New This Week
Digging into a story about a US night raid in a remote part of Afghanistan, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill uncovered the tip of a much bigger story on the secret military organization called the Joint Special Operations Command, and the terrorism it inflicts worldwide in the name of the American War on Terror. Documentary filmmaker Rick Rowley follows Scahill on his rounds in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Washington DC, piecing together the story in the words of those who have experienced it on the ground. (Not rated) 90 minutes. Starts Friday.
It’s hard not to like Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. And together, they create an enjoyable comedy. Still, like so many comedies McCarthy seems to be thrust into lately, the writers tend to go over the top with the humor when it’s not really needed. The premise: The crime-fighting gals join forces to pursue a drug kingpin. Demian Bichir and Marlon Wayans co-star for director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) directs. (R) 117 minutes. Starts Friday. (HH1/2)—Greg Archer
THE KINGS OF SUMMER
A trio of teenage boys decide to declare their independence by building themselves a cabin in the forest and living off the land for the summer. Nick Robinson, Gabril Basso, and Moises Arias star in this coming-of-age comedy from Jordan Vogt-Roberts, an audience favorite at Sundance. (R) 93 minutes. Starts Friday.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN
Channing Tatum stars in this action thriller as a DC cop taking his daughter on a tour of the White House who becomes a default first-responder when paramilitary invaders come gunning for the President (Jamie Foxx). Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, and Garcelle Beauvais co-star for director Roland Emmerich. (PG-13) 131 minutes.
CONTINUING SERIES: FLASHBACK FEATURES Oldies and goodies on Thursday nights at the Cinema 9, presented by your genial host, Joe Ferrara. $5 gets you in. This week: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA "I look like a dissipated girl!" observed Peter O'Toole on seeing himself onscreen 40 years later in David Lean's 1962 epic. O'Toole was just 29 when he landed the plum role of T. E. Lawrence, an eccentric English officer who led the Arabs against the Turks in the Middle East during WWI. Alec Guiness, Omar Sharif, and Anthony Quinn head the supporting cast. (G) 228 minutes. Tonight only (Thursday, June 27), 9 p.m., at the Cinema 9.
CONTINUING EVENT: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES This informal movie discussion group meets at the Del Mar mezzanine in downtown Santa Cruz. Movie junkies are invited to join in on Wednesday nights to pursue the elusive and ineffable meanings of cinema. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit groups.google.com/group/LTATM.
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BEFORE MIDNIGHT Brilliant from beginning to end, Before Midnight finds Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who also cowrote the script, reprising their roles as Jesse and Celine, whom audiences met in Before Sunrise some 20 years ago. Before Sunrise was a rare theatrical gem in that allowed its conversations and scenes to linger. You didn’t feel as if you were watching a film; more like dropping in on some engaging converstaions these two were having as the two strangers explored Paris together for a bit. The film won raves—and became a cult hit. Hawke and Delpy were reunited in Before Sunset and in this outing they have, at last, become a bona fide couple facing the real-life ups and downs of being in a relationship. This time around, we’re given a day in Greece, where Jesse and Celine have been vacationing—they have twin daughters and Jesse has a son from his previous marriage. Also new, are several other characters and/or couples vacationing in an artists/writers retreat. The script is sublime; the characters fully formed. If only more films boasted dialogue this realistic. But alas, it may frighten people off. Movies are for escape, right? Still, director Richard Linklater surpasses expectations in this postmodern romance and delivers an exquisite experience to round out the trilogy. Here’s hoping the film is remembered around Oscar season. (R) 108 minutes. (HHHH)—Greg Archer
THE BLING RING Fun, playful and totally a summer guilty pleasure. A quartet of Berverly Hills celeb-obsessed teens rob the rich and famous in this edgy drama from writer-director Sofia Coppola. Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga and Emma Watson star. Based on a true story, as profiled in a Vanity Fair magazine article.(R) 90 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer
THE EAST Brit Marling (Another Earth) stars as a private intelligence agent who goes undercover inside an activist group working to expose corporations involved in covert criminal activity. But under the influence of activist leader Alexander Skarsgard, she starts to question her own moral choices. Ellen Page, Shiloh Fernandez, and Patricia Clarkson co-star for director Zal Batmanglij (whose last collaboration with Marling was Sound of My Voice). (PG-13) 116 minutes.
EPIC Chris Wedge (one half of the brain trust on the Ice Age franchise) directs this animated family adventure about a teenage girl (voice of Amanda Seyfried) transported into a magical forest realm where she leads a battle of the meek and good against the forces of Evil. Josh Hutcherson, Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Chris O'Dowd and Steven Tyler contribute voices. (PG) 102 minutes.
FRANCES HA Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) directs this wonderful cinematic love letter to his partner and muse, Greta Gerwig, who also stars in this postmodern comedy. Like a feather floating from one thing to the next, Frances can’t seem to find a place to land. She’s an Ivy League grad but her ambitions to morph into a dancer are still vague. Mickey Sumner (daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler) plays her best girlfriend but things change when a relationship enters the picture. Co-scripted by Baumbach and Gerwig and shot in stylish black-and-white, the film offers a charming and comical look at that in between place we sometimes find ourselves in life—neither here nor there yet distinctly aware of our cravings to feel both free and anchored to something at the same time. This film is beautfully shot, wonderfully written and superbly executed. (Not rated) 86 minutes. (HHH1/2)—Greg Archer
THE INTERNSHIP Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn team up in this comedy about a couple of mid-life salesmen trying to jump-start new careers in the intern program at Google, where they face tough competition from a crop of bright young nerd-geniuses. Rose Byrne and John Goodman co-star for director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum; Date Night). (PG-13) 119 minutes.
KON-TIKI Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's epic 4,300-mile journey across the Pacific in a balsa wood raft in 1947 is the subject of this new fiction film from Norse directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. The story concerns Heyerdahl's Herculean efforts to secure funding and a fearless crew to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized Polynesia, along with the incredible journey itself. (PG-13) 118 minutes.
MAN OF STEEL When director Zack Snyder keeps his focus small, this Superman reboot is persuasive and rewarding. The boyhood and young manhood of Clark Kent (the supernaturally handsome Henry Cavill), is told in beautifully integrated flashbacks as he drifts though itinerant odd jobs searching for his destiny. Russell Crowe, the voice of reason, wisdom, and restraint, and Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer are wonderful as Superman's birth parents. But when Kryptonian supervillain General Zod (Michael Shannon), starts laying waste to Earth in a series of demolition derby grudge matches against our hero, the movie loses its credibility and heart. Loud, aggressively ugly action sequences obliterate the memory of everything that was good about the movie. (PG-13) 143 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY A spirited and quite funny prequel to mega-hit Monsters Inc. Here, we get to experiemce the early days of buddies Mike and Sulley when they were undergrads in training at Monsters U. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are back as the voice talent, which also includes Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, and Sean Hayes. Dan Scanlon directs.(G) (HHH) —Greg Archer
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 107 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.
MUD Jeff Nicholls' hypnotic tall tale simmers with danger, disillusion, humor, and heart, and Matthew McConaughey's star performance radiates all of the above. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are astonishingly good as two 14-year-old boys growing up on the banks of the Mississippi in rural Arkansas who get involved in the crazed romantic schemes of a disheveled desperado called Mud. Filmmaker Nicholls infuses the movie with a shrewd sense of place, and McConaughey's Mud maintains the tension between dangerous and fascinating, while also making the character convincingly lovelorn and vulnerable. It's a lovely piece of work, in an entertaining yarn of fathers, sons, and surrogates. PG-13. 130 minutes. (HHH1/2)—Lisa Jensen.
NOW YOU SEE ME Fun, playful and clever, this engaging little romp never takes itself too seriously—and you shouldn’t take it that seriously either. Leaps of faith (a theme that moves throughout) are required and, at times, it can feel as if the biggest disappearing act is the plot, but this film about a team of slick stage illusionists who pull off bank heists in the middle of their performances works, overall. It moves quickly, too, as the gang is pursued by FBI and Interpol agents. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave (brother of James and boasting more “movie star” allure) Franco, and Woody Harrelson are the magicians. Morgan Freeman and Melanie Laurent costar. Michael Caine pops up. But watch how well Mark Ruffalo manages to take on his role, playing the FBI hotshot who continues to get fooled. (PG-13) (HHH) —Greg Archer.
THE PURGE In a crime-riddled society of the near-future, one 12-hour period each year is devoted to an experiment in survival-of-the-fittest eugenics, where murder and other self-regulating actions can be committed without fear of punishment. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) star in this thriller as a couple facing an intruder on the night of the annual lockdown. James DeMonaco directs. (R) 85 minutes.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Riveting and ambitious, director J.J. Abrams continues to impress—and surprise—in this new Star Trek caper, the second in the official movie franchise reboot. Fortunately, the reboot has legs—or, in this case, warp speed. Loaded with a wild array of special effects, this film takes off and keeps going, unrelenting in its action and visual breadth. Lucky for us, all of that doesn’t detract from the main story, which finds Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine in fine form) and his Enterprise crew (Zachary Quino as Spock still steals many scenes) attempting to hunt down a dangerous villian (Benedict Cumberbatch) after a brutal terrorist attack. Many surprises await, and it’s nice to see that the filmmakers continue to weave in the new reality that this Trek lives in—which is a slightly altered timeline from which the original Trek characters existed. (HHH1/2)—Greg Archer.
THIS IS THE END Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson head a cast of celebrities playing themselves in this self-referential apocalypse comedy written and directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg; they're all holed up together at Franco's fortress-like mansion when the end of the world occurs out beyond the gates. (R) 107 minutes.
WORLD WAR Z Good but not great. Suspenseful but plagued with its own distractions. What World War Z could have used more of—and it only required just a little bit more—is depth. Brad Pitt is a former UN investigator who finds himself thrust onto the front lines of the global zombie apocalypse. That’s a great premise and we, as an audience, initially connect to Pitt’s diemma—stay with his family or help save the world. But the beleaguered film, whose budget shot beyond $200 million and had so many behind-the-scenes brouhahas, mostly with the script, never manages to allow Pitt’s character to fully evolve. Knowing more behind some of his motivations and seeing even more of his humanity would have provided the balance this project needed. Because you want to like it. It’s just that after a TV show like The Walking Dead has permeated the culture—a show that so aptly delivers on the emotonal front—this fails in comparison. Still, there’s plenty to savor and some of the scenes with the zombies are brilliantly orchestrated. Based on the Max Brooks novel. Mirielle Enos (The Killing) and Jamed Badge Dale co-star. Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) directs. (PG-13) 116 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer.
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