Feb. 17 2015 06:38 PM

Mockumentary about vampires leads our rundown of movies screening around town

What we Do in the Shadows

Despite being a vampire for nearly 400 years, Viago (Taika Waititi), a self-professed dandy with a broken heart, "still feels things inside." He's one of four bloodsuckers living a mundane existence in a grim multi-story mansion on the outskirts of Wellington, New Zealand. His flat mates include the thickly accented torturer Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), bad boy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and the latest incarnation of Nosferatu himself, Petyr (Ben Fransham).

Co-written and directed by Waititi and Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame), What We Do in the Shadows transplants classic horror tropes to the present day, cleverly using surprise tactics associated with the mockumentary genre. Opening title cards explain that a camera crew will be following the four vampires leading up to a yearly celebration called The Unholy Masquerade. In-house arguments over chores and paying the rent give way to style advice and hangout sessions at the local vampire bar.

It's been a while since mockumentary aesthetics have seemed fresh in our post-The Office culture, but the clever writing and daily conflicts experienced by the characters allow What We Do in the Shadows a unique combination of dark comedy and pathos. The filmmakers incorporate zombies, banshees and, of course, werewolves into the mix, providing the viewer with a diverse cross-section of brooding outcasts all trying to get by in the Internet age. 

Balancing contrasting tones like comedy and horror has always been difficult for filmmakers, but Waititi and Clement achieve the synergy brilliantly. Tension mounts even more when a human named Stu (Stuart Rutherford) joins the group, complicating the vampires' notions of friendship until the bitter end. What We Do in the Shadows, which opens Friday, Feb. 20, at the Ken Cinema, argues rather daringly that monsters of all kinds can cohabitate.   


Hot Tub Time Machine 2: In order to save a friend who's been shot, the Hot Tub gang jumps back into the time machine and begins messing with the past.

McFarland, U.S.A.: Kevin Costner stars as a cross-country coach in a small California town who takes a team of Latino athletes and transforms them into championship contenders. Disney strikes again. 

The Duff: Bianca (Mae Whitman), a teenager who's been labeled unattractive by her more popular friends, decides to lead a social revolution that will undermine the pecking order at her high school. 

The Last Five Years: Richard LaGravenese adapts the famous musical about a struggling actress (Anna Kendrick) and her novelist lover (Jeremy Jordan) who experience the highs and lows of a volatile relationship. 

The Tale of Princess Kaguya: Animation master Isao Takahata's final film tells the story of a tiny girl who's born in the sprout of a beanstalk and raised against her wishes to be a princess in feudal Japan. Screens through Feb. 26 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

What We Do in the Shadows: Four vampires living in modern-day New Zealand struggle to find happiness and friendship in Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi's hilarious mockumentary. See our review on Page 20.

One time only

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 the 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 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. 

Delirio San Diego Film Series: Curated by the horror film festival Horrible Imaginings, this will be a surprise screening of a rarely seen genre film that will take you to the fringes of reality. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

Time of the Cannibals: The German counterpart to The Wolf of Wall Street follows two highly paid consultants as they wreak havoc in third-world countries looking for profit ventures. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, at The Loft at UCSD. Food served at 7 p.m.

Birdman: A former comic-book movie star (Michael Keaton) tries to regain his artistic credibility by adapting a tragic Raymond Carver story on Broadway. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 20 and 21, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills. 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Dr. Frank-N-Furter promises refuge to a young couple whose car has broken down, then decides to show them the horror of his experiments. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Ken Cinema. 

West Side Story: If you fall in love with someone from the rival gang, be ready to sing for your life, Maria. Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at Arclight La Jolla. 

From Florida to Coahuila: The History of Black Seminoles: Tracing the history of Black Seminoles, this documentary explores their heritage and culture, which is in jeopardy of extinction. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, at the San Diego Central Library in East Village. 

They Were Promised the Sea: Filmmaker Kathy Wazana follows a group of Moroccan Jews who return home from Israel to see their ancestral villages. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, in Arts and Letters 101 at SDSU.

Laggies: Megan (Keira Knightley) has a quarter-life crisis after her boyfriend proposes, then finds herself hiding out with a teenager and her weary single dad in order to avoid reality. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.

Tapas Bar: In this film from Spain, five interlocking stories revolve around a single restaurant in a gorgeous neighborhood. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. 

Rembrandt from the National Gallery London & Rijksmuseum Amsterdam: This documentary takes viewers through two major European museums, with emphasis on their Rembrandt exhibitions. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, at various theaters. Visit fathomevents.com for details. 

Bluebird: When a tragic mistake shatters the safety of a logging town in Maine, the inhabitants must come to grips with the consequences. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

The Two Faces of January: While traveling in Greece, a couple (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) meet a mysterious American (Oscar Isaac) who may be a con man. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, at the Mission Valley Library. 

Why Do You Have Black Dolls: This award-winning documentary explores history, race and social justice by focusing on a little-known community that collects black dolls. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. 

It Happened One Night: Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable are perfection in Frank Capra's classic romantic comedy about an heiress on the run and a reporter snooping for a story. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, at Arclight La Jolla. 

Pretty Woman: Julia Roberts plays a prostitute who becomes the object of affection for Richard Gere's rich businessman. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

Now playing

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.

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. 

The Duke of Burgundy: Two lovers try to reconcile the sadomasochistic habits that might push their relationship into the void.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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? 

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.

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).

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.


See all events on Friday, Dec 2