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Weekend Movie Forecast: Harry Potter or <em>500 Days of Summer</em>

<p>Wednesday night we spotted some children dashing out of a Brooklyn Heights brownstone wearing witch hats and waving wands and, for a moment, thought they were going to hit us up for candy. But they were just en route to catch the penultimate installment in the Harry Potter franchise, <em>Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince</em>. We hope the children have fun, because after all it is a movie, ya know, <em>for kids</em>, and it seems churlish to criticize it too harshly. But, sadly, that's what some grownups get paid to do. </p><p></p>Take old man <a href="http://www.observer.com/2009/movies/harry-potters-gone-pot">Rex Reed at the Observer, who deems it</a> <strong>"the sixth and worst installment yet</strong>... Am I the only person over 12 who truly believes the Harry Potter franchise has outlived its shelf life? <em>Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince</em>... is two and a half hours of paralyzing tedium, featuring another colossal waste of British talent and a plot a real witch couldn’t find with a crystal ball. The kids at Hogwarts no longer have any relevance. They have never heard of iPods, cell phones or the Internet. <strong>Yet they keep on coming, like deer ticks. Don’t ask me what this thing is about."</strong>


<p>Rom-com <em>500 Days of Summer</em> stars the perfect in every way Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (<em>Brick</em>) as Tom, a greeting card writer rightfully obsessed with Deschanel, the titular "Summer." <a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090715/REVIEWS/907159997">Roger Ebert writes</a>, "Some say they’re annoyed by the way it begins on Day 488 or whatever and then jumps around, providing utterly unhelpful data labels: "Day 1," "Day 249." Movies are supposed to reassure us that events unfold in an orderly procession. But Tom remembers his love, Summer, as a series of joys and bafflements... Tom opens the film by announcing it will not be your typical love story. Are you like me, and when you realize a movie is on autopilot you get impatient with it? How long can the characters pretend they don’t know how the story will end?<strong> Here is a rare movie that begins by telling us how it will end and is about how the hero has no idea why."</strong></p>


<p>In <em>Homecoming</em>, a high school quarterback who won a scholarship to Northwestern brings his fancy new girlfriend back to his blue collar home town for Christmas. His ex-girlfriend, played by the <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedishrag/2009/07/mischa-barton-pulls-a-britney-spears-under-involuntary-psychiatric-hold.html">recently institutionalized</a> Mischa Barton, is not pleased, and when the new girl gets hurt in a car crash, the movie takes a turn for Stephen King's <em>Misery.</em> <a href="http://hollywoodandfine.com/reviews/?p=1195">Hollywood &amp; Fine calls it</a> "<strong>risible.</strong> <em>Homecoming</em> is the kind of movie that makes you wonder what the people who made it were thinking while they were making it. I’m not a mind-reader, but I believe it was something like this: <strong>'Gee, I hope nobody notices how ridiculous this all is.' </strong>Or perhaps: 'OK, I cast Mischa Barton because someone thought she’d be box-office insurance – but nobody told me she couldn’t act.'" Also, fuck this movie for even coming close to stealing the name of <a href="http://gothamist.com/2008/01/06/opinionist_the_27.php">Harold Pinter's masterpiece</a>.</p>



<em>Death in Love </em>describes itself as a "provocative psychosexual tale set at the crossroads where family, history and sexuality collide." For the one guy out there still reading, it has something to do with "two brothers (Josh Lucas and Lukas Haas) who are trying to climb out of the shadows of their Holocaust survivor mother’s (Jacqueline Bissset) dark past – and the love affair she conducted with a Nazi doctor while in the camps." <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/movies/17death.html?ref=movies">Stephen Holden at the Times</a> wonders, "How do you explain a movie as hermetic and perverse and ultimately repugnant as <em>Death in Love</em> from a director who has enjoyed both critical recognition (<em>Fresh, A Price Above Rubies</em>) and commercial success (<em>Remember the Titans</em>)? <p></p>"<em>Death in Love</em> hasn’t a drop of humor or hope. Its dull, smudged look makes every environment appear joyless and claustrophobic... <em>Death in Love</em> burrows so deeply into the unconscious minds of its depressed New Yorkers that the movie seems to be mumbling to itself in a dream state, driven more by hazy Freudian logic than ordinary cause and effect. The words it murmurs are a litany of endless, futile self-recrimination."


<em>Off Jackson Avenue</em>, set in the pre-gentrification days of Long Island City, is an interwoven crime story involving a Mexican woman tricked into sex-slavery by an Albanian pimp, a Japanese hit man haunted by his recently-dead mother's ghost, and a local car thief (writer/director John-Luke Montias) on one last spree to raise enough money to buy a tire store and go legit. <a href="http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=4397">Andrew Schenker at Slant</a> calls it "an engagingly lurid but ultimately tepid crime drama. A stern rebuke (as if we needed another) to anyone's antiquated notions of the American dream, the film stacks the deck mercilessly against at least two-thirds of its principal characters, even as it wisely suggests new possibilities at the end for all three. But between the largely amateurish acting and the occasional clumsiness of the plotting, Montias has little of interest to suggest about the difficulties of making a go at life in 21st-century New York, except that it's difficult to succeed, especially if you're an immigrant, and that—<strong>P.S. 1, Dutch Kills, and Tournesol notwithstanding—you're really better off giving a wide berth to Long Island City altogether."</strong>


<p>This seems fresh: <em>Somers Town</em>, directed by Shane Meadows, concerns two teenagers, both newcomers to London, who forge an unlikely friendship over the course of a hot summer. Tomo is a runaway from Nottingham; Marek, a Polish immigrant, lives in the district of Somers Town where his dad is working on a new rail link. Marek lets Tomo crash with him behind his father's back, and the two work odd jobs for an eccentric neighbor and compete for the attention of Maria, a beautiful young French waitress. </p><p></p><a href="http://www.timeout.com/film/newyork/reviews/85321/somers_town.html">Time Out's Joshua Rothkopf raves</a>, "A film you simply never want to end, <em>Somers Town</em> turns the pain of teenage solitude into a gooey grin of recognition. It’s essentially about the way adolescent boys connect—particularly outsiders, circling each other without the proper words... <strong>The quiet loveliness of the movie comes in its poise</strong>, pitched exactly at the moment when self-protective toughness yields to a tentative camaraderie. Rarely do directors understand their preoccupations so completely."



<em>A Woman in Berlin</em>, set in 1945 during the Red Army invasion of Berlin, looks at the army's systematic rape of German women through the eyes of Anonyma (Nina Hoss), who had been a journalist and photographer. To survive, she seeks protection from a Russian officer and the complicated relationship that develops was largely inspired by a true account detailed in a diary found in Berlin after the war. <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/movies/17death.html?ref=movies">A.O. Scott at the Times</a> writes, "As grim and brutal as it often is, <em>A Woman in Berlin</em> is also lively and observant, stocked with vivid minor characters and well-observed scenes that capture glints of comedy in the midst of desperation. That the film manages to be understated, calm and intelligent in spite of its wrenching subject matter is perhaps its most impressive accomplishment. In avoiding sensationalism, it feels very close to the truth."


<p>Award-winning documentary <em>The Way We Get By</em> concerns the lives of three senior citizen troop greeters who gather daily at a Bangor International airport in Maine to thank American soldiers departing and returning from Iraq. The Onion's <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-way-we-get-by,30421/">Noel Murray writes</a>, <strong>"The movie is dotted with small, moving moments.</strong> Some are startling, like the shot of one man giving a tour of his soon-to-be-auctioned farmhouse, which is littered with empty Alpo cans. Some are sweet, like the scene of a greeter trying to pick out the best kind of candy for military types, or the scene of soldiers from warmer climes enjoying the Maine snow. And of course it’s hard not to be touched when a cancer-ridden greeter weeps and tells Gaudet, 'I’ve got nothing to live for except what I can do for other people.' How poignant that it takes so many years of living before that lesson is fully understood."</p>


<p>Documentary <em><a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/films/died-young-stayed-pretty/">Died Young, Stayed Pretty</a></em> crosses the country talking to rock poster artists to figure out if the genre can be classified as fine art.<a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-07-15/film/died-young-stay-pretty-documents-poster-art-culture/"> The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton writes</a>, "Eileen Yaghoobian's doc on the loose federation of North American rock poster artists is splatter-structured, in supposed solidarity with the free-associative channel-surfing exquisite corpse packrat eclectic-clusterfuck spirit of its subjects' work. The frantic eccentricity manifests in groaningly wacky sound f-x cues, krazy kutaways, and edits that rub together interviewees for counterpoint friction. T<strong>he cacophony of voices, though, forestalls any coherent personal vision—and probably makes some of these guys come off less intelligent than they are."</strong></p>


<p>For "positively one week only" <a href="http://www.filmforum.org/films/lonely.html">Film Forum is screening</a> a new 35mm print of Nicholas Ray's 1950 film <em>In a Lonely Place</em>, which stars Humphrey Bogart as a writer who gets in hot water when the coat check girl he brings home one night winds up dead. Writing about Film Forum's Ray retrospective, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/movies/17ray.html?_r=1&amp;ref=movies">A.O. Scott at the Times</a> notes that the film seethes with "unspoken paranoia and anxiety, with a sense of imminent betrayal and lurking menace."</p>


<p>At midnight this weekend <a href="http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Films/films_frameset.asp?id=80717">the Sunshine screens</a> the X-rated 1974 flick <em>Flesh Gordon</em>, a self-explanatory spoof of sci-fi films.</p>


<p>The IFC Center screens the influential hand-held POV horror flickr <em>The Blair Witch Project </em><a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/films/the-blair-witch-project/">this weekend at midnight</a>.</p>



<p>"What's all this about a new way?" The ultraviolence is proving so popular that <a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/films/a-clockwork-orange/">IFC Center programmed</a> another weekend of midnight screenings of Stanley Kubrick's <em>A Clockwork Orange</em>.</p>