New This Week
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS
Zachary Gordon returns as Greg the beleaguered young hero of the title in this third installment of the franchise. Taking place during summer vacation, this one is based on the third and fourth books in Jeff Kinney's popular tween series, "The Last Straw" and "Dog Days." Devon Bostick (as brother Roderick) and Steve Zahn (as father Frank) co-star for director David Bowers. (PG) 94 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
It could be a match made in Heaven: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a long-married couple who venture off to an intensive, week-long couples retreat (okay, she drags him along) in hopes of adding some zing to their relationship. Steve Carrell co-stars as a famous couples therapist in this comedy from David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada). (PG-13) 100 minutes. Starts Wednesday (August 8) Watch film trailer >>>
NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS
Longtime Young fan and documentarian Jonathan Demme (he also made the excellent Neil Young: Heart of Gold) filmed the last two nights of Young's solo world tour in Toronto in May, 2011, for the concert portion of this new doc. In between are snippets of conversation between Young and Demme on the long drive down from Young's home in Omemee, Ontario, in which the singer comments on his life, music, and career. (PG) 87 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES
Reviewed this issue. (PG) 100 minutes. (HHH) Starts Friday.
RUBY SPARKS Reviewed this issue.. (R) 104 minutes. Starts Friday.
Colin Farrell stars as a drab factory worker of the near-future who gets some exciting faux-memories implanted for kicks, then finds himself haunted by dreams and on the run from real bad guys. This is a new take on the classic Philip K. Dick story, "I Can Remember It For You Wholesale;" the last time it was adapted (in 1990) it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Len Wiseman (the Underworld series) directs; Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy, and Ethan Hawke co-star. (PG-13) 118 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
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: SERENITY Fox TV's short-lived, cult sci-fi fave Firefly, with its futurist rebels vs. corporate evil storyline, got new life in this 2005 big screen version from writer-director Joss Whedon (Buffy, The Vampire Slayer). After an intergalactic war, a former rebel leader and the crew aboard his ship, Serenity, survive by taking any job they can, while harrying the monolithic Alliance. Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, and Summer Glau reprise their TV roles. (PG-13) 119 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: GREASE Slickly packaged 1978 adaptation of the stage musical set in a fantasyland meant to the resemble the American 1950s stars a hard-working John Travolta and a hopelessly bland Olivia Newton-John, both of whom are upstaged by Stockard Channing as the wise-cracking bad girl. (PG-13) 110 minutes. (HH)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (July 26), 9 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 www.ltatm.org.
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THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN With his goofy, youthful sense of righteousness, Andrew Garfield pumps fresh new spider venom into the role of teenage Peter Parker in this new reboot of the franchise from director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). It's an origin story in which the teen science nerd and shutterbug investigates the skullduggery his parents were up to at the time of their mysterious plane crash; the trail leads to his father's former partner (Rhys Ifans), a scientist whose work in inter-species genetics turns him into the maniacal evildoer, The Lizard. Meanwhile, spider-bitten Peter faces more than the usual teen identity crisis trying to take responsibility for his new web-slinging powers. Neither Garfield nor designated girlfriend Emma Stone look like high school kids, dubious plot holes include Peter wandering behind the scenes at a top-secret facility unnoticed, and a sterile, high-tech lab set up in a sewer, and too often in the web-slinging scenes, the CGI Spidey gets lost in all the flash and dazzle of the cityscapes. But Denis Leary does a wry turn as the police chief, and the movie scores points for exuberance. (PG-13) 136 minutes. (HHH) —Lisa Jensen.
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. (HHH1/2) —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. (HHH) —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. (HHH1/2) —Lisa Jensen.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES In this final installment of Christopher Nolan's brooding bat opera, Christian Bale is still worth watching; as conflicted Bruce Wayne, he regains the will to restore honor and heroism to the Bat legacy, and save a besieged Gotham City—whether they like it or not. Anne Hathaway is a wry, sassy Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is terrific as a smart young beat cop who rekindles Bruce's tarnished idealism, and Michael Caine, as loyal butler Alfred, infuses his scenes with warmth and intelligence. But Tom Hardy's Bane is a ho-hum villain, a bald, masked brute with inexplicable motives and indecipherable dialogue (we miss the intense danse macabre between Batman and Heath Ledger's magnificent Joker over the thin line between good and evil, hero and villain), and the usual chaotic vehicle chases, extreme shootouts, and massive explosions weigh things down. But a great kicker, plotwise, and a satisfying coda ends things on a high note. (PG-13) 164 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT 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.
THE INTOUCHABLES In this cross-cultural French comedy drama, a wealthy, middle-aged Frenchman rendered quadriplegic in a paragliding accident hires a younger man from a different race, culture, and neighborhood to be his caretaker. Francois Cluzet (Tell No One) and Omar Sy star for directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. (R) 122 minutes. In French with English subtitles.
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) (HH1/2) —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. (HHH1/2) —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) (HHH1/2) —Greg Archer
STEP UP REVOLUTION Expect more hoodies, baseball caps, and flying tennies in this fourth installment of the dance franchise.
TAKE THIS WALTZ Is there something innately unsatisfying about married love? There are moments of insight and feeling in director Sarah Polley's second feature, thanks to (yet) another exceptional performance by Michelle Williams, and fine support from Seth Rogen as her stable hubby, and Luke Kirby as the sexy new neighbor she's drawn to. But Polley can't quite seal the deal, plotwise. William's overly scripted (yet underdeveloped) character has little motivation beyond giddy impulse. Polley seems to believe the five-year-itch cycle she describes is so universal, it doesn't require any kind of deeper exploration. (R) 116 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
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) (HHH) —Greg Archer
TRISHNA Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) stars in director Michael Winterbottom's sensual adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 19th Century novel of gender and class, Tess of the d'Urbervilles. In a story updated to modern-day India, Pinto plays a young woman whose father loses his job; to support her family, she goes to work for a handsome, predatory benefactor/boss (Riz Ahmed) who whisks her off to Mumbai—where her life becomes conscripted by the demands of family responsibility, sexual politics, and conventional morality. (R) 117 minutes.
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 (HHH) —Greg Archer.
THE WATCH Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade star in this sci-fi buddy comedy as four suburban dads in the Midwest who form a neighborhood watch group to get out of the house once a week, only to find themselves on the front lines when outer space aliens start taking over the town. Rosemarie DeWitt and Billy Crudup co-star for director Akiva Schaffer. (R)
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