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Sep 22nd
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Reviews and Times

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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Film - 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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Film - 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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Film - 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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Film - 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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Film - Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 11

Movies & Film Events: Week of Feb. 11

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

 

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Film - 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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Film - 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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Film - 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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Film - 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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Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
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Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

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

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.