There's no easy way to make a film about human trafficking. It's a subject that deserves exploration, but there's a fine line between showing what happens to the people caught up in it and making an experience that's palatable for an audience.
That's the challenge facing The Whistleblower, the new film from Larysa Kondracki that opens Friday, Aug. 12, at La Jolla Village Cinemas. It stars Rachel Weisz as Kathryn Bolkovac, a woman who went public when the U.N. tried to cover up a trafficking scandal that involved several of its own employees and a number of other foreign contractors in the area around Sarajevo after the war in the former Yugoslavia.
The movie follows the stories of two women. There's Kathryn, a cop from Omaha who finds herself in a lawless world full of corrupt men, and Raya (Roxana Condurache), a Ukrainian teen sold into sex slavery by her uncle. At every turn, Kathryn's efforts to help Raya and the other girls are thwarted, and more often than not, it's by her own colleagues, who are on the take and have diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
The film begins with a great deal of complexity—the ethnic and religious differences are incredibly challenging to understand, for both the audience and the characters—but it eventually devolves into two extremes: the standard cover-up story, which is bloodless and corporate, and harrowing scenes of torture of the trafficked girls, which are difficult to watch.
The movie feels fairly standard, but Weisz's gutsy performance—a potent blend of pent-up fury, disgust, paranoia and distress—holds it all together. She has one Oscar on her mantel already, and though The Whistleblower is unlikely to win any awards, the Academy loves heartrending stories about real people, and it wouldn't be surprising to see her get a nomination for this one.
Aarakshan: Sociopolitical Bollywood drama that examines the caste-based system of government jobs.
30 Minutes or Less: Danny McBride and Nick Swardson chain a bomb to Jesse Eisenberg's neck and force him to rob a bank. Sounds like a laugh riot, huh?
Final Destination 5: Isn't that what they said the last time?
The Future: Miranda July's second film is even weirder than her first (Me and You and Everyone We know). She and Hamish Linklater are a slacker couple whose impending adoption of an injured cat dramatically impacts their lives. Throw in stopping time, a talking moon and a talking cat, and you've got serious art-house fare.
Glee the 3-D Concert Movie: You already know if this is for you, gleeks.
The Help: Based on Kathryn Stockett's novel, this stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, a '60s-era college kid who starts interviewing the African-American women in her southern town, something that just wasn't done at the time.
Point Blank: A male nurse whose pregnant wife has been kidnapped is forced to help a crook escape from the hospital. Sure, it's a French thriller, but French thrillers have been good lately.
The Tree: An 8-year-old Australian girl believes that her dead father lives in a fig tree whose growth is threatening her house. Charlotte Gainsbourg stars as her mother in this strange, atmospheric little film.
One Time Only
Cinema en tu Idioma: The San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off its annual mini-fest with a collection of six Latino films, including Eva Longoria's Without Men. The series runs through Thursday, Aug. 11, at UltraStar Mission Valley. Details about the films, as well as showtimes and ticket info, can be found at mediaartscenter.org.
Heima: Documentary about Sigur Rós' 2006 tour, which culminated with surprise shows in their native Iceland. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. Free.
The Karate Kid: Wax on and wax off with the original at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Piazza Carmel Shopping Plaza. Free.
Couples Retreat: Four couples, whose numbers include Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell, end up in therapy at a tropical resort. Tough life. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense: One of the greatest concert films of all time. Not just because it features Talking Heads, but also because it's directed by Jonathan Demme. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.
Blow Up and Surprise Excitement Party: Transworld SURF debuts a pair of new surfing films at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
Lost Atlas: Kai Neville's new surf flick screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
Like Water for Chocolate: When Tita's (Lumi Cavazos) true love marries her own sister, she finds serious sexual healing through cooking. This terrific date flick will be paired with Malbec and port at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, at Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla.
The Notebook: Word to the fellas: Chicks go crazy for this one. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 11 and 12, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Freedom: Filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell will be on hand for the premiere of their new film, which examines the world of biofuel and America's dependence on foreign oil. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at the AMC Mission Valley.
Princess Kaiulani: Biopic about the teen princess who united the Hawaiian Islands and gave President Grover Cleveland a tongue-lashing over the treatment of her people. Screens at dusk, Friday, Aug. 12, at Market Creek Plaza. Free.
Charade: Classic thriller. Audrey hepburn's late husband stole a fortune and there's no shortage of men in Paris who would like to get their hands on it, including hunky Cary Grant. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 13 and 14, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Blazing Saddles: Still one of the funniest movies of all time. Screens at noon on Sunday, Aug. 14, and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Nightmare Alley: Tyrone Power at his best and worst. He plays a scheming carnie trying to bilk his partners out of the money they're scamming from gullible marks. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Painting the World With Music: Steve White: This documentary about the singer-songwriter premieres at 7 p.m. and plays again at 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
A Screaming Man: When a Chinese company takes over the Chad hotel where he works as a pool attendant, a 60-ish former swim champion is forced to pass his job down to his son. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, at the Central Library, Downtown.
The Big Lebowski: The Dude, who's been digitally restored, abides on the big screen at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Horton Plaza and Edwards Mira Mesa.
Labyrinth: David Bowie should play the Goblin King in every movie. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. Free.
Revenge of the Nerds: Sure, it was a joke when it came out, but look how things turned out. Take that, jocks! Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Jack the Giant Killer with Rifftrax: The Artists Formerly Known as Mystery Science Theater 3000 take on this, ahem, 1962 epic with a live performance simulcast at several area theaters at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17. Check fathomevents.com for locations and ticket info.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: Stay classy, San Diego. You too, Escondido. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.
The Devil's Double: Dominic Cooper is terrific as both Latif Yahia, the man who was forced to be the body double for Saddam's insane son Uday, and Uday himself. The movie is over-the-top and violent, but Cooper—who often appears in the frame as both characters, does amazing work.
Another Earth: When a parallel Earth appears in our atmosphere, Rhoda (Brit Marling) is given a second chance to fix the mistakes she's made in her young life. Somewhere between an indie drama and a sci-fi trip, Another Earth may not be perfect, but it does make you think.
The Change-Up: Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds switch bodies la Freaky Friday. Tough to say who's getting the better side of that deal.
The Guard: Brendan Gleeson's portrayal of a corrupt small-town Irish cop trying to take down some major drug traffickers is one of the best of the year, raising this crime comedy, which also stars Don Cheadle, to unexpected success.
Life, Above All: A 12-year-old girl leaves her South African village in the hopes of finding her mother, after a rumor tears her family apart. Ends Aug. 11 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Life in a Day: A full-length documentary culled from thousands of videos shot around the globe on July 24, 2010.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: James Franco, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis and the kid who played Draco Malfoy go bananas.
Cowboys & Aliens: Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford face off against outer-space baddies in the Old West. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man).
Adventures in Wild California: We're guessing this IMAX movie does not take place in San Diego. Screens at 8 p.m. Fridays through August at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Crazy, Stupid, Love: Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling headline a good-enough romantic comedy that's not ashamed of its PG-13 status.
Sarah's Key: Kristin Scott Thomas is an American journalist trying to learn the fate of a Jewish French girl who went missing during WWII.
The Smurfs: They're so hard to get off your shoe when you step on them, especially when they're in 3-D.
Captain America: The First Avenger: Chris Evans plays the superhero in this week's superhero movie.
Friends with Benefits: Best buddies Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis can't find anyone to date, so they start sleeping with each other, no strings attached. Um, you lost us at Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis can't find anyone to date.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: Wayne Wang adapts Lisa See's novel about two young 19th-century Chinese girls who communicate via a secret language written in the folds of a silk fan. Ends Aug. 11 at the Ken Cinema.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: It's tough to say goodbye, but fans will be thrilled with the franchise's conclusion, which streamlines the final half of the final book and offers up some serious wizardry—in story and special effects.
Winnie the Pooh: The tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff is back.
A Better Life: Demián Bichir is great as an illegal immigrant in L.A. who works backbreaking hours as a gardener while trying to keep his son in school and out of a gang.
Horrible Bosses: Put-upon drones Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day decide to murder their employers, played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. It's a comedy—ha!
Zookeeper: Talking animals try to prevent zookeeper Kevin James from blah blah blah.
Larry Crowne: Tom Hanks gets laid off from his job at Home Depot because he doesn't have a degree. So he goes back to community college, where he meets disillusioned public-speaking teacher Julia Roberts, who eventually falls for him. Yeah, that'd happen.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: No, the third film in the franchise has nothing to do with either “Bark at the Moon” or “Dark Side of the Moon.” Is there still more than meets the eye?
Buck: Documentary about Buck Brannaman, one of the leading experts in horses and the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer.
Cars 2: The cars from Cars go overseas, or something. Also, there are spies. Pixar makes gazillions!
Beginners: Ewan McGregor is in the throes of a new relationship with Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) while trying to deal with his father (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet at age 75. Ends Aug. 11 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Super 8: J.J. Abrams-directed and Spielberg-produced, this is a throwback to '80s-era summer goodness, about a bunch of kids who start investigating weird goings on after a train wreck near their town.
The Tree of Life: You might consider Terrence Malick's new movie a masterpiece or find it self-indulgent and pretentious. What you can't deny is its ambition. By focusing on a Texas family in the '50s, led by patriarch Brad Pitt, the director examines life, the universe and everything. Beautiful to watch, challenging to understand, staggeringly deep.
X-Men: First Class: Another X-Men origin-story movie! Set in the swingin' '60s, it stars James McAvoy as a young Professor X (who has yet to lose his hair), Michael Fassbender as Magneto and scads of other famous actors, like Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon and January Jones.
The Hangover Part II: It just gets harder to recover as you get older.
Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's most charming film in years stars Owen Wilson as a Jazz Age-infatuated screenwriter and aspiring novelist who ends up hanging with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Bridesmaids: Kristen Wiig moves from scene-stealer to leading lady in this raunchy girl-comedy, and it turns out she's well suited to the promotion.
Boto be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
Tornado Alley: This new IMAX film, which travels into twisters with some professional storm chasers, has to be better than Twister, the movie. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Hubble: Leonardo DiCaprio lends his pipes to this IMAX film, which uses CGI and real footage to take a close look at saturn's rings. Just stay away from Uranus. 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.