New This Week
Reviewed this issue. (Not rated) 99 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Five pals on vacation plus a remote woodland cabin equals trouble in this horror thriller written by cult favorite Joss Whedon and writing partner Drew Goddard (making his directing debut). Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison and Jesse Williams star, with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. (R) 95 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
An all-star cast performs Stephen Sondheim’s landmark stage musical with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, Jon Cryer, and Martha Plimpton head the cast in a production that played four sold-out performances last spring, and is now digitally re-broadcast on the big screen. (159 minutes.) At the Del Mar, Tonight (Thursday, April 12), 7 pm, and Sunday matinee, only.
THE DEEP BLUE SEA
A lovely, haunting performance by Rachel Weisz is its own reward in this dark, stylized, claustrophobic depiction of a love triangle in postwar England. Directed as an impressionistic mosaic by Terence Davies, from the Terence Rattigan stage play, it dispenses with backstory and explication to focus on the plight of a woman at war with herself, facing a choice between her sane, stable marriage to a judge (Simon Russell Beale) considerably older than she, and her latent discovery of unbridled physical passion in the arms of a younger, but psychologically wounded ex-RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston) who can’t regain his footing once the war is over. (R) 98 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Josh Hutcherson, Dane Cook and Spencer Locke star in this self-styled “hipster teen horror comedy” as teens trying to survive senior year—literally—when the have to break out of detention to battle a slasher movie killer come to life. Joseph Kahn (Torque) directs. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Seann William Scott stars in this sports comedy as an underachieving Boston bouncer who’s brawling ability lands him a spot on a semi-pro Canadian hockey team, and a chance o redeem himself in the eyes of his accomplished family. Jay Baruchel and Liev Schreiber co-star for director Michael Dowse. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE KID WITH A BIKE
The always interesting Cecile De France (L’Auberge Espagnole; Hereafter) stars in this character drama from the Belgian Dardenne Brothers (Lorna’s Silence). In a rural French village, a rebellious youth (Thomas Doret) abandoned by his father in the town orphanage is taken under the wing of the local hairdresser (De France). She comes from a similarly mixed-up childhood, and wars for his soul against the darker, more destructive forces leading him on. (Not rated) 87 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
The great Guy Pearce diversifies his acting portfolio with this sci-fi action thriller about a man wrongly incarcerated in a US space prison who can win his freedom if he rescues the president’s daughter when nutball inmates take over the prison. Maggie Grace co-stars for directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger. (PG-13) 95 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Welshman Gareth Evans directs this high-octane testosterone frenzy of blood, guts, and action, filmed (and set) in Indonesia, about a SWAT team battling its way up 15 floors of a fortress-like apartment building to capture a drug lord protected by an army of psychos. Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim head the cast. (R) 101 minutes. In Indonesian with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE THREE STOOGES
No, it’s not a biopic or a doc. It’s a comedy update in which three modern TV actors play Larry (Sean Hayes), Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) and Curly (Will Sasso), in a goofball plot about a trio of janitors trying to save the orphanage in which they were raised. Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Hudson, and Larry David pop up in the supporting cast for the directing Farrelly Brothers (Bobby and Peter). (PG) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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: THE FIFTH ELEMENT (PG-13) 126 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Friday midnight only.
THE SEVENTH ANNUAL SECRET FILM FESTIVAL Get out your blankeys and bunny slippers and prepare to settle in for the duration for the seventh installment of this annual cult event. The concession stand is open all night as five fabulous films never before seen in Santa Cruz, hand picked by the crackerjack Del Mar selection committee, unspool for your eyes only before their official release dates. Actual film titles cannot be named (that’s why they’re secret!), but previous SFF premieres have included MirrorMask, Lars And The Real Girl, and Let The Right One In. Don’t be the last kid on the block to see the coolest new movies of the season. Get in line now. Admission is $13, this week only. Saturday midnight to Sunday, noon. 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: MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Not rated) 129 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday (April 12) 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. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit www.ltatm.org.
Movie Times click here.
AMERICAN REUNION After American Pie 2, and American Wedding, the original cast from the first American Pie reconvene for this fourth installment of the comedy franchise. At their high school reunion in East Great Falls, Michigan, Jim, Oz, Stifler and the gang catch up with each other and unravel a few tangled threads. Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Seann William Scott, Tara Reid and Natasha Lyonne head the cast for co-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Rated R.
BOY Set in 1984, this coming-of-age comedy/drama from New Zealand revolves around a young Maori boy who adores Michael Jackson on a collision course with his own dreams. Growing up with his kid brother and assorted cousins in the ramshackle rural home of their grandmother, the boy gets a dose of reality when the absentee father he idolizes bounces back into his life, a petty thief and con-man trying to put his life back together after a stint in prison. Maori writer-director Taika Waititi also stars as the prodigal rogue father. James Rolleston has the title role. (Not rated) 87 minutes.
CASA DE MI PADRE Will Ferrell teams up with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna for south-of-the-border laughs in this comedy about a man living on his father’s ranch in Mexico whose life is complicated by his shady-dealing brother, his brother’s sexy fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez), and a vengeful drug lord. Matt Piedmont directs. (R)
CHICO & RITA Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba’s buoyant, brooding animated musical is a cool, spicy salsa of love, jealousy, politics, betrayal, and fame. It pulsates with glamorous images, sensual yearning, vintage cars and non-stop music in a sprawling romantic drama of sex, drugs, and Bebop jazz that stretches from pre-Revolutionary Cuba to Broadway, Hollywood, Paris, Las Vegas, and finally back again to the Cuba of Castro. A collaboration between Trueba and Spanish artist/illustrator Javier Mariscal, this exotic whirlwind of a movie was nominated this year for Best Animated Feature, and for sheer visual artistry, it deserved the prize. Prepare to be swept up in its irresistible rhythms. (Not rated) 94 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, and Danny DeVito lend their voices to this updated animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ fanciful, ecological-themed story about a tree-loving creature trying to stop destructive humans from destroying the environment. Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda direct. (PG) 94 minutes.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS Two late-thirtysomething best friends, a man and a woman, decide to have a child together without all the messy complications that come with romantic couplehood. But in Jennifer Westfeldt’s entertaining rom-com, the actors are so personable and the funny script so effective, there are moments when the whole crack-brained scheme seems almost plausible. Actress/filmmaker Westfeldt surrounds herself with an ensemble of real-life friends and colleagues who resonate as longtime friends onscreen, including co-star Adam Scott in a smart, funny, and tender crowd-pleasing performance. Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, and Jon Hamm are all excellent in supporting roles, but it’s the quick-witted camaraderie and affection between Westfeldt and Scott that keeps the story on track. (R) 100 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 HUNGER GAMES The much-hyped film version of Suzanne Collins’ hit YA novel trilogy has winning moments, thanks to Jennifer Lawrence, who morphs into teenager Katniss Everdeen (Kat) in a seemingly futuristic world. Kat takes her sister’s place in the lineup of a barbaric (and required) endeavor that places a boy and girl from each of the nation’s 12 districts to fight each other to the death until a sole survivor is deemed the winner. (Naturally, it’s filmed for Reality TV.) Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Willow Shields, Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson co-star for director Gary Ross (Big, Pleasantville, and Seabiscuit). The film never allows as to really know that deeply (thereby care for) the characters because it’s trying to pack in as much story and action as it can. Still, it’s an engaging ride and a sobering look at how the shakey morals of govenment can erode an entire culture. (PG-13) 142 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer.
JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME Jason Segel stars in this surprisingly effective yet offbeat comedy about a thirtysomething slacker. Jeff lives in his mother’s basement and spends most of the time searching for signs from the Universe. His more grounded brother (a terrific Ed Helms) begins to unravel when he realizes his wife is cheating on him. And then there’s the remarkable Susan Sarandon, who co-stars as the guy’s Mom—she’s brilliant as usual. The entire work delivers a quirky look at how each of these people handle the sudden changes in perspective—about themselves, life, others—on one single day. This is a sweet, little gem. Written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus). (R) 83 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer.
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI If you can’t get enough of the loving preparation of food—even if you don’t like sushi—prepare to be seduced by this drool-worthy doc about an 85-year-old master sushi chef. Jiro Ono operates a 10-seat sushi bar in a Tokyo subway station—the first such humble establishment to ever earn 3 stars in the Michelin Guide. Filmmaker David Gelb follows Jiro and his eldest son, heir, and partner, Yoshikazu, on their daily rounds from home to fish market to kitchen, as the elder Ono philosophizes about the search for perfection in life, work, and sushi, while his dutiful and talented son faces the ever-mounting pressure of living up to his father’s legacy.(PG) 81 minutes. In Japanese with English subtitles.(★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
JOHN CARTER Taylor Kitsch (that hunk from Friday Night Lights) headlines this provocative and engaging tale playing the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp fiction hero—he’s a Civil War vet transported to Mars. Yes, Mars. there, he suddenly finds himself defending a beautiful princess from evil sorcerers and giant barbarian creatures. This is one hot mess of a movie—so much to explain, so little time to get it all, surprising considering the already long running time—but the film grabs you unexpectedly and it manages to allow you to become invested in John Carter’s plight. (There’s an Indiana Jones Lite feel to it.) And much of that has to do with the effectiveness of Kitsch, who morphs into one of the year’s best action stars nobody saw coming. Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, and Samantha Morton co-star for Andrew Stanton in this surprisingly well down adventure. (Wall-E; Finding Nemo). (PG-23) 132 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
MIRROR MIRROR Did you hear the one about Snow White and the Seven Stooges? That’s the prevailing sensibility in this fractured fairy tale from the sometimes-brilliant director Tarsem Singh. He injects plenty of visual pizzazz and a nifty grrrl power element, but the emphasis on campy slapstick is almost as fatal as a poison apple to the project. Julia Roberts is a skilled comedienne; she gets the most out of every acidic aside as the Evil Queen, but she’s never sinister, just catty. And without at least some attempt at dramatic tension at its core, the movie plays out as one big joke. Still, kudos to Tarsem for casting authentic dwarf actors in the roles; their diverse individuality keeps their part of the tale intriguing, despite the low-comedy script. And their relationship to banished princess Snow White (Lily Collins)—they’re highwaymen who teach her cunning, swordfighting, and survival—is the most interesting part of the story. (PG) 106 minutes, (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN Ewan McGregor stars in this clear-headed, yet open-hearted romantic comedy-drama about impossible dreams and unlikely alliances. It’s directed by Lasse Hallstrom with his usual touch of warm fuzziness, spiced up with a dash of political satire, and a frisson of cross-cultural utopianism. But the themes never intrude too deeply on the film’s sneaky sense of fun. McGregor and the winsome Emily Blunt are Westerners helping a wealthy, visionary sheikh who wants to create a greenbelt complete with cold-water salmon in the Yemeni desert. Amr Waked is terrific as the philosophical sheikh; Kristin Scott Thomas is a riot as a wisecracking PR liaison. (PG-13) 111 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARIETTY Japanese powerhouse animation outfit, Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away; Ponyo) does an anime-type version of Mary Norton’s popular “The Borrowers” series of children’s books about a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards in a country house who are befriended by an inquisitive little boy. Hiromasa Yonebayashi directs. Gary Rydstrom directs the English-language voice actors, who include Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler, and Will Arnett. (G)
THIN ICE Greg Kinnear, Billy Crudup, and Alan Arkin star in this twisty crime comedy-drama. Set in arctic Kenosha, Wisconsin, it’s about a button-down insurance salesman looking to get out of the frozen Midwest who’s sweet-talked by a nutball locksmith into stealing a rare violin from the home of a local farmer. Expect things to go awry. Jill Sprecher (Thirteen Conversations About One Thing) directs, from a script she co-wrote with sister Karen Sprecher. (R) 93 minutes.
TITANIC 3D You know the story: boy meets girl. Ship goes down. Girl loses boy, but her heart will go on (and on and on). Now it’s all been digitally remastered in 3D so James Cameron can rack up another few billions (unless spending that last hour on board the sinking Titanic proves to be a little too immersive an experience). Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star, as if you didn’t know. (PG-13) 194 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
21 JUMP STREET The most memorable thing about the old ’80s TV cop show was that it launched the career of teen heartthrob Johnny Depp. Tough to imagine how it will be retooled as an action comedy for stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum; nevertheless, they play undercover cops somehow passing as high school students on the trail of a drug ring. Hill conceived the story; Phil Lord and Chris Miller direct. (R) 110 minutes.
WRATH OF THE TITANS The Titans clash once again in this new installment of the sword-and-sorcery franchise in which Olympian gods battle each other like punch-drunk gladiators for control of the earth and the souls of mankind. Sam Worthington returns as warrior hero Perseus, Liam Neeson is Zeus and Ralph Fiennes is the duplicitous Hades. Rosamund Pike and Bill Nighy co-star for director Jonathan Liebesman. (PG-13) 99 minutes.