New This Week
Set in the dystopian future (is there any other kind?), and shot in Russia and Bulgaria, this US-Russian coproduction is an action thriller about a lone man struggling to unravel a conspiracy of global mega-corporations whose advertising has somatized society into disillusioned passivity. Ed Stoppard (son of playwright Tom), Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor, and Max von Sydow star for co-directors Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn. (R) 106 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY
Henry Cavill (soon to be seen as the new Superman) stars in this action thriller as a Wall Street trader up against sinister forces in Madrid after his family is kidnapped while on holiday in Spain. Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver co-star; Mabrouk El Mechri (JCVD) directs. (PG-13) 93 minutes. Starts Friday Watch film trailer >>>
COMPLIANCE Reviewed this issue. (R) 90 minutes. (H1/2) Starts Friday.
SLEEPWALK WITH ME
Real-life stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia co-wrote and co-directed this narrative comedy in which he stars as (surprise!) an aspiring stand-up comic trying to jump-start his career and his life, and revive his relationship with his terrific girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose), while battling an increasingly intrusive—and metaphorical—sleep disorder. (Not rated) 90 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Bradley Cooper stars in this romantic drama about an author who achieves enormous success with the publication of an acclaimed novel he did not actually write, and the ways the past comes back to haunt him. Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde co-star for director-writers Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. (PG-13) 96 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE It’s a new season for Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London, broadcasting highlights from its Fall 2012/Winter 2011 season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. Live performances will be broadcast one Thursday evening a month, in the Grand Auditorium of the Del Mar, with encore performances the following Sunday morning. This week: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME Adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens from the international bestselling novel by Mark Haddon, this is the tale of a developmentally challenged 15-year-old boy trying to navigate the perilous adult world while investigating the death of a neighbor’s dog. Tony-winner Marianne Elliott (War Horse) directs. Matthew Barker, Niamh Cusack, and Luke Treadaway star. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (September 6), 7:30 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (September 9), 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: NATURAL BORN KILLERS Oliver Stone’s vivid 1994 MTV nightmare of a movie claims to “satirize” America’s lust for violence by showing just how funny, trippy, cathartic and sexy mass murder can be. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are engagingly goofy psycho serial-killers on a spree, and it’s a little nervy of Stone to turn around and rebuke the media vulture played by Robert Downey Jr. for crassly exploiting their violence for ratings. Ugh. (R) 118 minutes. (HH)—Lisa Jensen. 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: BACK TO THE FUTURE II Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd return for this 1989 sequel, the second installment of the high-octane comedy series, in which they drive the time-traveling DeLorean into the future to save the children-to-be of Fox’s Marty McFly. Robert Zemeckis once more directs. (PG) 107 minutes. Thursday only (September 6), 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.
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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.
BRAVE So many fairy tales feature a wicked stepmother, it’s refreshing to see one devoted to the loving, if sometimes fraught relationship between a mother and daughter. Underlying the magic, adventure, and comedy in this Disney-Pixar collaboration is a family tale in which a girl’s best friend proves to be her mother—and vice-versa. Feisty young Scottish princess, Merida, isn’t waiting for her prince to come; she’s too busy finding herself. Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly provide lively voices, and creator/co-director Brenda Chapman’s feminine/feminist viewpoint gives the story a cheeky, modern YA vibe. (PG) 93 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.
COSMOPOLIS 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.
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..
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. LAWLESS 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.
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.
THE 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.
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
ROBOT & FRANK From the trailer, you’d think this was a madcap comedy about an aging ex-jewel thief and his new robotic accomplice in crime. Yes, these elements do figure into the plot, but beneath the laughs—and there are plenty of them, thanks to yet another knockout performance from Frank Langella—this sly debut feature from director Jake Schreier is a surprisingly poignant meditation on age, friendship, family, and the role of memory in defining who we are. Its near-future setting lets Schreier have fun satirizing the pop culture of tomorrow, but the underlying story of family dynamics and friendship are just as compelling. (PG-13) 105 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.
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—then delighted—when his creation comes to life. Scriptwriter Zoe Kazan writes herself a plummy role as his dream girl, feisty enough to start wanting a life of her own beyond the typed page. As movies about writing go, this is no Wonder Boys. But it’s not really about writing; it’s about finding the balance of power in a relationship, and finding a place for love to root and flourish in the twilight zone between control and free will. (R) 104 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN In the early 1970s, a soulful, funky-folk singer from Detroit called Rodriguez released two critically praised, but underperforming albums, then disappeared from sight. Presumed dead, his albums found a huge audience in South Africa, selling half a million copies and providing a soundtrack of toughness and survival for the last generation living under apartheid. Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul’s English-language doc explores the cult of Rodriguez with a tasty twist: the singer proves to be alive and well and ready at last to meet his enormous fan base. (PG) 86 minutes.
TOTAL RECALL Colin Farrell does his best in this reboot that orginally starred Arnold Schwarzenegger but nothing feels that new or inspired here. The plot, from the classic Philip K. Dick story, “I Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” mirrors much of the 1990 film with a few tweaks added but the script relies too much on swear words and big explosions, and Len Wiseman’s (the Underworld series) direction seems only to copy the cookie cutter big budget blockbusters Hollywood seems to love producing. An A for over-acting goes to and Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston and Jessica Biel. Still—and surprisingly—Farrell delivers the most grounded performance here. (PG-13) 118 minutes. (H1/2) —Greg Archer
2 DAYS IN NEW YORK French actress/auteur Julie Delpy co-wrote and directed this cross-cultural comedy in which she stars as a transplanted Frenchwoman in New York City suffering a weekend visit from her impossible relations (including Delpy’s real-life father, Albert Delpy). As her talk radio host boyfriend, Chris Rock essentially plays straight man to the invading Gauls, but Chris Rock playing straight is funnier than most comic actors’ entire arsenal of jokes and shtick. Delpy mines clashing sexual mores for laughs (there’s no onscreen sex, but a lot of talk), and enters Woody Allen territory as the neurotic New Yorker trying to get a grip. Too much navel-gazing leads to some claustrophobic moments, but Delpy’s filmmaking is inventive and her sensibility offbeat enough to be interesting. (R) 91 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.