Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
AJAMI Nominated for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar, this Israeli drama in an ensemble anthology that tells five interconnected stories from a neighborhood of Muslims and Christians living in a crime-ridden neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani co-direct. (Not rated) 120 minutes. Starts Friday.
DEATH AT A FUNERAL The offbeat Brit comedy about family secrets exposed during the catastrophe-prone funeral of the patriarch gets an African-American makeover. Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Columbus Short, Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana and Danny Glover have featured roles, but the irreplaceable Peter Dinklage reprises his pivotal role from the original. Neil LaBute directs. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday.
THE JONESES Reviewed this issue. (R) 96 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.
KICK-ASS The Mark Millar comic series about an average teenager with no powers or training who decides to become a superhero comes to the big screen in this action-comedy-adventure from Matthew Vaughn (Stardust; Layer Cake). Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage star. (R) 117 minutes. Starts Friday.
THE PERFECT GAME Reviewed this issue. (PG) 113 minutes. (★★) Starts Friday.
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: PULP FICTION John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis turn in entertaining performances in this wildly overrated 1994 exercise in flashy, brutal style from Quentin Tarantino, the would-be auteur whose entire perspective on life comes from older, better movies. But that’s just my opinion. (R) 154 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Friday-Saturday midnight only. At the Del Mar.
CONTINUING SERIES: WEEKEND MATINEE CLASSICS AT APTOS CINEMA Get an education in classic cinema—or just revisit some of your favorite oldies—presented as God intended, on a big screen in the dark. If you’ve only ever seen them on TV, don’t miss this new series of classic movie matinees unspooling each weekend at Aptos Cinema. This week: THE SEARCHERS Sterling performances from John Wayne, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, and Harry Carey Jr. and breathtaking vistas of Monument Valley highlight John Ford’s 1956 Western classic. A morality play in which Wayne’s aging cowboy and Civil War veteran spends years tracking down a niece (Natalie Wood) kidnapped by Indians as a child, while his thirst for revenge becomes something more complex. (Not rated) 119 minutes. Sat-Sun matinee only, 11 a.m. Admission $6. At Aptos Cinema.
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 discuss current flicks with a rotating series of guest moderators. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit www.ltatm.org.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND The better you know the Alice books of Lewis Carroll, the more you’ll appreciate Tim Burton’s winsome, nutty (and mostly live-action) remix, which dares to imagine an entirely new story populated by Carroll’s enduring fantasy characters. Staying true to Carroll’s anarchic spirit, and giving us a teenage Alice (Mia Wasikowska) ripe for one last adventure before growing up, Burton and scriptwriter Linda Woolverton concoct a funny, girl-empowering saga that is often Carroll’s equal in drollery. Johnny Depp is sublimely silly and soulful as her spirit guide, the Mad Hatter, Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry provide arch and funny voices, and Helena Bonham Carter is hilarious as the tyrannical Red Queen. Ravishing and buoyant. (PG) 108 minutes. (★★★★) Lisa Jensen
THE BOUNTY HUNTER Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston team up for this romantic action comedy about a scruffy bounty-hunter, the hot-shot reporter ex-wife he’s supposed to bring in after she jumps bail to get a story, and the world of trouble her risky murder investigation brings down on them both. Andy Tennant directs. (PG-13)
CHLOE All the elements should be in place for a classic, psycho-erotic suspense thriller in Atom Egoyan’s tale of a woman who sics a call girl on the husband she suspects of cheating. Julianne Moore skillfully portrays the wife’s complex need not only to confirm her husband’s infidelity but to participate in his erotic life, even by proxy. But Egoyan chooses to tack on an implausible thriller element which proves to be his film’s undoing; in an increasingly banal, yet incredible finale, the only thing held in suspense is the viewer’s disbelief. Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried co-star. (R) 96 minutes. (★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
CLASH OF THE TITANS In the beginning was the Greek myth of Perseus, made into a family-friendly ’80s adventure with retro-cool Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation and a feast of hammy acting. Now comes a hardcore (but still PG-13) action fx update with Sam Worthington as the half-mortal, half-god hero caught up in a war between the gods. With Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades, who cares about the rest of the plot? Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Flemyng, Alexa Davalos co-star for director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk). (PG-13) 117 minutes.
DATE NIGHT And what a pair they make—Tina Fey and Steve Carrell are pitch perfect in this surprisingly clever action comedy that could have easily stumbled into the creative abyss. The plot: a couple attempts to spice up their marriage with a date night in the Big Apple. Without a reservation at a posh city restaurant, they take the reservation of a no-show and then, it’s all about mistaken identity. Seems the couple tagged to the original rez are blackmailing a mobster and more. The film works, thanks to fine comedic timing of Fey and Carrel. Some events are a stretch for the imagination, but overall, this is a good “date.” Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, James Franco and Mark Ruffalo pop up in supporting roles. Shawn Levy directs. (PG-13) 88 minutes. (★★1/2)
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID Jeff Kinney’s serial graphic novel, a cult hit online, inspired this comedy about a nerdy 7th-grader (Zachary Gordon) keeping a diary of his daily exploits while trying to survive middle school. Robert Capron and Steve Zahn co-star for director Thor Freudenthal. (PG)
THE GHOST WRITER Roman Polanski (Chinatown) still has it. In fact, this film is a masterpiece from beginning to end—even though I doubt the writer here (Ewan McGregor offering a stellar turn) would actually take the actions he takes in one of the film’s final frames. Best not to give that away. Polanski writes and directs this captivating—noir suspense at its best—political thriller about a ghostwriter (McGregor) hired to tweak the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan)—the predecessor on the project died “mysteriously.” Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Eli Wallach, and Tom Wilkinson co-star. (R) 109 minutes. (★★★★) Greg Archer
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Veteran French director André Téchiné tackles a true story that riveted France a few years back, about a young woman who claimed she had been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack on a Paris commuter train. Emilie Dequenne stars as the alleged victim, adrift in her own life. Catherine Deneuve co-stars as her mother, along with Michel Blanc as a famed Jewish lawyer and activist who reluctantly takes the case in an atmosphere of escalating racial and ethnic tensions. (Not rated) 105 minutes. In French with English subtitles.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Noomi Rapace is riveting as the kick-ass young heroine of this bracing Swedish thriller, based on the Stieg Larsson novel. Directed with kinetic verve by Niels Arden Oplev, it combines a mystery plot about a missing heiress and an expose of moral and political corruption among the male power elite, with a compelling study of the unlikely bond between a scruffy investigative reporter (Michael Nyqvist) and a tough young computer hacker (Rapace) who’s been battling male fascism all her life. Larsson had a knack for making the political personal, a delicate balance Oplev preserves with skill and chutzpah in this violent, but uncompromising drama. (R) 152 minutes. In Swedish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
GREENBERG Life is messy. And there are few directors who can capture that truth to such winning ends as Noah Baumbach (The Squid and The Whale, Margot at the Wedding). In Greenberg, Baumbach guides Ben Stiller in a defining role that finds the star as a depressed, unemployed 40-year-old with more than his fair share of mental hang-ups. With keen comedic nuances, Baumbach delivers an almost unnerving tale that leaves you both unsettled and curious for more by the time the credits role. (R) (★★★) Greg Archer
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE Four middle-aged party animals pass out in a hot tub in the present day and wake up in 1986.. John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke star for director Steve Pink (High Fidelity). (R) 92 minutes.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON A sensitive Viking boy shocks his warrior tribe by suggesting that instead of slaying dragons, they should try to make the fiery wild beasts their allies.. (PG) 98 minutes.
THE LAST SONG Miley Cyrus stars as a New York teen forced to spend the summer in a southern beach town. (PG)
LETTERS TO GOD a young boy’s letters to God while undergoing chemo for cancer touches off various responses within the community in this inspirational family drama. Robyn Lively and Tanner Maguire star for directors David Nixon and Patrick Doughtie. (PG) 110 minutes.
MOTHER South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s absorbing thriller finds Kim Hye-ja as a middle-aged mom who will stop at nothing to save her mentally challenged young adult son from a murder rap. Bong assembles it all with sly humor, gentle heartbreak, and a couple of yowza moments that will leave viewers reeling, proving himself a masterful stylist of the human psyche. (R) 129 minutes. In Korean with English subtitles. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
THE SECRET OF KELLS For his first feature, Irish animator Tomm Moore delves into his own Celtic heritage for inspiration with this lovely and poetic story of a boy in a medieval monastery who helps to save the gorgeous 9th Century illuminated manuscript known to history as “The Book of Kells.” Moore uses hand-drawn cel animation to replicate the craftsmanship of medieval books painstakingly illuminated by hand. His often ravishing artwork is inspired by the intricate patterns, vivid colors, and decorative details of Celtic design, abetted by his own highly stylized figure dawing and fanciful sense of whimsy. 75 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
VINCERE Lust, longing, betrayal, revenge, madness. These are the elements of grand opera, used to swoony effect by veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellochio in this arresting true story about the woman and child Benito Mussolini left behind while reinventing himself as Il Duce. Giovanna Mezzogiorno plays the wronged woman with simmering grace and erotic intensity. Carlo Crivelli’s swirling, fortissimo musical score accents aria-like moments of passion, denunciation, and despair. (R) 104 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO? Tyler Perry’s sequel to his biggest non-Madea mainstream hit stars Perry and Janet Jackson in a story of four couples on their annual vacation in the Bahamas. (PG-13)