Woody Allen fans (I'm one) can rejoice as Vicky Cristina Barcelona opens Friday, Sept. 19. Starring Woody's latest favorite Scarlett Johansson along with Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Patricia Clarkson, the film involves a quadrangle between two vacationing women friends (Johansson and Clarkson), a painter (Bardem) and his ex (Cruz). Lucky guy. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking. 96m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
Director Neil LaBute's thriller Lakeview Terrace concerns an interracial couple (David Loughery and Kerry Washington) that unwisely moves next door to a black cop (Samuel L. Jackson). Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references. 110m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
Igor is an animated feature about a lab assistant out to create a project for the Evil Science Fair. Voiced by John Cusack, Eddie Izzard and others. Rated PG for some thematic elements, scary images, action and mild language. 87m. At the Broadway.
In My Best Friend's Girl, Dustin (Jason Biggs) hires friend Tank (Dane Cook) to go on a bad date with his ex-girlfriend (Kate Hudson) so she'll rethink her opinion of him. Rated R for strong language and sexual content throughout, including graphic dialogue and some nudity. 101m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
Ghost Town is about a dentist (Ricky Gervais) who "dies" for seven minutes and returns with the ability to see dead people. One (Greg Kinnear) wants him to prevent his widow (Téa Leoni) from marrying. Rated PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references. 102m. At the Broadway.
BURN AFTER READING: Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading may be a minor Coen Brothers film, but it easily offers more pleasures than most recent film fare. The film is sort of CB-lite -- gray rather than totally black comedy, and the film lacks the bite of their best work. But the acting is good, with Brad Pitt in particular being a nice comic surprise.
The story kicks off when CIA analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) quits his job in a huff when he's demoted for having an alcohol problem. Getting nothing but scorn from his truly scary wife Katie (Tilda Swinton), he decides to write a memoir, a disc copy of which ends up at Hardbodies workout gym where brainless instructor Chad (a very funny Brad Pitt) finds it and shares it with his sort-of boss Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), who needs a lot of money for four different plastic surgery procedures.
Before this gets too convoluted, let's just say the characters have conflicting goals. Linda and Chad want money, either from Cox or the Russians. Cox wants his disc back. Katie wants a divorce so she can shack up with married Treasury Agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). Harry wants to sleep with as many women as possible, including Linda, and the C.I.A. just wants everything to go away. The Coens mix these elements into a kind of screwball crime caper and there are enough laughs to keep things rolling. Clearly not all of the characters attain their goals, but there is a satisfying comic poetic justice to the outcome. Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence. 96m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
MAN ON WIRE: Back on Aug. 7, 1974, free-spirited French wire walker Philippe Petit spent some 45 minutes walking, sitting and lying on a wire he and his team had strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center during the night. As James Marsh's entertaining documentary shows, this feat was the culmination of years of dreaming.
Based on Petit's 2002 book To Reach the Clouds, the film is structured as a suspense narrative, with the focus being on the planning and execution of this daring feat and its near failure. Along the way, though, the film fills in the background of its protagonist, interspersing the Trade Center sequences with scenes from his early life, his training to be a wire walker, some of his other public exploits and arrests (clearly a planned part of each event), shots of the Trade Center being built (the North Tower opened in December 1970, the South in January 1972), his friendships and his romantic relationship with Annie Allix.
Petit saw himself as a person always living on the edge and as an artist living above, literally and symbolically, the mundane everyday world. Indeed, it was never clear in the film where he got the funds to execute his wire-walking exploits.
Petit apparently conceived his dream when he saw a picture in a magazine in his dentist's office of the Trade Center being constructed. What happens when a life-long dream is actually realized? In this case, both a friendship and a lover are lost, but there's no price tag on dreams. 9/11 is never mentioned but it will be on viewers' minds. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and nudity, and drug references. 94m. At the Minor.
RIGHTEOUS KILL: Righteous Kill could have used some Heat, and I blame the lack of fire here squarely on the shoulders of writer Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man) and director Jon Avnet (88 Minutes), who should have demanded more of his two stars and his screenwriter.
I didn't really expect a film as good as Heat, the 1995 Michael Mann film that also included De Niro and Pacino, but I was hoping for better than this lackluster, macho-a-go-go affair that goes to great lengths to trick viewers but forgets to really challenge them.
De Niro and Pacino are NYC police detectives Turk and Rooster, who believe that a recent murder is actually a serial killer case, and that the killer is a cop. Turk and Rooster engage in a lot of tough-guy posturing with a rival cop team played by Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo, and the aging Turk gets to sleep with younger hottie forensics officer Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino, who was so good as the title character in Karen Sisco), who brags about enjoying rough sex.
Gugino is a good actor who's reduced here to playing a sex object, and one of the marks of the script's failure is that it inserts her into scenes and then gives her nothing useful to do. The same could be said for a disappointing Brian Dennehy, and for 50 Cent, playing a stereotype drug dealer. The film is not totally lacking in entertainment, but what's depressing is how by-the-numbers everything is. Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use. 110m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.
THE WOMEN: I don't see the sense of beating up on this remake by comparing it to George Cukor's classic 1939 film, based on the play by Clare Booth Luce. In 2008, acting styles have changed, audiences are not the same, and neither is the culture.
Written and directed by Diane English, The Women updates but hews fairly faithfully to the original story, including having a completely female cast, even as it cuts most of the acerbic class wit. I am puzzled, though, by opening shots that show the women from ankle down wearing fashionable shoes, which calls to mind the recent Sex and the City, an image that does the film no service.
The story centers on Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), a faithful wife and mother who discovers that her husband is having an affair with sexpot perfume saleslady Crystal (Eva Mendes, dressed to cheap perfection). The narrative explores how Mary deals with this fact and with her own mother (Candace Bergen), her circle of friends including the pregnant Edie (Debra Messing), lesbian Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith), Sylvie (Annette Bening), who betrays her, and her maid (Cloris Leachman). Indeed, the core story revolves around Mary and her mother and with Sylvie's betrayal.
The standouts in the cast are Bening, who brings a subtle wit to her characterization of Sylvie and Ryan who mostly avoids the syrupy aspects of her character, something not entirely accomplished by Norma Shearer in the original. The film is perhaps excessively slight but it has some genuine virtues. Rated PG-13 for sex-related material, language, some drug use and brief smoking. 114m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
BABYLON A.D. The future is home to a war-torn world and sexy mercenaries who save the day. Rated PG-13. 90 m. At The Movies and Fortuna.
BANGKOK DANGEROUS. Assassin mentors street punk and gets lucky with a Thai lady. Rated R. 100 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. WWII era love story reflects the decline of a decadent era in England. Rated PG-13. 133 m. At 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 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.
GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON. Johnny Depp narrates probing look into uncanny life of gonzo journalism inventor. Rated R. 118 m. At the Minor.
HANCOCK. Hard-living superhero who has fallen from grace gets help from a public relations pro. Rated PG-13. 93 m. At The Movies.
HOUSE BUNNY. Playboy Bunny teaches an awkward sorority about the opposite sex. Rated PG-13. 97 m. At The Movies and Fortuna.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel packs in comedy, fantasy, action and adventure. Rated PG. 93 m. At The Movies.
MAMMA MIA! Adaptation of musical uses the jams of '70s supergroup ABBA to tell the story of a bride-to-be searching for her real father. Rated PG-13. 109 m. At the Broadway.
MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. Family battles against China's ruthless tyrant Dragon Emperor. Rated PG-13. 113 m. At The Movies.
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Two dudes in the pot business get wrapped up in some bad juju. Rated R. 112 m. At The Movies.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS. Yet another epic Star Wars movie, but this time it's animated. Rated PG. 133 m. At The Movies.
TROPIC THUNDER. Self-absorbed actors working on epic war film get caught up in real life combat. Rated R. 108 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
TYLER PERRY'S THE FAMILY THAT PREYS. Women's friendship is threatened when their adult kids' secrets and scandals wreak havoc. Rated PG-13. 111 m. At the Broadway.
WALL-E. Robot love/adventure story from the director of Finding Nemo. Rated G. 98 m. At The Movies.