Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
Santa Cruz Film Festival runs through Sunday, May 15 See story and schedule >
NEW THIS WEEK
BABIES The first year in the lives of four infants from around the world (three girls from Tokyo, Namibia, and San Francisco, and a boy from Mongolia) is celebrated in this documentary by filmmaker Thomas Balmès. (★★★1/2) (PG) 79 minutes. Starts Friday.
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. Starts Friday.
IRON MAN 2 Robert Downey Jr. returns as billlionaire industrial inventor Tony Stark / Iron Man in this sequel to the popular franchise. This time, he’s trying to keep his flying armored suit technology out of the hands of the government while a foreign ne’er-do-well with an agenda (Mickey Rourke) develops copycat equipment with a few scary new advancements. Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Scarlett Johansson co-star. (PG-13) 124 minutes. Starts Friday.
THE SQUARE Reviewed this issue. (R) 101 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.
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: ZOOLANDER Ben Stiller directs and stars in this 2001comedy about an empty-headed male model who stumbles on the secret of why male models disappear at the age of 30. Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich and Jerry Stiller co-star. (PG-13) 89 minutes. 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: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S See Audrey Hepburn in one of her signature roles—lovable eccentric Holly Golightly—in this 1961 adaptation of a Truman Capote story. George Peppard is the perplexed, adoring young writer led on a merry chase all around New York City in this sophisticated comedy-drama from director Blake Edwards. (Not rated) 115 minutes. 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
CLASH OF THE TITANS In the beginning, there was the cult ’80s classic—cheesy, sure, but it worked. And now … this souless remake. (PG-13) 117 minutes. (★★) 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
DEATH AT A FUNERAL The offbeat Brit comedy about family secrets exposed during the catastrophe-prone funeral of the patriarch gets an African-American makeover. Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Columbus Short, Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana and Danny Glover have featured roles, but the irreplaceable Peter Dinklage reprises his pivotal role from the original. Neil LaBute directs. (R) 90 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)
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
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.
THE JONESES Filmmaker Derrick Borte takes on consumerism and its ruinous consequences. David Duchovny is extremely funny and Demi Moore sexy and driven as the heads of the coolest new family on the block with the coolest goodies that all their neighbors instantly covet. A shrewd satire. (R) 96 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen
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 SECRET OF KELLS Irish animator Tomm Moore delves into his own Celtic heritage with a poetic story of a boy in a medieval monastery who helps to save the gorgeous 9th Century illuminated manuscript known to history as “The Book of Kells.” Moore uses hand-drawn cel animation to replicate the craftsmanship of medieval books. His often ravishing artwork is inspired by the intricate patterns, vivid colors, and decorative details of Celtic design, abetted by his own highly stylized figure dawing and fanciful sense of whimsy. 75 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen
A TOWN CALLED PANIC Surrealism is taken to entertaining new heights of silliness in this French retro stop-motion animation oddity from Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar. It’s populated by clay characters made to look like kids’ plastic playset figures and given amusing Gallic personalities. The hapless Cowboy and Indian live with Horse (he’s the brains of the outfit) next door to hot-headed Farmer and his animals. Strange aquatic creatures climb out of the pond at night and lead the others on a ridiculous adventure from the depths of the sea to the polar ice caps. It’s hard to sustain this so-called plot throughout, but there’s something hilarious going on in just about every frame. Absurdism of the most cheerfully nutty kind. (Not rated) 75 minutes. In French with English subtitles. (★★★) Lisa Jensen.
THE WARLORDS Warriors in ancient, feudal Qing Dynasty China battle endlessly for survival in this epic historical drama from co-directors Peter Chen and Wai Man Yip. Jet Li stars as an Imperial General battling to bring peace to his people, whatever the cost, who becomes blood brothers with a pair of provincial warriors who are drawn into epic events. The magnetic Sino-Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers; Red Cliff) co-stars, along with genre veteran Andy Lau. (R) 126 minutes. In Mandarin with English subtitles.