.Film, Times & Events: Week of May 31

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New This Week

film battlefieldamericaBATTLEFIELD AMERICA
Chris Stokes (You Got Served) directs a new dance drama in which a new generation of marginalized kids gets a chance to shine on the underground dance circuit. Marques Houston, Mekia Cox and Lynn Whitfield star. (PG-13) Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film juanofthedead
The zombie horror comedy goes Latino with Alejandro Brugués’ entry in the genre. Set in modern, post-Revolutionary Cuba, it’s about a 40-year-old slacker, his layabout buddy, one sexy daughter, and one hunky son who hire themselves out as zombie-killers when the undead menace invades Havana. Blood, jokes, and political satire ensue. Alexis Dias de Villegas, Jorge Molina, and Andrea Duro star. (Not rated) 100 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film piranha3ddPIRANHA 3DD

Oh, don’t even ask. The prehistoric killer fish make their way into a water park called Big Wet to menace nubile girls in bikinis. Christopher Lloyd and David Hasselhoff co-star. (R) 83 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

film polisse
A different Paris than we usually see in the movies is revealed in filmmaker Maiwenn’s contemporary cop drama about the women and men of the police department’s Juvenile Protection Unit, struggling to keep their own lives and relationships on point as they cope with the intensity of the job. Karin Viard, Joey Starr, and Marina Fois star; director Maiwenn  has a featured role as a photographer from the Ministry of the Interior sent to document the unit. (Not rated) 127 minutes. In French, Italian, Romanian, and Arabic with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

Kristen Stewart—in armor, yet—stars in a darker revisionist take on the oft-told fairy tale. This time, the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor) sent to assassinate Snow White instead mentors her in warrior-training so she can defeat the nasty-glam Evil Queen (Charlize Theron). Rookie director Rupert Sanders makes his feature debut, and the visuals in the trailer look stunning. (PG-13) 127 minutes. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

WHERE DO WE GO NOW?film wheredowegonow
Lebanese actress and filmmaker Nadine Labaki  poured a lifetime of frustration over religious wars and sectarian violence in her native land into this wry, satirical drama, an award-winner on the festival circuit. A group of women in a Lebanese village, both Christian and Muslim, who are sick of seeing their husbands, sons, and fathers trying to murder each other, concoct a series of schemes to keep their menfolk too distracted to make war. Labaki, who also co-stars, works with a largely semi-professional cast to capture the heart of Lebanese village life. (PG-13) 110 minutes. In Arabic and Russian, with English subtitles. Starts Friday. Watch film trailer >>>

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Film Events

SPECIAL EVENT NEXT WEEK: NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE AT THE DEL MAR Britain’s acclaimed National Theatre of London presents its 2012 Season digitally, in HD, to movie theaters worldwide. Next Thursday: FRANKENSTEIN Playwright Nick Dear goes back to the source material—Mary Shelley’s philosophical novel of science, hubris, revenge, good and evil—for this searing new drama about a wayward Creator and his innocent, yet reviled Creature. Danny Boyle directs. In a nifty twist, stars Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s new Sherlock Holmes, among many other credits) and Jonny Lee Miller switch lead roles; Cumberbatch plays the Creature, and Miller plays Dr. Frankenstein next Thursday, June 7, 7:30 p.m. Miller plays the Creature, and Cumberbatch Dr. Frankenstein the following Sunday (June 10), 11. a.m. At the Del Mar.

Eclectic movies for wild & crazy tastes plus great prizes and buckets of fun for only $6.50. This week: MEAN GIRLS Lindsay Lohan stars in Mark Waters’ 2004 comedy as a home-schooled teenager raised in the African bush country by zoologist parents who experiences the law of the jungle when she enters public high school for the first time and runs afoul of the reigning girl clique. Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Tina Fey co-star. (PG-13) 97 minutes. Friday-Saturday midnight only. At the Del Mar.

Oldies and goodies on Thursday nights at the Cinema 9, presented by your genial host, Joe Ferrara. $5 gets you in. This week: THE UNTOUCHABLES Brian De Palma’s terrific and stylish 1987 take on the Prohibition-era Feds vs. gangsters genre stars Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness, Robert De Niro as Al Capone, and a feisty Sean Connery in an Oscar-winning turn as a veteran Irish beat cop. (R) 119 minutes. (★★★★)—Lisa Jensen. Thursday only (May 24), 8 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. Movie junkies are invited to join in on Wednesday nights to discuss current flicks with a rotating series of guest moderators. Discussion begins at 7 pm and admission is free. For more information visit www.ltatm.org.

Movie Times click here.

Now Playing

THE AVENGERS It takes a while to gain its momentum, but The Avengers manages to deliver a nice balance of thrills in a plot you can embrace. Moviegoers dig it—it made over $200 million in its opening weekend, smashing all records. So, what we get is cult titan Josh Whedon’s (Buffy, Angel, and Serenity) take on the Marvel comic book heroes trying to fight a war lauched by Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) bitter bro. Watch how well Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man) elevates the film with his witty bon mots—he’s given the best lines. But kudos to Chris Evans (Captain America) for holding his own here, too. Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk) is expertly cast as Dr. Bruce Banner. Meanwhile Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) round out the cast. This is pure summer movietime fun. Have a ball. (PG-13) 142 minutes. (★★★) —Greg Archer.

BATTLESHIP The Hasbro naval combat game is the so-called inspiration for this  ginormous action adventure in which a fleet of US warships prepares to repel a massive invasion force of unknown origin. Taylor Kitch, Alexander Skarsgard, Liam Neeson, Rhianna, and Brooklyn Decker star for director Peter Berg. (PG-13) 131 minutes.

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL The perfect antidote to the summer blockbuster season, this is a wistful, humorous, grown-up story of love, loss, family, identity, and the ever-present whooshing of time’s wingéd chariot. Its splendid ensemble cast play Englishmen and women of a certain age, gobsmacked by circumstances, who decide to “outsource” their retirement to sunny, inexpensive India. Adapted from the  novel, “These Foolish Things,” by Deborah Moggach, It’s directed with quiet affection and precision by John Madden (Shakespeare In Love; The Debt.) The plotlines are fairly predictable, and it all relies a bit much on inspirational messaging, but it’s still an enormous pleasure to watch pros like Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and a deliciously acerbic Maggie Smith. (PG-13) 124 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

This oddball comedy stars Jack Black as a mortician in small-town Texas who starts making himself indispensible to a wealthy and sour elderly widow (Shirley MacLaine). Matthew McConaughy co-stars for cult director Richard Linklater. (PG-13) 104 minutes.

CHERNOBYL DIARIES From the fevered imagination of Oren Peli (the first Paranormal Activity) comes this horror thriller about six tourists visiting the outskirts of Chernobyl, 25 years after the nuclear disaster, who discover something unquiet left behind. Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley star; Bradley Parker directs. (R) 90 minutes.

Disneynature whisks us off to the rainforests of Tanzania in this narrative doc about an adorable baby chimp growing up within the support group of his community. Made in association with the Jane Goodall Institute, and directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield.  (G) 78 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

When I first discovered this revamp of the famous soap from the 1960s and ’70s was being remade by Tim Burton, and that it would be more campy and comedic in tone, I scoffed. Still, after sitting through two hours of watching Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabus Collins, I was taken in—but not fully. The film has its flaws, one of them being that it really doesn’t give us a posse of characters with whom we can be emotionally invested. Beyond that, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Depp plays the 200-year-old vampire to winning ends—Barnabus is ressurected to be at the helm of his latter-day dysfunctional family. Michelle Pfeiffer also stars (in a role she seems to be sleepwalking through) as the clan’s matriarch. Helena Bonham Carter (typically fun and memorable) plays quirky Dr. Julia Hoffman. And Eva Green does her best as the spiteful witch Angelique, whose magic continues to loom over the family. But those who recall the original may long for less camp and more drama—there are some shades of that here, and you can see glimpses of what could have also been an effective thriller, but Burton leans more on a formulaic approach. (PG-13) 120 minutes.  (★★1/2)
—Greg Archer.

DARLING COMPANION Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) star in this Lawrence Kasdan comedy-drama about a woman in an unhappy marriage who loses her beloved rescue dog on the day of her daughter’s wedding. Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass and Sam Shepard co-star.  (PG-13) 103 minutes.

THE DICTATOR Sacha Baron Cohen wins points for being able to so smoothly embody any quirky role. And, while this film may be short—thank goodness—there is enought “sweet” in here to win you over. And plenty of perversity along the wa, too, as Cohen morphs into a dictactor of a backward nation suddenly lost in America. Directed by Larry Charles. (R) (★★1/2) —Greg Archer.

FIRST POSITION Reviewed this issue. (Not rated) 90 minutes. (★★★1/2)—Lisa Jensen.

MARLEY While Marley bio docs abound, the first-person retelling of intimate moments earns this film bragging rights as the definitive Bob Marley documentary. The film succeeds because, with Marley’s oldest son, Ziggy, on board as a producer, director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) enjoyed unprecedented access to Marley’s closest friends, family members and colleagues. The resulting film delivers a lush, layered and deeply personal portrait, including a number of photos, recordings and film footage never before released on a mass scale. (PG-13) 145 minutes. (★★★★) —Laurel Chesky.

MEN IN BLACK 3 A refreshing improvement from the first sequel. Here, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reunite with director Barry Sonnenfeld and bring Josh Brolin along for the ride. There’s still that battle of aliens vs. man going on, but this time, time travel is tossedinto the mix as Smith’s Agent J  jumps back in time to save the day. Brolin plays Jones’ characterin 1969 to winning ends. Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga grace the screen, too. Fun. (PG-13) 106 minutes. (HH1/2)
—Greg Archer.

MONSIEUR LAZHAR A Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the 2012 Academy Awards, this French Canadian comedy-drama revolves around an Algerian immigrant hired in the middle of the school year to teach a class of grade schoolers. Their previous teacher has died suddenly, and tragically, and while the new teacher tries to navigate the unfamiliar bureaucracy of his new employers, he proves to have an empathetic and imaginative knack for helping shepherd the kids through their grief and back into the mainstream of life. French Algerian actor Mohammed Fellaq stars for director Philippe Falardeau. (PG-13) 94 minutes. In French with English subtitles.

OTTER 501 Otters are so plentiful around here, most of us don’t realize how precarious their living situation still is. When a group of concerned Central Coast researchers, and marine specialists decided to dramatize their plight, they made this engaging film. It’s neither a traditional documentary, nor a kiddie film; the filmmakers tell the animals’ story, through a parallel fictional story about a college coed (Katie Pofahl) on holiday from the Midwest discovering the Monterey Bay for the first time. What she learns about otter culture, their history and habits, and the movement to protect them, is presented as a series of informative, yet easily-digestible web cam posts on her Facebook page. A heartfelt plea for sane ocean management and a character study of one of Nature’s most beguiling critters. (G) 85 minutes. (★★★)—Lisa Jensen.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING A semi-all-star cast attempts to breathe life into the series of bestselling pregnancy self-help books from which this comedy is adapted, an ensemble piece about five expectant couples. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Dennis Quaid, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick, Chace Crawford and Chris Rock head the cast. Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee; Waking Ned Devine) directs. (PG-13) 110 minutes.


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