Movies & Film Events: Week of Nov 25

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



Christina Aguilera spangles up as a starry-eyed kid from the sticks who gets a job waiting tables at a run-down (yet strangely glamorous) retro nightspot in L. A. in hopes of working her way into the spotlight. Cher (!) co-stars as the legendary diva who runs the club. Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, and Alan Cumming co-star or director Steven Antin. (PG-13) 100 minutes. Starts today. Watch film trailer >>>

FASTER A double cross, a heist gone wrong, and an ex-con out for revenge are the ingredients of this latest Dwayne Johnson action thriller. Maggie Grace, Carla Gugino, and Billy Bob Thornton co-star for ditrector George Tillman Jr. (R) Starts today. Watch film trailer >>>


LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal reunite (for the first time since Brokeback Mountain) for a very different kind of love story—she’s a commitment-shy free spirit, he’s a charming Viagra salesman in this unexpected romantic comedy from director Edward Zwick (thirtysomething). (R) Starts today. Watch film trailer >>>


TANGLED The folks at Disney come up with a new take on the Rapunzel story in this animated comedy adventure. When a charming young thief (voce of Zachary Levi) breaks into her tower prison, the feisty teen heroine (voice of Mandy Moore) uses the rogue as a means of escape for heself and her 70 feet of magical hair. Ron Perlman and Brad Garret provide additional voices. Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid) wrote the songs. Byron Howard and Nathan Greno direct. (PG)  Starts today. Watch film trailer >>>

CONTINUING SERIES: THE MET: LIVE IN HD AT THE CINEMA 9 Encore: DON PASQUALE Donizetti’s comic opera is lustily sung by Anna Netrebko and John Del Carlo in this acclaimed new production by Otto Schenk. James Levine conducts. At the Cinema 9, Wednesday, Dec 1, at 6:30 p.m.

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: MY FAIR LADY The world was outraged when elegant, but non-singing Audrey Hepburn landed the plum role of Cockney flower-girl Eliza Dolittle in George Cukor’s lavish 1964 screen adaptation of the blockbuster Broadway musical. (Hollywood was so miffed, they gave the Oscar to Julie Andrews —the original stage Eliza—in Mary Poppins that same year.) But Rex Harrison recreates his role as caustic Professor Henry Higgins, who transforms the lowly flower seller into a society lady by teaching her elocution, in this sly update of the Pygmalion myth (by way of George Bernard Shaw). Her singing voice may be looped by Marni Nixon, but Hepburn looks ravishing in Cecil Beaton’s spectacular costumes. (Not rated) 170 minutes. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen. (Fri-Sat-Sun matinee only, 11 a.m. Admission $6. At Aptos Cinema.

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

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 146 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

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

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)

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

127 HOURS When a freak accident left rock climber Aron Ralston stranded at the bottom of a deep crevice, his right hand pinned between the rockface and an immovable boulder, he had to make an impossible decision: forfeit his arm or lose his life. A man immobilized in a narrow crevice for five days may not sound like promising material for a moving picture, but Danny Boyle ramps up the suspense and makes something both kinetic and gripping out of Ralston’s story. Swooping in and out of Ralston’s memories, the material in his video camera, and his delirious fantasies, Boyle keeps the narrative pace brisk and the action intense. In the starring role, James Franco captures not only Ralston’s up-for-anything cockiness, but his wry wit and unalloyed courage as well. (R) 94 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

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

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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