New This Week
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE
In this adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, a young boy (Thomas Horn) in New York City tries to come to terms with the aftermath of 9/11 by searching for a lock that fits the key left to him by his late father. Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, and John Goodman co-star for director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott; The Hours). (PG-13) 129 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
A crew of African-American pilots in the Tuskegee, Alabama, training program who are battling segregation and prejudice on the ground are calledto active duty in WWII in this action drama. Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Michael B. Jordan, and Bryan Cranston star for director Angway (thony Heminalumnus 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) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
The ubiquitous Michael Fassbender is on the fast track to an Oscar nomination for his performance as a cosmopolitan New York City sex addict unable to form personal relationships whose carefully concealed private life is thrown into chaos with the unannounced arrival of his wayward sister (Carey Mulligan). British filmmaker Steve McQueen directs this examination of sex, desire, and intimacy. (NC-17) 101 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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 ofguest moderators. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit www.ltatm.org.
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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-WRECKED It 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 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)
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.
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 Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 105 minutes. (★★1/2)
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. (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer
THE MUPPETS Sweet 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 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.
NEW YEAR’S EVE What 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)