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Heights is a complex, provocative film

Perhaps it&

s unfair to compare two films that are currently playing at the Varsity Theatre: &

Heights,&

and &

Must Love Dogs.&

&

Dogs&

is a lighthearted confection, filled with snappy one-liners, focusing on the dilemma of recently divorced Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane). It&

s a movie that is not about dogs or why anyone should love them; rather it skips across the surface of a phenomenon, the online want-ad hunt for someone compatible, while never touching on the angst and sadness that lurks just below the surface. It&

s a truth that the movie avoids at all costs. But then, in fairness, its never intended to be anything more than a flat rock skipping across a very still pond.

Certainly, one reason that we go to the movies is to be snatched out of our lives and placed ever so gently (or not so gently) in the lives of others. We get to watch as they sort out situations, go from a state of assumed equilibrium through a series of destabilizing episodes. And sometimes it&

s comforting to watch a comedy that agonizes about the trivial. Or, better said, agonizes about the serious in a trivial manner. Ennui, meaning life feels like it&

s lost all of its traction, can be painfully funny.

&

Heights,&

in contrast, is also a romance, focusing on two twenty-somethings, Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) and Jonathan (James Marsden), who are about to get married. As they go through a day &

24 hours, no more &

they intersect with others, and it is in those intersections that we discover that below the rippling surface of their lives are truths that they would rather tuck away than examine. Life is not about full disclosure, as much as we might wish it were otherwise. Truth, when it comes to the deeply personal, is subtle and elusive. And because it is told with such difficulty, with such restraint, the resultant loneliness is ever with us.

In &

Heights,&

it is this difficulty, this paralysis of self, that is examined. We see it writ large on Elizabeth&

s mother&

s face (Glenn Close) when she is confronted with her husband&

s dalliance with a younger woman. We observe the agony of Jonathan as he grapples with his own identity, who he is and is not. And we watch as Isabel slowly comes to understand that the person she wants to be, as a woman and a photographer, will not be resolved by putting on a bridal gown and walking down the aisle. But each character in the film chooses not to allow these fermenting emotions to be revealed &

to others or to themselves. At least not fully. It makes for an interesting narrative, one in which the human condition is examined with a subtle confluence of characters. As well, a series of surprises in the film give it an edgy, brittle tension.

Clearly, &

Heights&

wants to accomplish more than just taking the dog out for a walk. It&

s an intelligently written film, set in New York, with an ensemble of actors who all turn in fine performances. It is also the directorial debut for Chris Terrio.

Movies can be wonderful, provocative and ever so mundane. They can stir and touch our emotions and they have the ability to make full disclosure. If they so choose. &

Heights&

so chooses.

The cigarette as prop

Unfortunately, the young, attractive actors in "Heights" smoke. Why, is a puzzle. It adds nothing to their portrayals, in no way enhances their characters, and only makes smoking seem to be an attractive choice made by intelligent, successful professionals.

Smoking, as we now know -- which we didn't know in the forties and fifties -- is not benign. It isn't like chewing gum, or having a steak dinner. Rather, making it appear to be hip and suave and cool is to glamorize one of the most addictive habits we know of, linked to a host of illnesses which often end badly.

Hollywood could easily take a stand. All the Motion Picture Association of America, that organization that rates films, would have to do is declare that any movie that has actors smoking in it would receive a rating of NC-17. It signifies that the board believes the film is patently adult and that children under 17 should not be admitted. It's not a rating any film would ever seek. This would be a statement by the MPAA that smoking on screen is seen as being the equivalent of gratuitous violence or excessive, sexually oriented language.

Clearly, young people mimic movie stars. We live, after all, when celebrities are exalted, their every move followed, their behavior modeled, styles and speech imitated. Smoking is no different. Stars smoke, kids smoke. It's time for Hollywood to acknowledge this and make movies a "thank you for not smoking" medium.

The Future of Food

A documentary investigating genetically engineered foods, giving voice to the farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively affected by this new technology. Health implications, government policies and the push toward globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into the food supply.

Shot on location in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Written and Directed by Deborah Koons Garcia.

NR/80 min.

Broken Flowers

As the devoutly single Don Johnston is dumped by his latest girlfriend, he receives an anonymous letter with news he has a son who may be looking for him. Don embarks on a journey looking for women from his past who may provide a clue to the mystery at hand.

Directed by Jim Jarmusch ("Coffee and Cigarettes," "Mystery Train," "Night on Earth"); Starring Bill Murray, Julie Delpy, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Tilda Swinton, Alexis Dziena.

R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use/106 min.

Red Eye

Thriller about a night flight and a woman caught in a murderous plot to kill a wealthy businessman. Trapped 30,000 feet in the air, she must use her wits to thwart her ruthless captor, while not endangering herself, her family or the safety of others on the plane. Directed by Wes Craven ("Scream," "Nightmare on Elm Street"); Starring Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox.

PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence, and language/85 min.

Valiant

A brave but undersized pigeon named Valiant dreams of joining the elite Royal Homing Pigeon Service and serving his country during World War II in this animated adventure.Voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, John Hurt.

G/76 min.

40 Year Old Virgin

40-year-old Andy has a nice job, a lovely apartment, a proud collection of action figures and comic books, good friends and a nice attitude. But he's never "done the deed." Then he meets Trish, a 40-year-old mother of three. Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd.

R for pervasive sexual content, language and some drug use/116 min.

Heights

Spanning 24 hours, Heights follows five New Yorkers challenged to choose their destiny before the sun comes up the next day, as new people enter their lives. Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Jesse Bradford, George Segal, Isabella Rossellini.

R for language, brief sexuality and nudity/93 min.

Deuce Bigalow:

European Gigolo

Deuce is seduced back to his unlikely pleasure-for-pay profession when his former pimp is implicated in the murders of Europe's greatest gigolos. Rob Schneider, Eddie Griffin, Jeroen Krabbe.

R for pervasive strong crude and sexual humor, language, nudity and drug content/83 min.

Four Brothers

After their adoptive mother is killed during a grocery store holdup, the notorious Mercer brothers reunite to find the men who killed the only person who ever cared for them. Directed by John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood"); Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund.

R for strong violence, pervasive language and some sexual content/109 min.

Skeleton Key

A caregiver hired to care for an elderly woman's ailing husband in their home &

a foreboding and decrepit Gothic mansion in the Louisiana delta &

begins to suspect evil intentions are at work. Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Joy Bryant.

PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, some partial nudity and thematic material/104 min.

Dukes of Hazzard

Good ol&

boys Bo and Luke, and their easy-on-the-eyes cousin Daisy,

try to save the family farm from corrupt commissioner Boss Hogg in this contemporary update of the TV series that ran from 1979-85.

Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson, Seann William Scott, Burt Reynolds, Willie Nelson, Lynda Carter.

PG-13 for sexual content, crude and drug-related humor, language and comic action violence/105 min.

Ladies in Lavender

Two elderly sisters living in a British seaside village during the 1930s find a young man, half dead, on their beach. One of the women finds herself falling head over heels in love with the lad, while the other sister can only watch helplessly and hope that no one gets hurt. Directed by Charles Dance; Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Daniel Bruhl, Miriam Margolyes, David Warner.

PG-13 for brief strong language/103 min.

March of the Penguins

Every March, the emperor penguin begins a quest to find the perfect mate and start a family in the Antarctic. The journey will take them hundreds of miles, in freezing cold temperatures, under the harshest conditions on earth. They will risk starvation and attack by predators...all to find true love. Directed by Luc Jacquet Narrated by Morgan Freeman.

G/85 min.

Must Love Dogs

A newly divorced pre-school teacher cautiously rediscovers romance with the enthusiastic but often misguided help of her well-meaning family. Diane Lane, John Cusack, Dermot Mulroney, Elizabeth Perkins, Stockard Channing, Christopher Plummer PG-13 for sexual content/98 min.

Wedding Crashers

A pair of &

divorce mediators&

spend their weekends crashing weddings in search of Mrs. Right&

133;for a night. Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Christopher Walken, Rachel McAdams

. R for sexual content/nudity and language/120 min.