New This Week
Anthony Hopkins tries on the famous voice and silhouette of the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, and Helen Mirren co-stars as his wife and creative partner, Alma Reville, in this lightly dramatized behind-the-scenes account of the filming of Hitchcock’s groundbreaking shocker, Psycho. Scarlett Johansson co-stars as actress Janet Leigh, the girl in the shower. Sacha Gervasi directs. (PG-13) 98 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
LAY THE FAVORITE
Bruce Willis stars as a professional sports gambler who falls for much-younger Vegas cocktail waitress, Rebecca Hall, when she proves to be a gambling prodigy. Catherine Zeta-Jones (as Willis’ exasperated wife), and Vince Vaughn co-star in this offbeat comedy from veteran director Stephen Frears (The Queen). (R) 94 minutes. Watch film trailer >>>
PLAYING FOR KEEPS
Gerard Butler ditches his Chasing Mavericks wetsuit for cleats in this romantic comedy.. (PG-13) 106 minutes. Watch film trailer >>>
A generation of women swore off taking showers thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful 1960 shocker, a shrewd, sophisticated, scary as hell, yet relatively bloodless forerunner of the slasher movie. Anthony Perkins gives a devastating tragi-comic performance as iconic, Mom-pecked Norman Bates. (R) 109 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen. At the Del Mar, Saturday only, 11 a.m. (Admission: $6.50, or free with ticket stub or advanced ticket purchase to Hitchcock.) Watch film trailer >>>
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: BARRYMORE Christopher Plummer pulls out all the stops in this bravura one-man show, playing legendary matinee idol and alcoholic John Barrymore at the end of his career. In William Luce’s 1997 play, Barrymore stalks the empty stage at a majestic theatre he’s rented out to rehearse for a one-night production of Richard III he hopes will revive his career, reviewing his life, legend, love affairs, and scandals along the way. Erik Canuel directs Plummer’s performance at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, filmed at the end of the play’s successful stage run. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (Dec 6), 7:30- p.m. Encore performance Sunday only, (Dec 9), 11 a.m.
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 this season is “A Seventies Look at Italian Fascism.” This Week: THE CONFORMIST (IL CONFORMISTA) Two years before his Last Tango In Paris stunned the world, filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci burst onto the international film scene with this lush, layered 1970 epic drama of Fascist Italy. Jean-Louis Trintignant stars as a cowardly aristocrat so desperate to fit in with Mussolini’s ruling party that he gets involved in an assassination plot against a leftist leader—and falls for the intended victim’s beautiful wife (Dominique Sanda). Moral, political, and sexual chaos ensue. (R) 107 minutes. 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 (December 9), 7 pm. Free.
CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAREclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. This week: GREMLINS . (PG) 106 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.
CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES This informal movie discussion group meets at the Del Mar mezzanine in downtown Santa Cruz. at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit www.ltatm.org.
Movie Times click here.
ANNA KARENINA Reviewed this issue. (R) 130 minutes. (★★1/2)
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. 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. (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
KILLING THEM SOFTLY Brad Pitt goes grunge to star in this crime thriller as a professional hit man hired by a local mob boss to track down and eliminate three dimbulbs who stole money at a Mob-protected card game. Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, and Ray Liotta co-star for director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). (R) 97 minutes.
LIFE OF PI Yann Martel’s bestselling novel about a teenage boy and a Bengal tiger shipwrecked together in a small lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific becomes a magnificent-looking film by director Ang Lee. With careful attention to Martel’s core theme—the search for God (in whatever guise) through astounding adversity—Lee turns the material into a visually rapturous and ecstatic spiritual journey that’s also a breathtaking adventure saga. Newcomer Suraj Sharma is terrific as the resourceful boy, and despite a bit too much talky theology in the bracketing story, cinematographer Claudio Miranda’s stunning visuals make for a hypnotic film experience. (PG) 127 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
LINCOLN The beauty, and genius, of Steven Spielberg’s massive Civil War-era epic is the way it defies analogy to any specific statesman, party, or era, providing a cogent glimpse into the American political process itself, a view into the contentious state of American democracy, then as now, as timeless as it is fascinating. But the film’s greatness comes from Daniel Day-Lewis’ extraordinary performance in the title role, no ordinary statesman, but a moral visionary who musters the courage to prevail against impossible odds for the good of the nation. Hal Holbrook, Sally Field, David Strathairn and a delicious Tommy Lee Jones lead a sterling supporting cast, but Day-Lewis provides the film’s heart and soul. His Lincoln is savvy enough to wield great power, yet never loses the common touch, and Spielberg and company impress us with what a rare and laudable gift that is. (PG-13) 150 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
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.
RED DAWN A young Marine, just back from Iraq, his teenage brother and their pals defend their hometown, Spokane, against a sneak attack by North Koreans in this action movie reboot. ( PG-13) 114 minutes.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS When an evil genius plots against humankind, it’s up to a brotherhood of legendary heroes—Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost—to save the day, in this CGI family comedy. (PG) 97 minutes.
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
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK Bradley Cooper stars in this dramatic comedy as an unstable former teacher, recently released from a sojourn in an institution and trying to get a grip on his life again, who meets a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) as off-the-wall as he is. Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver play his long-suffering but supportive parents; Chris Tucker co-stars for director David O. Russell (The Fighter). (R) 122 minutes.
SKYFALL A dynamic performance from Daniel Craig, and sterling work from incoming director Sam Mendes conspire to make this one of the best James Bond films ever. This is a more vulnerable Bond, a man who has himself been shaken and stirred a few too many times and is no longer in peak condition, a man who’s begun to question if its all worthwhile. Yet he’s also a reinvented, revitalized Bond who puts the series right back in the game. Factor in a mesmerizing performance of grinning dementia from the great Javier Bardem as the chief villain, and you’ve got a ripping E-Ticket of a movie that pretty much never lets up. (PG-13) 143 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Lisa Jensen.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN— PART 2 Twihards should reslish this fitting conclusion to the film franchise. Ironically, Kristen Stewart—as newly turned vamp Bella—has never looked and acted more alive.. (PG-13) 115 minutes. (★★1/2)—Greg Archer.
WRECK-IT RALPH This CGI-animated Disney comedy is one of the year’s most refreshing surprises—and a downright hoot to boot. Clever writing, a tight script and some brilliant CGI all merge together nicely here in a story the chronicles a villain in a popular video game who decides he wants to chuck convention, go against the grain and be something other than what he was programmed to be. Adults may see the metaphor and symbolism throughtout. John C. Reilly is the voice of Ralph. Strong supporting players include Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, and Jack McBrayer. Rich Moore directs this charming video game-themed delight. (PG) (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer