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Reviews and Times

Film - Reviews and Times

Fatal Abstractions

Fatal Abstractions

Sly 'Untitled' skewers contemporary art/music scene

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. But for would-be culture vultures uncertain about their own taste, there are plenty of opportunists out there eager to show them where to look. This tension between true artistic value and hype, steak and sizzle, is the theme of Untitled, Jonathan Parker's wry satire on contemporary culture. Set in the rarefied milieu of new music and postmodern art, it deftly exposes the preciousness of young wannabee aesthetes desperately trying to impose the shock of the new and make their mark on an already jaded and overcrowded cultural landscape.

The film's title is itself a sly joke, the common designation in galleries for abstract or incomprehensible art pieces into which there is no other point of access for the viewer. Co-scripted by Parker and Catherine DiNapoli, the story revolves around two arty brothers in New York. Josh (Eion Bailey) paints big, colorful canvases punctuated by the occasional black dot; they're technically abstract, but in a quaint, old-fashioned way that vaguely recalls Joan Miró (without the graphic or intellectual content).

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Film - Reviews and Times

New Movies & Events: Week of Nov. 5

New Movies & Events: Week of Nov. 5

THE FOURTH KIND Milla Jovovich stars in this paranormal thriller as an investigator who uncovers a mother lode of videotaped evidence of 40 yers of alien abductions in Nome, Alaska.  Elias Koteas and Will Patton co-star for director Olatunde Osunsanmi. (PG-13) Starts Friday.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Soccer To Me

Soccer To Me

Sheen scores in bracing Brit sports drama 'The Damned United'

Michael Sheen turns in another beautifully calibrated performance as a real-life character from recent British history in The Damned United. After starring as newly-minted Prime Minister Tony Blair in The Queen, and wily media pro David Frost in Frost/Nixon, Sheen here rises to the challenge of playing someone a bit less posh, but no less celebrated—legendary soccer manager Brian Clough. Mostly unknown in America, Clough is as notorious in Britain for his ego, his gift of gab, and his provocative antics as for his skill in shepherding hopeless Third Division teams from the north of England into stunning and impossible championships.

Scripted by Peter Morgan (The Queen; Frost/Nixon), The Damned United is based on a novel by David Peace which imagines the inner workings of Clough's mind during a critical period of his career in the late 1960s and early '70s. How closely (or not) Peace's work of fiction overlays the facts of Clough's career shouldn't matter to viewers caught up in Morgan's bracing, near-epic drama of supreme hubris, profound vindication, and dazzling chutzpa.

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Film - Reviews and Times

New Movies & Events: Week of Oct. 29

New Movies & Events: Week of Oct. 29

THE BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY Ten years after filmmaker Troy Duffy unleashed the original Boondock Saints, the cult action drama about Irish homeboys defending their turf in Boston, he finally gets the sequel up onscreen. Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus star as the McManus Brothers forced to return from Ireland when they learn they've been framed in Boston for the murder of a priest. Billy Connolly, Clifton, Collins Jr., Judd Nelson, and Peter Fonda co-star. (R) 115 minutes. Starts Friday.
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Film - Reviews and Times

PARIS

PARIS

French filmmaker Cedric Klapisch is best-known for his beloved L'Auberge Espagnole, a buoyant look at international students sharing a flat in Barcelona. In his new ensemble piece, Paris, he attempts a similar intersection of viewpoints, cultures, and sexual adventures, but with less success. Too few of the characters are truly compelling, some are outright irritating, and their puny actions tend to pale next to the magic and magnitude of one of the most beguiling cities on Earth. Romain Duris stars as Pierre, a professional dancer sidelined by a heart defect, awaiting a donor heart. His sister, Elise (Juliette Binoche), a divorced, no-nonsense social worker, troops over every day to check up on him. Theirs is the most touching relationship in the film, as they squabble, tease each other, and trade romantic advice. (At 40, Elise believes that "Men don't like women like me. Women who talk back scare them."). Their pragmatic, yet tender sibling alliance (Elise loyally hunts up date material when Pierre fears he'll never make love again) is their defense against the looming possibility of having to say goodbye.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Black To Basics

Black To Basics

Bold outsider reinvents chic in ‘Coco Before Chanel’

Who doesn’t love a big, lush, biographical drama about a real-life woman who defies the conventions of her day to make her own place in the world? As long as the writing is at least plausible, and the actors don’t trip over the furniture, this is a pretty fool proof formula—especially for female audiences hungry for stories of self-empowerment. The story of  Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who rose from impoverished orphan and rural milliner to become one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th Century, is—sorry— tailor-made for this kind of treatment. Still, in her thoughtful and persuasive Coco Before Chanel, Belgian filmmaker Anne Fontaine brings something extra to the mix; every lovely frame of the film is informed by the filmmaker’s resonant empathy for Chanel as a stylist, a woman, and an outsider hungry to succeed on her own terms.

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Film - Reviews and Times

New Movies & Events: Week of Oct. 22

New Movies & Events: Week of Oct. 22

AMELIA Hilary Swank stars in the role she was probably born to play, tousle-haired, tomboyish aviatrix Amelia Earhart, whose daring solo flights, unconventional lifestyle, and myserious disappearance have fascinated the world for nearly a century. Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor co-star as the men in her life. Mira Nair (The Namesake; Monsoon Wedding) directs.  (PG) 111 minutes. Starts Friday.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Reel Aloha & Festival Schedule

Reel Aloha & Festival Schedule

East and West find common ground in 21st annual Pacific Rim Film Festival

As the Pacific Rim Film Festival sails into its third decade, the spirit of Aloha is alive and thriving in Santa Cruz. Dedicated to bridging the cultural gap between East and West, the six-day festival (Friday, Oct. 16, to Wednesday, Oct. 21) presents 17 features and shorts from 11 countries, all located along the vast geographical region of the Pacific Rim. This year’s event unspools at three county venues, the Del Mar Theatre and the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, and the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. And as always, every film in the festival, except the closing night benefit, is presented to the public free of charge.

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Film - Reviews and Times

New Movies & Events: Week of Oct. 15

New Movies & Events: Week of Oct. 15

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN Gerard Butler stars in this crime thriller as a man imprisoned for taking the law into his own hands after the murder of his wife who orchestrates revenge from his jail cell against the killers—and the prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) who failed him. Viola Davis and Leslie Bibb co-star for director F. Gary Gray (R) 108 minutes. Starts Friday.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Just Say Yes

Just Say Yes

Father, sons grow up in marvelous ‘Boys Are Back’

Everyone knows about the Neverland, the place where little boys go to avoid growing up. But it’s more than a fairy tale for a carefree, globe-trotting sportswriter thrust suddenly into single fatherhood in The Boys Are Back. Directed by Scott Hicks (Shine), and featuring a marvelous performance by Clive Owen as the conflicted dad,  it’s an extraordinarily wry, poignant, and perceptive look at fathers and sons who use creative anarchy as a means of helping each other come to grips with the cold, hard real world.

Adapted by scriptwriter Allan Cubitt from the memoir by real-life sports journalist Simon Carr, the film stars Owen as Joe Warr, star sportswriter for a major London newspaper. Joe’s the one his editor sends halfway around the world to cover the Olympics, or international soccer playoffs, but he always circles back to terra firma at the beachfront home in South Australia, where his loving, pragmatic Australian wife,  Katie (Laura Fraser), a former Olympic equestrienne, and their little son,  Artie (Nicholas McAnulty), are waiting.

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Santa Cruz Restaurant Week

A huge part of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week has always been about offering a great dining experience for an affordable price. For some locals, the $25 flat-rate cost has provided the opportunity (or the excuse!) to try new spots, and indulge in Santa Cruz fine dining in a way they might have thought too pricey before.

 

Scorpio Sun, New Moon Eclipse, Mercury Direct

The Sun enters Scorpio’s mysteries Thursday under a new moon and partial solar eclipse (something essential has come to an end, its purpose completed). In Scorpio we harbor secrets, are devoted to something deep, dark and hidden. Sometimes it’s ourselves. We can bring great suspect to our assessment of others. Scorpio is the scorpion, the serpent and the eagle—three levels of development. As the serpent we take shelter in our beliefs. Sometimes we bite (or sting). The eagle vanquishes old beliefs through its sharp intellect, soaring high in the air, seeking to understand through perspective. Understanding releases us from the bondage of fear. The eagle is like the mother soothing feelings of mistrust, offering protection. Knowledge does this, too.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Light Humor

College comedy questions a post-racial America in ‘Dear White People’
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Back Porch

Austin Kaye on backyard dinners and why it’s his favorite time of year to be a chef

 

What’s the most outrageous situation you ever saw at a restaurant?

Damani Thomas, Santa Cruz, Chef/Owner

 

Wine Lust

The Spanish Godello grape, plus arancinis, tender butter lettuce and pork schnitzel at Soif

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher