Film, Times & Events: Week of Aug. 30

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New This Week

film complianceCOMPLIANCE Tough, but important and timely drama on the “only following orders” mentality, or a gratuitous wallow in abasement and abuse? You make the call. This sophomore feature from Craig Zobel split audiences at Sundance with its tale (allegedly based on 70 “true” incidents) about a prank caller pretending to be a cop who convinces a fast-food restaurant manager and her employees to brutally punish an innocent young co-worker he claims stole from a customer. Ann Dowd is getting raves as the conflicted manager; Dreama Walker plays the victim. Pat Healy co-stars. (R) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film cosmopolisCOSMOPOLIS A limo ride across town to get a haircut becomes an existential journey to find the meaning of life in David Cronenberg’s moody adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel. Robert Pattinson breaks out of the Twilight mold by playing another kind of soulless vampire, a self-made young billionaire cocooned in his limo amid mayhem in the streets of New York City who is no longer able to connect with the rest of humanity in any meaningful way—and increasingly desperate to shake things up. Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, and Paul Giamatti provide pit stops along the road. (R) 108 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film lawlessLAWLESS The excellent credentials of Australian director John Hillcoat (The Proposition; The Road), along with an impressive cast, recommend this Prohibition-era gangster melodrama. Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf head a family of moonshining brothers in the American south fending off a crooked lawman (Guy Pearce) and a powerful gangster (Gary Oldman) who want a cut of their profits. Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and Mia Wasikowska co-star. (R) 115 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film posessionTHE POSSESSION It’s kind of a new riff on the old genie-in-a-bottle story when a schoolgirl buys an antique box at a yard sale. Instead of a wish-granting genie, she unlocks a nasty spirit who puts her under a curse her parents desperately try to un-do. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick are the frantic parents; Natasha Calis plays their daughter. Ole Bornedal directs. (PG-13) 92 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film robot and frankROBOT & FRANK Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 105 minutes. (HHH) Starts Friday.

Film Events

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:  SUPER TROOPERS The five-man comedy troupe, Broken Lizard, wrote and stars in this 2001 comedy as a platoon of Vermont State Troopers at war with highway motorists, the local cops and the state government. Directed by Head Lizard Jay Chandrasekhar. (R) 100 minutes. Fri-Sat 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: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER The movie that launched a million tacky white polyester suits and John Travolta’s movie career,  John Badham’s 1977 dance melodrama recycles the usual youth rebellion themes to the Bee Gee’s disco beat. (R) 118 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (August 30), 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

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD Rarely has a coming-of-age story been told with such engrossing originality as in this remarkable first feature from Benh Zeitlin, infused with elements of fairy tale, folklore and magic realism. At it’s center is a tiny dynamo named Quvenzhané Wallis, the non-professional actress who stars as a philosophical six-year-old girl living with her volatile Daddy in the Southern Delta when a giagantic storm throws Nature out of balance. Wallis is onscreen in every scene, and we never get tired of her poignant, expressive little face. In a story brimming with themes and metaphors, it offers a compelling portrait of a marginalized lowland community coming together with quiet resolve in the face of catastrophe. But it’s the child’s viewpoint—an irresistible mix of awe, trepidation, and grit—that makes the film so special. (PG-13) 91 minutes. (HHH1/2) —Lisa Jensen.

THE BOURNE LEGACY It takes a while to get moving, but once it does, the film captures some of the magic found in the previous Bourne adventures. Out: Matt Damon. In:  Jeremy Renner as a super soldier running for his life. Rachel Weisz lends him a hand against bad guys Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Oscar Isaac. Bourne alums Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn have cameos. (PG-13) 135 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer.

THE CAMPAIGN This election-year comedy that never quite gets out of its own way and if often played over the top when it doesn’t need to do so. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star alongside. John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox for director Jay Roach.  (R) 85 minutes. (HH)—Greg Archer.

CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER A hip, young married couple and longtime best buds are getting a divorce, yet continue to live life joined at the hip, enjoying themselves and each other hugely. Um, why exactly are these guys breaking up? The short answer is, to create conflict so the scriptwriters will have something to write about, but it causes some problems in the context of the story for writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. Still, beyond its romantic complications, their script is so funny and their characters so engaging, it’s worth suspending one’s disbelief. Co-star Jones’ caustic one-liners and Andy Samburg’s deadpan goofy sweetness in the title roles keep things in high gear, and the satire on pop culture is often hilarious. Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, and Emma Roberts provide nifty support under the direction of Lee Toland Krieger. (R) 91 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES In this final installment of Christopher Nolan’s brooding bat opera, Christian Bale is still worth watching; as conflicted Bruce Wayne, he regains the will to restore honor and heroism to the Bat legacy, and save a besieged Gotham City—whether they like it or not. Anne Hathaway is a wry, sassy Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is terrific as a smart young beat cop who rekindles Bruce’s tarnished idealism, and Michael Caine, as loyal butler Alfred, infuses his scenes with warmth and intelligence. But Tom Hardy’s Bane is a ho-hum villain, a bald, masked brute with inexplicable motives and indecipherable dialogue (we miss the intense danse macabre between Batman and Heath Ledger’s magnificent Joker over the thin line between good and evil, hero and villain), and the usual chaotic vehicle chases, extreme shootouts, and massive explosions weigh things down. But a great kicker, plotwise, and a satisfying coda ends things on a high note. (PG-13) 164 minutes. (HHH)
—Lisa Jensen.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 Break out the ear plugs; almost the entire team from the first film is back in this tomfoolery about a secret squad of paramilitary ops composed entirely of aging Hollywood action stars creating havoc in some distant, volatile region of the world. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Jean-Claude van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, even Chuck Norris surface in the cast. Simon West (Con Air)  directs. (R) 102 minutes..

FAREWELL MY QUEEN German-born actress Diane Kruger stars as Austrian-born Marie Antoinette, dutiful wife of France’s extravagant Louis XVI, who sees her life of privilege threatened in the early days of the French Revolution in this opulent historical drama from filmmaker Benoit Jacquot. The story unfolds from the feminine viewpoint of Marie and her ladies-in-waiting and attendants. Léa Seydoux (Midnight In Paris) and Virginie Ledoyen co-star. (R) 100 minutes. In French with English subtitles.
HIT & RUN Dax Shepard wrote and co-directed this road comedy in which he stars as a former getaway driver who breaks out of the witness protection program. Kristin Bell, Tom Arnold and Bradley Cooper co-star. David Palmer co-directs. (R) 100 minutes.
HOPE SPRINGS A wonderfully underplayed gem. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are the long-married couple who venture off to an intensive, week-long couples retreat in hopes of recapturing the sizzle their relationship once had. Streep is stellar here; Jones even better as her reluctant husband. The film is believable and embraceable.. Steve Carrell co-stars as a famous couples therapist in this comedy from David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada). (PG-13) 100 minutes. (HHH)
 —Greg Archer

THE 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.

KILLER JOE Veteran director William Friedkin (The Exorcist; The French Connection) returns to the screen with this violent, blackly comic tale about a slick Texas lawmen (Matthew McConaughey) who moonlights as a hitman-for-hire. He’s retained by a scalawag son (Emile Hirsch) looking to off his mom for the insurance money, involving his entire dysfunctional family in the messy business. Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, and Juno Temple co-star. Based on the play by Tracy Letts. (NC-17) 103 minutes.

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. (HHH1/2)—Greg Archer.

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton star in this fanciful Disney family comedy about a young small-town couple whose dream of starting a family is answered when a magical boy shows up on their doorstep. Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston, M. Emmet Walsh and newcomer CJ Adams co-star for director Peter Hedges (Dan In Real Life; What’s Eating Gilbert Grape). (PG) 100 minutes.

PARANORMAN In this stop-motion animated horror comedy, an outcast boy who can talk to the dead gets his chance to be a hero when his town is invaded by zombies. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, and John Goodman head the voice cast. Sam Fell and Chris Butler direct. (PG) 101 minutes.

PREMIUM RUSH Premium Rush? Premium awesome. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who seems to do no wrong these days picking the right roles, headlines this fast-paced and clever caper, playing a New York City bike messenger relentlessly pursued by a homicidal crooked cop (Michael Shannon)—the man is offfered some of the most outlandish, over the top dialogue at times, but hey, we’re in this for the fun, so there we are. David Koepp directs in of the summer’s more inventive outings. (Secret Window; Ghost Town). (PG-13) 91 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer

RUBY SPARKS Suppose an author was so in love with his fictive heroine that she emerged as a flesh and blood person in the midst of his real life? Such is the miracle—and the dilemma—at the heart of this offbeat, savvy and charming new romantic comedy from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine). Paul Dano is the blocked writer freaked out—

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