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Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

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Check out the movies playing around town.
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New This Week

BEARS The folks at Disney nature chime in with their annual Earth Day wildlife doc (after Chimpanzee, African Cats, etc.), which follows a year in the life of two Alaskan grizzly bear mothers shepherding their cubs through the changing seasons. Narrated by John C. Reilly. Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey direct. (G) Starts Friday.

DOM HEMINGWAY Jude Law stars as a scruffy, rude-boy safecracker on the loose in London, looking to collect what’s owed him after keeping his mouth shut during 12 years in prison, in this black crime comedy from Richard Shepard (The Matador). The ever-entertaining Richard E. Grant co-stars as his wisecracking partner-in-crime. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is on hand as his estranged daughter. (R) 93 minutes.

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER Reviewed this issue. (NR) 83 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 Marlon Wayans is back in this sequel to the 2013 horror spoof about a guy who keeps picking women with para-normal demons to exorcise. Jaime Pressly and Cedric the Entertainer co-star for returning director Michael Tiddes. (R) Starts Friday.

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL Just in time for Easter comes this screen adaptation of the non-fiction book by Todd Burpo about his 4-year-old son who survived a near-death experience and came back full of de-tailed stories about the other side. Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, and newcomer Connor Corum star for director Randall Wallace. (PG) 100 minutes.

NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME 2 Charlotte Gainsbourg continues to pour out the erotic history of her life to good Samaritan Stellan Skars-gard in this continuation of Lars von Trier’s explicit sex drama. Shia LeBeouf, Jamie Bell, and Willem Dafoe co-star. (NC-17) 123 minutes. Starts Friday.

13 SINS At the end of is financial rope, a man agrees to complete a series of tasks set by a mysterious phone caller for a big cash payoff; as the stakes rise, the tasks become more gruesome—and terrify-ing—in this horror thriller from director Daniel Stamm (The Last Exor-cism). Mark Webber, Devon Graye, and Ron Perlman star in this re-make of a straight-to-video Thai thriller, 13: Game of Death. (R) 92 minutes. Starts Friday.

TRANSCENDENCE Johnny Depp stars in this original sci-fi thriller as a scientist with a terminal illness who hooks his brain up to a com-puter to preserve his mind and gains unexpected powers. Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman co-star. Ac-claimed cinematographer Wally Pfister (he won an Oscar for Incep-tion) makes his directing debut. (PG-13) 119 minutes. Starts Friday.


Film Events

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: MEAN GIRLS Lindsay Lohan stars in Mark Waters’ 2004 comedy as a home-schooled teenager raised in the Af-rican bush country by zoologist parents who experiences the law of the jungle when she enters public high school for the first time and runs afoul of the reigning girl clique. Rachel McAdams, Amanda Sey-fried, and Tina Fey co-star. (PG-13) 96 minutes.  Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES This in-formal 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

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.

BAD WORDS Jason Bateman delivers a solid directorial debut and a surprisingly inventive comedy to boot. (R) 89 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers/Captain America in this second installment of the franchise (third, if you count The Avengers). A WWII-era transplant still trying to adjust to the modern world and working with S.H.I.E.L.D., he teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and The Falcon (Sam Wilson) against the villainous Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford co-star for directors Anthony and Joe Russo. (PG-13) 136 minutes.

CESAR CHAVEZ Actor Diego Luna directs this fictionalized biographical drama about the life of the civil rights leader and organizer of the United Farm Workers union in the grape and lettuce fields of California. Michael Peña stars as Chavez; America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, and John Malkovich have featured roles. (PG-13) 98 minutes.

CUBAN FURY Longtime Simon Pegg cohort Nick Frost stars in this British dance competition comedy satire as a former Junior Salsa Championship hopeful who lost his nerve, but rekindles his dream 25 years later in an attempt to jump-start his life and impress his attrac-tive new boss (Rashida Jones). Chris O’Dowd and Ian McShane co-star for director James Griffiths. (R) 98 minutes.

DIVERGENT Veronica Roth’s bestselling YA trilogy begins on screen. Breathy music and a plodding script tend to weigh down the endeavor, but overall, there’s enough to appreciate and it does hold your interest. Shailene Woodley (a bit miscast here) 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. Neil Burger (The Illusionist) directs. (PG-13) (★★1/2) —Greg Archer.

DRAFT DAY Kevin Costner stars as the general manager of a Cleve-land football team facing major professional and personal decisions during the fateful day of the NFL Draft. Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Sam Elliot, and Chadwick Boseman co-star. Ivan Re-itman directs. (PG-13) 110 minutes.

ERNEST AND CELESTINE In a charming picture-book world in-spired by the popular series of children’s books by Belgian painter and author Gabrielle Vincent, a big, sweet bear and a plucky little mouse, traditional enemies, defy the rules and become friends. The animation of Ms. Vincent’s sketchy, winsome, utterly beguiling ink and watercolor paintings is splendidly done. And while the story works as a sweet little parable about tolerance, the movie is also unadulterated fun from first to last. (PG) 80 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL There’s plenty of fun and whimsy to be had here in Wed Anderson’s delightful new comedy. Much like Moonrise Kingdom unraveled in a quirky splendor, so, too, does The Grand Budapest Hotel, which chronicles the unlikely friendship between a revered European hotel concierge, Gustave H  (Ralph Fiennes) and his lobby boy. Everything from the era—between two menacing wars—to the fictional setting of the Republic of Zubrowka pepper the tale, which unfolds, layer by layer (a story within a story within a story) much like a Russian doll. Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and other Anderson grads join the fun. R) 100 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

LE WEEK-END Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as an English couple of a certain age, returning to Paris for the first time since their distant honeymoon with the idea of either reviving, or ending, their marriage, in this bittersweet comic love story from Roger Michell (Notting Hill; Persuasion). The always-great Jeff Goldblum co-stars as an old friend they bump into, an insufferably successful American academic whose presence ramps up the prickly factor in the couples’ relationship. (R) 93 minutes.

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 mini-figures 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 LUNCHBOX In this award-winning debut feature from Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra, a young Mumbai housewife hoping to spice up her stale marriage, and a middle-aged widower about to retire strike up a correspondence and unexpected friendship when the boxed lunch she prepares for her indifferent husband at work is mistakenly delivered to the wrong man. Nimrat Kaur is poised and affecting as the lonely wife. The always great Irffan Khan combines the wry world-weariness of vintage William Powelll with the banked sensuality of a Raul Julia.This is an interactive bittersweet romance; how it ends depends on if you see the glass as half full or half empty. (PG) 104 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

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.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED In this continental caper comedy, the gang takes their dubious act on the road in Europe—not realizing their tour is a front for a series of heists perpetrated by their shifty new manager (Ricky Gervais) and his accomplice, Constantine, a Kermit lookalike known as “The World’s Most Dangerous Frog.” Add songs, extravagant production numbers and a cavalcade of celebrity cameos and you have vintage Muppet mania, suitable for kids, but with enough witty asides to amuse the grown-ups. James Bobin directs. (PG) 112 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

NOAH Darren Aronofsky’s massive drama is sort of a philosophical disaster movie. There are passing references to Eden, but no specific geography or time frame, while the mostly ravaged and desolate pre- or post-industrial landscape could be the ancient past or the distant future. This is the Bible as dystopian sci-fi epic. And most of the time that works pretty well, especially in the first hour or so, as Aronofsky sets up his eco-parable about human folly and violence vs. the wonders of nature. It isn’t until much later—in the endless battle to defend the ark against an army of marauders, or in the oddly flat, almost silly coda—that the narrative drive springs a leak and the movie starts to flounder. Still, Russell Crowe delivers his usual, reliable mix of dynamic screen presence and robust physicality in the title role. (PG-13) 138 minutes. (★★1/2) —Lisa Jensen.

NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME 1 Charlotte Gainsbourg subjects herself once more to director Lars Von Trier to play an abused woman pour-ing out the erotic history of her life (in minute detail, with newcomer Stacy Martin playing her character in flashbacks) to good Samaritan Stellan Skarsgard. Shia LeBeouf, Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater, and Uma Thurman co-star. (NC-17) 123 minutes. 

OCULUS A sinister antique mirror leads to mayhem and murder in this horror thriller from director Mike Flanagan. Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff star. (R) 104 minutes.

THE RAID 2: BERANDAL This sequel to the 2011 action thriller The Raid: Redemption finds the young Indonesian SWAT team member going undercover into Jakarta’s criminal underground to set up a double-sting of both the crime syndicate and corrupt officials within his own police department. Iko Uwais stars for returning director Ga-reth

RIO 2 The parrots from the first film are relocated from the simmering samba of Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon jungle in this family-friendly animated sequel. Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, will.i.am, Jermaine Clement, Rodrigo Santoro, and Jamie Foxx are back in the voice cast, joined by Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno and Bruno Mars. Carlos Saldanha is back in the director’s chair. (G) 101 minutes.

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)

UNDER THE SKIN Scarlett Johansson stars in this screen adaptation of Michel Faber’s sci-fi novel about an alien femme fatale driving the back roads of Scotland in search of victims. Paul Brannigan and Lyn-sey Taylor Mackay co-star for director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast). (R) 108 minutes.

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