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'Hurt Locker' screenwriter at Harper College
By Dann Gire | Daily Herald Columnist

Rita (Miriana Faja) gets her eyes shielded by her father in the fact-based story of a young whistle-blower in "The Sicilian Girl."

 

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Published: 9/10/2010 12:00 AM

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Screenwriter Mark Boal, whose script to "The Hurt Locker" won him an Oscar earlier this year, will speak about his experiences as an embedded journalist in Iraq at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine.

Tickets run from $7 to $15 and can be purchased at harpercollege.edu or by calling (847) 925-6100.

If you missed the movie in theaters, you can catch it at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Sept. 16, in Harper's building E, room 106. Free admission!

United Film fest starts!

The Chicago United Film Festival begins today at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. It's the second time the United fest has come to Chicago after opening up shop in L.A., N.Y., San Francisco, London and Tulsa.

Opening night includes the pinball game documentary "Special When Lit" plus a revival of John Hughes' Chicago-made youth classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" at midnight.

Closing night is next Wednesday, Sept. 15. Awards night will be Thursday.

An all-fest pass (20 movies plus shorts) costs $70. A mini-pass (seven movies plus shorts) costs $35. Student passes (four films, shorts and midnight movies) cost $20. For schedules and tickets, go to theunitedfest.com or contact the Music Box at (773) 871-6604 or musicboxtheatre.com.

Reel Life review: 'Legendary'

WWE superstar John Cena isn't only built like an oak tree trunk. He possesses the acting skills of one.

In the high school wrestling team domestic drama "Legendary," Cena strives to be likable, but comes off indifferent. He wants to be emotional, but looks constipated.

He also fake-laughs, which doesn't earn him sincerity points.

Fortunately, "Legendary" also stars the amazing Patricia Clarkson, who can make John Posey's overwritten, clinker dialogue sound not only sound sincere, she even brushes the words with the glitter of poetry.

Clarkson's excellent performance - does she do any other kind? - almost loosens up this stiff and awkward excuse for a made-for-cable, after-school special for teens.

Appealing TV actor Devon Graye plays Cal Chetley, a 15-year-old high school student who decides to secretly join the wrestling team, much to the angst of his mother, Sharon (Clarkson).

"I've already lost one son to this sport!" she screeches. (OK, maybe that wasn't so poetic.)

Her other son, 28-year-old Mike (Cena), has been estranged since the night of The Accident, the one Dad didn't come home from after attending a wrestling event.

Mike was a wrestling star. Driven away by his mother's coldness, he developed a violence-prone personality and left home.

Thin, 135-pound Cal seeks him out for pointers if he's going to hit the mat and prove himself to the school and to his de facto girlfriend, the eccentric Luli (Madeleine Martin), an odd mix of young Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci.

Directed by TV director Mel Adamski (who also gave us the mediocre feature comedy "Yellowbeard"), "Legendary" slogs through a bog of clichés and stock characters.

Not even Danny Glover adds much to his mysterious role as a one-note wise man who follows Cal around the river, fake-laughing and uttering the sort of feel-good platitudes usually reserved for Morgan Freeman.

"How come you always know just what to say?" Cal asks him.

That's another problem with "Legendary." Everyone knows just what to say, from Sharon's ham-handed admission to Mike: "I was choking on my grief and my anger!" to Mike's curdled comment, "The smell of the mat never leaves you!"

At least "Legendary" doesn't cop out with the expected, traditional sports ending, but that's not quite enough to compensate for a drama so ineptly mounted that not even Clarkson can salvage it.

"Legendary" opens today at the Wilmette Theater and the Chatham 14 in Chicago. Rated PG-13 for violence, language. 107 minutes. ★ ½

Reel Life review: 'The Sicilian Girl'

Italian filmmaker Marco Amenta really botched this true story of teen angst and rebellion.

"The Sicilian Girl" is based on Rita Atria, a teenage girl who suffers the most unbearable pain a young person can imagine - rejection by her peers, excommunication by her family, then, an ultimate betrayal by her longtime boyfriend.

Of these, the first, rejection by her friends and peers, is the worst for an adolescent in the messy throes of social relationships.

In the end, no matter how heroic Rita Atria was, no matter how brave she appeared to be, the rejection and abandonment crushed her.

On July 26, 1992, Rita committed suicide by hurling herself through a window of a high rise.

What had she done to deserve this?

She helped authorities take down the Mafia in her hometown of Sicily where both her father and brother, Mafia members themselves, were killed by the mobsters who controlled every facet of life in town.

After her father's murder (he is gunned down in this movie while little Rita, in a white communion dress, watches in horror), Rita swears revenge by chronicling the activities of the Mafia for years.

She turns these diaries over to the Rome prosecutor (Gerard Jugnot), who places her in protective custody, alienating her from the world.

Veronica D'Agostino plays Rita as a 17-year-old, and she projects a winning combination of vengeful drive and adolescent vulnerability.

It's hard to imagine how any story this crammed with conflict - Rita's mother feels so betrayed, she smashes her daughter's gravestone with a hammer - could be so dramatically milquetoast.

I suppose we could cite Amenta's background as a documentary filmmaker. He has told this same story before, back in 2002 as a nonfiction film titled "One Girl Against the Mafia: Diary of a Sicilian Rebel."

He flattens out the emotional high points in "Sicilian Girl" and undercranks the tension in key scenes, almost as if he's afraid, or unable, to immerse his viewers in Rita's experiences.

This story should explode with sadness, anger, outrage and sympathy. In Amenta's hands, it barely manages the pop of an air-filled sack.

"The Sicilian Girl" opens today at the Music Box Theatre, Chicago. Not rated, but contains violence, sexual situations, language. 110 minutes. ★ ★ ½

'Breathless' returns

The After Hours Film Society presents Jean-Luc Godard's French classic "Breathless" at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13, at the Tivoli Theater, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. Josh Larsen, a member of the Chicago Film Critics Assn., will moderate a post-show discussion. Tickets cost $9 ($5 members). Go to afterhoursfilmsociety.com or call (630) 534-4528.