Film, Times & Events: Week of May 15

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BELLE Inspired by a true story, this period drama follows the fortunes of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a young mixed-race woman from the West Indies (daughter of a young English admiral and a slave) who is raised in London society by her aristocratic great-uncle in the years leading up to the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has the title role. Tom Wilkerson, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Sarah Gadon, Tom Felton, and Sam Reid provide support. Amma Asante directs. (PG) 105 minutes. Starts Friday.

GOD’S POCKET The late Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in this drama directed by John Slattery (aka Roger Sterling in Mad Men.) Based on the novel by Pete Dexter, the story concerns a man struggling to conceal the fact that he caused an accidental death from his friends, family and small-town neighborhood. John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, and Richard Jenkins co-star. (Not rated) 88 minutes. Starts Friday.

GODZILLA To mark the 60th anniversary of the first time the big guy in the rubber suit tottered across the Tokyo landscape, Godzilla rises again in this eco-conscious reboot from Gareth Edwards (Monsters). Trying to stay true to the Toho original (but with more sophisticated effects), Edwards promises a monster spawned in the muck of a polluted planet and thirsting for revenge. Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoce and David Strathairn head the human cast. (PG-13) 123 minutes. Starts Friday.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM Jon Hamm stars in this (more or less) true story about a sports agent who decides to revitalize his flagging career with a grandstanding PR stunt—a trip to India to recruit a young cricket pitcher he can groom into a major league baseball star. Alan Arkin, Lake Bell, and Suraj Sharma (Life Of Pi) co-star for director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl). (PG) Starts Friday.

PALO ALTO See review. (R) 98 minutes. Starts Friday.

STAGE FRIGHT The makers of the ingenious musical-horror short The Legend of Beaver Dam revisit a somewhat similar idea—urban-legend killer stalks kid campers—in this truly bizarre mix of horror and Glee. You’d be forgiven for thinking the comedy aspect (not to mention the musical numbers) would doom the horror aspects to being bland, but the very first scene will cure you of that misconception. This is horror comedy that takes both its horror and comedy seriously. Allia MacDonald, Minnie Driver and Meat Loaf star. (R) 89 minutes. Starts Friday. — Steve Palopoli

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 Spring 2014 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: KING LEAR Simon Russell Beale stars in Shakespeare’s enduring tragedy as an aging king driven mad by the malevolent greed and ambition of two of his three daughters and heirs. Filmmaker Sam Mendes (American Beauty; Skyfall) returns to the stage to direct. At the Del Mar, Thursday only  (May 15), 7:30 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (May 18), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Santa Cruz Shakespeare 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: THE ROOM A long-running midnight movie in L.A., this no-budget cult film from auteur/star Tommy Wiseau ponders friendship and trust in the modern world in snarkily funny terms. (R) 99 minutes. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

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 pursue the elusive and ineffable meanings of cinema. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit

Movie Times click here.

Now Playing

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 Andrew Garfield returns for another outing as Peter Parker, college student-turned-web-slinging crime fighter, in this second installment of the rebooted franchise. Jamie Foxx is on board as powerful villain, Electro, with shady ties to OsCorp, the monolithic empire founded by the father of Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan). Emma Stone is back as love interest Gwen, and Sally Field returns as Aunt May for returning director Marc Webb. (PG-13) 140 minutes.

BEARS The folks at Disneynature chime in with their annual Earth Day wildlife doc (after Chimpanzee, African Cats, etc.), which follows a year in the life of two Alaskan grizzly bear mothers shepherding their cubs through the changing seasons. Narrated by John C. Reilly. Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey direct. (G)

DIVERGENT It’s back to the dystopian future in this adaptation of the bestselling Veronica Roth YA trilogy. Shailene Woodley stars as Tris Prior, a young woman categorized as Divergent—unaligned with any group—in a society that maintains control by dividing people into distinct factions based on their personality traits. Theo James, Ashley Judd, Zofi Kravitz, Miles Teller, and Kate Winslet co-star for director Neil Burger (The Illusionist). (PG-13).

FADING GIGOLO John Tuturro wrote and directed this offbeat comedy in which he and Woody Allen star as a couple of friends who get into the gigolo buiness to make ends meet. Allen’s character—whose bookstore has just closed down— finds the clients, and Turturro’s character performs the service. Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis, and Liev Schreiber co-star. (R) 90 minutes.

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER In 2007, John Maloof, a real estate agent in the Chicago area, bought some miscellaneous boxes at an estate auction—and stumbled into one of the greatest discoveries in 20th Century photography: the previously unknown, but amazingly prolific work of amateur street photographer Vivian Maier. In this fascinating doc, Maloof exposes her work to the light of day at last, along with the mystery shrouding the artist herself. The portrait of that emerges of Maier (who made her living as a nanny/housekeeper) is compelling in its oddity. That so much of her work was never even developed (much less exhibited) suggests it was the process, not the outcome, that was important to her. And isn’t that what art is all about? (Not rated.) 83 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO EDEN The yearning to leave the vice and folly of the material world behind and carve out a new life in some unspoiled place, is at the heart of this fascinating real-life mystery about strife and skullduggery in a so-called tropical paradise of the 1930s. Directed by Bay Area filmmakers Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine, this stranger-than-fiction documentary isn’t a story about a looming villain invading an idyllic realm; it’s about a handful of cranky misanthropes and the accumulation of little frictions between them that leads to trouble in Paradise. Most of the principals kept detailed diaries, and copious home movie footage keeps things percolating along in this exotic thriller of a doc. Not rated. 120 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL There’s plenty of fun and whimsy to be had here in Wed Anderson’s delightful new comedy. Much like Moonrise Kingdom unraveled in a quirky splendor, so, too, does The Grand Budapest Hotel, which chronicles the unlikely friendship between a revered European hotel concierge, Gustave H  (Ralph Fiennes) and his lobby boy. Everything from the era—between two menacing wars—to the fictional setting of the Republic of Zubrowka pepper the tale, which unfolds, layer by layer (a story within a story within a story) much like a Russian doll. Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and other Anderson grads join the fun. (R)

100 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL Just in time for Easter comes this screen adaptation of the non-fiction book by Todd Burpo about his 4-year-old son who survived a near-death experience and came back full of detailed stories about the other side. Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, and newcomer Connor Corum star for director Randall Wallace. (PG)

100 minutes.

LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN Inspired by the classic childrens’ book series continued by the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, this 3D-animated musical finds Dorothy (voice of Lea Michelle) whisked back to Oz to help her friends save the Emerald City from a new villain called the Jester (Martin Short). Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammer, Bernadette Peters, and Patrick Stewart are featured in the voice cast. Bryan Adams contributes new songs. Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre direct. (PG) 88 minutes.

LOCKE Tom Hardy stars in this thriller as a man at a challenging moment in his life whose career, family, and psyche begin to unravel during one long, fateful car ride. Steven Knight (Eastern Promises; Dirty Pretty Things) directs. (R) 85 minutes.

THE LUNCHBOX In this award-winning debut feature from Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra, a young Mumbai housewife hoping to spice up her stale marriage, and a middle-aged widower about to retire strike up a correspondence and unexpected friendship when the boxed lunch she prepares for her indifferent husband at work is mistakenly delivered to the wrong man. Nimrat Kaur is poised and affecting as the lonely wife. The always great Irffan Khan combines the wry world-weariness of vintage William Powelll with the banked sensuality of a Raul Julia.This is an interactive bittersweet romance; how it ends depends on if you see the glass as half full or half empty. (PG) 104 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

NEIGHBORS Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a young couple with a new baby who find themselves at war with their neighbors when a bunch of rowdy college frat boys move into the house next door. Zac Efron and Dave Franco are the uber fraternity brothers. Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek) directs. (R) 97 minutes.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE It’s a vampire romance, Jim Jarmusch-style. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star as an undead European gadabout and a reclusive Detroit rocker who reignite their centuries-old love affair. John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska co-star. (R) 122 minutes.

THE OTHER WOMAN Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jamie Lannister) gets up to more shenanigans in this revenge comedy about a woman who discovers that her boyfriend is not only married, but seeing yet another woman on the side. Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton are the wronged women who become allies in retribution. Nick Cassavetes directs. (R) 109 minutes.

THE QUIET ONES In this horror thriller, a university professor and his students conducting experiments on a young woman at a secluded estate outside of London uncover something dark and sinister. Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, and Olivia Cooke star for director John Pogue. (PG-13) 98 minutes.

THE RAILWAY MAN Is revenge really sweet? This is the central question in Jonathan Teplitzky’s handsome, quietly moving drama adapted from the 1995 memoir by Eric Lomax, who, as a young British army officer, survived brutal conditions in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. Jeremy Irvine and Colin Firth deliver self-effacing complexity playing Lomax as a youthful POW and a damaged middle-aged man who decides to confront his Japanese tormentor decades after the war. This film doesn’t pack a wallop; instead, it invites its audience to consider our own notions of justice, morality and forgiveness. (R) 116 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

RIO 2 The parrots from the first film are relocated from the simmering samba of Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon jungle in this family-friendly animated sequel. Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg,, Jermaine Clement, Rodrigo Santoro, and Jamie Foxx are back in the voice cast, joined by Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno and Bruno Mars. Carlos Saldanha is back in the director’s chair. (G) 101 minutes.

TRANSCENDENCE Johnny Depp stars in this original sci-fi thriller as a scientist with a terminal illness who hooks his brain up to a computer to preserve his mind and gains unexpected powers. Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman co-star. Acclaimed cinematographer Wally Pfister (he won an Oscar for Inception) makes his directing debut. (PG-13) 119 minutes.

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