Documentaries don't come more straightforward than A Murder in the Park. It's so stylistically rote one might confuse it for an extended episode of Nightline.
In a paint-by-numbers opening montage, directors Christopher S. Rech and Brandon Kimber provide archival footage documenting the release of convicted killer and death row inmate Anthony Porter, who spent nearly two decades behind bars. In 1999, Porter's conviction for double homicide was overturned thanks to the investigative work of a Northwestern professor named David Protess and his journalism students. Another man named Alstory Simon was quickly convicted of the crime.
A Murder in the Park breaks down this seemingly simple narrative to reveal a more sinister and corrupt one just beneath the surface. Through interviews with the police detectives responsible for the initial investigation, lawyers for Simon, and Chicago area journalists, the filmmakers begin to expose Protess and his cohorts for evidence tampering, obstruction of justice and coercion.
Much of the material is ripe for consideration, yet the filmmakers display little belief in the art of subtlety. Every moment is suffocated by the drama of revelation. The innocence of Simon and guilt of Porter are essentially confirmed early on, leaving little room for nuance in a story that contains multiple perspectives worthy of consideration.
What's lost in this convoluted procedural are the families of the two victims, Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard, both young black teenagers gunned down in the shadowy confines of the Washington Park swimming pool in 1982. Also of little interest to the filmmakers is the pervasive and destructive nature of black-on-black violence in Chicago. Examining both could have made the film revelatory.
Instead, A Murder in the Park, which opens Friday, July 10, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park, is unforgivably one-dimensional.
10.000 Km: A couple living in Barcelona decide to separate for a year so that one can pursue an artist's residency in Los Angeles, not fully understanding the power of physical separation in our technological age. Screens through Thursday, July 16, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
A Murder in the Park: A death row inmate convicted of a double murder in 1982 is released thanks to the efforts of a journalism teacher and his students, but their efforts are quickly called into question once inconsistencies arise. Screens through Thursday, July 16, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Amy: This behind-the-scenes documentary explores the tragic fall of singer Amy Winehouse, who died in September of 2011 of alcohol poisoning.
Cartel Land: Vigilante groups on both sides of the Mexico/US border attempt to fend off the advancing menace of the cartel.
Felt: A woman suffering from the aftermath of a sexual trauma begins creating costumed alter egos that allow her to reclaim power in a male-dominated society. Screens through Thursday, July 16, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Jimmy's Hall: An exiled Irishman returns home during the Great Depression and re-opens the music hall that got him deported a decade before. Opens on Friday, July 10 at Arclight La Jolla.
Minions: Those cute, yellow what's-its from Despicable Me get their own movies, because why not.
Self/Less: Ben Kingley plays an extremely wealthy man dying of cancer who undergoes an experimental procedure so that he can live again as a younger man (in the body of Ryan Reynolds).
The Gallows: Teenagers go trespassing where they shouldn't and become the victims of a ghost who haunts their local school gymnasium. Just another found footage horror film, people. Nothing to see here.
One Time Only:
The Empire Strikes Back: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) moves closer to finding out the truth about his dark family history while Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his crew attempt to outrun Darth Vader's military forces. Epsisode V of the Star Wars series is considered by most to be the best. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Princess Bride: Come get your meta on with the self-reflexive story of a beautiful princess in need of some serious saving. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, at The Headquarters in Seaport Village.
Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino's brazen and ballsy collection of intertwining stories set the stage for countless rip-offs and references. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 9 and 10, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An epic collection of Bollywood's greatest songs and dancing sequences, presented by Pacific Arts Movement and San Diego Asian Film Festival. This free event screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 9, at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.
In the Realms of the Unreal: A documentary look at the art of Henry Darger, who was also a janitor and novelist. Screens at 6 p.m. Friday, July 10, at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park.
Jaws: I think we're going to need a bigger boat. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 10, at Harbor Island Drive Park.
The Night of the Shooting Stars: A group of Italian townsfolk flee their small town during the end of WWII as they anticipate a clash between the Nazis and Allied forces. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, July 10, at the Hotel Lafayette in North Park.
American Graffiti: George Lucas' great debut follows a couple of high school grads that spend one last night cruising around town in their hot rods. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12 at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Two Faces of January: An American couple (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) meet a sexy stranger (Oscar Isaac) while traveling in Greece. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 12, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Public Library.
Marilyn Monroe: Declassified: The famous film actress who died tragically at a young age is portrayed as the key in a series of conspiracy theories involving the Kennedys and more luminaries of the 1960s in this revealing documentary presented by the San Diego Jewish Film Festival. Screens at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 12, at the David and Dorothea Garfield Theater in La Jolla.
Sherlock Holmes: John Barrymore plays the iconic sleuth in this 1922 silent mystery about a young prince who is wrongly accused of a vicious crime. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 12, at the Adobe Chapel Museum in Old Town.
Chimes at Midnight: Orson Welles as Falstaff. The end. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, July 13, at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.
Web Junkie: In China, addiction to the web is considered a clinical disorder. This documentary explores the ways in which it is treated. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 12, at the San Diego Central Library in East Village.
Pipe Dream: When you're a lonely plumber, it's never a good idea to pose as a film director to meet women. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, at The Point Loma / Hervey Branch Public Library.
Notorious: Cary Grant convinces Ingrid Bergman to spy on her Nazi friends while in South America in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece of espionage and intrigue. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, at the Scripps Ranch Public Library.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin: Steve Carell finally gets laid. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Güeros: A misbehaving teenager is sent to stay with his college-age brother during a university strike, giving the duo time to search for the legendary folk singer their father loved so much.
Magic Mike XXL: The pelvic-thrusting gang of strippers is back for a rowdier sequel to the 2012 breakout hit.
Terminator: Genisys: Arnie always makes good on his promises. He's back.
The Nightmare: An immersive documentary by Rodney Ascher on the crippling phenomenon of sleep paralysis. Screens through Thursday, July 8, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
A Little Chaos: During the reign of King Louis XIV, two landscape artists fall in love while designing portions of Versailles. Starring Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and Matthias Schoenaerts.
Escobar: Paradise Lost: Benicio del Toro stars as drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, whose young niece becomes romantically entangled with an American surfer played by Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games).
Infinitely Polar Bear: Mark Ruffalo plays a manic-depressive father who finally decides to get his act together and begin raising his two spirited daughters.
Max: After helping U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, a dog returns to his handler's family after suffering a traumatic experience.
Ted 2: The thunder buddies return for another dose of vulgarity, boozing and hilarity.
The Connection: Jean Dujardin stars as a French police officer who spends years trying to track and arrest one of the country's most notorious drug traffickers.
The Overnight: A family new to Los Angeles gets a wild introduction during a "play date" with another family.
Dope: Malcolm escapes his tough neighborhood by attending an underground party that leads him and his friends on a Los Angeles adventure.
Inside Out: Pixar goes inside the mind of a twelve-year-old girl and finds something ethereal, resonant and powerful.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: The title really says it all. Get ready for some precious cinephile self-reflection.
The Wolfpack: Sequestered in an expansive and dank apartment, the Angulo children learn about the world from their massive movie collection in Crystal Moselle's documentary.
Jurassic World: Velociraptors in mirror are closer than they appear.
Results: Andrew Bujalski's sweetly offbeat romantic comedy features Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders as personal trainers whose relationship gets complicated after a new client (Kevin Corrigan) comes into the picture.
Entourage: The popular HBO show about a movie star and his childhood friends making it big in Hollywood gets the big-screen treatment.
Testament of Youth: Vera Brittain's WWI memoir is told from the perspective of a woman seeing the futility of war for the first time.
Insidious: Chapter 3: Round three in the ongoing battle between white suburbia and the supernatural hereafter. Go!
Love & Mercy: Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys gets the biopic treatment in a story that covers pivotal moments in the 1960s and 1980s. Starring Paul Dano and John Cusack.
Spy: Melissa McCarthy steps out from behind the desk and into the field in this spy comedy from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids).
Aloha: Cameron Crowe tries to resuscitate his career with this long-delayed (not a good sign) drama about a military man based in Hawaii trying to rediscover love.
San Andreas: "What a disaster."
—Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Tomorrowland: George Clooney and Britt Robertson star in Brad Bird's space adventure about a young girl who finds a ring that opens up an alternate universe.
Mad Max: Fury Road: George Miller's infamous policeman-turned-road-warrior returns to the big screen in what looks like one long bonkers chase through a dystopic desert. Tom Hardy reprises the role made famous by Mel Gibson.
Far From the Madding Crowd: Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts star in Thomas Vinterberg's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's sweeping romance about a fiercely independent woman who struggles to choose between three suitors.
Hot Pursuit: An uptight cop played by Reese Witherspoon tries to protect the vivacious widow of a Mexican drug boss while being pursued through Texas by a collective of bad guys..
Avengers: Age of Ultron: The brood of Marvel superheroes are back to battle the nefarious Ultron, who has plans to take over the world.
Ex Machina: Set in the near future, Alex Garland's sci-fi film tells the story of an Internet mogul who convinces one of his employees to conduct a Turing test on his newest A.I. creation.