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Apr 24th
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Film

Reviews and Times

Twilight of the God

Twilight of the God

'Last Station' is a smart, gripping tale of Tolstoy's final years

The great thing about The Last Station is that it doesn't take sides. This lightly fictionalized story of Leo Tolstoy in his twilight years, beset by public and domestic discord, is rife with polarizing issues: poverty vs. wealth, communal life vs. privilege, religious doctrine vs. personal freedom, male vs. female. But as characters are revealed and their relationships entwine, filmmaker Michael Hoffman refuses to condemn anyone or tell the audience what to think. Instead, his smart, gripping film provides a sprawling and juicy canvas of life in all its messy contradictions.

Hoffman adapted the film from the novel by Jay Parini, which was inspired by private diaries kept by several witnesses in Tolstoy's household during his later years. In Hoffman's film, this busy narrative is pared down to  single viewpoint from which the rest of the story unspools, that of Valentin Bulgakov (solid, earnest James McAvoy), an innocent, awestruck young writer hired on as Tolstoy's new personal secretary.

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Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 18

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 18

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.

 

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Reviews and Times

CREATION

CREATION

The subject of the film is Charles Darwin, but don't go expecting high seas adventure in exotic ports on board the naturalist's famous research ship, the Beagle. What director Jon Amiel delivers instead is Creation, a mild-mannered, at times claustrophobic, yet moving period family drama about the effect of Darwin's radical theories of evolution on his family life, and vice versa. Scripted by John Collee (best known for his intricate screenwriting on Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World), the film is based on the biographical book "Annie's Box: Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution." Written by Randal Keynes (Darwin's great, great grandson), using a wealth of private family documents, the book focuses on the difficult period during which Darwin produced—and almost failed to produce—his groundbreaking book, "On The Origin Of Species."

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Reviews and Times

Cliff Hanger

Cliff Hanger

Banff Mountain Film Festival unleashes daring movies at the Rio Theatre

Go climb a rock. Or at least watch a movie about people who climb rocks, and put their lives at risk for fun, by catching the Banff Mountain Film Festival at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 and 27 at the Rio Theatre. The thrill ride of a festival is back once again to woo adventurers with a series of short films that are inspiring, jaw-dropping, and feature feats that are beyond your imagination. Sporting a fantastic lineup of films, two of the ‘scene stealers’ are the films Finding Farley and First Ascent: The Impossible Climb. The latter stars Santa Cruz’s own spectacular rock climber Chris Sharma, who scales perhaps the world’s most difficult rock climb, and Finding Farley explores the aquatic journey of a couple, their toddler, and their dog as they travel down bodies of water in search of a legendary writer who did a similar trip long ago. Here’s a quick run-down of these two highlighted films.

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Reviews and Times

Children Of The Damned

Children Of The Damned

Disturbingly beautiful 'White Ribbon' ponders the nature of evil

Where does evil come from? Is it sheer, blind chance, an unfortunate genetic malfunction, a random fluke of an uncaring universe? Or is it seeded and grown like a living thing, to be rooted and nurtured in a particular hothouse environment of intolerance and injustice, malice, brutality and fear? Filmmaker Michael Haneke invites us to consider this question in The White Ribbon, his disturbingly beautiful drama that imagines life in a remote German village in the generation before Hitler's rise to power. More complex than a simple parable, it's a stately piece of dramatic fiction with the dread-generating intensity of a horror movie.

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Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 11

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 11

Films This Week
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With reviews and trailers.

 

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Reviews and Times

Mad Mel

Mad Mel

Gibson back with a vengeance in 'Edge of Darkness'

Mel Gibson has never been one of those chameleon actors who disappears into a role. Even in Braveheart (especially in Braveheart), viewers could never forget they were watching Mel Gibson painted blue. Since Gibson's career has always been about persona, it's interesting to see how that persona is evolving in the political thriller, Edge Of Darkness, Gibson's first onscreen role in eight years. Physically, more lined and craggy than we remember, and smaller, even shorter on camera, his demeanor seems more humble and contained, less flamboyant.

This conservative, paternal approach befits his character here, a blue-collar police detective searching for the murderer of his grown daughter. But there's one aspect of Gibson's persona that has not altered over the years: ever since Braveheart, he's been drawn to playing the martyr, the stoic hero who suffers mightily for the sins of the rest of us. Gibson's martyr complex isn't so much of a problem at first in Edge Of Darkness; clues begin to add up, suspense builds, the action is fast, visceral and violent. It's not until the last quarter of the film that logic and dignity are tossed aside and we're invited to wallow in the character's pain and bow down to our wrathful, rampaging avenger.

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Reviews and Times

WHEN IN ROME

WHEN IN ROME

Once upon a time, Josh Duhamel had a featured role in a popular soap opera which earned him a legion of female fans. Kristen Bell also has her share of devotees after recurring roles in three cult TV series. These combined crossover viewers will be the principal audience for When In Rome, the silly, but harmless romantic comedy in which Bell and Duhamel co-star. Written by David Diamond and David Weissman for director Mark Steven Johnson, it's a typical story of impossibly beautiful people destined to be together who nevertheless keep throwing roadblocks in the path of love. Bell stars as Beth, a junior art curator in New York City (at the Guggenheim, no less), who's given up on love. At her kid sister's wedding in Rome to a man she's only known for two weeks ("That's not even enough time for a credit check!"), Beth seems to hit it off with best man and fellow New Yorker, Nick (Duhamel), until she (mistakenly) thinks she's been played. At a so-called "Fountain of Love," into which tourists pitch coins in hopes of finding amore, Beth, Grinch-like, purloins some coins.

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Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 4

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 4

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.

 

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Reviews and Times

Dad Reckoning

Dad Reckoning

Father fights system to cure sick kids in 'Extraordinary Measures'
Parental love is a powerful thing. It drove John Crowley, a corporate idea man at Bristol Myers in Portland, Oregon, to found and operate an independent research center in hopes of developing a treatment in time to save the lives of his two youngest children, stricken with a rare genetic disease. Crowley's extraordinary parental love is also the motivating force behind Extraordinary Measures, the earnest, workmanlike film dramatization of Crowley's story.

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Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

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Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management