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Plus: This Is It memorializes Michael Jackson's consummate professionalism




Based on the nonfiction book by Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats is a comedy about a secret unit of our military that attempts to use psychic powers in Iraq. With George Clooney and Ewan McGregor. Rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity. 93m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.

Disney's A Christmas Carol is the latest version of the classic tale, now starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge and others, along with an all-star cast. Rated PG. 96m. At the Broadway (3D/2D), Mill Creek and Fortuna.

Amelia stars Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart in director Mira Nair's take on the well-known aviator. Richard Gere plays her husband and Ewan McGregor a possible love interest. Rated PG. 111m. At the Broadway.

In The Box, Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a couple with an ethical dilemma: they'll get $1 million if they cause the death of some stranger. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images. 115m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

The Fourth Kind (as in close encounters with) is a sci-fi/horror film about alien abduction starring Milla Jovovich. Rated PG-13 for violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements and brief sexuality. 98m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

The French film Coco Before Chanel stars Audrey Tautou as the woman who became Coco. Looks very promising. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking. 105m. At the Minor.


THIS IS IT: Michael Jackson's This Is It is culled from some 100 hours of rehearsals that were taped while Jackson and his creative collaborators prepared for an intended 50-concert tour that was to begin on July 13, 2009. Unfortunately, the tour was canceled due to Jackson's untimely death, but happily this record remains even if the footage was never originally intended for public viewing.

The resulting film, directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical) is more concert film than traditional documentary, despite the brief interviews and testimonials to Jackson's talent that provide breaks between the various production numbers. The opening scene sets the film's tone: We see dancers being auditioned for the tour and for all of them, this is a dream gig and they are universal in their praise for the King of Pop.

After watching this film, I would certainly join that chorus. As someone who directed plays for over 30 years, I would be overjoyed to work with a performer who, in this footage anyway, is so respectful of his fellow performers and the technical crew. While Jackson is both specific and firm in his ideas about how a given number should be performed, he is always soft-spoken and positive in how he makes his wishes known.

It's possible that Ortega only choose the footage that shows Jackson in a very positive light, but I was impressed by Jackson's grasp of the complex technical details involved with a concert tour, the interpretation of the songs and with the choreography and the way he quietly imposed his own creative stamp on the show.

Much of what we see being rehearsed in the film comes from Jackson's 1980s material, including a brief Jackson 5 segment. Some numbers are accompanied by filmed scenes, the cleverest of which is a black and white interaction with Rita Hayworth (she tosses him a black glove, presumably from Gilda) and with Humphrey Bogart (who appears to be trying to gun down Jackson after saying "What's he doing here?").

But the core of the film is the focus on Jackson and his incredible perfectionism. The best moments in This Is It are watching Jackson's moves or when he is singing alone on stage. Clearly, fans do not get to see Jackson in full voice. As he mentions several times during the film, he is saving his voice for the actual concert. But his spirit is fully there, and based on the footage selected for this film, that spirit infused his entire team.

There has been some controversy over whether footage not intended for public viewing should have been made into a film, but I'm happy I got to see it. Rated PG for some suggestive choreography and scary images. 112m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF: Tyler Perry has made a series of very successful films, all of which I believe have been based on his theatre pieces. To date, Perry has written 11 stage plays and eight films that include his Madea persona. According to Wikipedia, his films had grossed about 400 million before the current release.

So, I had to ask myself why I had so far avoided attending any of them. Perhaps it was a negative reaction, from previews, to the character of Madea, an obese crotchety grandmother figure. At any rate, I decided I had unreasonably avoided Perry's previous films and trekked off to give I Can Do Bad All By Myself a try.

Maybe it was only because I saw the film on the eve of my latest advanced birthday, but I ended up being seduced by Perry's mixture of humor and drama. The character of Madea was introduced in 1999 in the play of the same title, but she is not the main character in Perry's latest offering. Rather, the film centers on a number of troubled characters trying to work through their travails. Specifically, the film focuses on alcoholic nightclub singer April (Taraji P. Henson, Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), who is sleeping with a married man whose wife is pregnant. When Madea and Uncle Joe (also Perry) discover the 16-year-old Jennifer (a wonderful performance by Hope Olaide Wilson) and her two younger siblings Manny (Kwesi Boakye) and Byron (Frederick Siglar) breaking into their house, Madea further complicates April's life by taking them to April because April's mother, who has been taking care of the kids, has gone missing. About the same time, Pastor Brian (Marvin Winans) sends Columbian immigrant Sandino (Adam Rodriguez, Eric Delko on CSI: Miami) to do handiwork in exchange for a place to stay.

April, who is also a very self-centered person, sticks Sandino in the basement (threatening to lock him in) and the three siblings on the couch. In addition, April's live-in married lover Randy (Brian J. White) is a complete jerk who attempts to molest Jennifer, a sullen teen who already has too much on her plate taking care of her younger brothers. Clearly, this is a group of people in need of salvation and Sandino is the person who can bring this about.

Okay, this is soap opera material. But there is a reason that soap operas and Perry's films are so popular, because beneath the shallowly drawn characters and awful dialog is a focus on issues that "ordinary" people actually have to deal with, such as relationships, jobs and matters of faith.

Perry is very respectful of his characters and their problems. It's too bad that the script ties things up too quickly, neatly and predictably, but besides the fine acting of the young Wilson, Perry includes Mary J. Blige and Gladys Knight in the cast, which adds to its musical pleasure. Even Madea was often amusing, particularly when she misrelates to Jennifer the story of Jesus walking on water, intermixing a number of Old Testament characters in the process. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving a sexual assault on a minor, violence, drug references and smoking. 113m.


ASTROBOY. A young robot is given super strength and x-ray vision. Kids love this stuff. Rated PG. 94m. At the Movies.

CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT. A 14-year-old vampire joins a circus freak show. Rated PG-13. 109m. At the Movies and Mill Creek.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS. Based on the beloved children's book where it rains food. The cure for the recession? Rated PG. 90m. At the Movies.

COUPLES RETREAT. Vince Vaughn leads a group of married friends to a tropical island resort. They soon discover that participation in the hotel's couples therapy is not optional. Rated PG-13. 108m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

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

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 the Movies.

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. Jamie Fox is justifiably upset. The world better watch out. Rated R. 122m. At the Movies.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. See what you and your buddies can do with a $15,000 film budget? Get to work. Rated R. 99m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Mill Creek and the Minor.

SAW VI. It's October. Time for our annual Saw installment. Want the plot? See Saw I-V. Rated R. 93m. At the Broadway.

STEPFATHER. If your mother marries another man, beware; he might be a serial killer. Rated R. 102m. At the Movies.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Max journeys to the land of Wild Things where he becomes their new ruler, but soon finds that relationships are harder then he thought. Rated PG. 94m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

WHIP IT. Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut with a Roller Derby flick. Sweet. Rated PG-13. 113m. At the Movies.

ZOMBIELAND. Woody Harrelson hilariously blows peoples heads off. Kinda like Natural Born Killers except they're already dead. Rated R. 88m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

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