Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
By the time you read this, 2009 might already be behind us. Finally, right? Time to look forward. Not a lot of films hit theaters this time of year, but there are plenty of local series worth your time:
San Diego Library: The Downtown Central Library film programming is one of the best in town, usually running about eight films per month in a newly upgraded auditorium. The library leads off the new year with the film adaptation of David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, which marks the directorial debut of The Office's John Krasinski. Though it's got a solid cast, including Timothy Hutton and Julianne Moore, it never opened here, and, as far as I know, this is the San Diego premiere. It screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4.
MOPA: The Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park is teaming with the San Diego International Children's Film Festival for a free family-friendly monthly movie, kicking off with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Sure, this adaptation of the beloved children's book looks cheesy, but it's actually good for both kids and their parents. Plus, Neil Patrick Harris voices a monkey. Screens at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2.
Birch North Park Theater: The space is so gorgeous that it's almost surprising they're kicking off a Quentin Tarantino series there. Kill Bill Vol. 2 screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4. For more, see our 'City Week' feature.
The Pearl Hotel: Consider it the model of consistency—The Pearl's poolside Dive-In Theater has been offering up a solid weekly selection of comedies and weirdness for ages, complete with cocktails. Coming up soon is the teen-sex comedy Can't Buy Me Love, which is even better 20 years later. While I didn't love the 2010 opener The Fall when it was in theaters, it might benefit from a drink or two. It screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Landmark's Midnight Movies: The Ken Cinema will be running a new midnight series full of culty goodness, starting off with the lone San Diego screening of the new blaxploitation joint Black Dynamite on Saturday, Jan. 9.
Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman: Dustin Hoffman narrates this documentary about Julius Shulman, the world's greatest photographer of architecture. It'll be at the Ken Cinema for one week only.
One time only
My Cousin Vinny: Man, whatever happened to Joe Pesci, anyway? Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Garbage Dreams: Documentary about three boys born into what's called the “trash trade,” living in a city literally made of garbage outside of Cairo. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr. is great, as usual, even if his Sherlock Holmes is more brawn than brains.
35 Shots of Rum: French director Claire Denis' new film is about a train conductor and his gorgeous daughter forced to confront their past as each enters into a new romance.
A Single Man: Colin Firth delivers on the role of a lifetime in fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel: Another sign of the pending apocalypse.
Broken Embraces: The new one from Pedro Almodovar stars Penelope Cruz as the former mistress of a blind film director musing on his past.
It's Complicated: A romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. Yet another sign of said pending apocalypse.
Nine: Rob Marshall, the guy who brought you Chicago, goes back to the Broadway trough for Nine. And even though this film adaptation of a stage adaptation of Fellini's 8 1/2 stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a film director dealing with all the women in his life, it feels long, boring and lifeless.
The Young Victoria: The Devil Wears Prada's Emily Blunt stars as, well, a young Queen Victoria.
Avatar: James Cameron's sci-fi magnum opus is too long and has an inevitable love story. But, for once, when they say you've never seen anything like it, they're right. This is a film and a truly rendered alien planet that must be seen on the big screen and in 3D.
Did You Hear About the Morgans?: Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant cash in on the lack of mainstream date films this time of year.
Me and Orson Welles: Christian McKay is fantastic as Orson Welles, who's in the midst of directing and starring in his legendary 1937 production of Julius Caesar in Richard Linklater's new movie. He's so good, though, that the rest of the movie flags when he's not in it.
Invictus: You might think Morgan Freeman would be the perfect guy to play Nelson Mandela in a film directed by Clint Eastwood about how the South African rugby team, led by Matt Damon, united the country shortly after the end of Apartheid. You'd be wrong.
The Princess and the Frog: Two notable facts here: 1) Disney has returned to 2-D animation and 2) the new film, set in jazz-era New Orleans, features an African-American heroine. Both are admirable, but the new movie doesn't live up to the Golden Age of Disney films.
Up in the Air: George Clooney is at his charmiest (charm + smarmy) as Ryan Bingham, flown in to fire employees at companies he has nothing to do with and aspiring to little more than more frequent flier miles. He's a lock for a Best Actor nomination.
Brothers: When Marine and solid family man Tobey Maguire is presumed dead in Afghanistan, his black-sheep brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps in to look after his wife (Natalie Portman) and kids. That can't end well.
Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic story, which features stop-motion animation and performances from George Clooney and Meryl Streep, really is fantastic.
Ninja Assassin: The team that created V for Vendetta eschews a real plot for serious slicing-and-dicing.
Old Dogs: Robin Williams and John Travolta really haven't learned any new tricks.
The Road: The last time someone made one of Cormac McCarthy's books into a movie, No Country for Old Men won the Best Picture. And this one, about a man and his son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic U.S., won the Pulitzer.
The Blind Side: The book this is based upon is about the economics of football and an enormous, poverty-stricken young black man—adopted by a white family—who has the potential to be a highly paid professional athlete. So, of course, they turned it into a Sandra Bullock movie.
The Messenger: Ben Foster shines as a young veteran assigned to the casualty-notification department after his return from Iraq. The scenes in which he and Woody Harrelson deliver the bad news are devastating.
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire: Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry helped produce this film about an obese Harlem teen in the 1980s, which is being talked up as a Best Picture possibility.
Twilight: New Moon: Either you dismiss the Twilight franchise as being for tweens and their moms or you've been drinking the blood-red Kool-aid.
2012: The guys who blew up the world in Independence Day take us down again.
Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day: The sequel to the cult classic. This time, with more guys getting shot!
Disney's A Christmas Carol: Robert Zemeckis gives Dickens' classic the animated, 3-D treatment and hands the lead role to Jim Carrey.
The Men Who Stare at Goats: Even though it's got all the right ingredients, like George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey, this dark comedy about secret psychic warfare loses track of itself (which means it's not psychic, right?).
An Education: Nick Hornby of High Fidelity fame wrote the script and does a 180 by writing about a girl who desperately wants to grow up and thinks she may have found a shortcut in a good-looking charmer twice her age.
A Serious Man: The Coen brothers offer up an examination of faith that moves in mysterious ways.
Couples Retreat: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell make a dumb romantic comedy.
The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow's tense new film focuses on an Iraq unit that specializes in defusing bombs. Well-made, well-written and well-acted—not what you expect for an summer action movie.
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. Films vary week-to-week. 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.