Brothers in Arms: The True Story behind John Kerry in Vietnam It's all over the news right now: certain supporters of George W. Bush attacking John Kerry's Vietnam war record, asserting he's not worthy of the various medals he was awarded for his combat service. But Paul Alexander's timely doc he actually began working on it some 18 months ago barely mentions the controversy. And the director doesn't spend any time calling Bush's own military history (see Fahrenheit 9/11) into question. To the point and at times cut-and-dried (talking heads and still photos abound), Brothers in Arms features interviews with Kerry and four men who served on his patrol boat. War stories, including some Apocalypse Now-style horrors, are shared, and Kerry's post-service antiwar stance is discussed (cue groovy late-'60s footage of the future presidential candidate speaking passionately about his experiences). It's a shame the plainly persuasive Brothers in Arms like so many of the other political docs rushing theaters preelection probably won't never reach anyone (e.g., the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) who might benefit from its convincing. (1:08) Roxie. (Eddy)
*The Brown Bunny See "Unmitigated Gallo." (1:32) Act I and II, Lumiere.
The Cookout A huge cast including Eve, Queen Latifah, Tim Meadows, Ja Rule, and Danny Glover fills this comedy about a basketball star who hosts a backyard barbecue in his swanky new neighborhood. (1:25) Century Plaza, Century 20, Grand Lake, Jack London, Shattuck.
*Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut See "Echo of the Bunnyman." (2:13) California, Lumiere.
Paparazzi Cole Hauser and Tom Sizemore star in what appears to be Celebrities Uncensored: The Movie. (1:25) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London.
Rosenstrasse As we all know, the ins and outs of exactly who's permitted to legally partake in matrimonial bliss are a hot topic these days. In Rosentrasse, director Margarethe von Trotta examines persecuted marriages of another kind, the so-called mixed marriages between Aryans and Jews in Germany during World War II. When Hannah, an American Jew, goes to Berlin hoping to probe into her mother's childhood during the Holocaust, she meets Lena, who took care of Hannah's mother for a few years during the war. Lena, a concert pianist, had ditched her aristocratic upbringing and baroness title to marry a Jewish violinist. Lena's status could only protect him for so long, however, and he was eventually carted off to a detainment center with other Jewish spouses of German citizens. Lena joined her fellow loyal German wives in an act of peaceful resistance as they stood outside the prison on a street named Rosenstrasse, demanding their husbands' release. The skeleton of the story is formulaic: the child of immigrant parents going back to the motherland, listening to an old woman recount her life, and coming back to America with a newfound understanding. And the genre of World War II films is so saturated by now that any Holocaust flick has to be nearly flawless to receive attention. But even with a stale plot structure and an overdose of flashback, there are some genuinely heartfelt moments in Rosenstrasse, and the subject of the determined wives is fresh enough to forgive the film some of its less original aspects. (2:16) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Huang)
*Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War Two brothers (including Nowhere to Hide's Jang Dong-gun, looking here like the reincarnation of A Better Tomorrow-era Chow Yun-fat) are swept up by the Korean War and dumped into the trenches to fight not only the North, but all of China to boot. The ensuing carnage owes much to Saving Private Ryan, but the battle scenes here (in which 50 extras a day were injured on average during filming) actually surpass Spielberg's film. Politics are kept off the table to focus on the pair's emotional struggle to maintain their humanity, and to keep their family together, in the face of machine gun fire, booby traps, hand grenades, and bayonets. Director Kang Je-gyu (who also helmed the blockbuster Shiri) nails the period details and delivers a big budget epic that slips only when overpowered by levels of melodrama no longer fashionable in the west. War may be hell, but South Korean epic Tae Guk Gi is darn close to war movie heaven. (2:20) Galaxy, Shattuck. (Macias)
Vanity Fair See Movie Clock. (2:17) Albany, Century 20, Orinda, Piedmont.
Wicker Park Josh Hartnett plays a man searching for his long-lost love in this romantic thriller, which mysteriously also stars half the female cast of Troy (Rose Byrne, Diane Kruger). (1:45) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London.
Yes Nurse! No Nurse! See 8 Days a Week. (1:44) Castro.
Alien vs. Predator Last year's Freddy vs. Jason delivered enough R-rated carnage candy and flailing teenagers to keep fans (and '80s nostalgia hounds) satiated. Now, Alien vs. Predator heralds the much-longed-for big-screen matchup between two of science fiction's most formidable baddies. Writer-director Paul W.S. "not that Magnolia guy" Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Soldier, and most recently, Resident Evil) disappoints with PG-13 (i.e., muted) gore, and by heavily favoring action over horror in a recycled plotline: drop group o' victims in isolated location, add marauding menace, bring to boil. Still, the film does have some awesomely ridiculous exposition. "This is starting to make sense!" one character declares, after a series of perplexing events that, I'm sorry, make no sense: solid walls rumble and shift, a "sacrificial chamber" is opened for business, a face-hugger soars through the air in graceful bullet-time, and a Predator solemnly tattoos itself with Alien blood. Naturally, the audience howls appreciatively. (1:40) Century 20, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
*Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid Nonbelievers may scoff, but 1997's Anaconda was a glorious thing, tossing the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Ice Cube, and most memorably, Jon Voight into an over-the-top Amazon stew. The Borneo-set sequel slithers along a more familiar action-horror path, following a band of scientists and drug company execs hell-bent on finding a rare orchid with fountain-of-youth properties. Though the mission falls during rainy season, a thick-necked expat (Johnny Messner, very much in the Vin Diesel mode) is convinced to ferry the greedy city folk to their quarry. Before long, it's smorgasbord city for the region's host of abnormally large (and largely CG) anacondas. Mostly enjoyable despite being highly ridiculous, Anacondas plays like Survivor meets the Disneyland Jungle Cruise. Though Voight's campy capering is sorely missed, Anacondas supplies enough oh-shit jolts to appease B-movie fans in search of decent, late-summer popcorn accompaniment. (1:30) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
Before Sunset Nine years ago Yankee backpacker Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French student Celine (Julie Delpy) met on a Eurail train, spent 14 hours walking around Vienna, talked a lot, finally did it, and went on with their separate travels, exchanging no permanencies beyond the promise that they'd meet in the same place six months later. Well, neither of them made that date, for reasons soon discussed after Celine now an environmental activist drops in on recently published author Jesse's Paris book reading. They're both very happy to see each other, in large part because despite professional success and fairly settled lives since, each feels they blew a potential true love back then. With Jesse due on a plane, the pair has less than 90 minutes (played in real time) to catch up, hash out acquired life philosophies, and decide if maybe this thing needs to go somewhere after all. Though some found it simply yakkety (or way too big a dose of Hawke), the 1995 Before Sunrise was nonetheless one of those movies that, if it struck you the right way, felt like the most romantic ever. With Richard Linklater back in the director's seat, this sequel (written by him and the actors) has much residual good will to drawn on. But Hawke's looks (as flashbacks bear out) aren't the only thing that have faded since Sunrise. Sweet but awfully slight, with less emotional payoff, Sunset just floats down the Seine rather than taking flight. Still, I'd be willing to find out if these characters can become compelling again in another nine years. (1:32) Embarcadero. (Harvey)
*The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi Famously incarnated by the late Shintaro Katsu in 26 films and more than 100 TV episodes since the early 1960s, Japan's favorite blind swordsman, Zatoichi, is a blind and wandering masseur whose sightlessness in no way impairs his deadly accuracy with a samurai sword. After a string of commercially and critically disappointing films the cloying Kikujiro, the confused Brother, the abominable Dolls the possibilities of treating the culturally cherished Zatoichi as more than a mere pincushion must have seemed as promising a next step for cine-auteur "Beat" Takeshi Kitano as any. So much the more surprising, then, that Kitano's Zatoichi turns out to be not just a tremendous amount of fun to watch, but also clearly the best film he's made in years. Adhering to the genre flick's demands for a fast-moving and compelling narrative (not to mention salting the film's box office bait by casting hunky heartthrob Tadanobu Asano as his costar), the director manages to afford himself plenty of time to play with exactly those sorts of comedy-variety elements he's spent years perfecting for the TV audience at home. (1:56) Shattuck. (Stephens)
The Bourne Supremacy In the two years since The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has been hiding out tropical beach-style with his girlfriend (Franke Potente). This restful neutral state can't last long and in fact doesn't suffice it to say that within the first reel you know Potente won't be needed for any further sequels. Superspy-assassin Bourne has just been framed for a double murder and the theft of $3 million. So once again hot on his compact little tail are CIA and U.S. government officials both misguided but clean (led this time by Joan Allen) and corrupt, as well as the bad Russians who framed him in the first place. Bourne's first screen edition was fleet and fresh enough to stir hope for an international-espionage genre that had started lumbering long ago. This follow-up is likewise directed by somebody Jerry Bruckheimer wouldn't have chosen (Paul Greengrass, of the exceptional docudrama Bloody Sunday), which is good. The movie certainly moves, albeit sometimes at the cost of coherency, let alone character involvement; plus a little WobblyVision (you know, that jiggle-the-camera-so-things-look-urgent tactic so popular with the kids nowadays) goes a long way. A respectable if slightly disappointing sequel, The Bourne Supremacy at least saves the best for last, with a figuratively and literally smashing car chase (all Moscow becomes a demolition derby) followed by a thoughtful first dose of emotional gravitas. (2:00) Century 20, Kabuki, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Harvey)
The Clearing Director Pieter Jan Brugge and first-time screenwriter Justin Haythe stencil out this drama from two classic cinematic rubrics: the kidnapping caper and the ever untimely collapse of the American dream. Successful businessperson Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) is kidnapped and hustled into the woods by Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe), a gawky former employee screwed over by work politics and bad timing. Back at the Hayes house, Wayne's wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), and her grown-up children wait frantically for instructions, discovering some prickly secrets when they comb Hayes's personal documents for clues. Brugge and Haythe don't exactly cut any edges, but their standard nail-biter gets the thumbs-up (barely) for its performances and aptly chosen cast. (1:31) Galaxy. (Kim)
*Collateral A bullet-riddled long night of the soul around a grim, landmark-free Los Angeles, Collateral is a beautiful, lowercase black hole. At once taut and scattered, talky and eye-filling, loose and calculated, pulpy and poetic, pared down and ingeniously cluttered, the movie returns Michael Mann to a smaller ambient scale than his recent Oscar jabs, Ali and The Insider. Despite having more thrillerish action per square inch than most disassociative summer behemoths, Collateral is a road movie always hot to return to the confines of the "cleanest cab in Los Angeles," driven by Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx), for a face-off between Max and Vincent (a frosted Tom Cruise). A "superassassin" and a passenger for most of the movie Vincent has an assignment, one that's perpetually being consulted and laid out on a flash card in his Palm Pilot: his contract is to take down five federal witnesses he's never met before. Max, a professional in his own right, able to impressively crunch multi-borough geography, is ruthlessly trapped into being Vincent's deadly charioteer, while the latter makes his rounds. The net result is an existential study of two men, an anti-buddy picture. (2:00) Century Plaza, Century 20, Grand Lake, Jack London, 1000 Van Ness. (Crouse)
*The Corporation Everything catchy and simple about despising George W. Bush doesn't apply to the incredibly complicated and kinda boring real stuff behind his smirking barn door. The genius of new Canadian documentary The Corporation is that it puts a sort of identifiable human-esque face on the infinitely tentacled green, white, and cyber-paper trail beast we ought really to be voting, legislating, protesting, and counter-investing to its knees. In a just world, every ticket to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 destined now to become the one political documentary normally apolitical people will see, by the millions would come with free admission to this invaluable primer, which measures the self-perpetuating system ultimately responsible for most of our international imbroglios. Drawing its basic thesis from Joel Bakan's crisp if dry tome The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Achbar and Jennifer Abbott channel their message through a bold organizational scheme that lets the focus jump around in interconnective, humorous, hit-and-run fashion. (2:25) Shattuck. (Harvey)
*End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones You'll never get steely Johnny Ramone on a shrink's couch, but End of the Century is probably the next best thing to a punk Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and in some ways it's even better. We all know the Ramones were a mixed, twisted bag, yet we've never had Joey's sweet, doo-wop heart, Dee Dee's junkie business, and Johnny's G.I. Joe-grip on the group laid out in such fascinating, gruesome detail. Directors Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields capture all the warts, grit, and zits, along with the pinheads, bickering, mental illness, and ultimately melancholy that permeated the band. They scope out Johnny's cold, cold heart and general(-issimo) tyranny, Dee Dee's hustle for those "Chinese Rocks" and tussles with his violent hooker girlfriend, the passing drummers and the woman who broke Joey's heart, married Johnny, and triggered a never-resolved feud between the so-called bruddahs. Best of all and filling in where the Metallica doc failed the filmmakers don't shortchange the Ramones' music and cultural significance, contextualizing the leather-clad kings of Queens via interviews with Thurston Moore, Rob Zombie, and others in a revised version of the film that previewed at the Roxie Cinema last year. So, hey, ho, let's go see it, again. (1:48) Act I and II, California, Lumiere. (Chun)
Exorcist: The Beginning The back story on this prequel to the 1973 horror classic is far more interesting than Exorcist: The Beginning itself. In case you missed the E! True Hollywood Story episode ("The Curse of The Exorcist"), a near-complete version of Beginning, directed by Paul Schrader (Auto Focus), was deemed not scary enough, or gory enough, or something, for release. Enter the more bombastic Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea), who helmed the version now in theaters (supposedly, Schrader's film will see the light of day on DVD eventually). The sad truth is, all that fuss seems for naught; Beginning is, start to finish, a huge disappointment, using cheap "gotcha" scares (not to mention some of the crappiest C.G. that's dared to set foot in the 21st century) to sketch a pre-events-in-Georgetown Father Merrin (Stellan Skargård) as he battles ancient demons in dusty, sweaty 1950s Africa. One rather creepy maggot-covered baby aside, there ain't nothing here that'll turn your head all the way around. (1:40) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Eddy)
*Fahrenheit 9/11 By now it's clear there are two Iraqs: the one in President George W. Bush's mind, which he's succeeded in downloading to U.S. television screens, and the one many people are dying in. You know you're in that other Iraq when you watch the movingly awful images in Michael Moore's new cluster bomb of a documentary. The director's inevitable trip back to Flint, Mich., in the course of the film is essential not just to aid in the Michael Moore-ification of the story; it's the primary vein into the bigger story itself: the United States' ability to buy this film as the counterpropaganda to believe in an election year. The people who've made him an auteur, the ones he keeps remembering in Flint, are the ones fighting the war making Bush's family and its friends rich and the reason Americans, even jingoistic, xenophobic, imperialistic ones hoping manifest destiny pushes this country further and further across the globe, might vote Bush out of office. True: Moore's foray back into the homeland takes precious time away from his many other targets. But what's essentially interesting about the filmmaker's work is his persona: his literal journey, his predictable obsessions, the fact that his complaints still resonate, and, strangely, stand alone in a mind-deadening media landscape. (1:50) California, Grand Lake, 1000 Van Ness. (Gerhard)
*Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme Director Kevin Fitzgerald has it easy making his documentary interesting to watch with all the film's incredible MCs rapping improvised rhymes, or "coming off the top," audiences would've been content watching hours of unedited footage. Still, the filmmaker does a stand-up job organizing his shoots into a chapter-ordered doc, featuring interviews and improv sessions with the country's best lyricists. Moving from rap's roots in jazz and urban block parties to the politics of today's freestyle "battles," this finished version of Fitzgerald's 2000 project unveils super-rare footage and provides an insider's look at hip-hop's underground culture. Performers ranging from national headliners to household locals like the Mystik Journeymen and Planet Asia keep the heads bobbing, while a series of interviews with MC Supernatural, hip-hop's legendary career freestyler, make up the doc's backbone. At times the film's statements become a bit repetitive, but the freestyles are so damn awe-inspiring that you really won't notice. (1:12) Red Vic. (Kim)
*Garden State Aspiring actor Andrew "Large" Largeman (Zach Braff) is living in Los Angeles and table-jockeying in a chic Vietnamese restaurant when the call comes that his mother has died. He reluctantly returns home for a few days of closure. Hanging out with his boyhood pal (Peter Sarsgaard) now a full-time stoner grave digger and a goofy young woman (Natalie Portman) he meets in a neurologist's waiting room, Large searches for the epiphany that'll ease him out of his vegetative mind-set. At first glance, Garden State may seem like just another twentysomething woe-is-me mopefest looking to ride Holden Caulfield's coattails. But thanks to writer-director-star Braff's knack for deliciously deadpan setups, the film works an alchemy of bemused charm that steamrolls over most of the story's clunks. There are a few neophyte missteps, notably in the faux-naif lines poor Portman has to pop out (still, it surely beats acting against droids) and Large's slightly stock climactic confessional with dad Ian Holm, but Braff nails the mixture of melancholia and absurdism so beautifully that it's hard not to be won over. (1:46) Bridge, Empire, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Fear)
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle From Danny Leiner, the director of Dude, Where's My Car?, comes Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (or, in other words, Dude, Where's My Car? 2: The Ethnic Edition). Harold (John Cho) is a pushover who does his coworkers' assignments (those Asians are such hard workers) and freezes whenever his dream girl is within view. Kumar (the endearing Kal Penn) got a perfect score on his MCATs but sabotages his interviews for med school and is only concerned with where his next joint is coming from. A night of bong rips gives the two friends a severe hankering for White Castle burgers; the resulting quest takes them all over New Jersey and includes jail time, jungle animals, a run-in with Doogie Howser, and of course, losing their car. The humor is easy and predictable, as are the miraculous character transformations by the end of the movie. But if you can locate the stoner frat boy in you, or if you can relate to being plain old hungry, Harold and Kumar will supply something to laugh about. (1:23) 1000 Van Ness. (Huang)
Hero Seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Yeah, then you've pretty much seen Hero. Zhang Yimou's film, which carries with it the hipness stamp of being "presented by Quentin Tarantino," weaves the tale of an assassination plot as explained in multiple flashbacks by a nameless maybe-good-guy, maybe-bad-guy (Jet Li). Seems he's recently stymied the plans of a trio of killers (In the Mood for Love's Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, and Iron Monkey's Donnie Yen) to off China's first emperor. Or has he? As the story gets turned over and over, the art direction shifts drastically: in a particularly violent recollection, everyone's dressed in red; a more melancholy version calls for flowing robes of pale blue. The overall effect is visually stunning, and all the actors smolder magnificently. Still, a sword-fighting movie is only as good as its sword fights, and Hero's got only one really great one, a Li-versus-Yen rumble that, weirdly enough, takes place almost entirely in their characters' imaginations. (1:39) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
*Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, and the Selling of the American Empire This short, sharp new documentary by Jeremy Earp and Sut Jhally goes beyond mere Bush-bashing. Instead, it paints a horrifying portrait of organized U.S. imperialist expansion and public deception stretching back to the dawn of the Reagan era. That's when a few "radical neoconservatives" first hatched theoretical foreign and domestic policies too extreme to be revealed let alone fully implemented even during that reactionary administration. The future wish list included such general fuck-y'all notions as the United States no longer honoring international treaties, laws, and bodies (i.e., the United Nations); an offensive, "preemptive" approach toward invading other countries found problematic or desirable; artfully scaling back civil liberties and constitutional rights; and heightening of the elite's wealth 'n' power, and its opposite (that's you, bud). Most Republicans thought all this a little too hot to handle, whether or not they were in sympathy. Just one year before the Sept. 11 attacks, former Defense Department honcho and major rad-right theorist Paul Wolfowitz, who'd first formulated these ideas as one secret package proposal, noted that progress toward such lofty goals was likely to be slow (darn those opinionated voters!) unless some "catastrophic event, like a new Pearl Harbor" allowed them to be shoved down the public throat as bogus, "patriotic" national-security necessities. You know what happened next. With input from everyone from Medea Benjamin and Noam Chomsky to appalled (but safely retired) military personnel and cranky old Norman Mailer, Hijacking Catastrophe presents a fascist-doomsday scenario that is here. Don't expect the humor or dramatic flair of Fahrenheit 9/11; this exposé is, aptly, as sober and scarifying as a pilfered confidential file. (1:08) Smith Rafael. (Harvey)
A Home at the End of the World After losing his family, a teenager named Bobby is adopted by best friend Jonathan and his parents in this film based on a Michael Cunningham (The Hours) novel. Bobby romances his pal and charms all with a gentle ease that marks his later ability to thrive in any circumstances except for being alone, that is. Flash-forward to the early '80s when Bobby (Colin Farrell), age 24, finally surrenders his stunted filial love to seek out his long-lost friend in New York. Still winning and guileless, Bobby finds his way into yet another new family when he falls for and impregnates Jonathan's roommate Clare (Robin Wright Penn). Farrell plays his part beautifully, but the grown-up Bobby isn't as well-developed as Jonathan (Dallas Roberts), a complex character trying to negotiate his place within the threesome's undefined unit. Uneven at parts Home scripted by Cunningham and directed by first-timer Michael Mayer is nevertheless engaging as a quiet ode to self-made families. (1:35) Galaxy. (Koh)
I, Robot It's rare that a major studio spends truckloads of money on a sci-fi epic, crams it full of CGI and assorted visual clichés, hires a lead who's desperately chucking his ha-ha status and the resulting product, amazingly, doesn't suck. It could be that our standards for Hollywood keep getting lower, or the film's disgraceful trailers simply dropped viewer expectations, but Alex Proyas's latest dystopian future flick actually lays some thought beneath its polished veneer. Will Smith (quit cringing, he's okay in this one) stars as Detective Spooner, a pie-eating technophobe who's convinced that all the robots in Chicago (circa 2035) can't be trusted. While investigating the apparent suicide of a robotics expert, the gumshoe cop learns that machines especially ones built by evil corporations sometimes do things not included in their programs. So with the help of a stunning scientist (Bridget Moynahan), Spooner rolls up his sleeves and saves humanity from well, that part is unclear. The film does raise some intriguing ethical questions about the preservation of life but ultimately gets distracted by its own coolness factor (i.e., techno-violence with post-Matrix effects). (1:54) Century 20, 1000 Van Ness. (Kim)
Imagining Argentina Imagining Argentina marks a departure for Antonio Banderas, known lately for making more carefree movie choices. The film is set in Argentina in the late '70s and early '80s, when the country was stifled under the rule of a cruel military dictatorship responsible for the mysterious disappearance of tens of thousands of people. Carlos (Banderas) finds he can foresee the fates of these victims and holds meetings in his garden to share his gift with the community. The only future he can't clearly envision is that of his wife, Cecilia (Emma Thompson), who was taken from their home after writing a controversial newspaper article about the "disappeared." Writer-director Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) explores the possibility of imagining loved ones back into existence and also makes some interesting comparisons between the Holocaust and the "dirty war." The fusing of the real world with supernatural elements isn't always successful; one can only watch Banderas convulsing and spasming so many times before it gets old, but it's a welcome change to see him overact drama that's at least based on real-world events and only slightly Hollywood-manufactured. (1:47) Opera Plaza. (Huang)
Intimate Strangers A potentially embarrassing case of mistaken identity brings together intense, self-involved Anna (Sandrine Bonnaire) and quiet, lonely William (Fabrice Luchini). She bursts into his office, thinking he's a psychiatrist and before this man of few words can set her straight (he's actually a tax lawyer; the shrink's office is next door), Anna's blabbed some rather personal details about her sexually unsatisfying marriage. Future "sessions" result as the duo forge a relationship that borders on codependency: she's found an outlet to share her deepest thoughts and confessions (whether or not they're true), while he's found a reason to look forward to the next dreary week. Somehow, this compelling drama from director Patrice LeConte (The Man on the Train) keeps from straying into too-creepy, overwrought-"erotic" territory and actually comes out more sweet than expected. Thank the performances, especially Luchini's, whose expressive face reveals all, no dialogue required. (1:45) Clay, Shattuck. (Eddy)
*The Manchurian Candidate Jonathan Demme, director of the Manchurian Candidate remake, must be delighted by the success of Fahrenheit 9/11 it's the perfect companion piece to this timely thriller, the bare bones of which (mind control, political intrigue, the crazed pursuit of power) still resonate years after the cold war-infused original. Gulf War veteran Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) starts to doubt his own memory after a rash of troubling dreams suggest a hero soldier, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), may not be who he appears to be. Since the men shared time in Kuwait, Shaw has been elected to Congress; his fervently patriotic mother (Meryl Streep) is a senator who schemes to get Shaw his never-named party's vice presidential nomination. As the election looms, Marco tries to convey his fears to Shaw, babbling about implants and nightmares and what really happened in the desert. Though The Manchurian Candidate remake does unfurl its own modern twist commenting on corporations rather than Communists it's ultimately less shocking than the original was at the time of its release. Still, it emerges an undeniably thought-provoking film. (2:10) Century 20, Kabuki, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)
*Maria Full of Grace Seventeen-year-old Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) thinks she could do better than her boring boyfriend, boring job de-thorning roses at a flower factory, and boring home life as meal ticket for a demanding mother, whiny sister, and the latter's wailing baby. The trouble is, Maria lives in a nowhere town outside Bogota, Colombia, where options are few. Restlessness, anger, and willpower alone aren't enough to reroute Maria's dead-end life trajectory, especially after she discovers she's unhappily pregnant. So she seizes on one extremely risky road to material success: working as an international drug mule, smuggling heroin into the United States via umpteen ingested jumbo capsules that are horse tranquilizer-size and fulla horse, period. A hefty financial reward awaits if she and several other nervous young women survive the gauntlet of suspicious customs officials, possible capsule leakage (which would be fatal), nausea, cramps, and any unforeseen additional disasters. Writer-director Joshua Marston's drama may lack the emotionally grueling force of some prior, more floridly cautionary works on this subject (most famously Midnight Express), but its documentary-style directness still offers a powerful microcosm of one woman's attempt to share in the "free trade" bounty that pretty much flows just one way out from disadvantaged countries. (1:53) Act I and II, Embarcadero, Empire, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)
Mean Creek "Like an adolescent Heart of Darkness" posits the promotional jabber for indie drama Mean Creek; thank god the movie wouldn't dream of being so pretentious. In writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes's first feature, Sam (Rory Culkin) is the object of school-yard bullying by George (Joshua Peck), a kid so exasperating and mean that soon you too will find yourself thinking of him as "that fat fuck." And junior high schooler Sam isn't the only one who's found himself on the pounding end of big, bulky, rather thickheaded George's overactive temper. Deciding that f.f. has become a general problem in need of a solution, Sam's older brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), proposes a little disciplinary humiliation. The siblings invite George on a fake-birthday daytrip down the river, along with Sam's kinda-almost girlfriend, Millie (Carly Schroeder), and two friends of Rocky's with their own bullying issues: angry Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) and sensitive Clyde (Ryan Kelley). Shot in Oregon, Mean Creek is a fine little seriocomic examination of typical adolescent personality types, peer relations, problems, and communication something that plays a lot more interesting than it sounds. (1:29) Embarcadero, Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)
*Metallica: Some Kind of Monster When Metallica's St. Anger hit the shelves in 2003, some fans were a little taken aback by the more introspective turn the band had taken. How did they go from "Search and Destroy" to self-examination? The answer lies in Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's brilliant new documentary. Not just in its chronicling of the band's confrontation with their inner demons, its notation of lead singer James Hetfield's check-in to rehab, its candid view of their emotion-airing sessions it's in the making of the film itself. Unlike your typical Behind the Music tour of tragedies and triumphs, this rockumentary isn't afraid to show shit getting real ugly as the musicians go from Damaged Inc., to a group that can finally work out their problems in a proactive manner. But the warts aren't what make this two-and-a-half-hour peek into the juggernaut such a compelling, even moving, piece of work. Any vérité rock doc can do voyeurism, but how many actually show the lifestyle's aftermath; unflinchingly detail how fucked-up, flawed, and unforgiving the subjects can be; or aid the process of licking the collective wounds? The film looks into the belly of a wounded beast while letting the cameras both converge with and record the need to finally let it all out. (2:20) Galaxy. (Fear)
*Napoleon Dynamite In this first feature by director and co-scenarist (with wife Jerusha) Jared Hess, Napoleon (Jon Heder) is the geekiest high schooler in Idaho, if not the western hemisphere. He lives with Grandma (Sandy Martin), sexually ambiguous bro Kip (Aaron Ruell), and vainglorious Uncle Rio (Jon Gries). The latter comes to live with the "boys" when Gram suffers a dune-buggy accident. Napoleon's only friend is new kid Pedro (Efren Ramirez), who seems to be on major laxatives. Pedro enters the student body president election, running against the most corn-fed popular blond (Haylie Duff) in a cheerleader suit. Can he triumph over her odds? Can Napoleon get with girl-of-his-dreams Trisha (Emily Kennard), girl-who-maybe-even-likes-him Deb (Tina Majorino), or indeed any girl actually born a girl? (Actually, boy-born girls would likely decline him too.) Can he get horrible Uncle Rio the hell out of the house? Can he survive the climactic school talent competition without complete humiliation? This often excruciatingly funny exercise is like Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) meeting the Harmony Korine of Gummo (not his other crap). In other words, it's deadpan-surreal teen-flick absurdism absolutely loaded with possibly empty but hella filling entertainment carbs. Scarf it up, puppies! (1:26) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Harvey)
9/11: In Plane Site (1:10) Oaks.The Notebook If the phrase "adapted from the Nicholas Sparks novel" sends you fleeing for the nearest exit (reference points: Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember), this probably isn't your kind of flick. Nick Cassavetes (John Q) directs his mom, Gena Rowlands, as an Alzheimer's patient kept company by a man (James Garner) who reads a handwritten tale of love lost and found again from the titular volume. The more interesting parts of The Notebook take place in flashback, as the couple rich, spirited Allie (Rachel McAdams) and poor, soulful Noah (Ryan Gosling) meet as teens in pre-World War II South Carolina. The ghosts of thousands of star-crossed love stories haunt the plot, but enjoyable performances make The Notebook more memorable than some such yarns. Though the younger actors are cast against type McAdams was last seen catfighting with Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls; Murder by Numbers' Gosling usually plays junior-psycho roles they're both surprisingly effective here as googly-eyed lovers. (2:01) Galaxy. (Eddy)
*Open Water According to Open Water writer-director-editor and co-cinematographer Chris Kentis, sharks just happen to be one element of his film, a digitally shot, based-on-true-events tale of two spectacularly unlucky scuba divers left stranded miles offshore. But Open Water is a shark movie if ever there was one especially when you consider Kentis and co-cinematographer-producer Laura Lau (who also happens to be his wife; the scuba-loving pair financed the film themselves and shot it over two-plus years on vacations from their day jobs) didn't have a Jaws-style stunt shark on the payroll. With the help of "shark wranglers," a relatively tame shark population, and some well-timed bloody bait, Kentis was able to capture all the fin-filled footage he needed, no special effects required. It's almost too bad this behind-the-scenes information isn't conveyed in the film's opening credits it might enhance the experience for unsuspecting filmgoers prepped for a computer-generated shriekfest, like, say, Deep Blue Sea. Though every line is scripted, the slow-burning Open Water has an almost documentary feel to it; it literally floats along, allowing dread and despair to build over 79 agonizing minutes. (1:19) California, Century 20, Kabuki, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Orinda. (Eddy)
*Orwell Rolls in His Grave Is it stupidity, apathy, or misapplied patriotism that has led Americans to permit so much that harms themselves and the rest of the world? Robert Kane Pappas's documentary suggests an alternative explanation: How can the average citizen be expected to feel clear-eyed outrage at the corporations steering jobs overseas, the rich orchestrating tax-exemption laws that make them richer, the elected officials who act on behalf of everyone but their lay constituents when the fourth estate has become almost wholly controlled by those special interests that benefit most from public ignorance? Since the Reagan era, deregulation has allowed a handful of corporate monoliths to gradually swallow the vast majority of print, TV, radio, and now Internet outlets, shoving any truly independent or objective media outlets off the radar. "See-no-evil" news coverage focuses on private sex scandals, sensationalizing small-scale crime, etc., instead of the real issues that affect everyone's lives: political conflicts of interest, systemic corruption, lopsided division of wealth, the deliberate disinformation of "spin" itself. (Pappas's primary example is the way in which 2000's presidential election became a story about Gore as a sore loser, neatly sidestepping the enormous evidence of wholesale fraud.) Is this manipulation of discourse so different from the propagandistic "news" allowed by Goebbels, Stalin, or the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984? Backed up by a roll call of media experts (including, unfortunately, too few defensive voices and too much Michael Moore doing stand-up), this film's argument is so potent and infuriating you'll wish Time Warner or General Electric executive were within strangling reach. The message even overcomes the film itself, which in certain respects is irritatingly ill-crafted: Pappas makes a weak narrator, allows way too much on-screen text, and utilizes music of near-paralyzing badness. (1:43) Roxie. (Harvey)
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism Somewhere in TV land's pixelated global theater lives a 24-hour news channel that, in its zeal to reinvent the news in the image of its creator, has merged all the credibility of professional wrestling with the subtlety of a New York Post headline. With no wink and no nod, but huge three-dimensional graphics sewn together by Betsy Ross, it markets itself under the slogan "Fair and balanced." Robert Greenwald, director of the new documentary Outfoxed, does what no other informed American would even consider: he takes Fox News at its word. There's no shortage of talking heads in Outfoxed, including Walter Cronkite and the always on-point Robert McChesney, to explain the ongoing harm caused by Rupert Murdoch's ownership of a media empire, a collection of nine TV satellites, 175 newspapers, 40 book imprints, 100 cable stations, 40 TV stations, and one movie studio, reaching a total of 4.7 billion people, which is about three-fourths of the people on the earth. And it's no surprise that the empire's flagship news channel supports the Republicans who help Murdoch stay on top of the dirt pile. What is a surprise are the smoking guns Greenwald digs up to show just how it's done. (1:17) Little Roxie, Grand Lake, Oaks, Orinda, Parkway. (Gerhard)
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement Even newly equipped with a college degree, Princess Mia (Anne Hathaway) knows she still has quite a bit of education left before she can assume the throne of Genovia. She's not too concerned, though; with Julie Andrews for a grandmother and the crown jewels to accent her wardrobe, this princess stuff seems like a walk in the park until a blimpy, menacing Parliament member proposes they enforce a traditional law saying that no woman can rule the country without a husband at her side. Mia is given 30 days to find a worthy fellow, otherwise her place in the royal family tree will be surrendered to young, handsome Sir Nicholas (Chris Pine), who is next in line for the throne. Hathaway is completely harmless as the awkward, driven queen-to-be, but more important, to those for whom Andrews can do no wrong, the film includes one phenomenal scene involving a slumber party, surfing, and a large mattress that allows the veteran star to move like she hasn't moved since Mary Poppins. Without the always-inspiring "makeover" mentality of the first Princess Diaries, this sequel lacks the original's charm, but klutzy Princess Mia evolving into an orphan-saving philanthropist comes close. (2:00) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Huang)
*Riding Giants With solar blond hair and bronzed quads to match, the world's greatest big-wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, stands on an ocean-framed precipice, looking out at infinity. It's a signature moment of Dogtown and Z-Boys director Stacy Peralta's Riding Giants a film that darkens the happy cannabis cloud of the surf-film genre because even as the camera shoots an endless summer vista, it indicates trouble's on the horizon. The ocean is at peace, meaning: there are no waves. In the grammar of Peralta's Riding Giants, a documentary that replaces the party-boy tone of so many extreme-sports movies with utter, earnest, seriousness and a massive amount of historical footage, the situation is equivalent to gazing on a nuclear winter. It's, of course, too terrible a thing to speak of directly. Explained by Hamilton himself, "It's like if you were a dragon slayer and there were no more dragons." It's a lack of imagination on my part, I realize, that I can't quite picture it without some help. But Riding Giants supplies the dragons, the dragon-slayers, the play-by-play commentators, as well as the poets, to give us a reason why big-wave surfers face a very public death nearly every day over a very private trip. (1:42) Opera Plaza. (Gerhard)
Seducing Dr. Lewis The sleepy northern Quebec island burg of Ste. Marie-La Mauderne is on its last legs. The fishing industry that long supported it is fished-out, and the only remaining residents are elders too stubborn or lazy to follow their children's exodus to the big city. When a multinational corporation considers (improbably) building a factory there, things are suddenly looking up. But one condition is that the town must have a resident physician of its own, a circumstance that hasn't existed since the last one died of old age. Happenstance well, blackmail actually places a jaded young Montreal plastic surgeon (David Boutin) in the town for a month. The locals knock themselves out trying to convince him that their falling-down community is in fact a charming hamlet coincidentally full of all the things he likes (cricket matches, fine dining, etc). Winning him over short-term is one thing, but what will happen when he finds out it's all a sham? This effort by scenarist Ken Scott and director Jean-François Pouliot is OK, but so nakedly yet another stab at milking the Full Monty-Waking Ned Devine "triumph of the little guys" formula that all its seriocomic charm and local character feel sterilized and shrink-wrapped. (1:35) Smith Rafael. (Harvey)
*Spider-Man 2 Forget those incredible reflexes and awe-inspiring web-slinging skills. Spider-Man or more specifically, his real-life counterpart, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is steeped in malaise. His crime-fighting skills are in high demand, but he's got major money problems. Plus, he's so tied up with catching crooks and rescuing the helpless, he can't even make time to see his beloved M.J. (Kirsten Dunst) star in, appropriately enough, The Importance of Being Earnest. Gloominess aside, any moviegoer with a pulse will be thrilled by Spider-Man 2, which is even better than 2002's generally fine Spider-Man (clearly, some of the prove-thyself pressure's been lifted off director Sam Raimi, as his trademark weirdness is more keenly felt this go-round). The exhilarating shots of Spider-Man swooping through Manhattan that so defined the first film are back, with new technological wonders in the form of tentacled villain Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina). More important, though, Raimi allows Maguire to dig deeply into Peter's existential ennui, daring to suggest that even in a film full of fantastic pizzazz, a keenly felt internal conflict can be just as powerful as anything created in front of a blue screen. (2:05) Century 20. (Eddy)
*Stander A legendary figure in South Africa, Andre Stander (Thomas Jane) was a disillusioned Johannesburg police force captain who channeled his frustration into a series of high-profile, insanely risky, nose-thumbing solo bank robberies in the late 1970s. Finally captured after 20 heists, he promptly escaped from prison with two other inmates and recommenced the spree. "He has made us look impotent in our own country!" one senior official fumes. That, it appears, was somewhat the point though whether Stander was really the apartheid-protesting prankster in bell-bottoms painted here or a narcissistic thrill junkie in Robin Hood guise, we'll never know for sure. (He eventually fled South Africa, and died under ambiguous circumstances soon afterward.) An unlikely third feature project for Canadian-born, L.A.-based director Bronwen Hughes (after the middling likes of Harriet the Spy and Sandra Bullock vehicle Forces of Nature), this intriguing historical caper is stylish, both realistic and fablelike, a tad muffled, and never quite credible despite all facts at hand. Yet the colorful real-life story is so fascinating that this good-enough depiction remains well worth a look. As an "antihero" whose contradictions are soft-pedaled but left resolved here, the excessively good-looking Jane finally gets a part (this spring's The Punisher sure wasn't it) that puts his acting chops and vintage Redford-style charisma to good use. (1:51) Smith Rafael. (Harvey)
The Story of the Weeping Camel Any movie in which large, furry, and charmingly ugly animals play the lead characters faces the danger of being exploitative or trashed by effects-ridden Disneyfication. But filmmakers Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni take the documentarian's route for their tale of two camels, which reticently depicts the self-sustaining, sometimes merciless universe of the Gobi Desert. A nomadic Mongolian family assists one of its camels with a painful birth, growing concerned when the mother rejects its snow-white calf every time it tries to feed. After countless attempts at breaking the ice between the two creatures, the family hires a violinist to perform a reconciling music ritual for the frosty mother. This unembellished narrative really happened during the film's brief 23-day shoot, though some of its scenes are dramatic reenactments. Fascinating without resorting to oppressive ethnography, Weeping Camel models its faux-vérité structure on Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran and his pivotal Nanook of the North. Davaa and Falorni's project isn't as spectacle-oriented as the highly romanticized Nanook, but expect a few cultural performances for the camera toward the end. (1:33) Shattuck. (Kim)
SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (1:40) Century 20, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.
Suspect Zero Poor Carrie-Anne Moss the Matrix series star is doomed to be coupled with leading men who must be invariably dubbed "the One." Psychic Benjamin O'Ryan (Ben Kingsley) digs up that nugget in Begotten director E. Elias Merhige's Suspect Zero, the latest derivative serial-killer flick some intrepid sleuths need to figure out a way to save this now-moribund genre from buzz-kill predictability. After bending one rule too many, FBI agent Thomas Mackelway (Aaron Eckhart) has been put out to pasture in a small town, only to stumble onto a series of dead bodies with mutilated eyelids, connected to fliers depicting missing children. Accompanied by an obligatory love interest-agent (Moss), Mackelway finds his trail ending at seemingly all-knowing O'Ryan is he suspect zero, the theoretical killer who manages to evade capture by breaking all patterns? This zero of a movie isn't quite so extraordinary and falls prey to predictability, though Kingsley adds class, ambiguity, and even a slight whiff of sexy, animal allure. One suspects Merhige wants to align Suspect Zero with Se7en and Memento and their murder-mystery mind games. But this more visually lackluster, defanged genre exercise (with a twist hinging on the remote-viewing, or psychic spying, experiments conducted by the U.S. government) is closer to a blown-out, subpar X-Files episode. (1:40) Century Plaza, Century 20, Jack London, Kabuki, 1000 Van Ness. (Chun)
*Tom Dowd: The Language of Music Tom Dowd was one of the prime invisible heroes of 20th-century music, an engineer whose landmark technical innovations were matched by his open-hearted approach to working with artists. The recorded legacies of Ray Charles, John Coltrane, and Aretha Franklin wouldn't be quite what they are if it weren't for the Dowd touch. Mark Moormann's doc spends a little too long wallowing in the man's collaborations with the Allman Brothers and Creem and not enough time on Coltrane, Franklin, and Otis Redding. But that's a petty gripe: a reunion between Dowd and Charles reveals their camaraderie, and as an interview subject, Dowd displays a life-love so contagious it's easy to see why he forsook nuclear science for music. The final scene, in which Dowd explains and performs his favorite song, is a tiny piece of pure gold. (1:30) Little Roxie. (Huston)
*Uncovered: The War on Iraq Robert Greenwald's election-season juggernaut continues as he follows up the wide release of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism with a treasure from the recent archives, an elongated version of an earlier doc, Uncovered: The War on Iraq. If you liked President George W. Bush's comedic performance in Outfoxed, you'll love his tragic turn in Uncovered! What Greenwald's been able to show in both films, simply by mining the very recent TV archives, is not just how brazenly the very highest government officials lie but also how painfully frequently they do it. With Uncovered, Greenwald adds to the debate the voices of CIA operatives and other longtime government officials who've turned on this recent regime, which has taken empire-building-as-usual to apocalyptic levels. It's amazing to see this collection of faces who might have been happy to help the United States do its dirty work under normal circumstances risk their own futures to now call it as they see it. (1:23) California, Grand Lake, Orinda. (Gerhard)
The Village Gawd, where to begin? Inhabitants in wee Covington, which appears to be some sort of isolated 19th-century New England religious community, are disturbed when skinned animal corpses suggest that "Those We Don't Speak Of" monsters who live in the surrounding woods no one is allowed to enter are angry. A "truce" between the creatures and the humans has apparently been breached. Okay, that's it for plot. An excruciatingly ponderous 90-minute buildup precedes the film's paltry smidgen of "action" (you will later struggle to recall just how the trailer made this look like a scary horror film), and a surprise revelation that is just so, so lame. The Village should finally make everyone aware that M. Night Shyamalan represents the biggest case of Emperor's New Clothes since emperors actually existed. Sure, The Sixth Sense was a clever (if far from original) idea, but Unbreakable and Signs were 98 percent empty portent and 2 percent actual content. Here the self-appointed master of supernatural suspense (his production company is called Blinding Edge, for chrissakes) takes a concept that might've floated a mediocre Twilight Zone half hour and treats it as if it combined the artistic, moral, and oh-the-humanity weight of The Scarlet Letter, Our Town, The Lottery, and a medieval Passion Play combined. These may be the slowest and dumbest two hours ever unleashed at this level of mainstream-Hollywood-"event" expense and hype. I wouldn't be surprised if some audiences throw things at the screen before killing word-of-mouth gets out. Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Ron Howard's pretty daughter Bryce (like hell she wasn't a nepotistic hire conveying her character's sightlessness seems beyond her), Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody (a Hall of Shame performance as the village idiot), and other thespians do not emerge unscathed. (2:00) 1000 Van Ness. (Harvey)
*We Don't Live Here Anymore We Don't Live Here Anymore is a sort of updated Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, filtered though the more naturalistically diffuse sensibility of Andre Dubus, who wrote the two mid-'70s novellas adapted by scenarist Larry Gross. Jack (Mark Ruffalo) and Hank (Peter Krause) are liberal arts professors living in a small, pretty university town. But their households, and wives, are very different. Terry (Laura Dern) is an emotionally generous, organizationally clueless homemaker and mother to two children with Jack. Edith (Naomi Watts) is as coldly controlled as her interior decor, which seems designed to intrude as little as possible on the concentration and philandering Hank requires to remain a successful author-academic. During an inebriated house party for four, half the attendees go on a beer run, while the other half find their inhibitions lowered enough to lock lips. This minor incident is enough to cast a light on incestuous infidelities, lies, and marital doubts that force everyone to acknowledge just how much hypocrisy they'll accept to maintain the status quo. As juicy as a soap opera, occasionally witty, and sober enough to rest comfortably on the art-house screen, We Don't Live Here Anymore is so tightly constructed that you can forgive the bits that come off as pretentious or psychologically faulty. (1:43) Albany, Embarcadero, Empire, Piedmont. (Harvey)
What the #$*! Do We Know? What's the purpose of life? Do we experience multiple realities? What exactly is the nature of space and time? What the #$*! Do We Know? attempts to answer life's real toughies with a host of appropriately mad scientists and experts in the field. The quasi-conclusive information is then supplemented by a sequence starring Marlee Matlin, whose character overcomes a jilted marriage and anger floating from her past and is freed by deeper knowledge of what's truly important. This film has the potential to stun with animation sequences of the body's nervous system and internal organs and maybe even teach us a thing or two, but instead it resorts to dumbed-down language and downright embarrassing sequences of cells dancing, speaking, and doing things they have no business in doing. For an after-school philosophy special for junior high students, fine, but as a feature-length film, What the #$*! Do We Know falls flat on its pseudo-metaphysical face. (1:51) Piedmont. (Huang)
Without a Paddle A wimpy doctor (Seth Green), a motorcycle-straddling bad boy (Dax Shepard), and a reluctant corporate type with commitment phobia (Matthew Lillard) scramble all over the Oregon backwoods to carry out the treasure hunt they've been dreaming about since their sandbox days. Director Stephen Brill (Mr. Deeds, Little Nicky) makes sure all the guys' various character flaws are clearly established before the onset of their wet 'n' wild ride and tidily rectified by the time they outrun a couple of grenade-wielding hicksville Neanderthals, find refuge with hairy hippie chicks, and make friends with a grunting mountain man who hasn't had human contact since the 1970s (Burt Reynolds, winking at Deliverance). Green provides some laughs as the sniffy, inadequate short guy; as for the other two, well, at least they cut a pretty picture in Reynolds's character's dusty disco duds. Keep in mind, the bulk of this film is three twentysomething males running around in the woods, so expect much macho testicle talk, inevitable homoerotic moments followed by homophobic humor, and positively no stopping to ask for directions. (1:39) Century Plaza, Kabuki, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Huang)
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie (1:30) Jack London, 1000 Van Ness.
*Fanny and Alexander Arriving near the tail end of 40-plus years of obsessive angst, Ingmar Bergman's 1982 opus screening at the Castro Theatre in a mint-fresh print is possibly the closest the Swedish master ever came to an art-house crowd-pleaser. Charting life in the extended Ekdahl clan circa 1907, with special focus on the young siblings of the title, Fanny and Alexander's three fulfilling hours are by turns exuberant, harsh, sensuous, forbidding, magical, and severe. Universally heralded, the film is not without movie-buff controversy hardcore Bergman scholars, looking back at the almost invasive intensity of Persona and Scenes from a Marriage, have dissed it as the director's too-eager attempt to soften his Great Dour Swede image with marshmallowy warmth. Warm it is and no less glorious because of that but it's also a summarization of Bergman's thematic inner furies, with actors (including bits by such staples as Gunnar Björnstrand, Harriet Andersson, and Erland Josephson) bathed in a feeling of hard-earned serenity. (3:08) Castro. (Fernando F. Croce)