New This Week
Fasten your seatbelts for this experiment in surrealism from ever-iconoclastic French filmmaker Leos Carax. Such story as there is revolves around a shapeshifting character (Denis Lavant) drifting through Paris in the wee small hours, inhabiting nine separate personas along the way—banker, father, musician, assassin, etc. Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue have featured roles. (Not rated) 115 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
A LATE QUARTET
Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Catherine Keener star as members of a long-running New York City-based string quartet that begins to fray around the edges when one member announces his impending retirement, and long-held secrets, resentments, and revelations begin bubbling to the surface. Yaron Zilberman directs. (R) 105 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Daniel Day Lewis goes after his third Oscar as one of America’s most beloved and reviled presidents, Abraham Lincoln, in the last turbulent months of his life, negotiating to both end the Civil War, and abolish slavery. Impeccable credentials include Steven Spielberg at the helm, directing a script by Tony Kushner (Angels In America), based on the non-fiction book by savvy observer Doris Kearns Goodwin. The all-star cast includes Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, and James Spader. (PG-13) 120 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN— PART 2
The vampire/werewolf/teen romance saga finally runs its course with this adaptation of the second half of the final book in Stephanie Meyers’ series, in which Bella and Edward’s rapidly growing young daughter is marked for death by the rival Volturi clan. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner star again for director Bill Condon. (PG-13) 115 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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: MARS ATTACKS! Maybe half of Tim Burton’s gruesomely silly 1996 sci-fi comedy—the half with the low-tech Martians in it—is delicious, subversive fun. But the hackneyed human characters, hokey gags, and corny dialogue don’t satirize the stupidity of genre clichés; they achieve it. Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close lead the cast of guest stars stranded with nothing funny to do. (PG-13) 106 minutes. (HH1/2)—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: STAND BY ME River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman star as best pals who stumble over their small town’s guilty secret and have to grow up fast during one life-altering weekend in 1959. Rob Reiner directs this 1986 drama from one of Stephen King’s non-horror short stories. (R) 97 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (November 15), 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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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.
THE DETAILS 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.
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.
THE LONELIEST PLANET Audacious in design and intent, Julia Loktev’s exercise in narrative and emotional minimalism starts out like an adventure about a young couple (Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) on a backpacking holiday across the vast and splendid Caucasus Mountains in Russian Georgia. But Loktev uses her enormous canvas to zero in on the psychology of inner space when a brief, but oh-so-telling incident occurs that changes everything. But as dramatic as that moment is, it’s a story that could best be told in about 30 minutes. Stretching it out to feature length implies a degree of universality that the sketchiness of the characters and our surface involvement with them never warrants. (Not rated) 113 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
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 WALLFLOWERAnyone 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.
SKYFALL Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 143 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
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)