Film, Times & Events: Week of May 23

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EPIC Chris Wedge (one half of the brain trust on the Ice Age franchise) directs this animated family adventure about a teenage girl (voice of Amanda Seyfried) transported into a magical forest realm where she leads a battle of the meek and good against the forces of Evil. Josh Hutcherson, Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Chris O’Dowd and Steven Tyler contribute voices. (PG) 102 minutes. Starts Friday.

FAST & FURIOUS 6 Returning director Justin Lin reassembles all the usual suspects in the sixth installment of the high-stakes street racing saga in which the crew reunites to out-drive an international crime organization in hopes of winning pardons so they can all go home to their families. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Sun Kang are back in action; Luke Evans comes on board as the chief villain. (PG-13) 130 minutes. Starts Friday.

THE HANGOVER PART III Unable to let sleeping dogs lie, director Todd Phillips reassembles his cast for one more road trip when an attempted intervention goes awry. Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, and Ken Jeong star. ® 100 minutes. Starts today (Thursday, May 23).

THE ICEMAN Michael Shannon stars in this fictionalized true crime thriller as notorious hit man Richard Kuklinski, a contract killer for the mob whose family had no idea of his other life when he was arrested in 1986 for over 100 murders. Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, and Ray Liotta co-star for director Ariel Vromen. James Franco pops up in a cameo. ® 106 minutes. Starts Friday.

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED A young couple getting married in sunny Sorrento, Italy, a plucky mother of the bride cutting loose from her cheating husband, and the brooding, widowed father of the groom are the ingredients in this wistful comedy-drama-romance of love and second chances. Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dryholm star for always-interesting Danish director Susanne Bier (Open Hearts; After the Wedding). ® 110 minutes. Starts Friday.

SOMETHING IN THE AIR The setting is Paris, 1968, in the weeks and months following the May uprising, where a group of idealistic friends try to keep the dream alive on the brink of what they are sure will be a worldwide social revolution. Clement Metayer, Lola Creton, and Felix Armand star for director Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours). (Not rated) 122 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Starts Friday.

Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE It’s a new season for Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London, broadcasting highlights from its Winter/Spring 2013 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 to follow. This week: THIS HOUSE This biting and timely new political drama from playwright James Graham reimagines Britain’s House of Parliament in crisis in 1974, paralyzed by party politics, as rival MPs struggle for the power to move government forward. Charles Edwards leads a large and impressive cast for director Jeremy Herrin. At the Del Mar, Tonight only  (May 16), 7 p.m. Encore performance today only (Thursday May 23), 4 p.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13. (Saved NT/FGB)

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: SPACE JAM Michael Jordan co-stars with Bugs Bunny in this comic live action/animated 1996 adventure that fuses sci-fi, basketball and laughs. Bill Murray, Theresa Randle, Marvin the Martian and the voice of Danny DeVito pop up in the featured cast. (PG) 88 minutes. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

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Now Playing

AT ANY PRICE Generations collide in this family drama about a Middle American farmer (Dennis Quaid), who’s worked all his life to make the family farm a success, and the son (Zac Efron) who would rather drive race cars for a living. Kim Dickens, Heather Graham, and Clancy Brown co-star for director Ramin Bahrani. ® 105 minutes.

THE BIG WEDDING An all-star cast livens up this matrimonial comedy in which the divorced adoptive parents of the groom must pretend to still be married for the sake of his conservative Catholic biological mother—to the dismay of Pop’s new wife. Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, and Susan Sarandon star as the uneasy threesome; Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried are the happy couple; Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, and Robin Williams co-star for director Justin Zackham (The Bucket List). ® 90 minutes.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP Robert Redford offers a fine turn here as star and director in a political thriller that effectively illuminates how much has changed in America (revolt, activism) and how much hasn’t (political shenanigans). The film has its flaws, but the story and the performances carry it to nice heights. Redford plays a man who has been living under a false name for 40 years to conceal his former identity as a Weather Underground activist during an incident in which a bank guard was killed. Shia LeBeouf morphs into a young reporter here eager to know the whole story. Look for captivating performances by Julie Christie and Susan Sarandon in particular. Chris Cooper Nick Nolte, and Anna Kendrick co-star. ® 125 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer

DISCONNECT You don’t experience many movies like this coming out of Hollywood lately, so when you do, it’s best to take notice and relish the journey. Much like Crash exposed the decay of social mores with its colliding parallel storylines, Disconnect brilliantly captures the lack of real connection taking place in a world that, ironically, appears to be more “connected” through technology. But, as we already know, people aren’t more “connected.” They’re more disconnected, in fact, and here, we find a gaggle of loose and sometimes lost souls searching for something substantial that can’t quite articulate. There’s a cell phone addict unable to communicate in real life and issues of bullying, porn, and personal information leaked online. And all of it merges so wonderfully in a hypnotic tale that finds its actors—Jason Bateman, Andrea Riseborough, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgard, Paula Patton, Max Thierot (of Bates Motel, who shines here!)—turning in some of the finest performances of the year. Some may find the ending a tad over-dramatic, but it fits the tone of the captivating modern-day opera that director Henry-Alex Rubin so wonderfully creates. ® 115 minutes. (★★★★) —Greg Archer

ERASED Aaron Eckhart stars as an ex-CIA agent who has to go on the lam with his estranged daughter (Liana Liberato) after their identities are erased as a prelude to assassination in this action thriller from director Phillip Stolzl (North Face). Olga Kurylenko co-stars. ® 100 minutes.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Ricky Gervais, and Sofia Vergara lend their voices to this animated comedy about a heroic astronaut from a far-off planet who flies to the rescue when he receives an SOS from Planet Earth. Veteran storyboard artist Cal Brunker directs. (PG)

42 Newcomer Chadwick Boseman stars as Jackie Robinson, the first African American ballplayer to cross the color line into Major League Baseball, suiting up for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. Harrison Ford co-stars as Dodger GM Branch Rickey, whose policy against racism changes the game forever. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, A Knight’s Tale). (PG-13) 128 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer.

THE GREAT GATSBY With florid visual stylist Baz Luhrmann in the driver’s seat, this slick, shiny roadster could be a head-on collision of inappropriate styles, or a brilliant reimagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American Jazz Age classic. Fortunately, the more self-conscious stylistic touches—like jarring Jay-Z rap music—mostly occur early on. Once the stage is set, Luhrmann ditches most of his tricks, letting the characters and their agendas propel the story for a surprisingly faithful and urgent account of Fitzgerald’s enduring tale of class, money, and shipwrecked dreams. Leonardo DiCaprio’s delusional Gatsby comes complete with alluring smile, mystery, and vulnerability intact. And Luhrmann’s attention to period detail is fabulous, from the gorgeous black and white Warner Bros. logo to the Deco-licious costumes and production design. (PG-13) 142 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

IRON MAN 3 The secret weapon in this franchise has always been Robert Downey Jr., whose ironic, deadpan aplomb in the face of utter chaos has fueled more memorable series moments than an entire army of jet-propelled suits. What makes this installment such an entertaining load of hooey is incoming director Shane Black giving Downey plenty of room to deliver his special brand of crisp, pungent commentary. Sure, it’s too long, and too full of random stuff blowing up, but Black keeps the focus on the character of Tony Stark, creating ample opportunity for Downey to rise to the occasion as Stark loses his invincibility and has to literally pick himself up and rebuild his equipment and his psyche from scratch. (PG-13) 130 minutes. (★★★) Lisa Jensen.

KON-TIKI Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4300-mile journey across the Pacific in a balsa wood raft in 1947 is the subject of this new fiction film from Norse directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. The story concerns Heyerdal’s Herculean efforts to secure funding and a fearless crew to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized Polynesia, along with the incredible journey itself. (PG-13) 118 minutes.

MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN A Hindu and a Muslim baby, both born in Bombay on the night India declares independence from Great Britain, then switched at birth, are at the center of this magic realism saga in which all children born at that historic moment share telepathic powers with which they influence the progress of modern India. Adapted from Salman Rushdie’s prize-winning novel by filmmaker Deepa Mehta (the exquisite Water). (Not rated) 146 minutes. In Hindi and Urdu with English subtitles, and English.

MUD Jeff Nicholls’ hypnotic tall tale simmers with danger, disillusion, humor, and heart, and Matthew McConaughey’s star performance radiates all of the above. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are astonishingly good as two 14-year-old boys growing up on the banks of the Mississippi in rural Arkansas who get involved in the crazed romantic schemes of a disheveled desperado called Mud. Filmmaker Nicholls infuses the movie with a shrewd sense of place, and McConaughey’s Mud maintains the tension between dangerous and fascinating, while also making the character convincingly lovelorn and vulnerable. It’s a lovely piece of work, in an entertaining yarn of fathers, sons, and surrogates. PG-13. 130 minutes. (★★★1/2) Lisa Jensen.

OBLIVION Tom Cruise heads to the futre in this energetic ride that boasts a curious pace and a story that, while choppy at times, somehow works enough to make you think about it after you’ve left the theater. Still, it smacks of Sci-Fi goulash, with plot points from Independence Day, Armageddon and Blade Runner, among others, filling its tapestry. Morgan Freeman seems wasted here, but hey—we never tire of seeing him. The plot: Cruise is a part of a duo known as the mop-up crew in a post-apocalyptic Earth after aliens have destroyed much of the planet’s resources. Earth won the war but the planet was left virtually unlivable. Or so we think. (PG-13) 126 minutes. (★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

PAIN & GAIN Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Ken Jeong and Anthony Mackie star in this action comedy thriller based on a bizarre true story about a trio of buff personal trainers in 1990s Miami who attempt to turn to crime to underwrite their American Dream. Tony Shaloub and Rebel Wilson co-star for director Michael Bay. ®

PEEPLES Craig Robinson stars in this comedy about a regular guy who crashes the vacation home in the hamptons of his girlfriend’s snooty family to ask forher hand in marriage. Kerry Washington, David Allen Grier, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Diahann Carroll co-star for rookie director Tina Gordon Chism. (PG-13) 95 minutes.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES Director Derek Cianfrance, who weaved Blue Valentine into the stunning tapestry it was, proves himself in his second film. It stars Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in a generational drama that does not quite move in linear fashion. Instead we’re given moments in time where Cianfrance  evokes a certain mood, steering audiences into considering how one’s fate can often be predetermined by family, residence, social constraints and unresolved emotional issues. Gosling plays a motorcycle stunt rider hoping to support his new family but his intentions venture off course when he delves into a series of daring crimes. Meanwhile, Cooper plays an ambitious rookie cop suddenly lured into the corrupt judicial system. Can he create a sea change by doing the right thing? Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, and Ray Liotta co-star. ® 140 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST Mira Nair (The Namesake; Monsoon Wedding) dirtects this adaptation of the Moshin Hamid novel about an upwardly mobile young Pakistani man out to make his fortune on Wall Street whoe life, career, and relationship with his American girlfriend all begin to crumble in the culturally divisive aftermath of the 9-11 Twin Towers attacks. Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, and Kiefer Sutherland star. (NR) 128 minutes.

THE SAPPHIRES Set in1968, an Aboriginal girl group from the outback morphs into a Motown-style quartet thanks to a down-on-his-luck promoter (Chris O’Dowd) and gets sent to entertain the U.S. troops in Vietnam. There’s a great deal of heart in this film. It also creates a believable backstory for the girls, which allows us to become invested in what transpires for them. Based on a true story, the film is “feel-good” but also well-crafted. A sheer delight. Chris O’Dowd, Jessica Mauboy, and Deborah Mailman star for director Wayne Blair. (PG-13) 103 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

SIMON KILLER A recent American college grad (Brady Corbet) flees to Paris after an unhappy love affair and is drawn into increasingly fraught encounters with a sexy prostitute (Mati Diop) in this edgy drama of sex, lies, and identity. Antonio Campos directs. (Not rated) 101 minutes.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 132 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

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