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Film, Times & Events: Week of Nov. 21

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Check out the movies playing around town.
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New This Week

DELIVERY MAN Well, it was bound to happen—a Hollywood remake of the superb 2011 French-Canadian comedy, Starbuck. And that Vince Vaughn is at the helm certainly doesn’t instill a great deal of the confidence in the outing. And yet—the story is so darn good, so here’s hoping. Vaughn stars in this comedy about a maturity-challenged delivery truck driver whose discovery that he has fathered 533 children from sperm bank donations years ago sets him on an unexpected course of newfound responsibility. Supporting cast looks solid: Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders and Jack Reynor. Directed by Ken Scott. (PG-13) 103 minutes. Starts Friday. —Greg Archer

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth return in this second screen installment of Suzanne Collins' bestselling futuristic YA trilogy. As victorious Hunger Games survivors Katniss and Peeta are obliged to tour the twelve districts, they sense that rebellion is brewing against the dictatorial regime of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Woody Harrelson, Willow Shields, and Elizabeth Banks have featured roles. Francis Lawrence (Water For Elephants) directs. (PG-13) 146 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: MACBETH Kenneth Branagh stars as Shakespeare's tragic hero, undone by his own ambitions, and Alex Kingston co-stars as the formidable Lady Macbeth. Staged for eerie effect in a deconsecrated Manchester church. Rob Ashford and Branagh co-direct. (Not rated) 180 minutes. At the Del Mar, Thursday only  (November 21), 7:30 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (November 24), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13.

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: See Del Mar ad this issue. 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: MEMENTO Everything you think you know about narrative, chronology and suspense goes out the window in this edgy and audacious 2001 neo-noir thriller from Christopher Nolan. Guy Pearce is marvelous as the man with short-term memory loss whose recent memories are constantly erasing themselves; all he knows for sure is he must find and kill the man who murdered his wife. Despite the disorienting backward narrative, the story is told very clearly with plenty of chutzpah and a masterful noir payoff. (R) 116 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar. 

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

ABOUT TIME Director Richard Curtis (Love Actually; scriptwriter on Four Weddings and a Funeral) creates a curious outing here. Riddled with mixed reviews, you’d think film critics out there have absolutely lost touch with the fact that in an effort to explore deeper themes—in this case, embracing and living as if each moment was absolutely precious—that it’s quite OK to think outside of the box. Enter: Time travel. Now, don’t be frightened off. How does time travel mix into a romantic comedy like this? Well, quite nicely. Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan) stars as a hapless young man who discover from his pop (Bill Nighy) that he has the power to travel back in time, a gift he humorously uses to get his life in order back in the present. There are some glitches, of course. But overall, the film boasts some heart and nuance. Rachel McAdams delivers a fine turn here and and Tom Hollander co-stars. (★★★)—Greg Archer

ALL IS LOST Robert Redford's one-man seagoing thriller is a gift to fans who want to see Redford in action. But it also feels like a gift from a grateful industry to Redford, a harrowing physical workout of a film that shows off what his 77-year-old body is capable of, while proving that Redford can still command the screen for 100 minutes all by himself. Written and directed by J. C. Chandor, the filmmaking drifts now and then, but Redford powers through on sheer strength of will. It's a slightly less enthralling, more claustrophobic experience than Gravity, but it's similarly intense in exploring the outer limits of human tenacity. 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.

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY The original cast of Malcolm D. Lee's 1999 comedy, The Best Man reunites for this (nearly) 15-year-later follow up about old rivalries and romances flaring up when old college pals get together over the Christmas holidays. Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Harold Perrineau, and Regina Hall head the cast for returning auteur Lee. (R)

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR Winner of the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, this frank erotic drama from France tells the story of a 10-year love affair between a naive teenage girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and a provocative, slightly older woman art student (Léa Sedoux) with blue hair. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, from the graphic novel by Julie Maroh. (NC-17) 179 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.

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.

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. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Reviewed this issue. (R) 117 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

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.

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.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS Daniel Radcliffe stars as the young Allen Ginsburg, a student at Columbia University in 1944 who falls for charismatic classmate Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), in this dramatized biography from the early lives of the Beats. Ben Foster is on board as William Burroughs; Jack Huston plays Jack Kerouac. John Krokidas directs. (R) 104 minutes.

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.

12 YEARS A SLAVE The mighty Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a haunting, nuanced, electrifying performance in filmmaker Steve McQueen's blistering, unexpurgated portrait of what slavery was like in the pre-Civil War American South. Based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black New Yorker abducted and sold into slavery in 1841, the film shows with heartbreaking precision how the loss of common humanity, even more than chains and beatings, is the true cost of slavery. McQueen has an unerring eye for the indelible image, both horrific and poetic, and the excellent supporting cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch as a relatively benign but ineffectual slave owner, Michael Fassbender in a bravura, willies-inducing turn as a belligerent psycho of a plantation owner, and the compelling Lupita Nyong'o as the unfortunate object of his desire. A film of rare courage that educates and mesmerizes. (R) 134 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD What elevates Alan Taylor's sequel above dozens of other noisy, overproduced comic book movies with Doomsday scenarios? For one thing, it's based on Norse mythology (very loosely), so it has a more interesting pedigree than your typical guys-in-Spandex superhero movie. For another, the script rises above mere jokiness to achieve a refreshing degree of humor and wit as it goes along. Chris Hemsworth's charismatic thunder god, Thor, delivers the eye candy, and Tom Hiddleston's utterly delicious performance as Thor's ne'er-do-well brother, the trickster god, Loki, seals the deal. PG-13. 112 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

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