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Aug 27th
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Film

Reviews and Times

Travolta, Phoenix and The Ladder

John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix tackle some burning questions and so much more

First, the good news.

Welcome Back Kotter was a classic TV series and Grease was a classic movie and I have zero interest in doing either again as a ‘whatever.’ I just think it is unnecessary.”

This, from John Travolta during a whirlwind press day in San Francisco. Travolta and his costars in Ladder 49, a film that chronicles the personal and emotional tolls it takes in being a fireman, were in town on a promotional blitz, which found each actor being ushered into different suites at the Ritz Carlton at different intervals for myriad interviews.

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Reviews and Times

Quantum Bleep

Get ready for a movie unlike any other

A Japanese scientist decided to conduct an experiment. He wanted to understand the molecular structure of water and what affects it. Because water is the most receptive of the four elements, he suspected it may respond to nonphysical events. So he set up a series of studies, applied mental stimuli to the water and photographed it with a dark-field microscope.

The first picture from the microscope contained water from the Fujiwara Dam. It was nothing to write home about—just your garden-variety microscopic image of water.

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Reviews and Times

Keeping Spouse

Re-imagined ‘Stepford Wives’ isn't the best reboot, but do you know what it really means?

In The Stepford Wives, Director Frank Oz marries camp to dark comedy and the cinematic marriage is deliciously wicked. This “re-imagined” Wives is much more playful than 1975 version, which showcased doomed housewife Kathyrn Ross trying to fit in among the suddenly robotic, truly bizarre housewives in the town of Stepford, Conn. Here, Nicole Kidman takes center stage and,

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Reviews and Times

Dissecting John Malkovich

An emotional tango with the director of ‘The Dancer Upstairs’

When you talk to him, John Malkovich sounds so calm, so reserved, so blissfully anti-temperamental, you feel like nudging his shoulder and asking, “Hey, is there a there there?

But there’s plenty there.

Malkovich is probably Hollywood’s most unwilling iconoclast. His fame is, in part, the result of devoting decades to the acting “craft,” both onstage and in film. But it is in cinema, actually, where Malkovich piqued the curiosities of mainstream moviegoers. Somewhere between his debut performance in Roland Jaffe’s The Killing Fields (1984) and Being John Malkovich (1999), that quirky portal-to-the-brain hit with an addictively simplistic catchphrase—“Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich”—the world embraced him for playing characters with an unsettling indifference. Nominated twice for an Oscar—Places of the Heart (1984), In the Line of Fire (1993)—and the recipient of numerous Golden Globe and acting award nods, the dent Malkovich has made in Hollywood seems divinely inspired if not richly deserved.

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Reviews and Times

Serious Levity

How the writer of Men in Black and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure penned and directed the year’s surprise Indie hit

Channeling creativity can be a tricky thing, especially for Ed Solomon, whose impressive directing debut in Levity only seems to be casting a shadow over the frothy works he penned in the past. It’s a delicious example of artistic range, but how, exactly, does a guy go from scribing something as inane as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure to probing the depths of a man’s soul in a film headlined by Billy Bob Thornton?  It’s the question that has Hollywood scratching heads—and savoring every minute of it.

From the outside, Solomon always seemed embraced by an industry that collected some sweet box office cash thanks, in part, to his writing: Men in Black (1997) and Charlie’s Angels (2000) sailed through the persnickety creative digestive tracks of moviegoers; Leaving Normal (1992) and What Planet Are You From (2000) tanked. Now, the man who made Keanu Reeves whoa! America back in the ’80s with B&T, seems to be tackling more serious fair— along with the premiere of Levity, there’s the May release of The In-Laws, a comedy starring Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks, which Solomon also wrote. But it’s Levity’s search-the-soul-and-purge-the-inner-demons theme that’s winning over audiences at film festivals like Sundance. In the film, Billy Bob Thornton plays a paroled murderer haunted by his past and desperately wondering how to make amends. GT caught up with Solomon via phone in a recent interview.

 

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Reviews and Times

Matrix Much?

Matrix Much?

Behind-the-scenes techno babble too frivolous to remember. Plus …11 reasons why you really love the Matrix films.

Reloading has happened. Warner Bros. heads into summer full-throttle with The Matrix Reloaded, starring Keanu Reeves, who reprises his role as brooding post-modern prophet Neo in the second installment of The Matrix trilogy, which opened this week. With the film destined to be the one to crack a creative whip at the box office—the original banked more than $450 million worldwide—GT looked behind the scenes of directors Andy and Larry Wachowski’s cult phenomenon and unearthed some Matrix matter for the brain. Plug in time:

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Reviews and Times

Viggo Opens Up

Viggo Mortensen opens up about his role in Hildago—the GT exclusive

Q: The movie is emotional; quite a journey. How has this experience changed you? Or do you know how it changed you?

Viggo Mortensen: I really don’t know. I’m not sure if you ever know. I mean it reminded me of things that I value… and it made me think about finding some connection with different cultures, which I may disagree with, which I always felt was valuable but I didn’t consistently worry myself about it. I guess this made me more aware of it. The last two projects I’ve done in a row—The Lord of the Rings, and then this—I thought hard about that … community.

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Reviews and Times

Still Not Bored With …The Rings

Still Not Bored With …The Rings‘Return of the King’  reigns supreme

Good and evil, light and darkness, the quest for peace and the battle to attain it all come to a metaphysical fork in the road in the emotionally packed climax of filmmaker Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, a stunning, often mesmerizing finale to the director’s Rings trilogy. Remaining true to J.R.R. Tolkien’s trifurcated thousand-page tome, Jackson sweeps his audience into another mindbending experience and manages to evoke authentic emotion sans any garden-variety filmmaking manipulation (i.e too many crescendos in the soundtrack; grandiose fx aimed more to titillate than actually intrigue). The director further surprises by gracefully shifting gears—from the intense to the poetic—at all the proper junctures. He successfully gives birth to a more than satisfying ending to the epic that has held moviegoers in suspense for two years (LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, followed by 2002’s LOTR: The Two Towers).  In the end,

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Reviews and Times

Thanks For the Angst

Peter Hedges takes a swing at directing and delivers a moving spectacle with ‘Pieces of April’

If you’ve ever wondered why those Kodak Moments never really feel like Kodak Moments—especially during the holidays when family gatherings are more frequent and, for some, a bit mindbending—then Pieces of April will certainly resonate. However, first-time director Peter Hedges’ heartwarming film isn’t only designed for those who can appreciate and be amused by family dysfunction or the thirst for sanity in seemingly insane situations. (Admit it, you only get annoyed when Aunt Frida, between psychotic breaks, chews her food before she feeds it to her darling Liza, that old, toothless, balding pet poodle hiding underneath the dinner table.)

Pieces of April is a triumph for other reasons. It’s realistic. More importantly, it’s believable. The actors shine. The script, penned by Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy) is a lovely mosaic of all the torment and sorrow and hope and desire many of us feel when dealing with certain family members who’ve failed to live up to our expectations. When most directors would have played a movie about family over- the-top, Hedges surprises by taking the road less traveled, delivering an understated, often humorous opus with true grace.

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Reviews and Times

The Elephant in the Living Room

Gus Van Sant’s ponders school violence and heads the top of his class with ‘Elephant’

Gus Van Sant delivers a haunting, hypnotic, mesmerizing odyssey in Elephant. This fascinating piece of cinema tells you nothing, but shows you everything you need to see about the complex issues of violence and school shootings. Often poetic, and a bit esoteric, in the way Van Sant unravels his mindbender, he suspends  his audience in a visual symphony rife with subtle yet artistic shifts in tempo, all of which crescendo toward a dramatic finale that is both stunning and perplexing. It’s one of the best films of the year.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.