Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night gets right down to business. The world is fucked, especially for the citizens of Bad City, a town that may or may not be caught in the middle of a dystopic Iran. Every person who roams the abandoned streets seems to be caught in a haze between addiction and lust. A mass grave resides under the bridge on the outskirts of their ghost town. Class division is in full effect, but no one seems to care.
Low-level washout Arash (Arash Marandi) takes care of his drug-addled father, who owes money to a freewheeling dealer named Saeed (Dominic Rains). Their lives are upturned when a mysterious unnamed Nosferatu (Sheila Vand) appears, wearing traditional garb, stalking misbehaving males who've taken advantage of their privileged place in society. Jugulars get slashed and veins are drained.
Shot in striking black-and-white, Amirpour's eccentric vampire western unfolds entirely in Persian. This stands in contrast to many of the English-language musical references and American pop-culture imagery that play crucial roles. When we first see Arash, he's standing on the corner in denim jeans and a white T-shirt, as if he were appearing in a Calvin Klein commercial directed by Jim Jarmusch. It seems here all of the world's cultures have collided.
Amirpour develops a unique perspective on the volatility of relationships. Much of the plot revolves around the interactions between Arash and his undead love interest, a character Vand inhabits with a sense of melancholy. Their courtship often hinges on unspoken compromises, a pleasurable development thanks to the actors' ability to convey a range of emotions sans dialogue. The patriarchal society that surrounds them spews propaganda at every turn, but somehow they persevere.
Amirpour's debut film, which opens Friday, Feb. 13, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas, depicts feminism and equal rights as an instinct rather than a cause. For that, it's pretty remarkable.
A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night: Set in the dystopic town of Bad City, a young vampire tries to find solace in the arms of a drug dealer. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas. See our review on Page 30.
Boy Meets Girl: A trio of young adults living in Kentucky tries to reconcile extreme feelings for each other. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Fifty Shades of Grey: The perfect Valentine's Day present for your masochistic significant other.
Humpback Whales: Experience the awe-inspiring and diverse world of the humpback whale, which 50 years ago was on the verge of extinction. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Kingsman: The Secret Service: Colin Firth leads a team of British secret agents against a maniacal bad guy played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Red Army: Documentary about the Soviet Union's famed Red Army hockey team, as seen through the eyes of the squad's leader.
The Duke of Burgundy: Two lovers try to reconcile the sadomasochistic habits that might push their relationship into the void. See our review on Page 30.
White Rabbit: When a bullied teenager begins having visions of a white rabbit that he killed when he was a teenager, bad things start to happen at his school. Screens through Feb. 17 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One time only
Ghost: The Swayze strikes at Demi Moore's heart from beyond the grave as Whoopi Goldberg provides mystical support. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, at Arclight La Jolla.
Sixteen Candles: John Hughes' classic teenage film revolves around a pivotal birthday party that goes terribly wrong. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Garibaldi's Lovers: When a struggling artist falls in love with a widowed, working-class father, she must convince his children that she's for real. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
Bonnie and Clyde: Warren Beauty and Faye Dunaway star in Arthur Penn's classic film about a young couple who embark on a brutal crime spree in the late 1930s. Screens at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 at The Headquarters (789 W. Harbor Drive).
Laggies: Keira Knightley plays a woman who experiences a life crisis when her boyfriend proposes, drawing the attention of a teenager who lives with her world-weary single dad. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Ramona: A love story unfolds between a tribal chief and a beautiful, mixed-race foster child in this silent film set in Southern California post-Mexican-American war. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15, at the Adobe Chapel in Old Town.
Jerry Maguire: "Who's coming with me?" Screens at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 16, at Arclight La Jolla.
My Old Lady: A bitter story of inheritance turns fuzzy when Kevin Kline encounters the charms of Kristin Scott Thomas. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17, at Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Postcards From Fair: Jack Ofield's documentary about the 1935-36 Balboa Park exposition uses vintage photographs and eyewitness accounts to tell its story. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at Lemon Grove Library.
An Officer and a Gentleman: Nobody messes with Louis Gossett Jr., not even young hot shot Richard Gere. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at Arclight La Jolla.
The Kings Surrender: When two police offers are killed during an operation gone wrong, S.W.A.T. team members take to the streets to exact revenge on the gangs responsible. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Polyester: A distraught housewife (Divine) with a philandering husband and lewd children finds hope of a new life when she encounters a hunky art-theater manager played by Tab Hunter. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Dirty Dancing: Does it get any sexier than The Swayze and Jennifer Grey getting down to hot dance music? We think not. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Jupiter Ascending: Have you ever hoped to experience Channing Tatum in full eye shadow and Mila Kunis as a world-saving goddess? Andy and Lana Wachowski's long-delayed sci-fi opus will be your chance.
Match: Patrick Stewart stars in this tense drama about a Julliard professor who's interviewed by a woman who's researching the history of dance. Ends Feb. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
National Gallery: Frederick Wiseman's sweeping documentary about London's famous art museum is both a probing procedural and an illuminating exploration of the creative process. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
San Diego Jewish Film Festival: Narrative features, documentaries, short films and panel discussions, each addressing the shifting identities and perspectives of Jewish communities in the United States and abroad. Runs through Feb. 15 at various theaters.
Seventh Son: Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore team up in the craziest sequel to The Big Lebowski that you could possibly imagine.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of the Water: "Making waves in our world." That tagline says it all, really.
Still Alice: Columbia University professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and must come to grips with her own fading memory and mortality.
El Verano de los Peces Voladores: On vacation with her father in Chile, Manena realizes he's obsessed with killing the carp in his artificial lagoon, angering the local Mapuche tribe. Ends Feb. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Black or White: Kevin Costner plays a grieving widower who's caught up in a custody battle for his granddaughter. It costars Octavia Spencer and Gillian Jacobs.
Black Sea: Jude Law plays the commander of a submarine tasked with retrieving a load of stolen gold from the bottom of the ocean.
The Loft: Infidelity turns to murder in this thriller involving five men who decide to secretly share a loft to carry out trysts unbeknownst to their significant others. Karl Urban and James Marsden costar.
Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Animation: The nominees for Best Animated Short include A Single Life (The Netherlands), Feast (U.S.), Me and My Moulton (Canada / Norway), The Bigger Picture (U.K.) and The Dam Keeper (U.S.). Screens at the Ken Cinema.
Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Live Action: The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film include Aya (Israel / France), Boogaloo and Graham (U.K.), The Phone Call (U.K.), Butter Lamp (France / China) and Parvaneh (Switzerland). Screens at the Ken Cinema.
Project Almanac: When some teens disregard every cautionary tale and travel back in time, their lives are turned upside down. Shocker.
Song of the Sea: Merging folklore and fairy tale, Tomm Moore's gorgeous animated film tells the story of a brother and sister who get swept up into a fantasy world of selkies, sprites and giants. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
To the Arctic: The life cycles of polar bears and other arctic wildlife are the focus of this awe-inspiring IMAX documentary that takes you into the frigid north.
Two Days, One Night: After her coworkers vote to fire her in exchange for a pay increase, a woman (Marion Cotillard) visits them one by one and asks them to help salvage her job.
A Most Violent Year: When his business is threatened by a string of armed robberies, the owner of a New York City gas company (Oscar Isaac) must adapt to the volatile surroundings to survive.
Mortdecai: Johnny Depp stars as a kooky art dealer who investigates the disappearance of a priceless painting that could lead to Nazi gold.
Strange Magic: The first big animated film of 2015 features goblins, elves and other creatures vying for a magic potion.
The Boy Next Door: Jennifer Lopez's confused and vulnerable divorcée moves into a new town and begins a fling with a young man / psychopath.
American Sniper: Clint Eastwood's unflinching and critical biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who became the deadliest sniper during four tours in Iraq.
Blackhat: When a cryptic hacker threatens to send the world into chaos, the U.S. government releases a young computer genius to catch him. It's directed by ace craftsman Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice).
Paddington: Traveling from Peru, a young bear arrives in London hoping to find a home. There he meets the Brown family, who offer him a temporary safe haven.
The Wedding Ringer: Who best to impress your new in-laws than a loud, vivacious Kevin Hart? Josh Gad's shy young groom-to-be agrees.
Inherent Vice: Paul Thomas Anderson adapts Thomas Pynchon's detective yarn about a real-estate tycoon who disappears, inciting a number of pot-fueled stories in early-1970s Southern California.
Selma: Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) attempts to create voter reform in Selma, Alabama, a hotbed of racism and disenfranchisement.
Taken 3: Liam Neeson reprises his role as the badass who keeps losing family members to kidnappings. Maybe third time's a charm?
Big Eyes: Tim Burton's film tells the story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), a 1960s housewife who allows her conman of a husband to take credit for her exceptionally popular paintings.
Into the Woods: Beware the Wolf, Sondheim. Beware the Wolf.
The Imitation Game: Benedict Cumberbatch stars as real-life code breaker Alan Turing, who led a squad of British mathematicians in breaking the Enigma code during World War II.
Unbroken: Angelina Jolie's sophomore effort examines the life of Olympic athlete and World War II prisoner of war Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) who overcame extreme odds to survive a Japanese internment camp.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb: Sadly, Robin Williams' last performance exists within this silly universe of an inexpressive Ben Stiller, an expressive monkey and artifacts brought to life.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: The final chapter in Peter Jackson's bloated three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's famous novel ends in a massive battle between elves, dwarves, men and the nefarious orcs.
Wild: Based on the best-selling novel, this drama tells the story of Cheryl Strayed, who trekked more than 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail to reassess her troubled life.
Foxcatcher: Bennett Miller's dark sports film tells the tragic true story of the Schultz brothers (Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum), wrestlers who became forever entwined with the wealthy heir to the du Pont fortune (Steve Carell).
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1: Having just destroyed the Hunger Games infrastructure, Katnis returns home to lead the rebellion against the corrupt forces of the capital.
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).
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.
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.
Whiplash: A sadistic music teacher tortures a young drummer at a posh New York City conservatory.
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.