Film, Times & Events: Week of June 7th

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New This Week

film hysteriaHYSTERIA
Reviewed this issue. (R) 100 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.

THE INTOUCHABLESfilm intouchables
In this cross-cultural French comedy drama, a wealthy, middle-aged Frenchman rendered quadriplegic in a paragliding accident hires a younger man from a different race, culture, and neighborhood to be his caretaker. Francois Cluzet (Tell No One) and Omar Sy star for directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. (R) 122 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film madagascar3

The vagabond zoo animals are still trying to get home to New York City in this third installment of the popular animated franchise. This time, they’re crossing Europe under cover of a traveling circus. Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Sacha Baron Cohen return as the main voice cast; Frances McDormand, Martin Short, and Jessica Chastain provide guest voices. Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon direct. (PG) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
film peacelove
Reviewed this issue. (R) 96 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.

film prometheusPROMETHEUS Is it some sort of Alien prequel, or something else altogether? Ridley Scott’s much-anticipated new sci-fi thriller involves deep, dark, shadowy places, and unexpected life forms, as a team of explorers in the near future uncovers something sinister at a remote space outpost. Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace (the original girl with the dragon tattoo) and Charlize Theron star. (R) 124 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE AT THE DEL MAR Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London presents its 2012 Season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. This week: FRANKENSTEIN Playwright Nick Dear goes back to the source material—Mary Shelley’s philosophical novel of science, hubris, revenge, good and evil—for this searing new drama about a wayward Creator and his innocent, yet reviled Creature. Danny Boyle directs. In a nifty twist, stars Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s new Sherlock Holmes, among many other credits) and Jonny Lee Miller switch lead roles. Cumberbatch plays the Creature, and Miller plays Dr. Frankenstein tonight only (Thursday, June 7), 7:30 p.m. Miller plays the Creature, and Cumberbatch Dr. Frankenstein on Sunday (June 10), 11. a.m. At the Del Mar.

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: DERBY BABY The modern resurgence of Women’s Roller Derby as a professional team sport, and an empowering tool for building communities of women, is explored in this feature doc from filmmakers Robin Bond and Dave Wruck. The accent is on the global aspect of the sport, its many international leagues and venues, and, of course, the women who skate. For a sample of the film’s attitude, here’s the subtitle: A Story of Love, Addiction, and Rink Rash. Juliette Lewis (Whip It) narrates. (Not rated) 95 minutes. At the Del Mar, Sunday only (June 10), 7 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: JENNIFER’S BODY Scriptwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) takes a more twisted look at teenage sexuality in this 2009 horror comedy about a demon-possessed high school girl (Megan Fox), whose suddenly insatiable sex drive culminates in her devouring her partners. Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) directs. (R) 102 minutes. 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: FUNNY FACE Audrey Hepburn, as a beatnik Greenwich Village bookstore clerk, Fred Astaire as the photographer who turns her into a high-fashion model, Gershwin songs, haute couture, and breathtaking Technicolor make Stanley Donen’s 1957 musical a gorgeous and witty delight. (Not rated) 103 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (June 7), 9 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.

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.

BATTLEFIELD AMERICA Chris Stokes (You Got Served) directs a new dance drama in which a new generation of marginalized kids gets a chance to shine on the underground dance circuit. Marques Houston, Mekia Cox and Lynn Whitfield star. (PG-13)

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.

BERNIE 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.

CHERNOBYL DIARIES 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.

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.

DARLING COMPANION 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.

THE DICTATOR Sacha Baron Cohen wins points for being able to so smoothly embody any quirky role. And, while this film may be short—thank goodness—there is enought “sweet” in here to win you over. And plenty of perversity along the way, too, as Cohen morphs into a dictactor of a backward nation suddenly lost in America. Directed by Larry Charles. (R) (★★1/2) —Greg Archer.

FIRST POSITION Bess Kargman’s suspenseful and entertaining doc captures the real-life drama of exceptional teen ballet students from around the world training for the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix dance-off in New York City—a showcase that allows young dancers who qualify for the finals to perform in front of a panel of 30 judges representing ballet companies from all over the world. Their five minutes onstage might earn these kids a medal, a dance scholarship, or a professional contract—or send them back to the barre in obscurity. Kargman doesn’t impose a narrative; she lets the dancers, their families and trainers tell their own stories of the grueling, terrible beauty and exaltation of the ballet life. And the young dancers (including Michaela De Prince and Joan Sebastian Zamora) are astonishingly good. (Not rated) 90 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

JUAN OF THE DEAD The zombie horror comedy goes Latino with Alejandro Brugués’ entry in the genre. Set in modern, post-Revolutionary Cuba, it’s about a 40-year-old slacker, his layabout buddy, one sexy daughter, and one hunky son who hire themselves out as zombie-killers when the undead menace invades Havana. Blood, jokes, and political satire ensue. Alexis Dias de Villegas, Jorge Molina, and Andrea Duro star. (Not rated) 100 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles.

MEN IN BLACK 3 A refreshing improvement from the first sequel. Here, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reunite with director Barry Sonnenfeld and bring Josh Brolin along for the ride. There’s still that battle of aliens vs. man going on, but this time, time travel is tossedinto the mix as Smith’s Agent J  jumps back in time to save the day. Brolin plays Jones’ characterin 1969 to winning ends. Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga grace the screen, too. Fun. (PG-13) 106 minutes. (★★1/2)
—Greg Archer.

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.

PIRANHA 3DD Oh, don’t even ask. The prehistoric killer fish make their way into a waterpark called Big Wet to menace nubile girls in bikinis. Christopher Lloyd and David Hasselhoff co-star. (R) 83 minutes.

POLISSE A different Paris than we usually see in the movies is revealed in filmmaker Maiwenn’s contemporary cop drama about the women and men of the police department’s Juvenile Protection Unit, struggling to keep their own lives and relationships on point as they cope with the intensity of the job. Karin Viard, Joey Starr, and Marina Fois star; director Maiwenn  has a featured role as a photographer from the Ministry of the Interior sent to document the unit. (Not rated) 127 minutes. In French, Italian, Romanian, and Arabic with English subtitles.

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN Only those whose entire idea of fairy tales comes from Disney cartoons will be shocked by the dark, violent edge in this revisionist take on the oft-told tale. Those familiar with the horrific nature of the original tales from Grimm and Perrault will get the vibe in Rupert Sanders’ brooding, often gorgeous film. It does fall apart in the idiotic battle-siege finale, and they could have used a warmer, more empathetic actress than angsty Kristen Stewart as Snow White, but Charlize Theron is marvelous as the Evil Queen, and Chris Hemsworth scores as the Huntsman, a would-be assassin who becomes Snow White’s ally. (Read my full review next week.) (PG-13) 127 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

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.

WHERE DO WE GO NOW? Lebanese actress and filmmaker Nadine Labaki  poured a lifetime of frustration over religious wars and sectarian violence in her native land into this wry, satirical drama, an award-winner on the festival circuit. A group of women in a Lebanese village, both Christian and Muslim, who are sick of seeing their husbands, sons, and fathers trying to murder each other, concoct a series of schemes to keep their menfolk too distracted to make war. Labaki, who also co-stars, works with a largely semi-professional cast to capture the heart of Lebanese village life. (PG-13) 110 minutes. In Arabic and Russian, with English subtitles.

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