Film, Times & Events: Week of May 17

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Check out the movies playing around town.
With: Reviews, OTTER 501
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New This Week

film battleshipBATTLESHIP
The Hasbro naval combat game is the so-called inspiration for this  ginormous action adventure in which a fleet of US warships prepares to repel a massive invasion force of unknown origin. Taylor Kitch, Alexander Skarsgard, Liam Neeson, Rhianna, and Brooklyn Decker star for director Peter film bluelikejazzBerg. (PG-13) 131 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

Based on the semi-autobiographical bestseller by Donald Miller, this culture-clash coming-of-age drama stars Marshall Allman as a pious teen from a Texas junior college whose transfer to progressive Reed College in Portland, Oregon, forces him to revaluate everything he thinks he knows. Steve Taylor directs. (PG-13) 107 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film otter501OTTER 501
Reviewed this issue. (G) 85 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.

A semi-all-star cast attempts to breathe life into the series of bestselling pregnancy self-help books from which this comedy is adapted, an ensemble piece about five expectant couples. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Dennis Quaid, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick, Chace Crawford and Chris Rock head the cast. Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee; Waking Ned Devine) directs. (PG-13) 110 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: YELLOW SUBMARINE The Beatles lent their names, their personalities, their blessings, and of course, their music, to this opulent 1968 animated fairy tale, filled with vibrant, psychedelic visions of many popular Beatle songs. In the lighthearted opium-dream plot, the Fab Four (voiced by actors) are whisked off to the magical kingdom of Pepperland to fight off the evil Blue Meanies with their special brand of music, laughter and merriment. This new digital restoration of the film (restored frame by frame, all by hand) is being made available only for select screenings this week, so don’t miss it! (G) 89 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen. At the Del Mar, Tonight (Thursday, May 17), 8 p.m., Sunday (May 19), 12 noon, and Thursday (May 24), 8 p.m.

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE @ THE DEL MAR Back by popular demand: an encore performance by Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre, live, in digital HD, broadcast in the Grand Auditorium of the Del Mar. This week: ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS Richard Bean’s update of an 18th Century farce by Carlo Goldoni serves up the staples of Commedia del’Arte—mistaken identities, sexual cross-dressing, a permanently famished clown/hero—in a modern-day comedy of sex, food, desire, and money. Nicholas Hynter directs. Said by one London critic to contain the single funniest moment in his entire 40 years of reviewing theater. James Corden stars. At the Del Mar, Sunday, May 20, 2 p.m., Monday, May 21, 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 22, 6:30 p.m., and Wednesday, May 23, 6:30 p.m. only, 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13

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: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (PG) 115 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Friday-Saturday 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: HIGH NOON (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (May 17), 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.

Now Playing

THE AVENGERS It takes a while to gain its momentum, but The Avengers manages to deliver a nice balance of thrills in a plot you can embrace. Moviegoers dig it—it made over $200 million in its opening weekend, smashing all records. So, what we get is cult titan Josh Whedon’s (Buffy, Angel, and Serenity) take on the Marvel comic book heroes trying to fight a war lauched by Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) bitter bro. Watch how well Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man) elevates the film with his witty bon mots—he’s given the best lines. But kudos to Chris Evans (Captain America) for holding his own here, too. Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk) is expertly cast as Dr. Bruce Banner. Meanwhile Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) round out the cast. This is pure summer movietime fun. Have a ball. (PG-13) 142 minutes. (★★★)
—Greg Archer.

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL The perfect antidote to the summer blockbuster season, this is a wistful, humorous, grown-up story of love, loss, family, identity, and the ever-present whooshing of time’s wingéd chariot. Its splendid ensemble cast play Englishmen and women of a certain age, gobsmacked by circumstances, who decide to “outsource” their retirement to sunny, inexpensive India. Adapted from the  novel, “These Foolish Things,” by Deborah Moggach, It’s directed with quiet affection and precision by John Madden (Shakespeare In Love; The Debt.) The plotlines are fairly predictable, and it all relies a bit much on inspirational messaging, but it’s still an enormous pleasure to watch pros like Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and a deliciously acerbic Maggie Smith. (PG-13) 124 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

BULLY Lee Hirsch’s gripping doc focuses on real-life teen heroes and heroines struggling (or failing) to survive the taunting, humiliation and abuse from their peers in middle/high school. Most heartbreaking are stories of kids who committed suicide rather than endure any more bullying, and their devastated families; most frustrating is the lack of any kind of effective intervention (from teachers, cops, bus drivers, clueless administrators, even parents) to stop it. It’s impossible not to empathize with these kids and what they go through every single day, but it would have been interesting had Hirsch also investigated some of the bullies. At least, with it’s new PG-13 rating, those who most need to see this film, can—bullied kids who need to know they’re not alone, and bullies and bystanders who need to see the consequences of their actions. (PG-13) 99 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

CHIMPANZEE Disneynature whisks us off to the rainforests of Tanzania in this narrative doc about an adorable baby chimp growing up within the support group of his community. Made in association with the Jane Goodall Institute, and directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield.  (G) 78 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

CORIOLANUS Ralph Fiennes makes his directing debut with a modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s brooding military drama about a Roman general driven out of the city by the starving populace who enters into a reluctant alliance with his sworn enemy to stage a coup. Fiennes stars in the title role; Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jessica Chastain co-star. (R) 122 minutes.

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS Whit Stillman deserves kudos for persisting in making films that are distinctly his, far outside the mainstream studio system. But although he returns here to a hermetically-sealed East Coast Ivy League school (similar to the setting of his wry, cult first film, Metropolitan), Stillman’s sense of irony and purpose, let alone pacing, have not sharpened in the intervening 20+ years; his characters are even more pretentious, their talk is twice as mannered, the comic timing is completely off, and the dialogue is rarely witty, just peculiar. (PG-13) 99 minutes (★★)
—Lisa Jensen.

DARK SHADOWS When I first discovered this revamp of the famous soap from the 1960s and ’70s was being remade by Tim Burton, and that it would be more campy and comedic in tone, I scoffed. Still, after sitting through two hours of watching Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabus Collins, I was taken in——but not fully. The film has its flaws, one of them being that it really doesn’t give us a posse of characters with whom we can be emotionally invested. Beyond that, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Depp plays the 200-year-old vampire to winning ends—Barnabus is ressurected to be at the helm of his latter-day dysfunctional family. Michelle Pfeiffer also stars (in a role she seems to be sleepwalking through) as the clan’s matriarch. Helena Bonham Carter (typically fun and memorable) plays quirky Dr. Julia Hoffman. And Eva Green does her best as the spiteful witch Angelique, whose magic continues to loom over the family. But those who recall the original may long for less camp and more drama—there are some shades of that here, and you can see glimpses of what could have also been an effective thriller, but Burton leans more on a formulaic approach. (PG-13) 120 minutes.  (★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

THE DICTATOR Sacha Baron Cohen tries out a new persona, this time as the heavily bearded strongman of a small, backward nation in this socio-political satire. Larry Charles directs. (R)

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.

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT Jason Segel and Emily Blunt star in this modern comedy as a long-engaged, two-career couple who just can’t seem to make time in their busy lives to set a date and get hitched. Segel and director Nicholas Stoller co-wrote the screenplay.  Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Mimi Kennedy, and Jacki Weaver co-star. (R)

MARLEY While Marley bio docs abound, the first-person retelling of intimate moments earns this film bragging rights as the definitive Bob Marley documentary. The film succeeds because, with Marley’s oldest son, Ziggy, on board as a producer, director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) enjoyed unprecedented access to Marley’s closest friends, family members and colleagues. The resulting film delivers a lush, layered and deeply personal portrait, including a number of photos, recordings and film footage never before released on a mass scale. (PG-13) 145 minutes. (★★★★) —Laurel Chesky.

MONSIEUR LAZHAR A Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the 2012 Academy Awards, this French Canadian comedy-drama revolves around an Algerian immigrant hired in the middle of the school year to teach a class of grade schoolers. Their previous teacher has died suddenly, and tragically, and while the new teacher tries to navigate the unfamiliar bureaucracy of his new employers, he proves to have an empathetic and imaginative knack for helping shepherd the kids through their grief and back into the mainstream of life. French Algerian actor Mohammed Fellaq stars for director Philippe Falardeau. (PG-13) 94 minutes. In French with English subtitles.

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS “It’s only impossible if you stop to think about it!” As a call to action, this line captures both the exuberant silliness and the sly, throwaway gaggery in this stop-motion animation comedy adventure from Aardman studios, those cheerfully nutty folk responsible for the Wallace and Gromit series. Scripted by Gideon Defoe, from his series of slim comic novellas, it’s a swashbuckler stretching from the West Indies to Victorian London. Hugh Grant (voicing the Pirate Captain) leads a terrific voice cast, but the fun is in all the visual details, so abandon rational thinking (that old killjoy) and enjoy the ride. (PG) 88 minutes. (★★★)
—Lisa Jensen.

THE RAVEN John Cusack stars as Edgar Allen Poe, famed author of the macabre, in this period thriller. When a string of serial murders based on Poe’s most horrific works rocks Victorian-era Baltimore, a young police detective (Luke Evans) enlists the author himself to help him stop the reign of terror. Alice Eve and Brendan Gleeson co-star. James McTeigue (V For Vendetta) directs. (R) 110 minutes.

SAFE Jason Statham stars in (surprise!) another action thriller, this time playing a tough-guy ex- cage fighter defending a young Chinese girl with a priceless numerical code committed to her memory from the Forces of Evil who want to get their hands on it. Catherine Chan and Chris Sarandon co-star for director Boaz Yakin. (R) 94 minutes.

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. (PG-13) 111 minutes. (★★★)
—Lisa Jensen.

SOUND OF MY VOICE Brit Marling (Another Earth) co-wrote this drama in which she stars as the charismatic leader of a mysterious cult whose group is infiltrated by a couple of documentary filmmakers hoping to expose her. Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius co-star for director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij. (R) 85 minutes.

THINK LIKE A MAN Four men decide to strike back when their women start psyching them out, romance-wise, following the advice in the popular book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” by comedian Steve Harvey. Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Jerry Ferrara, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, and Regina Hall star for director Tim Story (Fantastic Four; Barbershop). (PG-13)

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