The Christian-themed Evan Almighty may not have lived up to box office expectations last weekend, but I'll bet that old reliable Bruce Willis will. Opening Wednesday, June 27, is Live Free or Die Hard, a.k.a. Die Hard 4, which brings back Willis' John McClane. This time, McClane is after an Internet terrorist group which, of course, wants to bring down the country. Not while McClane is around. Len Wiseman, whose credits include the two Underworld films, directs. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and a brief sexual situation. 140 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
Opening Friday, June 29, is another potential blockbuster: Ratatouille, the Pixar animated comedy about a French rodent named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who dreams of becoming a famous chef. Brad Bird of The Incredibles fame directs, and the film features the voices of Ian Holm, Brian Dennehy, Peter O'Toole and many others. Rated G. 120 m. At The Movies, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
On the literary front, Susan Minot adapts her own novel with the help of fellow novelist Michael Cunningham (The Hours) with Evening, a story about a dying woman (Vanessa Redgrave) who ruminates about her life with her family at her bedside. The A-list cast also includes Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close, with Hungarian director Lajos Koltai(Fateless) at the helm. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, sexual material, a brief accident scene and language. 123 m. At the Broadway.
The 2006 Australian film Jindabyne features one of the best actors around, Laura Linney. In the 1960s, the town of Jindabyne was intentionally flooded to create a resort. Linney plays Claire, an American woman who lives in the post-flooded town with her husband Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) and son Tom in a troubled marriage caused by her desertion following Tom's birth. Because of Linney, and to some degree Byrne, this is a Charlie pick of the week. Rated R for disturbing images, language and some nudity. 133 m. At the Minor.
The always-controversial Michael Moore weighs in with his latest — Sicko, a Moore-styled documentary that examines our health care system and, I'll bet, finds it sorely lacking. I probably don't need Moore to tell me that, but I find the way he deals with issues endlessly entertaining. Coming Attractions says this movie is "tentatively" scheduled to open at the Broadway on Tuesday, July 3. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. 123 m.
Opening Tuesday, July 3, is Transformers, a film based on the TV series and a line of toys. Directed by Michael Bay, the film stars Shia LaBeouf(Disturbia)as a teen who defends the Earth from robots who come from outer space. This must be DreamWorks' July 4 CGI present to the country. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor and language. 153 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor, with a preview screening at each theatre at 8 p.m. Monday, July 2.
Also opening Tuesday: Robin Williams is a overbearing marriage counselor in License to Wed. Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and language. 110 m. At Mill Creek, The Movies and the Fortuna.
July is Barbara Stanwyck month at the Eureka Library, kicking off on Tuesday, July 3, with Baby Face (1933), wherein Stanwyck (as Lily Powers) literally sleeps her way to the top. Wynston Jones will be the presenter. At 6:30pm in the Main Meeting Room of the Eureka Main Branch Library.
EVAN ALMIGHTY: When I worked on the previews for the past weekend, I was not enthusiastic about any of the three new openings but, as it turns out, I actually enjoyed two out of three.Evan Almighty, the follow-up to Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey, was the other one. I happened to catch an NPR interview with the director, Tom Shadyac, who claimed that Evan was the first "carbon-neutral" comedy: "Carbon emissions were counted and then offset by planting trees," said Shadyac. It's too bad the production team didn't put that sort of effort into the making of this bland, unfunny, tedious, Christian-lite film. They also forgot the comedy part of carbon-neutral comedy, but they did get the neutral part down. Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), a reporter in the earlier film, is the new protagonist. He has been elected congressman from Buffalo and has moved his family to a D.C. suburb, into a new development by a lake owned, as it turns out, by senior Congressman Long (John Goodman, the only actor with any bite in the film). The ambitious Evan, who drives a Hummer, ditches his family for his work and agrees to co-sponsor a bill promoted by Long that is a sneaky anti-environmental attempt to promote Long's development investments. Here is a guy headed for Big Trouble ... but wouldn't you know it, God (Morgan Freeman, perhaps in leftover footage from Bruce) appears with wood (gopher wood, sadly, is not available) and a handy Ark Building for Dummies book and tells Evan to go to work. Evan also sprouts increasing thick and lengthy facial hair that won't shave off and is followed by a gaggle of creatures, all in pairs. The film is rife with cutesy Biblical references: the real estate agent is Eve Adams and Evan's digital clock reads 6:14 every morning, a reference to the Genesis passage commanding Noah to build an ark. Basically, the film is a set of Sunday school homilies about family values and faith, along with platitudes about the environment and a little slapstick thrown in. Black and white values were adequate back when I went to Sunday school, but after I got older, I realized that things, including religion, were a lot more complex. Not everyone agrees with that assessment, and this may be a film for those individuals. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and some peril. 105 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and the Fortuna.
A MIGHTY HEART: I approached this film with some skepticism, particularly because the very high profile Angelina Jolie had the role of Mariane Pearl, whose real life story was so much in the news. I feared the full Hollywood treatment of a complex actual event, where everything is reduced to the personal. But happily my fears were only partially realized. For what complexity the film does offer, I credit director Michael Winterbottom — whose usual material, such as 9 Songs and A Cock and Bull Story, is much more along independent lines than studio productions — and screenwriter John Orloff's fine adaptation of Ms. Pearl's memoir about the events in 2002 in Pakistan surrounding the kidnapping and killing of her husband Daniel (Dan Futterman), a Wall Street Journal reporter. In her deeply affecting but restrained portrayal of Mariane Pearl, Jolie has turned in her finest performance to date. Of course, the center of the story involves the agony Mariane Pearl experiences during the five-week ordeal, and the film spends some time with brief, sometimes sentimental flashbacks of their relationship. But the film firmly establishes, as well, the myriad forces at play in relationship to Pearl's kidnapping and subsequent beheading. Initially, for example, Pakistani authorities blame Indian agents, because India is clearly trying to embarrass their hated neighbor. The pressures on the police in Karachi are tremendous, since Pakistan is an ally of the U.S., and these pressures are increased when U.S. authorities arrogantly insert themselves into the investigation. Clearly, Islamist hatred of our values, all the stronger it seems in those educated in the West, played a central role in the high-profile kidnapping. Nor does the film shy away from the issue of poverty, particularly in the contrast of how the Pearls and their entourage lived compared to most people in the city. Perhaps best of all, the film nicely captures the chaotic nature of the whole situation and of the city itself. The soundtrack consists almost entirely of environmental sounds, and this gives the film a documentary feel that adds to its affect. The supporting cast is generally very good and Archie Panjabi is a particular standout as Indian-American journalist Asra Q. Nomani, whose house is where Mariane and Danny Pearl were staying when the kidnapping occurred. It's good to see a commercial film tackle the political along with the personal. Rated R for language. 115 m. At the Broadway.
1408: When Stephen King is on top of his game, almost no one writes better psychological horror stories. And he is at the top with his 2002 short story "1408," which has now been nicely adapted for as a film by Swedish director Mikael H?•fstr??m(Derailed). For the most part, this is a one-actor film, and happily that actor is John Cusack, who seems note-perfect as the skeptical hack writer Mike Enslin, author of books about haunted houses that he personally investigates. The film begins on a hackneyed "it was a dark and stormy night" note, but the film uses this trope for humorous purposes. In fact, the whole setup is carefully and slowly paced. It's not until 30 minutes into this 94-minute film that the main action is kicked off by the beautiful but somehow eerie voice of Karen Carpenter singing "We've Only Just Begun" from the radio, which has inexplicably turned itself on, in Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in Manhattan. Now, that's a scary start. The remaining action is comprised primarily of the increasing intense psychological assault on Enslin by Room 1408, or its evil soul. But, as is typical in King's best work, the external pressures on the individual are actually an expression of the person's own unresolved issues, which in this case involves an abandoned wife and dead daughter. While Cusack carries the film, there are good supporting performances from Mary McCormack (Kate Harper in West Wing) as Lily Enslin and Samuel L. Jackson as the hotel manager. It's great to see a good horror film, and one that is not made for the slash, torture, maim and rape crowd. Rated PG-13 for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language. 104 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER: Weirdos with superpowers and tight-fitting costumes meet intergalactic surfer and — spoiler alert! — save Earth. Rated PG. 102 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
KNOCKED UP. In J. Apatow's latest comedy of manners, no-account schlub makes gorgeous TV star pregnant. They marry. Rated R. 126 m. At The Movies, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
MR. BROOKS. K. Costner is a serial killer; W. Hurt is his imaginary friend; Demi Moore is the hot cop who pursues them. They all live in Portland. Rated R. 121 m. At the Broadway.
NANCY DREW: Adorable teen sleuth geek (E. Roberts) tackles cold case, mean classmates. Rated PG. 109 m. At The Movies.
OCEAN'S THIRTEEN: G. Clooney, B. Pitt, M. Damon, A. Pacino, D. Cheadle, E. Gould, B. Mac, E. Izzard, E. Barkin, etc., etc. Rated PG-13. 132 m. At Mill Creek and the Broadway.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END. The action moves to Singapore where Davy Jones (Nighy) and Capt. Jack (Depp) continue their battle, with the profession of piracy in danger of extinction. Rated PG-13. 178 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
SHREK THE THIRD. When the lovable ogre is crowned King he tries to find someone more suitable for the role. Voices by M. Myers, C. Diaz, E. Murphy, A. Banderas. Rated PG. 102 m. At The Movies and the Minor.
SPIDER-MAN 3. The web-slinger (T. Maguire) tussles with baddies and wrestles internal demons. Rated PG-13. 150 m. At The Movies.
SURF'S UP. Penguins surf, kids delight. Animated blockbuster. Rated PG. 85 m. At The Movies, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
VALET. Trés drôle French farce. D. Auteuil, K.S. Thomas, V. Ledoyen. Rated PG-13. 95 m. At the Broadway.
WAITRESS. Pregnant working woman with abusive husband seeks a way out. Rated PG-13. 117 m. At the the Minor.