Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
COP OUT Bruce Willis stars in this comedy about an NYPD police detective who recruits his partner (Tracy Morgan) to help him catch the perp when his rare, collectible baseball card is stolen. Adam Brody and Seann William Scott co-stars for cult director Kevin Smith (helming a script he didn’t write for the first time). (R) 110 minutes. Starts Friday.
THE CRAZIES This latest remake of an old George Romero horror movie is an almost-but-not-quite zombie thriller in which a toxin starts turning the citizens of a sleepy Midwestern town into bloodthirsty homicidal maniacs. Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell star as the untainted sheriff and his wife struggling to survive. Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabaker co-star for director Breck Eisner. (R) 101 minutes. Starts Friday.
POLICE, ADJECTIVE Reviewed this issue. (Not rated) 113 minutes. In Romanian with English subtitles. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.
See Review by Lisa Jensen >>>
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: 2010 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED SHORT FILMS Two separate programs of the nominees for this year’s Live-Action and Animated Short Film Oscars are offered for theatrical release in advance of the Academy Awards on March 7. Astound your friends with your knowledge of these categories at your Oscar parties. And the Live-Action nominees are: THE DOOR (Juanita Wilson, Ireland, 17 minutes.) Shot in the Ukraine, this story concerns a father coping with the aftermath of Chernobyl. INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA (Patrik Eklund, Sweden, 18 minutes.) A wannabe magician still living at home performs a memorable magic act for his father’s 60th birthday. KAVI (Gregg Helvey, U.S./India, 19 minutes.) A young boy forced to work in a brick-making kiln searches for a better life.
MIRACLE FISH (Luke Doolan, Australian, 18 minutes.) An 8-year-old boy makes a birthday wish that everyone else would vanish—which might have come true. THE NEW TENANTS (Joachim Back, Denmark, 20 minutes.) Two men renting a new apartment experience the moving day from hell. Not rated. 94 minutes total. And the Animated nominees are: FRENCH ROAST (Fabrice O. Joubert, France, 8 minutes) A man keeps ordering coffee in a trendy café when he can’t find his wallet. GRANNY O’GRIMM’S SLEEPING BEAUTY (Nicky Phelan, Ireland, 6 minutes) Forgetting the plot, Granny improvises a hair-raising fairy tale for her terrified granddaughter. THE LADY AND THE REAPER (Javier Recio Gracia, Spain, 8 minutes.) An old woman waiting patiently for Death faces one last hurdle. LOGORAMA (Nicolas Schmerkin, Argentina, 17 minutes) Everything goes amok in a congested city dominated by huge ad logos. A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH (Nick Park, U. K. 29 minutes.) Wallace and Gromit open the Top Bun Bakery. Not rated. 97 minutes total. Starts Friday at the Nickelodeon.
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: AND THE OSCAR SHOULD GO TO… Join Wallace Baine, of the Sentinel, Bruce Bratton, of Brattononline.com, and yours truly, Lisa Jensen, at the Nickelodeon this Saturday for a discussion of this year’s Academy Award nominees. We’ll tell you who we like, and discuss our favorite films of 2009. Let the critics know what YOU think! Discussion begins at 11 am, and is free and open to the public. Call 426-7500, or check Nickelodeon/Del Mar ad this issue for more information.
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: BENNY & JOON Aidan Quinn is the responsible brother looking after his charming, schizophrenic sister (Mary Stuart Masterson) when free-spirited clown Johnny Depp enters their lives in this offbeat 1993 romance. Depp has a blast borrowing silent comedy shtick from the great Buster Keaton. Jeremiah S. Chechik directs. (PG) 98 minutes. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.
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.
AVATAR James Cameron proves he still has some mojo in this wildly fascinating, often compelling new sci-fi epic. The story revolves around a US military unit sent to a tropical planet whose cultured, indigenous warrior population will do anything to keep their land intact. Sam Worthington takes the lead role here, offering an impressive turn as a young war vet technologically altered to resemble native people–he’s sent in as a scout. Zoe Saldana is the indigenous tribeswoman. Sigourney Weaver also costars alongside Michelle Rodriguez. A riveting unforgettable ride with a powerful message that doesn’t feel overly preachy. (PG-13) 150 minutes. (★★★1/2) Greg Archer
THE BLIND SIDE Based on the real-life story of All-American football star Michael Oher is dramatized in this inspirational tale. Bullock is the woman who virtually adopts the homeless, neglected teen into her family and changes his life–and theirs. Newcomer Quinton Aaron plays Oher. Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates co-star. (PG-13) 126 minutes. (★★★) Greg Archer
CRAZY HEART Jeff Bridges is an actor of such wry, thoughtful subtlety who makes it all look so effortless, some viewers might miss the exquisite craftsmanship of his performance in Scott Cooper’s adaptation of the Thoman Cobb novel. Bridges plays broken-down country singer, “Bad,” with all the cantankerous brio and slightly shopworn charm of a hard life lived on the road. Plotwise, it’s a road we’ve all been down before, but happy surprises include the grown-up sensuality of Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Colin Farrell as a glitzy, but good-hearted country superstar. Songwriters Stephen Bruton and T Bone Burnett craft a beautiful repertoire of music for Bad, a song cycle essential to the storytelling that furthers plot and enhances character, which Bridges performs with ragged authority. (R) 111 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
CREATION The subject is Charles Darwin, but don’t expect high seas adventure on board the Beagle. Director Jon Amiel delivers a mild-mannered, yet moving period drama about the effect of Darwin’s radical theories of evolution on his family life, and vice versa. Scripted by John Collee, from the biographical book by Darwin descendant Randal Keynes, the film focuses on the writing of Darwin’s groundbreaking book, “On The Origin Of Species.” Paul Bettany is a thoughtful Darwin, still ill with grief over the death of his young daughter, along with a more fearsome malaise over the divisive repercussions his scientific observations on natural selection will have on a society based on obedience to “God’s plan.” The division has already begun in Darwin’s own household, as his wife (Jennifer Connelly) retreats further into religious faith. Amiel dresses up this domestic drama with some artfully eerie sequences, and a poignant encounter with an orangutan in the London Zoo, while daring to suggest that rational thought deserves a place in any evolved society. (PG-13) 108 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
DEAR JOHN Yet another bestselling Nicholas Sparks romance comes to the big screen. Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried play star-crossed young lovers. (PG-13) 105 minutes.
FISH TANK British filmmaker Andrea Arnold won the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival with her feature debut, this provocative drama about a 15-year-old girl living with her single mum in a gritty Essex housing project whose wary experience of the world begins to alter when her mum brings home an enigmatic new boyfriend. Young star Katie Jarvis has been wildly praised in her acting debut; Michael Fassbender plays the unpredictable boyfriend. (Not rated) 123 minutes.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS Terry Gilliam’s epic fantasy (does he make any other kind?) ought to be better than it is: the pacing is off, his handling of actors can be erratic, and posing imagination as the opposite of evil makes for a slippery plot device. But the movie’s scruffy pleasures are in the details–from the tawdry, retro fun-house charm of the carnival sideshow that inspires the title, to some lovely moments provided by the marvelous Tom Waits as a purring, deadpan Devil. Heath Ledger is both delicious and bittersweet in his last film role as a mystery man who takes to the carny’s life with silky finesse. (PG-13) 122 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
FROM PARIS WITH LOVE Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a lowly intelligence agent with the U. S diplomatic corps who gets involved with a loose-cannon undercover op (John Travolta) who’s in Paris to stop a terrorist attack. Pierre Morel directs this action thriller from a story by Luc Besson; their last collaboration was the jet-propelled Taken. (R) 92 minutes.
THE LAST STATION Michael Hoffman’s lightly fictionalized account of Leo Tolstoy in his twilight years is a smart, gripping portrait of life and love in all their messy contradictions. Christopher Plummer is in fine form as the grandfatherly icon whose allegiance to the ideals of poverty, purity, and communal living put him in conflict with his privileged lifestyle. But the marvelous Helen Mirren as his wife, Sofya, is the spark who makes the story sizzle. Reviled as a greedy termagant by Leo’s pious followers (and as the only one who knows—and loves—the man he is inside) she’s refreshingly caustic about his premature “sainthood.” Paul Giamatti co-stars as her pompous antagonist in Leo’s inner circle; their battle for his soul never flags. (R) 112 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen.
PRECIOUS Lee Daniels’ masterful film, adapted from the 1996 novel, “Push,” by poet-turned-author Sapphire, shows how the tiniest flicker of compassion can transform a life of complete degradation into something triumphant. Gabourey Sidibe gives an astounding, adjective-defying performance in the title role, a wary, mountainous, hard-luck Harlem teenager who has learned to hide her spirit beneath protective layers of flesh and silence. (R) 109 minutes. (★★★★) Lisa Jensen
PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF With the Harry Potter film franchise winding down, Hollywood looks to this series of YA novels by Rick Riordan to deliver the magic. Logan Lerman stars as a troubled high schooler (a bit older than he was in the book) who discovers he’s related to the Greek gods of Mt. Olympus. (PG) 119 minutes.
SHUTTER ISLAND Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo star in this thriller as a pair of U. S. Marshals in 1954 Boston investigating the escape of a murderess from a hospital for the criminally insane located on a remote island off the New England coast. Skullduggery ensues. Martin Scorsese directs from the novel by Dennis Lehane. Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, and Jackie Earle Haley co-star. (R) 138 minutes.
A SINGLE MAN Colin Firth gives a marvelously controlled, yet yearning performance as a quietly closeted gay expatriate British college professor in sunny L. A., grieving over the loss of his longtime patner, who no longer fits into his well-tailored life. Adapted from the Christopher Isherwood novel by rookie director Tom Ford, this spare, elegant study on the naturte of grief charts the disruptive course of renegade feelings in a life constructed around keeping feelings in check. The early ’60s era is cannily evoked, while Julianne Moore (in full diva mode) and the always excellent Matthew Goode are terrific in support. (R) 99 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
TOOTH FAIRY Dwayne Johnson stars in this kiddie comedy as a tough minor-league hockey player. (PG).
UP IN THE AIR . Watch and relish how this clever film wins you over and keeps up interested in its characters from beginning to end. George Clooney headlines this comedy-drama about a business exec who spends all his time on the road. Vera Farmiga is a fellow traveler and soon the two frolic during layovers. (No pun intended.) Jason Bateman and Anna Kendrick co-star as Clooney’s coworkers in a company that helps other companies lay off their employees. Jason Reitman (Juno) directs and co-wrote this adaptation of the Walter Kim novel. Not to be missed. (R) 109 minutes. (★★★1/2) Greg Archer
VALENTINE’S DAY Comedy veteran Garry Marshall directs this ensemble romantic comedy about intersecting lives during one fateful Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles. Think of it as Crash, with roses and chocolates. Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Patrick Dempsey, Julia Roberts, Queen Latifah, Jessica Alba, Topher Grace, Bradley Cooper, Kathy Bates, Shirley MacLaine, Taylor Lautner, and a bunch more people I’m probably forgetting star. (PG-13) 117 minutes. .
WHEN IN ROME Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel star in this silly, but harmless romantic comedy from Mark Steven Johnson. (PG-13) 91 minutes. (★★1/2) Lisa Jensen.
THE WHITE RIBBON Filmmaker Michael Haneke’s disturbingly beautiful drama imagines life in a remote German village in the generation before Hitler’s rise to power. More complex than a simple parable, it’s a stately piece of dramatic fiction with the dread-generating intensity of a horror movie. (R) 140 minutes. In German with English subtitles. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
THE WOLFMAN As a Victorian-era Shakespearean actor caught up in sinister doings at his ancestral estate, the ever-persuasive Benicio Del Toro doesn’t have a character to grow; he’s just woebegone, as director Joe Johnston (onetime ILM fx wizard) ladles on the blood, gore, entrails, and dismembered body parts. In 1941, when a were-bitten Lon Chaney Jr. wolfed out and killed one innocent bystander in a bestial frenzy, that was tragedy. When Del Toro rampages through London, slaughtering dozens upon dozens of victims, we don’t feel his pain in quite the same way. Finally, this version gives us two werewolves who, of course, have to face off against each other in a hysterically funny finale of macho posturing. (R) 125 minutes. (★★) Lisa Jensen
THE YOUNG VICTORIA Jean-Marc Vallee’s sumptuously mounted historical drama offers an intriguing glimpse of the lonely, fatherless, inexperienced 18-year-old girl thrust onto the throne of England (and destined to give her name to an entire age) before and after her succession to the crown. The radiant Emily Blunt is a graceful, yet piquant Victoria. (PG) 100 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jense