April 15 2014 05:49 PM

Documentary about eccentric street photographer leads our rundown of movies screening around town

Finding Vivian Maier

The mystery of Vivian Maier begins with a discovery. Filmmaker John Maloof purchased a few boxes of her old negatives at auction and realized he'd stumbled upon the expansive work of a talented photographer. After Maloof printed some of the more accomplished pieces and published them on his photo blog, interest in Maier's work skyrocketed, inspiring him to further investigate her family and background.

Finding Vivian Maier is Maloof's attempt at a biographical portrait, tracing Maier's strange and eccentric life as a nanny for households across the country. All the while, she was shooting pictures, hundreds of thousands, in fact. The film breezes through the artistic merit of Maier's work, content to showcase the gorgeous photos as a banal slideshow. Maloof is far more drawn to the contradictory aspects of her life, including her odd use of a French accent, curmudgeon-like isolation and brutish façade. 

Equally tepid stylistically, the film is another example that subject alone cannot carry a documentary. Poorly framed talking-head interviews bounce off each other like pinballs, lazily shuffled around for maximum salaciousness. The sloppy editing further confuses the linear-timeline approach to telling Maier's story. What's lost is the woman herself, replaced by interpretations made by those who supposedly knew her best. 

By the end of Finding Vivian Maier—which opens Friday, April 18, at La Jolla Village Cinemas—we realize the title is an exercise in futility. Maier will remain an enigma as a person (if not less so as an artist) because Maloof wants it that way. His film is simply constructed to prolong the myth for the benefit of those eager to cash in on someone's posthumous fame. 


200 Cartas: An aspiring comic-book artist meets a beautiful woman at a New York City club, only to lose track of her after a bar fight ruins the night. Determined to find the love of his life, he flies to Puerto Rico. Screens through April 24 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

Afternoon of a Faun: Director Nancy Buirski's film is about Tanaquil Le Clercq, a celebrated ballerina who influenced all of the great modern dancers, including George Balanchine. 

Bears: Narrated by John C. Reilly, this nature documentary follows a family of Alaskan bears over a period of years. 

Dom Hemingway: The titular safe cracker, played by Jude Law, is released from prison after 12 years and sets out to reconnect with his estranged daughter and collect on old debts. 

Finding Vivian Maier: While working as a nanny, Vivian Maier took more than 100,000 photographs, which earned her a posthumous reputation as an accomplished street photographer. But her story goes much deeper than that. 

Gringo Trails: Documentary that explores the impact that tourism has had on regions as diverse as Thailand, Bolivia and Mali. Screens through April 23 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

Haunted House 2: Because humanity needed another sequel to a spoof of a sequel to a bad original film nobody needed. 

Heaven is for Real: Drama starring Greg Kinnear, whose young son dies on the operating table but is brought back to life. After waking up, the boy confesses to having been to Heaven, sharing his experience with those who are willing to listen. 

Kid Cannabis: A really smart and reasonable teenager drops out of high school to start a drug-trafficking business with his older burn-out friend. This has "success story" written all over it. 

Pacific Arts Movement's Spring Showcase: The series will showcase 11 new films from nine Asian countries, including opening-night feature To Be Takei. The fourth annual event will run Thursday, April 17, through Thursday, April 24, at UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas. 

The Railway Man: Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in this tense drama about a World War II vet who falls in love with a divorcée after meeting her on a train. In order to move forward, both must confront demons from their past and learn to forgive. 

Transcendence: After working as cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's Batman films and Inception, Wally Pfister makes his directing debut with this mind-bending sci-fi film about a terminally ill scientist (Johnny Depp) who uploads his mind to a computer after a terrorist attack leaves him in a coma.

Watermark: Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky (Manufactured Landscapes) travel the world and document our modern relationship with water, and they include major sequences set at the Hoover Dam and the River Ganges in India. Screens through April 24 at the Ken Cinema. Burtynsky will be on hand for the 2:30 and 4:45 p.m. screenings on Sunday, April 20.

One time only

Enough Said: James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus star in this straggly comedy about middle-aged characters attempting to find love in sun-drenched Los Angeles. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the Scripps Ranch Library. 

Superbad: Michael Cera and Jonah Hill made quite the splash in this teen comedy that also introduced the world to McLovin'. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. 

Qualche Nuvola: A young Roman couple's plans to marry are interrupted when a beautiful young woman comes into the picture. Presented by the San Diego Italian Film Festival, it screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. 

Philomena: Judi Dench plays an elderly woman who sets out to find her son, who was taken away by the British government decades before amid a forced-adoption program. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills. 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) take you on a wild ride through one of the most notorious late-night movies ever. Screens at midnight on Saturday, April 19, at the Ken Cinema.

Sopralluoghi in Palestina: Pier Paolo Pasolini's rare documentary explores the many contradictory elements facing Palestine in the 1960s. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 20, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village. 

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Edgar Wright's magnetic adaptation of the popular comic book stars Michael Cera as a young man hell-bent on wooing the woman of his dreams, no matter the physical harm or emotional embarrassment that comes with it. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library. 

Una Pistola en Cada Mano: Vignettes dealing with multiple characters and themes are woven together seamlessly in this witty drama from Spain starring Ricardo Darin and Luis Tosar. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at the Hall of Nations in Balboa Park. 

I Give it a Year: Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall play newlyweds who seem happy despite what their friends and family think of their relationship. As their first anniversary approaches, attractive alternatives threaten to prove their confidants right. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at the Mission Valley Library.

WALL-E: A kind and adventurous robot living amid the rubble of post-apocalyptic Earth meets an advanced droid and falls in love, then embarks on a journey to save the human race. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

Chasing Ice: Jeff Orlowski's documentary is about photographer James Balog's use of time-lapse cameras to document the melting of polar ice caps. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at the Women's Museum of California in Point Loma's Liberty Station. 

Now playing

Grand Canyon Adventure: A team of explorers embarks on a journey through the majestic natural wonder, looking for solutions to the environmental concerns plaguing the arid region. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

Alan Partridge: Steven Coogan brings his smarmy, egomaniacal BBC radio host to the big screen in this farcical satire by director Declan Lowney.

Draft Day: Kevin Costner plays the general manager for an NFL team looking to score big on a young player in the latest draft. Somewhere, drama will be created out of thin air. 

Joe: A strange and beguiling Southern gothic starring Nicolas Cage as a broken man out to befriend and help a teenage drifter whose drunken father poses an imminent threat to his safety. 

The Raid 2: After surviving the carnage in 2012's The Raid, a Filipino police officer named Rama goes undercover to take down the crime bosses responsible for the city's rampant corruption. 

So Right, So Smart: Documentary, narrated by Darryl Hannah, about the sustainability crisis and how it relates to corporate reform and environmental activism. Ends April 16 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Tercera llamada: A theater group attempting to put on a big-budget production of Caligula teeters on the brink of madness as rehearsals descend into chaos. Ends April 17 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Under the Skin: In Jonathan Glazer's sci-fi art film, Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious being that descends to Earth and begins wreaking havoc with lonely men.

The Unknown Known: Errol Morris offers an in-depth and scathing look at former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld through a series of personal interviews with the man himself. 

Breathe In: A young foreign-exchange student moves in with a family in upstate New York and complicates their lives. It stars Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce.  

Captain America: Winter Soldier: Chris Evans reprises his role as the patriotic avenger who must now battle a mysterious super soldier who's threatening to destroy Washington, D.C.

Jodorowsky's Dune: Documentary looks back on filmmaker's Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed attempt to bring Frank Herbert's sci-fi novel Dune to the big screen. Ends April 17 at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Nymphomaniac: Volume II: The second chapter of Lars von Trier's controversial character study about a self-professed nymphomaniac named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who tells her sordid story to a stranger. Ends April 17 at the Ken Cinema.

Teenage: Documentary by director Matt Wolf that uses filmed portraits, archival footage and voice-over to explore the evolution of the modern teenager. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas. 

Cesar Chavez: The first narrative film to dramatize Cesar Chavez's attempts to unify farm workers in California's central valley in the 1960s. It's directed by Diego Luna and stars Michael Peña.

Enemy: A lonely college professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Toronto discovers that he has a double, and then becomes obsessed with finding out why.

Noah: Darren Aronofsky's long-gestating epic about the titular biblical figure (Russell Crowe) and his epic quest to build an ark and save the world's species from a worldwide flood. 

On My Way: Catherine Deneuve plays Bettie, a former beauty queen whose struggling restaurant is about to fold. During a weekend road trip, she finds herself contemplating her life decisions and finding peace with their outcomes. Ends April 17 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.

Sabotage: Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a brutal DEA unit tasked with taking down the worst offenders. When members of the team start dying, all signs point to a Mexican cartel. 

Bad Words: A former spelling-bee loser (Jason Bateman, who also directs) decides to find a loophole in the competition rules and participate as an adult.

Divergent: The future is a world divided into factions based on tested virtues. A young woman (Shailene Woodley) threatens to topple this rigorous framework when she's deemed "divergent"—an outsider who must be disappeared. 

The Lunchbox: In Mumbai, thousands of lunchboxes are delivered every day, thanks to a famously efficient service run by couriers. When one of these orders is delivered to the wrong address, the mistake inadvertently connects an aging businessman and an unhappy housewife.

Muppets Most Wanted: Miss Piggy, Kermit and the rest of the Muppets gang find themselves embroiled in a European jewel heist. It co-stars humans like Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell. 

Nymphomaniac: Volume 1: The first part of Danish auteur Lars von Trier's epic about a self-professed sex addict (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who recalls her origins in the apartment of a stranger (Stellan Skarsgård) while recuperating from a brutal beating. Ends April 17 at the Ken Cinema.

Le Week-End: An elderly British couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) come to grips with their crumbling marriage while spending a weekend in Paris. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in director Wes Anderson's latest film, which takes place inside an elaborate European hotel populated by eccentric characters.

The Face of Love: Ed Harris and Annette Bening star in a drama about a woman who falls in love with a man who bears a striking resemblance to her late husband. Ends April 10 at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Need for Speed: Based on the popular video game, this action film follows an ex-convict (Aaron Paul) street racer who vows to catch the man who set him up years before.

300: Rise of an Empire: More Spartan chest thumping and skewering, this time in retaliation for the fallen soldiers featured in Zach Snyder's 2006 gore-fest. 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman: Animated adventure about a father and son who invent a time machine, travel back to witness famous historical events and then find themselves racing to repair the past and save the future.

Non-Stop: Liam Neeson's seasoned air marshal deals with a series of mysterious threats aboard a transatlantic flight.

Son of God: Jesus, another biopic. 

The Wind Rises: Reportedly director Hayao Miyazaki's final film, this glorious animated biopic about Jiro Horokoshi examines one man's perilous tunnel vision as he designs war planes for the Japanese government during World War II.

Journey to the South Pacific: Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

The Lego Movie: That movie adaptation based on a classic toy set you knew was always coming but didn't think would actually get made. Well, it did, and it's here.

The Monuments Men: A museum art historian (George Clooney) recruits a platoon of unlikely soldiers to rescue art masterpieces from the Nazis. Co-stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman.

Ride Along: Has Kevin Hart fatigue set in yet? The pervasive comedian stars in this action comedy with Ice Cube playing an angry cop and his future brother-in-law out to test his masculinity. 

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. 

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 2