Though it's set in the early '60s, The Express has a thing or two in common with the current presidential election.
“It certainly resonates, doesn't it?” says Dennis Quaid, who plays Ben Schwartzwalder, the Syracuse football coach who guided Ernie Davis to become the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner.
“I think we approached the issue of racism and segregation as it existed back in those times honestly,” Quaid says.
His take on Schwartzwalder is gruff and unsympathetic; he's immersed in his football team and annoyed by anything that might become a distraction. “One thing you have to realize about Ben is that he was just a man of his times,” Quaid says. “In today's terms, you'd probably call some of Ben's actions racist, but that was the way things were back then. At the same time, he was a groundbreaker in that he was one of the first coaches to recruit African-Americans to his team. But it wasn't for any sociological reason. He just ate, drank and slept football.”
This is a great story, but The Express never really rises above most inspirational sports movies. Still, it's hard not to see some parallels between Davis and Barack Obama. Quaid says that's understandable. “It speaks to the way we used to be,” he says. “And how far we've come, and where we still need to go.”
Body of Lies: Ridley Scott teams Russell Crowe with Leonardo DiCaprio for this spy thriller, about a CIA agent going after a terrorist leader in Jordan and doesn't know who he can trust on his own team. DiCaprio is the good guy. Maybe.
City of Ember: A mysterious underground city has survived for generations via hundreds of flickering lights, but now the generator is dying, forcing two teens to search the city for a way to escape. Bill Murray is the city's mayor, i.e. The Man.
Quarantine: Could this be Blair Witch 2.0? A reporter and her cameraman investigate an infection that makes its victims all zombie-like, only to find themselves trapped in an apartment complex with several other survivors when the authorities cordon off the building and refuse to let anyone out.
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. See our review on Page 28.
San Diego Asian Film Festival: The lineup is strong this year, kicking off with Jessica Yu's sweet and funny Ping Pong Playa. We have all the details for you on Page 15.
Trouble the Water: When Katrina hit New Orleans, aspiring rapper and street hustler Kimberly Roberts picked up her video camera and began shooting. She didn't stop shooting until after they returned to the 9th Ward after the storm. The most important film to emerge from the disaster, Trouble the Water gets to the heart of what happened and how the government failed the survivors.
Tulad Ng Dati: Fictional film about the real-life Filipino rock band The Dawn and their 20-year history, from the pinnacle of their success in the 1980s to their recent reunion and resurgence, spurred by band member Jett Pangan, who awoke from a coma in 2003 with no memory of the band's 1996 breakup. Part of the San Diego Asian Film Festival's Filipino Cinema Showcase, Tulad Ng Dati plays UltraStar Chula Vista from Oct. 10 to 16.
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San Diego Italian Film Festival: The second Italian Film Festival is in full swing, and while avoiding the sophomore slump is tough to do, organizers have a nice lineup and a good concept. This year, it's bigger and better, with 15 movies, most of which are recent theatrical releases from the homeland. Through Oct. 19. www.sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com.
Blackout: The latest entry in the Filipino Cinema Showcase is a psychological thriller about a drunken apartment landlord who wakes up to find his car's bumper dented and bloody. Through Oct. 8 at UltraStar Chula Vista.
The Exorcist: A young priest questioning his faith teams with an experienced exorcist to drive the demon out of a prepubescent Linda Blair. The second of a five-film horror series, this one is still freaky after all these years. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
The Devil Wears Prada: This adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's best-seller about the fashion industry is thin but pleasant. It established Anne Hathaway as a leading lady, introduced us to Emily Blunt and features a blistering performance from Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, a thinly veiled version of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Donald Sutherland is great in Phillip Kaufman's '70s remake of the '50s original. He's a laconic health inspector trying to escape the alien pod people who are taking over the world. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla.
Chinatown: One of the greatest mystery movies ever made. Jack Nicholson is the hard-boiled Jake Gittes, trying to unravel the complexities of L.A. water rights and just what is going on with Faye Dunaway. One of Roman Polanski's best films is aided and abetted by Robert Townsend's Oscar-winning screenplay. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, through Saturday, Oct. 11, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
October Sky: The San Diego Space Society sponsors a screening of the one that put Jake Gyllenhaal on the map. Based on true events, he's a poor kid in a coal-mining town who starts building rockets in his backyard after the first Sputnik launch, against the wishes of grumpy dad Chris Cooper. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in Studio 106 in the Art Union Building (2323 Broadway) in Golden Hill. Free.
For the Bible Tells Me So: A look at five Christian American families and how they've come to terms with having a gay child. Some of these folks are Joe Sixpack; others are Dick Gephardt and an Episcopal bishop. Apparently, the Cheneys didn't participate. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest. Free, but donations are requested.
The Visitor: Tom McCarthy follows up his debut, The Station Agent, with this subtle look at immigration. Veteran character actor Richard Jenkins (the dead dad on Six Feet Under) is a burnt-out professor adrift in his life, but things change when he tries to help a young illegal immigrant detained in New York. McCarthy makes his points through people instead of politics, which is nice. Screens at 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, at the Little Theatre at SDSU. Free.
Clean Mic: Laughing Until It Hurts: New documentary that just finished a festival run makes its San Diego debut, focusing on the challenges facing minority comedians who use clean comedy in their acts. Director Will Gorham will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Screens at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Malcolm X Library in Encanto. Organizers are asking for donations.
Dead Alive: The early horror-comedy from Peter Jackson is awesome, taking the same approach to FX that he did for the Lord of the Rings movies, but with a fraction of the budget. Nebbishy Lionel's mother is bitten by a rat-monkey and goes all zombie-like, eating pets, friends and neighbors—leading to an Oedipal confrontation that brings new meaning to the term “mowing them down.” Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12, at the Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
911: Dust and Deceit: Remember how, just after 9/11, EPA head honcho Christine Todd Whitman told New Yorkers that the air of Lower Manhattan was cool to breathe? Um, it wasn't. And this documentary tells you exactly why. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12, at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest. Free.
Press Rewind Plus '08: Each Sunday in October, UCSD's ArtPower! Film presents the flicks it showed in last year's first student film festival. In this second week, they'll screen short films from Chuk Moran, Jason Campa, Jeffy Can, James Song, Helena McLaughlin and Phillip Abueg. There are different films each week, and it's always pay-what-you-will. Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12, at The Loft on the UCSD campus.
Hacking Democracy: Jim Lampley of HBO and NBC Sports puts in an appearance and introduces this doc about electronic voting machines and just how easy it was for the Republicans to take over the coun—um, how easy it could be for someone to manipulate the vote. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, at Lestat's West in Normal Heights. Free.
Lioness: Intense documentary about female soldiers who were initially supposed to be support staff but ended up fighting insurgents in the streets of Ramadi, the first female American soldiers to be sent into direct combat. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the Downtown Central Library. Free.
Ratatouille: Somehow, Pixar made a cartoon about a rat in the kitchen that was one of the best movies of 2007. If you haven't seen it, do so, preferably while eating dinner. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Seriously, if you're a crazy Texan with a leather mask and a passel of kinfolk bound and determined to slaughter and eat some good-looking younglings, you might as well use a chainsaw, right? Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Death Note II: The Last Name: Insane sequel to the original runaway hit lands in theaters for two nights only. Serial killers, Eyes of Death and, of course, the ability to hand someone a note that spells their doom are all part of the almost-three-hour package. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 15 and 16, at AMC Mission Valley, Edwards Mira Mesa, and Horton Plaza. Tickets can be bought ahead of time at www.fathomevents.com.
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An American Carol: Hollywood Republicans like Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper team up for a Michael Moore mockumentary.
Appaloosa: The Western continues its comeback. Ed Harris directs and stars as a lawman with good-lookin' Viggo Mortensen as his sidekick, going after a bad dude.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Um. Ratdogs get Babe treatment.
Blackout: The latest entry in the Philippine Cinema Showcase is a psychological thriller about a drunken apartment landlord who wakes up to find his car's bumper dented and bloody. Runs through Oct. 8 at UltraStar Chula Vista.
Blindness: Julianne Moore is the only sightless person quarantined after an epidemic of blindness hits her city. Mark Ruffalo is her husband, and Gael Garcia Bernal is the crazy dude who tries to take over in the chaos.
Flash of Genius: Greg Kinnear plays Robert Kearns, the man who invented the modern windshield wiper but who had to fight Ford and the auto industry for 30 years to get the credit. Nice premise, but like Kinnear and the windshield wiper, somewhat bland.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: The film adaptation loses some of the spectacularly sinful stuff found in Toby Young's memoir of working under Graydon Carter at Vanity Fair. Even the nude transsexual stripper doesn't seem like a very big deal. But Simon Pegg is fun as the journo looking for the sweet smell of success. Like The Devil Wears Prada, but with a dude.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist: Call it John Hughes 2.0. Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are the titular characters, kicking around New York all night in search of their favorite band and a love connection with each other. Not perfect but terribly sweet, with a great soundtrack that includes a nice score from Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh.
Religulous: Bill Maher travels the world, talking to different people about a God he doesn't believe in.
Fireproof: Kirk Cameron takes a break from those Left Behind movies to play a super-brave firefighter who doesn't have the courage to stand up to his own wife. Until, you know, something with Jesus happens.
Choke: Clark Gregg's adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's nihilistic novel about a sex addict with serious mommy issues who fakes choking in restaurants to garner sympathy and money is really funny, believe it or not. It all rests on the shoulders of Sam Rockwell, and this is the role he was born to play.
The Duchess: Keira Knightley's latest period piece also stars some other Brits, like Ralph Fiennes and Dominic Cooper and (yawn) zzzzzzzzz.
Eagle Eye: Shia LaBeouf re-teams with director DJ Caruso for this terror-thriller. He's a slacker, Michelle Monaghan's a single mom, and both are being pushed to do horrible things by a threatening voice on the other end of the phone. Seriously, how have we survived this long without another Shia movie? Oh, right. Easily.
Miracle at St. Anna: Spike Lee's new joint explores four African-American soldiers trapped in a Tuscan village during World War II.
Nights in Rodanthe: Richard Gere and Diane Lane get busy in a small North Carolina town with the awkward name of Rodanthe. Let's just hope they both have residency and vote Democrat.
Ghost Town: Ricky Gervais finally gets the lead in an American movie. But is this the right one for his big stateside break? He's a nasty dentist who dies on the operating table, and once he's revived, he sees—and can talk to—dead people, all of whom are soon asking for favors. Like Ghost meets The Sixth Sense with a chubby Brit.
Igor: John Cusack voices the title character in this animated creature-feature, a hunchbacked lab rat desperate to become a mad scientist. The supporting cast includes Steve Buscemi and John Cleese, but we're really looking forward to Eddie Izzard's take on Dr. Schadenfreude.
Lakeview Terrace: Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington move in next to Samuel L. Jackson, an angry cop who doesn't want a biracial couple as neighbors. It's from director Neil LaBute, so prepare your buttons now—they will likely be pushed.
My Best Friend's Girl: Irritating comic Dane Cook is hired by his best friend, the irritating Jason Biggs, to woo the irritating Kate Hudson, so she'll see how great the irritating Biggs is. Surprise! The irritating Cook falls for her. We're guessing that at some point, we'll hear the somewhat irritating song from The Cars that the movie is named after.
Burn After Reading: The Coen brothers' new film is a thriller-comedy reuniting bromancers Pitt and Clooney. Pitt, along with Frances McDormand, is a gym employee who blackmails a gnarly ex-CIA guy (John Malkovich) who leaves his unpublished memoirs behind after a workout. Let's hope it's more Fargo than The Ladykillers.
Righteous Kill: Two aged New York cops investigate murders that are eerily reminiscent of a case they tackled years ago. Just check the cast: Al Pacino. Robert De Niro. And 50 Cent? For reals.
The Women: Annette Bening and Meg Ryan star as rich New York bitches in this remake of George Cukor's 1939 take on Clare Booth Luce's classic play.
Tropic Thunder: Ben Stiller directed and stars in this monster comedy about a bunch of spoiled actors dropped into a real war zone. The thing is, they think it's a movie set, but the guerrillas they're up against are the real deal. Jack Black stars as the funnyman taking on a serious role, and Robert Downey Jr. is the award-winning actor who dyes his skin to play the part of the unit's black sergeant. Like most of Stiller's stuff, it's really dumb and kinda funny. Oh, and in this case, it's rated R, so it's also really violent.
Vicky Christina 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.
Pineapple Express: Seth Rogen and James Franco play buddies Dale and Saul, whose possession of some ultra-rare weed leads them into compromising situations with the police, thugs, drug dealers and a Chinese crime syndicate. Yeah, it's as dumb as it sounds. It's also hilarious and hugely entertaining, with a star-making performance by Danny McBride as Red. Keep an eye out for the absurd props, which provide some unexpected laughs.
The Dark Knight: It's finally here, and yes, Christopher Nolan's new Batman movie is everything you hoped it would be. An epic two-and-a-half-hour crime drama that examines the complicated nature of good, evil and heroism and simply must be seen on an Imax screen to be believed. Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhard are all well-served by a tense, taut script, but it truly is Heath Ledger's movie, as he plays Batman's nemesis, The Joker, with a shambling malevolence that's terrifying and intense.
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.