Sept. 25 2013 12:13 PM

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's problematic directorial debut leads our rundown of movies screening around town

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's porn-addiction comedy Don Jon suffers from an extreme bout of aesthetic repetition. Bits of smarmy dialogue, suggestive sound cues and off-kilter compositions repeat throughout. This gives the earnest story of a New Jersey meathead named Jon (Gordon-Levitt) coming to grips with his obsessive tendencies a benign perspective on key themes like love and desire.

Making his feature-writing and directing debut, Gordon-Levitt is attempting to explore the emotional consequences of believing fantasy can trump reality. Jon doesn't simply watch porn religiously—he loses himself in it. After embarking on a precipitous relationship with Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a blonde bombshell who attempts to mold him into a new man, Jon realizes that the thin red line between lust and caution is more complex than he originally thought.

If Gordon-Levitt shoots for emotional complexity, his film only cuts skin deep. Each rise and fall in this rollercoaster Jon experiences is telegraphed, even his foray into a new kind of relationship with Esther, a fellow night student played by the winsome Julianne Moore. What isn't expected is how sublime the film's final chapter feels, almost as if the narrative itself splinters off into a new direction—with Jon's flowering maturity.

Such strange inconsistencies point to Don Jon's most glaring flaw. It's a poorly paced film, one as cinematically insecure as its lead character. But the beauty and honesty found in the ending suggests a filmmaker seeking a rhythm. Maybe Gordon-Levitt needed to get this story out of his system before graduating to a more substantial style. One can only hope, because his Don Jon is equally tiresome and appealing, the epitome of a young man lost in his own self-importance.


Don Jon: Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars in this coming-of-age story about a young New Jersey lothario addicted to the fantasy world of pornography. See our review on Page 33.

Enough Said: The latest slice of modern melodrama from director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give) features a mosaic of confused couples. Stars James Gandolfini in his last screen role.

The Facility: Seven strangers take part in a clinical trial for a new experimental drug, only to become inspired with uncontrollable murderous intentions. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas. 

Haute Cuisine: A fictional take on the story of Danièle Delpeuch, who was appointed as the private chef for François Mitterrand, the former president of France. Screens through Oct. 3 at the Ken Cinema.

I am Divine: The definitive biographical portrait of Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, who became a cinema icon in the controversial schlock films of John Waters. Screens Sept. 28 through Oct. 2 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

Inequality for All: Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich uses the documentary as platform to raise awareness of the country's widening economic gap.

On the Job: Corrupt officials in the Philippines use convicted prisoners to carry out public assassinations in order to cover their tracks in this high-octane thriller from director Erik Matti. Screens at AMC Plaza Bonita Cinemas in Chula Vista.

Out in the Dark: A Palestinian student falls in love with an Israeli lawyer in this topical gay drama from director Michael Mayer. Screens through Oct. 3 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Rush: Ron Howard's biopic about the bitter rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), who battled for track supremacy throughout the 1970s. See our review on Page 33.

Wadjda: In this first film shot completely in Saudi Arabia, an enterprising Saudi girl competes in her school's Koran-recitation contest to raise the remaining funds she needs for a green bicycle that has captured her interest. 

One time only

The Goonies: Me Chunk, you Sloth! Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

Ginger and Rosa: Two teenagers living in 1960s London attempt to transcend the looming menace of the Cuban Missile Crisis and retain some of their youth. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the Mission Valley Public Library.

The Girl: Abbie Cornish stars as a single mother who begins trafficking immigrants across the Texas / Mexico border in order to stave off economic ruin. Presented by San Diego Latino Film Festival's Que Viva! Cine Latino, it screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Otay Ranch Town Center. It'll also screen as part of Cine en el Parque at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

The Invisible War: Kirby Dick's scathing and devastating documentary uncovers the epidemic of rape that has long traumatized women in the military. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the Women's Museum of California in Point Loma's Liberty Station.

A Place at the Table: A documentary that seeks to find solutions for the hunger epidemic in America. Screens at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at Scripps Mercy Hospital. 

Showley Bros. Candy: A rare opportunity to see this industrial film from 1929 about the titular candy company. San Diego Culinary Institute and local candy makers will offer sweet treats to sample. Screens at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park. 

Batteries Not Included: On the precipice of being forced out of their apartment, elderly tenants look to mechanical beings to stave off eviction. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at The Lafayette Hotel in North Park.

The Matrix: Whoa! Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at Arclight La Jolla. 

The Maltese Falcon: Dashiell Hammet's classic pulp novel comes to life thanks to Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre and John Huston. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, through Saturday, Sept. 28, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.

The Neverending Story: Children of the 1980s, let Falcor take you on a wild ride back to your childhood. Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at Arclight La Jolla.

Chicken with Plums: A bitter musician must come to grips with his demons after breaking his prized violin. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks: Documentary about the creation of Julian Assange's controversial website that went on to reveal previously hidden information about the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the new Central Library, Downtown.

Now playing

A Single Shot: An experienced hunter (Sam Rockwell) accidentally kills a woman while poaching deer in the forest, setting off a string of events that will get him embroiled in a seedy criminal plot.

Los Amorosos: Daniel Martinez and Marimar Vega star as estranged lovers who reunite during a lyrical visit through the Chiapas region of Mexico. Screens through Sept. 26 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

Battle of the Year: Get your groove on with a bunch of fit young people competing for bragging rights in the ultimate dance competition.

Museum Hours: The Kunsthistorisches Art Museum in Vienna becomes the backdrop of a burgeoning friendship between a museum guard and Canadian woman visiting an estranged relative.

Prisoners: A desperate father (Hugh Jackman) takes the law into his own hands after his daughter disappears, despite the ongoing investigation by a dedicated police officer (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Salinger: An expansive and controversial look into the life of the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye

Thanks for Sharing: Romantic comedy about three friends who meet in a 12-step program for sex addicts. Awkwardness ensues. Stars Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Gwyneth Paltrow. 

You Will Be My Son: A father and son clash over the future of their prestigious vineyard in France.

The Family: Robert De Niro's career continues to plummet in this dark comedy about a New York City family of mobsters living in France under false identities. 

Insidious Chapter 2: More horrific and ghostly images from director James Wan, the devious auteur behind Saw, The Conjuring and, of course, Insidious

Populaire: This fluffy and sweet ode to 1950s comedies follows the roller-coaster relationship between a secretary and her handsome boss, both of whom become obsessed with a speed-typing competition. Ends Sept. 26 at the Ken Cinema.

Short Term 12: SDSU alum Dustin Cretton directs this award-winning film about the complex relationships populating a foster-care facility. Starring Brie Larson (The Spectacular Now) and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom).

Riddick: Vin Diesel returns as the titular criminal badass who must battle an alien race of predators and brutal mercenaries. 

Closed Circuit: Two British lawyers (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall) get caught up in a deadly terrorist plot that exposes the dangerous and pervasive power of the secret intelligence community. 

Instructions Not Included: A smarmy playboy (Eugenio Derbez) gets a rude awakening when an ex-flame drops off a baby at his doorstep, forcing him to become an unlikely father figure.

One Direction: This is Us: Go behind the scenes with the famous boy band from England as they embark on a worldwide tour, to the delight of thousands of screaming fans. 

Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation: The venerable edgy 'toon-fest has returned to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location with a 20th-anniversary show that runs through Nov. 23.

Austenland: A single, 30-something woman (Keri Russell) obsessed with Jane Austen sinks her life savings into a lavish English vacation to an Austen-themed manor hoping to find her Mr. Darcy.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Clary Fray (Lily Collins) finds out truths about her past and bloodline when her mom is attacked and taken from their home in New York City by a demon.  

The World's End: The creative team behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz return with this sci-fi comedy about a group of estranged childhood friends who reunite for an epic pub-crawl, only to find a menacing alien presence occupying their home town.

In a World…: Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars in this film about an underachieving vocal coach who makes a play at becoming a voiceover star, following in her famous father's footsteps. Ends Sept. 26 at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Jobs: The life and times of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher), from college dropout to one of the most respected and revered entrepreneurs of his time. 

Kick-Ass 2: Costumed heroes Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnston) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) are back fighting crime in this sure-to-be bloody sequel to the popular 2010 film. 

Lee Daniels' The Butler: Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) serves as a butler in the White House for seven consecutive presidents, witnessing shifts in civil rights and foreign policy from a fascinating vantage point. Ends Sept. 26 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.

The Spectacular Now: An alcoholic high-school senior (Miles Teller) romances an inexperienced fellow student (Shailene Woodley) and inadvertently falls in love. Ends Sept. 26 at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Elysium: After being diagnosed with a terminal disease, a factory worker (Matt Damon) attempts to infiltrate a manmade space habitat where the world's wealthy now live in permanent luxury. Directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9). 

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters: The titular son of Poseidon must embark on a quest to the Sea of Monsters in order to stop a rising tide of ancient evil. 

Planes: The kids will probably do flips for this animated Disney film about a crop-dusting plane who dreams of competing in a famous aerial race. 

We're the Millers: In order to sneak a huge Mexican weed shipment into the U.S., a veteran pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis) creates a fake family in hopes of bypassing authorities. Co-starring Jennifer Aniston.

2 Guns: Plenty of bullets will be spent in this action comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington as dueling law-enforcement officers trying to clear their names. 

Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen's latest comedy showcases the amazing Cate Blanchett as an entitled 1-percenter who experiences a harrowing fall from grace.

Smurfs 2: Another Smurfs movie, because why not? 

The Wolverine: Hugh Jackman reprises his iconic role as the immortal clawed X-Man battling a brutal band of Yakuza in modern Japan. 

The Conjuring: Ghosts and demons haunt a large suburban family who just moved into a rickety Rhode Island home with a dark past. It's directed by horror maestro James Wan (Insidious, Saw).

The Way, Way Back: A 14-year-old boy finds self-worth during a summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her combative new boyfriend (Steve Carell).

Despicable Me 2: Gru (Steve Carell) and his army of minions attempt to transcend their roles as villains and save the world in this sequel to the popular 2010 animated film. 

This is the End: It's the end of the world as we know it, and the Judd Apatow reunion tour feels just fine. Directed by Seth Rogen, this comedy apocalypse is sure to include multiple plumes of ganja smoke. 

Dolphins: This breathtaking IMAX adventure takes you under the surface of the ocean to witness the majestic world of the dolphin, from the Bahamas to the seas of Patagonia. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. 

Rocky Mountain Express: The IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center was recently overhauled. This latest entry takes viewers through the Canadian Rockies without leaving San Diego. 

Cosmic Collisions: So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels. 

Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is. 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.


See all events on Friday, Dec 9