New This Week
Things threaten to go haywire when Santa Claus' youngest son, Arthur, has to take over his father's high-tech operation in this original family comedy from the Aardman clay animation studio (birthplace of Wallace and Gromit). James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, and Bill Nighy head the voice cast. (PG) 90 minutes. Starts today (November 23). Watch film trailer >>>
Reviewed this issue. (R) 115 minutes. (★★★) Starts November 23.
For his first film in 3-D, Martin Scorsese chooses Brian Selznick's charming, award-winning pictographic novel about an orphan boy living secretly in the walls of a Paris railways station in the 1930s, and a mystery involving a mechanical man, the legacy of his late father, and pioneer silent filmmaker George Melies. Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloe Grace Moretz, Emily Mortimer, and young Asa Butterworth star in this family adventure. (PG) Starts today (November 23). Watch film trailer >>>
Everybody's favorite movie puppets return to the big screen to crack up a new generation of fans in this family comedy. A trio of Muppet fans (Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and Walter, a hero-worshipping Muppet, himself), round up Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and all the rest—who have long since gone their separate ways—to stop a greedhead oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) from razing the fabled Muppet Theater. James Bobin directs. (PG) Starts today (November 23). Watch film trailer >>>
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
Worlds collided in 1957 when Hollywood movie star Marilyn Monroe, and acclaimed British thespian Laurence Olivier made a movie together, the fluffy romance, The Prince and the Showgirl. Decades later, one of Olivier's entourage at that time, Colin Clark, published a memoir about the film shoot, which inspires this film. The ever-gutsy Michelle Williams stars as Marilyn. Kenneth Branagh and Julia Ormond play Olivier and Vivien Leigh; Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, and Eddie Redmayne co-star. TV movie veteran Simon Curtis directs. (R) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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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IN TIME I’m tempted to be generous and add an extra 1/2 star in this troubled tale—the movie lingered after I left the theater so kudos to the writers for somehow making an impact. The story itself eerily mirrors today’s Occupy Wall Street movement, where “spread the wealth”/hold head honchos responsible is such a thick theme. Here, it’s the near future. Nobody ages any more. The currency: time itself. Justin Timberlake plays the poor guy—literally— who stumbles onto a fortune in “time.” But the police, or "time-keepers" are fast on his trail. There’s hints of Bonnie & Clyde in writer-director Andrew Niccol’s (Gattaca; The Truman Show) story. The downfall? The dialogue stumbles and there are a few holes in the plot. It’s a quirky mess, when it all comes down to it but an intriguing one at that—you somehow can’t help but be interested in watching how it will all unravel. Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy star (PG-13) 109 minutes. (★★)—Greg Archer
HAPPY FEET TWO George Miller returns to direct this sequel to his popular animated penguin comedy of a few years back. Elijah Wood once again voices the dancing Emperor Penguin, Mumbles, trying to regain the respect of his own, non-dancing son while helping the wild creatures of Antarctica resist a threat to their habitat. Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon pop up in the voice cast. (PG) 100 minutes.
IMMORTALS Nobody could be more appalled than I am at this grueling endurance test of blood, gore, murder, torture, blatant warmongering, and more blood, masquerading as Greek mythology, from gifted visual stylist Tarsem Singh. It adulterates several myths for a largely invented tale of Theseus (Henry Cavill) vs. a brutal warlord (Mickey Rourke) who mows down everything in his path in his quest to overthrow the gods of Olympus. The gods and heroes look godly indeed, and the visuals are often splendid, but we keep getting dragged back to another battle or torture scene. Most depressing is the excessive carnage among the Olympians themselves. What a disappointment. (R) (110 minutes. (★★) —Lisa Jensen.
J EDGAR Clint Eastwood's wonderfully woven biographical drama on the social and political undercurrents that made up the iron fist of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, arrives—but not with a big bang. But with a whimper, either. Leonardo DiCaprio deserves attention—his J. Edgar Hoover is spot on in a performance that should usher in an Oscar nom. The film itself floats back and forth through time as Hoover preps a book about his life and times. Armie Hammer comes along for the ride—to winning ends—playing Hoover’s longtime associate, and suspected lover. This part of the tale is noteworthy because it offers some of the film’s best scenes—emotional ones that offer a glimpse into who the man really was (or could have been) and the personal sacrifices he had to make to forge ahead. The acting here is stellar but the pacing of the film suffers at times as Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) make their valiant attempt to shed light on a complex soul. Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas and Judi Dench co-star. (R) 137 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
JACK AND JILL If you'd rather pay good money to NOT see Adam Sandler in drag, then this comedy may not be for you. Sandler stars as an LA adman and his own flamboyant twin sister, whose annual Thanksgiving visit drives her brother nuts. Katie Holmes co-stars. Dennis Dugan directs. (PG)
LIKE CRAZY An American college student (Anton Yelchin) and a British exchange student (Felicity Jones) fall truly, madly, deeply in love—and then face the struggle to keep their love alive when she's legally obliged to return home. Drake Doremus directs this thoughtful romantic drama that explores the joys and complexities of first love, a prize-winner for Best Picture and Best Actress at Sundance. (PG-13) 90 minutes.
MELANCHOLIA Nobody has ever accused Lars Von Trier of predictability. In previous films, the persistently idiosyncratic Danish filmmaker has experimented mightily with form and content and how (or if) they interact. In this lugubrious allegorical drama in which permanently depressed new bride Kirsten Dunst faces the end of the world, Von Trier's opinion of humankind is at its lowest ebb, and the overall atmosphere of disdain, coupled with a very slight storyline and a fatally slow narrative make this possibly the most aggravating Von Trier film yet (despite some striking visual in the opening montage). Rarely has so much precious time been frittered away for so little result. (R) 136 minutes. (★)—Lisa Jensen.
PUSS IN BOOTS Hail great storytelling. You’ll find it here. Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the orange swashbuckling cool cat he made so popular in the Shrek films. The good news? There’s plenty to appreciate in director Chris Miller’s animated prequel about Puss' life before he teamed up with Shrek and Donkey. Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Sedaris and Billy Bob Thornton lend supporting voices but it’s the story that really shines. Puss, apparently, had a stellar friendship with Humpty Dumpty—they become like “brothers” in an orphanage. Later in life, when they’re reunited, Humpty convinces Puss to help him steal some magic beans (a la Jack and the Beanstalk) from Jack and Jill and ... Oh, go see it for yourself. An ejoyable ride from beginning to end with clever twists. (PG) 90 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer.
TOWER HEIST Fun and yet, you walk away thinking it could have been just a little better? Why? Is that we’re now immune to a constant outpouring of flash and fun—think Hangover, Bridesmaids—that we can’t stomach a slower-paced comedy? Or is that while the premise rocks, sometimes the delivery stumbles? Still, this is a robust affair starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, and Alan Alda. A comedy cum modern-day Robin Hood tale, it find the folks who lost their savings in shady schemes of a wealthy financier (Alda) seekling vengeange. How they manage to get that is most amusing. Matthew Broderick, Judd Hirsch, Téa Leoni have smaller roles here but look for Gabourey Sidibe to turn in a good performance as a housekeeper. Brett Ratner directs. (PG-13) 104 minutes. (★★1/2) —Greg Archer
THE SKIN I LIVE IN Pedro Almodóvar's unsettling new movie is not for the fainthearted. But this weird mix of Pygmalion and Frankenstein gets better in retrospect, as the viewer begins to appreciate the scope and intensity of its themes. This spicy cocktail of sex, obsession, gunplay and haunting secrets, becomes a compelling meditation on gender and identity, and how much each depends on the other. Almodóvar asks: what makes us who we are inside? Is it how we look on the outside? Or is there some unassailable core of identity that determines selfhood? Antonio Banderas brings presence and fortitude, menace and tenderness to the role of an eminent plastic surgeon with a dark secret obsession. Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes are great in supporting roles. (R) 117 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1
Reviewed this issue ~ The filmmakers decided to stretch out the last book in Stephanie Meyers' teen melodrama into two films, to better milk the marriage of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire soulmate, Edward (Robert Pattinson)—not to mention their honeymoon sex and the portentous the birth of their baby—for all they're worth. Taylor Lautner returns as hunky werewolf Jacob for incoming director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters). (PG-13) 117 minutes.
A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS John Cho and Kal Penn return as the luckless slacker buddies, facing grown-up, holiday season responsibilities with typical immaturity, in this third installment of their misguided adventures. Neil Patrick Harries, Paula Garces, and David Krumholtz co-star for incoming director Todd Strauss-Schulson. (R) 90 minutes.
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