Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
NEW THIS WEEK
JUST WRIGHT A physical therapist (Queen Latifah) falls for a pro basketball player (Common) whom she’s healing through a sports injury in this romantic comedy from director Sanaa Hamri. Paula Patton co-stars. (PG) Starts Friday.
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: (★★★) Greg Archer (PG) (Starts Friday.
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ROBIN HOOD Russell Crowe reunites with director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) for this action reboot of the classic adventure about a 12th Century archer who recruits a band of mercenaries in the forest outside Nottingham to rob from the rich and give to the poor to offset the injustices wrought by the corrupt Sheriff (Matthew MacFadyen). Cate Blanchett co-stars as Marian. (PG-13) 140 minutes. Starts Friday.
WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE The explosive career of ’60s rock icons Jim Morrison and The Doors is explored in this music doc by Tom DiCillo (auteur of the beloved indie cult favorite Living In Oblivion). Morrison considered himself quite the auteur as well, and since he never went anywhere without his camera, DiCillo’s film teems with never before seen footage shot by the Lizard King himself, from experimental short films to private backstage footage. Concert footage from the group’s L.A. origins to their world tours propels the music-driven narrative (as opposed to the usual talking head interviews), with narration provided by Johnny Depp. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday.
CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY Reviewed this issue. (R) 120 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.
CONTINUING EVENT THIS WEEK: THE NINTH ANNUAL SANTA CRUZ FILM FESTIVAL Programs continue through Saturday, May 15. See related story this issue. For more information, visit santacruzfilmfestival.org.
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: SNATCH Guy Ritchie wants to get your attention. Images explode across the screen in this 2000 gangster black comedy; dialogue, narration, gunfire and music pop and snap on the soundtrack and everything happens fast, fast, fast. It’s irritating, assaultive, violent, and (occasionally) funny as hell. Brad Pitt has a high old time as an incomprehensible Irish gypsy. Benicio Del Toro and Dennis Farina co-star in a movie bulging with guns, rude language and rampaging machismo. (R) 103 minutes. (HHH) Lisa Jensen. Friday-Saturday midnight only. At the Del Mar.
CONTINUING SERIES: WEEKEND MATINEE CLASSICS AT APTOS CINEMA Get an education in classic cinema—or just revisit some of your favorite oldies—presented as God intended, on a big screen in the dark. If you’ve only ever seen them on TV, don’t miss this new series of classic movie matinees unspooling each weekend at Aptos Cinema. This week: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE One of the last films of the suave Sean Connery/James Bond era, this 1967 outing finds Bond in Tokyo, up to his elegant eyebrows in high-tech gadgetry and a terrorist space-jacking plot. Donald Pleasance co-stars as the sinister villain Blofeld. Bond veteran Lewis Gilbert directs. 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.
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. (★★★★) Lisa Jensen
BABIES A great outing and a great film that contain very little dialogue. 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—from Tokyo, Namibia, San Francisco and Mongolia. Filmmaker Thomas Balmès manages to create a fine bundle of joy here. (PG) 79 minutes. (★★★1/2) Greg Archer
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. The plot: a couple attempts to spice up their marriage with a date night in the Big Apple. Cases of mistaken identity ensue. Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, James Franco and Mark Ruffalo pop up in supporting roles. Shawn Levy directs. (PG-13) 88 minutes. (★★1/2) Greg Archer
FURRY VENGEANCE Brendan Fraser returns to slapstick comedy as a real estate developer whose plans to subdivide a section of Oregon wilderness are upset when the wildlife critters decide to fight for their habitat. Brooke Shields co-stars. Roger Kumble directs. (PG) 92 minutes.
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. (★★★★) 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) who’s been battling male fascism all her life. Larsson had a knack for making the political personal, a delicate balance Oplev preserves with skill and chutzpah in this violent, but uncompromising drama. (R) 152 minutes. In Swedish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
HARRY BROWN A superb performance by Michael Caine (is there any other kind?) can’t quite justify this Death Wish retread about an old codger, newly widowed, who gets so fed up with random youth violence in his tough council flats neighborhood, he decides to put his wartime Marine training to good use and do something about it. Caine is gentlemanly and persuasive, and his victims are slimy vermin who kill and torture for fun, yet director Daniel Barber can’t escape the queasy moral center of any vigilante potboiler: who decides who is righteous enough to act outside the law? Every nutball with a weapon believes his cause is just. Emily Mortimer co-stars as a caring, but ineffectual police inspector. (R) 103 minutes. (★★) Lisa Jensen
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE Four middle-aged party animals pass out in a hot tub in the present day and wake up in 1986.. John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke star for director Steve Pink (High Fidelity). (R) 92 minutes.
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.. (PG) 98 minutes
KICK-ASS The Mark Millar comic series about an average teenager with no powers or training who decides to become a superhero comes to the big screen in this action-comedy-adventure from Matthew Vaughn (Stardust; Layer Cake). Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage star. (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
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET The inimitable Jackie Earl Haley takes over the role of Freddy “Scissorhands” Kruger, invader of teenage nightmares, in this revamp of the veteran horror series from music video director Samuel Bayer. Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara and Thomas Dekker co-star. (R) 102 minutes.
OCEANS This second event in the new Disneynature series of eco-documentaries explores the infinite varieties of marine life from the Asian Sea to the oceans off South Africa and South America, from the tropical coral reefs of Australia, to the frozen waterways of Alaska, and the Arctic. It’s a marvelous journey into a rarely-seen inner space that can be just as alien, otherworldly, and weirdly beautiful as anything out of science fiction. Jacques Perrin (Winged Migration) and Jacques Cluzaud direct. (G) 100 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
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. (R) 127 minutes. (★★★★) Greg Archer
THE SQUARE Film noir is alive and thriving in this edgy Australian thriller from the appropriately named Edgerton brothers, director Nash and co-writer/co-star Joel, whose raw, invigorating morality play captures the spirit of noir in all its gritty intensity. It’s a classic noir set-up: an adulterous affair, a bag of cash, an insistent dame, and one poor slob in way, way over his head. Twisty, smart, epic in its themes, but absolutely credible in its characterizations, this is the kind of fast and furious thrill ride Quentin Tarantino can only dream of making. (R) 101 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen