Some background: El Bulli was the three-Michelin-star restaurant run by famed chef Ferran Adria. Every six months, it closed down and Adria and his staff got to work, exploring and experimenting, trying to come up with gastronomic ideas that are, essentially, the future of food. The results are amazing, beautiful and, one would hope, delicious, and Wetzel is there to capture most of an off-season, which largely consists of Adria and his assistants—mostly his assistants, honestly—documenting their food experiments.
The problem with the film, though, is that it's even more clinical than the experiments it depicts. The film is far more observational than narrative, and though the work it captures is amazing, the experience of watching it is sort of cold.
Still, it's a must-see for folks who are fascinated by food, and it serves as a precursor to Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the documentary (due here in March) about the man considered to be the world's greatest sushi maker. Also, El Bulli is more than just watching masters of food ply their trade; it also serves as a document of times past. Yes, El Bulli has closed its doors, because, apparently, taking six months off to perfect a menu is financially unsustainable.
Beneath the Darkness: A bunch of high-schoolers have to convince the authorities that a respected member of the community is actually a psycho killer. The hardest part? That guy is played by Dennis Quaid.
The Devil Inside: In order to find out why her mother murdered three people during her own exorcism, a woman in Italy becomes involved in back-alley demonic expulsions.
The Human Body: Get up close and personal with what's going on below your neck—like, IMAX up close and personal—on Fridays through January at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Pariah: Adepero Oduye's performance, as a young African-American lesbian in Brooklyn who has to keep secrets from her family, is amazing, elevating a story we've seen before to new heights.
Rescue: This IMAX movie looks at first-responders across the globe and includes footage shot during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Yellowstone: If you look closely, you might catch the cameo from Yogi the Bear in this IMAX nature film, which screens on Fridays through January at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
One Time Only
Wall Street: Greed is still good, especially when you're drinking cocktails poolside. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Do the Right Thing: The Public Library kicks off a month of Spike Lee joints with the best of them, his exploration of racism in the simmering urban jungle that is Brooklyn. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Flor Silvestre: This piece of Golden Age Mexican cinema was Dolores del Rio's first south-of-the-border movie after her time in Hollywood's silent pictures. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Protektor: In Prague in the 1930s, a Czech journalist, hoping to deflect attention from his Jewish wife, starts working with a radio station that broadcasts Nazi propaganda. As you might imagine, it doesn't go well. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Hangover Part 2: Some guys never learn. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Outrage: Takeshi Kitano is his own leading man in his new Yakuza turf war movie, which starts out bloody and only gets bloodier. Ends Jan. 5 at the Ken Cinema.
A Dangerous Method: Michael Fassbender is Jung, Viggo Mortensen is Freud and Keira Knightley is a disturbed young Russian with eyes on the former. Somehow, even under David Cronenberg's direction, it isn't very interesting.
The Adventures of Tin-Tin: Most Americans are unfamiliar with Tin-Tin, the series of Belgian graphic novels about a boy reporter and his heroic dog Snowy. Spielberg's kid-friendly adaptation has some amazing motion capture, but it doesn't truly capture the series.
The Artist: This silent film about a silent-film star (Jean Dujardin) whose world begins to collapse as the talkies take over is a fully realized vision and a legitimate Best Picture contender.
The Darkest Hour: Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby are in Moscow when aliens attack.
Don 2: Bollywood thriller about an Indian crime lord who sets his sights on the European underworld.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Now with more English! David Fincher's reboot is far slicker than the Swedish original, but not, perhaps, particularly necessary.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Believe it or not, No. 4 is the best of the bunch, probably because it's the first live-action film from director Brad Bird, the guy behind The Incredibles.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Gary Oldman is great as George Smiley, the semi-retired British spy brought back in to unmask a traitor during the Cold War, but the entire exercise is probably too slow for American audiences.
War Horse: Spielberg's other big holiday film is about a horse that's taken from the boy who raised him, serves as an officer's mount in WWI and ends up seeing action from opposite trenches.
We Bought a Zoo: Native son Cameron Crowe gets seriously PG. Matt Damon stars as a single dad who moves his two kids to an aging zoo conveniently run by Scarlett Johansson. Also starring some very cute animals and kids.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: The sequel is certainly entertaining, as Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) take on the detective's legendary enemy, Professor Moriarty. But there's really no mystery to solve.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Squeaky clean.
Young Adult: Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody reteams with director Jason Reitman for this story about a former homecoming queen (Charlize Theron) who returns to her small hometown in Minnesota after a divorce and a mental breakdown of sorts, intending to steal her high-school beau (Patrick Wilson) away from his wife and family.
New Year's Eve: Famous people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro and Ashton Kutcher get drunk and make out at midnight.
Shame: Michael Fassbender bares body and soul as a sex addict in Steve McQueen's NC-17 drama. It's graphic, emotionally and sexually, but it's also well-made.
The Sitter: Jonah Hill is the college kid suckered into taking care of children who live next door to him.
Arthur Christmas: A 3-D animated flick about Santa's youngest son, who uses Santa's high-tech operation to complete a crucial mission on Christmas night.
Hugo: Hell hath apparently frozen over—Martin Scorsese has made a 3-D PG family film.
The Muppets: Jason Segal reboots the franchise. It's time to play the music and light the lights one more time.
My Week with Marilyn: Eddie Redmayne is Colin Clark, an assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who has to manage his boss' relationship with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during a production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
The Descendants: Alexander Payne's first film since Sideways is more straightforward than his previous work, but just as rewarding. George Clooney's terrific as Matt King, a father trying to reconnect with his daughters after his wife's injured in an accident.
Santa vs. The Snowman: Family-oriented steel-cage match plays the IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Ends Jan. 5.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1: You know how Bella and Edward spent the last three movies not getting it on? Well, now they do.
Immortals: Zeus chooses Thesus (played by Henry Cavill, the next Superman) to take on Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) in a film by Tarsem Singh, who made The Cell.
J. Edgar: Leonardo DiCaprio is the longtime head of the FBI in Clint Eastwood's biopic. DiCaprio's pretty good, but the film treats Hoover with kid gloves.
Jack and Jill: As if one Adam Sandler weren't enough, here he plays a nice guy and the nice guy's annoying twin sister.
The Way: Emilio Estevez directed his dad, Martin Sheen, in this film about a father who heads to Europe to try to recover the body of his estranged son.
The Ides of March: George Clooney, who's always worn his politics on his sleeve, directs and stars in his latest film, about the death of idealism in a young political consultant played by Ryan Gosling. It's well-made, but not as important as it thinks it is.
Under the Sea: Go underwater and see some of the planet's most gorgeous ecosystems, before it's too late, since we're gradually destroying pretty much everything. Screening at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Moneyball: Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's who shook up baseball by reinventing the way players are valued. Sounds like dry stuff, but the last time someone adapted a Michael Lewis sports-business book for the big screen was The Blind Side, which earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar.
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.
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.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.