New This Week
THE DEVIL INSIDE In the first cheesy horror movie of the new year, Fernanda Andrade stars as a woman involved in a series of grisly exorcisms in Italy while trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s violent exorcism. Simon Quarterman co-stars; Romania stands in for Italy. William Brent Bell directs. (R) Starts Friday. (Saved FGB) Watch film trailer >>>
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY Reviewed this issue. (R) 127 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.
CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES This informal movie discussion group meets at the Del Mar mezzanine min 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.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN The beloved European comic book adventurer gets his firs big-screen outing, courtesy of producer Peter Jackson and director Steven Spielberg. The young hero and his faithful pooch buy a replica pirate ship at a market stall and are quickly swept up in a globe-trotting adventure involving pirates, lost treasure, and a centuries-old mystery. Jamie Bell (as Tintin), Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig and Simon Pegg head the cast, providing character voices and movement in this motion-capture animation extravaganza. (PG) 107 minutes.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIP-WRECKEDIt may not be everyone’s idea of fun to be trapped on a deserted tropical isle with the Chipmunks and the three distaff “Chipettes” (singing Lady GaGa, yet!), but that’s what they’re offering up in this third installment of the kiddie franchise. Jason Lee and Alyssa Milano head the humanoid cast; Mike Mitchell directs. (G) 87 minutes.
THE ARTISTTo pay homage to Hollywood’s silent film era, not only did filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius shoot this backstage love story in vintage black-and-white, he dared to film the entire movie without audible dialogue, relying on only the occasional title card, music, and the actors’ expressiveness to tell the story. The results are utterly splendid, as Hazanavicius wields the classic storytelling tools of the silent era with fresh new exuberance. The wonderful Jean Dujardin and vivacious Berenice Bejo bring heart, humor and verve to their fame-crossed movie star lovers, in a shimmering production that captures every detail of Art Deco-era Hollywood. It may look and feel vintage, but this is one of the most original movies of the year. (PG-13) 100 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
THE DARKEST HOURFilmed on location in Russia, this sci-fi thriller involves five young people in Moscow battling the first wave of an alien invasion of Earth. Emile Hirsch, Rachael Taylor, Olivia Thirlby, and Max Minghella star for art director-turned-director Chris Gorak. (PG-13) 89 minutes.
THE DESCENDANTSGeorge Clooney once again proves himself one of the most watchable and subtle of actors in Alexander Payne’s incisive, entertaining, tender and life-sized family drama. He plays a Hawaiian-born lawyer trying to reconnect with his wayward daughters after an accident puts their mom in a coma, while also trying to decide whether to sell off pristine, generations-old family property to developers. Shot on location in the luscious Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai (with haunting, slack-key guitar music playing under every scene), it’s a resonant tale of a family in crisis, a culture in flux, and the issue of legacy between the generations, told with wry humor and honest emotion. (R) 115 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ~Reviewed this issue. David Fincher directs this Hollywood remake of the first film in the exceptional Swedish trilogy based on the bestselling mystery/crime novels by Steig Larsson. Lisbeth Salander. Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, and Joely Richardson head the supporting cast. (R) 158 minutes. (★★★)
HUGOIf you love silent movies as much as I do, you’ll love Martin Scorsese’s new family-friendly film, Hugo. And if you’re a fan of the delightfully nutty, hand-made fantasy movies of early French film pioneer Georges Melies, you’re in for a special treat: Scorsese’s film concludes with a fabulous montage of vintage, hand-tinted Melies footage. The story of an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) living in a Paris railway station, ca. 1930, who finds he has something in common with a grumpy toy seller who turns out to be Melies (Ben Kingsley) is intriguing and visually splendid. It takes too long to get going; there’s too much slapstick comedy and too many 3-D objects lunging out of the screen. But the charm and exuberance of the scenes of Melies and company at work in their studio makes this celebration of early movie-making irresistible. (PG) 127 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOLIt’s hard not to walk away from this movie not liking it, or—brace yourself—Tom Cruise. If there’s any doubt that Cruise has lost his mojo, there’s no evidence of it here. So, despite the bum rap he’s gotten in the press over the last few years, it’s clear that Cruise can hold his own in what is quite possibly the best in the Mission films, aside from 1996’s original. Here, his undercover agent Ethan Hunt, is forced to lead a new team in a secret, guerrilla mission. It’s all covert and all done in an effort to clear their name after being falsely implicated in a terrorist bombing. Suspenseful and perfectly played out, it’s a wild romp that’s worthy of our attention. Kudos to Jeremy Renner, who surprises in an underplayed performance, that winds up being a key link to Ethan’s past. On paper, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg don’t appear to be the best choices as MI backups, but prove they can help fuel a downright inventive plot. Brad Bird directs. (PG-13) 133 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer
THE MUPPETSSweet and charming. It’s hard not to like The Muppets and in this spirited return to the big screen—one of few real “family” comedies f the year—Muppet fans Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and Walter, who’s a Muppet, himself, track down Kermit and the gang to save the beleaguered Muppet Studios from a menacing developer who want the oil underneath the theater. Miss Piggy is back in fine form, as is Fozzie Bear and all the who clan. Fun inside jokes keep things afloat but many of the musical numbers—including “Rainbow Connection” liven up this enjoyable tale. Fun, fun, fun. James Bobin directs. (PG) (★★★)—Greg Archer
MY WEEK WITH MARILYNThe 2012 Best Actress Oscar race begins with this miraculous performance by Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, an alchemical transformation of the always intelligent and gutsy Williams into that most dreamy, luscious, needy, and yet valiant of all Hollywood screen goddesses. Directed with grace and economy by TV veteran Simon Curtis, it’s based on a backstage memoir by Colin Clark, a young production assistant, on the filming of the 1957 romance The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Eddie Redmayne is terrific as fresh, eager young Colin, ripe for losing his heart, and Judi Dench is superb as gracious, no-nonsense actress Dame Sybil Thorndike. But it’s Williams’ Marilyn— fragile, irresistible, terrified, and often humorously, startlingly self-aware—that leaves one breathless. (R) 107 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
NEW YEAR’S EVEWhat are a nice bunch of Oscar winners (and nominees) doing in a movie like this? Director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate from last year’s popular romantic ensemble comedy Valentine’s Day, reunite for this retread; not a sequel, it’s just the same formula transplanted from L. A. to New York, in which an interconnected group of folks try to realize their holiday expectations. Formulaic, too, is the quality of the storytelling. Despite a jaw-dropping array of Hollywood A-listers (Halle Berry, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, etc, etc), this well-meaning, eager to please affair amounts to little more than a collection of sitcom gags, predictable romance, and inspirational speeches about love, hope, and second chances. (PG-13) 118 minutes. (★★)—Lisa Jensen.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWSA delicious surprise. And thoroughly inventive. What the first romp, lacked in effective storytelling, Game of Shadows far makes up for it by giving us a pitch-perfect Robert Downey Jr. as the quirky Holmes. Jude Law returns as Watson in this very Guy Ritchie film. Rachel McAdams returns as Irene Adler—but doesn’t stay long—amd Stephen Fry (Mycroft Holmes) is back. The one to watch: Jared Harris Holmes’ nemesis, Professor Moriarty. , Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) tags along for the ride that finds Holmes and Watson trying to thwart Moriarity’s evil schemes to launch a nuclear threat. (PG-13) 129 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer
WAR HORSE Surprisingly innovative and downright appealing, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is the fine adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel about a boy and the horse with whom he shares a unique bond. The film takes place prior to the 1920s and chronicles young Albert’s (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) trust in a horse who eventually winds up in the hands of the army during WW I in Europe. Eventually, Albert enlists, but watch for how well Spielberg tells the story here. Aside from a few brief moments of pure smaltz, the famed director re-establishes our belief in authentic storytelling, and, like this season’s Hugo and The Artist, restores a little bit of our faith that Hollywood can indeed deliver good stories that are both effective and heart-felt. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Emily Watson, and David Thewlis co-star. A gripping ride—take it! (PG-13) 146 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer
WE BOUGHT A ZOO Matt Damon stars in this family comedy as a young father who moves his kids to the Southern California countryside to renovate a small, failing zoo and its animals. Scarlett Johansson co-stars in this adaptation of the Benjamin Mee memoir, directed by Cameron Crowe. (PG)
YOUNG ADULTCharlize Theron stars as a maturity-challenged YA (young adult) novelist who goes home to Minnesota after her divorce to wreak havoc in the life of an ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) in this comedy written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman. (Their last collaboration was Juno.) Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Reaser co-star. (R) 94 minutes.