Movies & Film Events: Week of Nov. 4th

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Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.



DUE DATE Robert Downey Jr. plays an expectant father trying to get home in time for the birth of his first child, and Zach Galifianakis is the loose-cannon nutjob with whom he’s forced to spend a cross-country road trip in this comedy from director Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, and Jamie Foxx co-star. (R) 95 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>


ENTER THE VOID Expect the unimaginable from edgy filmmaker Gaspar Noé (Irresversible). Set in the red-light district of Tokyo, this experimental thriller that Noé calls his “psychedelic melodrama” occurs in the shadowlands between hallucination and reality, criminal and lawful, life and death. It’s shot entirely from the subjective viewpoint of a transplanted western teenager (Nathaniel Brown) who starts making a good living selling drugs, and sends for his sister (Paz de la Huerta) to join him. The orphan siblings and the audience are asked to navigate not only the netherworld of sex, drugs, and violence, but ponder the portals between this life and what lies beyond. (Not rated) 160 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>


INSIDE JOB Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 110 minutes. (★★★1/2) Starts Friday.


MEGAMIND In this animated 3-D comedy from DreamWorks, when a superhero (voice of Brad Pitt) hangs up his cape, it’s up to his longtime adversary, scheming villain Megamind (voice of Will Ferrell) to save the city from an even more diabolical evildoer. Tina Fey and Jonah Hill also contribute voices. (PG) 96 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>


MORNING GLORY Rachel McAdams stars in this romantic comedy as a plucky young TV producer attempting to revive the lowest-rated national morning show by teaming up a veteran hard-news anchor (Harrison Ford) with the show’s perky, fluff-journalist host (Diane Keaton). Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum co-star for director Roger Michell (Notting Hill). (PG-13) 107 minutes. Starts Wednesday (Nov 10). Watch film trailer >>>


STONE Robert DeNiro plays a parole officer looking forward to retirement, and Edward Norton is a wily convicted murderer coming up for a parole hearing who needs to convince him he’s reformed in this drama of passion and betrayal, crime and punishment. Frances Conroy and Milla Jovovich co-star as the women in their lives. John Curran directs. (R) 105 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>> 


Film Events
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: ED WOOD Any hack in Hollywood could make a campy satire out of the story of fringe ’50s moviemaker Edward D. Wood. But only Tim Burton could infuse it with so much loony good cheer, and only Johnny Depp could play Wood with such delirious brio, inspiring his inept, misfit stock players and crew with his own unquenchable optimisim—in the absence of either money or talent. Made in 1994, and shot in vintage black-and-white, it earned Martin Landau an Oscar for his wry humor and battered dignity as forgotten horror star Bela Lugosi. (★★★1/2) (R) 127 minutes. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

CONTINUING SERIES: WEEKEND  MATINEE CLASSICS AT APTOS CINEMA If you’ve only ever seen them on TV, don’t miss this series of classic movie matinees unspooling each weekend at Aptos Cinema. This week: IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD Everyone from Spencer Tracy to Zasu Pitts to Ethel Merman, along with every comic in Hollywood still breathing at the time (Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney, etc, etc) stars in Stanley Kramer’s enormous, 1963 gag fest about a suitcase full of loot and the legions in hot pursuit across the state of California. (Not rated) 192 minutes—Lisa Jensen. (Sat-Sun matinee only, 11 a.m. Admission $6. At Aptos Cinema.

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: THE NEVERENDING STORY Gothic German 1984 fantasy from Wolfgang Petersen with the dark, brooding visual quality of old storybook illustrations from the Brothers Grimm. Metaphysical approach makes for some heavy-handed philosophizing, but there are some wonderful creatures and adventures along the way. (PG) 92 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Tonight (Thursday) only, 8 p.m., at the Cinema 9.

CONTINUING SERIES: THE MET: LIVE IN HD AT THE CINEMA 9 Encore: BORIS GUDONOV René Pape sings the lead in this new Stephen Wadsworth production of Mussorgsky’s epic Russian saga. Valery Gergiev conducts. At the Cinema 9, Wednesday, Nov 10, 6:30 pm.

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.

Now Playing

CONVICTION Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell act their hearts out in this true story of Betty Anne Waters and her brother Kenny:  she’s a high school dropout who puts herself through law school to free him from a life sentence in prison for a murder she’s sure he didn’t commit. Minnie Driver is wonderful as  wisecracking fellow law student. Tony Goldwyn directs at a brisk pace in this humane, unsurprising, but satisfying drama. (R) 107 minutes. (★★★)
Lisa Jensen

HEREAFTER Three poignant stories converge in Clint Eastwood’s thoughtful and absorbing meditation on life, death, and what may follow. With a solid script by Peter Morgan, it stars the poised, lovely Cecile de France as a Parisian newswoman whose near-death experience alters the course of her life, and Matt Damon as a San Francisco forklift driver “cursed” with the ability to communicate with the dead. Frankie and George McLaren make an impressive debut as a working-class London schoolboy coping with loss and searching for answers. Eastwood directs with grace and authority, allowing the story and characters plenty of room to take root and transport us. The notion of a “conspiracy of silence” from entrenched organized religion about the true nature of the afterlife keeps viewers intrigued, and the storytelling engages throughout —from the subtle, playful eroticism of  blind food-tasting in a SF cooking class to the spectacular staging of a rogue tsunami. Unlike 98% of the movies coming out of Hollywood these days, this one leaves you wanting more. (PG-13) 129 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen

HOWL 29-year-old Allen Ginsberg’s first reading of his incendiary poem in a San Francisco coffeehouse in 1955, the obscenity trial that followed, and the complex emotional journey Ginsberg took to write it are all celebrated in the ambitious, but wildly uneven film.  Blessed with a fine performance by James Franco as Ginsberg, it offers a fascinating glimpse into a cultural era in transition, even though it fails as an attempted work of fiction; doc filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman stick too closely to court transcripts and interviews to stir up much drama. And lengthy animated sequences attempting to illustrate Ginsberg’s words with trippy visuals border on a Classics Comics Illustrated Howl. In a film so concerned with the power of provocative language, they’re a major annoyance. (Not rated) 90 minutes. (★★★)
Lisa Jensen

IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY It may feel like a Woody Allen at first, but this tale of am angsty teen who checks in to an adult mental health clinic for a week blossoms into a droll, surprisingly winsome coming-of-age comedy from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Keir Gilchrist shapes the young protagonist into a wry, honest commentator on his own failings who grows wiser and more self-deprecatingly funny as the story progresses. Zach Galifianakis is great as the brash inmate who not only mentors the younger man in life and love, but joins him in an emotional growth-spurt or two, and the subtext on how modern kids are pressured to achieve scholastic and financial “success,” at the expense of simply living their young lives, is well done. (PG-13) 101 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen.

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS A young barn owl from  a peaceful forest is taken to  training school to learn how to fight a powerful enemy to the owl race in this animated adaptation of the childrens’ book series by Kathryn Lasky. Zack Snyder (300) directs; Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, and Geoffrey Rush provide voices. (PG)

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel star in this romantic comedy-drama as two career-oriented singles who dislike each other (but have friends in common) who are thrown into a contentious relationship when they become co-guardians of a suddenly orphaned baby girl. Josh Lucas and Christina Hendricks co-star fir director Greg Berlanti. (PG-13) 112 minutes.

NOWHERE BOY Celebrate the early years that made John Lennon such a complex, driven, caustic and vital man in this ambitious biographical drama. Skillfully directed by Sam Taylor Wood, from a sensitive script by Matt Greenhalgh, the focus is not on the birth of an icon, but on the struggle of a conflicted teenage boy to become himself; emotionally as well as musically, the film hits all the right notes. Aaron Johnson as John gives a performance bursting with sass, heart, and deadpan bravado; he finds his own emotional truth every moment he’s onscreen. Kristin Scott Thomas is marvelous as his fiercely loving, yet undemonstrative Aunt Mimi. Raucous, moving and full of fine (pre-Beatle) R&B music. (R) 98 minutes. (★★★★) | Lisa Jensen

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 Tod Williams takes over as director in this hasty sequel to Oren Peli’s 2009 no-budget horror mega-blockbuster. Peli produces this new tale of skullduggery in the dark, captured on the family webcam. This time, a dog, AND a baby are involved. Yikes. (R) 91 minutes.

RED Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich make for a fun entourage of ex-CIA ops in this cheeky take of the DC Comics graphic novel. The plot finds their lives in jeopardy—somebody is trying to silenece them. A fun ride although a far stretch for the imagination, Robert Schwentke’s direction pays off. So too does Mary-Louise Parker in a costarring role.. (PG-13) 111 minutes.  (★★1/2) Greg Archer

SAW 3-D Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, and Betsy Russell head the cast in yet another installment of the blade-happy horror franchise. Kevin Greutert directs. (R) 90 minutes.

SECRETARIAT Another famous racehorse gets the biopic treatment. Diane Lane stars Penny Chenery, the housewife and mother who reluctantly takes over her father’s stables in 1973, and helps foster the young horse who will become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. John Malkovich co-stars as trainer Lucien Laurin. Randall Wallace directs. (PG)

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN This persuasive new doc from Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) paints the ongoing decline in the American school system as a problem as devastaing as global warming. Standing up for preventive education as an antidote to crime, violence, joblessness, and prison (in the face of bureacracy, inertia, and hopelessness), Guggenheim cites the effectiveness of charter schools among low-income kids, personalizes his argument with stories of plucky, real-life children struggling for a future, then suggests how to get involved at the community level and work for the change our children and our own futures depend on. (PG) 104 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen

YOU WILL MEET A TALL, DARK STRANGER  The cast is A-list cast but this a Woody Allen B movie. It never rises to the ocassion, which is surprising because there’s such juicy material here. Still, this new comedy of romantic entanglements has moments, thanks to Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones, a recently divorced couple—he ventures off to pursue a younger gal (Lucy Punch in a great role), and she’s seeking solace in the hands of a quirky, questionable medium. Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin costar—Watts plays Hopkins’ and Jones’ daughter. Antonio Banderas is also on hand. The movie hopes to remind us of how fickle the winds of fate actually are and, truthfully, how naive we are to our own circumstances and destinies—sort of like floating feathers trying and failing to live grounded lives. Allen seems to say that our own foolishness gets in the way—of everything. Some good moments, but the film doesn’t wander as deep as it could with such a rich subject. (R) 98 minutes. (★★1/2) Greg Archer

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