New This Week
Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe star in this crime thriller about an ex-cop hired to tail the high-profile wife of the mayor of New York City, only to find himself embroiled in corruption, scandal and murder. Catherine Zeta-Jones , Jeffery Wright, and Kyle Chandler co-star; Allen Hughes (one half of the Hughes Brothers) goes solo in the director’s seat. (R) 109 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE LAST STAND
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to action movie mode with a vengeance as a small-time sheriff in a desert border town who’s the last obstacle between an escaping drug cartel overlord and asylum in Mexico. Eduardo Noreiga, Forest Whitaker, Rodrigo Santoro and Johnny Knoxville co-star for Korean director Kim Jee-Woon. (R) 107 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
In this Sundance favorite, an 11-year-old inner city youth who idolizes his cool, ex-con uncle, spends a day with his mentor, trying to come to terms with what sort of man he wants to become. Common and newcomer Michael Rainey Jr. star for director Sheldon Candis. Dennis Haysbert and Danny Glover co-star. (R) 94 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
After disappearing for five years, two little orphaned sisters are found alive and relocated to the home of their uncle and his girlfriend—who begins to suspect they’ve invited another, unseen presence into their home.Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau star in this supernatural thriller from director Andy Muschietti, executive-produced by Guillermo del Toro. (PG-13) 100 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
RUST AND BONE
French filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s last film, the stylish, yet brutal A Prophet, was nominated for a Foreign Language Academy Award. This follow-up is an unorthodox romantic drama in which a Belgian man (Matthias Schoenaerts) relocates to the French coastal resort town of Antibes to live with his sister and brother-in-law while raising his young son. Marion Cotillard is the woman with whom he begins to bond, a whale trainer in a marine park exhibition. (R) 120 minutes. In French with English subtitles. 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: THE MAGISTRATE John Lithgow stars in Arthur Wing Pinero’s knockabout farce set in the Victorian era about a London society lady going to ever more outrageous comic extremes to keep the truth of her past away from her new police magistrate husband. Nancy Carroll and Joshua McGuire co-star; Timothy Sheader directs. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (January 17), 7:30 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (January 20), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13.
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: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg’s deliriously action-packed 1981 pulp adventure stars Harrison Ford in his first appearance as globe-trotting archaeologist Indiana Jones. (PG) 115 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen. Tonight (Thursday, January 17) only, 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 It nabbed top honors at the Golden Globes—a good thing, considering director Ben Affleck was overlooked for an Oscar nom.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 Affleck, who stars and directs this wonderfully executed fact-based tale about a covert CIA operation to rescue six fugitive Americans 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. (HHHH)—Greg Archer.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY IN 3D The famed international live-performance sensation comes to the big screen in immersive 3D technology, thanks to visionary co-producer James Cameron and imaginative wrier-director Andrew Adamson (Shrek; The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). A separated young couple must journey through the fantastical aerial, underwater, dance and comic realms of Cirque du Soleil to find each other again. (Not rated.) 91 minutes.
DJANGO UNCHAINED Raw, raunchy and rowdy,. Quentin Tarantino returns. There’s violence—a lot of it—and plenty of humor set against a backdrop of pre-Civil War- era America. Jamie Foxx—brilliant—stars as an ex-slave-turned-bounty hunter, who’s out to free his wife (Kerry Washington) from the nasty plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) who bought her. DiCaprio shines here, but it’s Christoph Waltz who manages to steal as many scenes as Samuel L. Jackson—Jackson delivers another career-defining performance as the major-domo to DiCaprio’s slick plantation boss. Jonah Hill, Don Johnson and Bruce Dern make brief but memorable turns, and the scene involving a KKK round-up is truly some of the best conceptualized work Tarantino has offered in some time. In fact, this is the writer-director’s best outing since Jackie Brown. Rated R. 165 minutes. (HHH1/2) —Greg Archer
GANGSTER SQUAD Sean Penn stars as Brooklyn-born mobster Mickey Cohen, running amok in 1949 Los Angeles, and Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling are the LAPD outsiders who team up to stop him in this fact-based crime melodrama from director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland). Emma Stone and Giovanni Ribisi co-star. (R) 113 minutes.
A HAUNTED HOUSE Marlon Wayans co-wrote and stars in this Paranormal Activity satire about a couple who move into a haunted house, whose unnatural denizens soon possess the wife (Essence Atkins). Nick Swarsdon and Cedric the Entertainer co-star for director Michael Tiddes. (R)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY The much-anticipated prequel to the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy has its moments. But ultimately, The Hobbit suffers from the one thing that made LOTR so embraceable: heart. Martin Freeman is a suitable Bilbo Baggins, but the script doesn’t quite offer enough moments to really warm up to the character as easily as we did with Frodo (Elijah Wood) in LOTR. The same applies to Richard Armitage’s Thorin, the chief dwarf leading a posse of his own kind to reclaim their home in The Loney Mountain in Middle Earth. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf and his presence grounds the film. Cate Blanchett also has an extended cameo. There’s plenty of spectacle—Orc battles, wizard magic, lush landscapes—but the film suffers by not establishing more clearly the characters’ central mission or what’s at stake if that mission doesn’t get fulfilled. Still, it’s hard to resist director Peter Jackson’s visual masterpiece. You just walk away wishing you connected to the characters more. PG-13. 170 minutes. (HH1/2)—Greg Archer.
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt? It works. This fictionalized account of a weekend in 1939 when FDR invites the visiting King and Queen of England to his country home in upstate New York, costars the resilient Laura Linney (as FDR’s neighbor and mistress). The premise revolves around the arrival of The Royals, who seek U.S. support for their upcoming war. The film manages to maneuver through the complexities of the Roosevelt household—from his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams in fine form) and outspoken mother (Elizabeth Wilson). The film could have benefited from another 15 minutes, but overall, director Roger Michell (Persuasion; Notting Hill) evokes enough emotion here for audiences to remain invested in his characters. (R) 95 minutes. (HHH) —Greg Archer
THE IMPOSSIBLE Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona’s intense drama is based on one family’s true story of survival in the wake of the ferocious Asian Pacific tsunami of December, 2004. It plunges the viewer smack in the middle of utter chaos when a rogue wall of water rises up out of nowhere and turns a beachfront resort in Thailand into a churning, muddy apocalypse of water. Oscar nominee Naomi Watts (in an incredibly physical performance) and Ewan McGregor are deeply affecting, and young Tom Holland is terrific as the eldest of three boys as the family struggles to find each other while navigating a harrowing milieu of loss and displacement. (PG-13) 114 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.
JACK REACHER Oh, Tom Cruise, you have what it takes, but you were given a script that seemed to come out of the vault of ’80s TV. Cruise plays—or, rather, perfectly, “underplays”—an ex-military investigator here, a character from Lee Child’s bestselling mystery thriller series. He sets out to find the truth beneath a seemingly open-and-shut mass killing. Rosamund Pike is the best thing in the film, playing an attorney, aiding Cruise’s Reacher. Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog and Robert Duvall co-star. Christopher McQuarrie (Valkyrie) directs. (PG-13) 130 minutes. (HH1/2) —Greg Archer
LES MISÉRABLES Can it really be as awful—or as great—as everybody says? Yes and no.The Golden Globe winner gives us Hugh Jackman in a towering performance as Jean Valjean, singing with clarity and gusto, giving the movie a pulse. Anne Hathaway is a raw and heartbreaking Fantine; her ragged “I Dreamed A Dream” is the film’s one great song. Also good is—yes—Russell Crowe, whose workmanlike singing voice is exactly right for rough-hewn Inspector Javert. But the operetta-style, exposition-heavy music is difficult to sing or remember, and for all director Tom Hooper’s clever filming tricks and techniques, he can’t sustain a level of engagement for the film’s entire exhausting length. (PG-13) 157 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
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. (HHH1/2)—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.
NOT FADE AWAY David Chase, longtime veteran of TV’s The Sopranos, plunders his own youth in this tale of a bunch of teens in New Jersey during the 1960s chasing the rock ‘n’ roll dream by starting their own band. John Magaro, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, and James Gandolfini star. (R) 112 minutes.
PROMISED LAND Corporate greed and environmental urgency collide in this new drama from Gus Van Sant. Matt Damon and John Krasinski wrote the script in which they star as a hotshot oil company salesman and a slick environmental activist embroiled in a battle to woo the citizens of a dying rural town over the issue of selling drilling rights to their land. Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, and Rosemarie DeWitt co-star. (R) 106 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 … methinks 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. (HHH) 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 it’s 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. (HHH1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D Not a sequel, exactly, of the oft-remade, updated and reimagined horror gore-fest, this new version purports to explore what happens in town after the initial killing spree when an innocent young woman arrives to claim a family inheritance. Alexandra Daddario, Tania Raymonde, and Scott Eastwood star for director John Luessenhop. (R) 92 minutes.