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Apr 16th
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Film, Times & Events: Week of Dec. 1st

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Check out the movies playing around town.
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Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE Britain's acclaimed National Theatre of London presents in 2011 Fall 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: COLLABORATORS Art, power, and politics collide in this blisteringly funny satire written by John Hodge (Trainspotting; Shallow Grave). In 1938 Moscow, dissident playwright Mikhail Bulgakov is commissioned to write a play commemorating the 60th birthday of Joseph Stalin—leading to a treacherous, subversively funny dialogue between writer and subject on art vs. the state. Alex Jennings and Simon Russell Beale star for director Nicholas Hytner. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (December 1) 7 p.m. Encore performance: Sunday only (December 4) 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: THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS An all-star cast highlights this eccentric 2001 comedy about a dying billionaire (Gene Hackman) trying to reconnect with his estranged wife (Anjelica Huston) and former child-prodigy kids (Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson). Danny Glover, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray co-star for director Wes Anderson. (R) 109 minutes. 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: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE Stanley Kubrick's cold, slick style drains the life out of Anthony Burgess' dark novel of ideas; all that's left is the ultra-violence, and Malcolm McDowell's subversive charisma as a bowler-hatted, false eyelash-batting, sadistic young thug in a futuristic society, who's forced to undergo extreme behavior modification. This is what passed for an X-rated film in 1971, since downgraded to an R. 137 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Tonight (Thursday, Dec 1) only, 8 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


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Now Playing

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS 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.

THE DESCENDANTS George Clooney once again proves himself one of the most watchable and subtle of actors in Alexander Payne's incisive, entertaining, tender and life-sized family drama. He plays a Hawaiian-born lawyer trying to reconnect with his wayward daughters after an accident puts their mom in a coma, while also trying to decide whether to sell off pristine, generations-old family property to developers. Shot on location in the luscious Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai (with haunting, slack-key guitar music playing under every scene), it's a resonant tale of a family in crisis, a culture in flux, and the issue of legacy between the generations, told with wry humor and honest emotion. (R) 115 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

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. film hugo(PG) 100 minutes.

HUGO Reviewed this issue. (PG) 127 minutes. (★★★1/2)

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.

MELANCHOLIA (It’s not quite dueling “critics”... it’s just another perspective.)  Director Lars Von Trier creates one of the most visually sumptuous films of the year. It’s an unforgettable ride that lingers long after you leave the theater. This is not your average film—Von Trier never creates those types of movies. No. This is a living, moving abstract “painting.” The story isn’t linear per se—we’re simply dropped into the scenes. The first, revolves around Justine (Kirsten Dunst), a solemn bride who mopes around her wedding reception; which is tossed by her sister Claire on a lavish estate. The second part of the film chronicles Claire’s reactions to an impending doom—Melancholia, a lost planet traveling through space, may be on a direct path with Earth. Will the two planets collide? Von Trier nixes all predictable glam and sci-fi elements here and simply focuses on his two main characters as they both deal with with their fears and a startling reality. Life. Death. Living. Really living. Being happy. Pretending to be happy. Sinking into an emotional abyss—these are a few things the director attempts to explore in a fascinating, brooding artistic tale. See it for what it is: a rare moviegoing “experience” in all sense of the word, with breathtaking imagery and a profoundly original vibe. (R) 136 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

THE MUPPETS 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 film marilynfabled Muppet Theater. James Bobin directs. (PG)

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN Reviewed this issue (R) 107 minutes. (★★★★)

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.

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 I’m glad Stephanie Meyers' teen melodramas have made her one rich lady. Here we are, nearly at the end of the Twilight saga—in film form. This is the first of a two-part romp. Twihards are rejoicing. The rest of us—not so much. The story thus far: Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire honey, Edward (Robert Pattinson) finally marry and consumate their relationship. Bella is suddenly with child—but what kind of child (or beast) will she birth. Everybody is all flutte. Taylor Lautner returns as hunky werewolf Jacob—shirtless the first five minute. Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) delivers a solid ride, but unless you’re a Twihard, it’s hard to evoke any compassion or caring for this crew, especially Stewart, who, perhaps, is one of the worst actresses of her generation. (PG-13) 117 minutes. (★★) —Greg Archer.

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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