You know we live in a tragic world when documentaries and foreign films are forced to battle it out at the box office. There are no subtitled films or Morgan Spurlock exposés making hundreds of millions of dollars—the real issue is that there's barely room for both of them at theaters these days, and most filmgoers will see one or the other, but usually not both. But this week, there's both a foreign film and a doc worthy of a nice double-feature.
In La Jolla, you have Departures, the Japanese picture that earned Best Foreign Language Film honors at the Oscars in February. They don't just give those awards away; you have to earn them, and Departures, a gorgeous film, does just that. It stars Masahiro Motoki as Daigo, a perfectionist cellist who finds himself unemployed when the orchestra he works for falls apart. Returning to his hometown, he answers a want ad and is soon working in a mortuary, preparing dead bodies for burial. His wife and family despise the job, but Daigo works hard to turn his new vocation into the same kind of fulfilling art of his past career.
And in Hillcrest, there's Kirby Dick's Outrage. Dick, who last released This Film is Not Yet Rated in 2006, is angry with gay politicians, but not the Barney Frank variety—Frank is featured in the film, along with other openly gay officials like Rep. Tammy Baldwin and former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevy. No, Dick is going after the likes of Larry “Wide Stance” Craig—closeted hypocrites who vote against gay rights before texting with Capitol pages in the hopes of getting lucky. Yes, this is a controversial film. Yes, names are named (including the current governor of and likely future GOP senator of a state whose name rhymes with “Blorida”). And, yes, you should see it.
The Garden: Terrific documentary about the battle for the country's largest community garden, in South Central L.A., looks at how the politicians and developers try to worm the land out from under the families that use it.
The Hangover: They cut a good trailer for Todd Phillips' new film, about three buddies—Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis—who wake up the morning after a brutal bachelor party with no memory of what happened or where the groom is.
Little Ashes: Yes, another film about Salvador Dali. In this one, however, the surrealist is played by Twilight vampire hunk Robert Pattinson.
Land of the Lost: Will Ferrell turns a totally cheesy TV show into a big-screen movie whose trailer can't even make it look good.
My Life in Ruins: It's hard to believe how much money My Big Fat Greek Wedding made. Well, the star and writer of that movie, Nia Vardalas, is back, and this time she's going to Greece.
Skills Like This: A failed writer turns to crime and finds out that he's good at it. Director Monty Miranda and actor Spencer Berger will attend the 7:30 p.m. screening on Friday at the Reading Gaslamp.
One time only
Lost in Translation: Without Sofia Coppola's quiet little film, Scarlett Johansson would probably be just another pretty face. She's a lonely newlywed who becomes close with an aging American action star (Bill Murray) while they're both stuck in Japan. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
School of Rock: Jack Black is a phony substitute teacher who shows kids that there's more to life than Rock Band. Factoid: This was the first film Led Zeppelin gave permission for its music to be used. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, at Stone Brewery and Bistro in Escondido. Free.
I am Curious Yellow: The Humanist Association of San Diego presents this freakish 1967 Swedish film about a young woman who wants to know and experience everything. Not surprisingly, it was almost banned in the U.S., perhaps over the shot of the lead actress making out with her lover's flaccid penis. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 5, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
Milk: It does a body good. And this screening benefits the Human Rights Campaign. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, June 5, at the Birch North Park Theatre. Tickets at www.npmovienight.com.
Cottonwood Creek Envirnmental Film Festival: Fixing the world, one reel at a time. Starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 6, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas, and at 9 a.m. Sunday, June 7, at the Encinitas Library. www.cottonwoodfilm.org.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The best kind of turtle soup is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Soup. Kicks off the kicky Ken Cinema midnight series on Saturday, June 6.
A Streetcar Named Desire: Stelllllllla! Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 7, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
A Sea Change: Just how much trouble do the world's oceans face? This documentary's tagline is “Imagine a world without fish.” The restaurant will offer up tapas and a drink menu to help you drown your sorrows. Seating is limited, so call ahead. Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday, June 7 and 8, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. Free.
The Cake Eaters: Mary Stuart Masterson made her feature directorial debut with this 2007 drama, about two families that start to unravel when one of their kids comes back home. Kristen Stewart of Twilight stars, along with Bruce Dern, Jesse L. Martin and Melissa Leo. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 8, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Bill W. and Dr. Bob: Filmed version of the off-Broadway play about the two dudes who started AA. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
There's Something About Mary: Still raunchy and funny, the Farrely brothers' comedy, which stars Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon as two dudes lying to try to get with Cameron Diaz, also has a lot of heart. And better, a lot of Jonathan Richman. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Evil Dead 2: Everything is made better by Bruce Campbell. This is his signature role, and it still rocks, especially when his own severed hand kicks his ass. For the uninitiated, it's directed by Sam “Spider-man” Raimi. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, at Stone Brewery and Bistro in Escondido. Free.
Adoration: Canadian director Atom Egoyan's new film is about the consequences of a teen who claims to be the son of a well-known terrorist. It's intense and thought-provoking and one of the best post-9/11 movies to date.
Drag Me to Hell: Sam Raimi returns to his roots with a small horror film that stars Alison Lohman as a sweet girl going to hell.
Easy Virtue: Period comedy starring Jessica Biel as a goofy American who marries into an uptight British family.
O'Horten: After he retires, a train conductor suddenly discovers that perhaps his life doesn't need to be controlled by a timetable.
Treeless Mountain: Gorgeous Korean film about two young sisters whose mother leaves them.
Up: The trailer for Pixar's first 3D film doesn't sell it, but this story of an old man who flies his house to South America via helium balloons is just as good as what you've come to expect from those guys.
Valentino, the Last Emperor: Documentary about the legendary designer Valentino Garavani.
The Girlfriend Experience: Porn star Sasha Grey stars in Steven Soderbergh's new film, examining the life of a top-shelf call girl.
The Brothers Bloom: Dirty-rotten-scoundrel brothers Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo target wealthy heiress Rachel Weisz as their final mark before leaving the business.
Dance Flick: The Wayans family brings its schtick to the dance floor.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: CGI history-revision lesson with Ben Stiller and Robin Williams.
The Song of Sparrows: After losing his job at an ostrich farm, Karim inadvertantly becomes a cab driver, but the sudden influx of cash and the big-city values might corrupt his generous and honest nature.
Summer Hours: Three adult siblings are forced to revisit their childhood when their mother dies and they need to go through her things.
Terminator Salvation: The franchise reboot, which stars Christian Bale as humanity savior John Connor, has some mind-blowing action sequences, but they're not enough to make you ignore the timeline issues the movie doesn't address.
Angels and Demons: More fun than The Da Vinci Code, but just as stupid.
Rudo y Cursi: Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna reunite for the first time since they made Y Tu Mama Tambien, playing small-town brothers who find success playing soccer on the national level and also find themselves succumbing to all the temptations that come with fame.
Star Trek: The JJ Abrams-directed franchise reboot boldly goes to the heart of the original show and makes it fun again. It's fun, fresh and exciting, the first badass Trek movie since The Wrath of Khan. Good for Trekkies, good for non-Trekkies and great for Trek.
Every Little Step: Meta documentary about Broadway hopefuls auditioning for a revival of A Chorus Line, a musical about Broadway hopefuls auditioning for a Broadway musical.
Lemon Tree: A Palestinian widow stands up to the new Israeli defense minister—who's also her new neighbor—when security forces declare her lemon trees a threat to his security. Because, you know, lemons are sour. Starring Hiam Abbass (The Visitor), who won the Israeli version of the Best Actress Oscar.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Critic-proof summer blockbuster that kicks off the entire season. Decent action sequences, sure, but we prefer our Wolverine to be a short, squat badass, not a brooding sex symbol.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: Matthew McConaughey is confronted by the former loves of his life, A Christmas Carol style.
Obsessed: Idris Elbra, aka The Wire's Stringer Bell, has a gorgeous wife in Beyonce and a gorgeous stalker in Ali Larter. Things could be worse.
The Soloist: Adaptation of Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez's book, about the talented homeless musician (Jamie Foxx) he befriended. Robert Downey Jr. plays Lopez.
17 Again: Teen heartthrob Zac Ephron is an old dude who suddenly gets young again. You know, like Benjamin Button.
Fast and Furious: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker re-team for the fourth entry in the fast-car franchise.
Sunshine Cleaning: Almost a sequel to Little Miss Sunshine. Some of the same producers are on board, the film is also shot in New Mexico and Alan Arkin plays pretty much the same part. Still, it has that vibe that made LMS so appealing, as Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play sisters who start a business cleaning up violent crime scenes.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Space Theater: After undergoing significant renovations, the Fleet is re-opening its dome Imax theater, complete with a kick-ass new screen. Films vary week-to-week. Showtimes and prices can be found at www.rhfleet.org.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: No, it's not a time warp—the love-it-or-hate-it camp classic continues its midnight run in its 37th year of release. When the lead character of the film is a transvestite scientist named Dr. Frank-N-Furter, you know you're in for some seriously trashy viewing. And, of course, this is the one movie where you want the audience shouting at the screen. Screens Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas.