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The Wicker Man, as needless a remake as The Omen, is not as big a time-waster for the viewer (an hour and three-quarters) as for the writer and director, Neil LaBute, known for less generic stuff like In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors. He has weeded out some of the silliness of the 1973 British original, but that bit of gardening is offset by his transplanting of the action to a Goddess-worshipping, organic-farming colony on a private island in Puget Sound, where a California motorcycle cop (Nicolas Cage, not altogether serious about the assignment) has come on a personal invitation from his former fiancée to search for her missing child. Further, the pruning of the protagonist's Christian faith and the grafting-on of a fresh mental trauma and some cheap-thrill dreams are no help at all. If the film serves no other purpose, it at least allows the filmmaker's suspected undercurrent of misogyny to erupt unambiguously and unapologetically into a geyser. The ad campaign -- "A psychological thriller. A mind blowing conclusion" -- leaves no possibility, even if you missed the original, that the ending is going to sneak up on you. Unless, that is, the campaign strategists thought your mind might be blown by the unannounced guest appearance of James Franco in a redundant epilogue, or by the closing dedication of the film to the late punk rocker, Johnny Ramone. Whoa.

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The first announcement of the seventh annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, to be held October 12 through 19 at the UltraStar Mission Valley 7 in Hazard Center, divulges that on its program this year will be Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times, which, if you'll remember my grumble from early in the summer, Landmark could find no room for on their ten local screens. (For the complete festival program, keep an eye on www.sdaff.org.) Of course by then the film should already be out on DVD -- September 26 -- but I am willing to hold off for the chance to see it on a big screen.

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