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Thrills! Spills! Apocalypse!

Plus: Almodovar returns with the masterful Broken Embraces

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Previews

Set in the ’60s, the British coming-of-age film An Education centers on Jenny (in an acclaimed performance by Carey Mulligan), an Oxford-bound student who gets sucked into the orbit of a man (Peter Sarsgaard) twice her age. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking. 95m. At the Minor.

Based on the Nicholas Spark novel, Dear John is about a young woman (Amanda Seyfried) who falls in love with a soldier (Channing Tatum) on leave. Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence. 105m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

The thriller From Paris with Love stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as an aide in the U.S. ambassador's office in Paris and John Travolta as an FBI agent. They team up to foil a terrorist plot. Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality. 92m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Reviews

EDGE OF DARKNESS: Based on the 1980s BBC TV series of the same name, Edge of Darkness is a competently executed thriller/revenge tale. The film begins with images that will only make sense later in the story: We see three dead bodies pop to the surface in a river at night, followed by what appears to be a video of a young child playing by an ocean with presumably her father's voice in the background as he captures his daughter's playful antics.

This conjunction of innocence and evil informs the universe of this film -- except, as we discover, innocence is in very short supply. Mel Gibson, appropriately grim and driven, is Boston detective Thomas Craven, whose visiting daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic, Drag Me to Hell), is shot down right next to him outside his house.

Initially believing he was the intended target, Craven soon discovers that his daughter, who worked for private government contractor Northmoore, was a potential whistleblower involved in a plot to reveal the company's illegal activities. The attempt to revenge Emma's death, then, also becomes the story of one man trying to unravel the dealings of our government and one of its arms contractors. While the company's executives are evil, it will surprise few viewers that an elected official is the slimiest character.

Gibson is solid, but the most interesting character in the story is Darius Jedburgh (wonderfully played by Ray Winstone), the guy who keeps people from connecting A to B. No surprises here but nicely accomplished. Rated R for strong bloody violence and language. 117m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

BROKEN EMBRACES: Broken Embraces is a wonderfully acted, intriguingly photographed and expertly directed complex narrative about love, possession and artistic impulses.

Directed by Pedro Almodovar, the story opens in 2008 with "Harry Caine" (Lluís Homar), a blind writer who adopted this name when he became blind and couldn't make films anymore as Mateo Blanco. Then there's his agent, Judit Garcia (Blanca Portillo), and her adult son Diego (Tamar Novas), who helps Harry with his writing.

The sudden appearance of "Rayo X" (Rubén Ochandiano), who wants Harry to write a screenplay, forces him to recall the past -- particularly 1994, when Mateo directed a film starring Lena (Penelope Cruz in a fully realized performance). A former secretary, Lena is living with her millionaire former boss, Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez), but wants to be an actress. When she is cast as the lead in Mateo's film and they fall in love, jealousies and hidden motivations lead to tragedy in the past and revelations in the present, and we are once again reminded that films often outlive those who are involved with them. Invoking The Third Man, another complex narrative about love and betrayal, Almodovar tells his story without a single wasted shot.

When I saw this film at a Sunday matinee in Denver with some 100 people in attendance, there was deserved applause at the end. I can only hope the three people at the local screening (apart from me and my companion) enjoyed the film as well. Broken Embraces is what filmmaking should be. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material. 127 m. At the Minor.

WHEN IN ROME: I can only hope that people out there in our fair county are having a better time of it in the romance department than people in the lame romantic comedies released so far this year. As for the comedy aspect, that quality surely improved with the release of Apple's iPad.

When in Rome pairs Gossip Girl's Kristen Bell with Josh Duhamel (TV's Las Vegas) as the would-be romantic couple Beth and Nick. I started to hate it from the opening music, a bland pop song entitled "Kickin' With You," performed by Jason Mraz.

The formula points: Beth and Nick meet cute at her sister's wedding in Rome when Beth can't break the wedding vase. Barriers to their union arise when she takes coins from the fountain and the owners of the coins fall under her spell. One coin (a poker chip, actually) belongs to Nick, so his love can't be real. She has to give the coins back to break the spell. Nick still loves her. But wait, she may have returned the wrong chip.

No doubt most viewers will enjoy this tripe more than I did. A woman sitting behind me howled with laughter. Plus she thinks Duhamel is a hunk. I can't say the same about Bell. Hangover alert for all those fans out there: When in Rome may be the next Golden Globes winner. Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content. 91m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE ROAD: Cormac McCarthy's 2006 novel The Road presents a daunting challenge as a film adaptation. The story of a father and son trying to reach the coast in a dying world following some unspecified catastrophe is almost unremittingly bleak. McCarthy's writing style is unadorned and matter-of-fact yet oddly lyrical.

Director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall are up to the task; the film adaptation is remarkably faithful to McCarthy's book both in terms of narration and tone. Except for brief flashbacks, the film's washed out colors make it almost a black and white exercise. Hillcoat's austere compositions and minimal camera movement are a nice filmic analogue to the novel's writing style. And, while the story is bleak the film, like the novel, avoids all sentimentality.

Viggo Mortensen as the father brings a fine low-key intensity to this tale of survival, and Kodi Smit-McPhee delivers a very sensitive performance as the son.

The father tells his son that they are "good people" and must carry the fire. In a way, the journey is a quest to discover whether any other good people still exist. For most of the film, the answer is no. But although the story is bleak, it ends with the possibility of redemption. Stay for the end credits and pick out the ambient sounds under them. Rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language. 111m. At the Minor.

Continuing

ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL. Alvin and the gang meet their female rivals, the Chipettes. Watch the fur fly! Rated PG. 88m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

AVATAR. Military forces attempt to control and exploit a region and its people, whom they know little about (In 3D). Rated PG-13. 162m. At the Broadway (3D), Fortuna (3D) and Mill Creek.

THE BLIND SIDE. A homeless African-American youth is taken in by a well-to-do white family who help him realize his football potential. Rated PG-13. 126m. At the Broadway.

THE BOOK OF ELI. Denzel Washington possesses the one thing that will save civilization. Rated R. 118m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES. A father determined to find a cure for his two children's terminal illnesses teams up with a research scientist in an attempt to produce a new, life-saving drug. Rated PG. 106m. At the Broadway.

IT'S COMPLICATED. Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin play divorcees who reignite the flame after 10 years apart. Rated R. 118m. At the Broadway.

LEGION. God is losing faith in humanity, leaving fallen archangel Michael to try and protect a young waitress who might be pregnant with the second coming of Christ. Rated R. 100m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE LOVELY BONES. A young girl is murdered, but makes sure to watch over her family and her killer from heaven. At the Broadway and Fortuna. Rated PG-13. 135m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.

NINE. Daniel Day-Lewis stars in a musical about the life of a womanizing film director in a creative crisis. Rated PG-13. 115m. At the Minor.

SHERLOCK HOLMES. Robert Downey Jr. stars as the updated, more ass-kicking version of the legendary sleuth. Rated PG-13. 128m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

TOOTH FAIRY. Dwayne "don't call me The Rock" Johnson plays a tough-as-nails hockey player who, after discouraging a young child, is forced to perform the duties of the actual tooth fairy as punishment. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

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