Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
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.
'Winter in Wartime' manages to create a conscientious coming-of-age drama
When most of us think of a coming-of-age drama set in Nazi- occupied Holland, our thoughts stray to the standard-bearer of the genre, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” We think of Anne growing up in her attic and the stoic resolve of the Dutch family who hid the Franks, that delicate dance of fear, poise, and patience, as the ultimate in wartime courage. Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven opts for a more active, thriller-type boy's own adventure in Winter In Wartime. It covers some of the same thematic territory as Anne Frank: youth impatient to grow up, and the struggle to establish a moral imperative within a labyrinth of complex political realities. It's not always as profound or effective in all it tries to say, but it's a conscientious effort to portray the true wages of warfare on the human psyche.
Government vs. law in timely historical drama, 'Conspirator'
In The Conspirator, Robert Redford wants to remind us that those who do not remember history are forced to repeat it. Part criminal investigation, part courtroom drama, the film portrays America in the aftermath of a heinous national trauma, during which the government proves willing to suspend large chunks of its citizens Constitutional freedoms in the rush to find (or create) scapegoat "evildoers" on whom to wreak vengeance in the name of "justice."