It came from the '80s: Seriously, what is it with this fascination with the '80s? Since April started, I've seen a handful of films set during the Me Decade. The month began with Adventureland (1983), and since then we've had Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1983) and, opening this Friday, The Informers (1983) and Lymelife (1979, but close enough). In the coming weeks, there's Is Anybody There (1987).
In many ways, The Informers is the most emblematic of the decade. Hell, it's almost an indictment. Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel (he also co-wrote the screenplay), the movie follows different characters living in L.A. whose lives crisscross in various debacles of debauchery. There's the high-society crowd, made up of studio executive William (Billy Bob Thornton) and his pill-popping ex-wife, Laura (Kim Basinger), and their two kids, one of whom is a good-looking blonde drug dealer called Graham (Jon Foster). Graham has a hot girlfriend, and the two engage in three-ways with their best buddy all the time. Their lives are all play and little work, or at least as little work as it takes to stay that gorgeous. Of course, they're all screwed-up, nihilistic, unhappy people who have made messes of their cushy lives. Thornton is having an affair with newscaster Cheryl (Winona Ryder), and Graham is wondering if perhaps there's a little more to life than a constant party.
On the other end of the income scale is the lowlife kidnapper Peter (Mickey Rourke, who looks like he let the costume designer raid his own wardrobe), in town for a shady deal. He's staying with his nephew, Jackson (the late Brad Renfro, looking pasty and fat in his final role), a struggling, sweaty actor who can't stand what his uncle does. And there are others, whose lives intersect through drugs and rock 'n' roll and general angst and misery.
Yes, the characters in The Informers are all desperate, but the film feels desperate, too—as though it might not have ever come out if, say, Mickey Rourke hadn't gotten that Oscar nomination. Though it's the movie that best captures the decade's hairstyles and fashion, it's not particularly pleasant to watch, as all the characters are self-absorbed, depressing and narcissistic. Sort of like, you know, the '80s.
Earth: Gorgeous Disney documentary about the big blue marble you live on.
Fighting: Dito Martiel follows up his terrific debut, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, with a look at bare-knuckle underground fighting in New York City. Stars Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard.
Goodbye Solo: Ramin Bahrani continues his streak of terrific small films about immigrants with this gem about a Senegalese cabbie in Winston-Salem and the old white man he shuttles around. See our review on Page 21.
Lymelife: Alec Baldwin is so good on 30 Rock that you probably forgot you used to hate him. But he's great in Lymelife as the philandering dad to Jimmy Bartlett (Kieren Culkin), who is coming of age just as the '70s turn into the '80s and lyme disease is all the rage.
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.
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Black Fox: The True Story of Adolf Hitler: Part of a Len Stouman film retrospective, this movie, narrated by Marlene Dietrich, earned him the 1962 Best Documentary Oscar. Screens at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Wall Street: Greed is good. No, wait. Turns out it isn't. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
BlueGreen: New documentary looks at what draws us human folk to the ocean. A new surfboard will be raffled off, too. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 23, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
Captains Courageous: Classic 1937 seafaring film about a spoiled kid who falls overboard from an ocean liner and is rescued by a fishing boat, whose crew really doesn't care how important he is. The restaurant offers a solid $20 prix fixe meal, too. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. Free.
Best Fest 48 Hour Madness Movies: The results of the student festival's crazy cinema challenge, in which teams have just two days to shoot, edit and present their films. Starts at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at UltraStar Hazard Center in Mission Valley.
Stranger than Paradise: One of Jim Jarmusch's best. New York City hipster John Lurie receives an unexpected visit from his 16-year-old Hungarian cousin. Made all the way back in 1984, this is a seminal piece of the American indie-film movement. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at the Whistle Stop in South Park. Free.
Crips and Bloods: Made in America: Stacy Peralta—yes, the skateboarding legend—shot this fascinating documentary about the long-running gang war that's still going on in L.A. Hoops star Baron Davis produced, and Forest Whitaker narrates. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 27, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Angels and Insects: A young scientist who studies insects marries into an aristocratic English family during the 1800s and finds that, for all their refinement, they have problems, too. Screens at 8 p.m. Monday, April 27, at The Loft on the UCSD campus. Free.
Experimental Films (With a Musical Twist): Scott Paulson curates a one-day series of short, experimental films and performs accompanying music with his Teeny Tiny Pit Orchestra. Starts at noon Tuesday, April 28, at The Loft on the UCSD campus.
War Child: Documentary follows rapper Emmanuel Jal's returns to Sudan, where he was a child soldier during the 1980s. All proceeds benefit the International Rescue Committee San Diego. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, April 27, at Landmark La Jolla.
Death Note: L: Change the World: The latest entry in the anime franchise plays two nights. Wednesday has subtitles, while Thursday is dubbed, for those who hate reading. Screens at 7:30 p.m. on April 29 and 30, at AMC Mission Valley, Edwards Mira Mesa and Horton Plaza. Advance tickets at www.fathomevents.com.
10: This movie used to be so risqué. Dudley Moore stars in Blake Edwards' classic about a dude having a midlife crisis who gets hooked on a hot blonde thing (Bo Derek) and starts having serious fantasies about her. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
17 Again: Teen heartthrob Zac Ephron is an old dude who suddenly gets young again. You know, like Benjamin Button.
Crank: High Voltage: Again, Jason Statham has to be like the bus in Speed. If he stops moving, his heart explodes.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: Lackluster adaptation of Michael Chabon's debut novel.
Shall We Kiss: French film that's all about making out.
State of Play: Russell Crowe is a D.C. reporter investigating the murder of Congressman Ben Affleck's mistress. Sounds cheesy, but it comes from the same U.K. team that wrote The Queen and The Deal.
Observe and Report: Seth Rogen's new mall-cop movie is darker than you expect it to be. But just as profane as you think it could be, too.
Dragonball: Evolution: Before you get all high and mighty over a movie based on a cartoon about a young warrior who must collect seven magical orbs, be aware that Hong Kong action legend Chow Yun-Fat deigned to be in this one. Then again, so did Ernie Hudson.
Hannah Montana: The Movie: This just makes us feel old. And we're not old.
Paris 36: It's Paris, 1936, and the local music hall has closed down. So three former employees and plenty of locals get together and—guess what—put on a show!
Sugar: New film from the directors of Half-Nelson about a young Dominican pitcher trying to make it to the majors. Tokyo!: Three different directors—Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho—tell intersecting stories set in Kyoto. Just kidding, Tokyo.
Sin Nombre: Cary Fukunaga's first feature earned him this year's Best Director award at Sundance. It's a harrowing tale of two immigrants—one a Mexican gang member, the other a young Honduran girl—who find themselves connected through violence as they head north.
Adventureland: Greg Mottola follows up Superbad with a summer romance that stars Kristen Stewart as the unattainable love interest and Jesse Eisenberg, who holds the entire thing together.
Fast and Furious: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker re-team for the fourth entry in the fast-car franchise.
The Haunting in Connecticut: Evil lives in the hardest state to spell.
Monsters vs. Aliens: Reese Witherspoon brings some life to this huge 3-D animated extravaganza, but the story is dwarfed by the special effects.
Duplicity: Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are good-looking spies who are definitely sleeping together and probably betraying each other.
I Love You, Man: Judd Apatow's fingers are nowhere to be found on this bromance, which stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segal. But they might as well be.
Knowing: If you can buy Nic Cage as an MIT prof, you'll happily go with him uncovering a time capsule that predicts all the global catastrophes of the last 50 years—and the imminent end of the world.
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.
Watchmen: Zack Snyder follows up 300 with a big budget take on the legendary graphic novel about the tattered personal lives of superheroes in an alternate 1985, where Nixon is still president and the world is on the brink of nuclear armageddon. It looks terrific, but it simply doesn't live up to its own source material.
Che: Steven Soderbergh's biopic about Che Guevara is four-and-a-half hours long and in Spanish. But you don't have to agree with Che's politics to appreciate how well it's made.
Two Lovers: The final film from Joaquin Phoenix, whose hip-hop career seems to really be taking off, finds him playing Leonard, a depressed Brooklyn boy living with his parents. Vinessa Shaw is great as the girl he should be with, but he only has eyes for drama queen Gwyneth Paltrow. What's unclear is why either of them have any interest in him.
Taken: Liam Neeson is a former CIA man whose daughter gets kidnapped by white slavers in Paris. So he goes to the city of lights and kills everybody. Pierre Morel has crafted a brutally violent guilty pleasure.
Gran Torino: For all the buzz, Clint Eastwood's new film is flawed. Yes, his cranky old guy, Walt Kowalski, manages to be the funny kind of equal-opportunity offender who finds some salvation by taking a good-natured Hmong neighbor under his wing. The problem is that it turns out he's right about everyone he dislikes. Black, white, Asian, his own relatives—they're all awful people in the world of Gran Torino, justifying Walt's latent racism. Nice.
The Wrestler: Yes, Mickey Rourke is just as good as you've heard, playing Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a washed-up wrestler who was big 20 years ago and is now the old man on the high-school gym circuit. Occasionally, it veers toward sentimentality but never goes over the edge. Marisa Tomei, too, is great as the stripper he'd like to get closer to, and Evan Rachel Wood is perfect as the daughter who can't find it in herself to forgive him.
Slumdog Millionaire: A young, uneducated Indian man is tortured by police who want to find how he knows all the questions he's gotten right on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The answers are all in his life story, which is full of poverty, abuse, hopes for true love, and the crossroads between coincidence and destiny.
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. Three films will run in rotation initially: Wild Ocean, Van Gogh: Brush with Genius and Animalopolis. 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.