.Film, Times & Events: Week of March 6

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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON How would you react if, six years after the birth of your child, the hospital called to tell you they’d given you the wrong baby? That’s the dilemma faced by two couples who discover their sons were mistakenly switched in this deeply moving and engrossing family drama from Japanese filmmaker Kore-eda Hirokazu (Nobody Knows). Centerstage is a driven young businessman husband whose fast-track to success for his son (private school; piano lessons) is derailed when he learns the boy he loves is not his. He’s both scornful of and threatened by the blue-collar father raising his child who makes plenty of time to play with his kids. All viewpoints, both child and adult, and every possible facet of human nature are explored in this drama for which there are no easy solutions, but plenty of beguiling epiphanies about love, family, and commitment. (Not rated) 120 minutes. In Japanese with English subtitles. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.

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MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN The erudite canine and his frisky boy from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle TV cartoons get their own big screen adventure. When Sherman and his friend go joyriding in the time-traveling WABAC machine, it’s up to Mr. Peabody to stitch up the holes in time and put world history back in order. Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, and Mel Brooks provide voices. Rob Minkoff (The Lion King) directs. (PG) 90 minutes. Starts Friday.

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. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, Xerxes, the film stars Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green, with Lena Headey reprising her role as the Queen of Sparta, and Rodrigo Santoro returning as Persian god-king Xerxes. Noam Murro directs. (R) 103 minutes. Starts Friday.

TIM’S VERMEER Reviewed this issue. (PG-13) 80 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.

Film Events

SPECIAL EVEN THIS WEEK: THE NINTH ANNUAL SECRET FILM FESTIVAL Get out your blankeys and bunny slippers and prepare to settle in for the duration for the ninth installment of this popular cult event, the best 12-hour film festival in town. The concession stand is open all night as five fabulous films never before seen in Santa Cruz, hand picked by the crackerjack Del Mar selection committee, unspool for your eyes only before their official release dates. Actual film titles cannot be named (that’s why they’re secret!), but previous SFF premieres have included MirrorMask, Lars And The Real Girl, Let The Right One In, and The Darjeeling Limited. Don’t be the last kid on the block to see the coolest new movies of the season. Get in line now. $15 gets you access to all the films. At the Del Mar, Saturday (March 8) midnight to Sunday (March 9), noon.

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: THE GIRLS IN THE BAND As part of an ongoing Jazz On Film benefit series, the Nickelodeon teams up with Kuumbwa Jazz to present this screening of Judy Chaikin’s 2011 documentary about pioneering female musicians from the 1930s, on, who battled racism, sexism, and every other kind of obstacles to play jazz in the popular big bands of the day. (Not rated) 81 minutes. The film screens on Saturday, March 8 (International Women’s Day), at the Nickelodeon, one show only, 4:30 p.m. Proceeds will benefit Rising International, a locally-based non-profit that provides work and income for women worldwide. Admission is $7.50 at the box office, or visit thenick.com.

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: HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE  Japanese anime legend Hayao Miyazaki directs this 2005 magical fable. (PG) 110 minutes. Fri-Sat midnight only. At the Del Mar.

CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES  Meets at the Del Mar mezzanine in downtown Santa Cruz at 7 pm and admission is free. Visit groups.google.com/group/LTATM.

Movie Times click here.

Now Playing

ABOUT LAST NIGHT This sort-of update of the old ’80s Brat Pack romcom stars Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Early, and Joy Bryant as two fledgling couples who go from bar to bed, and then have to decide how to construct real relationships. Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) directs. (R) 100 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.

GLORIA Here’s something you don’t see in the movies every day: a mature (as in over 50) adult woman with a functioning sex life at the center of a film. This lively Chilean film is powered by a dynamic performance from Paulina Garcia, as a woman who refuses to give up on life, even though she’s divorced and her kids are grown. Director Sebastian Lelio trusts Garcia to provide his film with its life force, and she does not disappoint. As her character searches for ways to spice up her days and nights, we empathize with her quest for fun, love, dignity, and respect. (R) 110 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. (★★★)—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.

NEBRASKA A marvelous turn for Bruce Dern, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his role as a cranky gent who forces his son (Will Forte in surprisingly good role) along on a road trip to claim a million-dollar prize the he insists he’s won from Publishers’ Clearinghouse. Watch how wonderfully Dern disappears into this role, which assures him an Oscar nod. And relish how well Dern and Forte play off of each other. Shot in shot in black-and-white by Alexander Payne (The Descendants; Sideways) it stands out as one of the year’s best. (R) 115 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Greg Archer

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

OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS, 2014 Where are the next generation of filmmakers and animators coming from? Find out in these two complete, separate programs of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films from around the world (five live-action and five animated), offered for theatrical release  110 minutes. (★★★1/2) Live Action Program: 113 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

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

POMPEII Kit Harrington (Jon Snow in Game of Thrones) gets to warm up in sunny ancient Rome as a First Century gladiator battling his way through the streets to save the woman he loves before the erupting Mount Vesuvius volcano destroys the city. (PG-13) 105 minutes.

RIDE ALONG It’s Training Day with laughs with Kevin Hart as a security guard-turned police recruit spending 24 hours in the passenger seat with tough cop Ice Cube, patrolling the streets of Atlanta. (PG-13)

ROBOCOP In another reboot that didn’t exactly cry out to be remade (because the original was so much fun), Joel Kinnamon stars as a critically injured Detroit policeman of the near-future upgraded with robotic body parts by a sinister corporation—which doesn’t expect its new toy to have a mind of his own. Jose Padiha directs; Abbie Cornish and Gary Oldman co-star. (PG-13) 110 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)

3 DAYS TO KILL Kevin Costner stars in this action thriller as an international spy about to retire to rebuild ties to his estranged family who’s tasked with hunting a ruthless terrorist while trying to look after his alienated teenage daughter. Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard and Connie Nielsen co-star. McG directs.

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. (R) 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.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Leonardo DiCaprio teams up with director Martin Scorsese in this tale, based on real-life endeavors. DiCaprio plays hotshot stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose unlikely success on Wall Street in the mid-1990s comes crashing down when the Feds expose his securities schemes. It’s just hard to warm up to this tale of excess. .(R) 179 minutes. (★★) —Greg Archer


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