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Ty's movie picks for Friday, September 19

Posted by Ty Burr  September 19, 2008 09:52 AM

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yearfish.jpg
(Corrine Hong Wu and Hettiene Park of "Year of the Fish")

The studio movies this weekend are "Ghost Town" -- a surprisingly palatable attempt to turn Ricky Gervais into a romantic-comedy lead with an assist from Tea Leoni -- and the turgid real estate-suspense drama "Lakeview Terrace," in which LAPD cop Samuel L. Jackson goes boiling-bunny crazy when an interracial couple moves in next door.

The best movie of the weekend is at the Kendall Square and the Waltham Embassy: Azazel Jacob's "Momma's Man," a quiet but endlessly resonant tale of a grown man who visits his parents for a weekend and just can't bring himself to leave his childhood bedroom. (Guys, admit it, you can relate.) Also worthy is "Secrecy," a refreshingly even-keeled documentary about the government secrecy industry from Harvard's own Robb Moss and Peter Galison; it's at the Brattle.

You can take the kids to "Igor," but only as a last resort. A good one if you're in the mood for a light, likeable fable: "Year of the Fish" (photo above), at the Harvard Square, converts an ancient Chinese version of "Cinderella" into a modern fairy-tale set in Manhattan's Chinatown, with a patina of rotoscoped animation to give it an air of make-believe. Not for the kids, though, since they'll ask too many pesky questions about why the heroine's working as a cleaning lady in a massage parlor.

A good one to avoid: "Towelhead," the first feature film directed by Alan Ball (he wrote "American Beauty" and created "Six Feet Under"). Here he works so hard to shock us with a story of teen sexuality and heartland idiocy that some hipster moviegoers may be fooled into thinking the film's saying something important and, y'know, "dark." It's not, other than proving it's possible to exploit a young girl from behind the camera as well as in front of it.

I wonder what Louisa May Alcott might have said about "Towelhead" and the state of modern American girlhood in general. Probably wouldn't be printable. Nancy Porter's documentary "Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women," at the Museum of Fine Arts, gives us the pioneering author as we never knew her. Oh, and the fine retrospective of Taiwanese directors Edward Yang and Wu Nien-jen continues at the Harvard Film Archive.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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