New This Week
LIFE ITSELF Documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) compiles this biographical doc on the late Roger Ebert, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, pioneer of the dueling critics TV format, and courageous cancer warrior, based on Ebert’s best-selling memoir. (Not Rated) 115 minutes. Starts Friday.
PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE The second installment of Disney’s Cars-in-the-sky franchise relocates hero Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) from the world of air-racing to a fleet of aerial firefighters protecting a national park. Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Wes Studi, and Captain Dale Dye provide additional voices. Roberts Gannaway directs. (PG) 83 minutes. Starts Friday.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY It’s hard to imagine what would constitute “anarchy” within the premise of this-near-future horror franchise in which, one night a year, the authorities look the other way while vigilantes are free to run amok in the streets and murder at will. (Hmm, maybe it’s not so “futuristic” after all…) Nevertheless, writer-director James DeMonaco is back with a new cast of potential victims. Zach Gilford, Frank Grillo, and Kiele Sanchez star. Starts Friday.
SEX TAPE Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star in this comedy about a married couple trying to spice up their romantic life; shooting a private video of themselves trying out every position in The Joy of Sex leads to a night of hysteria as they try to prevent their video from going viral. Jake Kasdan directs. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday.
VENUS IN FUR Reviewed this issue. Not Rated. 95 minutes. (***)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE It’s a new season for Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London, broadcasting highlights from its Winter 2014 Season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. Live performances will be broadcast one Thursday evening a month, in the Grand Auditorium of the Del Mar, with encore performances the following Sunday morning. This week: A SMALL FAMILY BUSINESS (Encore) This raucous, award-winning farce about modern greed and dysfunctional family dynamics from playwright Alan Ayckbourn centers around a man who inherits his father-in-law’s business only to discover other family members have been plundering the profits for years. Adam Penford directs. (Not rated) 160 minutes. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (July 17), 7:30 p.m. Also Sunday (July 20), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Santa Cruz Shakespeare subscribers: $13.
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 p.m. and admission is free. For more information visit groups.google.com/group/LTATM.
Movie Times click here.
BEGIN AGAIN Writer-director John Carney (Once) tries to make lightning strike again in this musical romance. Keira Knightley stars as a small-town girl struggling in the Village folk scene of New York after her rising star boyfriend (Adam Levine) dumps her. Mark Ruffalo is a scruffy, former record exec who wants to make her a star. (R) 101 minutes.
22 JUMP STREET Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back as the undercover cops who bluffed their way through high school in the first Jump Street movie. Now they’re undercover at a local college, and drifting apart into opposite jock and bohemian art scenes on campus. Peter Stormare and Ice Cube co-star for co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie; Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs). (R) 105 minutes.
CHEF Jon Favreau wrote and directed this fun feast for foodies, in which he stars as a top chef who quits his job at an L.A. restaurant over creative differences with the owner (Dustin Hoffman). He goes on the road with a food truck, selling spicy Miami-style sandwiches with his sous-chef buddy (John Leguizamo) and his Internet-savvy 10-year-old son. Sofia Vergara is his sassy ex, and while the plot plays out exactly as you expect, the actors are engaging, the story sizzles with Latin flavor, and the food looks great; trust me, you’ll come out jonesing for a fried Cubano sandwich. (R) 115 minutes. (***)—Lisa Jensen.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES This prequel to the original movie in the Ape franchise returns to a time when human survivors of a deadly virus and a growing nation of genetically evolved apes maintain a fragile truce, and explores the evil forces that drive them to war. Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Gary Oldman star for director Matt Reeves (Let Me In; Cloverfield) (PG-13) 130 minutes.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL Eric Bana stars in this horror thriller based on the supposedly true story of an NYPD officer who teams up with a priest to combat a series of demonic possessions terrorizing the city. Edgar Ramirez co-stars; Scott Derrickson directs. (R) 118 minutes.
EARTH TO ECHO For the generation too young to remember E.T. comes this sci-fi adventure about a trio of best buddies who discover an alien life form in their suburban neighborhood and try to help him. Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, and Reese Hartwig star for director Dave Green. (PG) 91 minutes.
EDGE OF TOMORROW It’s like a sci-fi Groundhog Day. When aliens invade the Earth, an untested Army Major (Tom Cruise) is sent to the front lines, and promptly killed—except he’s caught in a time loop, forced to keep experiencing the same battle over and over again. But each time he gets a little smarter about the enemy, and a little closer to turning the tide. Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, and Noah Taylor co-star for director Doug Liman. (PG-13)
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort star in this screen adaptation of the bestselling John Green YA novel about teenagers who unexpectedly fall in love while undergoing cancer treatments. Josh Boone directs. (PG-13) 125 minutes.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 In this sequel to the hugely popular, family-friendly animated fantasy, boy-hero Hiccup has grown into a young man, and he and his buddies are perfecting the sport of dragon racing with the flying dragons recently introduced into the culture of their Viking island. But while exploring unchartered territories with his beloved pet dragon, Toothless, Hiccup discovers a secret that threatens the new peace between humans and dragons. Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, and Kristen Wiig provide voices. Dean DeBlois directs. (PG) 102 minutes.
JERSEY BOYS Director Clint Eastwood makes no attempt to disguise the stage origins of his film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. Why tamper with success? To his credit, he insisted on casting three of the Four Seasons in his film with alumni from various stage productions (including Tony-winner John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of Frankie Valli on Broadway). These guys can all sing like the dickens, and the movie sounds great. If there proves to be more backstory than the film can handle, still, it’s an entertaining songfest with a breakout performance by Vincent Piazza as ne’er-do-well Tommy DeVito. (R) 134 minutes. (**1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
MALEFICENT The “evil fairy” and designated villain from Sleeping Beauty gets to tell her side of the story in Disney’s live-action revision, starring a formidable Angelina Jolie. The narrative stumbles, as in an ugly gratuitous battle sequence. But more than just an unhappy romance, the heinous act committed against Maleficent that hardens her heart has enormous symbolic weight for female viewers. Robert Stromberg directs. (PG) 97 minutes. (***)—Lisa Jensen.
OBVIOUS CHILD Jenny Slate stars as an aspiring stand-up comic trying to navigate real life, in all its unpredictable messiness (a lost job; an unwanted pregnancy) with the same fearless aplomb she applies to her stage act. Gaby Hoffman and Jake Lacy co-star for writer-director Gillian Robespierre. (R) 85 minutes.
SNOWPIERCER In the post-apocalyptic future, the surviving members of humanity are trapped together in a giant, high-speed train endlessly circling the globe on the ultimate fast-track to nowhere. That’s the story in this first English-language film from Korean cult filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, a brooding cautionary tale of social dynamics and environmental suicide dressed in the trappings of a bloody, brawling action thriller. It’s a despairing look at the species, and the plot is not exactly airtight, but the director’s energy and humor, and some entertaining performances—notably from Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Kang-ho Song, and Tilda Swinton—make it worth the ride. (R) 126 minutes. (***)—Lisa Jensen.
TAMMY Melissa McCarthy stars in this road comedy as a mild-mannered store clerk who loses her job and ditches her cheating husband to hit the road with her crusty, hard-drinking grandma (Susan Sarandon). Dan Aykroyd and Mark Duplass co-star for actor-turned-director Ben Falcone. (R) 97 minutes.
THIRD PERSON Paul Haggis (Crash) tells another fragmented story in three acts, a trio of meditations on love set in Paris, Rome, and New York City. Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Mila Kunis, James Franco, and Maria Bello star. (R) 137 minutes.
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION The giganto-bot franchise gets a reboot with a new cast of humans to interact with the CGI stars. Mark Wahlberg plays an auto mechanic who finds a forgotten spare part that morphs into a Transformer—and it’s game-on once more for a planet-trashing showdown between Autobots and Decepticons. Stanley Tucci, Li Bingbing , Kelsey Grammer, and Sophia Myles co-star for director Michael Bay. Bring your earplugs. (PG-13) 166 minutes.