Aug. 26 2014 06:11 PM

New indie from Lenny Abrahamson tops our coverage of movies screening around town


"You're just going to have to go with this." Budding lyricist and young sad sack Jon (Domhall Gleeson) hears this disclaimer early in Frank, an aggressively eccentric and twee music film by director Lenny Abrahamson. After spending the first few scenes attempting to write a song inspired by the banality of his posh suburban surroundings, Jon accidentally happens upon a misfit rock band whose leader (the titular character, played by Michael Fassbender) wears a gigantic papier-mâché head.

Swept up by their wild and extreme methods, Jon becomes a permanent fixture with the group, which decides to record its next album at a secluded cabin in the mountains. Here, each character's oddball identity comes into focus, creating a frenetic space where outbursts are a normal sight. Maggie Gyllenhaal's Clara stands out as a particularly simplistic and angry femme, all piercing eyes and definitive rage but very little humanity.

Through this hodgepodge of warring personalities and dysfunction, Frank considers the complexity of mental illness, how it takes shape over time and contorts one's self from the inside out. Yet the lead character's obvious coping mechanism, essentially living life behind a mask of his own making, comes across as a one-note joke that gets overplayed almost immediately.

The movie—which opens Friday, Aug. 29, and screens through Sept. 4 at the Ken Cinema—really turns offensive when the band becomes a YouTube phenomenon and gets invited to the South by Southwest music festival. Here, Jon's out-of-left-field lust for fame and Frank's degenerating confidence create a maelstrom of melodrama for the world to see. This lame-duck finale outs the film as an awful fake, a desperate character study that self-importantly addresses a serious social issue by way of cloying irony and arrogance. 


As Above, So Below: Note to self: Don't venture into the underground catacombs of Paris. It's bad for one's health.

Frank: A fragile musician (Michael Fassbender) wearing a gigantic papier-mâché head leads an eccentric rock band all the way to the SXSW music festival, where all hell breaks loose. Screens through Sept. 4 at the Ken Cinema. 

Love is Strange: Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been a couple for nearly 40 years. But when George loses his job, the two are forced to separate and live with friends in cramped New York City apartments, forever altering their relationship. 

Manuscripts Don't Burn: Subversively shot in Iran, this drama centers on a desperate father who makes his living as a contract killer and a group of aging writers being harassed by the government. Screens through Sept. 4 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

The Dog: Documentary about John Wojtowicz, whose 1972 robbery of a Brooklyn bank inspired Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. Screens through Sept. 3 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

The November Man: Pierce Brosnan returns to super-spy duty, this time as a top CIA assassin facing off against his best protégé. Opens Wednesday, Aug. 27.

The Trip to Italy: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon gallivant around Italy, eating and yapping wise in Michael Winterbottom's new comedy.

War Story: Catherine Keener stars as a war correspondent who risks everything to rescue a young refugee from a battle-scarred country. Screens through Sept. 4 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

One time only

The Wizard of Oz: Young Kansan Dorothy (Judy Garland) learns a valuable lesson about the importance of home thanks to a short vacation in the fantasy land of Oz. Screens at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Arclight La Jolla. 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Jimmy Stewart's freshman senator storms the capitol and creates waves with the old-guard politicians. Screens at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Lemon Grove Public Library.

Nowhere Boy: Biopic about John Lennon's childhood and eventual partnership with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Mission Valley Library. 

Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks skewers the western in hilarious fashion, upending racial and social stereotypes through comedy. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

The Thomas Crown Affair: Pierce Brosnan does his best Steve McQueen in this classy remake of the 1968 classic heist film. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, on the outdoor patio at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.

The Big Lebowski: The Dude abides. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, through Sunday, Aug. 31, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.

Ghost in the Shell: Japanese anime doesn't get trippier than this hyper-real sci-fi film by Mamoru Oshii. Screens at midnight on Saturday, Aug. 30, at the Ken Cinema.

Locke: Tom Hardy brooding in a car for 90 minutes? Who doesn't want to see that? Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library. 

Rushmore: Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman) is the president of every club at school, but he's also the worst student. What gives? Wes Anderson's breakout comedy tries to find out. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, at The Pearl Hotel.

Now playing

2nd Annual Exitos del Cine Latino: San Diego Latino Film Festival and Media Arts Center San Diego present a mini film festival with 12 new movies from Argentina, Chile, Mexico and elsewhere. Ends Aug. 28 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

If I Stay: After a car accident, a young woman has an out-of-body experience that leads her to a life far different than she ever imagined. 

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar: Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary follows Dr. Patricia C. Wright's mission to help the endangered lemurs of Madagascar.

Ken Cinema Classics: Pivotal films from the 1960s and '70s. Ends Aug. 28, at the Ken Cinema.

Rich Hill: The real-life story of three boys growing up in impoverished Rich Hill, Missouri, trying to make ends meet on a daily basis. Ends Aug. 28, at the Ken Cinema.

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return with another noir mash-up about killers, corrupt politicians and gorgeous women.

When the Game Stands Tall: Jim Caviezel plays high-school football coach Bob Ladouceur, who took the De La Salle Spartans from obscurity to an amazing 151-game winning streak. 

Calvary: One day a troubled Irish priest (Brendan Gleeson) is threatened during confession, sending him into a downward spiral of sin and doubt. 

Expendables 3: The 1980s have officially reassembled for the third time to blow explosions into your face. 

Let's Be Cops: Two goofball friends posing as cops for a costume party get sucked into a night of debauchery and danger. 

The Giver: Lois Lowry's classic young-adult novel about a not-so-utopian future gets the big-screen adaptation starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. 

What If: Young people sit around and talk about love and friendship and wonder why nothing makes sense. It stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan.

The Hundred-Foot Journey: The proprietor of a famous French restaurant (Helen Mirren) clashes with the family running a new Indian eatery down the street. 

Into the Storm: An onslaught of unprecedented tornados touches down and causes havoc in the Midwest. Global warming is a real bitch. 

Step Up: All In: Get your grove on, again.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Watch out for Raphael. He's a party dude.  

Get on Up: The James Brown biopic we've all been waiting for from the director of The Help

Guardians of the Galaxy: American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his rowdy alien crew become objects of a manhunt after stealing a valuable orb that belongs to a diabolical space villain.

Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's latest cinematic confection follows an English debunker (Colin Firth) brought in to unmask a possible swindle involving a wacky astrologist (Emma Stone). 

Forces of Nature: See the Earth rumble, explode and spew in glorious IMAX. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

Back to the Moon For Good: Watch as teams from around the world compete to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which challenges engineers to land a robot on the moon. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

A Most Wanted Man: Director Anton Corbijn (The American) adapts John le Carré's famous novel about a web of spies operating in the shadowy confines of Hamburg, Germany.

Hercules: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson dons the sword, sandals and skimpy underwear to play the half-god at odds with his immortal brethren.

Lucy: Thanks to a drug-smuggling operation gone bad, Scarlet Johansson miraculously begins to use 100 percent of her brain and seeks revenge against the bad guys who put her on the spot. 

Boyhood: Richard Linklater's epic drama follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18, charting all the highs and lows in between.

Planes: Fire and Rescue: This sequel to the 2013 animated hit film finds lead race plane Dusty (Dane Cook) forced into working with a fire-and-rescue unit after his engine is damaged. 

The Purge: Anarchy: It's that time of year again to murder, murder, murder, all for the benefit of the good ol' United States of America. Let freedom ring.

Wish I Was Here: Zach Braff stars as a struggling actor attempting to overcome the avalanche of problems that face his family and parents. Ends Aug. 28 at Hillcrest Cinemas. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Ten years after a virus outbreak pitted apes against men, the two factions forge a fragile peace that's tested by fear and aggression. It's directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and stars Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis. 

Hidden Universe: Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. 

How to Train Your Dragon 2: Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless encounter new challenges while trying to bring their species together in harmony. 

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

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. 

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 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