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Apr 16th
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Reviews and Times

Film - Reviews and Times

Super-sized ‘Nation’

Super-sized ‘Nation’


‘Fast Food Nation’ author Eric Schlosser ponders the big-screen version of his best-selling read

There’s nothing daring about putting creativity on the side rather than having it be the juiciest of part of a celluloid meal. Fortunately, Fast Food Nation doesn’t do that. In fact, it’s a savory cinematic outing.

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Film - Reviews and Times

John Cameron Mitchell: Shortbus it

John Cameron Mitchell: Shortbus it

The Hedwig alum opens up—real wide

If you think John Cameron Mitchell turned heads—or was it wigs?—earlier this decade with the film version of his stage hit, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, you really haven't seen anything yet. In Shortbus, a hypnotic, visual, soul-stirring, gem, the writer-director takes audiences inside the lives of fractured twentysomethings desperate to find deep connection. Most try to find it via sex. But the allure proves futile. In one of the artists' most daring feats, he boldly illuminates what haunts us beyond the sheets.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Embracing Amy

Embracing Amy

The wild rise of Amy Sedaris's alter ego and why it's coming to a movie theater near you

When a 47-year-old ex-con junky-whore with one hell of an overbite leaves the slammer and heads home, she's surprised to find her daddy has lapsed into a coma. Believing that if she just made him proud, he would see the light of day again, she decides that the best way to turn her life around is pick up right where she left off: As a freshman in high school. Welcome to Strangers With Candy—and Jerri Blank, Amy Sedaris's mind-bending alter ego. Strangers is the audacious big screen transformation of the cult Comedy Central hit spawned by Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello back in 1999.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Lily Tomlin Gives In

Lily Tomlin Gives In

Lady Lily unveils the deeper truths about life—and working with Robert Altman

Let’s get one thing straight: Lily Tomlin loved morphing into the characters of Edith Ann and Ernestine on stage and in the hit ’70s show Laugh-In, but she also relished working with a phenom like Robert Altman (Short  Cuts, Gosford Park). The revered director did, after all, cast Tomlin in her big screen, Oscar-nominated debut in 1975’s Nashville, a film that launched a bevy of careers, Cybil Shepherd and Jeff Bridges among them. Altman is also at the helm of this June’s A Prairie Home Companion, a vibrant ensemble piece in which Tomlin co-stars alongside Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Woody Harleson and the avuncular Garrison Keillor—it’s based on Keillor’s

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Film - Reviews and Times

King Kong: Great Ape

King Kong: Great Ape

With ‘Kong,’ Peter Jackson uncages a bold, fascinating new look at an old beast

Director Peter Jackson may be a complex man, but his approach filmmaking is simple: he dives into his task as if it was a Midwestern smorgasbord and doesn’t come up for air until he’s consumed every last morsel of that fifth portion of vanilla bean dessert pudding. And aren’t we all the better for it?  Jackson’s work, this decade in particular, is just epic. Who could argue that his Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy took cinema to new heights—all that state-of-the-art digital dancing; the grand achievement of bringing Tolkien’s revered lit to the screen; storytelling, reborn at last, at the cineplex. Marvelous. Give the man awards, and keep feeding him, please.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain It's Crouching Cowboy, Hidden Gay Man in Ang Lee’s beautifully crafted masterpiece

There’s a moment in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain where the film’s two male leads meet for the first time in four years and realize that they are, indeed, in love with each other. They share a series of passionate kisses and embrace underneath a stairwell. For a fleeting moment, they forget that it’s 1967, that they’re committed to other women, and that Wyoming’s machismo set wouldn’t quite know how to embrace the fact that they’re embracing. So the men retreat from the hunger for something they cannot yet articulate and keep their love for each other hidden as they continue their relationship—for 20 years.

And so it goes in one of the most talked about movies of the year. Headlined by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback was being touted as “one of the most important films of the decade” long before its release this winter. Why? For starters,

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Film - Reviews and Times

Batman Has Bite

Batman Has Bite

Re-imagined superhero saves a dying film franchise

Finally—an intelligent Batman that soars high. In a story that often moves against the typical currents that make up a major Hollywood blockbuster, director Christopher Nolan delivers a beautifully polished, wondrously executed Batman Begins. And with it, comes the rebirth of a franchise left for dead by the likes of George Clooney.

Out: the post-modern Batman weighed down by the theatrics of directors Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. In: a plausible Batman that digs deep into the psychology of the man behind the mask and draws its inspiration from classics like  The Man Who Would Be King, Blade Runner, the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and—surprisingly—Lawrence of Arabia. (Yes, you read that right.) What Burton’s Batman did for the campy ’60s TV show of the same name, Nolan does to Burton’s Batman (1989).

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Film - Reviews and Times

Mad About Ballroom

Mad About Ballroom

It’s kids, it’s ballroom. It works.

Ten years ago director Marilyn Agrelo could not have imagined that her very first film would be about kids, or on dancing for that matter. “Oh, it wouldn’t have been edgy enough for my tastes,” she admits with a laugh.

Fortunately, like a ballroom dancer, Agrelo surrendered herself to some of the creative rhythms working around her, proving there’s a certain reward in taking up a dance that has nothing to do with the “dance” you’re dancing. The result is Mad Hot Ballroom (***1/2), one of the most dazzling, heartfelt—and downright fun—documentaries of the season.

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Film - Reviews and Times

With Them, The Force Is

With Them, The Force Is

‘Revenge of Sith’ satisfies in its attempts to bring the Star Wars saga full circle

About 10 minutes into Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) find themselves in a galactic bind. Obi-Wan turns to Anakin and says, “How did this happen, we’re smarter than this?”

You want to laugh—and not in the good way. Most would have said the same thing after Attack of the Clones in 2002.  And after Phantom Menace (1999), who could blame them? But McGregor’s corny delivery of the line—something that was better suited coming out of the likes of Mark Hamill back in the ’70s—immediately brings to the surface the main problem with the prequels to George Lucas’s Star Wars: Many of his characters lack passion on screen.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Lust For The Dust

Lust For The DustDana Brown washes up on shore and heads to the desert and an exhilarating ride via ‘Dust to Glory’

The Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 is the longest nonstop, point-to-point race in the world. And that, apparently, was all a filmmaker like Dana Brown needed to hear before he embarked on filming the spectacle—it’s the MTV Music Awards on wheels, a desert road race that boasts as much glam as it does raunchy, cutthroat competition amidst a revelry of screaming fans. Add death-defying debauchery to the mix and the entire package suddenly smacks of must-see. Enter Brown, who never really does shy away from adventure, or misadventure for that matter. He has, in fact, become somewhat of the pied piper of extreme sports documentary filmmaking.

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Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.

 

Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
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Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

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

 

Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.