New movies for September 4

All About Steve
It’s like the end of a season sale. Smaller films and studio leftovers get a late summer shot at finding an audience. We just have to search through them extra carefully. (Read more)

ALL ABOUT STEVE: Odd that this film got such an unpromising weekend to open. Both stars are hot right now. They had huge hits with other comedies this summer, Bradley Cooper with “The Hangover” and Sandra Bullock with “The Proposal.” So what’s wrong with this one? I haven’t seen it but a friend whose opinions I trust says it’s “silly” and “stupid.” Sandra plays a nutty writer of crossword puzzles who takes to stalking a TV news cameraman (Bradley) around the country. She’s fallen obsessively in love with him after just one date. She’s also reverted from merely eccentric to crazy and childish. Not a message you’d want to recommend to your daughter. (At The Park and many other theatres)

EXTRACT: Two friends warned me against this one. They say the dumb jokes and contrived situations add up to “a waste of time.” Jason Bateman is a small business owner with a frigid wife at home (Kristen Wiig) and a hot new hire (Mila Kunis) at the shop. So, naturally he arranges for a gigolo to go after his wife, thereby clearing a conscience-free path for himself. Somehow this is supposed to be a satire about small business. There’s also a shop-floor accident, a threatened law-suit and a staff made up entirely of unsympathetic dolts. And so Mike Judge’s recent movie problems continue. His first workplace comedy, “Office Space” from 10 years ago is a cult-classic but “Idiocracy,” his inane rant about government, played only a few cities back in 2006. His “King of the Hill” TV show also just ended a long run. (Playing at multiple theatres)

COLD SOULS: This is a better bet if you're after an absurdist comedy with a few digs at modern society. Paul Giamatti plays a neurotic actor named Paul Giamatti. Rehearsals for a Chekov play bring on a bout of self-pity but a new service, featured in The New Yorker, offers a solution. He can have the source of his problem, his soul, extracted and put in storage. "A twisted soul is like a tumor. Better to remove it," says the doctor in charge, played by David Strathairn. He's low-key but still a huckster, a stand-in for every shrink, cosmetic surgeon and clinic operator who sells promises of a new improved you. There's a nice goofy tone to the first half of this film as Paul finds his life is much different without a soul. When he goes back and has somebody else's inserted, he's a different person again. But when he wants the original back, he has to deal with Russian mobsters who actually control the business. With that, the film drops the light comic mood and veers off into far more serious territory and a more standard movie plot. Still, it's well-made, clever and amusing. (Tinseltown)

ENLIGHTEN UP! Doing yoga may have you bent like a pretzel but some people want it to be more than just a work out. Where’s a spiritual side, asks filmmaker Kate Churchill in this lively documentary. And how can it change a non-believer? To find out, she, a believer and a practitioner, exposes a skeptical friend to a six-month crash course. They roam the US and then India to learn about Kundalini, Jivamukti, Ashtanga, and other forms, even including “Giggling yoga” and from a former wrestler: “yoga for regular guys.” It’s a fascinating tour, especially when they meet a legendary guru, now 81 years old and known as “the lion of Puma.” The answers they get along the way are diverse and often enigmatic. Apparently the spiritual breakthrough takes a long, long time. Kate’s friend is proof of that. He’s a New Yorker, but born in Quebec to American parents who had gone back to the land. To her clearly-apparent frustration, enlightenment does not come to him. The film, which is cheerful most of the way, has quite a brittle back end. (5th Avenue Cinemas)

THREE MONKEYS: It’s a month before the Vancouver International Film Festival and titles from last year’s edition are still trickling in. This one is from Turkey; it won the director’s award at Cannes last year, and has many supporters. Mostly, I suspect because it’s far removed from the usual Hollywood product. For instance, there are two deaths and a vicious beating in this story, but they’re not seen. The film is concerned with aftermath not with showing the violence. It’s brooding, tense and well-made, except for one thing. It’s extremely slow. Characters are seen motionless and thinking for long stretches. Their still faces communicate their psychological state, some people say. Basically this is a film noir. A businessman and aspiring politician pays an employee to take the rap for a hit and run. While the man’s in jail, his son drifts and his wife is seduced by the boss. When he returns, honor, pride and self-interest demand a resolution. The role of women is a particularly strong sub-theme, helped along by a wildly angry pop song heard several times as a ring-tone. The film’s heavy mood is supported by striking visuals, almost black and white, under thick clouds and sometimes a green sky. (VanCity Theatre)

And watch out for …

YOU NEVER BIKE ALONE: Pro or con, you probably have an opinion on those Critical Mass bicycle demonstrations that now happen every month in Vancouver. This 80-minute documentary shows how they came to be. It has footage collected over 10 years, going back to the tentative early protest rides across the Lions Gate Bridge in the 90s and right up to today’s highly-organized events. It lets cyclists, politicians and even motorists have their say on how they feel about them and what good they do, if any. On a lighter note, there are glimpses of the World Naked Bike Ride and a famous “underwear ride” taken to protest the Molson Indy. Screening Sunday (Sept 6) at 1 p.m. at the Museum of Vancouver, along with a film on cyclists in Portland. Free with museum admission.

Also playing …

GAMER: By default, this could be the big film this weekend. The video game crowd is pumped for it. The studio didn’t care to show it to the critics, though. In the future depicted here, players of on-line video games have control over real humans in televised fights to the death. Gerard Butler tries to escape; something like Arnold Schwarzenegger did 22 years ago in “The Running Man.” Michael C. Hall (TV’s Dexter) is the millionaire running the game. Expect cheap and efficient sadism. (At theatres all over)

Cold SoulsThree MonkeysYou Never Bike Alone
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