.Film, Times & Events: Week of Nov. 7

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ABOUT TIME Director Richard Curtis (Love Actually; scriptwriter on Four Weddings and a Funeral) creates a curious outing here. Riddled with mixed reviews, you’d think film critics out there have absolutely lost touch with the fact that in an effort to explore deeper themes—in this case, embracing and living as if each moment was absolutely precious—that it’s quite OK to think outside of the box. Enter: Time travel. Now, don’t be frightened off. How does time travel mix into a romantic comedy like this? Well, quite nicely. Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan) stars as a hapless young man who discover from his pop (Bill Nighy) that he has the power to travel backwards in time, a gift he humorously uses to get his life in order. Rachel McAdams delivers a fine turn here and and Tom Hollander co-stars. Heartfelt and moving. Starts Friday. (★★★)—Greg Archer

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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. Starts Friday.

HOW I LIVE NOW Saoirse Ronan stars in this dystopian thriller as an American girl visiting relatives in the English countryside forced to fight for her life when Britain devolves into a violent military state. Kevin Macdonald (The Eagle; The Last King of Scotland) directs this adaptation of the YA novel by Meg Rosoff. Tom Holland co-stars. (R) 101 minutes. Starts Friday.

THE PIN In this Canadian film (shot in Yiddish and English), the story of a young man and young woman hiding out from the Nazis during World War II plays in counterpoint to the related story of an elderly man facing his last chance for redemption. Milda Gecaite and Grisha Pasternak star for director Naomi Jaye. (R) Starts Friday.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD Chris Hemsworth returns for his third outing as the Marvel Comics superhero. (PG-13) 120 minutes. Starts Friday.

Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE It’s a new season for Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London, broadcasting highlights from its Fall 2013 Season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. This week: 50 YEARS ON STAGE An A-list cast of British thesps (Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Helen Mirren, and Michael Gambon, to name but a few) perform live onstage in snippets from some of NT’s most memorable and groundbreaking productions from its half-century on the boards. Nicholas Hytner directs. (Not rated) 180 minutes. At the Del Mar, Sunday only (November 10), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13.

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: AT NIGHT I FLY: IMAGES OF NEW FOLSOM The William James Association Prison Arts Project presents a benefit screening of this documentary by Michel Wenzer. The focus is on men serving lengthy sentences in maximum security  who turn to the creative arts—painting, poetry, music—to re-establish a lifeline to their own humanity. A Q&A with New Folsom Prison Artist Facilitator Jim Carlson will follow. Proceeds will go toward WJA programs offering hope and healing through meaningful arts experiences for Santa Cruz County Jail and San Quentin and other Prison residents.  Visit atnightiflyscruz.eventbrite.com for ticket information. At the Rio, Wednesday only (November 13), 7 p.m.

CONTINUING SERIES: NEW CULT FILMS AT THE DEL MAR In addition to its venerable Midnight Movie series of classics and favorites, the Del Mar launches another late-night weekend series devoted to strange and edgy cult films of more recent vintage. All the weirdness money can buy for just $6.50. This week: See Del Mar ad this issue. Fri-Sat Late Show only. At the Del Mar.

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: JURASSIC PARK (PG-13) 127 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen. 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. Tonight: JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (Not rated) 104 minutes. (HHH)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday (November 7) only, 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. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit groups.google.com/group/LTATM.

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Now Playing

A.C.O.D. Santa Cruz’s own Adam Scott stars in this dysfunctional family comedy. (The title stands for Adult Children of Divorce.) Interviewed as a boy for a psychological study about the effects of divorce. (R) 95 minutes.

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. It’s a slightly less enthralling, more claustrophobic experience than Gravity, but it’s similarly intense in exploring the outer limits of human tenacity. PG-13. 107 minutes. (★★★)—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.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS This harrowing true story recounts the first incident of piracy against an American ship in 200 years when the unarmed US freighter Maersk Alabama was captured off the coast of Oman in 2009 by four trigger-happy Somalis with automatic weapons. It’s a bracing dose of recent history from director Paul Greengrass, told with his typical no-frills realism and escalating intensity. Tom Hanks’ vivid performance as the cargo ship’s captain is riveting, and Barkhad Abdi is excellent as the leader of the Somalis. The human cost of terrorism on all sides—no one emerges unscathed—is brilliantly conveyed. (PG-13) 134 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

CARRIE Chloe Grace Moretz steps into Sissy Spacek’s bloody shoes in this update of Brian De Palma’s ’70s classic. New this time around: Stephen King’s novel, on which the film is based, focused more on Carrie’s telekinesis, so there’s that—and some cyber-bullying, but the outing is strained, overall and lacks the subtle nuancs of De Palma’s epic. Nice to see Julianne Moore here though. (R) (★★) —Greg Archer

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 The wacky inventor whose device turned water into food in the first Cloudy movie now has to save the world from a machine that merges food with animals, called “foodimals,” in this animated sequel. (PG) 85 minutes.

THE COUNSELOR Even the A-List cast—Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Goran Visnjic—can’t quite elevate this crime thriller about a button-down lawyer who gets involved in big-time drug trafficking. Ridley Scott, typically a stellar director, can’t seem to find the rhtyhm from the oddly devised script by Cormac McCarthy. (R) 111 minutes. (★★1/2) —Greg Archer

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.

ENOUGH SAID After the fuzzy motivations and unconvincing friendships of her recent films, writer-director Nicole Holfcener is back on track with this wry, engaging, life-sized romantic comedy. This time, she moves personal relationships to the forefront—romantic, parental, and marital—along with her trademark friendships between women. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is at her most appealing and least snarky, as a long-divorced single mom unexpectedly trying to navigate the dating game, and the late, beloved James Gandolfini charms in a rare romantic role. The reliable Catherine Keener co-stars in a cautionary tale about allowing our friends’ opinions to color (and possibly subvert) our own instincts. (PG-13) 93 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

ESCAPE PLAN Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in this action thriller about a structural engineer who builds the world’s most secure prisons who is himself framed and jailed, and must then try to break out of an escape-proof prison he designed. 50 Cent, Jim Caviezel, and Sam Neill co-star for director Mikael Hafstrom. (R) 116 minutes.

THE FIFTH ESTATE Revisit the material from Alex Gibney’s recent WikiLeaks documentary, We Steal Secrets, in this fictionalization of the story from director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters). The always-watchable Benedict Cumberbatch stars as enigmatic WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and Daniel Bruhl (currently onscreen in Rush) plays his partner, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose cyber platform for anonymous whistleblowing becomes a controversial tool for exposing skullduggery in high places. (R) 128 minutes.

FREE BIRDS Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George Takei lend their voices to this animated family comedy about a couple of mismatched turkeys from the present who time-travel back to the past to prevent the holiday tradition of serving turkey for Thanksgiving. Veteran animator Jimmy Hayward directs. (PG) 91 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.

INEQUALITY FOR ALL Robert Reich, economist, professor, and tireless advocate for America’s dwindling middle class, takes center stage in this Jacob Kornbluth documentary explaining in no uncertain terms how the income gap between the super-rich and everybody else is devastating the American way of life. Should be smart, caustic and informative, if Reich’s You Tube vignettes are any indication. (PG) 85 minutes.

INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED One of the year’s rare gems. Not to be missed. Here, Mexican film and TV tar Eugenio Derbez directs and stars in this dramatic comedy, playijng a befuddled bachelor who must cope with the infant daughter that was  dropped off at his doorstep—he rrallies to fight for custody six years later when the birth mother returns. (PG-13) 122 minutes.

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.

MUSCLE SHOALS Musical heroes don’t come much more unsung than the so-called Muscle Shoals Swampers. A handful of young, white hometown boys, session musicians at the FAME recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, they laid down some of the funkiest R&B tracks to come out of the 1960s and ’70s, behind such artists as Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Wilson Pickett. Pretty much unknown to the public, they finally get the recognition they deserve in Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s raucous musical doc on the founding of FAME studio and the distinctive brand of funk produced there. (PG) 111 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

RUSH Four-star movies are hard to come by, so relish this. True, everyone has their own likes and dislikes but whatever you may feel about auto racing, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with how Director Ron Howard’s film is executed. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl star as real-life Formula One race car drivers and competitors James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Bruhl stands out particularly here, but both actors lose themselves in their roles. That, coupled with Howard’s keen eye and style, make this one of the director’s best efforts in his entire career. As for the story, it traces the rivalry on the Grand Prix race track that consumed the racers during the 1970s. Peter Morgan (The Queen; Frost/Nixon) penned the script. Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara come along for the ride. What works best here is the intensity and mood Howard creates. A memorable ride indeed. (R) 123 minutes. (★★★★)—Greg Archer.

12 YEARS A SLAVE Reviewed this issue. (R) 133 minutes.


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