New This Week
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST IN 3D
Staged like a lavish, live-action musical with lively production numbers (witty songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken) that move the plot along, Disney’s 1991 take on the classic fairy tale is romantic, beautiful and a lot of fun. A knockout even before this upgrade to Disney Digital 3-D, this was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Paige O’Hara, Rob
by Benson, and Angela Lansbury provide voices. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise direct. (G) 84 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Reviewed this issue. (R) 79 minutes. (★★1/2) Starts Friday.
Mark Wahlberg stars in this psychologocal action drama as an ex-smuggler who goes to Panama in search of counterfeit cash to save his brother-in-law from a bad drug deal. Giovanni Rbisi, Kate Beckinsale, and Ben Fostar co-star for Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur. (R) 110 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE IRON LADY
It won’t be as much fun as playing Julia Child. But Meryl Streep is sure to give an impressive account of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first (and only) female Prime Minister, and a conservative stalwart of.the 1980s, in this biographical drama from director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!). Jim Broadbent co-stars. (PG-13) 105 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton star as dueling divas in a southern community church choir, with different ideas on how to steer the group into the finals of the National Joyful Noise Competition, in Todd Graff’s comedy with gospel music. Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan co-star as the daughter and grandson of the rival divas, heating up the action even more. (PG-13) 118 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: WINTER ITALIAN FILM SERIES The Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz continues its monthly series of Italian films (one Sunday a month) to promote Italian culture and language. The theme for the Winter/Spring season is “Set in Sicily” This Week: DIVORZIO ALL’ITALIANA (DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE) The great Marcello Mastroianni had one of his biggest international hits with director Pietro Germi’s sly, ribald 1961 comedy of Italian manners. Mastroianni stars as a broke Sicilian nobleman who falls in love with his cousin (Stefania Sandrelli) and plots to do away with his wife. Since divorce is illegal, he schemes to murder her in a staged “crime of passion” instead. Not rated. 105 minutes. In Italian with English sub titles. Former Film professor and author, Dr. William Park, will introduce the film and conduct an after-film Q&A. At Cabrillo College, VAPA Art History Forum Room 1001, Sunday only (January 15 ), 7 pm. Free.
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: JURASSIC PARK The dinosaurs are, um, killer, running amok on a tropical island “theme park” in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 fx extravaganza based on the Michael Crichton novel. Homo sapiens co-stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum don’t have much to do, but as popcorn-chomping entertainment, the movie delivers the goods. (PG-13) 127 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen. Tonight only (Thursday, January 12), 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. 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 DEVIL INSIDEIn 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)
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOOIf you’ve never seen the Swedish film version, David Fincher’s Hollywood reboot is reasonably compelling. Daniel Craig plays effectively against type as rumpled journalist Blomkvist, and Rooney Mara conveys the tough/fragile Lisbeth Salander with intensity. They develop a convincing rapport, but an element of more conventional romanticism makes their relationship less an emotional revelation than it ought to be. But what’s really missing is the pervasive sense of white male entitlement at every level of society that was so deftly portrayed in the Swedish film, which allows violent, abusive misogyny to flourish. Fincher’s version reduces this theme to a single string of maniacal serial killings, thus containing and defanging Larsson’s intent. Fincher has made a crisp, suspenseful, extremely well-acted thriller, but it doesn’t quite have the substance or the impact of the original. (R) 158 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
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
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPYThe Cold War at its chilliest is on view in this impressive adaptation of the John Le Carré novel. Directed with oodles of cool craftsmanship by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, it’s an elegant piece of work, from it’s smart, spare script by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughn, to its ensemble cast of impeccable British A-listers. Gary Oldman as George Smiley is a still, watchful presence at the center, although other characters are only distinctive because of the famous actors playing them (Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds). I wish I’d been more emotionally involved with these characters, or felt the tragedy of moral corruption more keenly. Still, viewers who love the cool shadow world of spy thrillers will find little to fault in this one. (R) 127 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1The filmmakers decided to stretch out the last book in Stephanie Meyers’ teen melodrama into two films, to better milk the marriage of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire soulmate, Edward (Robert Pattinson)—not to mention their honeymoon sex and the portentous the birth of their baby—for all they’re worth. Taylor Lautner returns as hunky werewolf Jacob for incoming director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters). (PG-13) 117 minutes.
WAR HORSESurprisingly 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 ZOOMatt 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