New This Week
BEYOND THE HILLS
Nuns-in-training, a mysterious priest, personal liberty, and the threat of demonic possession thread their way through this drama set in a convent in Romania just emerging from the shadow of Communist rule. A woman goes to visit her childhood friend, now a young novice at the convent, hoping to persuade her to come back to the world, but fate and religious dogma intervene. Directed by Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days). (Not rated) 150 minutes. In Romanian with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
Sam Raimi had a hand in producing this remake/update of his 1981 cult horror hit about a group of unwary friends at a remote cabin who start fooling around with a Book of the Dead and falling prey to nasty demonic possession. Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, and Lou Taylor Pucci star for director Fede Alvarez; expect a female survivor this time around with Diablo Cody helping to cook up the script. (R) 91 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
FROM UP ON POPPY HILL
Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli present this animated coming-of-age adventure about a teenage boy and girl in Yokohama in 1963 as Japan prepares to host the 1964 Olympics. Goro Miyazaki directs. (PG) 91 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
JURASSIC PARK 3D
The dinosaurs will be even more killer in 3D, running amok on a tropical island "theme park" in Steven Spielberg's 1993 fx extravaganza based on the Michael Crichton novel. Homo sapiens co-stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum don't have much to do, but as popcorn-chomping entertainment, the movie delivers the goods. (PG-13) 127 minutes. (★★★) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>
An unsolved murder and the disappearance of another young girl 23 years later, sows fear into the hearts of the locals and suspicion in the minds of the investigating cops, and sends one particular observer on a harrowing journey into his past in this intense German-language crime thriller from Swiss-born filmmaker Baran bo Odar. Ulrich Thomsen, Sebastian Blomberg, and Wotan Wilke Mohring star. (Not rated) 118 minutes. In German with English subtitles. 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. 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: STEP BROTHERS Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly team up in this 2008 comedy as overage, underemployed slackers, each of whom lives with a widowed parent, who are forced to move in together when their senior parents marry each other. Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins co-star for director Adam McKay. (R) 98 minutes. Tonight only (Thursday, April 4), 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 pursue the elusive and ineffable meanings of cinema. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit groups.google.com/group/LTATM.
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ADMISSION The good news is this comedy about a straight-arrow admissions officer for Princeton University stars Tina Fey, one of the sharpest and most personable of screen comediennes. The bad news is, she didn't write the script. Based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, it hits all the expected plot points from goofy to heartwarming as Fey's character faces her disappointing life, her feminist nutball mother (a funny Lily Tomlin), and a bright young applicant (Nat Wolff) who may be the son she once gave up for adoption. Paul Rudd is appealing, as usual, as the alternative high school honcho sponsoring the boy, but never is it suggested that this bright, self-motivated kid might be better off NOT going to stuffy, preppy Princeton, so the story misses the chance to take an innovative turn. Paul Weitz directs. (PG-13) 110 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
BARBARA Grand heroic dramas are often made about the quest for freedom from political repression. At first glance, it looks like this Christian Petzold film is going to be one of them. Set in Communist East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the story concerns a female doctor from Berlin banished to a backwoods medical clinic for political reasons. But as it plays out, this quiet, personal, deftly nuanced little drama turns into something far more affecting than the expected political thriller. Nina Hoss makes a formidable heroine as her choices become ever more complex. PG-13. 105 minutes. In German with English subtitles. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen
THE CALL Halle Berry headlines this surprisingly effective thriller that manages to pull viewers in and keep them interested. Berry plays a 911 operator who, after spending six months getting over a traumatic call gone bad, once again becomes the only lifeline for another young woman who has been abducted. Of course, one must suspend belief as the film unravels, especially and when Berry decides t search for the missing girl herself. Still, despite its flaws, Berry is exquisite—although you wonder why she’s being given these roles, especially after nabbing an Oscar more than a decade ago. Evie Thompson, Abigail Breslin, and Morris Chestnut co-star. Brad Anderson (The Machinist; Transsiberian) directs. (R) (★★1/2) —Greg Archer
THE CROODS A prehistoric family sets out to find a new home when their idyllic primordial homeland is threatened in this animated family adventure from DreamWorks. Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, and Catherine Keener provide voices. Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders direct. (PG) 98 minutes.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, and Channing Tatum power this testosterone frenzy where the elite fighting force not only faces its mortal enemy, Cobra, but battles sinister forces within its own government. Jon Chu directs. (PG-13) 110 minutes.
GINGER & ROSA In Sally Potter's thoughtful and involving drama, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is the backdrop before which two teenage girls in London struggle to come of age. The remarkable Elle Fanning and a very affecting Alice Englert star in a simple, yet potent story about teenage girlfriends, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, and all the ways those delicate balances can be tipped, one way or another, during the perilous dance of growing up. The plot may seem a bit far-fetched at times, and the hair and clothes are not always accurate for the era, but there's something so touching about the authenticity of these young female voices and their nameless, formless yearning that will speak to anyone who has ever been a 17-year-old girl. (PG-13) 90 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
THE HOST It could be Invasion of the Bodysnatchers for teens in this first adaptation of a new book series by Stephanie Meyer (the Twilight Saga), in which a plucky teen girl romances two hot guys while trying to outwit a sinister force that robs people of their memories and takes over their bodies. Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, and Jake Abel star for director Andrew Niccol. (PG-13)
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi star in the comedy as a team of celebrity magicians, headliners on the Vegas strip, facing not only the erosion of their longtime friendship, but challenges from a hip, urban "street magician" (Jim Carrey) whose outrageous stunts are making their show-bizzy act look stale. Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, and James Gandolfini co-star for director Don Scardino (30 Rock). (PG-13) 101 minutes.
LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE Iranian-born filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami directs this thoughtful character study, set in Japan, about an elderly retired professor, and a young sociology student who moonlights as a high-class call girl; thrown together by destiny or random chance, they spend an unexpected evening together. Acclaimed veteran Japanese stage actor Tadashi Okuno and Rin Takanashi star. (Not rated) 109 minutes. In Japanese with English subtitles.
NO A powerful and dynamic film with Gael Garcia Bernal as the helm. This dramatized true story revolves around Rene Saavedra, an ambitious Chilean ad man who was recruited in 1988 to spearhead a crucial ad campaign designed to oust dictator Augusto Pinochet—with a "no" vote at the polls. It’s a compelling outing from beginning to end and also includes television and other film foortage from the era. Pablo Larraín directs. (R) 118 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.
ON THE ROAD There are about 45 minutes of a great movie in Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's famed beat odyssey: in the very beginning and the end, when we hear snippets of Kerouac's dynamic "bop" prose. In between lies an increasingly frantic and pointless gallop back and forth across North America; it successfully mimics the characters' headlong pursuit of sex, drugs, jazz, and alcohol, but without the transformative power of Kerouac's words, we're stuck watching repetitive scenes of frenzied partying, which soon pales as a spectator sport. Still, actors Sam Riley, Garret Hedlund, and Tom Sturridge (fictional surrogates for Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg) work hard, and Viggo Mortensen steals his scenes as the others' profane patron saint (read: Willam S. Burroughs). (R) 124 minutes. (★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN Morgan Freeman is the President in jeopardy after a terrorist attack traps him in the White House. Gerard Butler is a "disgraced former Presidential guard" and Aaron Eckhart is a national security honcho who team up to get him out in this action thriller from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day). (R)
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL Sam Raimi's lavish prequel imagines the witches and the wizard of Oz in their heedless youth, its mood and texture heavily influenced by the beloved 1939 MGM film. James Franco is fun as the cheesy carnival magician destined to become the wizard (and savior) of Oz, although his superficial character never takes enough of a journey. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams are three delectable young witches. Despite some slow-going, dubious plotting, and an unresolved strain of moral ambiguity, the cheeky dash of Raimi's film, and his affection for the source, makes for a mostly entertaining trip down the yellow brick road. (PG) 130 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
SIDE EFFECTS Obfuscation is the name of the game in Steven Soderbergh's intricate and twisty new thriller. This dark tale of sex, lies, and pharmaceutical skullduggery is a masterpiece of misdirection, artfully calibrated so that the viewer—like the film's overly medicated characters—often has no idea what may or may not be going on. Jude Law gives a fine, supple performance in the pivotal role of a psychiatrist drawn into a murder scandal after prescribing an experimental drug to a patient (the equally dexterous Rooney Mara). And beyond the thriller plot, Soderbergh delves with relish into the larger milieu of a society in which external medication is promoted as the answer to every problem—real or imagined. (R) 106 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK Oh, Bradley Cooper ... methinks you may be miscast here, but somehow this dramatic comedy works. Cooper morphs into an unstable former teacher, recently released from an institution after a bad break-up from his wife. He meets a young gal (Jennifer Lawrence, who can do no wrong these days) who is just as quirky as he is. Love, intimacy and moving on are the themes. If only Cooper—or is it his character?—weren’t so grating on the nerves. Cooper lacks believability here and you get the sense he was handed the script as a means to make a quirky Bradley Cooper caper. Worse—you feel as if he doesn’t believe the performance. Otherwise, a compelling cast and plot brighten the story. Kudos to Jennifer Lawrence on her Oscar win. David O. Russell (The Fighter) directs. (R) 122 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer
SPRING BREAKERS Girls go wild in this new comedy from the ever-idiosyncratic Harmony Korine (Mr. Lonely) about four college coeds who ditch their boring campus and commit a robbery to finance their spring break in Florida—bringing them into the orbit of a dubious rapper/criminal/drug-dealer (James Franco) with an agenda. Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine star. (R) 94 minutes.
STOKER Eery, creepy, provocative and just downright “out there,” Stoker is an an aquaired taste. It is relentlessl in its ability to keep you captivated. The Gothic thriller from Korean director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy) finds Mia Wasikowska as a friendless teen whose world shifts siginifcantly after her father dies and a myseterious uncle moves in with her greiving mother (Nicole Kidman). Matthew Goode plays the uncle to winning ends—charming, swarmy, sexy and devious, you can’t quite take your eyes off of him. Take note of the cinematography here, which takes to the film to etheral and often dream-like realms. This is not a “linear” film and boasts all the quirky appeal of an art house movie.(R) 98 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer
UPSIDE DOWN Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 103 minutes. (★★1/2) —Lisa Jensen.
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