Profundity is like catnip for Christopher Nolan. A master of merging vast visual statements and earnest verbal proclamations, the director of The Dark Knight Trilogy relishes the chance to create big-screen art that oozes with importance. He doesn't just make movies; he erects them like Greek statues for audiences to idolize.
Sometimes, as with Inception, the mixture of genre sensibilities and pertinent ideas helps diminish the grandiosity and insert a dash of genuine human emotion. But with Interstellar, Nolan ditches the leanness and meanness of his earlier efforts for a story that's about nothing less than the rebirth of the human spirit by way of science and innovation.
Massively intimate, Interstellar envisions a not-so-distant future where humanity faces a suffocating death at the hands of mass starvation. Crops are going extinct, leaving mankind rooted in a sea of dust and despair. Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot who's become a Midwest farmer (Matthew McConaughey), tries to salvage a life for his family, which includes his spitfire of a daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy). Bursting with plot, Interstellar swoops up its hero from his rural existence and plants him at the center of an aerospace plan to stave off human extinction by finding an alternative home planet in another galaxy, which is accessible only by way of a worm hole.
Co-starring Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain in sideline roles, Interstellar—which opens Friday, Nov. 7—vocalizes every one of its themes about love, time and fate through stilted dialogue. When stripped of this aggravating banter, the film is given momentary cause to breathe squarely through the gripping visuals and sobering sound design.
Still, in a universe this melodramatic and spun, such reserved moments of reflection rarely last for very long. In Nolan's version of space, everyone can hear you cry.
Awake: The Life of Yogananda: This documentary covers the life and influence of the famous spiritualist who brought Hindi practices to the west in the 1920s.
Big Hero 6: An inflatable robot develops a bond with a prodigy named Hiro, and the two band together and become high-tech heroes.
Camp X-Ray: Stationed at Guantanamo Bay, a soldier (Kristen Stewart) befriends a suspected terrorist (Peyman Moaadi) who's been imprisoned for eight years. Screens through Nov. 13 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Force Majeure: While on vacation in the French Alps, a Swedish family experiences a traumatic event that reveals the deep-seated emotions and frustrations that have long simmered under the surface.
The Green Prince: A Palestinian militant serving time in an Israeli prison is convinced to spy for the opposition. Screens through Nov. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Interstellar: Christopher Nolan's new science-fiction epic follows a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to find a new home for humanity.
Jessabelle: The titular character (Sarah Snook) returns to her Louisiana home after a horrific car accident and becomes tormented by a spirit that has no intention of letting her escape.
Low Down: A teenage girl (Elle Fanning) recounts the time she spent with her musician father (John Hawkes) in Hollywood during the mid-1970s. Screens through Nov. 13 at the Ken Cinema.
The Overnighters: In this documentary by Jesse Moss, a pastor in a North Dakota town reaches out to a group of oil workers with hopes of helping them face their demons.
San Diego Asian Film Festival: More than 150 films from around the world will screen at this 10-day event that also features parties and panels. Runs Nov. 6 through 15 at various venues. Get details at sdaff.org.
One time only
Zoolander: In this ridiculous comedy, Ben Stiller's clueless fashion designer is brainwashed to become an assassin. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Maleficent: Angelina Jolie's vengeful fairy curses an infant princess, then realizes the girl might be her troubled land's only salvation. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, through Saturday, Nov. 8, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Save the Waves Film Festival: Live music and international surf films will be presented, and proceeds will support coastal conservation. Starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at Bird's Surf Shed in Morena. Get details at savethewaves.org/filmfestival.
Barrio Film Fest: This socially conscious, two-day event celebrates films and perspectives related to the barrio experience. Runs Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and Sunday, Nov. 9, at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights. Get details at barrio
Merry Friggin' Christmas: In what looks like a rough final sendoff for Robin Williams, this comedy follows a conservative family that's forced to spend the holidays with a band of misfits. Screens at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Fatefully Findings: Paranormal powers, a magic mushroom and enough inane melodrama to please those hoping for a sequel to The Room. Screens at midnight on Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Ken Cinema.
Thelma & Louise: Two women (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon) escape the men in their lives and embark on a law-breaking adventure through the Southwest. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10, at Arclight La Jolla.
Cape Fear: Robert De Niro stalks and torments Nick Nolte's suburban family in Martin Scorsese's seedy remake of the original Robert Mitchum thriller. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Arclight La Jolla.
Beerfest: A group of lager enthusiasts drunkenly pursue the crown of beerfest champion against their European archrivals. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Before I Go to Sleep: Nicole Kidman stars as woman suffering from extreme amnesia who must start every day by piecing together her memory. Mark Strong and Colin Firth battle for her affection in this thriller by Rowan Joffe.
Citizenfour: Laura Poitras' documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden explores the abuses of national security in post-9/11 America.
Laggies: Lynn Shelton's new romantic comedy stars Keira Knightley as an overeducated and underemployed 20-something searching for meaning in a world where adulthood is relative.
The Mystery of Happiness: Argentine director Daniel Burman's new dramedy follows two lifelong business partners who come to a crossroads in their relationship. Screens through Nov. 6 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Mystery of the Nile: Traverse the glorious history and legacy of the ancient Egyptians in this IMAX adventure that takes you beyond the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Nightcrawler: This scathing and unsettling portrait of modern news television stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a vulture scouring the Los Angeles streets for gory events.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya: Master Studio Ghibli animator Isao Takahata adapts the famous Japanese folk tale about a young sprite who's born in a stalk of bamboo and grows up to confront the power dynamics of the emperor.
White Bird in a Blizzard: Shailene Woodley stars as a teenage girl whose life is thrown into a tailspin when her mother (Eva Green) disappears one day out of the blue. Ends Nov. 6 at the Ken Cinema.
Birdman: A burnt-out superhero actor (Michael Keaton) tries to mount a play on Broadway in order to prove his worth. It co-stars Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Andrea Riseborough.
Dear White People: Four black students must deal with the ramifications of an ill-conceived theme party that turns their Ivy League campus into a hotbed of racial controversy.
John Wick: After his dog is killed during a random break-in, a former hit man (Keanu Reeves) goes on the warpath looking for vengeance.
Ouija: Board game meet cinema.
St. Vincent: A misanthropic senior citizen (Bill Murray) befriends a young boy going through familial trouble, inevitably leading to redemption for all involved.
Fury: A surly tank commander (Brad Pitt) and his small crew fend off Nazis during the waning days of World War II.
The Best of Me: Former high-school sweethearts fall in love again after they reunite many years later while visiting their small hometown.
The Book of Life: This animated fantasy follows a young man who's torn between fulfilling his family duties and following his heart. It features the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum.
The Good Lie: Three refuges from Sudan travel to America hoping to find a better life but instead encounter a vastly different world with new and unique obstacles.
Whiplash: A sadistic music teacher tortures a young drummer at a posh New York City conservatory.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: A boy lives through a calamitous day, and the bad luck spreads to his other family members.
Dracula Untold: This will suck.
Kill the Messenger: An investigative reporter (Jeremy Renner) exposes the CIA's involvement in arming the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, only to find himself the victim of a smear campaign.
Pride: A newly minted LGBT group lends support to striking Welsh miners in this charming fish-out-of-water 1984-set dramedy from the United Kingdom.
The Judge: Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his childhood home to defend his embittered father (Robert Duvall), the town's judge, who's been accused of murder.
Annabelle: The creepy murderous doll from The Conjuring gets its own prequel.
Gone Girl: David Fincher adapts Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel with Ben Affleck in the lead as the suspicious husband whose beautiful wife (Rosamund Pike) suddenly goes missing.
Left Behind: Nicolas Cage does his best Kirk Cameron in this reimagining of the famous rapture novels from Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
The Boxtrolls: An evil exterminator threatens a community of cave-dwelling trash collectors who've raised a young, orphaned boy as their own.
The Equalizer: Denzel Washington takes names and kicks ass in this remake of the 1980s television show.
My Old Lady: Kevin Kline plays an American who inherits an apartment in Paris that houses a mysterious resident. It co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith.
The Maze Runner: In this science-fiction film, a community of boys tries to escape an elaborate maze after being kidnapped and having their minds erased.
This is Where I Leave You: Four grown siblings are forced to return home after their father passes away and states in his will that they must all live under the same roof for a week. It stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda.
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.
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.
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.