New This Week
90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN It’s probably safe to say that any 7th grader would’ve killed for ninety minutes in heaven instead of just seven. This isn’t that kind of movie, though. Instead, it starts out with Don Piper, played by Hayden Christensen (almost unrecognizable with a mustache) who narrates his own journey into the afterlife. 90 Minutes is based on the true story of Don, who was the self-described “man who had it all” with three children and a lovely wife (played by Kate Bosworth), until a horrific car accident kills him. Ninety minutes later, he wakes up, claiming he saw heaven. Michael Polish directs. Kate Bosworth, Hayden Christensen, Hudson Meek co-star. (PG-13) 121 minutes.
THE PERFECT GUY Leah is at the top of her game, good job, great boyfriend, genuine friends—but, she wants the house with the kids as well. When her all-star boyfriend doesn’t measure up, she moves on—right into the arms of the oh-so suave Carter, who seems, at first glance, completely perfect. Except, Carter (played by the gorgeously blue-eyed Michael Ealy, sorry we’ll try not to drool) has got a temper, and when Leah tries to distance herself she finds that he’s not all that easy to get rid of. David M. Rosenthal directs. Michael Ealy, Sanaa Lathan, and Morris Chestnut co-star. (PG-13) 100 minutes.
LEARNING TO DRIVE Ben Kingsley plays a Sikh driving instructor who, through wise parables and street know-how, teaches a New York writer with marriage troubles how to take the wheel, both on the road and in the rest of her life. Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Sarita Choudhury, Grace Gummer and Samantha Bee from The Daily Show co-star. Isabel Coixet directs. (R) 90 minutes.
CONTINUING EVENT: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE MOVIES Film buffs are invited Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. to downtown Santa Cruz, where each week the group discusses a different current release. For our location and discussion topic, go to: https://groups.google.com/group/LTATM.
AMERICAN ULTRA Since 1953, the government has been running a top-secret project to control soldiers planted in civilian life. Now, agent Howell has been activated: only, he doesn’t really know it yet because he is wayyy too high. Jesse Eisenberg plays the convenience store cashier who discovers a set of lethal skills he never knew he had when he kills some carjackers with a spoon. “There’s a chance I may be a robot,” he tells his girlfriend Phoebe, played by Kristen Stewart—brilliantly cast, as side by side the couple looks like versions of each other. Stewart might even crack that face with some more facial expressions than usual in what looks like a hilarious action comedy. Nima Nourizadeh directs. Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton co-star. (R) 95 minutes.
ANT MAN For those who didn’t grow up reading the Marvel comic, the idea of a guy with the ability to shrink to the size of an ant sounds like the opposite of what you’d want to have happen in the middle of a scuffle with an evil villain, and at the risk of sounding trite, with Paul Rudd as the leading superhero? OK, maybe non-Comicon goers won’t understand till they see it, but hopefully Rudd’s comic relief ability will round out his backstory as a cunning con man and complement Corey Stoll as his nemesis, Yellowjacket, and Michael Douglas playing his guru, Dr. Hank Pym. (PG-13) 117 minutes.
A WALK IN THE WOODS Tired of death and funerals, Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) wants to hike the Appalachian Trail. But his his wife, played by the ever-lovable Emma Thompson, forbids him to go it alone so after exhausting his list of old friends—who find going to the doctor for a colonoscopy adventure enough—he’s joined by Stephen, played by a perfect Nick Nolte. The duo appear a delightful match to defy geriatric expectations in the tale of one last hurrah, and Nolte, who has arguably never looked better, plays the old loon with such charm you’d think he’s finally found a role that suits him. Ken Kwapis directs. (R) 104 minutes.
BEFORE WE GO In the tradition of a Meg Ryan romcom, it’s a New York City romance where accidental acquaintances are first at odds but become midnight lovers after the maiden is robbed, stranded in Manhattan, and the knight comes to her rescue. Ah the swooning ladies (and gents) watching with a box of chocolate and bottle of wine (or several) will be hearts all aflutter and, yes, we’ll all come to believe that this is precisely what happens when you venture to New York City in search of a fairytale ending—but whether it’s a cheese fest or a real nostalgic love story, we’ll see what Chris Evans, who stars and directs, can pull off. Chris Evans, Alice Eve, Emma Fitzpatrick co-star. (PG-13) 89 minutes.
THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL: We know that teenage boys think about sex every minute of every day; but teenage girls? Finally, a film that explores the possibility that young females aren’t only pious pre-nuns and may also go through hormonal stages with their own, very confusing awakenings. Sure, it might be an awkward topic, but don’t let the tediously tween title dissuade. Newcomer Bel Powley looks delightful as the innocently explorative Minnie who after sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend (played by Alexander Skarsgård and her mother by Kristen Wiig), finds herself in a new world rife with possibilities—all painted with animated illustrations which soften the whole adolescent sexuality conversation. Marielle Heller directs. Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig co-star. (R) 102 minutes.
HITMAN: AGENT 47 It’s funny because this looks like the serious version of American Ultra; Agent 47 is a genetically engineered super agent with a perfectly shaped head and a face that never smiles. Oh, he’s also been hired by that guy from Heroes to kill some lady but it turns out she’s just like him! A film where people say things like “He’s here … to kill you,” with dramatic pause, and “Pretty crazy, huh?” and characters have “subdermal titanium body armor”—leaving you to wonder if all the good lines have already been taken … but all sarcastic nitpicking aside, Hitman does look like a pretty decent kickass action flick. We hope the Homeland bad boy can deliver as leading gentleman, but if not Hannah Ware looks tough enough for the both of them. Aleksander Bach directs. Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto co-star. (R) 9
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- ROGUE NATION At this point, audiences might be thinking it’s Tom Cruise in another of these franchise films that is truly impossible (did they get him in a lifetime deal with the devil?), although, as far as action franchises go, needing to eradicate a rogue international organization with equally skilled agents sounds creative enough. At least all the characters surrounding Cruise—from Simon Pegg’s unflinching wit to the best British pout of 2015 (we’re looking at you Rebecca Ferguson) to the incandescence of Alec Baldwin’s face—make up for the tired resurrection of Ethan Hunt. Christopher McQuarrie directs. Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jeremy Renner co-star. (PG-13) 131 minutes.
NO ESCAPE An American family relocates overseas to embark on what they think will be an exciting new life—maybe a little too exciting, as they quickly find themselves in the epicenter of a military coup. Owen Wilson, who’s currently in post-production for Zoolander 2 (so it’s OK to find his genre-hopping unexpected), plays Jack Dwyer with Lake Bell as his on-screen wife. With two kids in tow they try desperately to flee the crumbling country but just as they think they’ve escaped, obstacles meet them at every turn. John Erick Dowdle directs. Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, and Owen Wilson co-star. (R) 103 minutes.
PHOENIX Disfigured, alone, and heartbroken Nelly is the lone member of her family to have survived the concentration camps. Now the war is over and after receiving surgery that leaves her unrecognizable she returns home to crumbling, postwar Berlin in search of her husband—possibly the one who revealed her Jewish identity to the Nazis. Nina Hoss plays Nelly in this German drama which takes on the narrative feat of postwar reality—although the war between Germany and the Allies had finally ended, the war between victims and collaborators had just begun. Christian Petzold directs. Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf co-star. (PG-13) 98 minutes.
RICKI AND THE FLASH Meryl Streep is the queen of cinema: what other actress can play a self-righteous nun, a famous chef, the Iron Lady, and a totally badass fulltime rocker—all with the sincerity and ease of someone folding their socks? She’s magic: deniers can shoo. We’ll try to keep the swooning at a minimum … but with Streep at the helm of this cast—boasting forever favorite Kevin Kline, Streep’s own offspring Mamie Gummer—and Juno writer Diablo Cody, as the one behind the rock ’n’ roll momma’s story, it is so, so hard. Jonathan Demme directs. Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Sebastian Stan co-star. (PG-13) 102 minutes.
SHAUN THE SHEEP From the claymation masters who brought us the genius of Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit comes another installation in Shaun’s epic story of lambish mischief and farm-to-city adventures. The lovable, goofy side-mouthed goons who are timelessly plasticine and innocently hilarious can do no wrong, even if they’re not Pixar-made. This time it’s sneaky Shaun the sheep who decides to take a day off from the farm, but after a mix-up with the farmer, the whole flock is off to the city in an attempt to get everyone back home safely before anyone is made mincemeat. Mark Burton and Richard Starzak direct. Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, and Omid Djalili co-star. (PG) 85 minutes.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON “Speak a little truth and people lose their minds”—not everyone was ready for what N.W.A. had to say when the young Compton rappers hit the scene in the late ’80s. Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella rapped about living with one eye open and the daily realities of hood politics. Played here by Ice’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Aldis Hodge and Neil Brown Jr., their story as perhaps the most controversial and outspoken hip-hop group in history has reached mythic status. But the film picks and chooses how it wants to remember these icons—conspicuously erasing, for instance, Dre’s history of violence against women. F. Gary Gray directs. (R) 147 minutes.
THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED Semi-clothed attractive women, evil villains, scheming superminds, blaring beats, large guns, fast cars, big bangs, another guy who looks vaguely like Jason Statham with apropos steely stare, a kidnapped dad, fast cash, robbery, revenge and reload … did we leave anything out? Camille Delamarre directs. Ed Skrein, Loan Chabanol, and Ray Stevenson co-star. (PG-13) 96 minutes.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. This Cold War-era action-comedy reads James Bond-ish parody with just the right amount of eye candy and CIA/KGB crossover bravado—all with perfectly chiseled chins which, since it does harken back to the 1964 original, we’ll forgive. Guy Ritchie directs. Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander co-star. (PG-13) 116 minutes.
WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS Maybe, just maybe, this story about how to make it as a DJ will be more than just a story about how to make it as a DJ. With the requisite bro tanks, lofty camera shots, motivating electro soundtrack (perfect for the gym) and so-chiseled-it-hurts-to-look-at cast of 20-somethings, We Are Your Friends looks like a real cheese fest. Played by Zac Efron, Cole struggles between a “forbidden romance” and the “expectations of his friends” (teehee). But Efron has dipped into some slightly more complex roles in the past few years since Hairspray and High School Musical—he has … right?—so we’re leaving room for possible depth and complexity. Max Joseph directs. Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski co-star. (R) 96 minutes.
Z FOR ZACHARIAH Ann Burden lives with her dog in a remote valley—it’s remote because, well, she’s probably the last survivor of a disaster that wiped out civilization. She’s the last survivor, she thinks, until she finds Chiwetel Ejiofor in a pond and Chris Pine walking down the road. First the problem was not enough men, then it’s that there are too many—ah, how cinema mirrors reality in this sci-fi thriller which puts Ann (Margot Robbie) at the very center of a post-apocalyptic love triangle. She could do worse. Craig Zobel directs. (PG-13) 95 minutes.