Francis Ford Coppola is out of the giant, make-or-break blockbuster biz and back making small indie movies for the sheer joy of it. His newest, Tetro, is such an adventure in technique, style, and pure cinematic brio, it almost doesn’t matter that the story gets away from him the fourth act, and the film runs about 30 minutes too long. You can have too much of a good thing, and the sins of admission in Tetro detract from otherwise masterful storytelling, but there’s still plenty of swoony delight to be had in the look of the film and the operatic scope of its story.
Veteran action movie director Kathryn Bigelow is getting plenty of buzz over this epic drama about U.S. military bomb squad technicians risking their lives in the streets of Baghdad. Prize winner at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, and called by one critic "the first great Iraq War movie," the film stars Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty as part of the counter-insurgency force specially trained in diffusing homemade bombs whose unit is taken over by a reckless new tam leader (Jeremy Renner) just weeks before their tour of duty is up. Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, and David Morse have featured roles. (R) 131 minutes.
Filmmaker Nati Baratz goes behind the scenes into the secret and mysterious world of Tibetan Buddhism for this documentary about the search for the reincarnation of a recently deceased holy man. Given his mission by the Dalai Lama himself, a young monk who grew up attending the holy man consults astrologers and sets out for a remote village, where he goes door-to-door in hopes of being enlightened enough to recognize his former master in the child he seeks. (Not rated) 102 minutes.
Tricky time-space continuums, a nasty thirst for revenge and stealing kisses with Uhura aren’t the only things that will make your head turn—or your mind spin—in Star Trek. The acting is above par (good news indeed), the script is (relatively) tight and there are actual moments of real suspense. It’s the latter that may stun most because the last time audiences felt more than an inkling of suspense in a Trek film it was back in 1986 with Star Trek IV.
But this isn’t your father’s Star Trek. Not anymore.
It’s director J.J. Abrams’ (Alias, Lost)—at least for now. Actually, it’s really the Trek of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the hot writing team behind Transformers and TV’s Fringe. Together, they create a bold new Trek, one that offers just the right amount of nuances from the iconic franchise— the ’60s series, 10 films and four other weekly shows throughout the decades—and more than enough fast-paced techo panache to keep you invested in the story.
A talk with the local festival's movie maven, Jane Sullivan
It started eight years ago and no one knew what would happen. Would it be a flop, a raging success, or something in between? But look at it now: The Santa Cruz Film Festival (SCFF) has turned out to be a stellar annual event, and while it may not run in the industry big league film festivals, it serves a very worthwhile purpose—exposing the work of independent filmmakers. And … it educates and inspires us with innovative work every year.
As troubled as this year was, the same audacity of hope that drove people to the polls in November also fueled some of my favorite films of 2008. In the spirit of bi-partisan generosity, I refrain from listing my least favorite films of the year. This is no time to gloat over the losers; instead, let’s pull together for a brighter movie year in 2009!
Dustin Lance Black's ties to the Central Coast helped craft the powerful civil rights tale
Politics, love and loss are perfect bedfellows in Milk, one of the most powerful, thought-provoking films of the year. But the much-ballyhooed movie about San Francisco politico Harvey Milk and the birth of the gay civil rights movement is a stunning, sometimes haunting portrait of a rarely scene pocket of history and how hope, ultimately, becomes the only saving grace.
And all this written by a man who wasn’t even born during Milk’s political renaissance. That man is Dustin Lance Black, 29, who lived in the Monterey Bay area for a time in the 1990s.
Anne Hathaway commands the screen in ‘Rachel Getting Married’It’s not always fun to witness a bevy of messy family dynamics unfold on screen—most people have enough of their own dilemmas to take care of at home—but director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Neil Young: Heart of Gold) manages to deliver the bittersweet realities plaguing one family in Rachel Getting Married with such grace it’s hard not to be drawn into his spell—and care about the outcome of his characters’ dilemmas.
The legend's past comes to life in a moving doc
Steven Sebring's film took more than a decade to make
But patience has served the filmmaker well. Dream of Life is one of the most captivating documentaries of the year. And, like its subject, quite hypnotic. It’s a work that sits with you long after you leave the theater. Smith, the outspoken rocker/poet/spoken word artist, has been in the limelight for decades. She stormed onto the music scene in the ’70s, hung out with the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe and William S. Burroughs and made a name for herself the seminal album Horses, among others. The film, like Smith’s own creativity, seems to wander through an esoteric, emotionally rich mine field.
Through archival concert footage and first-hand interviews, we’re taken into Smith’s life and times. But Sebring avoids the linear approach. Instead, we’re treated to a lyrical, stream of consciousness. Among the many musings, the rocker shares her pain over the early