.Film, Times & Events: Week of May 16th, 2013

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New This Week
AT ANY PRICE Generations collide in this family drama about a Middle American farmer (Dennis Quaid), who’s worked all his life to make the family farm a success, and the son (Zac Efron) who would rather drive race cars for a living. Kim Dickens, Heather Graham, and Clancy rown co-star for director Ramin Bahrani. (R) 105 minutes. Starts Friday.

ERASED Aaron Eckhart stars as an ex-CIA agent who has to go on the lam with his estranged daughter (Liana Liberato) after their identities are erased as a prelude to assassination in this action thriller from director Phillip Stolzl (North Face). Olga Kurylenko co-stars. (R) 100 minutes. Starts Friday.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Ricky Gervais, and Sofia Vergara lend their voices to this animated comedy about a heroic astronaut from a far-off planet who flies to the rescue when he receives an SOS from Planet Earth. Veteran storyboard artist Cal Brunker directs. (PG)

KON-TIKI Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4300-mile journey across the Pacific in a balsa wood raft in 1947 is the subject of this new fiction film from Norse directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. The story concerns Heyerdal’s Herculean efforts to secure funding and a fearless crew to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized Polynesia, along with the incredible journey itself. (PG-13) 118 minutes. Starts Friday.

SIMON KILLER A recent American college grad (Brady Corbet) flees to Paris after an unhappy love agffair and is drawn into increasingly fraught encounters with a sexy prostitute (Mati Diop) in this edgy drama of sex, lies, and identity. Antonio Campos directs. (Not rated) 101 minutes. Starts Friday.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS J. J. Abrams’ lively reimagining of the Trek universe (prequels to the original TV show) returns for a second installment. Chris Pine returns as a young, vigorous James T. Kirk, newly anointed captain of the spanking new starship Enterprise, out to settle a personal score against a one-man terrorist entity (Benedict Cumberbatch) bent on destroying Starfleet from within. Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Simon Pegg are back as the young Spock, Uhura, Sulu, and Scotty. (PG-13) Starts today (Thursday, May 16).

Film Events
It’s a new season for Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London, broadcasting highlights from its Winter/Spring 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 to follow. This week: THIS HOUSE This biting and timely new political drama from playwright James Graham reimagines Britain’s House of Parliament in crisis in 1974, paralyzed by party politics, as rival MPs struggle for the power to move government forward. Charles Edwards leads a large and impressive cast for director Jeremy Herrin. At the Del Mar, Tonight only  (May 16), 7 p.m. Encore performances Sunday (May 19), 11 a.m., Tuesday, (May 21), 7:30 p.mp, and Thursday (May 23), 4 p.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: PRINCESS MONONOKE Encroaching human civilization angers the forest gods and threatens the balance of nature in this animated 1997 retelling of a Japanese folk tale from acclaimed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Clare Danes, Billy Cruddup, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett, Gillian Anderson and Billy Bob Thornton provide voices. (PG-13) 134 minutes. 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. This week: LABYRINTH David Bowie as the wicked Goblin King, and a herd of cheerfully bizarre muppet critters play out a familiar coming-of-age quest plot that owes more to Alice and Oz than it can ever repay. A teenage Jennifer Connelly is the heroine of the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy, and droll, cheeky dialogue by screenwriter Terry Jones provides some fun. (PG) 101 minutes. (HH1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Tonight only (Thursday, May 16), 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. 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
THE BIG WEDDING An all-star cast livens up this matrimonial comedy in which the divorced adoptive parents of the groom must pretend to still be married for the sake of his conservative Catholic biological mother—to the dismay of Pop’s new wife. Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, and Susan Sarandon star as the uneasy threesome; Ben Barnes and Amanda Seyfried are the happy couple; Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, and Robin Williams co-star for director Justin Zackham (The Bucket List). (R) 90 minutes.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP Robert Redford offers a fine turn here as star and director in a political thriller that effectively illuminates how much has changed in America (revolt, activism) and how much hasn’t (political shenanigans). The film has its flaws, but the story and the performances carry it to nice heights. Redford plays a man who has been living under a false name for 40 years to conceal his former identity as a Weather Underground activist during an incident in which a bank guard was killed. Shia LeBeouf morphs into a young reporter here eager to know the whole story. Look for captivating performances by Julie Christie and Susan Sarandon in particular. Chris Cooper Nick Nolte, and Anna Kendrick co-star. (R) 125 minutes. (HHH) —Greg Archer

THE CROODS A prehistoric family sets out to find a new home when their idyllic primordial homeland is threatened in this animated family adventure from DreamWorks. Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, and Catherine Keener provide voices. Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders direct. (PG) 98 minutes.

DISCONNECT You don’t experience many movies like this coming out of Hollywood lately, so when you do, it’s best to take notice and relish the journey. Much like Crash exposed the decay of social mores with its colliding parallel storylines, Disconnect brilliantly captures the lack of real connection taking place in a world that, ironically, appears to be more “connected” through technology. But, as we already know, people aren’t more “connected.” They’re more disconnected, in fact, and here, we find a gaggle of loose and sometimes lost souls searching for something substantial that can’t quite articulate. There’s a cell phone addict unable to communicate in real life and issues of bullying, porn, and personal information leaked online. And all of it merges so wonderfully in a hypnotic tale that finds its actors—Jason Bateman, Andrea Riseborough, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgard, Paula Patton, Max Thierot (of Bates Motel, who shines here!)—turning in some of the finest performances of the year. Some may find the ending a tad over-dramatic, but it fits the tone of the captivating modern-day opera that director Henry-Alex Rubin so wonderfully creates. (R) 115 minutes. (HHHH) —Greg Archer

42 Newcomer Chadwick Boseman stars as Jackie Robinson, the first African American ballplayer to cross the color line into Major League Baseball, suiting up for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. Harrison Ford co-stars as Dodger GM Branch Rickey, whose policy against racism changes the game forever. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, A Knight’s Tale). (PG-13) 128 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer.

FROM UP ON POPPY HILL The latest from Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki’s famed Studio Ghibli is directed by Goro Miyazaki, the maestro’s son. It’s an unusual outing for Ghibli in that the story features no overt eco-advocacy message nor any magical elements like gods, demons, or witches. Instead, it’s a simply-told tale of two Yokohama teenagers in 1963, facing life-sized issues of identity, loss, and love in the real world. Miyazaki fans should appreciate the subtlety of the craft here, but viewers coming to anime for the first time might want to start with something a little more dynamic. (PG) 91 minutes. (HH1/2) —Lisa Jensen.

THE GREAT GATSBY Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 142 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.

JURASSIC PARK 3D The dinosaurs will be even more killer in 3D, running amok on a tropical island “theme park” in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 fx extravaganza based on the Michael Crichton novel. Homo sapiens co-stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum don’t have much to do, but as popcorn-chomping entertainment, the movie delivers the goods. (PG-13) 127 minutes. (HHH)

IRON MAN 3 The secret weapon in this franchise has always been Robert Downey Jr., whose ironic, deadpan aplomb in the face of utter chaos has fueled more memorable series moments than an entire army of jet-propelled suits. What makes this installment such an entertaining load of hooey is incoming director Shane Black giving Downey plenty of room to deliver his special brand of crisp, pungent commentary. Sure, it’s too long, and too full of random stuff blowing up, but Black keeps the focus on the character of Tony Stark, creating ample opportunity for Downey to rise to the occasion as Stark loses his invincibility and has to literally pick himself up and rebuild his equipment and his psyche from scratch. (PG-13) 130 minutes. (HHH) —Lisa Jensen.

MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN A Hindu and a Muslim baby, both born in Bombay on the night India declares independence from Great Britain, then switched at birth, are at the center of this magic realism saga in which all children born at that historic moment share telepathic powers with which they influence the progress of modern India. Adapted from Salman Rushdie’s prize-winning novel by filmmaker Deepa Mehta (the exquisite Water). (Not rated) 146 minutes. In Hindi and Urdu with English subtitles, and English.

MUD Jeff Nicholls’ hypnotic tall tale simmers with danger, disillusion, humor, and heart, and Matthew McConaughey’s star performance radiates all of the above. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are astonishingly good as two 14-year-old boys growing up on the banks of the Mississippi in rural Arkansas who get involved in the crazed romantic schemes of a disheveled desperado called Mud. Filmmaker Nicholls infuses the movie with a shrewd sense of place, and McConaughey’s Mud maintains the tension between dangerous and fascinating, while also making the character convincingly lovelorn and vulnerable. It’s a lovely piece of work, in an entertaining yarn of fathers, sons, and surrogates. PG-13. 130 minutes. (HHH1/2) —Lisa Jensen.

OBLIVION Tom Cruise heads to the futre in this energetic ride that boasts a curious pace and a story that, while choppy at times, somehow works enough to make you think about it after you’ve left the theater. Still, it smacks of Sci-Fi goulash, with plot points from Independence Day, Armageddon and Blade Runner, among others, filling its tapestry. Morgan Freeman seems wasted here, but hey—we never tire of seeing him. The plot: Cruise is a part of a duo known as the mop-up crew in a post-apocalyptic Earth after aliens have destroyed much of the planet’s resources. Earth won the war but the planet was left virtually unlivable. Or so we think. (PG-13) 126 minutes. (HH1/2)—Greg Archer.

PAIN & GAIN Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Ken Jeong and Anthony Mackie star in this action comedy thriller based on a bizarre true story about a trio of buff personal trainers in 1990s Miami who attempt to turn to crime to underwrite their American Dream. Tony Shaloub and Rebel Wilson co-star for director Michael Bay. (R)

PEEPLES Craig Robinson stars in this comedy about a regular guy who crashes the vacation home in the hamptons of his girlfriend’s snooty family to ask forher hand in marriage. Kerry Washington, David Allen Grier, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Diahann Carroll co-star for rookie director Tina Gordon Chism. (PG-13) 95 minutes.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES Director Derek Cianfrance, who weaved Blue Valentine into the stunning tapestry it was, proves himself in his second film. It stars Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in a generational drama that does not quite move in linear fashion. Instead we’re given moments in time where Cianfrance  evokes a certain mood, steering audiences into considering how one’s fate can often be predetermined by family, residence, social constraints and unresolved emotional issues. Gosling plays a motorcycle stunt rider hoping to support his new family but his intentions venture off course when he delves into a series of daring crimes. Meanwhile, Cooper plays an ambitious rookie cop suddenly lured into the corrupt judicial system. Can he create a sea change by doing the right thing? Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, and Ray Liotta co-star. (R) 140 minutes. (HHH1/2)—Greg Archer.

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST Mira Nair (The Namesake; Monsoon Wedding) dirtects this adaptation of the Moshin Hamid novel about an upwardly mobile young Pakistani man out to make his fortune on Wall Street whoe life, career, and relationship with his American girlfriend all begin to crumble in the culturally divisive aftermath of the 9-11 Twin Towers attacks. Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, and Kiefer Sutherland star. (NR) 128 minutes.

RENOIR If you’ve ever wanted to stroll right into the middle of a lush, sun-drenched Impressionist painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, here’s the next best thing. Filmed on location in the south of France, Gilles Bourdos’ visually intoxicating film is alive with the extraordinary light and vibrant colors of both the natural world and the robust female forms that distinguish the painter’s most beloved work. True, the storyline rarely rises above Art Bio 101, but it doesn’t have to; every frame is a living, breathing homage to the maestro’s work. Michel Bouquet is a wistful, cantankerous elderly Renoir, Christa Theret is his pert, last model and muse, who lights a fuse in son Jean (Vincent Rottiers) as well. (R) 111 minutes. In French with English subtitles. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen.

THE SAPPHIRES Set in1968, an Aboriginal girl group from the outback morphs into a Motown-style quartet thanks to a down-on-his-luck promoter (Chris O’Dowd) and gets sent to entertain the U.S. troops in Vietnam. There’s a great deal of heart in this film. It also creates a believable backstory for the girls, which allows us to become invested in what transpires for them. Based on a true story, the film is “feel-good” but also well-crafted. A sheer delight. Chris O’Dowd, Jessica Mauboy, and Deborah Mailman star for director Wayne Blair. (PG-13) 103 minutes. (HHH)—Greg Archer


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