New This Week
Paul Dano and Robert De Niro star in this fact-based tale about a young writer trying to establish his own identity and the flamboyant, if delusional alpha-male absentee father who crashes back into his life after 18 years. Paul Weitz directs this adaptation of the Nick Flynn memoir, "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City." (R) 102 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Will Ferrell teams up with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna for south-of-the-border laughs in this comedy about a man living on his father's ranch in Mexico whose life is complicated by his shady-dealing brother, his brother's sexy fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez), and a vengeful drug lord. Matt Piedmont directs. (R) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
IN DARKNESS (R) 145 minutes. In Polish and German with English subtitles. (★★★) Starts Friday.
Jason Segel stars in this offbeat comedy as a 30-something slacker living in his mother's basement who spends a day outside his comfort zone with his button-down brother (Ed Helms), who's trying to find out if his wife is cheating on him. Judy Greer plays the wife; Susan Sarandon is Mom. Written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus). (R) 83 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
21 JUMP STREET
The most memorable thing about the old '80s TV cop show was that it launched the career of teen heartthrob Johnny Depp. Tough to imagine how it will be retooled as an action comedy for stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum; nevertheless, they play undercover cops somehow passing as high school students on the trail of a drug ring. Hill conceived the story; Phil Lord and Chris Miller direct. (R) 110 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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ACT OF VALOR Actors star alongside a platoon of real-life, active duty Navy SEALS in this action drama. In a fictionalized account of realistic Navy SEALS operations, the plot revolves around a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent which leads to the discovery of (what else?) a heinous terrorist plot. Roselyn Sanchez, Alex Veadov, Jason Cottle, and Nestor Serrano star, alongside the real deal SEALS. Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh direct. (R) 105 minutes.
THE ARTIST To pay homage to Hollywood’s silent film era, not only did filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius shoot this backstage love story in vintage black-and-white, he dared to film the entire movie without audible dialogue, relying on only the occasional title card, music, and the actors’ expressiveness to tell the story. The results are utterly splendid, as Hazanavicius wields the classic storytelling tools of the silent era with fresh new exuberance. The wonderful Jean Dujardin and vivacious Berenice Bejo bring heart, humor and verve to their fame-crossed movie star lovers, in a shimmering production that captures every detail of Art Deco-era Hollywood. It may look and feel vintage, but this is one of the most original movies of the year. (PG-13) 100 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
CHRONICLE It's every fanboy's dream in Josh Trank's horror thriller in which three high school buddies are granted superpowers after stumbling over a dark secret, then find themselves struggling to resist the pull of the dark side. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan star. (PG-13)
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.
DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, and Danny DeVito lend their voices to this updated animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss' fanciful, ecological-themed story about a tree-loving creature trying to stop destructive humans from destroying the environment. Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda direct. (PG) 94 minutes.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS Two late-thirtysomething best friends, a man and a woman, decide to have a child together without all the messy complications that come with romantic couplehood. But in Jennifer Westfeldt's entertaining rom-com, the actors are so personable and the funny script so effective, there are moments when the whole crack-brained scheme seems almost plausible. Actress/filmmaker Westfeldt surrounds herself with an ensemble of real-life friends and colleagues who resonate as longtime friends onscreen, including co-star Adam Scott in a smart, funny, and tender crowd-pleasing performance. Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, and Jon Hamm are all excellent in supporting roles, but it's the quick-witted camaraderie and affection between Westfeldt and Scott that keeps the story on track. (R) 100 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
GONE Amanda Seyfried stars in this thriller about a woman who was abducted by, but escaped from a serial killer two years earlier, who sets off for a final showdown when the same man kidnaps her sister. Jennifer Carpenter and Wes Bentley co-star for director Heitor Dhalia. (PG-13) 94 minutes.
HUGO If you love silent movies as much as I do, you'll love Martin Scorsese's new family-friendly film, Hugo. And if you're a fan of the delightfully nutty, hand-made fantasy movies of early French film pioneer Georges Melies, you're in for a special treat: Scorsese's film concludes with a fabulous montage of vintage, hand-tinted Melies footage. The story of an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) living in a Paris railway station, ca. 1930, who finds he has something in common with a grumpy toy seller who turns out to be Melies (Ben Kingsley) is intriguing and visually splendid. It takes too long to get going; there's too much slapstick comedy and too many 3-D objects lunging out of the screen. But the charm and exuberance of the scenes of Melies and company at work in their studio makes this celebration of early movie-making irresistible. (PG) 127 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
JOHN CARTER Taylor Kitsch (from TV's Friday Night Lights) stars as the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp fiction hero, a Civil War vet transported to Mars who finds himself defending a princess from giant barbarian creatures. Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, and Samantha Morton co-star for veteran Pixar-turned-live action director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E; Finding Nemo). (PG-23) 132 minutes.
PINA Dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch is the subject of this utterly thrilling cinematic tribute by Wim Wenders. "You always felt more than just human, working with Pina," recalls one of her dancers, and this is more than just a documentary, or a dance film, or a memorial. Shooting in 3D, and often staging dances outdoors, in the "real" world, Wenders crafts an extraordinary plunge into the mystery of the creative process, a visionary concept film that reinvents the way dance is viewed onscreen, and a wildly invigorating expedition into the soul of an artist. (PG) 103 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
PROJECT X It is what is and it doesn’t apologize for what it is. Fun, a bit outlandish yet surprisingly entertaining. (And ... if you care to glimpse the kinds of individuals that could be running things in the future, this is the film to see.) So, what do we get. Two friends attempt to give one of their best buds the birthday bash of all birthday bashes—an “epic” event that will boost their status among their peers, among other things. Naturally, things get out of hand, but watch how well writers Matt Drake and Michael Bacall (based on a story by Bacall) manage to weave together their great premise with threads of humor. That, coupled with director Nima Nourizadeh’s expert pacing create a curious collage of intrigue as things spin horribly out of control during the monster bash that ultimately lures on thousands of people in a North Pasadena neighborhood. The credits note that the film is based on a true story, and the fascination here lies in a basic human urge to be out of of control—let loose as it were Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, and Jonathan Daniel Brown star. (R) 88 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARIETTY Japanese powerhouse animation outfit, Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away; Ponyo) does an anime-type version of Mary Norton's popular "The Borrowers" series of children's books about a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards in a country house who are befriended by an inquisitive little boy. Hiromasa Yonebayashi directs. Gary Rydstrom directs the English-language voice actors, who include Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler, and Will Arnett. (G) 94 minutes.
A SEPARATION If you had to decide between keeping your family together under impossible circumstances, or emigrating alone to a new place with more opportunities to make a better life for your child, which would you choose? Such is the dilemma that fuels this absorbing, and powerful Iranian domestic drama. Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi constructs a nuanced, yet vivid mosaic of brewing conflict—between genders, classes, generations, and ideologies—in a way that makes all viewpoints comprehensible, and all choices freighted with consequence. There are no saints or villains here, only life-sized people trying to navigate a culture in transition, which makes this film the front runner for this year's Foreign Language Academy Award. (PG-13) 123 minutes. In Persian with English subtitles. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
A THOUSAND WORDS Eddie Murphy stars in this comedy about a fast-talking literary agent who gets a karmic lesson in the consequences of loose talk when a magical Bodhi tree appears on his property; for every word he speaks, a leaf will fall, and after a thousand more words, his life will end. Cliff Curtis, Kerry Washington, and Allison Janney co-star for director Brian Robbins. (PG-13) 91 minutes.
THE VOW When a car crash wipes out the memory of a newlywed bride (Rachel McAdams), her husband (Channing Tatum) determines to woo and win her all over again. (PG-13)
WANDERLUST Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star as a city couple temporarily detoured into a rural free-love commune straight out of Easy Rider. Although it seems like a haven at first, director David Wain strips away the veneer of grooviness to reveal the usual Hollywood clichés: hypocritical hippies, opportunism and self-righteousness. Wain also takes potshots at city life, but he doesn't add much that's fresh to his yuppies vs. hippies culture-clash encounters. Still, Alan Alda is fun as an irascible old lefty, and the movie provides a few mindless laughs delivered by its cast of pros. (R) 98 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
W./E. Madonna directs her version of the true story of American divorcee Wallis Simpson, who caused upheaval in Old Blighty when Edward VIII, King of England, gave up his crown to marry her in 1936. Andrea Riseborough and James D'Arcy star. Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac co-star in a modern-day bracketing story as a married woman in a scandalous romance with a Russian security guard. Santa Cruz native Arianne Phillips scored an Oscar nomination for her luscious period costumes. (R) 119 minutes.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN Tilda Swinton racked up plenty of year-end Best Actress awards from film critics societies for her bracing performance in this emotional thriller as an ordinary mother coping with increasingly disturbing and frightening behavior from her son as he ages from toddler to teen. John C. Reilly co-stars as her equally bewildered husband in director Lynne Ramsay's adaptation of the Lionel Shriver novel. Newcomer Ezra Miller stars as the malevolent teenage Kevin. (R) 112 minutes.
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