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Film, Times & Events: Week of March 20

film_guide_iconFilms This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
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New This Week

BLOOD TIES Clive Owen stars as an ex-con and Billy Crudup is his younger brother, a cop, trying to help him put his life back together in this drama  of impossible family dynamics from Guiallaume Canet (Tell No One). James Caan co-stars as their father, along with Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, and Zoe Saldana. (R) 144 minutes. Starts Friday.

DIVERGENT It’s back to the dystopian future in this hotly anticipated adaptation of the bestselling Veronica Roth YA trilogy. In this first installment, Shailene Woodley stars as Tris Prior, a young woman categorized as Divergent—unaligned with any group—in a society that maintains control by dividing people into distinct factions based on their personality traits. Theo James, Ashley Judd, Zofi Kravitz, Miles Teller, and Kate Winslet co-star for director Neil Burger (The Illusionist). (PG-13) Starts Friday.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Reviewed this issue. (R) 100 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer. Starts Friday.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED Reviewed this issue. (PG) 112 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.

VERONICA MARS The original cast from the cult TV show returns for this big-screen installment, directed by series creator Rob Thomas. Kristen Bell stars as the former teen sleuth who’s about to graduate from law school, but she’s drawn back to her old stomping grounds when her old flame, Logan (Jason Dohring), is accused of murder. Krysten Ritter, Ryan Hansen, Tina Majorino, and Enrico Colantoni co-star. (PG-13) 107 minutes. Starts Friday


Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: THE TEMPEST Christopher Plummer stars as Prospero in this acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s last, and possibly most magical play from Britain’s Sratford Theatre. Directed by Des McAnuff, it was filmed live in high-definition over three performances, to be broadcast to movie theatres worldwide. (G) 120 minutes. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (March 20), 6 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (March 23), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13

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: MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO Japanese anime for kids in Hayao Miyazaki’s sunny 1988 story of two children exploring the worlds of nature and fantasy during a summer in the country. (PG) 86 minutes. 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.


Movie Times click here.


Now Playing

THE ART OF THE STEAL Kurt Russell stars in this caper crime comedy as an aging motorcycle stuntman and part-time thief lured into one last caper—the theft of a priceless historical book—by his unreliable brother (Matt Dillon)—who has a hidden agenda of his own. Kathryn Winnick, Jay Baruchel, Kenneth Welsh and Terence Stamp co-star for director Jonathan Sobol. (R) 90 minutes.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Golden Globe-winner 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 won a Supporting Actor Golden Globe as a feisty transvestite who becomes Woodroof’s business partner. (R) 117 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

FROZEN This Nordic entry in the animated “Disney Princess” franchise (loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen) delivers two princesses, one handsome prince, and a roguish, wisecracking commoner. How these couples do (or do not) match up is part of the fun in this  surprising scenario cooked by scriptwriter Jennifer Lee and her co-director Buck Jones. Oscar winner for Best Song (“Let It Go”) (PG) 108 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

HER Set in the near future, Joaquin Phoenix upgrades his personally stylized OS (Operating System), voiced by Scarlett Johansson, and, over time, the two develop an intimacy that neither saw coming. The Os is even given a name—Samantha. Watch how well director Spike Jonze, who also penned the tale, paces this film and allows for some of the deeper, rich and complex issues of “relationship” to play themselves out. Amy Adams, who just nabbed a Golden Globe for American Hustle, co-stars. But it’s Phoenix who stands out. 126 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

THE LEGO MOVIE What an imaginative romp this is—and somewhat of a big reveal at the end, too. Expect sequels. But first, expect to be thoroughly entertained in one of the most inventive, big-screen outings of—what?— America’s favorite construction toy? It all works quite nicely. Heroic LEGO minifigures band together to stop an evil tyrant here. Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, and Morgan Freeman lend their voices for co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs).It’s a spirited, entertaining family outing, but adults will dig the humor and other pop culture references. A nice balance indeed. But what stands out, beyond the concept—one would think it implausible—is the clever plot and writing itself. That, perhaps, is the biggest surprise of all. (PG) 94 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer

THE MONUMENTS MEN George Clooney co-wrote and directed this fact-based story in which he stars as the leader of an unlikely team of art professionals (curators, historians, etc.) on a mission to rescue a treasure trove of European art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis. Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, and Cate Blanchett co-star. (PG-13) 119 minutes.

MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN Here’s something to wag your tail about. A big-screen endeavor of one of the more popular cartoon shorts seen on the Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show. The story: Mr. Peabody—brilliant as he is—and “son” Sherman do the time-traveling thing via the WABAC machine,but when Sherman and his schoolmate make mischief in the past it’s up to Peabody to put a a cosmic band-aid on the mess so that the entire space-time continuum doesn’t remain messed up for good. On screen, things translate well and there’s plenty to keep everyone—including adults—completely interested, even though, halfway through, the outing does lag a bit. Ty Burrell is terrific as Peabody. Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, and Mel Brooks also lend their voices. Rob Minkoff (The Lion King) directs. (PG) 90 minutes.  (★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

NEED FOR SPEED Aaron Paul stars as a street racer who enters a cross-country race bent on revenge against the ex-partner who sent him to prison, while outrunning bounty hunters after the price on his head. It’s based on the video game. Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots co-star; Scott Waugh directs. (PG-13) 130 minutes.

NON-STOP I smell another franchise. The good news: The film manages to hold your interest—it’s not that bad at all. The bad news: Well, prepare to suspend belief, particularly at one of the film’s more climactic moments at the end. Liam Neeson plays an air marshal on a commercial transatlantic flight. He’s befuddled, depressed and has had a rough go of things of late, but here, he’s trying to outwit an a terrorist intent on killing passengers until his ransom demands are met. That all of the demands are done via text is a nice touch. And the film offers a fun throwback to those ’70s disaster films. Julianne Moore comes along for the ride, but is given little to do, considering her caliber. Anson Mount, Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong’o (in a wasted role) co-star for director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown; Orphan). Still, the film packs a punch here and there. (PG-13) 106 minutes  (★★1/2) —Greg Archer

PARTICLE FEVER Science geek alert! This new documentary offers viewers a ringside seat to scientific discovery as six brilliant scientists prepare to launch the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN facility in Switzerland, an experiment by which they hope to replicate conditions in space moments after the Big Bang—and discover, essentially, the nature of life in the universe. Physicist-turned-filmmaker Mark Levinson directs. (Not rated) 97 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. (PG-13) 98 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer

SON OF GOD The life and passion of Jesus is the subject of this theatrical film, edited down from the 2013 TV mini-series The Bible. Diogo Morgado has the title role. Christopher Spencer directs. (PG-13)

300:RISE OF AN EMPIRE The action epic begun in 300 continues in a new chapter in which a Greek general attempts to unite all the states of Greece against the invading Persian navy. Noam Murro directs. (R) 103 minutes.

TIM’S VERMEER Why would an ordinary person who is not an artist decide to paint an exact replica of a work by 17th Century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer? You might find the answer surprising—or possibly infuriating—but absolutely fascinating in this documentary by magicians Penn and Teller. As San Antonio engineer and inventor Tim Jenison sets about recreating a luminous Vermeer painting using hand-built camera obscura technology available in Vermeer’s day, the film becomes  an eye-opening meditation on art, science, and the nature of the creative process. (PG-13) 80 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

12 YEARS A SLAVE Steve McQueen’s blistering, unexpurgated portrait of slavery in the pre-Civil War American South walked off with his year’s Oscars for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Supporting Actress for the lovely and compelling Lupita Nyong’o. 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. A film of rare courage that educates and mesmerizes. ® 134 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

WALKING THE CAMINO: SIX WAYS TO SANTIAGO Lydia B. Smith crafts an engrossing documentary about the medieval pilgrimage route from southern France across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and the international mix of modern-day pilgrims who choose to follow “the way.” The pilgrimage is so enormous, and Smith so skillfully inserts the viewer into every twist and turn of the 500-mile, 35-day trek, that the audience starts to feel as physically exhausted as the participants. But, as the individual stories play out onscreen, we also share at least an inkling of the particular madness and exaltation that drives these pilgrims on to achieve their physical, mental, and/or spiritual goals. (Not rated) 84 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

THE WIND RISES From beloved Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki comes this lyrical tribute to real-life engineer Jiro Horikoshi (PG-13) 126 minutes.

TYLER PERRY’S SINGLE MOMS CLUB Five real house-moms of Atlanta overcome their differences and form a support group to help each other cope with life, kids, and potential romance in Tyler Perry’s latest. Nia Long, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao, and Cocoa Brown star. (PG-13) 111 minutes. 

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