Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
NORTH FACE Philipp Stolzl’s gripping dramatization of a true story begins like one of those “inspirational” athletic movies about the indomitable human spirit, as 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. But as the incidents become more harrowing, the truly operatic scope of the drama is revealed. Stolzl’s mountain-climbing sequences are among the most epic, astounding and grueling ever committed to film. The climb depicted is matter of historical record but Stolzl makes their tale into a compelling study of the implacability of Nature in the face of such petty human notions as nationalism and glory. Not rated. 126 minutes. In German with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.
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OUR FAMILY WEDDING America Ferrera and Lance Gross star as recent college grads who want to get married—if they can keep their competitive fathers (Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia) and other meddling family members on both sides from ruining their big day. Regina King, Diane-Maria Riva and Lupe Ontiveros co-star in this multi-cultural comedy from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa. (PG-13) 101 minutes. Starts Friday.
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REMEMBER ME Robert Pattinson de-fangs for this romantic urban drama about a young man estranged from his father (Pierce Brosnan), and at loose ends in New York City in the summer of 2001 until he meets a simpatico young woman (Emilie de Ravin). Chris Cooper and Lena Olin co-star for director Allen Coulter. (PG-13) 128 minutes. Starts Friday.
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SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE Jay Baruchel stars in this wish-fulfillment fantasy about a nerdy guy who’s so flummoxed when the sexy girl of his dreams (Alice Eve) wants to hook up with him, he’s in danger of blowing the relationship out of sheer disbelief. Krysten Ritter, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence, and T.J. Miller co-star. Jim Field Smith directs. (R) 104 minutes. Starts Friday.
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THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF William Hurt broods and mumbles his way through a Southern-fried drawl as an ex-con trying to reconnect to his past on a road trip across Louisiana with a couple of teenagers. But his performance has a wary stillness that gives the story some weight. On the other hand, Kristen Stewart plays a runaway teen in search of a future mostly on a single note of eye-rolling sarcasm. Eddie Redmayne manages some touching moments as the designated goofball whose vintage convertible brings the three traveling strangers together, and Maria Bello shows off her feisty, earthy poise in Hurt’s flashbacks. The film is based on a 1977 Japanese drama that was adapted from novel by American journalist Pete Hamill (which also evidently inspired the pop song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”). Unfortunately, director Udayan Prasad doesn’t add much meat to the bare bones of that story here; there’s plenty of atmosphere, but not much substance. (PG-13) 102 minutes. (★★1/2) Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.
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SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: 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:
EL ALAMEIN Italian soldiers battling against the war machine in Egypt during WWII are the protagonists in this heartfelt 2002 war drama from director Enzo Monteleone. In Italian with English subtitles. 114 min. At Cabrillo College, VAPA Room 1001 (enter through 1002), Sunday only, 7 pm. Free.
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: DISTRICT B-13 This 2004 curio from filmmaker Pierre Morel (Taken; From Paris With Love) is a violent action thriller set in a futuristic Paris of 2010, in which a cop and a thug infiltrate a crime gang to try to recover a neutron bomb. (R) 84 minutes. In French with English subtitles. 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.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND Reviewed this issue. (PG) 108 minutes. (★★★★) See Review by Lisa Jensen & movie trailer >>>
AVATAR James Cameron nearly grabbed on Oscar trophy for this film—the highest grossing of all time—before The Hurt Locker took home the gold on Oscar night. Sam Worthington offers 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. Sandra Bullock, who nabbed a Best Actress honore here, is the woman who virtually adopts the homeless, neglected teen into her family and changes his life–and theirs. Newcomer Quinton Aaron stars. Surprisingly good, the film offers Bullock a chance to show some range—not much, but it makes for an enjoyable ride. (PG-13) 126 minutes. (★★★) Greg Archer
BROOKLYN’S FINEST Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, and Ethan Hawke star as NYPD cops in Brooklyn’s tough 65th Precinct heading for a showdown with destiny during one tumultuous week in this action drama from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day). Will Patton, Lili Taylor, and Ellen Barkin co-star. (R) 133 minutes.
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
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.
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.
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.
THE GHOST WRITER Roman Polanski returns to the noir suspense format that made his Chinatown such a masterpiece with this political thriller about a ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) hired to punch up the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan). His predecessor on the project has met an untimely end, and the deeper the ghostwriter delves into the PM’s story, the closer he comes to secrets that could cost him his own life. Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Eli Wallach, and Tom Wilkinson co-star. (R) 109 minutes.
THE HURT LOCKER The year’s biggest surprise. It took home a Best 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, which 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. (★★★★)
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
THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS Most of us who weathered the ’60s thought Richard Nixon was the most dangerous man in America. But in the Nixon White House, that nickname was bestowed (by Henry Kissinger) on Daniel Ellsberg, a brainy employee of the military think-tank, the Rand Corp., who smuggled out the Pentagon Papers—detailing covert US skullduggery in Vietnam dating back to the Truman era—to the New York Times. This engrossing tale of the a man who discovers his own principles and risks life in prison to expose the truth is told by filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith in this lively, coherent and informative Oscar-nominated documentary. Not rated. 92 minutes. (★★★)
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 This series of YA novels by Rick Riordan delivers Logan Lerman 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
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