Movies & Film Events: April 8


Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.






film_date_nightDATE NIGHT Tina Fey and Steve Carrell star in this action comedy about a couple whose attempt to spice up their marriage with a hot night out leads to mistaken identity and mayhem. Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, James Franco and Mark Ruffalo have supporting roles. Shawn Levy directs. (PG-13) 88 minutes. Starts Friday.

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film_letters_to_godLETTERS 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. Starts Friday.

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film_secret_of_kellsTHE SECRET OF KELLS Reviewed this issue. 75 minutes. (★★★1/2) Starts Friday
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VINCERE Reviewed this issue. (R) 104 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles. (★★★) Starts Friday.
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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. Starts Friday.


ITALIAN FILM SERIES Contemporary and classic Italian films highlight this series (one Sunday a month) organized by the Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz to promote Italian culture and language. This Week: VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR  Project Runway fans take note: Matt Tynaur’s 2008 documentary is a backstage look at the veteran Italian fashion designer preparing the final runway couture show of his career in Rome on the eve of his retirement at age 70. In English and Italian (with English subtitles). Not rated. 96 minutes. At Cabrillo College, VAPA Room 1001 (enter through 1002), Sunday only, 7 pm. Free.

THE FIFTH ANNUAL SECRET FILM FESTIVAL Get out your blankeys and bunny slippers and prepare to settle in for the duration for the fifth installment of this annual cult event. The concession stand is open all night as five fabulous films never before seen in Santa Cruz, hand picked by the crackerjack Del Mar selection committee, unspool for your eyes only before their official release dates. Actual film titles cannot be named (that’s why they’re secret!), but previous SFF premieres have included The Squid and the Whale, MirrorMask, and Lars And The Real Girl. Don’t be the last kid on the block to see the coolest new movies of the season. Get in line now. Admission is $13. At the Del Mar, this week only, Saturday midnight to Sunday, noon.

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: SERENITY (PG-13) 119 minutes. Friday only, midnight. At the Del Mar.


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: CASABLANCA Okay, so nobody ever actually says “Play it again, Sam.” Otherwise, every great thing you’ve ever heard about this 1942 Hollywood classic is true: Bogie’s legendary cool as a professionally neutral nightclub owner in Nazi-occupied Morocco.. (HHHH) (Not rated) 102 minutes—Lisa Jensen. 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.

Now Playing

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 ART OF THE STEAL The private art collection of Albert C. Barnes, “the single most important cultural artifact in America of the first half of the 20th Century,” and how it was hijacked by an unholy alliance of museums, politicians, and custodians determined to exploit its marvels for profit, is the story told in this compelling, infuriating documentary from filmmaker Don Argott that sets up a classic case of corporate greed vs. legal and artistic integrity. Not rated. 101 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.

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)

FURRY VENGEANCE  Brendan Fraser returns to slapstick comedy as a real estate developer whose plans to subdivide a section of Oregon wilderness are upset when the wildlife critters decide to fight for their habitat. Brooke Shields co-stars. Roger Kumble directs. (PG) 92 minutes.

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

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

GREEN ZONE Matt Damon stars as a US Army officer who launches his own search for WMDS.(R) 115 minutes.

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 HURT LOCKER The year’s biggest surprise. It took home a Best Picture Oscar trophy plus it made director Kathryn Bigelow the first woman to win honors as Best Director. This spellbinding outing chronicles a gruff Army officer (Jeremy Renner in a standout role) who joins a bomb unit in Iraq. This is a raw portrait of the soldiers’ ordeal if not a haunting look at what those in the service go through. The picture stands out on many levels—tension, suspense and intrigue are up there—but it truly wins points for its documentary feel, and for the fact that it comes without a symphonic soundtrack. You’re left to feel the emotions without the aid of music. Not to be missed. (Rated R) 130 minutes. (★★★) Greg Archer

THE LAST SONG  Miley Cyrus stars as a New York teen forced to spend the summer in a southern beach town. (PG)

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

NORTH FACE In Philipp Stolzl’s gripping dramatization of a true story, fresh-faced youths test their mettle against a ferocious opponent—the notorious north face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps. It’s 1936, and the Nazi propaganda machine eagerly promotes a pair of young German climbers who want to be first to the summit. Not rated. 126 minutes. In German with English subtitles. (HHH1/2) Lisa Jensen

REPO MEN This dark comedy buddy thriller is set in the near future, when artificial organs can be bought on credit like other appliances. Forest Whitaker, and Liev Schreiber co-star for director Miguel Sapochnik. (R) 111 minutes.

THE RUNAWAYS Twilight temptress Kristen Stewart morphs into a hard-driving Joan Jett—or tries to—and Dakota Fanning plays sex-kitten Cherie Currie in this biopic of rock’s first all-girl band, The Runaways. Actually, Fanning is the best thing in a film that never dives far enough beneath the surface. Still, what the movie lacks in real character development, it makes up for in enough punk rock, glam wonderment. (R) (★★) Greg Archer

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)

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