In many ways the spring- and summer-movie seasons are preferable to the mind-numbing conformity of the Oscar blitzkrieg that kicks into full gear around this time of year. During the hotter months, you'll find mainstream films with a pulse; Pompeii, Edge of Tomorrow and Lucy are all excellent recent examples. Each has more energy and spark in one frame than The Theory of Everything contains in its entire running time.
One of the frontrunners for multiple Academy Award nominations, the new biopic about genius cosmologist and physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his conflicted relationship with wife Jane (Felicity Jones) reeks of banality. It's so stylistically safe and toothless that one must question why it exists at all, other than to provide a tasty opportunity for audiences to get hooked by Oscar bait.
Directed by James Marsh, a filmmaker of great skill who seems to be operating on autopilot here, The Theory of Everything—which opens Friday, Nov. 14—attempts to dramatize Hawking's early days at Cambridge in the 1960s, where he and Jane fall in love. The narrative often hinges on the melodrama of their romance and impending marriage, something that's complicated when Hawking is diagnosed with motor-neuron disease. Hawking's profound genius as a scientist and thinker grappling with the contradictions of time and energy is only referred to in passing.
Such a calculated sidestep wouldn't be egregious if the material that replaced it weren't so dour. Redmayne, whose performance borders on mimicry, can't break free of the inert script written by Anthony McCarten. Jones does her best to transcend the simplicity of her role as a dutiful housewife turned sour by circumstance. Still, neither actor can save this blasé television movie posing as serious art.
Beyond the Lights: On the brink of superstardom, a talented young musician struggles with the pressure of the public limelight.
Dumb and Dumber To: In this sequel to the 1994 hit comedy, walking morons Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) return to the big screen to grace us with their idiocy.
Pelican Dreams: Documentary filmmaker Judy Irving follows the journey of a pelican that was placed in a rehab facility after being rescued on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Rosewater: Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a journalist who becomes imprisoned after filming the aftermath of the 2009 elections in Iran. It's directed by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.
The Liberator: Simon Bolivar (Edgar Ramirez) fights countless battles against the Spanish Empire in South America. Screens through Nov. 20 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Theory of Everything: Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is diagnosed with motor-neuron disease just as he's graduating with a doctorate degree in physics from Cambridge and starting a new life with his wife (Felicity Jones).
The Way He Looks: A blind teenager living in Brazil searches for his independence with the help of his best friend. Screens through Nov. 20 at the Ken Cinema.
One time only
Cape Fear: Robert De Niro stalks and torments Nick Nolte's suburban family in a seedy remake of the original Robert Mitchum thriller. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Arclight La Jolla.
Safety Not Guaranteed: A cynical journalist is inspired when he reads an ad asking for a time-traveling companion, leading him on a journey that opens up a world of possibility. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Balboa Park: The Magic City: Director Jack Ofield's 1995 documentary about one of the world's great urban parks, from its creation to current form. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the Lemon Grove Library.
Beerfest: Lager enthusiasts drunkenly pursue the crown of beerfest champion in a contest against their European archrivals. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
San Diego Fall Film Festival: This inaugural event will showcase more than eight hours of short films, music videos and mini-documentaries, all made by San Diego filmmakers. Starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, and runs through Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Begin Again: A struggling talent agent (Mark Ruffalo) finds hope in the music of an aspiring folk singer (Keira Knightley). Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, through Saturday, Nov. 8, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
SIGGRAPH 2014 Computer Animation Festival: Experience the world's most innovative, accomplished and amazing digital film and computer animations. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
La Ciudad: The lives of four Hispanic immigrants intersect while they try to start fresh in New York City. Screens at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Jurassic Park: The tyrannosaurus rex in the mirror is closer than it appears. Screens at midnight on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Ken Cinema.
Out of Sight: Jennifer Lopez is the twinkle in George Clooney's eye in this wonderful crime caper from Steven Soderbergh. Screens at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, at Arclight La Jolla.
Life of Crime: Jennifer Aniston stars in this black comedy written by the great noir master Elmore Leonard. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Shanghai Kiss: An starving actor living in Los Angeles struggles to embrace his Eastern roots. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Volver: Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura are haunting in Pedro Almodovar's sprightly ghost story about a family forever haunted by unrequited love. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Monk with a Camera: This documentary follows the life of a privileged American named Nicolas Vreeland who walked away from his life to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
In Secret: Elizabeth Olson's despairing Parisian housewife breaks free from a loveless marriage when she meets her husband's alluring friend. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
Pearl Peeps Viewer's Choice: The lady in charge is giving you, the viewer, the ultimate privilege of choosing the movie. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
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. Ends 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. Ends 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.
Low Down: A teenage girl (Elle Fanning) recounts the time she spent with her musician father (John Hawkes) in Hollywood during the mid-1970s. Ends Nov. 13 at the Ken Cinema.
The Overnighters: In this doc 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 through 15 at various venues. Get details at sdaff.org.
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. Ends Nov. 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
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.
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. Ends Nov. 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
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.
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.
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.