New This Week
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers/Captain America in this second installment of the franchise (third, if you count The Avengers). A WWII-era transplant still trying to adjust to the modern world and working with S.H.I.E.L.D., he teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and The Falcon (Sam Wilson) against the villainous Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford co-star for directors Anthony and Joe Russo. (PG-13) 136 minutes. Starts Friday.
LE WEEK-END Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as an English couple of a certain age, returning to Paris for the first time since their distant honeymoon with the idea of either reviving, or ending, their marriage, in this bittersweet comic love story from Roger Michell (Notting Hill; Persuasion). The ever-watchable Jeff Goldblum co-stars as an old friend they bump into, an insufferably successful American academic whose presence ramps up the prickly factor in the couples’ relationship. (R) 93 minutes. Starts Friday.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS Omar Sy (The Intouchables) and Laurent Lafitte star in this ’70s-style caper/buddy /action movie as a pair of French cops from different social strata bantering their way through a murder investigation. David Charhon directs. (Not rated) 95 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Starts Friday.
THE PLAYERS (LES INFIDELES) Jean Dujardin (The Artist) is prominently featured in this anthology film of eight short vignettes devoted to the themes of love, life, commitment, and infidelity, French-style. Dujardin and co-star Gilles Lelouche (Point Blank; Therese) appear in six of the segments; each had a hand in the script, and they co-directed one of the vignettes together. Michel Hazanavicius (he directed The Artist) also directs a segment. (R) 109 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Starts Friday.
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: THE LAST UNICORN WITH PETER S. BEAGLE Unseen on a big screen for 30 years, this lyrical animated fairy tale based on Peter S. Beagle’s beloved fantasy novel is re-establishing its cult status by touring the cinemas of the world with Beagle himself in attendance to present this new digital print of the 1982 Jules Bass/Arthur Rankin Jr. film. In the story of a lonely young trying to find out what happened to the rest of her species, Beagle’s beautifully handled juxtaposition of myth and pop culture creates a sense of popular mythology constantly updating and recreating itself. Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin (as Schmendrick, the magician) provide voices. (G) 94 minutes. Former hometown boy Beagle will introduce the film and sign books following the screening. At the Del Mar, Sunday (April 6) only, 11 a.m.
CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAR Eclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. This week: SPIRITED AWAY From acclaimed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononke) comes this 2001 story of a sullen young girl who learns the value of family when she has to rally to save her own family trapped in a magical world of spirits and monsters. (PG) 124 minutes. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.
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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BAD WORDS Jason Bateman delivers a solid directorial debut and a surprisingly inventive comedy to boot. (R) 89 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
CESAR CHAVEZ Actor Diego Luna directs this fictionalized biographical drama about the life of the civil rights leader and organizer of the United Farm Workers union in the grape and lettuce fields of California. Michael Peña stars as Chavez; America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, and John Malkovich have featured roles. (PG-13) 98 minutes.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Golden Globe-winner Matthew McConaughey scores as a brash, profane antihero in the true story of Ron Woodroof. A coke-snorting, womanizing, blue-collar Texan, diagnosed as HIV-positive in the 1980s and given 30 days to live, he defied his death his sentence for years to become a pioneer in making “unapproved” drugs from out of the country available to his local AIDS community. Jean-Marc Vallée’s film unspools as a tale of bizarre alliances and unexpected heroism as pugnacious, yet affecting as its protagonist. Jared Leto won a Supporting Actor Golden Globe as a feisty transvestite who becomes Woodroof’s business partner. (R) 117 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
DIVERGENT Veronica Roth’s bestselling YA trilogy begins on screen. Breathy music and a plodding script tend to weigh down the endeavor, but overall, there’s enough to appreciate and it does hold your interest. Shailene Woodley (a bit miscast here) stars as Tris Prior, a young woman categorized as Divergent—unaligned with any group—in a society that maintains control by dividing people into distinct factions based on their personality traits. Theo James, Ashley Judd, Zoﬁ Kravitz, Miles Teller, and Kate Winslet co-star. Neil Burger (The Illusionist) directs. (PG-13) (★★1/2)—Greg Archer.
ENEMY French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve seems completely flummoxed by the demands of a psychological thriller. The story of an average guy who becomes obsessed with the double he discovers living nearby (both played by a fraught Jake Gyllenhaal) requires suggestive eeriness to draw the viewer in, but Villeneuve’s style is way over the top, from the perplexing opening scene, to the giant heavy-handed metaphor that concludes the film. This fairly slight story might have made an effective half-hour episode of Twilight Zone, but Villeneuve’s gimmicky soundtrack and sludgy pallette overwhelm what little story there is. (R) 90 minutes. (★★)—Lisa Jensen.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL There’s plenty of fun and whimsy to be had here in Wed Anderson’s delightful new comedy. Much like Moonrise Kingdom unraveled in a quirky splendor, so, too, does The Grand Budapest Hotel, which chronicles the unlikely friendship between a revered European hotel concierge, Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) and his lobby boy. Everything from the era—between two menacing wars—to the fictional setting of the Republic of Zubrowka pepper the tale, which unfolds, layer by layer (a story within a story within a story) much like a Russian doll. Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and other Anderson grads join the fun. (R) 100 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.
THE LEGO MOVIE What an imaginative romp this is—and somewhat of a big reveal at the end, too. Expect sequels. But first, expect to be thoroughly entertained in one of the most inventive, big-screen outings of—what?— America’s favorite construction toy? It all works quite nicely. Heroic LEGO mini-figures band together to stop an evil tyrant here. Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, and Morgan Freeman lend their voices for co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs).It’s a spirited, entertaining family outing, but adults will dig the humor and other pop culture references. A nice balance indeed. But what stands out, beyond the concept—one would think it implausible—is the clever plot and writing itself. That, perhaps, is the biggest surprise of all. (PG) 94 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer
THE LUNCHBOX In this award-winning debut feature from Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra, a young Mumbai housewife hoping to spice up her stale marriage, and a middle-aged widower about to retire strike up a correspondence and unexpected friendship when the boxed lunch she prepares for her indifferent husband at work is mistakenly delivered to the wrong man. Nimrat Kaur is poised and affecting as the lonely wife. The always great Irffan Khan combines the wry world-weariness of vintage William Powell with the banked sensuality of a Raul Julia. This is an interactive bittersweet romance; how it ends depends on if you see the glass as half full or half empty. (PG) 104 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN Here’s something to wag your tail about. A big-screen endeavor of one of the more popular cartoon shorts seen on the Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show. The story: Mr. Peabody—brilliant as he is—and “son” Sherman do the time-traveling thing via the WABAC machine, but when Sherman and his schoolmate make mischief in the past it’s up to Peabody to put a cosmic band-aid on the mess so that the entire space-time continuum doesn’t remain messed up for good. On screen, things translate well and there’s plenty to keep everyone—including adults—completely interested, even though, halfway through, the outing does lag a bit. Ty Burrell is terrific as Peabody. Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, and Mel Brooks also lend their voices. Rob Minkoff (The Lion King) directs. (PG) 90 minutes. (★★1/2)—Greg Archer.
MUPPETS MOST WANTED In this continental caper comedy, the gang takes their dubious act on the road in Europe—not realizing their tour is a front for a series of heists perpetrated by their shifty new manager (Ricky Gervais) and his accomplice, Constantine, a Kermit lookalike known as “The World’s Most Dangerous Frog.” Add songs, extravagant production numbers and a cavalcade of celebrity cameos and you have vintage Muppet mania, suitable for kids, but with enough witty asides to amuse the grown-ups. James Bobin directs. (PG) 112 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
NEED FOR SPEED Aaron Paul stars as a street racer who enters a cross-country race bent on revenge against the ex-partner who sent him to prison, while outrunning bounty hunters after the price on his head. It’s based on the video game. Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots co-star; Scott Waugh directs. (PG-13) 130 minutes.
NOAH Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 138 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
NON-STOP I smell another franchise. The good news: The film manages to hold your interest—it’s not that bad at all. The bad news: Well, prepare to suspend belief, particularly at one of the film’s more climactic moments at the end. Liam Neeson plays an air marshal on a commercial transatlantic flight. He’s befuddled, depressed and has had a rough go of things of late, but here, he’s trying to outwit an a terrorist intent on killing passengers until his ransom demands are met. That all of the demands are done via text is a nice touch. And the film offers a fun throwback to those ’70s disaster films. Julianne Moore comes along for the ride, but is given little to do, considering her caliber. Anson Mount, Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong’o (in a wasted role) co-star for director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown; Orphan). Still, the film packs a punch here and there. (PG-13) 106 minutes (★★1/2)—Greg Archer
PHILOMENA Steve Coogan plays a jaded, unemployed journalist opposite the divine Judi Dench in a story based on the real-life events of a British woan searching for the son she was forced to give up when she was very young. (PG-13) 98 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
SABOTAGE Arnold Schwarzenegger and his elite DEA task force check into an infamous drug cartel “safe house,” but they don’t check out as members of the team keep turning up dead. David Ayer directs this action-movie update of a vintage Agatha Christie story. Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, and Olivia Williams co-star. (R) 109 minutes.
SON OF GOD The life and passion of Jesus is the subject of this theatrical film, edited down from the 2013 TV mini-series The Bible. Diogo Morgado has the title role. Christopher Spencer directs. (PG-13).
300:RISE OF AN EMPIRE The action epic begun in 300 continues in a new chapter in which a Greek general attempts to unite all the states of Greece against the invading Persian navy. Noam Murro directs. (R) 103 minutes.