Date movies: Sure, Valentine's Day was a month ago. But you might have someone new in your life already. But things are moving slowly, and you don't want to blow it. So you need the perfect night out—casual, somewhat romantic, something that might move things along organically, without screaming “I'm way into you!”You're in luck. Two movies are screening this week that are designed to do exactly that. They're both romantic, but neither is a romance. They're both funny and sweet (and maybe best of all, free), and yet there's something to discuss over drinks afterwards. So enjoy—and if you get lucky, blame CityBeat.
On Sunday, Hillcrest's Café Libertalia is screening Amelie, one of the most fun and inventive films of the last decade. Audrey Tatou is an innocent Parisian who tries to make other people's lives better, even as she's tracking down the mystery man of her own dreams. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's films always had a visual flair, but it wasn't until Amelie that they truly had a soul. It screens at 6:30 p.m.
And over at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma, they're showing the Irish musical Once on Wednesday March 18. Look, you can hate musicals and still love this film about an unnamed busker who meets an unnamed Czech immigrant on the streets of Dublin, because they make beautiful music together. For real. Screens at 8 p.m.
Cherry Blossoms: The wife in a longtime German couple doesn't tell her husband that he's dying, but instead takes him to Japan to visit their son.
Everlasting Moments: A young, working-class Swede decides to keep the camera she won in a lottery and ends up documenting everything she sees around her.
Good: Likely the last of the '08 Holocaust films to hit San Diego. Viggo Mortensen is a German intellectual whose work is celebrated by government officials who start using it as propaganda. He ends up with fame and very bad karma.
The Last House on the Left: A remake of Wes Craven's brutal '72 original. A gang kidnaps and assaults a young girl and then takes refuge in her parents' summerhouse. Bad move, 'cause the folks are pissed.
Miss March: Kid in a coma wakes up to learn his high-school sweetie is in the middle of a magazine. Which, of course, leads to a road trip. And boobs.
Race to Witch Mountain: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a Vegas cabbie who picks up two kids brimming with ESP who are on the run.
One time only
The Naked Eye: Examines the work of Len Stouman and his photographic animation technique. Earned a 1956 Best Documentary Oscar nomination. Screens at 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
California Company Town: Takes a look at cities that once showed great promise until they were ditched by local industry. Filmmaker Lee Anne Schmitt will intro her movie. Screens at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, in Room 125 of Markstein Hall on the CSU San Marcos campus. Free.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: You, me—and the whale's vagina makes three. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Secrecy: San Diego premiere of a doc that examines the fine line between government secrecy and security—and whether there's a reasonable place for them to meet. Screens at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 12, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location.
Cash: A French comedy about rival gangs trying to make the same score on the French Riviera. With Jean Reno. Screens at 6:30 p.m., Monday, March 16, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Body of War: Phil Donahue co-directed this searing doc about Tomas Young, who was shot and paralyzed during his first week serving in Iraq. Eddie Vedder provided original music. Screens at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, in Room 240 of the Arts Building on the CSU San Marcos campus. Free.
Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians: Curtis photographed and recorded Native Americans in the early part of the last century. This takes a look at his life and his own changing attitudes toward the people he documented. Screens at 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Free with museum admission.
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.
Moscow, Belgium: No-nonsense MILF Matty has to decide between her husband and the uneducated, balding young buck who's suddenly interested in her.
Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience: The movie that's pushing Coraline out of the 3-D theaters.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li: Torn from the digital pages of the video-game franchise and released just in time for Street Fighter IV to hit video-game consoles.
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.
The Class: No, Laurence Cantet's film about a year in a low-income multi-ethnic classroom in Paris didn't win the Oscar on Sunday night, but it's still absolutely worth seeing.
The Secrets: Naomi postpones her arranged marriage to study at an all-girls seminary, providing the vehicle for a pointed critique of Orthodox Judaism's marginalization of women. A little rough around the edges, it's an interesting look at how liberating religion can be when it gets a good dose of feminism.Confessions of a Shopaholic: Isla Fisher is the shopaholic, a New Yorker with an advice column in a film that's obviously been dumped into theaters in February in the hopes that women will take pity on it.
Tyler Perry's Medea Goes to Jail: Perry's been cranking out—and usually starring in—two movies a year for a while. Reprising his most popular character, crazy senior citizen Medea, this time he takes his shtick behind bars.
Fired Up: Two high-school football players spend the summer at cheerleading camp—a healthy combination of totally gay and George W. Bush.
The International: Tom Tykwer's new film is gorgeously shot and edited, especially a huge shoot-out in New York's Guggenheim Museum. But it takes itself so seriously that it feels tragic when the logic behind it just doesn't hold up. Plus, the enormous international conspiracy is far more interesting than the good guys—Clive Owen and Naomi Watts—trying to take it down.
Coraline: Henry Selick's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Hugo-winning novella is the first of the new 3-D movies that uses the tech to complement the story. Dakota Fanning voices the lonely little girl who finds a doorway to a parallel universe that turns out to be far more dangerous than her own, and Teri Hatcher is her mom—and her Other Mother, too.
He's Just Not That Into You: A look at the dating adventures of young people in Baltimore—people like Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connelly, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Ginnifer Goodwin and plenty of others. C'mon. No one that good-looking lives in Baltimore.
Push: Dakota Fanning is a young girl with the power to get inside other people's minds. Along with Chris Evans, she's on the wrong end of a conspiracy, hunted by other weird psy-ops types. Director Paul McGuigan's last film, Lucky Number Slevin, was pretty sharp.
Frozen River: Melissa Leo's Best Actress Oscar nom has given this one a second theatrical life. She's a desperate single mom who ends up smuggling illegal immigrants through a reservation in the Northeast. It's a dark movie and a terrific performance.
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 crafts a brutally violent guilty pleasure that shows us what the rest of the world thinks we Americans are like.
Defiance: The story of the Bielski brothers (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell) is amazing: They took to the Bellarussian forests during World War II, fought the Nazis and eventually built a community of 1,200 Jews who survived the war.
Hotel for Dogs: Good road-trip tip—all Motel 6s take dogs. This kid-friendly movie, on the other hand, makes bitches out of actors like Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon.
Last Chance Harvey: Emma Thompson is terrific as the woman Dustin Hoffman takes a shine to when he's in the U.K. for his daughter's wedding. A romance for The Bucket List set.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop: Rent-a-cops across the nation rejoiced when they learned their story would finally be told. Then they found out Kevin James is playing Blart.
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.
Revolutionary Road: Sam Mendes directs his wife, Kate Winslet, and Leonardo DiCaprio in what might be called
American Beauty: The Early Years. It's another look at the unspoken seamy underbelly of American suburbia in the 1950s, but it just doesn't hold together. Unpleasantville.
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.The Reader: Kate Winslet is amazing as a grown woman who has an affair with a 15-year-old boy in post-war Berlin. Their paths cross again years later when she's on trial for war crimes.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Director David Fincher directs Brad Pitt as a man born old and growing young. Beautifully shot, the film is less about youth no longer being wasted on the young than it is about the decades long love story between the characters played by Pitt and Cate Blanchett, who are going in different directions.
Doubt: Best. Catholic. Priest. Abuse. Movie. Ever. John Patrick Shanley adapted and directed his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play and landed a couple of acting heavyweights for the leads. Meryl Streep is a nasty nun who goes after popular priest Phillip Seymour Hoffman, because she A. doesn't like him, and B. thinks he might be getting a little too close to one of his altar boys.
Milk: Sean Penn delivers yet another tremendous performance as the first openly gay elected politician in the country, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated, along with the mayor of San Francisco, in 1978. Gus Van Sant directs, but the movie is all Penn, and it is nothing if not timely in light of Prop 8.
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.
Twilight: Never heard of Twilight? It's like Harry Potter, with vampires, for tweens and their moms, all of whom react to it like desperate meth addicts. If you have heard of Twilight, you know we're telling the truth.
Rachel Getting Married: The herky-jerky handheld camera in Jonathan Demme's new movie mirrors the emotional turmoil of Kym (Anne Hathaway), just out of rehab to attend her sister's wedding. There's Oscar buzz surrounding Hathaway, who is equal parts toxic and pathetic but ultimately someone worth pulling for. Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Will Woody Allen ever make another film in New York? After shooting the last two in the U.K., he moved his act overseas. Scarlett Johanssen and Rebecca Hall are tourists in Barcelona who find themselves infatuated with mysterious brooding painter Javier Bardem. When his crazy ex-wife (Bardem's real-life honey, Penelope Cruz) enters the picture, the whole trip becomes a total bummer.
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.