New This Week
This oddball comedy stars Jack Black as a mortician in small-town Texas who starts making himself indispensible to a wealthy and sour elderly widow (Shirley MacLaine). Matthew McConaughy co-stars for cult director Richard Linklater. (PG-13) 104 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
From the fevered imagination of Oren Peli (the first Paranormal Activity) comes this horror thriller about six tourists visiting the outskirts of Chernobyl, 25 years after the nuclear disaster, who discover something unquiet left behind. Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley star; Bradley Parker directs. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) star in this Lawrence Kasdan comedy-drama about a woman in an unhappy marriage who loses her beloved rescue dog on the day of her daughter’s wedding. Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass and Sam Shepard co-star. (PG-13) 103 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Exceptional teen ballet students from around the world come to New York City to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix dance-off in this suspenseful dance doc by filmmaker Bess Kargman. As her focus narrows to six finalists rehearsing for the five minutes onstage that could win them a professional contract, or send them back to obscurity, Kargman invites us to ponder the collision of childhood with the grueling, terrible beauty of the ballet life. (Not rated) 90 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
MEN IN BLACK 3
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reunite with director Barry Sonnenfeld (10 years after the second installment of the franchise) for their third men vs. aliens sci-fi comedy. This time out, Josh Brolin joins the roster as a younger version of Jones’ character when Smith has to time-travel back to 1969 to save his partner’s life and prevent human history from being altered. Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga pop up in supporting roles. (PG-13) 106 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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 24), 8 p.m.
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 GOONIES When this Steven Spielberg-produced, Richard Donner-directed 1985 kiddie adventure is good, it’s lots of silly fun as a bunch of contemporary kid go on a hunt for lost pirate treasure. With Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton. (PG) 114 minutes. (★★1/2)—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: YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU James Stewart stars in Frank Capra’s lighthearted 1938 adaptation of the Kauffman-Hart stage comedy about a mild-mannered fellow trying to adjust to his fiancée’s eccentric family. Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore and Ann Miller co-star. (Not rated) 126 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (May 24), 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
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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. (★★★)
BATTLESHIP 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 Berg. (PG-13) 131 minutes.
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.
BLUE LIKE JAZZ Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 107 minutes. (★★)
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.
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.
OTTER 501 Otters are so plentiful around here, most of us don’t realize how precarious their living situation still is. When a group of concerned Central Coast researchers, and marine specialists decided to dramatize their plight, they made this engaging film. It’s neither a traditional documentary, nor a kiddie film; the filmmakers tell the animals’ story, through a parallel fictional story about a college coed (Katie Pofahl) on holiday from the Midwest discovering the Monterey Bay for the first time. What she learns about otter culture, their history and habits, and the movement to protect them, is presented as a series of informative, yet easily-digestible web cam posts on her Facebook page. A heartfelt plea for sane ocean management and a character study of one of Nature’s most beguiling critters. (G) 85 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
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. (★★★)
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)
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING 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.