New This Week
THE GUILT TRIP
Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand star in this comedy about a guy embarking on a cross-country road trip who’s finagled into taking his demanding mother along for the ride. Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses; The Proposal) directs. (PG-13) Starts Wednesday (Dec 19). Watch film trailer >>>
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Reviewed this issue.) PG-13. 170 minutes. Starts Friday.
SPECIAL HOLIDAY EVENT THIS WEEK: FINDING NEMO 3DIt’s a 3D makeover for Pixar’s 2003 animated hit, a gorgeous and funny underwater fantasy about a timid daddy clownfish (voice of Albert Brooks) searching for his missing son in and around Australia’s spectacular Great Barrier Reef. (G) 100 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. At the Del Mar, Saturday only, 10 a.m. This is a benefit for the Second Harvest Food Bank; admission free with non-perishable food donation.
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 THIN MAN The famed Dashiell Hammett detective novel comes to the screen in this fine 1934 adaptation from director W. S. Van Dyke. Part mystery, part screwball comedy, it’s as famous for the sophisticated bantering of stars William Powell and Myrna Loy (playing Nick and Nora Charles, characters loosely patterned on Hammett himself and longtime companion Lillian Hellman) as for its fast-paced, intricate private eye action. Terrific fun. (Not rated) 93 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.
CONTINUING SERIES: MOVIES AT THE MUSEUM: WEIRD SCIENCE The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History continues its 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: TROLLHUNTER Forget those cute little frizzy-haired dolls. The creatures of Nordic legend are all too real—and really big—in this shoestring 2011 Norwegian horror thriller about a bunch of film students who set out to capture one on film (Blair Witch-style). Andre Ovredal directs. (Not rated) 90 minutes. In Norwegian with English subtitles. Topic: The Local Search for Bigfoot in our own Santa Cruz Mountains. With Mike Rugg from the Felton Bigfoot Discovery Museum. Friday only, 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.
Movie Times click here.
ANNA KARENINAIn this luscious, epic misfire of a movie, Joe Wright has an audacious idea for adapting Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel about an illicit love affair and its consequences in glittering Imperial Russian society: he stages almost the entire drama within the confines of an enormous theater set. This highlights the idea that St. Petersburg society is itself a kind of grand, public stage, its players on display before an audience of unforgiving viewers ready to pounce on anyone who doesn’t act her assigned role to perfection. But the constant artifice of everything leeches the emotion out of the story; the drama feels as counterfeit, unreal, as everything else. Keira Knightley also feels too young, shallow, and modern in the title role; her entire arsenal of pouts and nervous grins never suggest the depth of feeling Anna must experience to make us care. (R) 130 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
ARGOQuite 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
HITCHCOCK Reviewed online at gtweekly.com. (PG-13) 98 minutes. (★★★)
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. (HHH1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS Gerard Butler ditches his Chasing Mavericks wetsuit for cleats in this romantic comedy about a former football star who tries to get a grip on his life and find redeem his unsavory past by coaching his son’s school soccer team. Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid, and Catherine Zeta-Jones co-star for director Gabriele Muccino (Seven Pounds). (PG-13) 106 minutes. 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.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK Oh, Bradley Cooper … me thinks you may be miscast here, but somehow this dramatic comedy works. Cooper morphs into an unstable former teacher, recently released from an institution after a bad break-up from his wife. He meets a young gal (Jennifer Lawrence, who can do no wrong these days) who is just as quirky as he is. Love, intimacy and moving on are the themes. If only Cooper—or is it his character?—weren’t so grating on the nerves. Cooper lacks believability here and you get the sense he was handed the script as a means to make a quirky Bradley Cooper caper. David O. Russell (The Fighter) directs. (R) 122 minutes. (★★★) Greg Archer
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