May 28 2014 03:05 PM

Texas noir by Jim Mickle tops our coverage of movies screening around town

Cold in July

Jim Mickle's Cold in July lives at the dusty crossroads between film noir and crime drama. It's a sweaty morality tale about a regular guy who chooses violence during a split-second standoff to protect his family, a decision that leads him down a dark and sometimes hazy path seeking redemption.

The incident comes immediately: Middle-class homeowner Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) wakes up in the middle of the night to find a burglar slinking through his living room. One pull of the trigger and the intruder is wearing a bullet wound for a headdress, making Richard the talk of his small Texas town. Soon, the victim's ex-con father (Sam Shepherd) begins making threats against his family, insinuating that another showdown is imminent. 

From here, Cold in July takes a wacky right turn, a shift that sends Richard toward pockets of narrative quicksand that become increasingly convoluted. It also creates an unwanted deviation in tone—what starts as a tight, suspenseful potboiler blooms into a full-fledged exploitation movie, often to its own detriment. Nuanced performances by Hall and Don Johnson, as a flashy private investigator, are eventually overwhelmed by the insane plot twists. 

After exploring the subversive aspects of horror in Stake Land and We Are What We Are, two very different films about fringe communities with appetites for seedy things, Mickle shifts his focus to patriarchy with Cold in July. Richard's flaws speak volumes about Mickle's intention: The character self-righteously moves away from his responsibilities as a father after growing more infatuated with clearing his name.

But Cold in July—which runs for one week starting Friday, May 30, at the Ken Cinema—is ultimately too messy and hackneyed to make a convincing statement about any of its themes. Instead, itís an enjoyable genre diversion with plenty of teeth but too little brains, at least the kind that arenít splattered on the wall. 


A Million Ways to Die in the West: Seth MacFarlane's follow-up to Ted is a star-studded satire that lays waste to the classic Western. There are sure to be a few penis jokes.

Cold in July: A middle-class homeowner (Michael C. Hall) kills a burglar during a home invasion, only to have his life turned upside down as a result. See our review on Page 22.

The Hornet's Nest: Using real combat footage, this immersive war film experiences some of Afghanistan's most hostile valleys through the eyes of the soldiers fighting against Taliban insurgents. 

Ida: Anna, 18, is about to become a nun in 1960s Poland. But a family secret dating back to the days of Nazi occupation threatens her faith. It's directed by acclaimed filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski. 

Maleficent: Angelina Jolie stars as the infamous sorceress who sets her sights on the nubile young Princess Aurora in this big-budget reboot of Sleeping Beauty

Next Goal Wins: After suffering a devastatingly one-sided defeat at the hands of Australia in 2001, the American Samoa soccer team attempts to make a comeback and qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Screens through June 4 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

Palo Alto: In Gia Coppola's debut film, disaffected teens living in the titular Bay Area community grapple with social alienation and sexual confusion on the eve of graduation. See our review on Page 22.

Por las Plumas: A deadpan comedy from Costa Rica about a security guard who develops a strange, endearing friendship with a rooster. Screens through June 5 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

One time only

The Hedgehog: Fed up with life, a precocious 11-year-old decides to kill herself on her 12th birthday. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, at the Mission Valley Library. 

Babies: Documentary that looks at one year in the life of four babies from different backgrounds. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, at the Women's Museum in Point Loma's Liberty Station.

Leon: The Professional: Jean Reno plays a master hit man who befriends a young girl after her family is murdered by his bosses. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, at Arclight La Jolla.

Dazed and Confused: On the last day of school in 1976 in rural Texas, teenagers go on a wild night of drinking and sexual promiscuity. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

The Philadelphia Story: George Cukor's classic Hollywood farce stars Kathryn Hepburn as a rich woman who learns a lot about herself after two unexpected guests show up the night before her marriage. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, May 29 and 30, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills. 

San Diego LGBT Film Festival: A festival that celebrates the best of LGBT cinema, including San Diego premieres of narrative, documentary and short films with themes of social equality and gender awareness. Screens May 30 through June 1 at the North Park Theatre.

Chinatown: A disgraced private detective (Jack Nicholson) sinks his teeth into a murder case that reveals a wider government conspiracy involving water rights in 1930s Los Angeles. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 31 and June 1, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills. 

Labor Day: Josh Brolin's escaped convict takes a suburban mother and her son hostage over the holiday weekend. They bake pies and fall in love. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library. 

Jaws: A killer shark has a real territory complex that threatens to devastate a beach town on the eve of the Fourth of July weekend. The movie that invented the summer blockbuster gets the big-screen treatment. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, at Arclight La Jolla. 

Almost Famous: Young music journalists beware: Don't make friends with the rock stars. Cameron Crowe's masterpiece stars Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit and Billy Crudup. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

Now playing

Anita: This investigative documentary tells the story of Anita Hill, the young lawyer who accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual misconduct. Ends May 28 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Blended: Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore try to rekindle their box-office magic with this fish-out-of-water comedy about dumb Americans causing havoc while on vacation in Africa. 

Fed Up: This documentary addresses America's obsession with food and how our obesity epidemic originated from corporate misconduct. 

The Immigrant: A Polish emigre (Marion Cotillard) arriving at Ellis Island is separated from her sickly sister and must trust a shady theater owner (Joaquin Phoenix) in order to get on her feet in early-20th-century New York City. .

In Bloom: Two teenagers growing up in the Eastern European country of Georgia come to grips with cultural and social contradictions regarding gender roles and sexuality. Ends May 29 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

X-Men: Days of Future Past: The latest installment of the popular Marvel franchise finds Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) going back in time to recruit his colleagues' younger selves in order to save mankind from the evil Sentinels. 

Young and Beautiful: A gorgeous young Parisian woman decides to become a prostitute despite her financial privilege. Ends May 29 at the Ken Cinema.

Belle: An illegitimate, mixed-race daughter (of a Navy admiral) being raised by aristocrats finds herself in a precarious social position in Victorian England. 

Chef: Jon Favreau returns to comedy filmmaking with this story of a well-respected chef who opens a food truck after being fired by a posh restaurateur. 

The Double: Jesse Eisenberg plays a government clerk whose already-failing confidence is shattered when his exact physical double starts working in the same office. Ends May 29 at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Godzilla: The gigantic mutant lizard is back and bigger than ever, ready to decimate a city near you. 

Million Dollar Arm: On a mission to find the next baseball phenom in the unlikeliest of places, a sports agent (Jon Hamm) travels to India in hopes of convincing talented cricket players to play American baseball. 

The German Doctor: A family traveling through Patagonia, Argentina, happens upon a mysterious German doctor hell-bent on continuing his radical experiments left over from World War II. 

Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns: Hollywood goes back to the well with this animated sequel to the classic Wizard of Oz, finding Dorothy whisked back to the magical land in order to save her friends from a new villain.

Locke: Set entirely in a car, this thriller follows Ivan Locke's (Tom Hardy) downward spiral after he receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will change his life forever. Ends May 29 at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Moms' Night Out: Sure to be advancement for modern feminism, this comedy follows a series of mothers who leave their clumsy husbands and rowdy children behind for a night out on the town. 

Neighbors: A newly relocated couple can't enjoy their beautiful new residence after a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Every homeowner's worst nightmare comes true.

Amazing Caves: From the Grand Canyon to the coastal waters off the Caribbean, spelunk into the world's deepest and darkest caves in this mesmerizing IMAX journey that spans the globe. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. 

The Amazing Spiderman 2: Andrew Garfield returns as the high-flying web slinger to battle an assortment of new villains (Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx) while trying to save New York City and his beloved Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) from imminent destruction. 

Fading Gigolo: A failed bookstore owner (Woody Allen) convinces his blue-collar friend (John Turturro) to start sleeping with wealthy women for money. Nothing could go wrong with this idea, right?

The Other Woman: Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned. In this case three women—Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton—bound together by one cheating bastard. 

Walking with the Enemy: In Hungary during the final months of World War II, a young man steals a Nazi uniform and begins a long search for his missing family. It's directed by Mark Schmidt, founder of San Diego-based Liberty Studios. 

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

A 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. 

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. Ends May 29 at La Jolla Village Cinemas. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Wednesday, Dec 7