John Sayles became a major director, in my mind, during 11th-grade U.S. history class. After a viewing of 1987's Matewan, a riveting account of a West Virginia coal strike in 1920 that led to a bloody battle between townspeople and Pinkerton agents, I was immediately fascinated by Sayles' deep respect for community, region and the relationship between the two. His subtle directing style and carefully developed characterizations also stood out.
Look at the entire Sayles canon and you'll see that he's spent the last three decades exploring different areas of the United States and Latin America with this same focused understanding of sociology, character and political subtext. But none of his films feel quite like Go for Sisters, the director's new effort, which opens Friday, Nov. 29, at the Ken Cinema and screens for only one week.
After 2010's Amigo, an ambitious but ultimately compromised historical drama set during the Philippine-American War, Go for Sisters feels perfectly streamlined.
Essentially a road film, it begins with Los Angeles parole officer Bernice (LisaGay Hamilton) enlisting an estranged old friend and convict named Fontayne (Yolanda Ross) to help locate her missing son, who may have been kidnapped in Tijuana. With the aid of an ex-federale (Edward James Olmos), the two women dive down the criminal rabbit hole south of the border.
But Sayles sees their search as an opportunity to explore old wounds, judgments and resentments. The interactions between Bernice and Fontayne are littered with frayed emotional nerves that pack a wallop.
Go for Sisters is, above all, a story of missing persons, and not just in the physical sense. Each character is trying to find something, be it a sense of purpose, identity or family. As always, Sayles provides a panorama of cultures and perspectives for these diverse spirits to discover proper redemption.
Black Nativity: Angela Basset and Forest Whitaker lead this ensemble dramedy, directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou), about a young man who visits his estranged relatives for the holidays, only to discover a newfound sense of family and inspiration. It opens Wednesday, Nov. 27.
The Book Thief: A young girl faced with the horrors of Nazi Germany steals books as an act of defiance and begins sharing them with Jewish refugees. Markus Zusak's best-selling novel comes to the big screen in this adaptation starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. Opens Wednesday, Nov. 27, at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Go for Sisters: In John Sayles' latest character piece, a Los Angeles parole officer leans on an estranged convict friend to help find her kidnapped son south of the border. Screens for one week only at the Ken Cinema.
Homefront: Jason Statham plays a former DEA agent who retires to a backwoods town only to find more trouble in the form of a country gangster (James Franco!) looking to protect his drug operations.
JFK: The American Betrayal: Another documentary about the JFK assassination, claiming the president was taking part in peace talks with Russia and Cuba before his death. Conspiracy theorists rejoice. Screens through Dec. 4 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Nebraska: Aged retiree Woody (Bruce Dern) is determined to collect his winnings after receiving a phony sweepstakes letter, eventually dragging his reluctant son (Will Forte) on a road trip that'll change both of their lives. Alexander Payne's latest is a melancholic ode to family and the Midwest.
Oldboy: Spike Lee's remake of the brutal Korean revenge saga stars Josh Brolin as a man imprisoned for 20 years by an unknown captor, only to be suddenly released without explanation and taunted by a madman.
Philomena: Comedian Steve Coogan takes on a more serious role as a cynical journalist who ends up helping an elderly woman (Judi Dench) search for her long lost son. Oscar nominations are a certainty.
Tlateloco, Verano del 68: Two teenagers from the opposite sides of the track find romance during student protests in Mexico City in 1968. Screens through Dec. 5 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One Time Only
Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride: The renowned sports filmmaker's 64th directing effort starts the snowboarding season with a collage of extreme footage featuring three gold medalists. Screens at 6 and 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas and 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location.
Star Trek: Into Darkness: Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the Enterprise crew find themselves under attack from a new, more powerful villain played to perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Based on the popular graphic novel, Edgar Wright's love letter to video gaming and young heartbreak is a kinetic dynamo mashing style and character in fascinating ways. Screens at midnight on Saturday, Nov. 30, at Ken Cinema.
Hello I Must Be Going: Recently divorced and holed up in her parents' sleek suburban home, Amy (Melanie Lynskey) begins an affair with a younger man that takes her down a rough-and-tumble road toward rejuvenation. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
The Imposter: A homeless man discovered in Spain claims to be the kidnapped son of a Texas family that's swimming in secrets. This documentary is not what it seems. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.
9 to 5: In this classic 1980s feminist comedy, three women (Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) working in dead-end corporate jobs decide to take revenge on their chauvinistic boss (Dabney Coleman). Presented by FilmOut, it screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Sugar: Independent drama about a young girl coping with the psychological effects of PTSD on the streets of Venice, Calif. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Die Hard: The best Christmas film ever made. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
A Case of You: Justin Long plays a lovable writer with insecurity issues who creates a fabricated online profile to win the heart of Evan Rachel Wood's adorable barista. Ends Nov. 28 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Broken Circle Breakdown: A Belgian couple is torn apart by loss and connected by passion for bluegrass music.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself once again fighting to survive the titular death match that has become a necessary evil in the dystopic future.
Delivery Man: Vince Vaughn's man-child finds out he has fathered 533 children after donating to a sperm bank for decades. Hollywood at its finest.
Blue is the Warmest Color: A high-school student discovering her burgeoning sexuality falls for a blue-haired art student in this French epic that won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
The Armstrong Lie: Filmmaker Alex Gibney traces the downfall of cyclist Lance Armstrong, who had his seven Tour de France titles stripped after it was revealed that he'd been using illegal substances to boost performance.
The Best Man Holiday: A collection of college friends reunite for the holidays after 15 years, revealing a host of grudges and romantic intentions that have been simmering under the surface for years.
Dallas Buyers Club: In 1985, a drunken rodeo clown Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughy) learns he has HIV. Seeing an opportunity to stave off his own death and make some money, he begins smuggling unapproved drugs in from Mexico.
Mysteries of the Unseen World: This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Thor: The Dark World: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) once again brings the hammer down on Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in order to save the human race and sustain the fragile balance of his own kingdom.
12 Years a Slave: Abducted and forced to work on a Southern plantation, free man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejifor) experiences the horrors of slavery in Steve McQueen's stirring period-piece drama.
About Time: In Richard Curtis' (Love Actually) charming modern fable co-starring Rachel McAdams, a young man discovers he can travel through time and seeks to use his power to find his soul mate.
Ender's Game: Orson Scott Card's classic sci-fi novel about a young pilot fending off an alien threat finally gets adapted for the big screen, surely angering fans everywhere. Harrison Ford co-stars as a growling general.
Free Birds: This animated film follows two combative turkeys (voiced by Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson) as they try to get the gobbler off the holiday menu by traveling back in time.
Last Vegas: A foursome of aging Oscar-winning actors (Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Robert De Niro) play seniors who head to Las Vegas for one final hurrah of debauchery and camaraderie.
All is Lost: A nameless Man (Robert Redford) battles extreme weather and technology failure to keep his small sailboat afloat in this thrilling tale of survival from director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call).
The Counselor: Director Ridley Scott brings esteemed author Cormac McCarthy's first feature screenplay to life. The story centers on a corrupt lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets in deep with a drug kingpin (Brad Pitt).
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa: After grossing out America in 3-D, Johnny Knoxville gives his grumpy, ill-mannered, senior-citizen sketch character a feature-film platform.
Captain Phillips: Based on actual events, this thriller by director Paul Greengrass tells the story of the container ship Maersk Alabama and its leader, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), who was kidnapped by Somali pirates during a voyage in 2009.
Deep Sea: A glorious ocean exploration with Del Mar's own veteran underwater filmmakers and explorers, Howard and Michele Hall. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Gravity: Sandra Bullock plays a marooned astronaut struggling to survive an epic space disaster in Alfonso Cuarón's breathless adventure film.
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.
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.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.