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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED SHORT FILMS, 2012
Where are the next generation of filmmakers and animators coming from? Find out in these two complete, separate programs of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films from around the world (five live-action and five animated), offered for theatrical release in advance of the Academy Awards on Feb 26. Astound your friends with your knowledge of these categories at your Oscar parties. And the Live-Action nominees are: PENTECOST (Ireland,11 minutes) An altar boy must choose between church duties and football. RAJU (Germany/India, 24 minutes) A German couple wants to adopt an Indian child. THE SHORE (Northern Ireland, 31 minutes) Ciaran Hinds stars as an expatriate Irishman bringing his American daughter back to Belfast. TIME FREAK (USA,11 minutes) A home-made time machine proves to have a few bugs. TUBA ATLANTIC (Norway, 25 minutes) A dying man has only six days to forgive his estranged brother across the ocean. (Not Rated) 107 minutes. And the Animated nominees are: SUNDAY/DIMANCHE (Canada,10 minutes) A typical Sunday in a small hamlet. THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE (USA,17 minutes) Vintage and modern animation techniques combine in this fanciful tale of the effects of a storm on a man and his library. LA LUNA (USA, 7 minutes) A boy learns the family trade out in a rowboat on a moonlit night. A MORNING STROLL (UK, 7 minutes) It’s man vs. chicken on a New York City street. WILD LIFE (Canada,13 minutes) An Englishman copes with life in the wilds of the Canadian frontier, ca 1909. Plus a couple of “Highly Commended” bonus films. (Not Rated) 79 minutes. Both programs start Friday.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND in 3D
Josh Hutcherson returns as the teen protagonist from the recent Jules Verne update, Journey To the Center of the Earth; this time he sets out on a new adventure with a new father-figure (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) on a mission to answer a distress signal from an unchartered island that time forgot. Not exactly a sequel, and only tenuously based on another Verne novel, The Mysterious Island. Michael Caine and Vanessa Hudgens co-star for director Brad Peyton. (PG) 94 minutes. Plus special added attraction: the Looney Tunes animated short, DAFFY’S RHAPSODY. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Reviewed this issue. (PG) 103 minutes. (★★★1/2) Starts Friday.
Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds star as a fugitive being held captive in a safe house and the CIA op guarding him who are forced to flee together when gunmen come after them both. Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Robert Patrick, and Sam Shepard co-star in this action thriller from director Daniel Espinosa. (R) 115 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 — THE PHANTOM MENACE
3D This new 3D conversion of George Lucas’ first, 1999 prequel to his original Star Wars trilogy will surely enhance the film’s alien landscapes, spaceships, robots, hardware, extravagant sets, battles galore and armies of computer-generated creatures. But it probably won’t restore the swashbuckling exuberance that made the original Star Wars so much more fun. Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman bring stature and presence to their roles, but they are figures in a landscape, deployed like props for visual effect, and we have little stake in their story. Even in 2D, this was a movie only a droid could love. (PG) 136 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THIS MEANS WAR
Rival CIA agents Chris Pine and Tom Hardy go ballistic when they find out they’re both dating the same woman (Reese Witherspoon) in this action comedy from director McG. Til Schweiger and Chelsea Handler co-star. (R) 98 minutes. Starts Tuesday (February 14). Watch film trailer >>>
When a car crash wipes out the memory of a newlywed bride (Rachel McAdams), her husband (Channing Tatum) determines to woo and win her all over again in this romantic drama. (Surprise, it’s NOT based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks.) Michael Sucsy directs. (PG-13) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVEBritain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London presents its 2012 Winter Season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. Live performances will be broadcast one Thursday evening a month, in the Grand Auditorium of the Del Mar, with encore performances the following Sunday morning. This week: TRAVELLING LIGHT If you loved Hugo and The Artist onscreen, step back further in time in Hollywood history in Nicholas Wright’s serio-comic homage to the Eastern European roots of many Golden Age film directors. In a remote village, ca 1900, a youth enthralled with a cinematograph machine, and hired by a local merchant (stage veteran Antony Sher) to photograph the village, invents the moving picture. 40 years later, as a famous director, he reflects on what his dreams have cost him. Nicholas Hytner directs. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (Feb 9), 7:30 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (Feb 12), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13.
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: L’AVVENTURA (THE ADVENTURE) This 1960 classic by Michelangelo Antonioni (Blowup; The Passenger) was both booed and awarded the Special Jury Prize at Cannes the year it was shown. Monica Vitti stars as a woman searching for her missing friend on a remote Mediterranean island who instead finds herself on a journey of self-discovery. (Not rated) 143 minutes. In Italian with English sub titles. 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 (February 12), 7 pm. Free.
CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAR Eclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. This week: GOOD BURGER Onetime Nickelodeon Channel teen stars Kennan and Kel star in this 1997 comedy as a couple of kids working in a fast-food burger joint trying to save the failing business. Brian Robbins directs. (PG) 103 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: OLIVER! Sir Carol Reed directs the Oscar-winning 1968 film version of the hit stage musical based on Dickens’s Oliver Twist, about an orphan boy taken in by a gang of pint-sized pickpockets in the streets of Victorian London. Oliver Moody stars as wily Fagin, the leader of the pack; Oliver Reed and Shani Wallis co-star. (G) 153 minutes. Tonight (Thursday, February 9) only, 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.
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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.
ALBERT NOBBS An odd mix of quaint and edgy, this is a modern-seeming tale of gender confusion and sexual identity dressed up like a Victorian melodrama. It’s a labor of love for producer, co-scripter and star Glenn Close, who brings heartbreaking rigor to the role of Albert, a middle-aged woman who’s been passing for male her entire adult life, now employed as a waiter at a swanky hotel in turn-of-the-century Dublin. Rodrigo Garcia’s film, based on a 1918 novella by George Moore, also features a knockout performance by Janet McTeer as a cheeky, cross-dressing lesbian. The conclusion of the story feels like a failure of the author’s imagination, but Close and company add a satisfying, ironic coda; the biting social commentary in this upstairs/downstairs milieu is well done, and a delicious cast of seasoned pros (Brendan Gleeson, Pauline Collins) keep this nuanced fable of gender, class, and identity percolating along. (R) 113 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
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.
BIG MIRACLE Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star in this family-friendly, true adventure tale of a Greenpeace volunteer and an Alaska news reporter who team up to save a family of gray whales trapped by ice in the Arctic Circle. Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney, and Vinessa Shaw co-star for director Ken Kwapis. (PG) 107 minutes.
CHRONICLE It’s every fanboy’s dream in Josh Trank’s horror thriller in which three high school buddies are granted superpowers after stumbling over a dark secret, then find themselves struggling to resist the pull of the dark side. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan star. (PG-13)
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.
A DANGEROUS METHOD It’s Carl Jung vs. Sigmund Freud in this talky drama of ideas from David Cronenberg. Jung (Michael Fassbender) treats patient Sabine Spielrein (an overwrought Keira Knightley), using Freud’s radical “talking cure,” en route to Sabine becoming his mistress, and a doctor in her own right. Freud (a marvelously wry Viggo Mortensen), anoints Jung as his “heir” in the field, but the two men finally split over method. Personal relationships are not Cronenberg’s strong suit; what’s missing is an emotional center to sustain viewers through all the theoretical debates (and perfunctory sex). Christopher Hampton’s screenplay, adapted from both his stage play and a non-fiction book, feels rushed and fragmented. But Vincent Cassel is terrific in a few brief scenes as bad-boy analyst/patient, libertine, and agent provocateur Otto Gross. (R) 99 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
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.
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 GREY 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)
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