Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
THE BACK-UP PLAN Jennifer Lopez stars in this romantic comedy about a woman eager to start a family who gets fed up waiting for Mr. Right to come along. On the day she has herself artificially inseminated, she meets a man (Alex O’Loughlin) who might be the one—if he can cope with the weirdness of her expanding situation. Alan Poul directs. (PG-13) 100 minutes. Starts Friday.
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THE ECLIPSE Reviewed this issue. (R) 88 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.
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LA MISSION Reviewed this issue. (R) 117 minutes. (★★1/2) Starts Friday
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THE LOSERS Another graphic novel comes to the screen in this action thriller about an elite Special Forces unit amok in the Bolivian jungle trying to foil the plans of a ruthless and powerful enemy out to foment a global war for profit. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short and Jason Patric star for director Sylvain White. (PG-13) 98 minutes. Starts Friday.
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OCEANS Last year, in honor of Earth Day, the Disney company unleashed the nature doc, Earth, exploring wildlife and their habitats all around the globe. This year, they dive into the briny deep to celebrate the amazing flora and fauna, and fragile ecosystems, within the world’s oceans. Jacques Perrin directs. (G) 100 minutes. Starts Thursday.
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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: THE GOONIES When this Steven Spielberg-produced, Richard Donner-directed 1985 kiddie adventure is good, it’s lots of silly fun as a bunch of contemporary kid go on a hunt for lost pirate treasure. It can also be remarkably bad. Still, there are some rousing piratical scenes reminiscent of old Errol Flynn movies (even including some vintage Max Steiner music) and the kids in the cast are real troupers. With Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton. (PG) 114 minutes. (HH1/2)—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: ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) A radiant young Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar for her first major screen role in this grown-up romantic comedy about a European princess on an official state tour of Italy who sneaks off be herself to discover Rome and hooks up with dashing American reporter Gregory Peck. William Wyler directs in ravishing locations all over Rome. (Not rated) 118 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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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 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
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.
THE JONESES You know “the Joneses” that we’re all supposed to be keeping up with? They actually exist in this sly and sharp black comedy from filmmaker Derrick Borte about consumerism and its ruinous consequences. David Duchovny is extremely funny and Demi Moore sexy and driven as the heads of the coolest new family on the block with the coolest goodies that all their neighbors instantly covet. A shrewd satire on the iconography of stuff in our modern society, and the marketeering (coupled with human gullibility) that sells it so relentlessly. (R) 96 minutes. (HHH) Lisa Jensen
THE LAST SONG Miley Cyrus stars as a New York teen forced to spend the summer in a southern beach town. (PG)
THE PERFECT GAME (PG) 113 minutes. (★★)
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