The British tale of the Robin Hood and his outlaw band dates back to 15th century balladry. Author/illustrator Howard Pyle's 1883 book The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood planted one image of him (and helped name his men). Movies starring Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn gave us a swashbuckling 20th century update on the character; a TV series and a Disney cartoon, with Robin as a fox, gave others. Now comes director Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, with a glowering Russell Crowe in the title role. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, etc.) avoids many of the familiar plot points -- Friar Tuck, the Merry Men and the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham play minor parts. Instead we see a warrior Robin at a turning point in European history, battling the French and a duplicitous spy and wooing a widowed Lady (not Maid) Marion (Cate Blanchett), reimagined as a tough, fighting feminist. The green tights may be gone, but don't worry -- there's still plenty of action. Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content. Open Friday at the Broadway, Fortuna, Mill Creek and the Minor.
This week's chick flick is Letters to Juliet, with Amanda Seyfried (Big Love, Mamma Mia!) traveling to Verona, the setting for the Bard's Romeo and Juliet, on something like a pre-honeymoon. A heart-sick letter to Juliet found in a special courtyard leads her on a search for lost love with aging beauty Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) in Tuscany. Expect postcard vistas, lessons on the nature of romance and general sweetness. Rated PG for brief rude behavior and sensual images, some language and incidental smoking. Opens Friday at the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
The Minor has the art house feature Vincere, by Italian director Marco Bellocchio, telling the tragic, little-known story of the wife and son of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who were cast aside (and worse) for his mistress. In Italian with subtitles; not rated, but includes sexual content, nudity and violence.
One night only, Thursday, May 13, at HSU's Van Duzer Theatre: Director Alan DeHerrera presents his feature-length documentary Seal Island, an examination of the private lives of sea lions. The 7 p.m. screening also serves as a benefit for the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center.
Maria Matteoli's YouTube love story/exaltation of local products Love, Humboldt has its SoHum big screen debut Thursday at the Mateel Community Center. The Humboldt Made screening also includes winning entries in the I Love Humboldt film contest. Showtime 7:30 p.m.
Same Thursday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge, another viewing of Joel and Ethan Coen's cult classic The Big Lebowski, with Jeff Bridges as one of two Jeffrey Lebowskis (the one also known as The Dude). John Goodman, who we hope you've been watching as the f-bomb dropping Tulane prof Creighton Bernette on Treme ("F-u-u-f-ing-f's"), plays The Dude's friend Walter Sobchak, an edgy sort who has a few bombs of his own to drop (see The Big Lebowski Fucking Short Version on YouTube -- f-ing hilarious). Friday the ATL has Quentin Tarantino's delightfully twisted crime-o-rama Pulp Fiction, with hitmen John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson quoting the Bible and dropping f-bombs galore.
KMUD hosts the national Grassroots Radio Conference all weekend in Redway and Garberville. Friday, May 14, they have a keynote address by Laura Flanders from GRITtv, plus the award-winning documentary Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad (A Little Bit of So Much Truth). Jill Freidberg's film, shot in 2006, tells the story of the people of Oaxaca seizing control of the media, specifically the local TV station and 14 radio stations, which were converted into true grassroots radio. As David Barsamian of Alternative Radio put it, the film "demonstrates the essential role of radio as a weapon of mass instruction." KMUD's Gary Hughes ("Latino América Sonando") serves as host with Maka Muñoz, a radio activist from Oaxaca. They'll lead a post-film discussion. Doors at the Garberville Theatre open at 7 p.m., program at 7:30, admission, $15.
The animated Dreamworks feature How To Train Your Dragon opens this weekend at the Garberville Theatre. Sunday, May 16, they present a special matinee screening with live a martial arts performance by the folks from Dragon Heart Tang Soo Do. Proceeds benefit the Maggie Butterworth Training Scholarship Fund to help out low-income students who want to train at Dragon Heart. Doors at 3 p.m. live performance at 3:30, film at 4.
Sunday, May 16, at Arcata Theatre Lounge: Jaws, the 1975 Steven Spielberg film that probably still keeps people from swimming in the ocean. Based on a novel by Peter Benchley, it tells the story of a summer resort town menaced by a really big shark. The movie broke box office records and began a shift to a blockbuster mentality in Hollywood that still haunts us.
Next in the film series celebrating May as Older Americans Month: Young@Heart. The documentary shows rehearsals by a group of young-at-heart New England seniors (average age 81) who perform songs by Coldplay, James Brown and The Clash and somehow make them work just right. Showtime 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 18, at the Humboldt County Library Eureka branch.
The Arcata Theatre Lounge weekly Wednesday Science Fiction Pint and Pizza Night (May 19) features a pair of classically cheesy Japanese monster movies. Daikyojû Gappa (Giant Beast Gappa), from 1967, has giant dino-esque parents of a stolen baby monster menacing Tokyo and crushing a few buildings while looking for their kid. Invaders From Outer Space (1957) has Starman, "the creature made of the strongest steel," sent by the High Council of the Emerald Planet to battle invading Salamander Men from the planet Koolamon. Doors at 6 p.m.
-- Bob Doran
IRON MAN 2: Sequels to popular films are always tough to pull off. Besides the inevitable comparison to the predecessor, the basic stories, characters and interpretations are now well known by fans. I was thoroughly entertained by the first Iron Man film and particularly by the performances of Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. The film was nicely tongue-in-cheek while still being an interesting action film based on the Marvel superhero comic.
The two reprise their roles as Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, and to the mix is now added Mickey Rourke as the new heavy, Scarlett Johansson as the hot action woman in fitted skirts and tight form-fitting body suits, Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Stark's ally Lt. Colonel "Rhodey" Rhodes, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, whose appearance was prepared in the brief scene following the end credits in the first film.
Despite the efficient editing, the film begins slowly. The opening scene showcases Downey as Stark presides over an expo in Flushing, N.Y. that intends to continue his father's legacy. But a U.S. Senate subcommittee wants to take control of the Iron Man suit and Stark discovers that the element in his arc reactor is poisoning him. Thrown off his game, he appoints Pepper as the company's CEO.
Meanwhile in Russia, Ivan Venko (Rourke) watches his father, a disgraced physicist and former partner of Tony Stark's father. He's not a happy camper. Ominously, we see him building a contraption. In other words, this part of the film is a combination of exposition and character introduction (or reintroduction).
Things heat up, though, when Stark takes the wheel of the sports car he owns for a race in Monaco, where he is confronted by Ivan wearing some sort of outfit that allows lightning-like energy to emanate from his hands. This scene sets up the plot's central confrontation, which more or less occupies the rest of the film.
While the final outcome is never in doubt, it is mostly fun getting there. A fellow I met in the restroom after the film was disappointed by the brevity of the final showdown; he wanted more of Rourke. As for me, I wanted a lot more of Johansson, who kicks ass quite nicely. Watch out Angelina, a new sexy action star is closing in.
Once again, a sequel is set up after the end credits. Be sure to stick around. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language. 124m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Mill Creek and Minor.
-- Charlie Myers
THE BACK-UP PLAN. Jennifer Lopez decides that waiting for Mr. Right is taking too long and gets artificially inseminated. Rated PG-13. 104m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
CLASH OF THE TITANS. Release the Kraken! Rated PG-13. 118m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
DATE NIGHT. Married couple portrayed by Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are reminded why they live in the suburbs, Rated PG-13. 88m. At Broadway and Mill Creek.
FURRY VENGEANCE. A real estate developer faces of with a band of angry animals. Brendan Fraser strikes again! Rated PG. 90m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. A Viking teenager has trouble fitting in with his tribe until he gets a dragon. Rated PG. 98m. At the Broadway, Garberville and Mill Creek.
KICK-ASS. A teenaged comic book fanboy aspires to be a superhero. One problem: No superpowers. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Teens with the audacity to believe they can just sleep when they want to are punished. Rated R. 96m. At the Broadway.
OCEANS. Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud use the best and newest underwater filming techniques to bring you stunning images of the odd creatures that inhabit the deep. Rated G. 84m. At the Broadway and Fortuna.