Opening Friday, Feb. 13, with a timely subject, is The International, directed by Tom Tykwer (Perfume). Clive Owen stars as an Interpol agent who is investigating international banking corruption and Naomi Watts is a Manhattan ADA who becomes his ally. If the trailer is accurate, he needs all the help he can get. Rated R for some sequences of violence and language. 118m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
Cleverly timed to the first such Friday this year, Friday the 13th is the latest take on the well-known horror film series. Jason is now portrayed by stuntman Derek Mears while Jared Padalecki (Gilmore Girls; House of Wax) plays the lead investigator of the latest sinister events at Crystal Lake. Amanda Righetti, currently in TV's The Mentalist, is the designated female in danger. Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, language and drug material. 97m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor.
Based on British author Sophie Kinsella's book, Confessions of a Shopaholic is the latest film desperately seeking a female audience. Isla Fisher stars as college grad Rebecca who nurtures her addiction in Manhattan while writing a financial advice column. The Pussycat Dolls' "Bad Girl" says it all. Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements. 105m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED: In 1995, Danish film directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg co-signed a statement now famously known as the Dogme 95 Manifesto and "Vow of Chastity." Among its stipulations about filmmaking, it called for location shooting, a minimal reliance on technical elements (the only sound allowed, for example, was that which would be a part of the environment; no extraneous soundtrack music), use of a hand-held camera that focuses only on the action of the film, and so on. The scenes often seemed improvised, and von Trier in 2003 went so far as to paint the floor plan of his set on the otherwise undecorated studio floor in Dogville.
Rachel Getting Married clearly comes out of this tradition. Director Jonathan Demme, from a screenplay by Jenny Lumet (daughter of Sidney), makes great use of a hand-held camera and a series of appropriately intrusive close-ups to put the viewer completely in the world of the film. The narrative lends itself to this style of filmmaking: Kym (an incredibly fine Anne Hathaway) is released on a furlough from a rehab center so she can attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (an excellent Rosemarie DeWitt, currently in United States of Tara). Taking place over three days during the preparation for the wedding and the ceremony itself, Kym's recovering addict presence serves as a powerful and explosive catalyst that uncovers suppressed family emotions.
In a way, it's not fair to single out Hathaway's performance in what is a fine ensemble cast. But Hathaway so expertly takes advantage of the close-ups, with her continually changing raw emotions mirrored by her facial expressions, that she's impossible to ignore, and Demme constantly lets the camera focus on Kym even when she's not the seeming center of the scene.
Furthermore, I have never seen a wedding weekend so realistically recreated, with its anarchy of emotional people and cacophony of competing sounds, as here, and as for the wedding itself, I might swear I was a guest.
Demme does not ignore the rest of the family, somehow finding a bit of sympathy for them all, including the father-in-denial Paul (Bill Irwin) and his ex-wife Abby (Debra Winger, as quirky as ever). And it turns out that this is actually a film about Rachel, who grew up in Kym's shadow, during her moment in the spotlight.
We also discover that there is much more to Kym than someone working through a 12-step program; she doesn't just disrupt the normal flow of the wedding, she asserts her right to be a full member of the family even if, finally, only Rachel can handle the force of her sister's personality. In the end, it is not Kym who let's Rachel down. Robert Altman is tellingly among the end credit thanks. It's not just his 1978 film A Wedding (cited by Demme as an influence), but the Altman-like use of sound that complements, intrudes and overlaps all at the same time. Kudos to everyone involved with this film for elevating a commonplace story into the realm of film art. Rated R for language and brief sexuality. 113m. At the Minor.
PUSH: I suppose the science fiction action film Push has a coherent plot, but I had trouble finding it moment by moment while I was watching it. I know it has to do with some secret U.S. government organization (aren't they all?) called The Division, members of which, led by Henry Carver (Djimon Hounsou), are hunting down one of their experiments who escaped, a woman named Kira (Camilla Belle) who may know the whereabouts of a suitcase that seems really important.
Also hunting the suitcase is telekinetic Nick (Chris Evans) and clairvoyant Cassie (a sexualized Dakota Fanning) who want to escape The Division forever. But the film is really more interested in staging a series of action scenes involving people with special abilities, including Movers (telekinetics), Watchers (who manipulate possible futures), Bleeders (whose screams cause blood vessels to erupt), Wipers (can erase all or select memories), and so on, tediously. Didn't Heroes already do this, and rather more effectively?
The action takes place in a crowded Hong Kong where, presumably, those trying to evade The Division have the best chance to disappear. Fanning and Hounsou are always interesting to watch, but I wouldn't be in a hurry to add this film to my resumé. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, brief strong language, smoking and a scene of teen drinking. 111m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU: Based on the so-called relationship self-help book of the same name by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, He's Just Not That Into You, sadly set in my hometown Baltimore, is about a group of seemingly relationship-defective men and women who are obsessed with the opposite sex (the gay guys that appear in the story seem to have it all sussed out). The book and film might as well have been titled Heterosexual Relationships for the Clueless. Of course, the only relationships depicted here are between well-to-do individuals who can still afford expensive restaurants and bars, much like the characters in the equally superficial Sex and the City.
The good cast in the service of the stupid script includes Ginnifer Goodwin (Wife 3 in Big Love) as Gigi, who can't interpret men's signals, Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck as a long-term co-habiting couple, Scarlett Johansson as a temptress (not exactly a stretch) who thinks the hubbie will leave his wife, Jennifer Connelly as the wife whose husband (Bradley Cooper) is Scarlett-struck, and Justin Long, who has the film's best lines, as the male signal interpreter for Gigi.
One would think that in the real world Darwinian natural selection would have solved all this relationship stuff by now, but not in this throwback. One bit of advice: If your intended chooses "Cherish" as a wedding processional, don't walk down the aisle. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language. 129m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
BEDTIME STORIES. Stories told by hotel handyman to his young relatives mysteriously start to come true. Rated PG. 99m. At The Movies.
BRIDE WARS. Best friends and brides-to-be find themselves at war when their wedding plans go awry. Rated PG. 94m. At The Movies.
CORALINE. Girl finds a secret door leading to a parallel, better reality; but there's a catch. Rated PG. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. Brad Pitt ages backward, Cate Blanchett ages forward, they enjoy blissful moments in the middle and confusion at either end. Rated PG-13. 166 m. At The Movies.
FROST/NIXON. Richard Nixon, disgraced president trying to save his legacy, vs. David Frost, TV personality trying to make it big. Rated R. 122m. At the Broadway.
GRAN TORINO. Veteran/racist/retired autoworker versus the local Asian gang-bangers. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.
HOTEL FOR DOGS. Kids faced with "no pets" rule in their new foster home convert abandoned hotel into foster home for doggies. Rated PG. 100m. At The Movies.
INKHEART. Beware of reading aloud: you may get sucked into the book's pages while a character gets released into the real world. Rated PG. 106m. At The Movies.
MILK. Chronicle of the political life and 1977 assassination of Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay public office-holder. Rated R. 128m. At the Minor.
NEW IN TOWN. Up-and-coming executive based in Miami takes assignment in the cuts and finds her life changed for the better. Rated PG. 96m. At The Movies.
PAUL BLART: MALL COP. Mall cop must man up to save the day when Santa's helpers at the mall stage a coup. Rated PG. 91m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.
PINK PANTHER 2. Inspector Jacques Clouseau is at it again. Rated PG. 93m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Orphan from slums of Bombay who rocks India's Who Wants to be a Millionaire must clear his name of cheating before claiming his prize. Rated R. 121m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.
TAKEN. Former spy launches one-man war to bring down gang that kidnapped his daughter. Rated PG-13. 91m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
TWILIGHT. Teen girl gets swept up in unorthodox romance with vampire. Rated PG-13. 122m. At The Movies.
UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS. The Death Dealers, a group of aristocratic vampires, versus the Lycans, barbaric werewolves. Rated R. 93m. At the Broadway.
UNINVITED. Anna returns home from time in a psych unit to find her recently passed mom's nurse creepily infiltrating her life. Rated PG-13. At The Movies.
WRESTLER. Retired wrestler that rocked in the ’80s attempts to stage a comeback in the ring. Rated R. 110m. At the Minor.