Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 18

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New This Week

film alexcrossALEX CROSS
Tyler Perry ditches Madea’s housecoat and inherits the role of the Washnighton DC detective hero of James Patterson’s long-running mystery novel series (previously played onscreen by Morgan Freeman). In this one, Cross tracks a serial killer whose crimes affect him personally. Rachel Nichols, Matthew Fox, Jean Reno, and Edward Burns co-star for director Rob Cohen. (PG-13) 101 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

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More spooky, shaky-cam doings in a demon-haunted house. Katie Featherstone, Kathryn Newton, and Matt Shively star; Henry Joost and Ariel Schuman direct. 95 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>






Film Events

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: THE SHINING “He-e-e-ere’s Johnny!” cackles Jack Nicholson as he slices an axe through a door to terrorize wife Shelley Duvall in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psycho-horror thriller based on the Stephen King novel. Kubrick telegraphs all his biggest shocks over an excruciating two-and-a-half hour length, but still, a classic for Nicholson fans. (R) 146 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

CONTINUING SERIES: FLASHBACK FEATURES Oldies and goodies on Thursday nights at the Cinema 9, presented by your genial host, Joe Ferrara. $5 gets you in. This week: AMERICAN BEAUTY Kevin Spacey is fun as a hapless corporate drone liberating himself from the mundane in Sam Mendes absurdist 1999 satire of suburban life. But the movie is never profound, merely sarcastic, cartoony, facile, and overly smug about the pathetic lives onscreen. (R) 122 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (October 18), 9 p.m., at the Cinema 9.

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.

Movie Times click here.

Now Playing

Richard Gere stars in this suspense thriller as a financial wheeler-dealer in way over his head trying to unload his business, conceal his infidelity from his wife, and cover up an inconvenient crime before his empire comes crashing down. Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, and Tim Roth co-star for writer-turned-director Nicholas Jarecki. (R) 100 minutes.

Quite simply one of the best films of the year. Argo surpassses expectations and manages to do the unlikely job of morphing into both a political thriller and social commentary—and one that is oftentimes humorous. While most of the applause should go to Ben Affleck, who stars and directs this wonderfully executed fact-based tale about a covert CIA operation to rescue six fugitive American in Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, the screenplay pops. Everything from the dialogue to the pacing is simply pitch perfect. Written by Chris Terrio, based on a selection from “The Master of Disguise” by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman, this is one film you should not miss. Watch how well both the screenwriter and Affleck draw us deep within the tale as the story chronicles the aftermath of Iranian militants seizing the U. S. embassy, taking 52 members of the U. S. diplomatic corps hostage. Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin may get Oscar noms for supporting roles. (R) 120 minutes. (★★★★)—Greg Archer.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star as LAPD partners, patrolling the men streets of South Central Los Angeles in this gritty slice-of-life cop drama that plunges the viewer into the midst of the action via surveillance cameras, video footage, and various other hand-held devices. Anna Kendrick and America Ferrera co-star for director David Ayer (Training Day). (R) 109 minutes.

If you love dogs, you’ll love Tim Burton’s homage to James Whale’s horror classic about a boy and his (recently deceased) dog. When sweet, loyal Sparky gets hit by a car, young Victor sews him up and reanimates him in his attic lab. Burton revinvents a short he made back in film school as a black-and-white, 3D, stop-motion animated feature full of monster movie in-jokes, funny gags, and genuine resonance about the bond between peoole and their beloved pets. Deliciously clever, from a classroom of junior monster movie stereotypes to the tombstones in the pet cemetery, to a finale featuring an enlarged and reanimated Turtle-zilla. (PG) 87 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

Kevin James stars in this comedy as a onetime college wrestler, now a biology teacher in an underfunded high school, who starts moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter to earn money for the school’s imperiled music program. Henry Winkler and Salma Hayek co-star for director Frank Coraci. (PG) 105 minutes.

It’s a monster’s ball in this animated family comedy about a plush resort run by Count Dracula where monsters can get away from pesky humans and relax. But trouble brews when an ordinary guy accidentally comes across the hotel and falls for the count’s daughter. Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, and Steve Buscemi head the voice cast. Genndy Tartakovsky directs. (PG) 92 minutes.

While it seems to have its own wildly original vitality at first, it’s soon clear that filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson is relying on powerhouse acting to distract the audience away from the lack of substance or meaning or plot in his script. Alcoholic postwar lost soul Joaquin Phoenix and imperious nutball cult leader Philip Seymour Hoffman spend over two hours engaged in a bizarre danse macabre that fails to drive the movie anywhere. (Only Jonny Greenwood’s jittery, propulsive music provides an illusion of dramatic intensity.) Once they meet, that’s it for story development. The rest is skilful tracking shots, elaborate vistas (in 70mm), and improbable details, all adding up to not much. (R) 137 minutes. (★★) Lisa Jensen

Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues do no wrong in the roles he takes on lately. In this futuristic time-warp thriller he morphs into a hitmam for the mob. His job: eliminate “Loopers” like himself when their allotted time comes to an end and they must be sent back in time to get murdered. (His next target is himself, which sends the plot sailing in wild directions, of course.) It does bring up the question: Why not just eliminate the Loopers in the future instead of sending them back in time? (Time travel is such a bitch, anyway.) There would be no reason to watch this mindbending and, at times, gripping caper if the plot unfolded that way. But for all of its loopy plot points, the film can’t keep you stimulated or invested all of the time. Best bets: the acting, surprisingly. Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels co-star for director Rian Johnson (Brick). That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film develops a cult following. (R) 108 minutes. 137 minutes. (★★1/2) —Greg Archer

This could be Wes Anderson’s (Rushmore; Fantastic Mr. Fox) to date. it’s a quriky little love story revolving around two 12-year-olds and boy, does it have a lot of heart. Set in 1965 in a sleepy New England coastal community, the two young ones run off together. Meanwhile, the entire town is tossed into an upheaval trying to find them. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman all co-star. Willis plays the island cop; Norton a troubled scout master and Murray/McDormand the young girl’s mother. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward so beautifully inhabit their roles that you don’t want them to leave the screen. Anderson also co-wrote this outing, which, could turn into one of the summer’s more memorable offerings. (PG-13) 97 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

In this Southern gothic film noir from director Le Daniels (Precious), investigative reporter Matthew McConaughey dives into the psychic swamp of 1960 South Florida to try to prove a Death Row inmate (John Cusack) innocent of murder. Heating up the action are Zac Efron as the reporter’s kid brother, and Nicole Kidman as a bombshell with a thing for prisoners. (R) 106 minutes.

Anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider in high school can relate to Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own YA novel sensation about a troubled teen entering his freshman year desperately searching for someone to connect with before his internal demons swallow him up. Given some dark themes, the tone is surprisingly benign through most of the picaresque vignettes that make up the storyline, buoyed by solid performances from protagonist Logan Lerman and co-star Emma Watson. But Ezra Miller steals the movie as Lerman’s irreverent, gay mentor and friend. (PG-13) 103 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

Ron Fricke and filmmaking partner Mark Magidson (Baraka) are back with another breathtaking, if at times uneven visual tone poem on who we are and how we live in the world. Shot over five years, in twenty-five countries on five separate continents, it was also shot entirely on 70 mm film, which means the images are captured with astonishing clarity, color, and nuance. As long as Fricke sticks to the natural world—steaming volcanoes, vast drifting deserts of sand or canyons of snow—or contemplates the inanimate majesty of, say, ancient ruins, his results are literally awesome. It’s only when he succumbs to the urge to over-editorialize his images (either with staged sequences or obvious juxtapositions) that the movie’s spell is broken. (PG-13) 102 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

Martin McDonagh won a well-deserved screenplay Oscar in 2008 for his scathingly funny, fiercely moral In Bruges. Now he’s back with more boys behaving badly in this dark comedy about a struggling Hollywood screenwriter (Colin Farrell) drawn unwillingly into the LA criminal underground after his nutball buddies (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell) steal a mobster’s prize Shih-Tzu. Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, and Olga Kurylenko co-star. (R) 105 minutes.

Ethan Hawke stars as a true-crime novelist trying to solve the mystery of how and why a family was murdered in his new home—before his family suffers the same fate—in this supernatural horror thriller. Juliet Rylance and Fred Dalton Thompson co-star for director Scott Derrickson (The Day The Earth Stood Still). (R) 110 minutes.

Real-life stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia co-wrote, co-directed and stars in this inventive narrative comedy about an aspiring stand-up comic who also—you guessed it—sleepwalks thanks to a sleep disorder. But there’s so much more to this amusing tale than that as he comes to term with what direction to take his life—on all levels. Lauren Ambrose also stars,. while battling an increasingly intrusive—and metaphorical—sleep disorder. (Not rated) 90 minutes (★★★) —Greg Archer

Liam Neeson returns as the unstoppable ex-CIA op getting into yet more trouble abroad; this time, he and his wife are abducted by the father of one of the kidnappers he killed while tracking down his daughter in Paris. Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and Rade Serbedzija star for director Olivier Megaton. (PG-13) 91 minutes.)

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