You may feel that there's something familiar about Thin Ice, the new crime comedy that opens at Hillcrest Cinemas on Friday, Feb. 24. It's got Greg Kinnear starring as a loser salesman and Alan Arkin as a quirky eccentric. Yep, it has that Little Miss Sunshine vibe, but since this one is set in Wisconsin, there's considerably more snow and ice than sunshine.
Kinnear plays Mickey Prohaska, a Wisconsin-based insurance salesman who's hit hard times. He's ethically shifty—not a conman, exactly, but the kind of guy willing to say just about anything to make the sale. This has worked for him for years, but lately things are on a downward slide. He and his wife (Lea Thompson) have separated, and he's having a hard time keeping his head above financial water. Things start getting really bad at a convention, when a casino girl lifts his wallet.
Bob Egan (David Harbour) comes to his assistance—he's a young up-and-comer who has a knack for selling insurance and who gets a job with Mickey due to his innocence and kindness. Through Bob, Mickey meets Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin), a strange old man who Mickey thinks will be an easy sale. Gorvy turns out to be very high-maintenance, but it's maintenance Mickey is willing to perform when he discovers that the old man has an incredibly valuable violin. Mickey decides to steal and sell the instrument, but it doesn't go well, and an encounter with Randy (Billy Crudup), a volatile locksmith, leaves a man dead, and Mickey is soon caught between big rocks and bigger hard places.
Thin Ice feels like a cross between Little Miss Sunshine and Fargo, though it isn't as good as either one. Director Jill Sprecher, who co-wrote the film with her sister, Karen, offers an unexpected ending, though, which sheds a slightly different light on everyone around Mickey. But it might also seem like a cop-out. In my mind, it made for a nice twist on a well-wogenre, but to say more would be to give it away.
Act of Valor: Navy SEALS go after a bunch of brown-skinned guys who have kidnapped a CIA agent. The movie stars real-life SEALS, so it's worth wondering if it's an action movie or a recruitment video.
Chico & Rita: A surprise entry in the Best Animated Film Oscar field, it tells the story of a young piano player (Chico) and a gorgeous singer (Rita) whose pursuit of their dreams and each other sends them from Havana to Vegas to Hollywood to Paris in the 1940s and '50s.
Father's Day: The latest film from the schlockmeisters at Troma is about a man obsessed with finding his father's murderer. Expect gore galore at the Ken Cinema.
Gone: Two years earlier, Amanda Seyfriend's character escaped from a nasty kidnapper. Now he's got her sister, and she's not happy about it.
Perfect Sense: As an unknown disease slowly steals humanity's senses, a chef (Ewan McGregor) and an epidemiologist (Eva Green) begin an affair that helps them deal with everything going on in the world. It's an apocalypse film, but David Mackenzie's movie is less about the end of the world than it is about what we truly need to survive. See our review here.
Tomorrow, When the War Began: A group of Australian teens return from a trip to the outback to find that their nation has been invaded. Think of it as a Down Under Red Dawn, mate.
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds: Depending upon your point of view, his good deeds may not include making movies.
Wanderlust: After Paul Rudd is laid off, he and Jennifer Aniston leave New York, only to end up on a commune with the likes of Justin Theroux, Alan Alda and Malin Akerman.
One Time Only
Stairway to Heaven: Yes, there's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven—none of which has anything to do with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1946 post-war film about a British pilot (David Niven) who has to convince a heavenly court that his time hasn't yet come. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Dirty Dancing: Have the time of your life at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World: A dying thief's last words sends the likes of Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett and Milton Berle on a cross-country race in hopes of getting to some serious loot before everyone else. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at Reading Cinemas Town Square.
Diciotto Anni Dopo (Eighteen Years Later): Two estranged brothers are forced to take a road trip to spread their father's ashes. Presented by the San Diego Italian Film Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Hakuchi: The Public Library concludes its month-long Akira Kurosawa series with this post-war film about an unhinged veteran who enters into a love triangle with his best friend and a woman who's considered to be without honor. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Gray Matters: Heather Graham and Tom Cavanagh play siblings. When bro meets a girl (Bridget Moynahan), it turns out sis kinda likes her like that, too. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the Center in Hillcrest. Free.
Best Picture Nominee Marathon: AMC Mission Valley and AMC La Jolla screen five more hopefuls. It starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, with Hugo, followed by The Help, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Artist and Midnight in Paris.
Board Shorts Film Festival: Presented by the San Diego Surf Ladies, this inaugural short-film festival will be hosted by five-time World Champion Linda Benson at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at The Loft at UCSD.
Gigi: Adapted from Colette's novel, Vincent Minelli's film is about a playboy (Louis Jourdan) and a young courtesan (Leslie Caron) whose friendship just can't stay platonic. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, and Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
Water & Power: Culture Clash's Richard Montoya debuts his work-in-progress adaptation of his own play about twin brothers who are big-time players in Los Angeles' corrupt world of politics. Screens at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park. Free.
More than a Month: African-American filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman hits the road to try to put an end to Black History Month. Why? Check out the title. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Journey to the Flames: Get a preview of the San Diego burning Man Film Festival, set for March 10, with this look at a group of friends and their eight years of making the trek out to the desert. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
I Love You, Man: Paul Rudd and Jason Segal get all bromantic at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Flowers of War: Christian Bale poses as a priest to try to save a number of Chinese women from the Japanese during the attack on Nanking in 1937.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: Man, Nicolas Cage must really need the money.
The Secret World of Arrietty: Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki wrote the screenplay for this anime take on The Borrowers.
This Means War: Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are secret-agent best friends who face off against each other when they both fall for Reese Witherspoon while trying to capture a Eurotrash terrorist. It's as stupid as it sounds, but everyone is so good-looking and charming that you might be willing to overlook that.
Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu: In this Bollywood romcom screening at Horton Plaza, a man wakes up in Vegas and realizes he married a hairstylist the night before.
Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within: Sequel to the terrific Brazilian movie about a paramilitary police unit facing corruption while taking on drug traffickers.
Journey 2: Mysterious Island: Sort of a sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, in that it's an adaptation of a Jules Verne book made family-friendly and in 3-D.
The Oscar-Nominated Short Films: All 10 will screen at the Ken Cinema in two programs, live-action and animated.
Pina: Wim Wenders directed this film about dance legend Pina Bausch. Don't miss it, and make sure you see it in 3-D.
Safe House: Young CIA buck Ryan Reynolds must team up with wily veteran Denzel Washington to kill a bunch of bad guys.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D: The Force was not so strong with this one.
The Vow: After Rachel McAdams loses her memory in a car crash, husband Channing Tatum has to make her fall in love with him again.
W.E.: Madonna's new movie—she directed it—parallels the relationship between King Edward VIII and the American divorcée over whom he abdicated the crown and a contemporary romance between a married woman and a security guard.
Dolphins: Get up close and personal with a species smarter than ourselves—at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Big Miracle: John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore save the whales. No, really, that's what it's about.
Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity: Liam Neeson narrates this IMAX film, screening at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Chronicle: Three Seattle high-schoolers discover that in order to enjoy their newfound superpowers, they have to face the dark side.
The Woman in Black: Daniel Radcliffe tries to break out of the Harry Potter mold with this PG-13 horror movie.
Albert Nobbs: Glenn Close plays a 19th-century Irishwoman masquerading as a male butler. It's a great idea that isn't well executed.
The Grey: Liam Neeson, who somehow became an action star in the last few years, is the lead in Joe Carnahan's film about a group of Alaskan oil workers trying to survive a pack of wolves after a plane crash.
Man on a Ledge: The man in question is an ex-con played by Sam Worthington. The ledge is played by a ledge.
One for the Money: This year's Katherine Heigl romantic comedy.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Stephen Daldry's new film about an awkward little boy whose father, Tom Hanks, died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, will polarize audiences, who'll either experience an intense emotional connection or find it sentimental and exploitative.
Haywire: Steven Soderberg goes all Quentin Tarantino with an action film starring former American Gladiator Gina Carano as a Black Ops soldier who goes all medieval after she's betrayed.
Red Tails: George Lucas produced this film, which may be the biggest action film ever with a primarily black cast. Set during WWII, a group of Tuskegee Airmen finds itself oversees, fighting the enemy.
A Separation: Lovely Iranian movie about a couple going through a divorce who have to endure that country's labyrinthine legal system when their housekeeper is injured. Just won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
Underworld Awakening: The vampire / werewolf conflict continues in 3-D!
The Iron Lady: Not even Meryl Streep can solve the problems faced by this ham-handed biopic.
Carnage: Roman Polanski directs the adaptation of a Tony Award-winning play about two couples who get together to discuss a conflict between their children. It stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz and takes place entirely in one New York apartment.
Contraband: This year's Mark Wahlberg action movie.
Rescue: This IMAX movie looks at first-responders across the globe and includes footage shot during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Artist: This silent film about a silent-film star (Jean Dujardin) whose world begins to collapse as the talkies take over is a fully realized vision and a legitimate Best Picture contender.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Now with more English! David Fincher's reboot is far slicker than the Swedish original, but not, perhaps, particularly necessary.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Believe it or not, No. 4 is the best of the bunch, probably because it's the first live-action film from director Brad Bird, the guy behind The Incredibles.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Gary Oldman is great as George Smiley, the semi-retired British spy brought back in to unmask a traitor during the Cold War, but the entire exercise is probably too slow for American audiences.
War Horse: Spielberg's other big holiday film is about a horse that's taken from the boy who raised him, serves as an officer's mount in WWI and ends up seeing action from opposite trenches.
Hugo: Hell hath apparently frozen over—Martin Scorsese has made a 3-D PG family film.
My Week with Marilyn: Eddie Redmayne is Colin Clark, an assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who has to manage his boss' relationship with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during a production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
The Descendants: Alexander Payne's first film since Sideways is more straightforward than his previous work, but just as rewarding. George Clooney's terrific as Matt King, a father trying to reconnect with his daughters after his wife's injured in an accident.
Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's most charming film in years stars Owen Wilson as a Jazz Age-infatuated screenwriter and aspiring novelist who ends up hanging with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Boto be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.