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Reviews and Times

Film - Reviews and Times

From Jay to Jonny

From Jay to Jonny

Chasing Mavericks’ star Jonny Weston rides the Hollywood wave and brings surf icon Jay Moriarity to life

Only a handful of Hollywood films shot in and around Santa Cruz—and that are about the town for that matter—have managed to excite locals with quite the fervor of Chasing Mavericks, which hits theaters Friday, Oct. 26. 

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Film - Reviews and Times

Nutrageous

Nutrageous

Funny script, extreme blood, in genre satire 'Seven Psychopaths'

Irish playwright Martin McDonagh made a splash—albeit a bloody one—with his first feature, In Bruges. A twisted tale of two Irish hitmen on the lam in the ancient Belgian city of art and culture, it had moments of appalling violence, yet it was also a scathingly funny, and fiercely moral morality play about violence, vengeance and redemption. I personally badgered many people who would not normally watch anything so brutal to go see it, on the strength of its witty script, anti-violence message, and insanely entertaining performances from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Reel Connection

Reel Connection

Pacific Rim Film Festival promotes cross-cultural understanding 

The aloha spirit returns to Santa Cruz when the 24th annual Pacific Rim Film Festival unspools this week. Inspired by the Hawaii International Film Festival, and dedicated to cross-cultural understanding around the theme "When Strangers Meet," the six-day event runs Oct. 19-24, offering 20 films from countries all around the Pacific Rim at five venues countywide.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 18

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 18

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With: Reviews,
Movie Times click here.
Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

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Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 11th

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 11th

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With: Reviews,
Movie Times click here.
Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

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Film - Reviews and Times

High School Confidential

High School Confidential

Cult teen novel morphs into disarming film in 'Perks Of Being A Wallflower'  

Anyone who's ever felt like an outsider in high school—which is anyone who has ever been a teenager—will be able to relate to The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It's adapted from Stephen Chbosky's 1999 Young Adult cult novel sensation about a troubled teen entering his freshman year of high school desperately searching for someone to connect with before his internal demons swallow him up. It may sound overly melodramatic, although in this case, the protagonist's demons are more real and sinister than most. But the importance of finding an emotional safety net and a place to fit in gives this disarming movie a very universal appeal.

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Film - Reviews and Times

School Daze

School Daze

Smart, funny college-nostalgia comedy 'Liberal Arts' makes the grade

As Thomas Wolfe once said, you can't go home again. According to Josh Radnor, in his smart, entertaining comedy Liberal Arts, you can't go back to college again, either. Whether or not you should want to is the driving force that propels Radnor's thoughtful, funny film, as the ferment of campus life, with all its drama, romance, and terror, where Wolfe and succeeding generations of literary mentors hold such sway, is re-examined by a protagonist in his 30s who's still having a hard time coming of age.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 04

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 04

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With: Reviews ~ LIBERAL ARTS ,
Movie Times click here.
Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

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Film - Reviews and Times

Second Rate

Second Rate

Big technique, minor story in underwhelming ‘The Master’

There are some astonishing moments early in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, when something really seems to be going on. As the Navy seaman played by Joaquin Phoenix behaves badly just before and after the end of World War II—cooking and drinking lethal alcohol out of whatever fuel is handy, dry-humping a sand sculpture of a nude woman on the beach, laughing inappropriately at the therapists in the VA hospital—the movie seems to have its own wildly original vitality. Then we begin to notice how threadbare the emperor’s clothes really are.

In broad compositions, story structure, and snatches of incidental music, The Master soon starts to feel a lot like Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Once again, he relies on powerhouse acting—here, Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman—to distract the audience away from the lack of substance or meaning or plot in Anderson’s script. As Phoenix’s lost soul and Hoffman’s cult leader go head-to-head—drinking, raging, psyching each other out, or, most alarming, engaging in queasy-making bromance bear hugs—we start to realize that’s all there is to The Master. It’s a dual character study in search of a story.

Freddy Quell (Phoenix) is a horny, alcoholic screw-up who can’t get a grip after the war. Extinguishing his job as a department store portrait photographer with an unprovoked attack on a customer, then driven out of the produce fields by enraged Filipino migrant workers for cooking bad hooch, he hops aboard a luxury yacht leaving San Francisco Bay. There he falls under the spell of Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a patriarchal figure with a facade of serenity who leads his large entourage in a belief system called The Cause.

Where Dodd comes from or what exactly he stands for remain elusive. He dabbles in past-life regression, urges his followers to elevate their species above animals (although Quell doesn’t quite get that part, eager to pummel anyone who begs to differ with Dodd’s message), and goes in for mentally abusive “processing” to break down his followers’ resistance. (“Do you ever think about how inconsequential you are?”) Meanwhile, his wife, Peggy (Amy Adams) coaches them on proactively attacking their attackers, otherwise “we will never dominate the environment the way we should.”

It would help if we ever had a clue what they were talking about or what they want to achieve. But once volatile Quell meets loony-tunes Dodd (who might break out at any moment into “I Want to Get You On a Slow Boat to China” for no reason), that’s it for plot development. Dodd elevates drunken Quell into his inner circle, to the despair of his family, evidently because his ego requires someone as hopeless as Quell to dominate. But despite the danse macabre between the two of them that lasts the rest of the movie, they never seem to connect with nor enlighten each other in any comprehensible way.

Anderson can get inarticulate rage up onscreen. But, like his characters, he doesn’t know what to do with it. Is he commenting on postwar trauma? The psychology of the cult follower (or leader)? Who knows? No one undergoes any kind of personal transformation or gains any insight, and with no narrative drive to prop up the flaccid story, the movie just lies there, twitching.

Moments of apparent dramatic intensity turn out to be fueled by Jonny Greenwood’s jittery, propulsive music, coupled with the built-in suspense of wondering how long Phoenix can maintain the same bent, gnarled stance of pent-up aggression. (Answer: for the entire movie. Phoenix’s bravura performance deserves some kind of endurance award, at least. So do we.)

Anderson has paid attention to physical scope; he shot in 65 mm, using lots of large vistas of deserts, beaches, canyons. He’s adept at long, complex tracking shots, full of perfectly choreographed action. Yet the simplest mechanics of storytelling often elude him, like the improbable moment when an usher brings in a cradle telephone (on what must be the world’s longest cord) into a theater balcony during the movie so a patron can take a call.

Anderson doesn’t seem to care if something makes sense as long as it looks cool, just as he doesn’t care if The Master adds up to anything, so long as it has the appearance of profundity. 


THE MASTER

★★ (out of four) Watch film trailer >>>

With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. A Weinstein Co. release. Rated R. 137 minutes.

Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Sept. 27th

Film, Times & Events: Week of Sept. 27th

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With: Reviews,
Movie Times click here.
Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

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Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Jailbreak with Reality

‘The Stanford Prison Experiment’ revisits one of the most notorious studies of all time
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Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover