Movies & Film Events: Week of Nov. 18

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


127 HOURS Reviewed this issue. (R) 94 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.


CLIENT 9: THE RISE AND FALL OF ELIOT SPITZER Prolific doc director Alex Gibney (Taxi To the Dark Side; Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room; Gonzo) helms this in-depth profile of the disgraced former New York governor, and the sex and money scandals that got him ousted from office. (R) 117 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>


HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 The franchise is coming to a close with the adaptation of this seventh and final novel in J. K. Rowling’s beloved series.. (PG-13) 146 minutes. Midnight shows tonight only. Daily showtimes begin Friday. Watch film trailer >>>


THE NEXT THREE DAYS When a woman (Elizabeth Banks) is wrongly convicted of murder and sent to prison, her frazzled husband (Russell Crowe) hatches a desperate scheme to break her out, in this action thriller from Paul Haggis. Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, and Brian Dennehy co-star. (PG-13) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: FALL ITALIAN FILM SERIES The Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz is back with a monthly series of Italian films (one Sunday a month) to promote Italian culture and language. The theme this fall is “Directors of Italian Neorealism,” introduced by Dr. William Park, Faculty Emeritus, Sarah Lawrence College. This Week: LADRI DI BICICLETTE (THE BICYCLE THIEF) (Not rated) 89 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles. At Cabrillo College, VAPA Art  History Forum Room 1001, Sunday only (Nov 21), 7 p.m. Free.

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: THE SHINING  (R) 146 minutes. (★★1/2) —Lisa Jensen. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

CONTINUING SERIES: WEEKEND  MATINEE CLASSICS AT APTOS CINEMA IThis week: HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE. (Not rated) 95 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: STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (PG) 105 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen. Tonight (Thursday) only, 8 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. Discussion begins at 7 pm Wednesdays and admission is free. For more information visit www.ltatm.org.

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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

COOL IT Doc director Ondi Timoner travels the world with Bjorn Lomborg (author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” and founder of the Copenhagen Consensus Center scientific think tank) on Lomborg’s quest to develop rational, sensible, and economically viable solutions to global warming. (Not rated) 88 minutes.

DUE DATE  Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) delivers a wild outing but fails to give Due Date the same seemless flow as his previous film, which was also an outlandish endeavor. The Hangover worked so well because it seemed to know when NOT to play things over the top. There were more subleties whereas in Due Date, things tend to cause an eyeroll. Still, this is one funny ride and thanks to the great turns by Robert Downey Jr.—playing an expectant father desperately hoping to get home in time for the birth of his first kid—and Zach Galifianakis, you can’t walk away not enjoying yourself. Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, and Jamie Foxx co-star. (R) 95 minutes. (★★1/2)  Greg Archer

FAIR GAME Naomi Watts stars as CIA op Valerie Plame, outed by the Bush Administrtion for telling the truth about the Iraqi WMD scam by which the government was propelling us into war. Sean Penn co-stars as her husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, whose op-ed piece the New York Times about his wife’s investigation cost Plame her career and the protection of her covert identity. Lest we forget: Bush-era politics at their sleaziest. Doug Liman directs. (PG-13) 106 minutes.

FOR COLORED GIRLS Stage-to-screen auteur Tyler Perry offers up his take on the beloved Ntozoke Shange stage hit. (R)

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST This third and final installment of the Swedish film trilogy based on the globally bestselling Stieg Larsson novels completes the story of hacker-turned-avenging angel Lisbeth Salander. This third act is mostly devoted to resolutions, and meting out just deserts, but even with less thunderting action, there’s plenty of breathtaking suspense as Lisbeth and her allies launch their stealth investigation to tumble the clandestine, corrupt inner circle of Sweden’s power elite—or die trying. Michael Nyqvist is again on hand as her rumpled, savvy reporter ally, but what makes the series such a rush is the depiction of strong women who stand their ground in a social order where casual misogyny is so deeply ingrained, it’s scarcely noticed. And in her third outing as tough, resourceful, implacable Lisbeth, actress Noomi Rapace proves why she’s cinema’s Woman of the Year for 2010. (R) 147 minutes. In Swedish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2) —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

INSIDE JOB The shady scenario by which the American financial services industry crashed the U.S. economy and fomented international financial collapse in September, 2008, is examined in excoriating detail in Charles Ferguson’s cogent documentary. (PG-13) 110 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen

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.

MONSTERS This inventive and imaginative tale is full of surprises. You might believe it’s just a take off of last year’s headturner District 9, because it gives us a tale about alien life forms in the modern world—yes, aliens have crash-landed and been ghettoized in Central America. Enter a beleaugered journalist who agrees to escort a trapped American tourist through a hazardous infected zone in Mexico to the U. S. border. The film has some fine suspense, but what will surprise you the most is how cleverly it hits you on an emotional level. It’s not all about guts and gore. We walk away questioning our humanity, yes, but better still, we walk away contemplating our built-in assumptions and prejudices, in general. An attention-grabber at many film fest, you really do want to check this winning story out. Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy star for writer-director Gareth Edwards. (R) 94 minutes. Fri-Sat late shows only at the Del Mar. (★★★)  Greg Archer

MORNING GLORY Diane Keaton is wasted here. Harrison Ford fairs better and Rachel McAdams shines. The movie? Not so much. It’s not your father’s Broadcast News. McAdams plays an energetic TV producer attempting to revive the lowest-rated national morning show. She hopes to do that by teaming up a TV vet (Ford) with the show’s fluff host (Keaton). This is a romantic comedy so things are kept light. Still, you can’t help but wonder that the filmmakers really missed their chance to make a statement about how journalism has been gutted. And with stars like Ford and Keaton, imagine how well that could have played out. Alas, they bury the creative lead. Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum co-star for director Roger Michell (Notting Hill). (PG-13) 107 minutes. (★★1/2)  Greg Archer

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

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)

SKYLINE  When irresistible lights from an unknown source start beaming down on L. A., a plucky band of survivors fights back before the entirte populaton is sucked up in a sinister rapture in this sci-fi thriller from directors Colin Strause and Greg Strause. Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson star. (PG-13)  

THE SOCIAL NETWORK One of the best, if not the best, films of the year. Smart, savvy and downright engaging. Is it true? It doesn’t really matter. This story about Facebook’s inception works. (It’s based on the non-fiction Ben Mezrich  book “The Accidental Billionaires.”) Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), experiements in interactive blogging, which quickly morphs into a revolutionary process in which people can communicate with each other. Meanwhile, he gets sued for strealing the idea. Aaron Sorkin’s script is remarkably tight and the acting stands out—Justin Timberlake offers the best performance playing Napster founder. David Fincher directs. (PG-13) 120 minutes.(★★★★)  Greg Archer

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.

UNSTOPPABLE Horrible title but a surprisingly good film. Director Tony Scott hits the mark in a tale based on a true story. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine play unlikely partners who find themselves having to stop a half-mile long, runaway train packed with combustible toxic chemicals. (Ain’t that always the case, though.) \Rosario Dawson is on fire here. (PG-13) (★★★)  Greg Archer

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