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Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 31

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Check out the movies playing around town.
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New This Week

ENDER'S GAME Asa Butterfield (last seen as Hugo) stars in this sci-fi adventure as a brilliant youth recruited by the military and trained in battle simulations to help defend Earth against an alien invasion. Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, and Ben Kingsley, co-star in this adaptation of the Orson Scott Card novel. Gavin Hood directs. (PG-13) 114 minutes. Starts Friday.

FREE BIRDS Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George Takei lend their voices to this animated family comedy about a couple of mismatched turkeys from the present who time-travel back to the past to prevent the holiday tradition of serving turkey for Thanksgiving. Veteran animator Jimmy Hayward directs. (PG) 91 minutes. Starts Friday.

LAST VEGAS Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline star as a quartet of 60-something pals who throw a bachelor party in Vegas for their last remaining single member. Jon Turtletaub directs. (PG-13) 104 minutes. Starts Friday.

12 YEARS A SLAVE Buzz is big for this true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black many from upstate New York in pre-Civil War America who was abducted and sold into slavery. The great Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon, on his 12-year odyssey for justice and freedom. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o, and Brad Pitt co-star for director Steve McQueen. (R) 133 minutes. Starts Friday.


Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE It's a new season for Britain's acclaimed National Theatre of London, broadcasting highlights from its Fall 2013 Season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. Live performances will be broadcast one Thursday evening a month, in the Grand Auditorium of the Del Mar, with encore performances the following Sunday morning. This week: FRANKENSTEIN To celebrate the National Theatre's 50th Anniversary, NTL rebroadcasts this acclaimed 2012 production. Playwright Nick Dear goes back to the source material—Mary Shelley's philosophical novel of science, hubris, revenge, good and evil—for this searing new drama about a wayward Creator and his innocent, yet reviled Creature. Danny Boyle directs. In a nifty twist, stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller switch lead roles in alternate broadcasts. At the Del Mar, tonight only (Thursday, October 31), 7:30 p.m. (With Miller as Frankenstein and Cumberbatch as the Creature.) Encore performance Sunday only (November 3), 11 a.m. (With Cumberbatch as Frankenstein and Miller as the Creature.) Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13.

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: FALL ITALIAN FILM SERIES The Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz returns with its monthly series of Italian films (one Sunday a month) to promote Italian culture and language. The theme for the Fall 2013 season is "The Journey." This Week: LA PRIMA COSA BELLA (THE FIRST BEAUTIFUL THING) Director Paolo Virzi's 2010?? drama charts some 40 years in the lives of a Livorno boy who becomes a Milanese schoolteacher and his mother. Stefania Sandrelli plays the mother in the present day; Micaela Ramazzoti plays her as a young woman. Nominated for 18 David di Dontella awards. (Not rated) 122 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles. Logan Walker, film studies lecturer at SJSU, will introduce the film and conduct an after-film Q&A. At Cabrillo College, VAPA Art History Forum Room 1001, Sunday only (Nov 3), 7 pm. Free.

CONTINUING SERIES: NEW CULT FILMS AT THE DEL MAR In addition to its venerable Midnight Movie series of classics and favorites, the Del Mar launches another late-night weekend series devoted to strange and edgy cult films of more recent vintage. All the weirdness money can buy for just $6.50. This week: MR. NOBODY (R) 148 minutes. Fri-Sat Late Show only. At the Del Mar.

CONTINUING SERIES: MIDNIGHTS @ THE DEL MAR Eclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. This week: DONNIE DARKO (R) 105 minutes. (HH)—Lisa Jensen. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

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. Tonight: GHOSTBUSTERS (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday (October 31) only, 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. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit groups.google.com/group/LTATM


Movie Times click here.


Now Playing

A.C.O.D. Santa Cruz's own Adam Scott stars in this dysfunctional family comedy. (The title stands for Adult Children of Divorce.) Interviewed as a boy for a psychological study about the effects of divorce, he's dragged into the spotlight again by the same psychologist (Jane Lynch) trying to make a follow-up survey—to the dismay of his happily separated parents. Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, and Amy Poehler co-star for director Stuart Zicherman. (R) 95 minutes.

ALL IS LOST Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 107 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

BAD GRANDPA Johnny Knoxville stars as an ornery octogenarian on a cross-country road trip with his impressionable 8-year-old grandson in this comedy from the brain trust behind the Jackass series. Jeff Tremaine directs. (R) 92 minutes.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS This harrowing true story recounts the first incident of piracy against an American ship in 200 years when the unarmed US freighter Maersk Alabama was captured off the coast of Oman in 2009 by four trigger-happy Somalis with automatic weapons. It's a bracing dose of recent history from director Paul Greengrass, told with his typical no-frills realism and escalating intensity. Tom Hanks' vivid performance as the cargo ship's captain is riveting, and Barkhad Abdi is excellent as the leader of the Somalis. The human cost of terrorism on all sides—no one emerges unscathed—is brilliantly conveyed. (PG-13) 134 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

CARRIE Chloe Grace Moretz steps into Sissy Spacek’s bloody shoes in this update of Brian De Palma’s ’70s classic. New this time around: Stephen King’s novel, on which the film is based, focused more on Carrie’s telekinesis, so there’s that—and some cyber-bullying, but the outing is strained, overall and lacks the subtle nuancs of De Palma’s epic. Nice to see Julianne Moore here though. (R) (★★) —Greg Archer

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 The wacky inventor whose device turned water into food in the first Cloudy movie now has to save the world from a machine that merges food with animals, called "foodimals," in this animated sequel. (PG) 85 minutes.

THE COUNSELOR Even the A-List cast—Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Goran Visnjic—can’t quite elevate this crime thriller about a button-down lawyer who gets involved in big-time drug trafficking. Ridley Scott, typically a stellar director, can’t seem to find the rhtyhm from the oddly devised script by Cormac McCarthy. (R) 111 minutes. (★★1/2) —Greg Archer

DON JON Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed this refreshing comedy in which he also stars as a guy whose penchant for Internet porn gets in the way of real connection with women. Of course, when he meets a lovely lady (Scarlett Johansson), things take a turn and the two attempt to give real relationship a try. Unrealistic expectations may mar that effort, but watch for the film’s biggest surprise— Julianne Moore, whose character creeps up on you and gives the film (and its main character) a chance to consider some real meaning and depth. This is a bold effort for Gordon-Levitt and he shows terrific promise as a filmmaker. Tony Danza, Brie Larson, and Glenne Headly also co-star. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday. (★★★)—Greg Archer

ENOUGH SAID After the fuzzy motivations and unconvincing friendships of her recent films, writer-director Nicole Holfcener is back on track with this wry, engaging, life-sized romantic comedy. This time, she moves personal relationships to the forefront—romantic, parental, and marital—along with her trademark friendships between women. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is at her most appealing and least snarky, as a long-divorced single mom unexpectedly trying to navigate the dating game, and the late, beloved James Gandolfini charms in a rare romantic role. The reliable Catherine Keener co-stars in a cautionary tale about allowing our friends' opinions to color (and possibly subvert) our own instincts. (PG-13) 93 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

ESCAPE PLAN Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in this action thriller about a structural engineer who builds the world's most secure prisons who is himself framed and jailed, and must then try to break out of an escape-proof prison he designed. 50 Cent, Jim Caviezel, and Sam Neill co-star for director Mikael Hafstrom. (R) 116 minutes.

THE FIFTH ESTATE Revisit the material from Alex Gibney's recent WikiLeaks documentary, We Steal Secrets, in this fictionalization of the story from director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters). The always-watchable Benedict Cumberbatch stars as enigmatic WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and Daniel Bruhl (currently onscreen in Rush) plays his partner, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose cyber platform for anonymous whistleblowing becomes a controversial tool for exposing skullduggery in high places. (R) 128 minutes.

GRAVITY A couple of astronauts on a routine mission outside their spacecraft suddenly find themselves adrift in space, tethered to each other, and no longer in contact with mission control. Where can they go? What can they possibly do? The variety of answers may surprise you in this smart, lean, elegantly composed and utterly gripping edge-of-your-seat thriller from filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. Neither sci-fi nor space opera—and far more than simply a star vehicle for appealing headliners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney—it's more like a space procedural in which ordinary people pit their own human ingenuity against ever more incredible and daunting odds. Awesome on so many levels, it will put you in orbit. (PG-1). 90 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

INEQUALITY FOR ALL Robert Reich, economist, professor, and tireless advocate for America's dwindling middle class, takes center stage in this Jacob Kornbluth documentary explaining in no uncertain terms how the income gap between the super-rich and everybody else is devastating the American way of life. Should be smart, caustic and informative, if Reich's You Tube vignettes are any indication. (PG) 85 minutes.

INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED One of the year’s rare gems. Not to be missed. Here, Mexican film and TV tar Eugenio Derbez directs and stars in this dramatic comedy, playijng a befuddled bachelor who must cope with the infant daughter that was  dropped off at his doorstep—he rrallies to fight for custody six years later when the birth mother returns. (PG-13) 122 minutes.

MACHETE KILLS Robert Rodriguez directs the second installment of a planned action trilogy starring Danny Trejo as a badass ex-Mexican Federale who's recruited by the President to stop a madman's scheme to spread war and anarchy across the planet. Alexa Vega, Mel Gibson, and Jessica Alba co-star. (R) 107 minutes.

MUSCLE SHOALS Musical heroes don't come much more unsung than the so-called Muscle Shoals Swampers. A handful of young, white hometown boys, session musicians at the FAME recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, they laid down some of the funkiest R&B tracks to come out of the 1960s and '70s, behind such artists as Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Wilson Pickett. Pretty much unknown to the public, they finally get the recognition they deserve in Greg "Freddy" Camalier's raucous musical doc on the founding of FAME studio and the distinctive brand of funk produced there. (PG) 111 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

PRISONERS Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this tense crime drama as a husband and father whose little daughter has disappeared, and a veteran detective who is determined to crack the case before the father does something rash. Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano co-star.. (R) 153 minutes.

RUSH Four-star movies are hard to come by, so relish this. True, everyone has their own likes and dislikes but whatever you may feel about auto racing, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with how Director Ron Howard’s film is executed. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl star as real-life Formula One race car drivers and competitors James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Bruhl stands out particularly here, but both actors lose themselves in their roles. That, coupled with Howard's keen eye and style, make this one of the director’s best efforts in his entire career. As for the story, it traces the rivalry on the Grand Prix race track that consumed the racers during the 1970s. Peter Morgan (The Queen; Frost/Nixon) penned the script. Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara come along for the ride. What works best here is the intensity and mood Howard creates. A memorable ride indeed. (R) 123 minutes. (★★★★)—Greg Archer.

THE SUMMIT The worst climbing disaster in the history of the world's most treacherous mountain, K2, is the subject of this documentary. 24 climbers from international expeditions met at High Camp for the last leg of the climb in August, 2008, but only 13 survived. Filmmaker Nick Ryan tells their story, and that of one heroic climber who tried to rescue the others. (R) 95 minutes.

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