Memorial Day weekend openings: For the youngsters we have Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a sandy Disney period adventure based on a computer game. Produced by action/blockbuster king Jerry Bruckheimer, the light summer movie stars a buff Jake Gyllenhaal as the swashbuckling Prince Dastan, battling baddies in an Arabian Nights-style Middle East with help from a magic dagger and a cute princess (Gemma Arterton). Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action. Starts Friday at the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
Coincidentally, Sex and the City 2, the attempt at turning the HBO TV series into a big screen franchise, is also set partly in the Middle Eastern desert. The storyline, such as it is, has Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her gal pals (Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, etc.) heading to Abu Dhabi on a luxurious vacation, where their post-feminist ways rankle the straight-laced Muslim world. Rated R for some strong sexual content and language. Opening at the Fortuna, the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.
Playing Sunday only at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first episode from a successful film franchise based on the even more successful kids' novels by J. K. Rowling. Daniel Radcliffe stars as the young wizard Harry, who we see introduced to the world of Hogwarts, the school for wizards. Magical events ensue.
MACGRUBER: And so we continue with the time-honored tradition of stretching a short, cute, digestible Saturday Night Live skit into a long, ugly, nauseating feature length film. Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. Actually, I really had hope for MacGruber, I swear. As someone who admittedly regularly watched MacGyver in his youth, with its gloriously implausible storylines and oozing ’80s machismo, I think I can safely claim to be the target audience for the film.
Proof? In an act of giddy pre-MacGruber anticipation, I found myself poking around the ol' Internet in search of some campy MacGyver-related nostalgia. Found it. One might assume that you'd have to settle for some low-quality YouTube clips transferred from someone's VHS collection. So imagine the "Hey look, a $100 bill"-sensation of discovering that IMDb.com (of all places) has EVERY EPISODE of MacGyver for your streaming pleasure. Afternoon destroyed.
Okay, now I'm in the mood. Let's fry this ham! MacGruber stars SNL's Will Forte as the inept, macho, mulleted title character. After your garden-variety Russian bad guy (an adorably pudgy Val Kilmer) goes and steals a nuclear warhead (it happens), MacGruber is called upon to, ya know, save the world. Along the way he is assisted by a wise, senior military commander (Powers Booth), a young, rookie soldier (Ryan Phillippe) and what becomes a female love interest (SNL's Kristin Wiig). Boom. Movie. You have to keep those plot lines nice and formulaic so as not to get in the way of the laughs.
And MacGruber supplies some yuks ,to be sure. Freed from the NBC censors, Forte and Co. take full advantage of their R-rating, which, when you're not used to seeing a familiar character naked and swearing, can be jarring at first. You get used to it. Unfortunately, the problem with MacGruber is its star, who appears to be completely in over his head in a lead role. A lot of the dialogue seems underwritten, and you feel like Forte is really reaching for those laughs to compensate. It also doesn't help that the aforementioned supporting cast outshines him. Kilmer is effortlessly hilarious as Dieter Von Cunth (yes, they abuse that gag) and Wiig is awkwardly endearing as Vickie St. Elmo. But man, I owe you a Coke if we ever see the name Will Forte in another top billing.
Overall, the sad thing you realize while watching MacGruber is that you really just wanted to watch MacGyver the whole time. After recently reviewing Richard Dean Anderson's defining role, I wondered why someone went to all the trouble to make a parody where the jokes are so self-evident.
What's also sad is, though its 6th place/$4.1 million opening weekend may not back the claim, it seemed as though MacGruber had a pretty solid buzz going prior to release. So, what happened? Well, I found it interesting that they marketed it as "the best SNL film since Wayne's World." Dude, don't remind people! It doesn't seem like alerting audiences to MacGruber's SNL roots is the ticket to box office gold, especially when you consider the duds conjured by that association.
Since Wayne and Garth's initial trip to the silver screen, there have been at least a half dozen movies painfully birthed from SNL sketches, every last one a bomb. Hell, we've got time, I'll even list ’em for ya: Coneheads (1993), It's Pat (1994), Stuart Saves His Family (1995), A Night At the Roxbury (1998), Superstar (1999), The Ladies Man (2000) -- you get the idea. It's a depressing bunch. The lesson: Be careful of the company you keep. While MacGruber may surpass its predecessors, I doubt anyone will argue that it broke the "SNL Curse." Rated R for male nudity, language and throat extractions. 90m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
-- Andrew Goff
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS): The Secret in Their Eyes, this year's Oscar winner from Argentina for Best Foreign Language Film, is a mystery and a love story. But both interconnected narrative strands take place primarily in a past that almost totally determines the present, much like the situation in Almodovar's recent film Broken Embraces.
In fact, many of the events, such as the rape and murder of a young wife that propels the story, are seen only in someone's mind. We are not privy to the actual event, only its existence in a character's imagination. This device serves nicely to deepen and complicate the central mystery and unusual love story.
The back story, set in the 1970s, is told in flashback. A federal agent, Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), is obsessed with the rape/murder of Liliana Coloto, studying a photograph of her as though he could solve the case by discerning the secret in her eyes. His investigation is aided by alcoholic colleague Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) and newly appointed department head Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), with some assists from the dead woman's husband, bank employee Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago).
A suspect is arrested and convicted, but is released a year later by a corrupt official that Benjamin had once offended. In fact, it appears that Benjamin's own life is threatened. Further complicating matters is the fact that Benjamin is in love with Irene, a feeling that is apparently not reciprocated.
In a parallel story, we see Benjamin in the present, still haunted by the case and his unresolved and unstated feelings for Irene. Director Juan José Campanella skillfully weaves together the two major plot strands and the two time frames, and the acting is excellent throughout.
Sometimes, the secret in the eyes closest to you is the hardest to read. Highly recommended. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated R for a rape scene, violent images, some graphic nudity and language. Moves from the Minor to the Broadway this weekend.
-- Charlie Myers
DATE NIGHT. Married couple portrayed by Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are reminded why they live in the suburbs, Rated PG-13. 88m. At Broadway.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. A Viking teenager has trouble fitting in with his tribe until he gets a dragon. Rated PG. 98m. At the Broadway.
IRON MAN 2. Now with twice the iron! Rated PG-13. 124m. At the Broadway, Garberville, Fortuna, Mill Creek and the Minor.
LETTERS TO JULIET. A young American in Verona joins a team of writers who respond to letters seeking love advice. Rated PG. 105m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
ROBIN HOOD. Russell Crowe shows Kevin Costner how it's done. First, you steal from the rich ... Rated PG-13. 140m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER. Shrek endures a midlife crisis. Bring the kids! Rated PG. 93m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.