New This Week
Denzel Washington stars in this thriller as an airline pilot hailed as a hero after landing his plane and saving his passengers after a mid-air catastrophe, but still trying to piece together what actually happened. Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and Don Cheadle co-star for director Robert Zemeckis. (R) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
Rookie filmmaker David France’s documentary looks at the early days of the AIDS crisis, and the activism of two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—in addressing and combating the disease, creating support for its victims, and applying political pressure to the science and healthcare industries for research and treatment. (Not rated) 120 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS
Music producer RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan) directs this adventure saga about a rogue British soldier and a band of warriors searching for a golden treasure in ancient China. Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Cung Lee, and RZA star. (R) 96 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
John Hawkes (Winters Bone) stars in his most sympathetic role yet, as a man in an iron lung who decides to lose his virginity at age 38—with the help of a compassionate sex therapist (Helen Hunt), and the blessing of his thoughtful priest (William H. Macy). Written and directed by Ben Lewin, from the autobiographical writings of journalist and poet Mark O’Brien. (R) 95 minutes. Special advance screening at the Nickelodeon, tonight only (Thursday, November 1), 7 p.m. Regular run starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
When a young woman decides to get sober, it puts a strain on her marriage to a fellow alcoholic in this dramatic comedy from filmmaker James Ponsoldt, a favorite at Sundance. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul play the conflicted couple; Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally co-star. (R) 85 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
In this CGI-animated Disney comedy, the designated villain in a popular video game decides he wants to be a good guy for a change, and embarks on a quest through all the games in the arcade to try to become a hero. John C. Reilly is the voice of Ralph; supporting voices are provided by Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, and Jack McBrayer. Rich Moore directs. (PG) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE It’s a new season for Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London, broadcasting highlights from its Fall 2012/Winter 2013 Season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. Live performances will be broadcast one Thursday evening a month, in the Grand Auditorium of the Del Mar, with encore performances the following Sunday morning. This week: TIMON OF ATHENS Simon Russell Beale has earned raves for his performance in this modern update of the Shakespeare tragedy about a wealthy man who squanders his own fortune keeping up with the rich and famous in sketchy business deals, then blames humanity for its foolishness and greed. Nicholas Hytner directs. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (November 1), 7:30 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (November 4), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13.
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: FALL ITALIAN FILM SERIES The Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz returns with its monthly series of Italian films (one Sunday a month) to promote Italian culture and language. The theme for the Fall season is “A Seventies Look at Italian Fascism.” This Week: THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS (IL GIARDINO DEI FINZI CONTINI) The ever-haunting Dominique Sanda and Helmut Berger star as the adult children of a wealthy Jewish family living in idyllic seclusion behind the walls of their rural Italian estate in the late1930s—even as Mussolini’s anti-Semitic forces are on the march, ravaging the countryside. Vittorio De Sica directed this lush 1970 drama, an Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film. (R) 94 minutes. (HHH) In Italian with English sub titles. Film professor and author Dr. William Park, will introduce the film and conduct an after-film Q&A. At Cabrillo College, VAPA Art History Forum Room 1001, Sunday only (Nov 4), 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: AMERICAN PSYCHO Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel about a fast-track young Wall Street hotshot moonlighting as a vicious serial killer in the urban jungle of ’80s New York gets the big screen treatment in this 2000 drama from Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol). Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto and Chloe Sevigny star. (NC-17) 102 minutes. 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: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE Stanley Kubrick’s cold, slick style drains the life out of Anthony Burgess’ dark novel of ideas; all that’s left is the ultra-violence, vividly portrayed, and Malcolm McDowell’s subversive charisma as a bowler-hatted, false eyelash-batting, sadistic young thug in a futuristic society, who’s forced to undergo extreme behavior modification. This is what passed for an X-rated film in 1971, since downgraded to an R. 137 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (November 1), 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.
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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.
Curtis Hanson (L. A. Confidential) and Michael Apted direct this winning tale, bringing the story of local surf legend Jay Moriarty to life. Jonny Weston plays Jay and Gerard Butler moprhs into his mentor, Frosty. boy who would be king of Mavericks. Take a life-building story filled with grief on both sides, mix in the right amount of teen angst and you find yourself in Chasing Mavericks, which also boasts a romantic storyline in which Jay meets his future wife Kim, all while learning the ropes to surf Mavericks. Sprinkle in the right amount of authenticity and you can see—perhaps feel—that Hollywood nailed it. Elisabeth Shue and Abigail Spencer co-star. (PG) (★★★1/2) —Danny Keith
CLOUD ATLASReviewed this issue. (R) 172 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.
Victoria Justice stars in this comedy about a high school senior who loses her little brother while out trick-or-treating on Halloween night and recruits a motley crew of friends to help her find him before her mom finds out. Chelsea Handler co-stars as her mother. Josh Schwartz directs. (PG-13)
HERE COMES THE BOOM
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
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
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.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
In the early 1970s, a soulful, funky-folk singer from Detroit called Rodriguez released two critically praised, but underperforming albums, then disappeared from sight. Presumed dead, his albums found a huge audience in South Africa, selling half a million copies and providing a soundtrack of toughness and survival for the last generation living under apartheid. Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul’s English-language doc explores the cult of Rodriguez with a tasty twist: the singer proves to be alive and well and ready at last to meet his enormous fan base. (PG) 86 minutes.
Irish playwright Martin McDonagh made a splash—albeit a bloody one—with his first feature, In Bruges. Now, he’s back with more boys behaving badly in this dark satire about an Irish filmmaker in Hollywood trying to write a new screenplay, whose nutball friends draw him into the real-life criminal underworld. Colin Farrell plays wide-eyed straight man to Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, and Christopher Walken (as the film’s tattered soul). The film-within-a-film format allows McDonagh to deconstruct the crime/buddy/gangster thriller, and point out all its clichés and weaknesses, while trading on them shamelessly. The degree of bloodletting is utterly absurdist, but the character comedy is still funny, even if it lacks the cohesion and moral force of In Bruges. (R) 105 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D
Six years after the first video game-based Silent Hill movie about a woman searching for her missing daughter in a weird, creepy town, another nightmare-haunted young woman finds herself drawn into the same alternate reality, searching for her father. Sean Bean and Radha Mitchell return from the first film; Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Malcolm McDowell, and Carrie-Anne Moss co-star for director Michael J. Bassett. (R) 94 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.
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.)
WAR OF THE BUTTONS
In occupied France during World War II, a boy who leads a gang of kids in a mock-war against their rivals in the next village comes of age when he falls in love with a Jewish girl and rallies the other neighborhood kids to help protect her from the Nazis. Guillaume Canet and Laetitia Casta head the adult cast. Christophe Barratier (Les Chorus) directs this French adaptation of the Louis Pergaud novel. (PG-13) 100 minutes. In French with English subtitles.