New This Week
THE DARK KNIGHT RISESChristopher Nolan returns with the final installment of his brooding revisionist Batman trilogy. Christian Bale returns as the conflicted crusader, weighing whether he should defend a city that now calls him an enemy. No Joker this time (RIP Heath), but Nolan recruits a pair of stellar alumni from his Inception, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tom Hardy (as designated villain Bane). Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine return in supporting roles. Anne Hathaway is on board as Catwoman; Liam Neeson, Marion Cotillard and Juno Temple round out the cast. (PG-13) 164 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
TAKE THIS WALTZ Reviewed this issue. (R) 116 minutes. (★★1/2) Starts Friday.
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: MYSTERIOUS ISLAND During the Civil War, a group of Confederate prisoners escape in a hot-air balloon, only to find themselves stranded on an unchartered island of prehistoric beasts. Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion effects and Bernard Herrmann's eerie score highlight this 1961 adventure, based on the Jules Verne novel. (Not rated) 101 minutes. Thursday only (July 19), 9 p.m., at the Cinema 9. (Saved XF)
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.
Movie Times click here.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER Benjamin Walker dons the stovepipe hat and grabs a wooden stake as young Mr. Lincoln, determined to save the fledgling nation from the vampire menace, in this adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel. Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper co-star for Russian-born thriller director Timur Bekmambetov. (Not rated)
THE AVENGERS It takes a while to gain its momentum, but The Avengers manages to deliver a nice balance of thrills in a plot you can embrace. Moviegoers dig it—it made over $200 million in its opening weekend, smashing all records. So, what we get is cult titan Josh Whedon’s (Buffy, Angel, and Serenity) take on the Marvel comic book heroes trying to fight a war lauched by Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) bitter bro. Watch how well Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man) elevates the film with his witty bon mots—he’s given the best lines. But kudos to Chris Evans (Captain America) for holding his own here, too. Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk) is expertly cast as Dr. Bruce Banner. Meanwhile Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) round out the cast. This is pure summer movietime fun. Have a ball. (PG-13) 142 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer.
THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN it seems like only yesterday that Tobey Maguire was shouting "Woo-Hoo!" whilst rappelling between the skyscrapers of NYC, but there's already a newer, younger Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) ready to launch his own franchise. The plot goes all Dark Knight on us, with Peter delving into his painful past and the disappearance of his parents. Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans (as villain The Lizard) co-star for director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer). (PG-13) 138 minutes
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD Rarely has a coming-of-age story been told with such engrossing originality as in this remarkable first feature from Benh Zeitlin, infused with elements of fairy tale, folklore and magic realism. At it's center is a tiny dynamo named Quvenzhané Wallis, the non-professional actress who stars as a philosophical six-year-old girl living with her volatile Daddy in the Southern Delta when a giagantic storm throws Nature out of balance. Wallis is onscreen in every scene, and we never get tired of her poignant, expressive little face. In a story brimming with themes and metaphors, it offers a compelling portrait of a marginalized lowland community coming together with quiet resolve in the face of catastrophe. But it's the child's viewpoint—an irresistible mix of awe, trepidation, and grit—that makes the film so special. (PG-13) 91 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Lisa Jensen.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL The perfect antidote to the summer blockbuster season, this is a wistful, humorous, grown-up story of love, loss, family, identity, and the ever-present whooshing of time's wingéd chariot. Its splendid ensemble cast play Englishmen and women of a certain age, gobsmacked by circumstances, who decide to "outsource" their retirement to sunny, inexpensive India. Adapted from the novel, "These Foolish Things," by Deborah Moggach, It's directed with quiet affection and precision by John Madden (Shakespeare In Love; The Debt.) The plotlines are fairly predictable, and it all relies a bit much on inspirational messaging, but it's still an enormous pleasure to watch pros like Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and a deliciously acerbic Maggie Smith. (PG-13) 124 minutes. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.
BRAVE So many fairy tales feature a wicked stepmother, or negligent parents, it's refreshing to see one devoted to the loving, if sometimes fraught relationship between a mother and daughter. Underlying the magic, adventure, and comedy in this Disney- Pixar collaboration is a family tale in which a girl's best friend proves to be her mother—and vice-versa. That rare Disney cartoon spun from a completely original story (by co-director Brenda Chapman), it's the first "Disney Princess" movie that doesn't feature a romantic interest. Feisty, appealing young Scot Merida isn't waiting for her prince to come; she's too busy finding herself. Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly provide lively voices, and the feminine/feminist viewpoint gives the story a cheeky, modern YA vibe. (PG) 93 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Lisa Jensen.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT When a cataclysm upsets their natural world and ther polar ice cap is set adrft, prehistoric adventurers Manny, Diego, Sid (and Scrat) sail the high seas, encountering sea critters and pirates. Ray Romano, John Leguizamo ad Denis Leary return as the principal voice cast. Guest voices are provided by Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Joy Behar, Wanda Sykes, Peter Dinklage, and Nicki Minaj. Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier direct. (PG) 87 minutes.
KATY PERRY: PART OF ME The pop queen gets her own movie, part concert doc, part day-in-the-life, in this 3D Valentine to her fans. Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz direct. (PG)
MAGIC MIKE So very Steven Soderbergh and also so very surprising. Judging by the previews, you would think this film is another Hollywood cookie-cutter comedy. But it’s not. And the dialogue and pace of the film immediately assure you of that from the get-go. Channing Tatum plays a man who moonlights as a male stripper—culling from his own life experience. He’s the mentor to new kid, Alex Pettyfer, who, emits about as much charm as a tired hounddog—the man is horribly miscast. Matthew McConaughey also stars as the leader of a male posse of strippers. The film could use even a little more depth—although the kind you find here does lure you in—but it eventually stumbles and feels like a latter day Flashdance by way of a more mature Showgirls. Still, hats off—or is that thongs?—to Soderbergh and company for keeping us interested in more than the guy’s flesh here. (R) (★★1/2) —Greg Archer.
MOONRISE KINGDOM This could be Wes Anderson’s (Rushmore; Fantastic Mr. Fox) to date. it’s a quriky little love story revolving around two 12-year-olds and boy, does it have a lot of heart. Set in 1965 in a sleepy New England coastal community, the two young ones run off together. Meanwhile, the entire town is tossed into an upheaval trying to find them. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman all co-star. Willis plays the island cop; Norton a troubled scout master and Murray/McDormand the young girl’s mother. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward so beautifully inhabit their roles that you don’t want them to leave the screen. Anderson also co-wrote this outing, which, could turn into one of the summer’s more memorable offerings. (PG-13) 97 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer.
PEOPLE LIKE US One of those rare big screen comedy-dramas that pulls you into its universe, writer-director Alex Kurtzman's film is based on his real-life experience discovering he had a half-sister he never knew about. Chris Pine stars as a shady businessman charged to deliver an inheritance to his half-sibling (Elizabeth Banks), a befuddled single mom trying to raise her young son. A refreshing and heartwarming surprise. (PG-13) 115 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer.
PROMETHEUS Enjoyable, interesting and engaging, yet lacks some spark. Still, this prequel of sorts to Alien is Ridley Scott at his finest, weaving together a curious sci-fi thriller that ponders the state of human evolution. (My sense is that the sequels, if any, may be better). Noomi Rapace (the original girl with the dragon tattoo) is a scientist here, who hopes to uncover the mystery of human life on Earth and after traveling with a posse to a remote space outpost, the gang quickly gets into trouble. Michael Fassbender (nice, playing an android) and Charlize Theron (mastering another steely role) co-star. (R) 124 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer
SAVAGES Oliver Stone delivers a powerful film with this drug thriller about two successful pot-growers who are forced to go up against an even more powerful, downright viscious Mexican drug cartel when their mutual girlfriend is kidnapped. Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch are engaging as the leads Blake Lively does well, too. Benicio Del Toro—always a pleasure to watch because his acting is seamless—stands out as the right-hand man of drug queen Salma Hayek, who turns in one of the best performances of her career. John Travolta also stars in this gritty, suspenseful ride. (Take note: explicit scenes of violence.) (R) (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer
TED Brace yourself—it’s actually pretty good. Mark Wahlberg headlines this quirky comedy that comes from the mind of Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy). And the tale about a boy and the childhood teddy who comes to life and accompanies him everywhere well into his adult life is engaging and humorous. MacFarlane also had a hand in the script, and the film’s pace and dialogue are crisp with few scenes feeling wasted at all. Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi (a wonderful performance here), and Patrick Warburton co-star. MacFarlane also provides the voice of Ted. (R) (★★★) —Greg Archer
TO ROME WITH LOVE There’s a temptation to compare this outing to writer-director Woody Allen’s last endeavor, Midnight in Paris—last year’s movie gem—but that would deflect from the charm and comedy you can find here. It’s a totally different ride yet very Allen-esque in its delivery as it revolves around a group lovers and dreamers in Rome. It’s the latter that takes center stage as much of the film wanders into the allure and romantic nature of Rome and how people tend to get swept away by it. Allen co-stars with Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, and Judy Davis, who’s offered the best lines here. The short vignettes work although the film tends to stumble here and there with its pacing and timing. But aside from that, the performances sparkle and it’s great to see Allen on screen again. (R) 102 minutes. Starts Friday (★★★) —Greg Archer.
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