Film, Times & Events: Week of June 26

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ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST In his directorial debut, Andrea Di Stefano takes on the dark and dangerous world of Pablo Escobar’s Colombian drug cartel. Played by Hunger Games sweetheart, Josh Hutcherson, Nick ventures from Canada to the Colombian coast in search of a surf paradise. He stumbles upon the beautifully alluring Maria—none other than Escobar’s niece. Step by step Nick becomes initiated into the family and with their acceptance come the responsibilities of an Escobar, forcing Nick to grapple with the moral implications of his new adopted family. Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro, and Brady Corbet co-star. (R) 120 minutes. Starts Friday.

MAX Trained as a precision military dog, Max served on the frontlines of Afghanistan with his handler, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott, until things go terribly awry and Wincott is mortally wounded. Traumatized by the loss of his best friend, the canine is unable to return to service and thus shipped stateside to Wincott’s family where the fallen soldier’s brother develops an unlikely bond with the four-legged veteran. Boaz Yakin directs. Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, and Luke Kleintank co-star. (PG) 111 minutes. Starts Friday.

TED 2 The lovably foul-mouthed Teddy is back—and this time, he wants to produce a spawn of his own. However, as anyone who’s survived a trip to Build-A-Bear knows, the insides of a Teddy are not conducive to reproduction, hence why Ted asks John to provide the goods. What ensues is a typically hilarious battle for civil rights (“we’ll take it all the way up to Judge Judy if we have to”) so that Ted can prove he’s a human and keep the child he’s always wanted. Seth MacFarlane directs. Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, and Amanda Seyfried co-star. (R) 115 minutes. Starts Friday.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH Jon Snow—what are you doing in World War I England? It seems that winter came and went as Game of Thrones star Harington makes his first major film debut in this war drama based on the namesake memoir by Vera Brittain. Presented by BBC, the young Vera defies the conventions of her times, trying desperately to ignore the wiles of dashing Roland Leighton (Harington—who likely still knows nothing) as she accepts her position at Oxford. Conflict arises when the star-crossed lovers find themselves in the pull of the WWI volunteerism and the devastating realities of the lost generation. James Kent directs. Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, and Taron Egerton co-star. (PG-13) 129 minutes. Starts Friday.

Film Events

CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES Film buffs are invited Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. to downtown Santa Cruz, where each week the group discusses a different current release. For our location and discussion topic, go to:

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Now Playing

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS It’s always a refreshing change to see an entire movie built around a woman of a certain age. Blythe Danner personifies aging with grace and spirit in this wistful comedy with romantic overtones written for her by filmmaker Brett Haley, very loosely concocted from Danner’s real-life situation as a widow living in LA with a background in showbiz. Some plot elements fall into place a bit too easily, and the story has an insular feel, but the actors are fun to watch, especially Martin Starr, as a deadpan pool guy, and the ever-roguish Sam Elliott. And telling a story from a woman’s viewpoint is always appreciated. (PG-13) 95 minutes. (**1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

LOVE & MERCY Bill Pohlad’s generally absorbing fiction film about the amazing life and harrowing times of Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, narrows its focus to two pivotal moments in Wilson’s life. Paul Dano is terrific playing the younger Brian in the mid-1960s, at the height of his creative genius, and John Cusack is surprisingly effective as the ’80s-model Brian, under the thumb of controlling psychotherapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). And it’s all connected by the music, a fabulous, gluttonous feast of Wilson music, from surf tunes to Smile, that informs every single scene. (PG-13) 120 minutes. (***)—Lisa Jensen.

DOPE Shameik Moore certainly redefines the definition of “geek” (since when are geeks the perfectly chiseled Fresh Prince throwback types with Class Act hair and excellent taste in music) as Malcolm, a straight-A student carefully maneuvering the reality of growing up in Inglewood. Produced by Pharrell Williams and Sean Combs (who are responsible for the undoubtedly dope soundtrack which includes four new originals by Pharrell) in addition to Forest Whitaker, the coming of age comedy/drama sees Malcolm through the trials and tribulations of his teens—the mean streets, romance, drama, and everything awkward and awesome in between. Rick Famuyiwa directs. Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, and Kiersey Clemons co-star. (R) 115 minutes. Starts Friday.

INSIDE OUT Reviewed this issue. (PG) 94 minutes. Starts Friday.

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