New This Week
A DANGEROUS METHOD
Reviewed this issue. (R) 99 minutes. (★★1/2) Starts Friday.
It’s man vs. wolf in the Alaskan wilderness when a crew of oil drillers survive a plane crash only to be hunted by a territorial pack of grey wolves. Liam Neeson and Dermot Mulroney star, but I’m still rooting for the wolves. Joe Carnahan (The A-Team; Smokin’ Aces) directs. (R) Stats Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
MAN ON A LEDGE
Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks star in this urban suspense thriller as a wanted fugitive, balanced on the ledge of a high-rise, and the NYPD negotiator trying to talk him down, who suspects there’s more to the situation than meets the eye. Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie, and Ed Harris co-star for director Asger Leth. (PG-13) 102 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
ONE FOR THE MONEY
Katherine Heigl,. Jason O’Mara, John Leguizamo, and Debbie Reynolds co-star for veteran TV director Julie Anne Robinson. (PG-13) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
RETURNING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAR Eclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. This week: CLUE The popular board game got its own movie with this 1985 comedy. Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, Martin Mull and Lesley Ann Warren are among the characters on the cards who gather at a country house to solve a murder, aided by insinuating butler Tim Curry. Jonathan Lynn directs. (PG) 94 minutes. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.
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: FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (PG-13) 103 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Tonight only (Thursday, January 26), 8 p.m., at the Cinema 9.
CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES Discussion begins at 7 pm at the Del Mar mezzanine in downtown Santa Cruz. 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.
THE ARTIST To 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.
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, Robby Benson, and Angela Lansbury provide voices. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise direct. (G) 84 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
CARNAGE Roman Polanski’s nasty comedy of bad manners explores what happens when four apparent grown-ups get together for some polite chit-chat after the son of one couple injures the other couple’s son during an after-school altercation. Adapted from the international stage hit by Yasmina Reza, it provides plenty of scenery-chomping for stars Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz; the harder they all work at polite civil discourse, the faster the situation deteriorates. But there are no surprises in the narrative as these silly straw characters are set up, then knocked down, and viewers may find it a bit short on genuine insight as this uneasy pas de quatre reaches its inevitable, and expected meltdown. (R) 79 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
CONTRABAND Mark Wahlberg stars in this psychological 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 Foster co-star for Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur. (R) 110 minutes.
THE DESCENDANTS George 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 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)
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel comes to life here with a fine performances from Thomas Horn as a young boy in New York City who tries to come to terms with his father’s death in the aftermath of 9/11. The dad is played by Tom Hanks; the mother by Sandra Bullock. All actors turn in memorable performances as we watch Horn search for the lock that could fit a key left behind by his dad. The premise is enough to get us interested. Will the young boy find the lock? Will he come to terms with the harrowing experiences of 9/11 and how it has left him lost and confused? This boy is amazingly determined to keep the connection with this father alive and the film is worth watching for that alone. It tends to feel more like a lyrical, free-flowing ride than, say, a structured linear outing . And while the film may not give us all the answers we want—how do make sense of 9/11, for one—it’s the emotionally rich journey that keeps us invested. Viola Davis, and John Goodman co-star. Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott; The Hours) directs. (PG-13) 129 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO If 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.
HAYWIRE Mixed-martial artist Gina Carano stars in Steven Soderbergh’s kick-ass action thriller about a black-ops government soldier struggling to survive by laying a complicated trap for the colleagues who betrayed her on a mission that went south. Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, and Michael Angarano all show up on her potential hit list. (R) 92 minutes.
HUGO If 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.
THE IRON LADY It’s not as much fun as playing Julia Child, but Meryl Streep’s performance is just as absorbing as Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first (and only) female Prime Minister, and a conservative stalwart of the 1980s. The problem of making Thatcher a palatable heroine for a dramatic film is addressed by director Phyllida Lloyd and scriptwriter Abi Morgan by keeping the focus on Thatcher’s enduring relationship with her beloved husband, Denis, portrayed throughout most of the film by the irrepressible Jim Broadbent. The movie is also persuasive in positioning Margaret as a pioneer woman in a man’s world, although Lloyd’s often surreal storytelling runs out of steam as Thatcher’s policies become more draconian. Still, the marvelous pairing of Broadbent and Streep is well worth watching. (PG-13) 105 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
JOYFUL NOISE 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.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL It’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. (HHH1/2) —Greg Archer
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN The 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.
RED TAILS A crew of African-American pilots in the Tuskegee, Alabama, training program who are battling segregation and prejudice on the ground are called to active duty in WWII in this action drama. Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Michael B. Jordan, and Bryan Cranston star for director Anthony Hemingway (alumnus of HBO’s Treme). Executive producer George Lucas has been nurturing this project for years; think the Death Star dogfights in the first Star Wars. (PG-13).
SHAME Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method) delivers a powerful turn in one of the best performances of the year—sadly, he was overlooked for an Oscar nom. Here, he morphs into a New York City sex addict who is unable to form close relationships. His private life has much to do with that—much of his life revolves around his sexual conquests and fascination with porn. Carey Mulligan—no surprise here—offers a refreshing if not harrowing portrayal, playing Fassbender’s flighty sister. British filmmaker Steve McQueen directs. This is a gritty, emotionally rich tale, not often easy on the eyes. But it is as brutally honest in its examination of sex, desire, and intimacy as it is haunting with other revelations: that, try as they might, they are parts of our psyche and soul that may not be that easily healed. (NC-17) 101 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS A 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, SPY The 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.
UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING The rival Vampire and Lycan (werewolf) clans are forced to team up to save themselves when mortal humans discover their existence and launch a campaign to wipe them both out in this latest installment of the horror thriller series. Kate Beckinsale returns as the two-fisted vampire warrior leader. Michael Ealy, India Eisley, and Stephen Rea co-star for incoming directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein. (R)