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–Ryan Beltram, EDN

Six new films open at your local cinemas this week:three at the Bijou and three at David Minor. As usual, the Bijou’s new selection is uncommercial with two documentaries and a very unusual Christmas movie debuting. David Minor is more mainstream with two summer blockbusters and a romantic comedy opening.

At the Bijou this week:

Into the Abyss: Documentary – 2011 – 107 Min – Rated PG-13. Starts on Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 pm; additional showing at 4:45 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

In director Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, Into the Abyss chronicles two inmates: one on death row, and the other serving a life sentence for murdering three people in a carjacking. The film follows the perspectives of the victims’ families, the policemen involved with the case and even the loved ones of the accused.

Herzog has always been fascinated by what drives the human soul good or bad. At the beginning, Herzog says that he is against capital punishment and yet the film does not seem to judge its subjects, but rather sympathize with them and everyone involved in the tragedy. It’s an examination of why people, and the state, kill.

Paul Goodman Changed My Life: Documentary – 2011 – 89 Min – Not Rated. The film runs Dec. 9-11. The Friday screening will be at 6:15 pm, followed by a moderated discussion via Skype with director Jonathan Lee. The film will show at 7 pm on Saturday, and at 12:25 and 7 pm on Sunday.

Paul Goodman was a unique figure in the ’60s and people didn’t know what to make of him. His 1960 best-seller, Growing Up Absurd, became a cornerstone of countercultural thinking. Goodman was a poet, essayist, playwright and psychotherapist, and was candid about his bisexuality while maintaining a marriage and raising two children.

This biographical documentary mixes old and new footage of those who knew Goodman and those who had a strong opinion of the man. The documentary also presents readings of Goodman’s work by the likes of Garrison Keillor and Edmund White, as well as archival footage of Goodman himself.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Action/Fantasy – 2010 – 84 Min – Rated R. Starts Friday, Dec. 9 at 10:20 pm.

What if Santa Claus was not only real, but evil? This daringly unusual film takes place on Christmas Eve in Northern Finland where an archeologist has unearthed Santa’s apparent evil underground lair. You would think the children in the small town would be excited about the real Santa being so close. But instead of being happy, the local children are disappearing.

A young boy and his father, who just happens to be a reindeer hunter, attempt to capture Santa and sell him to the corporation sponsoring the archeological dig. But finding Santa and keeping him captive isn’t easy when his elves will do anything to free their notorious leader. This sounds very bizarre, but I’m intrigued.

Still Playing at the Bijou:

Take Shelter: Final two screenings on Wednesday and Thursday at 9:15 pm.

Midnight in Paris: Showing at 4:45 pm, Wednesday and Thursday. Resumes on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm.

The Way: Showing at 5 and 7:45 pm, Wednesday-Friday. Additional showing at 2:15 Saturday and Sunday.

The Hedgehog: Final two screenings on Wednesday and Thursday at 7 pm.

Three films open this week at David Minor:

The Hangover Part II: Comedy – 2011 – 102 Min – Rated R. Starts on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 6:50 and 10:40 pm.

The Wolfpack is back to their wild ways as Phil, Stu and Alan head to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. What looks like a more laid back bachelor party compared to the last time, quickly turns into familiar circumstances as the trio wake up in a shady Bangkok apartment. How they got there is what sets the movie in motion.

Despite being the highest grossing comedy of the year, The Hangover Part II was undoubtedly the most disappointing movie of the year. This film has become the definition of what not to do with a sequel. Instead of finding new creative ways for laughs, the film recycles the same scenarios and jokes from the first film: changing the setting from Las Vegas to Bangkok, a monkey instead of a baby, Stu’s random musical number with a guitar instead of a piano, losing Stu’s future brother-in-law instead of their friend Doug. It’s like they were afraid to do anything original because the first film was so big.

The movie even uses lines from the first film — “What is going on?” — and characters reference the events of the first film with lines like, “I can’t believe this is happening to us again.” I wish I had been watching the first film — oh wait — I was.

Friends with Benefits: Comedy – 2011 – 109 Min – Rated R. Debuts on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 4:50 pm.

The second romantic comedy this year about friends hooking up, stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as work friends who decide they could both use some added benefits. They find each other attractive, so why not have sex? But they’re determined not to turn that benefit into complications that would lead to something more.

Judging from the trailers, this looks like a decent rom-com. Timberlake and Kunis look like they have good chemistry and there’s a good supporting cast, including Woody Harrelson and Jenna Elfman.

Cowboys & Aliens: Action/Sci-Fi – 2011 – 118 Min – Rated PG-13. Starts on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 8:40 pm.

Another disappointing summer movie, Cowboys & Aliens, stars Daniel Craig as a man who wakes up in the middle of the desert with a bizarre-looking contraption attached to his wrist. Besides that, he doesn’t know who he is or how he got there. He quickly learns that he has a certain set of skills that makes him very dangerous, and he’s wanted not only by the local sheriff, but also by a local cattle rancher played by Harrison Ford.

But their feud becomes a secondary issue when weird flying objects come down from the sky and take some of the locals. Now they have to work together to save their people before there’s no town left to save.

Cowboys & Aliens is a silly title, and it’s as if the makers of the film wanted to run away from any notion of silliness and make a serious western with an element of sci-fi thrown in. But by doing that, they’ve taken all the fun out of the film. Daniel Craig barely speaks (Channeling Clint Eastwood) and Harrison Ford is playing yet another grumpy guy. When there are jokes, they often fall flat and the action sequences are unmemorable.

It’s an interesting idea blending two very different genres. But if you’re going to do that, one can’t outweigh the other. Instead of having a good time, I was bored and wishing I was watching a better western or sci-fi film.

Still Playing at David Minor:

30 Minutes or Less: Showing at 9:45 pm, Wednesday, Dec. 7. Showing at 10:40 pm Dec. 8-14.

Crazy, Stupid, Love: Showing at 5:30 pm, Wednesday. Showing at 8:40 pm Dec. 8-14.

Super 8: Showing at 7:40 pm, Wednesday. Showing at 4:50 pm Dec. 8-14.

Our Idiot Brother: Showing at 9:45 pm, Wednesday. Showing at 6:50 pm Dec. 8-14.

Water For Elephants: Final showing at 7:40 pm, Wednesday, Dec. 7.

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