New This Week
AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS From the Terrence Malick school of evocative visual splendor comes this outlaw romance written and directed by David Lowery, a longtime art house editor whose work has mostly been in short films. Saints is drenched in atmosphere; frame for frame, it’s often lovely to behold. But what exactly all this atmosphere is evoking is another matter. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a novice robber and his pregnant girlfriend, separated by a four-year prison stretch. He busts out to return to her, while she tries to shelter her little daughter from psychological distress. And that’s it for both plot and characterization. The rest is backwoods Southern ambience, a dynamic fiddle, banjo and hand-clapping soundtrack, and a story that inches along on nuances but never quite explores what makes the characters tick. (R) 105 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.
BATTLE OF THE YEAR A team of Angelinos enter an international hip-hop dance competition, determined to bring the trophy home to America in this fictionalized music drama from director Benson Lee (who also directed the source material, dance doc Planet B-Boy). Josh Holloway, Laz Alonso, Josh Peck and Chris Brown star. (PG-13) 109 minutes. Starts Friday.
MUSEUM HOURS Reviewed this issue. (Not rated). 107 minutes. In German (with English subtitles) and English. (★★★) Starts Friday.
POPULAIRE In this period French comedy set in 1958, a girl from the provinces gets a job in the city. She’s hopeless as a secretary, but such a speedy typist that her handsome boss decides to groom her for a typing competition. Romain Duris and Deborah Francois star. Berenice Bejo (The Artist) co-stars for director Regis Roinsard. (R) 111 minutes. In French, English and German (with English subtitles). Starts Friday.
PRISONERS Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this tense crime drama as a husband and father whose little daughter has disappeared, and a veteran detective who is determined to crack the case before the father does something rash. Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano co-star for Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies). (R) 153 minutes. Starts Friday.
SALINGER Shane Salerno’s documentary takes a peek into the secret life of the late, famously reclusive author of The Catcher In the Rye, piecing together his life in seclusion and pondering the fate of the novels he continued to write—but not publish—for years after he dropped out of the scene. Edward Norton, John Cusack, Martin Sheen, Tom Wolfe, and Gore Vidal are among the interviewees. (PG-13) 120 minutes. Starts Friday
THANKS FOR SHARING Another take on redefining the modern family from screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right) in his directing debut. Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Josh Gad star as three men recovering from addiction who become a support team for each others’ victories. Gwyneth Paltrow, Joely Richardson, and Alecia Moore play the women in their lives. (R) 112 minutes. Starts Friday.
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 groups.google.com/group/LTATM.
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AUSTENLAND Keri Russell stars as woman in thrall to the fabled BBC production of Pride and Prejudice who spends her life savings to visit the faux Regency world of a Jane Austen theme park in this romantic comedy from Jerusha Hess (she co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite), in her directing debut. JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, and Jane Seymour co-star. (PG-13) 97 minutes.
THE BUTLER Director Lee Daniels (Precious) weaves together a compelling tale based on the real-life story of a longtime White House Butler. Forest Whitaker does an exceptional job capturing the grace and dignity of a man who has served numerous presidencies through the decades. Although the film chronicles a great deal of events that took place during the 1960s—a ripe time indeed—it manages to evoke enough empathy and compassion for Whitaker’s Cecil and his family, primarily Oprah Winfrey, who stands out considerably here (look for an Oscar nom).Still, as much as there is here, you still wonder what would the film experience may have been like had the script and Daniels probed even just a little deeper into Cecil’s psyche—his real motivations, his fears and more. You get the sense the the main character is simply thrust into these extraordinary circumstances with powerful cameos by the likes of Jane Fonda, Robin Williams and a slew of others, but you crave just a little more nuance and understanding about him. Regardless, the film shines and boasts one of the most enjoyable star-studded casts to hit the screen in some time.. (PG-13) 133 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer
BLUE JASMINE In Woody Allen’s latest, Cate Blanchett shines in one of the best performances of her career. It’s also one of Allen’s best films. Set in San Francisco, this dynamic drama—with touches of comedy—revolves around the a depressed and privileged East Coast socialite (Jasmine) whose fall from grace is hard and messy. Jasmine finds refuge in her sister’s apartment in San Francisco but soon, other dramas unfold. Watch how well Allen, who also wrote the outing, uses flashback to illuminate such a tighty-wound, unforgettable individual. Sally Hawkins also stars (as Jasmine’s sister) alongside. Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C. K., Bobby Cannavale, and Andrew Dice Clay. (PG-13) 98 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer
CLOSED CIRCUIT In this political thriller, a Middle Eastern suspect is tried for a terrorist bombing in London in a “fair and transparent” court case, meaning the process will be anything but. Despite skullduggery in high places, however, there’s plenty of transparency in Steven Wright’s efficient, but unsurprising by-the-book script, and in John Crowley’s dispassionate direction that rarely finds a pulse of urgency in the material. Eric Bana and Rebecca Miller are ex-lovers and co-defense counselors who are in way over their heads, but they’re given characters sketches to play, not fully realized characters, and can’t generate much chemistry. (R) 96 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
CUTIE AND THE BOXER In 1972, 40-year-old expatriate Japanese artist Ushio Shinohara, who paints with boxing gloves, met teenage art student Noriko in New York City, followed soon after by a baby and marriage. Forty years later, the combative artist couple are the subject of Zachary Heinzerling’s doc about art, fame, recognition, and marriage. In subtitled Japanese and English. (R) 82 minutes.
DRINKING BUDDIES You might wonder what all the fuss is about this film, which has been generating buzz and critical acclaim. It doesn’t follow the predictable pace or tone of most light-hearted romantic tales—and boy, is that refreshing. In other words, if you don’t want to invest in slowing down and taking time to really experience something unique, move on. However, if you want to experience a film that captures so beautifully the art of relationship—platonic, romantic and all the fine lines and quirky twists of fate that test them—this is the film to see. With alcohol—pass a beer, bud—as it main platform, Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson star as friends and co-workers in a craft brewery. They’re buddies at work and at the bar but each is in a relationship with someone else. Watch how well director Joe Swanberg pulls you along this journey, forcing you to take note of your own expectations, and, as the film so wonderfully illuminates, choose to step into romantic reality rather than fantasy. Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston co-star. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer
ELYSIUM Director Neill Blomkamp, won raves with District 9 back in 2009 and he infuses some of that same grit in this near-futuristic thriller in which the top 1 percent live a privileged life of beauty and ease on a posh man-made habitat in the sky. Meanwhile everyone else subsists in poverty on the ruins of Earth below. Matt Damon nails his performance as a factory drone led into a scheme to break into the habitat to bring equality to all. The film unravels with gripping intensity and you are invested in the outcome of the characters. Oddly, Jodie Foster never quite gives a convincing performance—that accent, those mannerisms! But with the remainder of the supporting cast (William Fichtner, Sharlto Copley and Diego Luna are just as riveting as Damon here. (R) 102 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
THE FAMILY Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star as a couple of Mafia insiders relocated with their teenage kids to Normandy, France, in the Witness Protection program after testifying against the mob. Tommy Lee Jones co-stars as the crusty US agent trying to help them blend in this black comedy thriller from Luc Besson. Dianna Agron and John D’Leo play their kids. (R)
GETAWAY It’s Speed in a compact car with Ethan Hawke and. Selena Gomez and Jon Voight co-star. (PG-13)
THE GRANDMASTER Legendary martial arts master Ip Man, famed as the man who trained Bruce Lee, is the subject of this action drama from the ever-edgy, iconoclastic master filmmaker Wong Kar Wai (2046; In the Mood For Love). Set in the 1930s and ’40s, the story follows the master’s early years, moving from China to Hong Kong, and his connection to a young woman out for vengeance for her father. Tony Leung Chui Wai and Zhang Ziyi star. In Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese with English subtitles. (PG-13) 123 minutes.
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 Original stars Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, and Lin Shaye return to the dark side in this horror sequel about a family struggling against deadly forces in the spirit world. James Wan directs. (PG-13) 105 minutes.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US Tween-oriented musical biopic for swoony fans of the British boy band put together by Simon Cowell and launched on the X-Factor TV show. Morgan Spurlock (of all people!) directs. (PG) 92 minutes.
THE PATIENCE STONE A young Muslim woman in an unnamed, war-torn Middle Eastern country, keeps daily vigil over her paralyzed, unresponsive husband and pours out the story of her life, her desires, and the self she’s kept cloaked during their 10 years of marriage, in author Atiq Rahimi’s screen adaptation of his bestselling novel. (R) 102 minutes. In Persian with English subtitles.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS Logan Lehrman returns in the title role from Rick Riordan’s popular YA series as an ordinary kid who discovers he’s the son the sea god, Poseidon. (PG) 106 minutes.
PLANES It’s Cars in the sky as the Walt Disney animation gurus continue their fixation with motor vehicles. This one is about a lowly crop-duster who’s afraid of heights, yet still longs to compete in a famous aerieal race. Val Kilmer, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Drefuss and Dane Cook head the voice cast. Klay Hall directs. (PG) 92 minutes.
RIDDICK Vin Diesel returns as the intergalactic escaped convict first introduced in Pitch Black. (R) 119 minutes.
SHORT TERM 12 Brie Larson stars in this buzz-worthy indie drama as a young supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teens who begins to find herself through her interactions with a couple of lost, troubled kids. John Gallagher Jr., Keith Stanfield, and Kaitlyn Dever co-star for director Destin Cretton. (R) 96 minutes.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW The writers of 500 Days of Summer have another hit here. This contemporary love story about a charming teen with no future plans who lives for the moment and his unlikely romance with a “nice girl” who doesn’t date, reads sci-fi, and dreams of the future is stellar. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) star for director James Ponsoldt. (R) 95 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.
THÈRÉSE In this handsome and elegantly mounted period drama, Audrey Tatou stars as a young woman entangled in bourgeois dynastic obligations in the southwest French countryside in the 1920s. It’s a part that calls for brisk intelligence, but not much warmth, quiet desperation, and a soupcon of cold fury, and Tatou plays every note with striking precision. Adapted from the 1927 novel, Thèrése Desqueyroux, by Francois Mauriac, this is the final offering from the late French filmmaker Claude Miller, who shapes it into an engrossing portrait of psychological turmoil in an era of simmering cultural upheaval. (Not rated) 110 minutes. In French with English subtitles. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.
WE’RE THE MILLERS None of the characters have morals, but if its slapstick you crave, then this could be your ticket. A drugdealer (Jason Sudeiks) tries to move a shipment of pot from Mexico into the states by recruiting an unlikely group of strangers to pretend tio be an innocent American family. Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts co-star in a film directed by Rawsomn Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball).Provingonce again that “more” is just too much, the film’s incessant need to go over the top deprives it of truly flying high. Still, there are some fun—and even funny—scenes, but in the end, you get the sense this outing would have made a better television comedy. (R) 110 minutes. (★★)—Greg Archer
THE WOLVERINE Hugh Jackman pops out the adamantium claws once again in a punchy action adventure that successfully revitalizes our favorite X-mutant as franchise material. (PG-13) 126 minutes. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.
THE WORLD’S END Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite with director Edgar Wright for the third time in this final installment of the trilogy begun with Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz. Expect their patented mix of cheeky satire and apocalypse as the friends set out on a drinking marathon to conclude at their favorite pub, The World’s End, only to run afoul of an unexpected menace. Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Rosamund Pike co-star. (R) 109 minutes. (★★1/2)—Greg Archer