Film, Times & Events: Week of July 11th, 2013

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New This Week
film byzan

Reviewed this issue. (R) 118 minutes. (***) Starts Friday.

film grownups
Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James and David Spade re-team for the sequel to their 2010 comedy about four childhood buddies who get back together after they have wives and kids of their own. Dennis Dugan returns to direct. (PG-13) 101 minutes. Starts Friday.  Watch film trailer >>>

film ahijacking
There’s no yo-ho-ho-ing in this tense Scandinavian thriller in which modern Somali pirates capture a Danish freighter, a situation that grows ever more volatile when the CEO of the shipping company in Copenhagen tries to bluster his way though negotiations from half a world away. Written and directed by Tobias Lindholm. (R) 99 minutes. In Danish, Swedish, and English. Watch film trailer >>>
film imsoexcited
Pedro Almodóvar offers a frothy take on “disaster” movies in his new comedy, so it’s best not to take it that seriously. Best to buckle up and enjoy the comedy—wonderfully dark and often subversive—as the film chronicles a gaggle of passengers inside of a  commercial airplane experiencing equipment failure on its way to Mexico City. Over the top? At times? Still, the filmmaker manages to weave together a creative tapestry of quirky characters.  Carlos Areces, Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo, and Lola Dueñas star; Cecilia Roth, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Blanca Suárez pop up in the supporting cast. (R) 90 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. (HHH)—Greg Archer Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film 100bloody

A pair of backwoods Australian brother try to save their ailing organic fertilizer business by adding some unusual ingredients to the compost in this gruesome gore comedy from Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes. Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, and Anna McGahan star. (Not rated) Starts Friday.  Watch film trailer >>>

film pacificrim

When a race of giant aliens invade the Earth, science invents gigantic robots driven by teams of human pilots to fight them off. This action thriller sounds like Transformers on steroids, except it’s co-written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), so who knows? Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Ron Perlman star. (PG-13) 131 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>> 

film trubo

A garden snail dreams of racing in the Indy 500 in this family cartoon adventure from DreamWorks Animation. Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudoph and Samuel L. Jackson provide voices. David Soren directs. (PG) Starts Wednesday (July 17). Watch film trailer >>>

Film Events
Oldies and goodies on Thursday nights at the Cinema 9, presented by your genial host, Joe Ferrara. $5 gets you in. This week: CASINO Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone star in Martin Scorsese’s lush if predictable 1995 melodrama of mobs and money set in Las Vegas in the 1970s. (R) 178 minutes. Tonight only (Thursday, July 11), 9 p.m., at the Cinema 9.

CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES This informal movie discussion group meets at the Del Mar mezzanine in downtown Santa Cruz. Movie junkies are invited to join in on Wednesday nights to pursue the elusive and ineffable meanings of cinema. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit

Movie Times click here.

Now Playing
BEFORE MIDNIGHT Brilliant from beginning to end, Before Midnight finds Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who also cowrote the script, reprising their roles as Jesse and Celine, whom audiences met in Before Sunrise some 20 years ago. A gem in that the script is sublime; the characters fully formed. If only more films boasted dialogue this realistic. Director Richard Linklater surpasses expectations in this postmodern romance and delivers an exquisite experience to round out the trilogy. Here’s hoping the film is remembered around Oscar season. (R) 108 minutes. (HHHH)—Greg Archer

THE BLING RING Fun, playful and totally a summer guilty pleasure. A quartet of Berverly Hills celeb-obsessed teens rob the rich and famous in this edgy drama from writer-director Sofia Coppola. Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga and Emma Watson star. Based on a true story, as profiled in a Vanity Fair magazine article.(R) 90 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer

DESPICABLE ME 2 Steve Carrey returns as the voice of ex-super villain Gru, back for another adventure with his girls and his army of comic Minions in this 3D family comedy from Chris Renaud & Pierre Coffin. Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Moises Arias, and Al Pacino contribute voices. (PG) 98 minutes.

FILL THE VOID In this contemporary Israeli drama from filmmaker Rama Burshtein, a young woman must balance her own dreams against family duty when her mother tries to arrange her marriage to her recently widowed brother-in-law in order to raise his infant son.  (PG) 90 minutes. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

THE HEAT Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are wonderful comedic forces in this enjoyable romp. True, McCarthy often gets the best lines, but it’s nice to Bullock back in a light-hearted role that actually works for her. Like most films coming out of Hollywood these days—those designed for mass audiences—the script indulges in a number escapades that are played over the top when it isn’t necessary to do so. Still, this is a thoroughly fun outing as Bullock, an uptight FBI special agent, joins forces with McCarthry, a street-smart Boston cop, to take down a mysterious drug kingpin. Demian Bichir and Marlon Wayans co-star for director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) directs. (R) 117 minutes. (HH1/2)—Greg Archer

THE KINGS OF SUMMER A trio of teenage boys decide to declare their independence by building themselves a cabin in the forest and living off the land for the summer. Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias star in this coming-of-age comedy from Jordan Vogt-Roberts, an audience favorite at Sundance. (R) 93 minutes.

THE LONE RANGER There’s nothing wrong with this movie that couldn’t be fixed by cutting out 45 minutes and hiring new writers who know how to maintain a consistent tone, tell a coherent story, and develop characters we care about. Screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, along with director and fellow PotC alumnus Gore Verbinski, prove they ought to be making amusement park rides, not movies. As the deputy Texas Ranger turned masked avenger, Armie Hammer is stuck playing a dull-witted, square-jawed goody-goody. Johnny Depp can be fun in the plum role of Tonto, if you tune out the overcooked plot about ruthless railroad men vs. vicious outlaws vs. noble Indians and view his performance as an extended homage to the deadpan physical slapstick of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. But these guys have no chemistry or camaraderie; the characters dislike and mistrust each other, falling into pathetic bickering at inappropriate moments. The non-stop jokiness is a big problem, especially when the movie tries to shift gears and address the suffering of Native Americans at the hands of the white man. The juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy is not well integrated, so the movie doesn’t feel more resonant, just schizoid. Heartless, overlong and crammed with gigantic stunts, this isn’t a thrill ride, it’s an endurance test. (PG-13) 149 minutes. (HH)—Lisa Jensen.

MAN OF STEEL When director Zack Snyder keeps his focus small, this Superman reboot is persuasive and rewarding. The boyhood and young manhood of Clark Kent (the supernaturally handsome Henry Cavill), is told in beautifully integrated flashbacks as he drifts though itinerant odd jobs searching for his destiny. Russell Crowe, the voice of reason, wisdom, and restraint, and Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer are wonderful as Superman’s birth parents. But when Kryptonian supervillain General Zod (Michael Shannon), starts laying waste to Earth in a series of demolition derby grudge matches against our hero, the movie loses its credibility and heart. Loud, aggressively ugly action sequences obliterate the memory of everything that was good about the movie. (PG-13) 143 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY Part frat house comedy, part Hunger Games, with a soupcon of Hogwarts, this prequel to the Pixar/Disney 2001 animated blockbuster, Monsters Inc., delivers some engaging messages with a very light touch. We meet plucky little green cyclops, Mike (Billy Crystal) and big, shambling fur-ball, Sulley (John Goodman) as rival students in their college “Scarer” program, in a family-friendly tale of friendship, destiny, diversity, and higher education, told with maximum humor and heart. Best new character is Dean Hardscrabble, a centipede-like reptile with enormous red dragon wings and a fine, chilly voice provided by Helen Mirren. (G) 104 minutes. (HHH) —Lisa Jensen.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Who else but Joss Whedon could pull this off? Not only does he set William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, original Elizabethan-era wit and wordplay intact, in modern-day Santa Monica, he shoots it in black-and-white—a visual detail that suggests the sparkling vintage screwball comedies of the 1930s more than the Elizabethan stage. It’s an impudent idea for a movie realized with great charm and affection by a master craftsman and his devoted repertory company of players. Alex Denisof and Amy Acker are splendid as the bantering couple too busy trading witticisms to realize they’re in love. (PG-13) 107 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.

NOW YOU SEE ME Fun, playful and clever, this engaging little romp never takes itself too seriously—and you shouldn’t take it that seriously either. Leaps of faith (a theme that moves throughout) are required and, at times, it can feel as if the biggest disappearing act is the plot, but this film about a team of slick stage illusionists who pull off bank heists in the middle of their performances works, overall. It moves quickly, too, as the gang is pursued by FBI and Interpol agents. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave (brother of James and boasting more “movie star” allure) Franco, and Woody Harrelson are the magicians. Morgan Freeman and Melanie Laurent costar. Michael Caine pops up. But watch how well Mark Ruffalo manages to take on his role, playing the FBI hotshot who continues to get fooled. (PG-13) (HHH) —Greg Archer.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Riveting and ambitious, director J.J. Abrams continues to impress—and surprise—in this new Star Trek caper, the second in the official movie franchise reboot. Fortunately, the reboot has legs—or, in this case, warp speed. Loaded with a wild array of special effects, this film takes off and keeps going, unrelenting in its action and visual breadth. Lucky for us, all of that doesn’t detract from the main story, which finds Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine in fine form) and his Enterprise crew (Zachary Quino as Spock still steals many scenes) attempting to hunt down a dangerous villian (Benedict Cumberbatch) after a brutal terrorist attack. Many surprises await, and it’s nice to see that the filmmakers continue to weave in the new reality that this Trek lives in—which is a slightly altered timeline from which the original Trek characters existed.  (HHH1/2)—Greg Archer.

STORM SURFERS (3D) Here’s your chance to experience the thrill of big wave surfing without actually getting wet—or risking life and limb. In Justin McMillan and Chris Nelius’ you-are-there 3D surfing extravaganza, veteran Aussie surf pros Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones spend the Australian winter months of 2011 tracking storms across the southern oceans predicted by surf forecaster Ben Matson in search of their “holy grail”—new, undiscovered waves that have never been surfed before. After tow-surfing breaks off the west coast of Australia and Tasmania, their final reckoning comes 75 km offshore on gigantic swells above Australia’s continental shelf, a reefy spot “out in the middle of nowhere” called Turtledove Shoals. The nutball machismo of these nearing-50-year-old “boys” can be a bit much at times (especially in 3D), but their wave-riding is majestic, and the surfing footage looks great. (PG) 95 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.

THIS IS THE END Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson head a cast of celebrities playing themselves in this self-referential apocalypse comedy written and directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg; they’re all holed up together at Franco’s fortress-like mansion when the end of the world occurs out beyond the gates. (R) 107 minutes.

20 FEET FROM STARDOM Some of the greatest, er, unsung background vocalists in rock get their share of the spotlight in this music doc from filmmaker Morgan Neville. Merry Clayton (whose soaring vocals made the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” a classic), Darlene Love, Tata Vega, and Judith Hill are profiled, with guest commentary from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, and Sting, plus plenty of performance footage. (PG-13)

UNFINISHED SONG Veteran players Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp star as a long-married couple in this gentle comedy-drama. She’s got a new lease on life singing in an offbeat community choir; he’s a curmudgeon who resists change. Gemma Arterton co-stars as the young choir director who tries to coax him into the group.  Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams. (PG-13) 93 minutes.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN Channing Tatum stars in this action thriller as a DC cop taking his daughter on a tour of the White House who becomes a default first-responder when paramilitary invaders come gunning for the President (Jamie Foxx). Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, and Garcelle Beauvais co-star for director Roland Emmerich. (PG-13) 131 minutes.

WORLD WAR Z Good but not great. Suspenseful but plagued with its own distractions. What World War Z could have used more of—and it only required just a little bit more—is depth. Brad Pitt is a former UN investigator who finds himself thrust onto the front lines of the global zombie apocalypse. That’s a great premise and we, as an audience, initially connect to Pitt’s diemma—stay with his family or help save the world. But the beleaguered film, whose budget shot beyond $200 million and had so many behind-the-scenes brouhahas, mostly with the script, never manages to allow Pitt’s character to fully evolve. Knowing more behind some of his motivations and seeing even more of his humanity would have provided the balance this project needed. Because you want to like it. It’s just that after a TV show like The Walking Dead has permeated the culture—a show that so aptly delivers on the emotonal front—this fails in comparison. Still, there’s plenty to savor and some of the scenes with the zombies are brilliantly orchestrated. Based on the Max Brooks novel. Mirielle Enos (The Killing) and Jamed Badge Dale co-star. Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) directs. (PG-13) 116 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer.

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