Before they walk across the stage and get their degrees, virtually guaranteeing them fame and fortune, the grad students at UCSD's School of Visual Arts are putting their work on display for an afternoon for the second year in a row.
The masters of fine arts candidates work in a variety of media, so expect to see everything from nanotechnology to stand-up comedy. At 4 p.m., the filmmakers will dim the lights and crank up the projects they've been working on.
Kate Hoffman's animated film depicting her own sculptures coming to life will be screened, along with Robert Beacraft's 12-minute animated effort that includes a multitude of techniques. Elyse Montague will show excerpts from the half-hour film Owls Head, funded with a grant from the Princess Grace Foundation, and Dolissa Medina's The Moon Song of Assassination will examine conspiracy theories surrounding the death of the Tejano star Selena. Cathy de la Cruz will show a number of clips from her final UCSD project, while Kelly Pendergrast will show part of the follow-up to her own film, Why I Ate Myself. More than a dozen shorts will be shown altogether, most of which put the “art” in art-house.
UCSD School of Visual Arts Open Studios opens up from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Visual Arts Center. The films roll at 4 p.m. The event is free. Directions and more details on the artists can be found at www.ucsdopenstudios.com.—Anders Wright
Caramel: This sweet and subtle Lebanese chick flick examines five women whose lives revolve around a beauty parlor in Beirut. It's a window into life in the Middle East—one woman is forced to show proof of marriage to get a hotel room; another is hassled by an overzealous soldier for sitting in a car with her fiancé. These women aren't worried about bombs or guns, they're worried about the same basic issues women across the globe are concerned with: love, happiness, respect. It's a refreshing change of pace that shows that, deep down, we're not really all that different. See our review here.
The Grand: Yep, another poker movie. This one's got a new twist on it, though—all the dialogue is improvised, and word is that the ending, set at the fictitious World Championship of Poker, was unscripted. Whoever won the hands on set got to win in the movie. The cast is interesting, too, with Woody Harrelson, Werner Herzog, Cheryl Hines, Ray Romano, Michael McKean and even Gabe Kaplan, who became a professional poker stud after his days on Welcome Back, Kotter.
Leatherheads: George Clooney stars in and directs this romantic comedy set in the early days of football, playing Dodge Connelley, who's determined to bring the game into the mainstream. John Krasinski (The Office) is an Ivy League war hero who brings new tactics to the game, rivaling Clooney's authority and battling him for the affections of sports reporter Renee Zellweger. Think Bull Durham, with pigskin.
Nim's Island: This adaptation of Wendy Orr's novel finds Abigail Breslin as Nim, a young girl who imagines the island she lives on is magical, based on the fictional adventurer Alex Rover in her favorite books. But when her dad goes missing, Nim teams up with Alex Rover's author (Jodie Foster) to track him down. Gerard “This. Is. Sparta!” Butler plays Nim's dad and Alex Rover.
The Ruins: A terrific argument against sightseeing. Four young, hot American tourists in Mexico hook up with a morose German who takes them on an expedition to an ancient Mayan temple. Bummer for them, since there's an ancient evil beastie thing hiding out there, and it loves nothing more than feasting on young, hot American tourists. Guess they should have stayed at the hotel bar. Jena Malone is in on the creepiness.
Shelter: Writer/director Jonah Markowitz's first feature stars Trevor Wright as Zach, a San Pedro surfer who has given up his dreams to care for his nephew. His job sucks, his sister is too busy to watch her own kid and he barely has time for his girlfriend Tori (Katie Walder). But all that changes when his best bud's bro, Shaun (Brad Rowe), comes home. The two start as surfing pals, but their relationship grows beyond the waves, forcing Zach to confront his identity, his sexuality and his priorities.
Shine a Light: Martin Scorsese directed this Rolling Stones concert film, shot in two nights at New York's venerable, 2,800-seat Beacon Theatre in 2006. Jack White, Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy all came out to play with them, and the Clintons were in the audience. Man, that must've been a tough ticket.
One time only
Enter the Dragon: Bruce Lee's first American film will totally kick your ass. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at The Pearl hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Maquilapolis: Tijuana is just minutes from San Diego, but in terms of working conditions in foreign-owned factories known as maquiladoras, it's worlds away—three worlds, to be exact. By giving cameras to the factory workers, mostly young mothers from southern Mexico, this video-diary-style doc sheds light on the long hours, low pay and toxic environments they endure in order to put televisions in America's living rooms. A Q&A with some of the workers will follow. Screens at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 3, in room A-213 at City College, 1313 Park Blvd., Downtown. Free.
Light of My Eyes: The latest installment from the Italian Film Festival finds Antonio (Luigi Lo Cascio), a lonely chauffeur with no great ambition other than to get his passengers to where they're going so he can read another sci-fi pulp novel. That is, until he meets Maria (Sandra Ceccarelli), a single mother on the verge of losing her small business. Somehow, he finds himself a part of the lives of Maria and her daughter, and though Maria remains as detached as he once felt, his own life begins to take on new meaning. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at the Museum of Photographic Art. Free.
Including Samuel: Photojournalist Dan Habib created this documentary about his 7-year-old son Samuel, who has cerebral palsy, and his family's efforts to keep him in the mainstream as much as possible. Including Samuel is a look at how successful and nurturing integration can be for kids with or without disabilities. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Mother Rosalie Hill Hall Auditorium on the USD campus. $10.
Iraq For Sale: War Profiteers: Director Robert Greenwald, who has previously taken on Wal-Mart and Fox News, now goes after Blackwater, KBR (Halliburton's parent company) and other corporations making bank in Iraq. Greenwald has a habit of getting his hands on all kinds of footage his targets don't want you to see, but, hey, the truth hurts, right? Screens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 4, at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest. Free.
His People: The Jewish Film Festival and the Jewish Music Festival team up to present the newly restored 1925 silent picture His People, about a poor family living in New York's lower east side in the 1920s. This is one of the first film screenings in the (also newly restored) Balboa Theatre, and it'll be accompanied by a live score from Paul Shapiro's six-piece jazz ensemble. Screens at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at the Balboa Theatre. $22 members/$27 everyone else.
10 Questions for the Dalai Lama: Only 10? That's apparently how many documentarian Rick Ray prepped for his interview with the Tibetan grand poobah. But in getting ready for his meeting, Ray did an extraordinary amount of research, compiling a film that's part documentary, part travelogue and part spiritual journey. Screens at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at the Tibet Gift House in Normal Heights.
Jalsa: Man, we love us some Bollywood. No clue what this one's about, but IMDB has it listed as an action/comedy/drama/musical/romance. Try to find an American picture with those credentials. Screens on Sunday, April 6, at the Edwards Mira Mesa. Showtime not available at press time—check www.goldspiritfilms.com for details. $13.99.
Hannah Takes the Stairs: Ah, mumblecore, how you remind us of the indie movement of the early 1990s. That's a good thing. Hannah includes plenty of the genre's heavy-hitters: Andrew Bujalski is in it. Joe Swanberg directed and co-wrote it, along with actor Greta Gerwig. And Mark Duplass, half of the Duplass brothers (the dudes behind The Puffy Chair), also puts in an appearance. Like most mumblecore, it's simple—Hannah (Gerwig) has crushes on two co-workers at the Chicago production company where she interns and is terrified to do anything with either of them because she might alienate the other. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 7, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
Y Tu Mama Tambien: This terrific film landed director Alfonso Cuarón a Harry Potter movie, which he followed up with the incredible 2006 film Children of Men. But his international acclaim really started here, as young Tenoch and Julio (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, respectively) meet an older woman (Maribel Verdú) at a wedding. The trio takes off on a spontaneous road trip, during which they all learn the facts of life. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at The Pearl hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Stop Loss: Kimberly Peirce's first film since Boys Don't Cry examines the human effects of the U.S. military's policy of unilaterally extending the contracts of servicemembers. Ryan Phillippe is Brandon King, a decorated sergeant who lost men toward the end of his Iraq tour. So just imagine his surprise when Uncle Sam tells him he has to go back. Instead, he hits the road—with Abbie Cornish, the girlfriend of his best buddy, Tatum Channing. Though flawed, Stop Loss takes on an important topic and manages to be a war film without being an Iraq War film.
21: Utterly formulaic adaptation of Ben Mezrich's great little airport read, Bringing Down the House, about the MIT card-counting team that took its act to the Vegas blackjack tables and made a ton of money.
Flawless: In '60s London, a female executive (Demi Moore) at a diamond corporation is frustrated as she watches man after man get promotions that should be hers. Equally frustrated is the janitor (Michael Caine), who is virtually invisible in the eyes of the rich jerks who work there. So the two team up to hit them where it hurts—namely, the vault.
Planet B-Boy: I once saw a dude standing on his hands take his cap off his head with his feet. Just try to picture that. That's why break-dancing rules. This doc, which covers a number of competitors vying for the World Championship, features dancing that will absolutely blow your mind.
Run, Fatboy, Run: At CityBeat, we ™ Simon Pegg, but this new rom-com finds him without his longtime posse—co-star Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. And it shows. Pegg is Dennis, the fat boy in question, an underachieving security guard who left his gorgeous pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton) at the alter. Years later, he's still pining for her, but she's taken up with a hunky American rich guy (Hank Azaria), so Dennis decides the only way to win her back is to train for and complete the London marathon. Problem is, he's an overweight smoker who doesn't run.
Superhero Movie: Finally, someone in Hollywood has the stones to stand up to the comic-book geeks and make a parody of the superhero movies. Men wear tights. Leslie Nielsen cameos. Hilarity ensues. Maybe.
Under the Same Moon: Following the death of his grandmother, 9-year-old Carlos works his way across the border and heads for L.A. to find his mother, armed only with the description of the street corner she has called him from for the last four years.
Drillbit Taylor: The latest entry into the Jud Apatow family of comedies finds three high-school freshmen advertising for a mercenary to defend them against a bully. These boys need someone strong, crafty and wise. Instead, they get Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a soldier of fortune (of sorts) who has hit the skids.
Paranoid Park: Gus Van Sant goes back to the well that is disaffected youth in this non-linear drama about a young skater, Alex (Gabe Nevins), who finds himself involved in an accidental death. The film is part mystery, unraveling as it gets closer and closer to what really happened, and part examination of the emotions of the young, as Alex struggles to come to terms with what he's done.
Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns: Angela Bassett is Brenda, a single mom living in Chicago who loses her job and is on the verge of losing everything else when she learns the father she never met has died in Georgia. So she packs up the kids and heads south, where she meets the Browns, a family unlike any she's had before. Former L.A. Laker Rick Fox is the love interest, and Tyler Perry, who directed the film based upon his play of the same name, reprises his hugely popular Madea for the movie.
Shutter: From Dawson's Creek to cheap horror flicks. Josh Jackson is fashion photographer who travels to Japan with his new wife, only to be involved in a car accident that kills a young woman. Bummer. And if that wasn't enough, as he starts developing film from his shoots, he starts seeing dead people in the pictures.
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!: You probably wouldn't attend without a kid in tow, but if you have a carpet monkey you have to take, you'll have a decent time. Gorgeous animation keeps things Seussical, and the celeb voices—Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, mainly—don't overshadow the premise. Plus, the movie's message of tolerance and anti-conformity is a decent one for kids of all ages.
Doomsday: Following the low-budget success of Dog Soldiers and the slightly bigger-budget success of The Descent, writer/director Neil Marshall is finally given some money to work with. So he sends a team of soldiers and scientists into a sealed-off contaminated zone in the U.K. in hopes of finding a cure for a virus that threatens humanity. Tough chick Rhona Mitra is the squad's head honcho, facing off against all kinds of Road Warrior-influenced punk-rock bad-asses, led by perennial bad-ass Malcolm McDowell.
Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk: Robert Redford narrates this new Imax journey, following environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. as he rafts his way through the Grand Canyon, on the Colorado River, along with anthropologist Wade Davis, as the two document new efforts to conserve water and restore the river. Music is provided by the Dave Matthews Band. Grand Canyon Adventure plays only at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Married Life: It's the 1940s, and Harry (Chris Cooper) has fallen for Kay (Rachel McAdams), a younger, hotter woman than his wife, Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Two problems, however—first, Harry's best bud, Richard (Pierce Brosnan), finds that he, too, has a thing for Kay, and second, Harry can't bring himself to leave Pat. So he does what any patriotic, red-blooded American male would do in his situation—he decides to murder her.
Never Back Down: Take the new-kid-in-school side of The Karate Kid, add it to the underground thrashings of Fight Club, multiply it by the Ultimate Fighting Championship's Octagon and divide it all by The O.C. That's Never Back Down.
10,000 B.C.: Roland Emmerich's first film since The Day After Tomorrow could be subtitled “The Day Before Yesterday.” It follows a young mammoth hunter who takes on sabertooth tigers and a nasty dominant civilization. The effects look terrific, and everyone speaks English, which totally comes in handy when it comes to those unfortunate time-machine accidents.
The Bank Job: Jason Statham and his buddies are amateur crooks who hit the big time in this gritty, '70s-style flick that also stars Saffron Burrows as the hottie who cons Statham and Co. into pulling a bank heist. But it's only after they've got the loot that they find themselves in serious danger, as vengeful politicians, angry pornographers, crooked cops, pissed-off black militants and even MI-5 want to get their hands on what the robbers got away with. Very loosely based on the then-infamous “Walkie-Talkie Robbery,” The Bank Job is a slow boil with more class than most of Statham's recent action-thrillers.
College Road Trip: Martin Lawrence is an overbearing cop who insists on escorting his smokin'-hot 17-year-old daughter to the schools she's interested in. Yep, she's embarrassed. So is the audience.
The Counterfeiters: Winner of this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, The Counterfeiters is about Operation Bernhardt, the Nazi attempt to counterfeit British and American currency in the waning days of World War II. It tells the story of Jewish master forger Sally Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), who heads up the detail of craftsmen whose lives are spared as long as they support the German war effort, knowing the entire time that if they do their job well, the war will continue on.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Frances McDormand is Miss Pettigrew, an English governess in need of a job who signs on as the assistant of a ditzy American actress (Amy Adams) whose romantic life is in such turmoil that only a strict English governess can sort it out. Of course, as she blossoms in her new high-society role, it's not impossible that Miss Pettigrew will attract some beaus of her own. Frances McDormand is terrific in everything she touches, and Amy Adams just gets better and better.
The Band's Visit: This charming drama was disqualified as Israel's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission because so much of it is in English. But you can see why they put it forward—the story of an Egyptian police band stuck in a backwater Israeli settlement is sweet and funny without being cloying, with subtle performances and a theme that plays like a soft Chet Baker trumpet solo.
The Other Boleyn Girl: So, you're Henry VIII and you look just like Eric Bana. Nice. You can have your pick of the English birds, but you're drawn to the Boleyn sisters, who look remarkably like Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Now, this isn't historically accurate in any way, shape or form, but it seems like a win-win for Henry, even if he eventually beheads the sister he ends up with.
Semi-Pro: You know how Will Ferrell movies oscillate between being really dumb and funny and just really dumb? This one, which finds Will playing Jackie Moon, the owner/coach/player of an ABA basketball team who got his money by singing a sexy, Barry White-esque '70s love song, is the just really dumb kind.
Be Kind Rewind: Simple. A magnetized Jack Black erases all the videos in his buddy Mos Def's shop, so they have to re-shoot, well, everything—including (but not limited to) Driving Miss Daisy, Rush Hour 2, Ghostbusters, Robocop, Back to the Future and The Lion King. There is only one man who could make this movie, and it's Michel Gondry, the dude behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Luckily, he did.
Vantage Point: An assassination attempt on the president (William Hurt) is seen through eight different viewpoints, each of which gives a different impression of what actually went down and why. Also stars Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker on the grassy knoll.
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The latest kids' fantasy-novel-turned-big-budget-movie-adaptation, Spiderwick tells the story of siblings Mallory (Sarah Bolger), Jared and Simon Grace (both played by Freddie Highmore) as their family moves into the mysterious Spiderwick Estate. The big surprise? They discover an alternate world filled with all sorts of mystical, magical creatures played or voiced by a barrage of big-name talent (Seth Rogen, David Strathairn, Martin Short, Nick Nolte).
George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead: Romero's latest, shot with handheld cameras, is an indictment of mass media, the blogosphere and those of us who consume the news—all told amid the imminent zombie apocalypse.Fool's Gold: Matthew McConaughey. Kate Hudson. Skimpy bathing suits. And something about sunken treasure.
In Bruges: Noted playwright Martin McDonagh's dark comedy finds Colin Farrell as a killer with a conscience—a return to the charismatic, small-film style of acting that got him all those big crappy movies. Brendan Gleeson is, as always, great as his mentor, and Ralph Fiennes swears a whole hell of a lot.
There Will Be Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson's first project since Punch-Drunk Love is easily one of the year's best, anchored by an epic, astonishing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. He plays Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-20th-century oilman driven by greed and competition and utterly loathing of the world around him.
Juno: Fizzy and enjoyable, the year's best feel-good film centers, surprisingly, on an unwed pregnant teen. That'd be Juno (Ellen Page), who decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) and toy with her good friend and the father of her child, Paulie Bleeker (an excellent Michael Cera). With sharp dialogue from stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody and solid direction from Jason Reitman, Juno is a solid, if inoffensive, triumph.
Atonement: Though they've gone out of their way to make Atonement look like a generic period romance, Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's shatteringly good novel is crisply directed, gorgeous to look at and terribly well-acted by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley as a star-crossed couple whose future is taken from them when Knightley's younger sister misinterprets something she sees and later turns McAvoy's Robbie in for a crime he did not commit. The buzz has been about the six-minute tracking shot on the war-strewn beaches of Dunkirk, but the real heat is between the two leads.
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.
Fridays at the Fleet: Sea Monsters, The Living Sea and Mysteries of Egypt are some of the rotating films shown each Friday at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center's IMAX theater where, for only $7.50, you can catch four flicks. Sure, it's more Discovery Channel than Transformers, but the Fleet's enormous old-school dome screen is way cool, and some of the talent—narrators like Meryl Streep or Johnny Depp—is impressive. You might find yourself as mesmerized as the little kiddies sitting around you. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Check www.rhfleet.org for the screening list.