Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
Pioneers head for nowhere in undeveloped 'Meek's Cutoff'
How far can you blame an artist for trying to do something artistic? Even if the resulting work doesn't play out the way one hopes, an artist deserves some grudging respect for pursuing a particular vision. Take Kelly Reichardt, who makes small, personal films set in Oregon, in which nothing much happens. In Old Joy, two former buddies find they have little to talk about any more on a weekend hiking trip into the Cascades. In Wendy and Lucy, a young woman adrift between jobs loses her dog.
Like these films, Reichardt's latest, Meek's Cutoff, is scrupulously composed, full of respect for the natural world, and concerned with minute, almost non-verbal relationships. It, too, is set in the Pacific Northwest, but unlike Reichardt's previous films, this is a historical drama in the Oregon Territory of 150 years ago.
Soulful pachyderm steals hearts in 'Water For Elephants'
OK, I admit it: I'm one of the few people alive who did not read Sara Gruen's mega-bestselling novel about passion and mayhem under the Big Top during the Depression 1930s. But it's possible to detect the bones of a satisfying romantic suspense story within Francis Lawrence's evocative film adaptation of Water For Elephants.
Santa Cruzan native Pia Helm co-produces a movie at the Santa Cruz Fim Festival
In true Santa Cruz fashion, the movie, Night of the Alien, playing at the Santa Cruz Film Festival, revolves around themes of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, not to mention the psychedelic and supernatural. The movie was written and directed by Vaughn Verdi and co-produced by Pia Helm, who grew up in Santa Cruz. Night of the Alien is a micro-budget film about a mind-bending compilation of strange occurrences all in an effort to save the world.
A mash-up of many different cinematic genres, Helm claims the movie was once described by Verdi as, “The Hangover meets Starman somewhere in the Twilight Zone.” It goes like this: A group of stoners and pill-poppers are convinced by a hitchhiking alien from the planet Zoltran to go on a mission to save Earth by creating a band to win American Idol. Throughout the film, the characters are constantly high or drugged out, begging the question: Is all the action in the movie a consequence of their hallucinations or is it a reality?
Catalyst movie uncorks 40 years of local rock 'n' roll history
One Santa Cruz Film Festival film sure to be dear to the hearts of anyone who's lived in Santa Cruz for longer than about four minutes is The Catalyst. This feature-length documentary devoted to the life and times—and, of course, the music—of that most venerated and enduring local nightclub is put together by two local folks who probably know the subject better than anyone. Producer Dean Newbury was The Catalyst booking agent for years, during the proprietorship of the late Randall Kane (whom Newbury refers to as his "father figure"). Director Michèle Benson is herself something of a Santa Cruz institution as longtime court photographer/historian/archivist at the Cat, as well as music photographer at Good Times for many years.
Plenty to celebrate in SCFF 10th Anniversary season
Ten years in the making! Believe it or not, the Santa Cruz Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, May 5-14, with a typically full slate of cinematic goodies: 100 films and videos, of local and international origin—shorts and features, documentaries and narrative fiction, animation and live-action, commercial and experimental—along with film panels, gala receptions and other special events, presented at five venues around town.
Oscar-winner probes psychology of violence 'In A Better World'
No one can accuse Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier of making safe movies. In intimate human dramas like Open Hearts and After the Wedding, she tackles cataclysmic human themes (fidelity, desire, betrayal, redemption) in shrewd, unflinchingly honest personal terms, defying assumptions and refusing to assign blame. Her harrowing new film, recent Foreign Language Oscar-winner In a Better World, is no less intimate, but Bier reaches further out of her comfort zone than ever with a larger thematic story that confronts issues of violence, bullyism, and revenge.