Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
CHLOE Reviewed this issue. (R) 96 minutes. (★★1/2) Starts Friday.
GREENBERG Ben Stiller stars in this new serio-comic film from Noah Baumbach (The Squid And The Whale) as a depressed, unemployed 40-year-old with a few issues. (R) Starts Friday.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE Four middle-aged party animals pass out in a hot tub in the present day, and wake up in 1986. (R) 92 minutes. Starts Friday.
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, in this family cartoon feature from DreamWorks. Based on the popular book by Cressida Cowell. (PG) 98 minutes. Starts Friday.
THE LAST SONG In this adaptation of yet another sentimental bestseller by the unstoppable Nicholas Sparks, Miley Cyrus stars as a New York teen forced to spend the summer in a southern beach town with her semi-estranged, divorced Dad (Greg Kinnear)—who attempts to form a bond through their commom interest in music. Liam Hemsworth, Bobby Coleman, and Kelly Preston co-star for director Julie Anne Robinson. (PG) Starts Wednesday (March 31).
MOTHER Reviewed this issue. (R) 129 minutes. In Korean with English subtitles. (★★★) Starts Friday. See Review by Lisa Jensen >>>
SPECIAL UPCOMING EVENT: BLOOD INTO WINE The mission of rocker Maynard James Keenan (from Tool and A Perfect Circle), and his vintner partner, Eric Glomski, to put Northern Arizona on the map as a legitimate player in the wine industry is the subject of this documentary from filmmakers Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenke. Heralded by one wag at FilmCritic.com as “a rock ‘n’ roll version of Sideways.” At the Rio, one night only, next Thursday (April 1).
CONTINUING SERIES: WEEKEND MATINEE CLASSICS AT APTOS CINEMA This week: CITIZEN KANE. A classic. by Orsen Wells, and one of the definitive works of American cinema. (PG) 119 minutes. (HHHH) Lisa Jensen. Sat-Sun matinee only. Admission $6. Call 688-6541 for showtimes. At Aptos Cinema.
CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAR Only $6.50. This week: THE ROCK. (R) 136 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 ltatm.org.
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. (HHHH) Lisa Jensen
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. (HHH1/2) Greg Archer
THE BOUNTY HUNTER Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston team up for this romantic action comedy about a scruffy bounty-hunter, the hot-shot reporter ex-wife he’s supposed to bring in after she jumps bail to get a story, and the world of trouble her risky murder investigation brings down on them both. Andy Tennant directs. (PG-13)
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. (HHH1/2) 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. (R) 101 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. (HHHH) Greg Archer
GREEN ZONE Matt Damon stars as a US Army officer who launches his own search for WMDS.(R) 115 minutes.
THE HURT LOCKER The year’s biggest surprise. It took home a Best Picture 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 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. (HHHH) Greg Archer
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. Helen Mirren plays his wife, Sofya. (R) 112 minutes. (HHH1/2) Lisa Jensen
NORTH FACE In Philipp Stolzl’s gripping dramatization of a true story, 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. Not rated. 126 minutes. In German with English subtitles. (HHH1/2) Lisa Jensen
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. (PG-13) 101 minutes.
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.
A PROPHET (UN PROPHÉTE) A recent Foreign Laguage Oscar nominee, this violent suspense thriller from Jacques Audiard follows a 19-year-old, non-practicing Muslim serving six years in a French prison who’s forced into a harrowing education in crime and punishment. Audiard is a stylist employing his art-house sensibility to a genre crime melodrama, and the film has plenty of pizzazz, even a macabre kind of whimsy, but the intensity of the violence can be an ordeal to watch. A brutal, visceral plunge into the abyss of criminal life. (R) 155 minutes. In French with English subtitles. (HH1/2) Lisa Jensen
REPO MEN This dark comedy buddy thriller is set in the near future, when artificial organs can be bought on credit like other appliances. Forest Whitaker, and Liev Schreiber co-star for director Miguel Sapochnik. (R) 111 minutes.
THE RUNAWAYS Twilight temptress Kristen Stewart morphs into a hard-driving Joan Jett—or tries to—and Dakota Fanning plays sex-kitten Cherie Currie in this biopic of rock’s first all-girl band, The Runaways. Actually, Fanning is the best thing in a film that never dives far enough beneath the surface. Still, what the movie lacks in real character development, it makes up for in enough punk rock, glam wonderment. Yes. There are moments to enjoy even though you never quite really care about these protagonists—Director Floria Sigismondi seems too fascinated with the allure that was Jett and history that the group made than really exploring the emotionally rich natures of Jett and Currie. Michael Shannon co-stars as Kim Fowley, the slick mastermind who helped make the group a sensation in the post-punk, mid-’70s L.A. rock scene. (R) (HH1/2) Greg Archer
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.
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. (R) 138 minutes.
THAT EVENING SUN Hal Holbrook is superb as a cantankerous 80-year-old Tennessee widower trying to hang on to the old homestead and his last shred of dignity in Scott Teems’ compelling, somewat astringent drama. The dialogue is generally sharp, never cutesy, and that the story never goes exactly where we expect it to makes the film all the more deserving of the integrity, resilience, and disgruntled sass of Holbrook’s enormously moving performance. (R) 109 minutes.
(HHH) Lisa Jensen
THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF William Hurt is 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. Kristen Stewart, however, plays a runaway teen 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 feisty, earthy poise in Hurt’s flashbacks. The film is based on a 1977 Japanese drama that was adapted from story by American journalist Pete Hamill (which also evidently inspired the pop song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”). Unfortunately, director Udayan Prasad doesn’t add much to the bare bones of that story here. (PG-13) 102 minutes. (HH1/2) Lisa Jensen