New This Week
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
Benjamin Walker dons the stovepipe hat and grabs a wooden stake as young Mr. Lincoln, determined to save the fledgling nation from the vampire menace, in this adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel. Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper co-star for Russian-born thriller director Timur Bekmambetov. (Not Rated) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
In this grrrl-power Pixar animated adventure, a feisty young princess in the Scottish Highlands refuses to be married off to the highest bidder and instead takes up her bow and arrow to help save her kingdom from sinister forces. Kelly MacDonald is the voice of the heroine; Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly voice her royal parents. Julie Walters, Craig Ferguson, and Robbie Coltrane pop up in the supporting cast. Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt) dreamed up the idea, and co-directs with Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell. (PG) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Greta Gerwig (last seen slogging valiantly through Damsels In Distress) stars in this character comedy as a woman on the cusp of 30, dumped by her fiancé just before the wedding, who has to reevaluate and reinvent her life. Zoe Lister-Jones, Joel Kinnaman, Hamish Linklater, Debra Winger and Bill Pullman co-star for director Daryl Wein. (R) 86 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
Clever and upbeat, sweet and sincere, this could be one of summer’s best indie sleeper hits. Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass make an unlikely romantic couple here. Plaza plays an intern for an ego-centric writer for Seatle Magazine (Jake M. Johnson, one of the year’s brightest new stars thanks to New Girl) who investtigates the man behind a quirky classified ad offering an adventure in time-travel. Another intern goes along for the ride as the journalists attempt to learn more. But watch how effectively director Colin Trevorrow uses the best of all the fine talent here, always managing to hit the right notes in this surprisingly hearthwarming tale. (R) 94 minutes. Starts Friday. (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer. Watch film trailer >>>
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
It’ll be tough not to think of this as Melancholia with laughs. With a giant asteroid hurtling toward Earth, predicted to crash-land in only 21 days, the law of the jungle quickly prevails. Ditched by his wife, mild-mannered insurance salesman Steve Carrell, and his flamboyant neighbor, homesick Brit Keira Knightley, hit the road in hopes of finding someone to connect with before it’s too late. Connie Britton and Adam Brody co-star for writer/director Lorene Scafaria (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist). (R) 100 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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. Jonny Lee Miller plays the Creature, and Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s new Sherlock Holmes, among many other credits) plays Dr. Frankenstein. Tonight only (Thursday, June 21), 7:30 p.m. At the Del Mar.
CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAR Eclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. See ad this issue for this week’s film. 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: BACK TO THE FUTURE (PG) 116 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (June 21), 9 p.m., at the Cinema 9.
CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES Meets at the Del Mar mezzanine in downtown Santa Cruz. 7 pm. Free. Visit www.ltatm.org.
Movie Times click here.
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 HOTELThe 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 A delight from beginning to end. Based on a true story, the comedy stars Jack Black as a mortician in small-town Texas who warms to a wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine). Matthew McConaughy co-stars for cult director Richard Linklater Take note of how well Linklater weaves together a compelling tale here using many of the real people who still live in the small town where Bernie’s scandal eventually unfolds.. (PG-13) 104 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
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.
HYSTERIA Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy star in this period comedy about the young Victorian-era doctor who invented the vibrator as a medical device for women diagnosed as “hysterical.” The story and characters are almost completely fabricated, but director Tanya Wexler’s uneven, yet entertaining film deftly captures late 19th Century (male) attitudes toward women and female sexuality; it’s a kind of fantasia on the idea of the vibrator, and its potential function as a revolutionary tool for women attempting to claim some shred of selfhood in an era entirely dominated by male authority. Rupert Everett contributes droll comic support, and while the script relies on too many double-entendres and overly-pat feminist speeches, the film provides a quaint and alarming glimpse into a historical moment of epic male/female misunderstanding. (R) 100 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED The vagabond zoo animals are still trying to get home to New York City in this third installment of the popular animated franchise. Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon direct. (PG)
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 tossed into 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.
MOONRISE KINGDOM This could be Wes Anderson’s (Rushmore; Fantastic Mr. Fox) to date. it’s a quriky little love story revolving around two 12-year-olds and boy, does it have a lot of heart. Set in 1965 in a sleepy New England coastal community, the two young ones run off together. Meanwhile, the entire town is tossed into an upheaval trying to find them. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman all co-star. Willis plays the island cop; Norton a troubled scout master and Murray/McDormand the young girl’s mother. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward so beautifully inhabit their roles that you don’t want them to leave the screen. Anderson also co-wrote this outing, which, could turn into one of the summer’s more memorable offerings. (PG-13) 97 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer.
PROMETHEUS Enjoyable, interesting and engaging, yet lacks some spark. Still, this prequel of sorts to Alien is Ridley Scott at his finest, weaving together a curious sci-fi thriller that ponders the state of human evolution. (My sense is that the sequels, if any, may be better). Noomi Rapace (the original girl with the dragon tattoo) is a scientist here, who hopes to uncover the mystery of human life on Earth and after traveling with a posse to a remote space outpost, the gang quickly gets into trouble. Michael Fassbender (nice, playing an android) and Charlize Theron (mastering another steely role) co-star. (R) 124 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
ROCK OF AGES Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) (★★) —Greg Archer
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.
THAT’S MY BOY Adam Sandler plays a slacker goofball, and Andy Samberg is the straight-arrow son he fathered in his teens who fled home for a grown-up life, now unhappily reunited in this dysfunctional family comedy from director Sean Anders. Leighton Meester and Susan Sarandon co-star. (R)