The Beat Generation changed the course of American literature in the 1940s and '50s, challenging entrenched institutions with experimental structures and hallucinogenic prose. Writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs were at the forefront of this movement, the origins of which stem from their time spent together at Columbia University in New York City before the end of WWII.
John Krokidas' Kill Your Darlings —opening Friday, Oct. 25 at Hillcrest Cinemas—a mostly flaccid biopic about the genesis of the beatnik ideology, posits the young Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) as the focal point. Together with Burroughs (Ben Foster) and the dynamic but troubled Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a nebbish Ginsberg tests the limits of control, both in his writing and experiences with the outside world.
The trio drink heavily, fill their coffee with Benzedrine and lash out at snooty professors, all in the name of creating what they call a "new vision" of poetry. In turn, Krokidas spikes the film with a welcome nip of surrealism, the most impressive example being a time-halting dream sequence inside a Harlem jazz club.
However, as is the case with many modern films labeled "independent," Kill Your Darlings is too safe when the chips are down. Harboring a benign flashback structure involving a toxic relationship between Carr and an older lover (Michael C. Hall), the film falls prey to a melodramatic murder plot.
Ginsberg's homosexuality is dealt with shallowly, as is Burroughs' destructive obsession with narcotics. Kerouac (Jack Huston) is barely more than a shell of macho adventurism. Only Carr's crippling manipulative tendencies feel as exposed as the poetry these characters recite.
What you're left with is a film about revolutionaries that's unforgivably tethered to traditional story conventions and fails to do the subjects justice.
All is Lost : A nameless Man (Robert Redford) battles extreme weather and technology failure to keep his small sailboat afloat in this thrilling tale of survival from director J.C. Chandor ( Margin Call ).
The Counselor : Director Ridley Scott ( Gladiator , Black Hawk Down ) brings esteemed author Cormac McCarthy's ( No Country for Old Men ) first feature screenplay to life. The story centers on a corrupt lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets in deep with a drug kingpin (Brad Pitt).
A Fierce Green Fire : This documentary about 21st-century environmental activism was inspired by the book of the same name by Philip Shabecoff and features narration by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd and Meryl Streep. Screens Monday, Oct. 28, through Thursday, Oct. 31, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Horrible Imaginings Film Festival: San Diego's premiere horror film festival brings an innovative (and terrifying) lineup of feature and short films. Runs Thursday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Oct. 27, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
House in the Alley : Psychological horror film from Vietnam about a young couple who experience ghostly visions after losing a baby to miscarriage.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa : After grossing out America in 3-D, Johnny Knoxville gives his grumpy, ill-mannered, senior-citizen sketch character a feature-film platform.
Kill Your Darlings : The major icons of the beatnik movement meet at Columbia University in 1943 and spend their early years writing, drinking, dreaming and falling from grace. Stars Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr.
La Costa Film Festival: The festival's maiden voyage features a host of fiction films, documentaries and shorts from around the world. Highlights include an opening-night gala at the Omni Resort and Spa in Carlsbad and featured family events during the weekend. It runs Thursday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Oct. 27. Get details at lacostafilmfestival.org.
San Diego Italian Film Festival: An impressive array of feature films, documentaries and special events highlight San Diego's premiere celebration of Italian art and culture. Runs Thursday, Oct. 24, through Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Get details at sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com.
The Snitch Cartel : Two childhood friends grow up to be Colombian drug enforcers who rise up the cartel ranks only to face pressures by the DEA to turn on their colleagues.
Two Jacks : A powerful director (Danny Huston) tries to mold his son into a cinema powerhouse in this drama about the corruptive nature of Hollywood. Screens Monday, Oct. 28, through Sunday, Nov. 3, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Wicker Man : See the "definitive" final cut of the cult 1970s horror film in this restoration by Rialto Pictures. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Zaytoun : Set in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war, this drama tells the story of an Israeli pilot (Stephen Dorff) who's shot down and imprisoned in a Palestine refugee camp, where he meets a young boy who's recently lost his father. Screens through Oct. 31 at the Ken Cinema.
One Time Only
The Kings of Summer : Three teenage adventurers disavow civilization and live off the land in this hypnotic coming-of-age film that made a splash at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Mission Valley Library.
Vertigo : Scared of heights? Alfred Hitchcock's woozy (and depraved) masterpiece certainly won't fix your phobia. Screens at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Reading Town Square Cinemas in Clairemont.
Night of the Living Dead : George Romero's landmark zombie film is one of most scathing indictments of racism ever put to film, not to mention scary as hell. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at AMC Mission Valley (laugh along with Rifftracks commentary) and at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, through Saturday, Oct. 26, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Let Um Hear Ya Comin' : A detailed look at the Black Panther Party's origins and development, specifically the Oakland chapter. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at the WorldBeat Center in Balboa Park.
The Birds : You'll never look at our feathery friends the same way after viewing Alfred Hitchcock's audacious disaster film. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, and Tuesday, Oct. 29, and at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show : Get some friends together, pack the rice and partake in some debauchery with this cult classic. Screens at midnight on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Ken Cinemas.
The Exorcist: Revisit William Friedkin's head-spinning horror film in anticipation of Halloween. Just don't get any projectile vomit on your shirt. Screens at 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at Arclight La Jolla.
In the House : This comedy-drama from French auteur Francois Ozon follows a teacher as he gets drawn into a strange situation involving a student and a family friend. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at the new San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Psycho : Norman Bates battles the voices in his head and tries to stop murdering people. Needless to say, he fails. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at Reading Town Square Cinemas in Clairemont.
The Shining : The most frightening film of all time? It's got our vote. Here's Johnny! Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Arclight La Jolla.
A.C.O.D .: Adam Scott plays a repressed 30-something whose parents' nasty divorce becomes the gift that keeps on giving even into adulthood. The comedy co-stars Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara and Jessica Alba.
African Film Celebration: Experience the diversity of African film, food and music at this celebration running through Sunday, Oct. 27. The final two movies screen on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. Get the schedule at africanfoodsd.com.
After Tiller : A sobering and complex documentary about the four remaining doctors running clinics that perform third-trimester abortions despite harassment by religious groups and death threats.
Años Despues : A successful Mexican man on the verge of tying the knot has his life changed forever upon learning of a new distant relative living in Spain. Screens through Oct. 23 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Carrie : A supped-up remake of the classic 1976 horror film that nobody asked for and probably no one will like. But, hey, that's Hollywood! Stars Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular shy girl turned telekinetic monster.
Escape Plan : Action icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger play aging inmates trying to escape from a super-maximum security prison by combining their brainpower. Talk about a work of fiction.
The Fifth Estate : Benedict Cumberbatch stars as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in this biopic that spans the rise and fall of the infamous Internet pioneer, notably his clash with the U.S. government over damning video clips from the war in Iraq.
The Stream : In a feature film created by teens and young adults, five friends in the summer of 1981 venture to the mall in search of a replacement for their broken whiffle-ball bat. It screens at Regal Parkway Plaza Cinemas, and proceeds go to The Boys and Girls Club of America.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali : The most popular boxer in the world refused to serve in the Vietnam War. Ends Oct. 24 at the Ken Cinema.
Captain Phillips : Based on actual events, this thriller by director Paul Greengrass tells the story of the container ship Maersk Alabama and its leader, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), who was kidnapped by Somali pirates during a voyage in 2009.
Concussion : During her recovery from a hard knock to the head, a suburban housewife goes through a crippling identity crisis, creating an alter ego to survive.
Machete Kills : Danny Trejo reprises his role as the betrayed federale who must once again wield his brutal weaponry and bed women in the name of the people.
Muscle Shoals : Music documentary celebrating Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios, which produced such staples as "Brown Sugar" and "When a Man Loves a Woman." Screens for one week at the Ken Cinema.
Romeo and Juliet : Yet another cinematic incarnation of Shakespeare's ultimate romantic tragedy, this time starring Hailee Steinfeld ( True Grit ) as the love-stricken Juliet. Ends Oct. 17 at Hillcrest and La Jolla Village cinemas.
The Summit : This harrowing documentary tells the dramatic story of 11 mountain climbers who mysteriously died on the slopes of K2.
Born to be Wild : Morgan Freeman narrates this stunning IMAX wildlife documentary about scientists trying to save elephants in Kenya and orangutans in Borneo. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Deep Sea : A glorious ocean exploration with Del Mar's own veteran underwater filmmakers and explorers, Howard and Michele Hall. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Gravity : Sandra Bullock plays a marooned astronaut struggling to survive an epic space disaster in Alfonso Cuarón's breathless adventure film.
Runner Runner : Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake star in this thriller about a gambling prodigy who hunts down the gangster responsible for sending him to the poor house.
Don Jon : Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars in this coming-of-age story about a young New Jersey lothario addicted to the fantasy world of pornography.
Enough Said : The latest slice of modern melodrama from director Nicole Holofcener ( Please Give ) features a mosaic of confused couples. Stars James Gandolfini in his last screen role.
Inequality for All : Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich uses the documentary as platform to raise awareness of the country's widening economic gap.
Rush : Ron Howard's biopic about the bitter rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), who battled for track supremacy throughout the 1970s.
Wadjda : In this first film shot completely in Saudi Arabia, an enterprising Saudi girl competes in her school's Koran-recitation contest to raise the remaining funds she needs for a green bicycle that has captured her interest.
Prisoners : A desperate father (Hugh Jackman) takes the law into his own hands after his daughter disappears, despite the ongoing investigation by a dedicated police officer (Jake Gyllenhaal).
The Family : Robert De Niro's career continues to plummet in this dark comedy about a New York City family of mobsters living in France under false identities.
Insidious Chapter 2 : More horrific and ghostly images from director James Wan, the devious auteur behind Saw , The Conjuring and, of course, Insidious .
Instructions Not Included : A smarmy playboy (Eugenio Derbez) gets a rude awakening when an ex-flame drops off a baby at his doorstep, forcing him to become an unlikely father figure.
Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation : The venerable edgy 'toon-fest has returned to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location with a 20th-anniversary show that runs through Nov. 23.
Lee Daniels' The Butler : Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) serves as a butler in the White House for seven consecutive presidents, witnessing shifts in civil rights and foreign policy from a fascinating vantage point.
We're the Millers : In order to sneak a huge Mexican weed shipment into the U.S., a veteran pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis) creates a fake family in hopes of bypassing authorities. Co-starring Jennifer Aniston.
Blue Jasmine : Woody Allen's latest comedy showcases the amazing Cate Blanchett as an entitled 1-percenter who experiences a harrowing fall from grace.
Despicable Me 2 : Gru (Steve Carell) and his army of minions attempt to transcend their roles as villains and save the world in this sequel to the popular 2010 animated film.
Cosmic Collisions : So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels.
Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.