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Reviews and Times

Film - Reviews and Times

Buried Child

Buried Child

Demoralized teen finds herself in masterful ‘Precious’

Any politician poised to slash a social services budget should first be required to watch Precious. Lee Daniels’ masterful film shows how the tiniest flicker of compassion, in tandem with a functioning social program, can transform a life of complete degradation into something triumphant. While putting an unforgettable human face on what might otherwise be just another depressing inner-city statistic, the film persuades us that a small community of caring individuals can change a life, even against impossible odds.

The face of the movie belongs to newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, who gives an astounding, adjective-defying performance in the title role. A wary, mountainous, hard-luck Harlem teenager, Sidibe’s Precious has learned to hide her spirit beneath protective layers of flesh and silence. But Sidibe reveals the vibrant, questing self inside the character with grace and a fierce authenticity. This is acting of transcendent loveliness, not to be missed.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events: Week of Nov. 19

Movies & Film Events: Week of Nov. 19

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON More trouble brews for star-crossed teens Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire soulmate, Edward (Robert Pattinson) in this second installment of the megahit Stephanie Meyers YA series. The would-be lovers are separated when Edward's concerned family moves him out of town, leaving Bella to grow closer to her werewolf buddy, Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Chris Weitz directs.(PG-13) 130 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch movie trailer >>>

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Film - Reviews and Times

Class Action

Class Action

Schoolgirl falls for older man in impeccable, but uneven 'An Education'

Just because it's an old story doesn't mean everybody's heard it.  As long as there are dewy-eyed young women and dashing older men to pursue them, stories like An Education will continue to play out. Drenched in early '60s atmosphere, and impeccably produced in every detail, Lone Scherfig's adaptation of the Lynn Barber memoir tells a familiar story from the fresh and compelling viewpoint of a very bright, very young woman for whom it is all happening for the first time. The plot may not be entirely credible onscreen, but the emotions involved are explored with honesty, insight, and humor.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Movies & Film Events: Week of Nov. 12

Movies & Film Events: Week of Nov. 12

PIRATE RADIO This latest ensemble comedy from Richard Curtis (Love Actually) harks back to the late '60s when rock 'n' roll was banned from the staid BBC airwaves, forcing an intrepid crew of renegade djs to broadcast The Who, The Stones, Cream, etc, from an oil tanker in the North Sea, just outside British jurisdiction. Real-life pirate radio stations (like Radio Caroline) were a fact of life in '60s Britain; names have been changed to protect the notorious. Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Rhys Ifans star. (R) 120 minutes. Starts Friday.

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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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Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
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Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival