.Film, Times & Events: Week of Aug. 22

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New This Week

CLOSED CIRCUIT Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall star in this thriller as lawyers—and former lovers—who find their lives in jeopardy when they join the defense team of a man accused of international terrorist acts. Ciaran Hinds, Jim Broadbent, and Julia Stiles co-star for director John Crowley (Intermission). (R) 96 minutes. Starts Wednesday (August 28).

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THE GRANDMASTER Legendary martial arts master Ip Man, famed as the man who trained Bruce Lee, is the subject of this action  drama from the ever-edgy, iconoclastic master filmmaker Wong Kar Wai (2046; In the Mood For Love). Set in the 1930s and ’40s, the story follows the master’s early years, moving from China to Hong Kong, and his connection to a young woman out for vengeance for her father. Tony Leung Chui Wai and Zhang Ziyi star. In Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese with English subtitles. (PG-13) 123 minutes. Starts Friday.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES A new potential franchise is born with this adaptation of the first book in the popular YA series by Cassandra Clare. Lily Collins stars as the New York teen whose search for her missing mother (Lena Headey) leads her to discover she is descended from an ancient race of demon-hunters, and sends her into an alternative NYC called Downworld, where angels, demons, and monsters thrive. Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Robert Sheehan, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers co-star for director Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid). (PG-13) 130 minutes. Starts Friday.

THE WORLD’S END Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite with director Edgar Wright for the third time in this final installment of the trilogy begun with Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz. Expect their patented mix of cheeky satire and apocalypse as the friends set out on a drinking marathon to conclude at their favorite pub, The World’s End, only to run afoul of an unexpected menace. Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Rosamund Pike co-star. (R) 109 minutes.  Starts Friday.

YOU’RE NEXT When a gang of murderers in animal masks invades a family gathering during a wedding, one of the guests proves to have a talent for self-defense in this horror thriller from director Adam Wingard. Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, and A J Bowen star. (R) 96 minutes. Starts Friday.

Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: WHAT IS NEW THOUGHT? The motivational principles of New Thought—from Dale Carnegie (“How to Win Friends and Influence People”), and Norman Vincent Peale (“The Power of Positive Thinking”) to Stephen Covey (“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”)—are explored in Jon Miller’s documentary that traces the history of positive thinking and its most famous practitioners. Bay Area Premiere. (Not rated) 90 minutes. Friday only, 7 p.m., at the Center for Spiritual Living (1818 Felt Street, Santa Cruz). (Fri Aug 23)

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 BUTLER Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 133 minutes.

BLACKFISH The foolishness of capturing wild orcas (“killer whales”) and training them to perform in sea parks is explored in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s cautionary doc. Following the story of the performing orca, Tilikum, who has been responsible for the deaths of three people, including a professional whale trainer, Cowperthwaite exposes the danger and severe cruelty of enslaving wild and sentient animals in captivity for the idle amusement of paying customers. (PG-13) 83 minutes.

BLUE JASMINE In Woody Allen’s latest, Cate Blanchett shines in one of the best performances of her career. It’s also one of Allen’s best films. Set in San Francisco, this dynamic drama—with touches of comedy—revolves around the a depressed and privileged East Coast socialite (Jasmine) whose fall from grace is hard and messy. Jasmine finds refuge in her sister’s apartment in San Francisco but soon, other dramas unfold. Watch how well Allen, who also wrote the outing, uses flashback to illuminate such a tighty-wound, unforgettable individual. Sally Hawkins also stars (as Jasmine’s sister) alongside. Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C. K., Bobby Cannavale, and Andrew Dice Clay. (PG-13) 98 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer

THE CONJURING Oh, it’s a delight to see Emmy nominee Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) here alongside Patrick Wilson in one of the more effective mystery/horror thrillers of late. The duo star as a team of paranormal investigators who meet their match in an unearthly presence haunting a farmhouse in the American South. James Wan (Saw; Insidious) directs. This could be one of the most haunting and well-executed horror films of the decade. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston co-star. Based on real-life events. (R) 112 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer

ELYSIUM Director Neill Blomkamp, won raves with District 9 back in 2009 and he infuses some of that same grit in this near-futuristic thriller in which the top 1 percent live a privileged life of beauty and ease on a posh man-made habitat in the sky. Meanwhile everyone else subsists in poverty on the ruins of Earth below. Matt Damon nails his performance as a factory drone led into a scheme to break into the habitat to bring equality to all. The film unravels with gripping intensity and you are invested in the outcome of the characters. Oddly, Jodie Foster never quite gives a convincing performance—that accent, those mannerisms! But with the remainder of the supporting cast (William Fichtner, Sharlto Copley and Diego Luna are just as riveting as Damon here. (R) 102 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

THE HEAT Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are wonderful comedic forces in this enjoyable romp. True, McCarthy often gets the best lines, but it’s nice to Bullock back in a light-hearted role that actually works for her. Like most films coming out of Hollywood these days—those designed for mass audiences—the script indulges in a number escapades that are played over the top when it isn’t necessary to do so. Still, this is a thoroughly fun outing as Bullock, an uptight FBI special agent, joins forces with McCarthry, a street-smart Boston cop, to take down a mysterious drug kingpin. Demian Bichir and Marlon Wayans co-star for director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) directs. (R) 117 minutes. (★★★)—Greg Archer

IN A WORLD Actress Lake Bell wrote and directed this comedy in which she stars as a vocal coach trying to break into the big time who runs afoul of an egotistical and vengeful star she beats out of a job. Fred Melamed, Rob Coddry, and Demetri Martin co-star. (R) 93 minutes.

JOBS Ashton Kutcher stars as Steve Jobs, the mercurial college drop-out who founded Apple and helmed the business into an international phenomenon. Josh Gad co-stars as founding partner Steve Wozniak. J. K. Simmons and James Woods head the supporting cast for director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote). (PG-13) 122 minutes.

KICK-ASS 2 Aaron Taylor-Johnson returns as the self-made masked crusader, with Chloë Grace Moretz on board again as his intrepid sidekick, Hit Girl, in this follow-up to the 2010 superhero satire. Jim Carrey joins the cast as an ex-mobster turned street vigilante for justice called Colonel Stars and Stripes; Christopher Mintz-Plasse returns as vengeful villain Red Mist, out to destroy the good guys. Incoming director Jeff Wadlow takes over from original director Matthew Vaughn. (R) 113 minutes.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY Part frat house comedy, part Hunger Games, with a soupcon of Hogwarts, this prequel to the Pixar/Disney 2001 animated blockbuster, Monsters Inc., delivers some engaging messages with a very light touch. We meet plucky little green cyclops, Mike (Billy Crystal) and big, shambling fur-ball, Sulley (John Goodman) as rival students in their college “Scarer” program, in a family-friendly tale of friendship, destiny, diversity, and higher education, told with maximum humor and heart. Best new character is Dean Hardscrabble, a centipede-like reptile with enormous red dragon wings and a fine, chilly voice provided by Helen Mirren. (G) 104 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS Logan Lehrman returns in the title role from Rick Riordan’s popular YA series as an ordinary kid who discovers he’s the son the sea god, Poseidon. In this intallment, he and his offbeat crew of demigod friends have to search for the mythical Golden Fleece in order to prevent an evil force from running amok in the world. Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, and Nathan Fillion co-star for director Thor Freudenthal. (PG) 106 minutes.

PARANOIA Liam Hemsworth stars in this business espionage thriller as a corporate drone blackmailed by his ruthless boss and CEO (Gary Oldman) into spying on his corporate rival (Harrison Ford) to gain the edge in a high-stakes business deal. Amber Heard co-stars for director Robert Luketic (21). (PG-13).

PLANES It’s Cars in the sky as the Walt Disney animation gurus continue their fixation with motor vehicles. This one is about a lowly crop-duster who’s afraid of heights, yet still longs to compete in a famous aerieal race. Val Kilmer, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Drefuss and Dane Cook head the voice cast. Klay Hall directs. (PG) 92 minutes.

RED 2 In a trend that does not seem to be waning Bruce Willis tends to pack pistols than real intelligence in his movie choices of late. Here, alongside  Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich, the troika return as the retired CIA black ops called back into action in the first Red movie. Now, they’re joined by Anthony Hopkins in a new caper involving a missing nuclear device. Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Byung-hun Lee join the fun for director Dean Parisot.  (PG-13) 116 minutes. (★★)—Greg Archer

THE SMURFS 2 When an evil wizard kidnaps Smurfette because she knows a magic spell, it’s up to the rest of the boys in blue to reunite with their human friends from the first movie and follow her trail to Paris, France. Raja Gosnell directs this live action/animated family comedy. Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, and Brendan Gleeson head the human cast; Katy Perry, Christina Ricci, and the late Jonathan Winters voice various Smurfs.(PG) 105 minutes.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW The writers of 500 Days of Summer have another hit here. This contemporary love story about a charming teen with no future plans who lives for the moment and his unlikely romance with a “nice girl” who doesn’t date, reads sci-fi, and dreams of the future is stellar. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) star for director James Ponsoldt. (R) 95 minutes.  (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

20 FEET FROM STARDOM Captivaitng and educational from beginning to end, 20 Feet spotlights some of the greatest, yet unsung background vocalists in rock. Filmmaker Morgan Neville wonderfully captures these creative creatures—not only by bringing out their humanity but also showing us just how dynamic and instrumental they actually were in the music world. Feast your eyes (and ears) on Merry Clayton (whose soaring vocals made the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” a classic), Darlene Love, Tata Vega, and Judith Hill, to note but a few. Actually, the doc winds up turning much of the spotlight on Love, showcasing her unique journey and experiences within the music industry. By doing so, the filmmakers add heart to the tale they want to tell. But all of those featured here resonate a wonderful grace and humility. Guest commentaries from Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, and Sting are a nice touch. Beyond that, there’s, plenty of performance footage. Unforgettable. (PG-13) (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer.

WASTELAND After serving time in prison, an ex-con tries to rekindle an old romantic flame while plotting to rob the money-laundering business of the drug lord who set him up in this crime thriller set in Yorkshire, England. Luke Treadaway, Timothy Spall, and Vanessa Kirby star for rookie director Rowan Athale. (Not rated) 106 minutes.

WE’RE THE MILLERS In this drug comedy, a dealer trying to move a shipment of pot from Mexico into the states recruits an unlikely group of strangers to pretend tio be an innocent American family. Ed Helms, Jennifer aniston, Emma Roberts and Jason Sudeiks star for director Rawsomn Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball). (R) 110 minutes.


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