Action/adventure flick based on Marvel's iconic comic-book superhero. Rated PG-13. 126 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
MADE OF HONOR.Man realizes his love for his best friend when she becomes engaged to another. Rated PG-13. 101 m. At The Movies.
NIM'S ISLAND.Author's literary creation inspires young girl's fantasy island; author and girl unite to conquer Nim's Island. Rated PG. 94 m. At The Movies.
SPEED RACER.Full-length live action film adaptation of classic Japanese anime series. Rated PG. 135 m. At The Movies.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS.Two strangers wake up married after a night of debauchery in Sin City; comic chaos ensues. Rated PG-13. 99 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
YOUNG@HEART.Poignant documentary on chorus composed of seniors ages 72-93. Rated PG. 110 m. At