Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
GET LOW Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 100 minutes. (★★1/2) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
LIFE DURING WARTIME This new film from Todd Solondz purports to be a sequel of some sort to his 1998 drama, Happiness, except with an entirely different cast. (Not rated) 98 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
LOTTERY TICKET When a guy in the projects finds out he holds the winning numbers in a $370 million lottery, he has to defend his ticket against rapacious friends, family, and neighbors. (PG-13) 99 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
NANNY McPHEE RETURNS Emma Thompson returns as the gnarly-looking, but magical nanny from Christianna Brand’s children’s book series.(PG) 109 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
PIRANHA 3-D Director Aja Alejandre dives into this gore-spewing remake—in 3-D, natch—of the trashy 1978 horror thriller about prehistoric man-eating fish unleashed at a lakeside resort after a geological shift. Richard Dreyfuss, Elisabeth Shue, and Jerry O’Connell star. (R) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE SWITCH Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman star in this romantic comedy about a single woman who decides to get pregnant, her angsty best (male) buddy, and a mix-up at the sperm bank. Patrick Wilson plays the designated donor; Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis also co-star for directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck. (PG-13) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
VAMPIRES SUCK Spoof-meisters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Scary Movie; Disaster Movie, etc.) try to horn in on the Twilight phenomenon. (PG-13) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
CONTINUING SERIES: WEEKEND MATINEE CLASSICS AT APTOS CINEMA If you’ve only ever seen them on TV, don’t miss this series of classic movie matinees unspooling each weekend at Aptos Cinema. This week: SUNSET BOULEVARD Former silent screen star Gloria Swanson made the comeback of a lifetime in Billy Wilder’s trenchant 1950 expose of Hollywood mores. Swanson plays onetime silent film diva Norma Desmond, still holding court in her creepy Sunset Boulevard mansion with butler-keeper Erich von Stroheim, who ensnares footloose young screenwriter William Holden in her fatal web of memories, ambition and madness. (“I’m still big! It’s the pictures that got small!”) (Not rated) 110 minutes. (★★★1/2)—LJ. (Sat-Sun matinee only, 11 a.m. Admission $6. At Aptos Cinema.
CONTINUING SERIES: FLASHBACK FEATURES Oldies and goodies on Thursday nights at the Cinema 9, presented by your genial host, Joe Ferrara. $5 gets you in. This week: AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY.. Mike Myers’ 60s pop culture spoof from 1997 is more premise than payoff, with its cryogenically frozen Swinging London superspy thawed out in the safe-sex, PC 90s. Who knew this sketch comedy sex farce would spawn a mini-franchise? Myers also plays slow-burning villain Dr. Evil; Elizabeth Hurley and Michael York co-star for director Jay Roach. (PG-13) 94 minutes. (★★) —LJ. Tonight (Thursday) only, 8 p.m., at the Cinema 9.
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.
ANTON CHEKHOV’S THE DUEL It’s all about ennui in this delicately rendered drama of morality and malaise, discontent and redemption. Shot in lovely Croatia with a mostly Irish/British cast, and directed by Russian Georgian-born Israeli filmmaker Dover Kosashvili, it captures to perfection the small-minded, all-consuming boredom of its protagonist—a feckless young aristocrat from St. Petersburg who’s run off to the seaside with another man’s wife. But once this premise is set up, it’s explicated tediously for another hour while nothing much happens. The narrative pulse is reactivated briefly in the plight of the ripe young mistress (Fiona Glasscott) who finds herself without male protection. But we wish Kosashvili had come up with a better way to convey boredom than asking the audience to sit through 95 enervating minutes that feel like days. (Not rated) 95 minutes. (★★) LJ
CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE In this family comedy featuring high-tech puppet animas with CGI-animated talking mouths, a feline secret agent hatches a plan to rule the world, launching an uneasy alliance between cats and dogs to save themselves and their beloved owners. Christina Applegate, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, James Marsden, Bette Midler and Nick Nolte contribute voices. Brad Peyton directs. (PG)
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS Oh, it’s so easy to see how this must have worked much better as a French comedy, which actually inspired it. Paul Rudd teams with Steve Carell who embraces his inner nerdball. The premise finds Rudd, who’s trying to work his way up in his company. He must impress his boss by attending the boss’ annual dinner party where “idiots” are made fun of. There are some surprisingly sweet moments here and some of the schtick in Schmucks works but, once again, Hollywood often lacks the depth and quirky nuances to pull of a redux that requires both ingredients. Jay Roach (Meet The Parents; Meet the Fockers) directs (PG-13) (★★1/2) GA
DESPICABLE ME It’s about the de-grinching of a befuddled criminal who uses an army of minions to thwart justice. Steve Carell voices the main character; Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, and Jermaine Clement are also on board. One of the more amusing animated features of the year. The film has heart and you can’t help be won over by its charm. (PG) 95 minutes. (★★★1/2) GA
EAT PRAY LOVE (Reviewed this issue.). (★★) (PG-13) 140 minutes.
THE EXPENDABLES Sylvester Stallone directs himself (and every other action star they can still prop up behind an automatic weapon) in this shoot-em-up about skullduggery in South America when a group of mercenaries discover their mission to take down a ruthless dictator is fraught with complications. Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, and Bruce Willis join in the fun, with a special guest appearance with soon-to-be ex-gov Arnold Schwarzenegger. (R) 103 minutes.
THE EXTRA MAN Kevin Kline stars as a threadbare, yet dapper New Yorker who earns his living as a paid escort for wealthy older widows in this offbeat comedy from Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor). Paul Dano co-stars as a provincial schoolteacher and wannabee playwright in the midst of an identity crisis who is taken in and reluctantly mentored by Kline in the school of life. Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly, and Cathy Moriarty co-star in this adaptation of the Jonathan Ames novel. (R) 105 minutes.
FAREWELL As in his last film, Joyeux Noel, French filmmaker Christian Carion again adapts an amazing true story for the screen in this haunting, heartbreaking spy drama. In 1981, a disillusioned KGB agent (the wonderful Emir Kusturica), in search of a better life for his people, opens up discreet communications with a timid young French engineer (Guillaume Canet) in Moscow for the leaking of state secrets that will ultimately lead to the fall of the Soviet Union. Caught up in their spymasters’ web, finding commonality in French poetry, the rock group Queen, and hope for their children, the personal relationsip between these two very different men carries the story in a Cold War thriller brimming with suspense, wry humor, and melancholy. (Not rated) 113 minutes. In French with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) LJ
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE Good news for fans of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: the two protagonists from that film (played by the same actors, the excellent Mikael Nyqvist and the incendiary Noomi Rapace) return in this sequel, the second Swedish film made from the Stieg Larsson trilogy. Incoming director Daniel Alfredson crafts a fleet, taut thriller from this “second act” book. (R) 129 minutes. In Swedish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) LJ
INCEPTION One of the best pictures of the year. Sublime, hypnotic and downright thought-provoking. Most of all, director Christopher Nolan (Memento; The Dark Knight). creates an intelligent sci-fi thriller that–imagine this—doesn’t play down to its audience. Leonardo DiCaprio is a master thief who steals corporate ideas from the dreams of his victims. (Somebody give this man an Oscar soon.) He’s hired by a corporate giant to commit the perfect crime—implanting an idea into the dream of an heir of a business foe.. The movie takes its time to set up the ultimate heist and then the fun begins. Nolan reportedly spent a decade writing this spectacle and, clearly, time has been his champion. The last hour of the movie is a wild, intoxicating ride that, aside from all the superior special effects, challenges its audiences to ponder the idea of reality, the significance of dreams and the potency of the subconscious mind. Delicious brain candy. Take time to chew on it long after you leave the theater. Take note: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Berenger deliver powerful turns here. Michael Caine co-stars. (PG-13) 150 minutes. (★★★★) Greg Archer
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Nic and Jules are a devoted, long-married couple raising their two kids in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Their family has its quirks, but the kids respect their parents, each other, and themselves. That this movie is NOT about the fact that Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple is just one of the things that make Lisa Cholodenko’s family comedy so fresh, fun, and appealing. A sublimely subtle Annette Bening and warm, disarming Julianne Moore star. Mark Ruffalo is great as the anonymous sperm donor “dad” who disrupts their family life. These kids may have two moms, but this perceptive tale of family dynamics should resonate with anyone who’s ever been a parent, a spouse, or a child. (R) 106 minutes. (★★★1/2) LJ
THE OTHER GUYS Trouble ensues for lowly NYPD precinct detectives Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg when they try to emulate their idols. But can the film rise above mediocrity? Not really. (PG-13) 107 minutes. (★★) GA
SALT A surprisingly fascinating thriller. It’s as if The Bourne Identity crawled under the covers with, well, Angelina Jolie. The temptress stars as a CIA agent wrongfully (or maybe not?) accused of being a Russian spy. There are many twists and turns here and Jolie is pitch perfect in a stellar role in a film that is captivating from beginning to end. And these days, there aren’t many movies that are capable of doing that. Directed by Phillip Noyce.(R) 99 minutes. (★★★) GA
SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD Michael Cera stars in this adaptation of the Bryan Lee O’Malley comic book series about a guy who has to cope with his new girlfriend’s seven ex-boyfriends. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, and Anna Kendrick co-star. Edgar Wright directs. (PG-13)
STEP UP 3-D The moves get even wilder in this third installment of the street-dancing saga, shot in Digital 3-D. Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, and Sharni Vinson head the cast as a group of multicultural NYC dancers whe enter a competition with the world’s best hip-hop dancers. Jon M. Chu directs. (PG-13)
TOY STORY 3-D The passage of time is the subtext in this typically whimsical, hilarious, and poignant adventure that celebrates the magical world of a child’s imagination, and ponders the inevitability of growing up and letting go. Veteran Pixar director Lee Unkrich maintains the delicate balance between action, comedy, and heart. (G) 103 minutes. (★★★★) LJ