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Film, Times & Events: Week of Dec. 5

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New This Week

OUT OF THE FURNACE Christian Bale stars in this dark urban thriller as a rough-hewn steelworker searching for his missing brother (Casey Affleck), an Iraq War veteran who's been sucked into the dangerous underworld of a Northeast crime syndicate. Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoë Saldana and Sam Shepard co-star for filmmaker Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). (R) 116 minutes. Starts Friday.


Film Events

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: DAYS AND CLOUDS (GIORNI E NUVOLE) A middle-class Genoa couple finds their comfortable life and happy marriage crumbling under economic pressures in this 2007 drama from Silvio Soldini (Bread And Tulips). Margherita Buy, Antonio Albanese, and Alba Rohrwacher star. (Not rated) 115 minutes. In Italian with English sub titles. 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 (December 8), 7 pm. Free.

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: OLDBOY Fasten your seatbelts for South Korean stylist Park Chanwook's blisteringly intense, sometimes savagely funny psychological thriller/revenge gangster melodrama from 2005. Equal parts Hitchcockian suspense, paranoid Kafka-esque nightmare, and sheer adrenalin, it's about a man out for revenge after 15 years of imprisonment by an unknown captor. Prepare for sex, violence, and extreme dentistry, while Park niftily deconstructs the concept of revenge that fuels his plot. (R) 120 minutes. (HHH)—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

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. PG-13. 107 minutes. (HHH)—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.

BLACK NATIVITY Filmmaker Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou; Talk To Me) takes on Langston Hughes' autobiographical gospel musical drama in which a teenager sent to spend the holidays with his estranged relatives in New York City decides to hightail it back to his single mom in Baltimore. Jennifer Hudson  and Jacob Latimore star as mother and son; Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, and Mary J. Blige co-star. (PG) 93 minutes.

THE BOOK THIEF Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 131 minutes. (★★★) —Lisa Jensen.

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.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Matthew McConaughey scores as a brash, profane antihero in the true story of Ron Woodroof. A coke-snorting, womanizing, blue-collar Texan, diagnosed as HIV-positive in the 1980s and given 30 days to live, he defied his death his sentence for years to become a pioneer in making "unapproved" drugs from out of the country available to his local AIDS community. Jean-Marc Vallée's film unspools as a tale of bizarre alliances and unexpected heroism as pugnacious, yet affecting as its protagonist. Jared Leto is terrific as a feisty transvestite who becomes Woodroof's business partner. (R) 117 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

DELIVERY MAN Vince 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. Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders and Jack Reynor co-star for director Ken Scott, who is remaking his 2011 French-Canadian comedy, Starbuck. (PG-13) 103 minutes.

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.

FREE BIRDS Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George Takei lend their voices to this animated family comedy. Veteran animator Jimmy Hayward directs. (PG) 91 minutes.

FROZEN Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen inspires this animated Disney family adventure comedy about an outcast princess whose powers trap a kingdom in eternal winter, and the loyal sister on a journey to find and help her, and save the kingdom. Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad lead the voice cast for directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. (PG) 108 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.

HOMEFRONT Jason Statham stars as a widowed ex-DEA agent whose move to a small town to raise his little daughter turns into an escalating battle with local drug lord, James Franco. Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth co-star. Sylvester Stallone wrote the script for director Gary Fleder, based on the Chuck Logan novel. (R) 100 minutes.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE They’re back. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth go for another round in this robust offering, the  second screen installment of Suzanne Collins' bestselling futuristic YA trilogy. Bold and dynamic, fans should appreciate the amped-up action as Hunger Games survivors Katniss and Peeta now have to tour the 12 districts. Donald Sutherland is also back. Woody Harrelson, Willow Shields, and Elizabeth Banks return as well. As for Lawrence, she’s in top form. Francis Lawrence (Water For Elephants) directs. (PG-13) 146 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

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.

NEBRASKA A marvelous turn for Bruce Dern, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his role as a cranky gent who forces his son (Will Forte in surprisingly good role) along on a road trip to claim a million-dollar prize the he insists he's won from Publishers' Clearinghouse. Watch how wonderfully Dern disappears into this role, which assures him an Oscar nod. And relish how well Dern and Forte play off of each other. Shot in shot in black-and-white by Alexander Payne (The Descendants; Sideways) is stands out as one of the year’s best. (R) 115 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer

OLD BOY Spike Lee helms this US remake of South Korean filmmaker Park Chanwook's blisteringly intense, savagely funny psychological thriller/revenge gangster melodrama from 2005. Josh Brolin stars as the man who escapes years of imprisonment by an unknown captor and sets out to even the score. Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley co-star. (R) 104 minutes.

PHILOMENA Steve Coogan plays a jaded, unemployed journalist opposite the divine Judi Dench in a story based on the real-life events of a British woan searching for the son she was forced to give up when she was very young. The duo create some wonderful chemistry here in a tale that also manages to offer enough surprises to keep you both invested in the journey and each of the characters’ emotional evolution. There’s  a lovely bit of serendipity in the real-life tale and director Stephen Frears does a nice job weaving those elements in without provoking a major roll of the eyes. A good thing. And Dench—the woman can do no wrong. Charming, uplifting and worthy of your attention. (PG-13) 98 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

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, 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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