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Sep 30th
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Film

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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Reviews and Times

Will Ferrell: Elf Help

Will Ferrell: Elf Help

Why Will Ferrell is subdued, existential and elfish

San Francisco. Balmy day. Clift Hotel. Chic. Hotel doesn’t have its name on the front of the building. Beyond chic. The doorman doesn’t smile.

Interview. Will Ferrell. Twenty minutes. Curious. Excited. Cool guy. Loved his Saturday Night Live sketches. Baby Don’t Hurt Me —hilarious. His Janet Reno—transcendent. Funny in Old School.

The elevators. Dimly lit. Moody. Different colors. One red. One green. Christmas shades. Ironic. Will Ferrell stars in Elf, a Christmas movie. Plays a 30-year-old Elf who grew up with other elves in the North Pole after accidentally crawling into Santa’s bag one Christmas. Funny concept. Funny movie. Funny guy.

The 17th floor. No Ferrell. TV crew preps for an afternoon interview. Lots of garland around. Beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

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Reviews and Times

Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes

Last year, she nearly nabbed an Oscar for ‘Unfaithful’ but these days Diane Lane is all about faith

Drenched in obsidian attire, Diane Lane breezes into the room and immediately rolls up her sleeves. Carefree lady? Woman on a mission? Both.

The first thing she does is attack a packet of Zen tea at the refreshment table. Then she ambles gracefully toward a chair, sits down and smiles. She sips her tea. She fidgets. She folds one arm over the other, resting them in front of her abdomen.

Diane Lane is relaxed.

Diane Lane is nervous.

Diane Lane is about the take the biggest gamble of her entire career—headline a major motion picture.

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Reviews and Times

Bearing the Cross

‘The Magdalene Sisters’ airs the dirty laundry of the Catholic Church

Sister Bridget is not in a good mood. But she’s in perfect form. With Girl Interrupted finesse, she snatches a pair of scissors, spots her target and descends upon it without so much of a sign of the cross. Moments later, the young rebellious woman the nun had been monitoring is sporting a new hairdo. She’s also left with blood streaming from her scalp.

Twisted sister? Let’s have another look.

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Reviews and Times

Blowing Off Brenda

The famous Polish Brothers take a road trip, rattle Santa Cruz and chat up their mind-bending indie flick Northfork. But they’re not hitting cruise control just yet.

When Michael and Mark Polish mount Brenda it’s hard not watch in a bit of stupefied, surreal fascination. They’re not quite panting, but they are grinning ear to ear as their hands scale Brenda’s long, smooth body.

Clearly, the brothers Polish are fond of the lady, even though they’ll most certainly dump her the minute Daryl Hannah arrives.

Wait a sec … let’s shift gears. This whole visual on Brenda is actually where the story ends—the climax, so to speak—and in this case, surprisingly enough, considering the people involved, it’s best to go linear, even though frothy tales suggesting ménage a trois sound much more adventurous and delicious when read back aloud to others sitting in the room with you. (Go ahead … I’ll wait.)

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Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

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Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

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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

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”