Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
PLEASE GIVE Reviewed this issue. (R) 90 minutes. (★★) Starts Friday.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK Jonah Hill stars as a low-level record company intern whose job it is to shepherd a flamboyant British rock idol (Russell Brand) to a concert at the Greek Theater during one wild L.A. day in this comedy from Nicholas Stoller. (R) 109 minutes. Starts Friday.
KILLERS Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher star in this romantic action comedy about a woman who discovers the new husband she married after a whirlwind courtship may be a professional assassin. Mr. And Mrs. Smith, anyone? Robert Luketic directs. (PG-13) Starts Friday.
MARMADUKE Sort of a live-action riff on the long-running, single-panel comic strip, this kiddie comedy features Owen Wilson as the voice of the Great Dane, Judy Greer and Lee Pace as his owners, and celebrity guest voices Kiefer Sutherland, Sam Elliott, Steve Coogan, and George Lopez among his various canine pals. Tom Dey directs. (PG) Starts Friday.
MOTHER AND CHILD The lives of three women entwine and intersect in modern Los Angeles in this elliptical ensemble drama from Colombian-born filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia. Annette Bening is a woman who had to give up her child as a pregnant teenager. Naomi Watts is the daughter she never knew, a morally adrift, fast-track lawyer, and Kerry Washington is a wife unable to conceive who’s hoping to adopt a child. Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson co-star. (R) 126 minutes. Starts Friday.
SPLICE Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star in this sci-fi thriller as a pair of genetic research scientists whose secret gene-splicing experiments create a mysterious humanoid being with strange powers. Delphine Chanéac co-stars for director Vincenzo Natali. (R) 104 minutes. Sarts Friday.
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EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (R) 87 minutes. (★★★1/2) Starts Friday.
Is art a joke? The answer is yes and no in Exit Through The Gift Shop, a savvy, invigorating and wickedly entertaining documentary that sets out to record the street art movement of the last decade, but turns into something else entirely. Street art is defined as a hybrid whose anonymous guerrilla artists hit the streets in the dead of night to post their trademark images via spray paint, giant stencils, or photocopied enlargements washed on with glue. Just add the Internet, and international legends are born. We meet Thierry Guetta, a video-obsessed Frenchman with a recycled clothing shop in L.A. ca 1999; he discovers street art through a cousin who makes Space Invaders figures out of the multicolored tiles of discarded Rubik’s Cubes and attaches them to walls and bridges all over Paris. Back in L.A. Thierry hooks up with prolific street artist Shepherd Fairey (soon to be famous for his iconic Obama poster), and is welcomed into the subculture of artists with names like Swoon, Buffmonster, and Neckface, filming them all at work that is “not only illegal, but dangerous.” At last, Thierry meets the elusive Brit, Banksy, famed for hanging his own framed work in the Tate Gallery, and decorating the Israeli security wall in the West Bank with beautiful, provocative images like a little girl flying overhead on a balloon, or a trompe l’oeil “hole” with a lush tropical view on the other side. Banksy (whose face never appears on camera) bonds with the avid videographer, and challenges him to assemble a film out of his boxes of tape cassettes, reasoning that “street art isn’t meant to last and needs to be documented.” But when the result comes back “an unwatchable 90-minute nightmare,” Banksy takes over the project himself. Using Thierry’s footage, he sends the Frenchman off home to L.A. to make his own street art for awhile—and unwittingly creates a monster. Exit is Banksy’s film, with a droll narration by Rhys Ifans, and a wealth of musings on notoriety and celebrity, creativity and commodity, art, inspiration, and imitation (and what, if anything, is the difference). As affable Thierry adopts the telling moniker “Mr. Brain Wash,” artists employ “prop builders,” and a rich collector points out pieces she owns that she doesn’t even like, Banksy captures the evolution of art, culture, and politics in one sly, deft, subversive package. (R) 87 minutes. (★★★1/2)—LJ Watch film trailer >>>
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: FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF John Hughes serves up his usual ghoulash of smart, hip kids vs. idiotic adults in this 1986 comedy about a fun-loving high school senior who outsmarts his indulgent parents and his psychotic principal to ditch school for a day of benign adventures in downtown Chicago. Matthew Broderick is buoyant enough to get away with most of it (except for a few too many smug asides to the camera). (PG-13) 103 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Friday-Saturday midnight only. At the Del Mar.
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: ON THE WATERFRONT Marlon Brando won his first Oscar in Elia Kazan’s 1954 drama of dock workers in New York City. As a young ex-fighter who “coulda been a contender,” Brando’s Terry Malloy learns to be his own man after years of watching older brother Rod Steiger genuflect to the mob. Eva Marie Saint co-stars, along with Leonard Bernstein’s lush, moody score. A classic of sophisticated Hollywood melodrama (Not rated) 108 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Fri-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.
BABIES It’s all about the koochie koo here as the doc chronicles the first year in the lives of four infants from around the world. Filmmaker Thomas Balmès manages to create a fine bundle of joy here. (PG) 79 minutes. (★★★1/2) Greg Archer
CITY ISLAND This one’s a gem—Moonstruck meets Mystic Pizza. But here, the life-pondering protagonist is Andy Garcia. He morphs into a Bronx prison guard with a big secret—he wants to act so he takes acting classes. This won’t sit well with this overbearing wife, Julianna Margulies. If you enjoy touching comedies about nutty families, you’ll dig this. Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer, Alan Arkin, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, and Steven Strait co-star. (PG-13) 100 minutes. (★★★1/2) Greg Archer
THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION Beneath this somewhat lugubrious title (based on the Peter Cameron novel) is a most decorous and well-behaved literary adaption, entertaining and well-acted. Veteran director James Ivory brings his deft, classical touch to this tale of a graduate student in Uruguay seeking the rights to a literary biograohy from a family of eccentric expat artistes. The characters are more effective as thematic ideas, but the marvelous Laura Linney is a pleasure to watch, even in a film more impeccable than heartfelt. (PG-13) 114 minutes. (★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
DATE NIGHT Tina Fey and Steve Carrell are pitch perfect in this surprisingly clever action comedy that could have easily stumbled into the creative abyss. (PG-13) 88 minutes. (★★1/2) 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). (R) 152 minutes. In Swedish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD It’s Once Upon A Time In Manchuria in South Korean filmmaker Ji-woon Kim’s action “western” set in 1940s China during the Japanese occupation. Three Korean outlaws searching for a treasure map run afoul of the Japanese army and Chinese bandits out in the desert. (Not rated) 130 minutes. In Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese, with English subtitles.
KICK-ASS The Mark Millar comic series comes to life. (R) 117 minutes.
IRON MAN 2 A fine outing, one that stumbles here and there, but the end result leaves you feeling as if you’ve just had some fun at the movies—and that’s just what this film is supposed to do. Robert Downey Jr. returns as billionaire inventor Tony Stark / Iron Man. This round has a new foe in Mickey Rourke, who creates similar Iron Man equipment. Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Scarlett Johansson co-star. (PG-13) 124 minutes. (★★★) Greg Archer
LETTERS TO JULIET Consider it the ultimate date movie. And, while the film is predictable, at times, it manages to evoke enough authentic emotion to make it worthy of your attention. This multi-generational romance chronciles the tale of a young American (Amanda Seyfried) in Verona, Italy, who discovers a 50-year-old letter addressed to Juliet—yes,. Shakespeare’s Juliet—and then decides to reunite the letter’s author (Vanessa Redgrave in a surprisingly pitch-perfect role) with her long-lost love (Franco Nero). Gael Garcia Bernal and Christopher Egan co-star in this feel-good tale. The critic in gives the film (HH1/2) but the hopeless romantic in me says: (PG) (★★★) Greg Archer
MACGRUBER Who would have thought? A recycled SNL skit that actually makes to the big screen—and isn’t that bad? Believe it. Will Forte reprises his role as a mullet-haired ex-military, Special Forces op. Here, he’s lured out of retirement to bring down an evildoer (Val Kilmer offering a fine turn) who’s into nuclear weapons. Kristen Wiig reprises her role as MacGruber’s side-kick and Ryan Phillippe joins the team, offering some groundedness. In the most curious, often surprising ways, MacGruber works as a viable film outing. It’s a light-hearted comedy that avoids playing things over the top—all of the time. Yes, behold the character development—even if it is modest, it somehow raises the film from the inane and allows the filmmakers to evoke some empathy for Forte’s nutty yet well meaning protagonist. Jorma Taccone directs. (R) 99 minutes. (★★1/2) Greg Archer
OCEANS This second event in the new Disneynature series is a marvelous journey into a rarely-seen inner space that can be just as alien, otherworldly, and weirdly beautiful. (G) 100 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME Jake Gyllenhaal goes the action blockbuster route as the swashbuckling hero of this adventure fantasy based on a popular video game. He plays a prince in ancient Persia who teams up with a mysterious princess (Gemma Arterton) to gain possession of a magical sword and keep its powers out of the clutches of the bad guys. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina co-star for director Mike Newell. (PG-13) 116 minutes.
ROBIN HOOD Ridley Scott unites with Russell Crowe in this wry, thoughtful integrity and his formidable presence to this Robin, an archer in the army of Richard Lionheart fighting the war against tyranny at home. Cate Blanchett is a piquant and feisty Marion. We’d like to see more archery in the battle scenes, and at least one proper love scene would be nice; still, this is a persuasive tale that ends where the legend begins. (PG-13) 140 minutes. (★★★)
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS) This Oscar-winner for 2010 Best Foreign Language film is a fascinating, unforgettable mystery that grabs you in the beginning and doesn’t let go—not so much because of its “thrills” but more because of the emotionally rich landscape filmmaker Juan Jose Campanella allowa us to move through with a rarely felt grace and dignity. There were times I simply forgot I was watching a movie. It’s a testament to superb storytelling if not a brutal reminder of how watered-down typicaly Hollywood films tend to be. But this isn’t “typically” and nor does it come from Hollywood. The Argentinean mystery-drama, based on the novel by Edouardo Sacheri, takes place in 1999 and revolves around a befuddled police detective who decides to reopen a savage murder case that took place in a Buenos Aires suburb back in 1974. He soon finds himself embroiled in a trail of conspiracy, cover-up and corruption. Take note of the beautiful nuanaces found in the acting of Ricardo Darin, Soledad Villamil and Pablo Rago. This is one film you’ll relish. In Spanish with English subtitles.. (★★★★) Greg Archer
SEX AND THE CITY 2 It’s more like Sex in the Sand when Carrie and the girls travel to Morocco in this second big-screen installment of the femme-bonding glamour and shoe-fest franchise. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis star, along with all the usual suspects. Michael Patrick King directs. (R) 146 minutes.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER It’s a wonderful life for everybody’s favorite green ogre—until he screws things up and sees what life would have been like for his loved ones if he’d never been born—in this fourth installment of the fractured fairy tale franchise. Directed by Mike Mitchell, this entertaining chapter (the first one to be shot in 3-D), plunges Shrek in an alternate Far Far Away land after his Faustian bargain with demonic Rumplestiltskin (a bravura comic vocal performance from Walt Dohrn). The fizziest fun, as usual, is in the silly little throwaway visual details and the acute pop song cues that keep the viewer chuckling throughout. (PG) 93 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen.
SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD George Romero’s zombie army continues to run amok, while National Guardsmen take refuge in a (hopefully) uninhabited island off the coast of Delaware to figure out what to do about it in this latest chapter in the Franchise That Refused To Die. Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, and Kathleen Munroe star. (R) 90 minutes.