It's a huge week for movie-goers. Not only is there is slew of films opening, but April 1 also marks the start of the Arizona International Film Festival, now in its 20th year here in Tucson. It provides Tucsonans with the unique opportunity to meet with independent filmmakers and view movies long before they make it to your local multiplex or art house.
Film fans in Northwest Tucson will be happy to know that the DesertView Theater in SaddleBrooke is showing AIFF selections on the next three consecutive Tuesdays - April 5, 12 and 19. Not only will you drive less to see some remarkable cinema, but you also will pay less. Tickets for the DesertView films are only $3. Remember - you don't have to live in SaddleBrooke to attend the screenings.
On April 5, you can view 2010 festival award-winners "Such Good Friends" at 2:15 p.m. and "65_RedRoses" at 7 p.m. On April 12, the program features two high-profile films from this year's event. "Journey from Zanskar," the film selected to open the festival, shows at 2:15 p.m., followed by "Happy" at 7. Closing the program on April 19 are compilations of some of this year's award-winners. "Best of the Fest 1" will show at 2:15 p.m. and "Best of the Fest 2" at 7.
For more information, visit www.filmfestivalarizona.com.
Here's my take on some of the films opening April 1:
Hop (PG, 94 min.)
There's little new or original in this story about sons who desire to follow a different career path than the one expected by their dear old dad, but the film's remarkable visuals and fun voicing by actor Russell Brand make this a good choice for the family.
Brand voices E.B., the teenage son of the Easter Bunny. He'd rather play drums in a rock 'n' roll band than take over the family business, so he escapes to Hollywood, where he meets an out-of-work slacker named Fred O'Hare. Fred (James Marsden) also has yet to find his true calling, and is feeling the wrath of his disapproving father.
"Hop" is not "Toy Story." But it's colorful and filled with loads of adorable animated characters that the little ones will love. Marsden seems too old to play Fred, but at least he's a decent actor who plays well off the animated E.B. My niece and nephew, ages 10 and 7, laughed out loud several times. I did, too, at least enough to give "Hop" an ears-up.
Insidious (PG-13, 102 min.)
I haven't seen a truly scary movie in a while, but I jumped a few times during "Insidious," the latest offering by director James Wan, who also gave us "Saw." Like so many horror films, it's fun to see with a group so you can share a laugh after you've shared a scream or chill.
The film has its problems. Its demons are cheesy as heck. It has one of the longest opening credit sequences ever, a problem when the background visuals don't add much to the story. And I was annoyed by one particular lack of attention to detail. The lead (Patrick Wilson) is chasing down a demon who appears to have left the front door to the house wide open. Wilson closes the door and then locks it with the flimsy chain instead of turning the key that can be seen in the door's deadbolt lock. It's right there; use it.
But, the film does a great job of building the suspense without a flood of special effects. It lures audiences by dropping images into the frame that you see for less than a second, perhaps while someone is walking by. They leave you to wonder, did I really see that? You hunger for more and pay closer attention to what else might be lurking in the shadows.
It's a fun scare for a matinee. I wouldn't pay nighttime for it.
Jane Eyre (PG-13, 120 min.)
Beautifully acted and filmed, "Jane Eyre" is a riveting retelling of Charlotte Brontë's timeless Gothic drama. Mia Wasikowska stars in the iconic lead role of Jane, who is orphaned at a young age, sent to a charity school by her cruel aunt, and ends up as a governess to the ward of the brooding and troubled Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender).
Wasikowska's Jane is proud, tortured, smart, strong and composed. She is a survivor to be admired. Audiences can understand why Rochester would be drawn to her frank talk, despite her low station.
The chemistry between Jane and Rochester is palpable; nonetheless, I find their relationship hard to accept because his character is so needy. Part of me wants to scream, "Run, Jane, he needs too much fixing," but I recognize the era in which the story takes place and that Rochester is a mighty fine catch for the times.
If you enjoy period dramas and Brontë novels, you won't want to miss this superior telling of the tale.