New This Week
Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks star in this suburban black comedy in which an invasion of pesky raccoons into the manicured back yard of a young couple sets off a chain reaction of infidelity, deviant behavior, and murder throughout the neighborhood. Laura Linney co-stars as an equally troublesome neighbor. Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek) directs. (R) 91 minutes. Starts Friday.
THE LONELIEST PLANET
Reviewed this issue. (Not rated) 113 minutes. (★★1/2) Starts Friday.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, this latest installment brings back Daniel Craig for his third go-round as 007, whose longstanding loyalty to spymaster, M (Judi Dench), is put to the test when secrets from her past threaten the entire operation. Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and Ben Whishaw co-star for incoming director Sam Mendes (American Beauty; Revolutionary Road). (PG-13) 143 minutes. Starts Friday.
CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAREclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. This week: THE CROW Brandon Lee’s memory is well served by the soulful charisma he brings to the resurrected avenger hero of this 1994 urban noir thriller. Based on the James O’Barr graphic novel, it’s short on plot, but long on gothic mood. Alex Proyas directs. (R) (★★★)—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 CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORYMichael Moore throws down the gauntlet in this excoriating 2009 doc that looks at the failing American financial system. He not only condemns banks and bailouts, but denounces capitalism itself as a cruel and inhuman business plan that should have no place in a free democracy. (R) 127 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (November 8), 9 p.m., at the Cinema 9.
CONTINUING SERIES: MOVIES AT THE MUSEUM: WEIRD SCIENCE The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History hosts a new eco-themed film series screening the second Friday of each month. This quarter (through December) the themes is “Weird Science.” Revisit some popular cult/horror movies, preceded by a brief, informal talk on the bizarre real-life facts behind the fiction. This week: SERENITY TV’s cult sci-fi fave, Firefly, got new life in this 2005 big screen version from Joss Whedon. After an intergalactic war, a former rebel leader and the crew aboard his ship, Serenity, survive by taking any job they can, while harrying the monolithic Alliance. (PG-13) 119 minutes. Topic: Space Junk: With Barry Grimm from the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club. The Serenity salvages and recycles space junk. We take a look at how the past fifty years of launching objects into space affects us today and in the near future. Friday only (Nov 9), 8 p.m. At the SC Natural History Museum, 3505 East Cliff Drive, SC. Donation suggested at the door.
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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ARGO 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.
CHASING MAVERICKS 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 ATLAS Asian and Caucasian, male and female, black and white actors switch roles throughout this ambitious, visionary saga of love, loss, greed, slavery, and redemption through the ages, co-written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. Based on the David Mitchell novel, it risks becoming a stunt movie, with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, and many others appearing in multiple roles. But the movie is rich enough in ideas, plot, characters, and themes to keep us engaged. Having the same actors play diverse roles across five centuries of civilization also enhances the central motif of humanity facing the same moral, romantic and political issues in every era, where, as one character says, “the smallest crime or kindness” can have unknowable repercussions over time. Overwrought at times, yet strangely entertaining. (R) 172 minutes. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.
FLIGHT Robert Zemeckis.directs an emotionally charged film headlined by Denzel Washington as an alcoholic pilot whose heroic efforts save the lives of passengers in a mid-air catastrophe. But did his drinking and drug use cause the crash? Unlikely. What makes Flight work so well is the fine balance Zemekis executes in a script that has just the right amount of levity as it ultimately unravels into a story of unrelenting addiction and the painful road to redemption. Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and Don Cheadle co-star (R) (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer
FUN SIZE 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)
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.
LOOPER 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
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 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.
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.
THE SESSIONS John Hawkes (Winters Bone) may just get an Oscar nomination for his role here, playing a disabled man who turns to a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt in a stellar role) to lose his virginity—at age 38. Based on the autobiographical writings of journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, the film has equal parts depth and intrigue and the script, penned by director Ben Lewin, is one of the finest to emerge out of Hollywood in quite some time. Tender and heartfelt, deep and emotional, this passionate tale commands your attention. William H. Macy (as a supportive priest) co-stars. Written and directed by Ben Lewin. (R) 95 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS 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.
SINISTER 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.
SMASHED 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.
WRECK-IT RALPH 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)