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Dec 28th
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Film - Reviews and Times

Moving Pictures, Top 10 & GUILTY PLEASURES

Moving Pictures, Top 10 & GUILTY PLEASURES

Love, strong women among the themes found in the best films of 2009

Some movies are so great, I just want to grab people by the lapels and drag them off to the moviehouse. There weren't many films like that in 2009, but if it was an unexceptional movie year in general, there were still a few small gems worth noting. Here are my Top Ten films of the year, plus a few guilty pleasures. Enjoy!

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Film - Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events

Movies & Film Events

AVATAR James Cameron's new sci-fi epic involves a US military unit sent to a lush, tropical planet whose cultured, indigenous warrior population is determined to keep the invaders from despoiling their land. Sam Worthington stars as a young US war vet technologically altered to resemble the native people and sent in as a scout. Zoe Saldana is the indigenous tribeswoman with whom he falls in love. Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, and Giovanni Ribisi co-star. (PG-13) 150 minutes. Starts Friday.
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Film - Reviews and Times

Royal Progress

Royal Progress

Teen blossoms into queen in entertaining 'Young Victoria'
It's not easy being queen. Just ask the lonely, fatherless, inexperienced 18-year-old girl thrust onto the throne of England when her uncle, the king, dies, in The Young Victoria. This sumptuously mounted historical drama offers an intriguing glimpse of the youthful monarch destined to give her name to an entire age in Britain, before and after her succession to the throne, and argues the point that everyone involved in the political sphere has a few rough patches at the beginning, however beloved they might later become.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Crazy Love

Crazy Love

Romance and storytelling merge in wry, marvelous 'Broken Embraces'

ust and obsession, fathers and sons, storytelling and filmmaking, betrayal and redemption—all go into the Cuisinart to be whipped into a gorgeous and volatile froth in Broken Embraces, a spicy drama from Pedro Almodóvar, served with a side of wryness. It's hard not to fall into gastronomical adjectives to describe this film: every frame looks good enough to eat (full of popsicle colors and striking compositions) and every performance is delectable, however small.

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Film - Reviews and Times

The Bitter End

The Bitter EndSurvivors stuggle on after nature rebels in harrowing, gripping 'The Road'

If the bleak vision of man's inhumanity to man in No Country For Old Men wasn't  demoralizing enough, this adaptation of another Cormac McCarthy novel, “The Road,” ought to do the trick. Judging from these two most recent novels (published in 2005 and 2006, respectively), McCarthy no longer has any faith in either the ability or the right of humankind as a species to exist for much longer. Directed by John Hillcoat, from a script by Joe Penhall, The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son journeying across a devastated landscape that suggests what might happen if the natural world suddenly turned as savagely self-destructive as the humans who inhabit it.

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Film - Reviews and Times

She's All That Jazz

She's All That Jazz

Big fun on the bayou in ‘The Princess And The Frog'

It's taken the folks at Walt Disney more than seven decades to create their first African-American cartoon heroine. And when they finally do, she spends most of the movie green when a fairy tale kiss goes awry in The Princess And The Frog. But the movie is so much fun, and—for Disney—culturally rich, with its New Orleans/Louisiana bayou setting, there's not much else to quibble about. Terrific voice performances, lively songs by Randy Newman, and gorgeous hand-drawn cel animation make this one of the most entertaining Disney cartoon features since The Lion King.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Color Bind

Color Bind

White parents, black child-chaos, in affecting 'Skin'

Despite its title, the persuasive drama, Skin, is not about race. At least, it's not about race alone. Yes, the plot revolves around the true story of a black South African girl born to white parents during the shameful and divisive apartheid era. But on a larger scale, the issues of identity, otherness and separatism explored here could just as easily apply to a story about national, sexual, political, or religious intolerance, as well as racism—any of the artificial barriers that divide us from our fellow humans. Where Skin gains power is in showing how the effects of injustice can be just as devastating on those who wield it as on those it's wielded against.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events: Week of Dec. 10

Movies & Film Events: Week of Dec. 10

INVICTUS Sports and politics mix in this true story of how restored South African president Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined with national rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), to unite the country devastated by the aftermath of apartheid during the 1995 World Cup championship race. Clint Eastwood directs on location in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Based on the non-fiction book "Playing The Enemy," by John Carlin. (PG-13) 133 minutes. Starts Friday.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Fade To Black

Fade To Black

Behold—the worst films of 2009

You don’t come across films like Precious and Up In The Air every day—let’s not forget Away We Go—so relish them while you can. In meantime, 2009, while it was a strong year overall at the box office, spawned more than a cluster of clunkers. Take note of the following films—most of them remakes— and then immediately erase them from your memory.

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Film - Reviews and Times

The Liars Club

The Liars Club

Father uncovers hidden family secrets in bittersweet 'Everybody's Fine'

When was the last time you called your folks? You might want to make that call after seeing Everybody's Fine, a wistful drama of family dynamics and the lies we tell ourselves and our loved ones—just to get by. Although the film doesn't entirely resist the urge to tie things up in a neat package, the story is surprisingly schmaltz-free in the telling, mostly rising above easy sentimentality for a thoughtful look at parenting, expectations and disappointment.

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Dancing In the Rain

District Attorney Bob Lee’s death in October stunned the Santa Cruz community, but he had battled cancer fiercely—and privately—for more than a decade. Now one of his closest friends reveals the remarkable inside story

 

Our Gifts - Fiery Sacrificial Lights to One Another

Wednesday is Christmas Eve, Hanukkah ends and the Moon is in Aquarius, calling for the new world to take shape at midnight. Thursday morning, the sun, at the Tropic of Capricorn, begins moving northward. The desire currents are stilled. A great benediction of spiritual force (Capricorn’s Rays 1, 3, 7) streams into Earth. Temple bells ring out. The heavens bend low; the Earth is lifted up to the Light. Angels and Archangels chant, “On Earth, peace, goodwill to all.” As these forces stream into the Earth they assume long swirling lines of light, in the likeness of the Madonna and Child. The holy child is born. Let our hearts be “impressed” with and hold this picture, especially because Christmas may be difficult this year. Christmas Day is void of course moon (v/c moon), which means we may feel somewhat disconnected from one another. It’s difficult to connect in a v/c moon. Try anyway. Mercury joins Pluto in Capricorn. Uh oh … we don’t bring up the past containing any dark and difficult issues. We are to attempt new ways of communicating—expressing aspirations and love for one another, replacing wounding, sadness, lostness, and hurts of the past. Play soothing music, pray together, have the intention for peace, harmony and goodwill. Don’t be surprised if things feel out of control and/or arguments arise. We remember, before a new harmony emerges, chaos and crisis come first to clear the air. We are to be the harmonizers. Christmas evening is more harmonious, less difficult, more of what Christmas should be— radiations of love, sharing, kindness, compassion and care. Sunday, Feast Day of the Holy Family, is surprising. Wednesday is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2014. Taurus moon, a stabilizing energy, ushers in the New Year. Happy New Year, everyone! Peace to everyone. Let us realize we are gifts radiating diamond light to one another. Living sacrificial flames!

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Let My People Go

There’s a lot to like in Ridley Scott’s maligned ‘Exodus’
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Best Bites of 2014

A look back at the year in good taste

 

What downtown business is good for both one-stop shopping and last-minute gifts?

The Homeless Garden Project store. Because it is a community effort and has really useful and beautiful things, and allows you to connect with a lot of folks who are doing great work in Santa Cruz. Miriam Greenberg, Santa Cruz, UCSC Professor

 

Vino Tabi Winery

One of Santa Cruz’s most happening areas to go wine tasting is in the westside’s Swift Street Courtyard complex. Ever since a group of about a dozen wineries got together and formed Surf City Vintners (SCV), the place has been a hive of activity, and a wine-tasting mecca. Adding to the mix is the lively Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing beer company—making Swift Street Courtyard a perfect spot for a glass of wine or a pitcher of ale.

 

Betty’s Eat Inn

Yes, she’s a real person; no, this isn’t her