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Film, Times & Events: Week of Sept. 5

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New This Week

ADORE Naomi Watts and Robin Wright star in this unorthodox romance as two lifelong friends who have grown up together in an Australian beach town, each of whom drifts into a relationship with the others' hunky teenage son. Xavier Samuel (Anonymous) and James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom) play the golden boys. French filmmaker Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) directs, from a Doris Lessing story. (R) 100 minutes. Starts Friday.

AUSTENLAND Keri Russell stars as woman in thrall to the fabled BBC production of Pride and Prejudice who spends her life savings to visit the faux Regency world of a Jane Austen theme park in this romantic comedy from Jerusha Hess (she co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite), in her directing debut. JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, and Jane Seymour co-star. (PG-13) 97 minutes. Starts Friday.

PASSION Brian DePalma is back in suspense thriller mode in this tale of two women, a ruthless advertising agency boss and the ambitious protégé she mentors and manipulates as their professional rivalry turns deadly. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace star. De Palma adapts from the 2010 French thriller Love Crime. (R) 102 minutes. Starts Friday.

RIDDICK Vin Diesel returns as the intergalactic escaped convict first introduced in Pitch Black, still trying to outfox alien predators and outrun bounty hunters in outer space. Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff, and Jordi Molla co-star for series director David Twohy. (R) 119 minutes. Starts Friday.


Film Events

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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Now Playing

THE BUTLER Director Lee Daniels (Precious) weaves together a compelling tale based on the real-life story of a longtime White House Butler. Forest Whitaker does an exceptional job capturing the grace and dignity of a man who has served numerous presidencies through the decades. Although the film chronicles a great deal of events that took place during the 1960s—a ripe time indeed—it manages to evoke enough empathy and compassion for Whitaker’s Cecil and his family, primarily Oprah Winfrey, who stands out considerably here (look for an Oscar nom).Still, as much as there is here, you still wonder what would the film experience may have been like had the script and Daniels probed even just a little deeper into Cecil’s psyche—his real motivations, his fears and more. You get the sense the the main character is simply thrust into these extraordinary circumstances with powerful cameos by the likes of Jane Fonda, Robin Williams and a slew of others, but you crave just a little more nuance and understanding about him. Regardless, the film shines and boasts one of the most enjoyable star-studded casts to hit the screen in some time.. (PG-13) 133 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

BLACKFISH The foolishness of capturing wild orcas ("killer whales") and training them to perform in sea parks is explored in Gabriela Cowperthwaite's cautionary doc. Following the story of the performing orca, Tilikum, who has been responsible for the deaths of three people, including a professional whale trainer, Cowperthwaite exposes the danger and severe cruelty of enslaving wild and sentient animals in captivity for the idle amusement of paying customers. (PG-13) 83 minutes.

BLUE JASMINE In Woody Allen’s latest, Cate Blanchett shines in one of the best performances of her career. It’s also one of Allen’s best films. Set in San Francisco, this dynamic drama—with touches of comedy—revolves around the a depressed and privileged East Coast socialite (Jasmine) whose fall from grace is hard and messy. Jasmine finds refuge in her sister’s apartment in San Francisco but soon, other dramas unfold. Watch how well Allen, who also wrote the outing, uses flashback to illuminate such a tighty-wound, unforgettable individual. Sally Hawkins also stars (as Jasmine’s sister) alongside. Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C. K., Bobby Cannavale, and Andrew Dice Clay. (PG-13) 98 minutes. (★★★1/2) —Greg Archer

CLOSED CIRCUIT Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall star in this thriller as lawyers—and former lovers—who find their lives in jeopardy when they join the defense team of a man accused of international terrorist acts. Ciaran Hinds, Jim Broadbent, and Julia Stiles co-star for director John Crowley (Intermission). (R) 96 minutes. Reviewed this issue. (R) 96 minutes. (★★1/2)

ELYSIUM Director Neill Blomkamp, won raves with District 9 back in 2009 and he infuses some of that same grit in this near-futuristic thriller in which the top 1 percent live a privileged life of beauty and ease on a posh man-made habitat in the sky. Meanwhile everyone else subsists in poverty on the ruins of Earth below. Matt Damon nails his performance as a factory drone led into a scheme to break into the habitat to bring equality to all. The film unravels with gripping intensity and you are invested in the outcome of the characters. Oddly, Jodie Foster never quite gives a convincing performance—that accent, those mannerisms! But with the remainder of the supporting cast (William Fichtner, Sharlto Copley and Diego Luna are just as riveting as Damon here. (R) 102 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

GETAWAY It's Speed in a compact when Ethan Hawke gets in the driver's seat to follow the instructions of an unknown voice to save his kidnapped wife in this thriller from director Courtney Solomon. Selena Gomez and Jon Voight co-star. (PG-13)

THE GRANDMASTER  Legendary martial arts master Ip Man, famed as the man who trained Bruce Lee, is the subject of this action  drama from the ever-edgy, iconoclastic master filmmaker Wong Kar Wai (2046; In the Mood For Love). Set in the 1930s and '40s, the story follows the master's early years, moving from China to Hong Kong, and his connection to a young woman out for vengeance for her father. Tony Leung Chui Wai and Zhang Ziyi star. In Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese with English subtitles. (PG-13) 123 minutes.

IN A WORLD Actress Lake Bell wrote and directed this comedy in which she stars as a vocal coach trying to break into the big time who runs afoul of an egotistical and vengeful star she beats out of a job. Fred Melamed, Rob Coddry, and Demetri Martin co-star. (R) 93 minutes.

JOBS Ashton Kutcher stars as Steve Jobs, the mercurial college drop-out who founded Apple and helmed the business into an international phenomenon. Josh Gad co-stars as founding partner Steve Wozniak. J. K. Simmons and James Woods head the supporting cast for director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote). (PG-13) 122 minutes.

KICK-ASS 2 Aaron Taylor-Johnson returns as the self-made masked crusader, with Chloë Grace Moretz on board again as his intrepid sidekick, Hit Girl, in this follow-up to the 2010 superhero satire. Jim Carrey joins the cast as an ex-mobster turned street vigilante for justice called Colonel Stars and Stripes; Christopher Mintz-Plasse returns as vengeful villain Red Mist, out to destroy the good guys. Incoming director Jeff Wadlow takes over from original director Matthew Vaughn. (R) 113 minutes.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES A new potential franchise is born with this adaptation of the first book in the popular YA series by Cassandra Clare. Lily Collins stars as the New York teen whose search for her missing mother (Lena Headey) leads her to discover she is descended from an ancient race of demon-hunters, and sends her into an alternative NYC called Downworld, where angels, demons, and monsters thrive. Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Robert Sheehan, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers co-star for director Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid). (PG-13) 130 minutes.

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US Tween-oriented musical biopic for swoony fans of the British boy band put together by Simon Cowell and launched on the X-Factor TV show. Morgan Spurlock (of all people!) directs. (PG) 92 minutes.

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS Logan Lehrman returns in the title role from Rick Riordan's popular YA series as an ordinary kid who discovers he's the son the sea god, Poseidon. In this intallment, he and his offbeat crew of demigod friends have to search for the mythical Golden Fleece in order to prevent an evil force from running amok in the world. Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, and Nathan Fillion co-star for director Thor Freudenthal. (PG) 106 minutes.

PLANES It's Cars in the sky as the Walt Disney animation gurus continue their fixation with motor vehicles. This one is about a lowly crop-duster who's afraid of heights, yet still longs to compete in a famous aerieal race. Val Kilmer, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Drefuss and Dane Cook head the voice cast. Klay Hall directs. (PG) 92 minutes.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW The writers of 500 Days of Summer have another hit here. This contemporary love story about a charming teen with no future plans who lives for the moment and his unlikely romance with a "nice girl" who doesn't date, reads sci-fi, and dreams of the future is stellar. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) star for director James Ponsoldt. (R) 95 minutes.  (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

WE'RE THE MILLERS None of the characters have morals, but if its slapstick you crave, then this could be your ticket. A drugdealer (Jason Sudeiks) tries to move a shipment of pot from Mexico into the states by recruiting an unlikely group of strangers to pretend tio be an innocent American family. Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts co-star in a film directed by Rawsomn Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball).Provingonce again that “more” is just too much, the film’s incessant need to go over the top deprives it of truly flying high. Still, there are some fun—and even funny—scenes, but in the end, you get the sense this outing would have made a better television comedy.  (R) 110 minutes. (★★)—Greg Archer

THE WOLVERINE Hugh Jackman pops out the adamantium claws once again in a punchy action adventure that successfully revitalizes our favorite X-mutant as franchise material. Director James Mangold sticks close to the tormented psyche of Jackman's brooding Logan as he copes with everlasting life, unsettling dream appearances by deceased lover Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and coming to terms with his responsibility to the world; stunts and CGI effects, while impressive, are secondary to the human story. The action is fairly inventive, from a fight atop a speeding bullet train to self-inflicted open heart surgery, and Jackman has presence enough to make us care. (PG-13) 126 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

THE WORLD'S END Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite with director Edgar Wright for the third time in this final installment of the trilogy begun with Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz. Expect their patented mix of cheeky satire and apocalypse as the friends set out on a drinking marathon to conclude at their favorite pub, The World's End, only to run afoul of an unexpected menace. Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Rosamund Pike co-star. (R) 109 minutes. (★★1/2)—Greg Archer

YOU'RE NEXT  When a gang of murderers in animal masks invades a family gathering during a wedding, one of the guests proves to have a talent for self-defense in this horror thriller from director Adam Wingard. Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, and A J Bowen star. (R) 96 minutes.

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