SAW 3D: THE FINAL CHAPTER. The gruesome horror franchise comes to an end Halloween weekend with yet another deadly puzzle from the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell). Various victims and accomplices return. Sawing ensues. Director Kevin Greutert has the distinction of having worked on all six previous Saw movies as editor or director. 91m. Rated R for sequences of grisly, bloody violence and torture, and language. Opening at the Broadway and Mill Creek in 2D and at the Fortuna in 3D.
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER. The latest from writer/director Woody Allen is another tale of love and relationships set in London. Alfie and Helena (Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones) are divorcing. Their daughter (Naomi Watts) is married to a writer (Josh Brolin), but interested in her boss (Antonio Banderas), while her husband is falling for a beautiful muse across the way (Freida Pinto). Yes, it's complicated. 98m. Rated R for some language. Opening at the Broadway.
Arcata Theatre Lounge kicks off its Halloween weekend with Clive Barker's 1987 horror tale Hellraiser, and its puzzle box that opens a door into an alternate universe inhabited by an S&M clad crew, The Cenobites.
Next Wednesday's Sci-Fi and Pizza Night at ATL has a pair of alien invasion flicks: The 1967 British film They Came From Beyond Space, about space peeps who accidentally crash on Earth and want to go home, and the lo-budget straight-to-vid The Galaxy Invader from B-movie auteur Don Dohler, about an alien hunted by thrill-seeking rednecks.
-- Bob Doran
HEREAFTER. Clint Eastwood's first major directing credit was in 1990 with White Hunter Black Heart, but it was with 1992's Unforgiven that he exhibited the sort of directing talent that is so apparent today. For my taste, Mystic River is the best of an excellent body of work, but Hereafter effectively demonstrates the directing qualities that have distinguished his major films.
I don't think there is a single wasted shot in Hereafter and, as usual, he gives the film over to his actors, all of whom are uniformly very good. While the opening tsunami scene shows that Eastwood can put together an exciting action sequence, the rest of the film is a showcase of his sensitivity toward screen performance and his ability to create an inner life for all of his characters.
Hereafter weaves together three narratives about individuals who have had a death experience. We are first introduced to Parisian TV journalist Marie (a riveting Cecile De France), who nearly drowns in a tsunami in Thailand. We then meet George (a solid Matt Damon) in San Francisco, a "retired" psychic who, due to a brain operation that almost killed him when younger, can communicate with the dead when he touches someone's hand. Finally, we follow the young Marcus in London. His older twin, Jason, dies after being hit by a vehicle. (The twins are played by George and Frankie McLaren.)
Each character in this skillfully woven narrative is changed by his/her experience. Marie is unable to carry on as a journalist and embarks on a book about the hereafter. George has discovered that his ability prevented any sort of intimate relationship with another living person, and now works in a factory. Marcus retreats into himself as he desperately tries to contact his older brother.
Neither Eastwood nor screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) has an axe to grind about the afterlife. Some believe, others do not. What the film does explore sensitively is how the three primary characters cope with an intimation of death, with a love story thrown in as a bonus. This is a beautifully accomplished film, both technically and artistically. Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images and language. 129m At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. Based on the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini, It's Kind of a Funny Story is a coming-of-age narrative that deals with teen depression through an effective combination of comedy and drama. The story centers on 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist, TV series United States of Tara), who, after contemplating suicide by jumping off a bridge, checks himself into a mental facility. Much of the humor stems from the fact that the juvenile wing is closed; Craig ends up in the adult wing.
This is not the usual depiction of a psychiatric hospital. His bewildered parents (Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan) agree to the temporary stay. Dr. Minerva (Viola Davis), who heads the wing, is both sensitive and wise. His primary contacts on the ward are with fellow teen Nia (Zoë Kravitz), who happens to be his best friend's girlfriend, and adult patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who tries to give Craig life advice even as his own life has fallen apart.
While the film deals with teenage depression humourously, it in no way dismisses the seriousness of that depression. As often with a coming-of-age story, Craig's interaction with adults say as much about their world as his own state of mind. This is an enjoyable, worthwhile film. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language. 101m. At the Broadway.
CATFISH. Unlike The Social Network, the fictional depiction of the beginnings of Facebook currently playing everywhere, Catfish is a documentary involving Facebook about New York photographer Nev Schulman, who is sent a painting of one of his photographs by an apparent child prodigy -- Abby Pierce, who lives in Michigan. The film, which generated great buzz following its screening at Sundance, documents the subsequent Facebook relationship between Abby, her family and Nev as shot by Nev's brother Ariel and friend/roommate Henry Joost.
The main part of the film takes place in Michigan when Nev, Ariel and Henry drive there to meet Abby and her family. The film is not particularly artistically nor technically accomplished. But ultimately, those deficits do not detract from the creepiness of the story. Not surprisingly, Abby and her family are not what they represented themselves to be on Facebook.
The blurb about Catfish on IMDb bills the film as a "reality thriller," and that is a reasonable tag. Perhaps what is most surprising here is the naivety of the filmmakers and the relative artistry of one of its subjects. The film, as well, certainly reinforced my negative bias toward Facebook. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references. 87m. At the Broadway.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. I guess when a low-budget film is a surprise box office success, a studio naturally wants to follow the money. Paranormal Activity in 2007 returned its modest investment many times over; some sources claim it is one of the most profitable films ever. It was written and directed by Oren Peli, who is also the screenwriter for Paranormal Activity 2, which is directed by Tod Williams. Williams clearly got a bigger budget; it's just too bad he lacked the imagination to capitalize on it. This film simply has more characters and more cameras but the same plot down to the noises on the soundtrack and the ending. Not exactly a thrill a minute -- it's more a thrill every 30 minutes or so, which at an hour and a half running time equals, being generous, three thrills. This film is a dreary, tedious exercise. (Editor's note: PA-2 was also the box office hit of the weekend. Go figure.) Rated R for some language and brief violent material. 91m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
-- Charlie Myers
THE AMERICAN. Professional assassin played by George Clooney kills enemies in Europe with his good looks. Rated R. 105m. At Garberville.
EASY A. A teenager's white lie about losing her virginity hurts her social standing. Mega bummer. Rated PG-13. 93m. At the Broadway.
JACKASS 3D. Ouch, my balls. Rated R. 95m. At the Broadway Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.
LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE. CGI-animated owl wars -- in 3-D! Rated PG. 90m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT. An unlikely couple have to put their differences aside to care for their shared goddaughter. Adorable. Rated PG-13. 115m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
RED. Being privy to CIA secrets is all well and good when you're a part of the agency. But when you try and leave, watch yourself. Rated PG-13. 111m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. More undead yuckiness. Enjoy. Rated R. 98m. At Garberville.
SECRETARIAT. This is a different movie than Seabiscuit. Barely. Rated PG. 123m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK. You'll want to click "Like." Rated PG-13. 121m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.
THE TOWN. Ben Affleck stars as a bank robber who becomes romantically involved with one of his victims. That's when you know you're irresistable. Rated R. 112m. At the Broadway.