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Oct 02nd
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Reviews and Times

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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Film - Reviews and Times

Kevin Bacon Sizzles

Kevin Bacon Sizzles

Once footloose and fancy free, Kevin Bacon turns heads in ‘The Woodsman’ and becomes Hollywood’s most valuable player

Kevin Bacon is one of the most curious creatures in Hollywood. The man, devoid of any real tabloid hoopla or insufferable career crash-and-burns, would be considered royalty if he lived in London—he’s an unscathable beast capable of always landing on his feet, dimples intact, blue eyes forever blinding.

Bacon’s is a tale of longevity. Here is an actor who can be big-movie poster boy one minute (Footloose) and award-ceremony contender the next (Diner, Mystic River); somebody whose road to stardom is by way of keeping his celebrity always a bit low on Tinseltown’s rapturous radar screen.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Walken on Sunshine

Christopher Walken on longevity, the film industry and those raging daddy issues found in ‘Around the Bend’

Meetup.com isn’t quite the Don Juan of Internet dating sites, but it does bring lonely people together in cyberspace. And in a world where everybody seems to be trying to make a connection—on any level—most would count their blessings, log on, get off and call it a day. But the site stands out for another—and truly bizarre—reason. It’s a place where a gaggle of Christopher Walken fans from 12 cities, in six different countries, including São Paulo, Brazil, meet online, arrange get-togethers and then later meet in person to exclusively discuss their admiration for the Oscar-winning actor whose celebrity keeps soaring with every quirky role he takes on.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Travolta, Phoenix and The Ladder

John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix tackle some burning questions and so much more

First, the good news.

Welcome Back Kotter was a classic TV series and Grease was a classic movie and I have zero interest in doing either again as a ‘whatever.’ I just think it is unnecessary.”

This, from John Travolta during a whirlwind press day in San Francisco. Travolta and his costars in Ladder 49, a film that chronicles the personal and emotional tolls it takes in being a fireman, were in town on a promotional blitz, which found each actor being ushered into different suites at the Ritz Carlton at different intervals for myriad interviews.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Quantum Bleep

Get ready for a movie unlike any other

A Japanese scientist decided to conduct an experiment. He wanted to understand the molecular structure of water and what affects it. Because water is the most receptive of the four elements, he suspected it may respond to nonphysical events. So he set up a series of studies, applied mental stimuli to the water and photographed it with a dark-field microscope.

The first picture from the microscope contained water from the Fujiwara Dam. It was nothing to write home about—just your garden-variety microscopic image of water.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Keeping Spouse

Re-imagined ‘Stepford Wives’ isn't the best reboot, but do you know what it really means?

In The Stepford Wives, Director Frank Oz marries camp to dark comedy and the cinematic marriage is deliciously wicked. This “re-imagined” Wives is much more playful than 1975 version, which showcased doomed housewife Kathyrn Ross trying to fit in among the suddenly robotic, truly bizarre housewives in the town of Stepford, Conn. Here, Nicole Kidman takes center stage and,

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Film - Reviews and Times

Dissecting John Malkovich

An emotional tango with the director of ‘The Dancer Upstairs’

When you talk to him, John Malkovich sounds so calm, so reserved, so blissfully anti-temperamental, you feel like nudging his shoulder and asking, “Hey, is there a there there?

But there’s plenty there.

Malkovich is probably Hollywood’s most unwilling iconoclast. His fame is, in part, the result of devoting decades to the acting “craft,” both onstage and in film. But it is in cinema, actually, where Malkovich piqued the curiosities of mainstream moviegoers. Somewhere between his debut performance in Roland Jaffe’s The Killing Fields (1984) and Being John Malkovich (1999), that quirky portal-to-the-brain hit with an addictively simplistic catchphrase—“Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich”—the world embraced him for playing characters with an unsettling indifference. Nominated twice for an Oscar—Places of the Heart (1984), In the Line of Fire (1993)—and the recipient of numerous Golden Globe and acting award nods, the dent Malkovich has made in Hollywood seems divinely inspired if not richly deserved.

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On the Waterfront

As the wharf celebrates its centennial, a personal reflection on its essential place in Santa Cruz’s history

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

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New Capitola bakery takes gluten-free goods to the next level

 

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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

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”