New This Week
Rebecca Hall stars in this period ghost story/thriller as a professional debunker of phony mediums and spiritualists in the 1920s who's invited to investigate some creepy goings-on at an English boarding school. Dominic West and Imelda Staunton co-star for rookie director Nick Murphy. (R) 107 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER
Reviewed this issue. (R) 91 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday.
THE EXPENDABLES 2
Break out the ear plugs; almost the entire team from the first film is back in this tomfoolery about a secret squad of paramilitary ops composed entirely of aging Hollywood action stars creating havoc in some distant, volatile region of the world. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Jean-Claude van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, even Chuck Norris surface in the cast. Simon West (Con Air) directs. (R) 102 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
HIT & RUN
Dax Shepard wrote and co-directed this road comedy in which he stars as a former getaway driver who breaks out of the witness protection program to drive his girlfriend (Kristin Bell) to an audition in L. A.—only to be pursued by both outraged feds and vengeance-minded gangsters. Tom Arnold and Bradley Cooper co-star. David Palmer co-directs. (R) 100 minutes. Starts Wednesday (August 22). Watch film trailer >>>
Veteran director William Friedkin (The Exorcist; The French Connection) returns to the screen with this violent, blackly comic tale about a slick Texas lawmen (Matthew McConaughey) who moonlights as a hitman-for-hire. He's retained by a scalawag son (Emile Hirsch) looking to off his mom for the insurance money, involving his entire dysfunctional family in the messy business. Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, and Juno Temple co-star. Based on the play by Tracy Letts. (NC-17) 103 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
In this stop-motion animated horror comedy, an outcast boy who can talk to the dead gets his chance to be a hero when his town is invaded by zombies. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, and John Goodman head the voice cast. Sam Fell and Chris Butler direct. (PG) 101 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
This pre-Dreamgirls story about a black Motown girl group on the rise in the 1960s (it was first filmed in 1976) has been retooled for American Idol alumna Jordin Sparks in the title role, and the late Whitney Houston as the singing trio's indomitable Mama. Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter play the other two sisters. Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Cee-lo Green co-star for director Salim Akil. (PG-13) 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: SPACEBALLS It's Mel Brooks vs. the original Star Wars trilogy in this 1987 spoof of the sci-fi/fantasy franchise. John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman and Daphne Zuniga star, along with Brooks himself (as a wizened guru called "Yogurt"). Mayhem ensues. (PG) 96 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: THE GODFATHERMarlon Brando creates an indelible movie icon as Mafioso crime boss Don Vito Corleone, the dark heart at the center of Francis Ford Coppola's vivid and bloody 1972 saga of power, vengeance, business, and Italian-American social history. James Caan, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and John Cazale co-star. (R) 177 minutes. (★★★) Thursday only (August 16), 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 BOURNE LEGACY How do you continue a successful film franchise when the star opts out? When Matt Damon outgrew the Jason Bourne role, series screenwriter-turned-director Tony Gilroy and company simply invented a new amnesiac protagonist with fearsome paramilitary skills and inserted him into the same fictive landscape. Jeremy Renner stars as the heir to Bourne. Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Oscar Isaac join the cast, alongside series veterans Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn. (PG-13) 135 minutes.
THE CAMPAIGN This election-year comedy stars Will Ferrell as a slick, long-term congressman who has to defend his seat against a naive stooge (Zach Galifianakis) put up by a couple of shady, zillionaire CEOs in hopes of gaining influence over the district. John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox co-star for director Jay Roach. (R) 85 minutes.
FAREWELL MY QUEEN German-born actress Diane Kruger stars as Austrian-born Marie Antoinette, dutiful wife of France's extravagant Louis XVI, who sees her life of privilege threatened in the early days of the French Revolution in this opulent historical drama from filmmaker Benoit Jacquot. The story unfolds from the feminine viewpoint of Marie and her ladies-in-waiting and attendants. Léa Seydoux (Midnight In Paris) and Virginie Ledoyen co-star. (R) 100 minutes. In French with English subtitles.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton star in this fanciful Disney family comedy about a young small-town couple whose dream of starting a family is answered when a magical boy shows up on their doorstep. Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston, M. Emmet Walsh and newcomer CJ Adams co-star for director Peter Hedges (Dan In Real Life; What's Eating Gilbert Grape). (PG) 100 minutes. Now Playing
THE AMAZING SPIDER MANWith 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. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILDRarely 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.
BRAVESo 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.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISESIn 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. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.
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.
HOPE SPRINGS 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.
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.
MOONRISE KINGDOMThis 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.
RUBY SPARKSSuppose an author was so in love with his fictive heroine that she emerged as a flesh and blood person in the midst of his real life? Such is the miracle—and the dilemma—at the heart of this offbeat, savvy and charming new romantic comedy from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine). Paul Dano is the blocked writer freaked out—then delighted—when his creation comes to life. Scriptwriter Zoe Kazan writes herself a plummy role as his dream girl, feisty enough to start wanting a life of her own beyond the typed page. As movies about writing go, this is no Wonder Boys. But it's not really about writing; it's about finding the balance of power in a relationship, and finding a place for love to root and flourish in the twilight zone between control and free will. (R) 104 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
STEP UP REVOLUTION Expect more hoodies, baseball caps, and flying tennies in this fourth installment of the dance franchise.
TOTAL RECALLColin Farrell does his best in this reboot that orginally starred Arnold Schwarzenegger but nothing feels that new or inspired here. The plot, from the classic Philip K. Dick story, "I Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” mirrors much of the 1990 film with a few tweaks added but the script relies too much on swear words and big explosions, and Len Wiseman’s (the Underworld series) direction seems only to copy the cookie cutter big budget blockbusters Hollywood seems to love producing. An A for over-acting goes to and Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston and Jessica Biel. Still—and surprisingly—Farrell delivers the most grounded performance here. (PG-13) 118 minutes. (★1/2) —Greg Archer
TO ROME WITH LOVEThere’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.
THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLESIt's like the trashiest "reality" TV show ever. But there's no prize for the best or the biggest in The Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfield's train-wreck fascinating documentary on the wages of conspicuous consumption. It's ostentation for its own sake when one of the riches men in America, time-share mogul David Siegel, and his trophy wife, Jackie, attempt to build themselves a palace—only to find themselves on a collision course with an economic reality they helped to create. Call it a cautionary tale, or call it Karma, but it makes for a compulsively watchable, if chilling, glimpse into the bizarre private fantasy lives of the 1%. (PG) 100 minutes. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.
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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