.Film, Times & Events: Week of March 13

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THE ART OF THE STEAL Kurt Russell stars in this caper crime comedy as an aging motorcycle stuntman and part-time thief lured into one last caper—the theft of a priceless historical book—by his unreliable brother (Matt Dillon)—who has a hidden agenda of his own. Kathryn Winnick, Jay Baruchel, Kenneth Welsh and Terence Stamp co-star for director Jonathan Sobol. (R) 90 minutes. Starts Friday.

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THE GIRLS IN THE BAND Reviewed this issue. (Not rated) 81 minutes. (HHH1/2)—Lisa Jensen. Starts Friday.

NEED FOR SPEED Aaron Paul stars as a street racer who enters a cross-country race bent on revenge against the ex-partner who sent him to prison, while outrunning bounty hunters after the price on his head. It’s based on the video game. Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots co-star; Scott Waugh directs. (PG-13) 130 minutes.  Starts Friday.

PARTICLE FEVER Science geek alert! This new documentary offers viewers a ringside seat to scientific discovery as six brilliant scientists prepare to launch the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN facility in Switzerland, an experiment by which they hope to replicate conditions in space moments after the Big Bang—and discover, essentially, the nature of life in the universe. Physicist-turned-filmmaker Mark Levinson directs. (Not rated) 97 minutes. Starts Friday at the Nickelodeon. (Special Q&A after the 7 pm, Friday, screening with a panel of faculty from UCSC’s Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP), which has been involved in research and development at CERN for 20 years.) 

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 Winter 2014 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 the following Sunday morning. This week: WAR HORSE Before it was a Spielberg movie, this tale of a Devon farm horse recruited for the front lines during World War I was an amazing, innovative live production featuring life-sized puppet horses operated by stage actors. This is a revival of the original production, adapted by Nick Stafford from the novel by Michael Morpurgo, featuring the work of South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. (Not rated) 180 minutes. At the Del Mar, Thursday only (March 13), 7:30 p.m. Encore performance Sunday only (March 16), 11 a.m. Admission: $15. Seniors, students, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz subscribers: $13.

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: FALL ITALIAN FILM SERIES The Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz returns with its monthly series of Italian films (one Sunday a month) to promote Italian culture and language. The theme for the Winter 2014 season is “The Journey.” Please visit folkplanet.com/dante/films for information on this month’s film. In Italian with English sub titles. Logan Walker, film studies lecturer at SJSU, will introduce the film and conduct an after-film Q&A. At Cabrillo College, VAPA Art History Forum Room 1001, Sunday only ( March 16 ), 7 pm. Free.

SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEK: MONEY & LIFE Katie Teague directs this crowd-sourced doc that examines our current economic woes and explores way to redesign a more efficient, sustainable, and equitable global economy. (Not rated) At The Center for Spiritual Living, 1818 Felt St. Friday, March 14 only, 7:30 p.m. Suggested donation $8-10; no one turned away.

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: NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (PG) 116 minutes. In Japanese with English subtitles. Projected from original 35mm film. 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. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit groups.google.com/group/LTATM.

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Now Playing

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

TIM’S VERMEER Why would an ordinary person who is not an artist decide to paint an exact replica of a work by 17th Century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer? You might find the answer surprising—or possibly infuriating—but absolutely fascinating in this documentary by magicians Penn and Teller. As San Antonio engineer and inventor Tim Jenison sets about recreating a luminous Vermeer painting using hand-built camera obscura technology available in Vermeer’s day, the film becomes  an eye-opening meditation on art, science, and the nature of the creative process. (PG-13) 80 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

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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