"Who is Salt?" The question is the tagline for Salt, an action thriller from Aussie director Phillip Noyce (Rabbit-Proof Fence, Catch a Fire) with Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent accused of being a KGB sleeper sent to assassinate the President. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action. Opening Friday at the Fortuna, the Minor, Mill Creek and the Broadway
For the teen and pre-teen girls, there's Ramona and Beezus, loosely based on Beezus and Ramona, the beloved book by Beverly Cleary. Ramona Quimby (Joey King) is a cute, energetic, accident-prone third-grader with a big imagination. Beatrice, aka Beezus (teen singer/TV star Selena Gomez), is her long-suffering big sister. Rated G. Opening Friday at the Fortuna, Mill Creek and the Broadway.
Friday the Arcata Theatre Lounge has The Thing, a sci-fi horror film directed by John Carpenter with Kurt Russell battling a shape-shifting monster in the Arctic. Sunday it's part three in the Boy Wizard series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Next Wednesday's Sci-Fi Pint Night focuses on prehistoric chicks dressed in skins: Prehistoric Women from 1950 and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women from 1968, directed by none other than Peter Bogdanovich.
Humboldt County Library's July "Based On The Book" series ends next Tuesday with the seminal caper flick The Asphalt Jungle, directed by John Huston based on a novel by W.R. Burnett. Sterling Hayden stars as the mastermind of a complicated jewel heist. Yours truly serves as host.
-- Bob Doran
INCEPTION. Marion Cotillard's face is a fleeting, recurring image in Inception, but it's the image that informs and unifies the complicated narrative. Similarly, recurring snatches of Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne regrette rien" simultaneously remind fans of the role in La Vie en Rose that made Cotillard a star in this country and underscore a philosophy that her character's husband, Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), may need to embrace in order to survive.
How wonderful to experience a commercial film that is both wildly entertaining and intelligent ... but I should have expected no less from Christopher Nolan, who gave us the remarkable Memento in 2000. I intend to make no attempt to deal with the very complex narrative in any detail. Suffice it to say that Cobb is able to enter into other people's dreams, a talent he and his team use for illegal purposes.
This talent also provides the shifting levels of reality in the film: It is often difficult to distinguish between the dream world and "reality." The surface story involves the attempt by Cobb and his cohorts, aided by talented young architect Ariadne (Ellen Page), to implant a memory in the mind of another at the behest of the wealthy and powerful Saito (Ken Watanabe), who promises in turn to get the murder charges against Cobb dismissed so he can go back home.
In order to accomplish the implantation, Cobb must go at least four levels deep into the subconscious, the result being a brilliant juggling of four or more separate realities during the film's breathless final hour.
Given my limited space and the film's complexity, I may revisit it next week. Meanwhile, unless you hate mind games, you should not miss this excellent film. As it turns out, getting back home here is not only arduous, it's not even certain that you've arrived. Don't blink or you may be lost forever. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout. 148m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.
WINTER'S BONE. This stark, genuinely independent film, based on the 2006 "country noir" by Missouri writer Daniel Woodrell (who coined the term, according to Wikipedia), was made for two million dollars, was shot with digital equipment and uses a combination of professional and local Missouri actors.
Set and shot in the isolated Southwest Missouri Ozarks, the film depicts an insular culture that scorns outsiders and holds its own to a rigid set of rules. After all, as the central character Ree Dolly (an incredibly good Jennifer Lawrence, who was 19 when the film was made) sarcastically notes at one point, "Aren't we all related?" Blood, though, doesn't trump custom in this closed society.
Director Debra Granik's second feature (after Down to the Bone in 2004) finds a visual and editing style that perfectly captures the beautifully desolate setting with its junked-out cars, run-down housing and hardscrabble people, a style nicely matched by the minimalist, low-key acting.
The story is simple on the surface: 17-year-old Ree's father has put up his house and property as a guarantee against his bail, and disappeared. As the film opens, he has missed his court date and the property will be forfeit in about a week, leaving Ree, her two young siblings and sick mother facing eviction.
Setting out to track down her father, she runs into the fact that no one wants him found, and she faces danger herself if she persists. But as it turns out, Ree is a lot tougher than anyone suspects and her search reveals the dark secrets of the region's clan. The whole cast seems perfect, but Lawrence is a standout. Her carefully modulated performance is a perfect depiction of a young woman coming of age in an unforgiving world. Rated R for some drug material, language and violent content. 100m. At the Minor
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. Even a casual Internet search reveals any number of sources and adaptations of the familiar tale of an old sorcerer and his young, undeveloped apprentice. Chief among these is Goethe's 1797 poem and the symphonic poem by Paul Dukas, both of which provided the source material for the animated short from Disney's 1940 film Fantasia. Disney's current version of the story references Dukas' music, but opts for the more familiar Merlin tale to prop up its back-story.
It seems that a young apprentice, Dave (Jay Baruchel from She's Out of My League), is the long-sought-after Prime Merlinian, the only wizard since Merlin's demise that can stop the evil Morgana (Alice Krige) from destroying the world as we know it. Mentoring the nerdy Dave is good wizard Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), while evil wizard Horvath (Alfred Molina) is out to release Morgana and bring an end to civilization. Trouble is, Dave would rather pursue the beautiful Becky (Aussie hottie Teresa Palmer), the only woman to give him a second glance.
I wish I could say there was some small bit of interest here, but the film is a tedious mishmash of recycled summer film material. Molina, at least, has moments of genuine humor. As for Cage, you will probably recognize his character from the National Treasure films (same director, Jon Turtletaub, and producer, Jerry Bruckheimer); in fact, they may actually have used a clone to save money.
A winsome performance by the young lead might have made this mess palatable, but alas that lead is Baruchel, for whom acting seems out of his limited reach. In the Fantasia short, Mickey Mouse plays the apprentice. Mickey gives a way better performance. Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language. 105m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
-- Charlie Myers
DESPICABLE ME. Can cute kids turn an evil madman (voiced by Steve Carell) into a good guy? Rated PG. 95m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
GROWN UPS. Adam Sandler reunites with childhood friends to celebrate maturity ... not! Rated PG-13. 113m. At the Broadway.
KILLERS. Ashton Kutcher as a former assassin gone domestic with Katherine Heigl. Rated PG-13. At the Garberville July 27-29.
THE LAST AIRBENDER. Air, Water, Earth and Fire can't stop M. Night from Shyamalaning all over this film. Rated PG. 108m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
PREDATORS. Hunters on alien planet become the hunted. Rated R. 106m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. Jake Gyllenhaal as a royal video game icon. Rated PG-13. At the Garberville July 23-26.
TOY STORY 3. Woody and Buzz toy around for the first time in over a decade when their kid prepares for college. Rated G. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE. Team Edward! No, Team Jacob! What's a girl to do? Rated PG-13. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.