Local film fans waiting for something other than Hollywood commercial fare can see both Broken Embraces and The Road this Friday. I saw Embraces in Denver over Christmas and as usual Almodovar and Penelope Cruz make a killer combo. It's a tragic love story told as a film within a film. Not to be missed. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material. 127m. At the Minor.
The Road, directed by John Hillcoat and starring Viggo Mortensen, is based on the very dark but lyrical novel by Cormac McCarthy about a father and son in post-apocalyptic America trying to make their way to the coast and possible survival. Rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language. 111m. At the Minor.
Mel Gibson returns to acting (I hope) in Edge of Darkness, the story of a detective who investigates his daughter's murder and discovers conspiracies along the way. Rated R for strong bloody violence and language. 117m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
The latest in the unending stream of romantic comedies is When in Rome, wherein a woman (Kristen Bell) discovers the answer to the question "When will I find love?" when she steals a coin from the Trevi Fountain in Rome. PG-13. 91m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES: Based on The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million and Bucked the Medical Establishment in a Quest to Save His Children by Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Geeta Anand, Extraordinary Measures is a solid if unadventurous medical narrative.
The father, who is the film's subject, is John Crowley (Brendan Fraser), whose two youngest children, Megan and Patrick (Meredith Droeger and Diego Velazquez), are afflicted with Pompe's disease, a metabolic disorder that prevents the body from breaking down glycogen and causes irreparable harm to the internal organs.
As the film opens, John and his wife Aileen (Keri Russell) are celebrating Megan's eighth birthday along with a group of children her age. They seem to be coping well, given the circumstances, but we quickly see that all of John's spare time (he's an executive at Bristol-Myers Squibb) is consumed with doing research on the disease, and when his daughter suffers another crisis and almost dies, John reaches a crossroad.
As most children with Pompe's disease die by the age of five, the film's narrative becomes the familiar medical race against time to find a cure, a strategy that propels the plot to its climax. As it transpires, though, the film is much more than that standard plot. John's research leads him to University of Nebraska Professor Robert Stonehill (an excellent Harrison Ford), whose work seems to promise an effective treatment (not a cure) for Pompe's disease. Stonehill turns out to be a lone-wolf scientist with a large ego whose interest is in research, not people.
But the driven father promises to raise money for Stonehill's research and at this point, without losing its narrative drive, the film becomes a fascinating depiction of how medical research is funded and carried out. Given the facts presented in the film, it seems a miracle that the research ever went forward, both because of Stonehill's personality and the reality of major medical funding. That it did is a testament to one father's devotion to his children. Rated PG for thematic material, language and a mild suggestive moment. 105m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
NINE: I must admit that I have never thought of Fellini's 8½ as fodder for a musical, but in 1982 it became a Tony Award-winning Broadway show entitled Nine, with a book by playwright Arthur Kopit from the Italian play by Mario Fratti. Now Nine has become a film musical directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), with a screenplay by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella.
It is thoroughly enjoyable although mostly surface entertainment. If you love Fellini's film, as I do, my suggestion is to forget the original (even if I couldn't) and just go with the fun this film has to offer.
The narrative adopts the outline of Fellini's partially autobiographical opus. Daniel Day-Lewis (who, unfortunately, is an ineffective singer) is Guido Contini, who at age 50 is experiencing a creative and personal mid-life crisis. His last two films were flops, and now he is embarking on a new film entitled Italia complete with cast, set and costumes but no script.
At the same time, he is trying to deal with his incomplete relationships with the major women in his life, all of whom are discontent with his behavior. His wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard), feels left behind, and wonders what happened to the feeling he had for her when she first auditioned for him. His mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz), feels shunted aside, and his muse and primary film star, Claudia (Nicole Kidman), realizes he has never seen her as an actual person. Complicating the picture further is: His mother (Sophia Loren); an American fashion journalist, Stephanie (Kate Hudson), who wants to become his latest conquest; and his costume designer, Lilli (Judi Dench).
The musical and choreographic numbers grow out of these circumstances. As he converses with the various women in his life, they turn the conversation into musical interludes that depict the current state of the relationship. Cruz has a flashy dance sequence, but despite her presence (and that of the luminous Kidman), it is Cotillard who walks away with the film. In addition to being a fine singer, she finds the serious undertones in the material that much of the film lacks. Her number -- "My Husband Makes Movies" -- is the film's highlight.
At one point in the film, the doctor who treats Carla's overdose says to Guido something like, "You film people, you think you're above morality." But it's not morality that's the problem with Guido, it's his inability to perceive the people behind his creation. Nine entertains us, but 8½ also explores that theme in some depth. Given fare such as Tooth Fairy and Leap Year, though, I'm happy to be entertained. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking. 118m. At the Minor.
LEGION: In the second post-apocalyptic Christian parable of 2010 (after The Book of Eli), we are all in the hands of a very angry God. In fact, He is so pissed that humanity has been marked for total destruction, having demonstrated its complete worthlessness.
Legion is both more literal and much less interesting then Eli. Beginning in Terminator fashion, a man appears out of the sky on the mean streets of deteriorating L.A. and quickly arms himself. Turns out he is Michael (as in the archangel, played by Paul Bettany) who is defying God's destruction order and has come to save us (or at least the people who find themselves in a rundown café in the Mojave).
It seems that the baby being carried by the unwed waitress Charlie (Adrianne Palick) is the key to our survival. A guy named Jeep (Lucas Black) also wants to care for Charlie, even if she doesn't know who the father is. When Michael arrives, the group prepares to defend its turf but, unluckily, Gabriel (as in...) is not with the save-humanity program.
Battles ensue, a baby is born and our fate lies in the balance. At least Jeep and Charlie weren't called Joseph and Mary. Kudos to the producers for talking Kate Walsh and Dennis Quaid into taking roles, but there my praise ends. Rated R for strong bloody violence, and language. 100m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL. Alvin and the gang meet their female rivals, the Chipettes. Watch the fur fly! Rated PG. 88m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.
AVATAR. Military forces attempt to control and exploit a region and its people they know little about (In 3D). Rated PG-13. 162m. At the Broadway (3D), Fortuna (3D) and Mill Creek.
THE BLIND SIDE. A homeless African-American youth is taken in by a well-to-do white family who help him realize his football potential. Rated PG-13. 126m. At the Broadway.
THE BOOK OF ELI. Denzel Washington possesses the one thing that will save civilization. Rated R. 118m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS. Join Dr. Parnassus and his fantastical traveling show. Notable for Heath Ledger's final on-screen performance. Rated PG-13. 122m. At the Broadway.
IT'S COMPLICATED. Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin play divorcees who reignite the flame after 10 years apart. Rated R. 118m. At the Broadway.
THE LOVELY BONES. A young girl is murdered, but makes sure to watch over her family and her killer from heaven. At the Broadway and Fortuna. Rated PG-13. 135m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.
SHERLOCK HOLMES. Robert Downey Jr. stars as the updated, more ass-kicking version of the legendary sleuth. Rated PG-13. 128m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
TOOTH FAIRY. Dwayne "don't call me The Rock" Johnson plays a tough-as-nails hockey player who, after discouraging a young child, is forced to perform the duties of the actual tooth fairy as punishment. Rated PG. 101m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
UP IN THE AIR. George Clooney plays a corporate hatchet man forced to fight for his job when his company downsizes. Rated R. 109m. At the Broadway and Garberville.