A slew of films open locally on Friday, Oct. 3. The western Appaloosa follows two gunman (Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen) hired to take down a tyrannical rancher (Jeremy Irons). Rated R. 114m. At the Broadway. An American Carol is a comedy about a documentary filmmaker who wants to abolish the Fourth of July. Rated PG-13. 83m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek. In Blindness, all but one woman in a town lose their sight -- w/Ruffalo, Braga and Sandra Oh. Rated R. 120m. At the Broadway.
Two people in their 20s meet club-hopping in NYC and begin a relationship in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Rated PG-13. 90m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is a comedy based on Toby Young's book. Rated R. 110m. At the Broadway and Fortuna. Flash of Genius is based on the true story of Robert Kearns's fight with Detroit over his invention of the intermittent windshield wiper. Rated PG-13. 119m. At the Broadway. Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a live-action comedy about a Chihuahua lost in Mexico and how she gets home, with voices of Drew Barrymore and Placido Domingo. Rated PG. 91m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
The Eureka Library film series (all Hitchcock) begins Oct. 7 with Rear Window (1954) hosted by Charlie Myers -- 6:30 p.m. at the Main Library.
EAGLE EYE: Eagle Eye gets better performances than it deserves from its cast, but this has become boringly familiar and I've come to believe that screenwriting is now the weakest link in major commercial releases. The film follows the standard summer film strategy: cast a popular up-and-coming actor (Shia LaBeouf), put him opposite a very good but lesser known actor (Michelle Monaghan), throw in an old pro (Billy Bob Thornton), push the pace and hope no one notices or cares about the weak script.
To while away the time, a number of homilies did come to mind while watching the film: it's not paranoia if they're really after you; you live by the computer, you die by the computer, strict constructivism will come back to bite Republicans; and so on.
The film begins nicely with seemingly unrelated scenes beginning with an American bombing of a Muslim funeral before settling in to the main story involving Jerry (LaBeouf) and Rachel (Monaghan). Jerry holds down a minimum wage job in a copy store, but when he discovers his bank account suddenly has a whole lot of money, he enters a North By Northwest universe of the naive innocence thrust into grave danger. Sharing this twilight world is the divorced Rachel, who is forced to be Jerry's accomplice through death threats againt her son (off at a music camp).
Somehow, their every move is tracked by an unseen female voice. But this promising premise is squandered by a series of rapidly paced action scenes with only brief pauses for character relationships. Chasing them is Agent Morgan (Thornton), who believes them to be terrorists involved in an imminent attack on the country (revenge for the funeral bombing, perhaps). LaBeouf and Monaghan are fine, but they are given little to do besides run. Not to spoil the plot, but think 2001: A Space Odyssey meets watered-down Hitchcock. Where's Mount Rushmore when you need it? Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and for language. 118m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.
NIGHTS IN RODANTHE: I guess someone thinks that Richard Gere and Diane Lane make a good couple. We previously saw Lane's very sensual character deceiving her husband (played by Gere) with the hot young Olivier Martinez in the 2002 release Unfaithful. I suppose the five-hanky Nights in Rodanthe is an upgrade for Gere, as he now gets to romantically bed Lane, who plays the married but separated Adrienne Willis. But as you might expect from a film adapted from a novel by Nicolas Sparks (The Notebook; Message in a Bottle), he gets the traditional "woman in trouble" instead of the sensual woman.
The screenplay hits all the romantic talking points for the genre: unhappy mother/troubled daughter relationship; separating couple; professional father who has no time for son; an isolated but lovely beach house; and the romantic couple "trapped" in the house alone (a hurricane this time), where they get to work out their emotional roadblocks and sexual frustrations.
Adrienne is taking a break from her two children and an estranged husband (Christopher Meloni from Law & Order: SVU) by taking care of her friend's (Viola Davis) beach house/B&B, where a single guest, Dr. Paul Flanner (Gere) has a reservation. Flanner, we discover, has alienated his son (also a doctor) and faces a lawsuit for a patient who died during a routine operation.
As the two open up to each other, the dialog becomes increasingly silly, and when the hurricane hits, the windows bang away as do (ever so discreetly) Paul and Adrienne. The film's best scenes are between Adrienne and her rebellious daughter (Mae Whitman) and, all too briefly, between Paul and his son (James Franco). Gere and Lane deserve much better. The ending may not be what most viewers will hope, but that just adds to the sodden tissue count. Rated PG-13 for some sensuality (someone confused stormy with steamy). 97m At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
HUMBOLDT COUNTY: In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to indicate that much of Humboldt County was shot at the house inhabited by my former spouse and her husband. Since they had to move out for a month, I unfortunately didn't get any dirt to dish but it may have been distracting to see the familiar interior and exterior of the house, not to mention all the scenes shot at Moonstone Beach, which is just two miles from my house.
But, then, it didn't take much to distract me from this unevenly paced film that taps into the tired stereotype of our county and marijuana. The film seems to be set in the present (at least Google searches and Mapquest are mentioned), but the scenes set in the county could easily be taking place in the 1970s. (Yes, I was here then).
The central character is straight-arrow medical student Peter Hadley (Jeremy Strong, unknown to me), who, after getting a failing grade from his professor/father (Peter Bogdanovich) and enjoying a one-night stand with a night club singer named Bogart (Fairuza Balk), tags along with Bogart to our dope-hazed county to engage in a sort of Zen and the Art of Marijuana Farming. At which time she promptly disappears from the film.
Finding himself in the midst of a family of marijuana farmers -- including Rosie (a fine Frances Conroy); Jack (Brad Dourif), a turn-on drop-out UCLA Physics prof; his granddaughter Charity (nicely played by Madison Davenport); and her biological dad, Max (Chris Messina) -- Peter gradually loosens up and ultimately has the old Humboldt County self-revelation.
The family dynamics are often effectively depicted, as is the developing friendship between Max and Peter, but somehow the stakes don't seem raised high enough and the film seems more amiable than revelatory. The presumed presence of CAMP also doesn't seem like much of a threat, and Peter's final decision doesn't seem earned by his character's previous development. Still, local viewers in particular will find things to enjoy here, with or without a joint. Rated R for drug content and language throughout. 97m. At the Broadway and Minor.
BURN AFTER READING. CIA agent's memoir lands in hands of unwise gym employees intent on exploiting their find. Rated R. 95 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.
DARK KNIGHT. Batman walks the line between hero and vigilante when he faces the Joker to save Gotham once again. Rated PG-13. 152 m. At The Movies.
FIREPROOF. Firefighter and wife take on 40-day "Love Dare" in an attempt to save their marriage. Rated PG. 122 m. At the Broadway.
FLY ME TO THE MOON. First ever 3-D animated film follows flies that stow away on the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. Rated G. 125 m. At Fortuna.
GHOST TOWN. Man dies, is revived, and then must start dealing with manipulative ghosts. Rated PG-13. At The Movies and Fortuna.
IGOR. Lowly hunchback lab assistant dreams of becoming bonafide scientist. Rated PG. 86 m. At the Broadway.
LAKEVIEW TERRACE. New interracial couple on the block harassed by psycho-cop neighbor. Rated PG-13. 110 m. At Mill Creek and The Movies.
MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL. Dude's scheme to win a woman back by sending her on a nightmare date with his friend, backfires. Rated R. 103 m. At Mill Creek and The Movies.
TRAITOR. FBI agent investigates international conspiracy and finds all clues point to a US Special Ops agent. Rated PG-13. 114 m. At the Minor.
TROPIC THUNDER. Self-absorbed actors working on epic war film get caught up in real life combat. Rated R. 108 m. At The Movies and Fortuna.
WALL-E. Robot love/adventure story from the director of Finding Nemo. Rated G. 98 m. At The Movies.