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Ghost writers: While I've never been all that impressed with Pierce Brosnan until now, I've long admired the work of countryman Ciarán Hinds (pronounced Kieren, like the younger Culkin brother). He's a big guy whose build usually places him in supporting roles, like playing one of the vengeful Jews in Munich who wasn't Eric Bana or Daniel Craig. But he's got a lead in the new drama / romance / horror film The Eclipse (yes, I know how that sounds), and, given a real opportunity, he steps up.
Hinds plays Michael Farr, a lonely high-school teacher in Ireland mourning his wife's death and trying to take care of her father and his two children. He's a community man who once harbored aspirations of writing but who now just volunteers at the local literary festival. This year, he's playing driver to Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), a pompous American author, and Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), who writes paranormal fiction—like Twilight for grownups. Nicholas has a serious thing for Lena. Lena wants nothing to do with Nicholas. And Michael ends up between them, which is a real problem for him, because, well, because Michael has recently started seeing ghosts.
There is paranormal activity to be found in The Eclipse, but it's only one small part of Michael's journey of loss and recovery. Hinds is wonderfully warm and sad in the role, and the chemistry between his Michael and Lena feels real and tangible. Director Conor McPherson nicely weaves all the genres together by creating characters who feel very real, the sort of people who wouldn't necessarily believe the things that are happening to them. There are jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but they never come at the cost of the story, which manages to be simple in its narrative but is told with a rich complexity, moving slowly, more like a novel or a play than a film. It's sad yet true, but that will most certainly rule out the Twilight set.
Update: The San Diego opening of The Eclipse has been pushed to April 23.
Date Night: Steve Carell and Tina Fey are a married couple struggling through their weekly date night. They're both so funny, but neither has starred in a movie that's as good as his or her TV show.
The Greatest: Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon are both terrific as parents grieving a lost child. Here's our review.
The Runaways: Twilight's Kristen Stewart is Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning is Cherie Currie in this look at the groundbreaking teen-girl rock group from the '70s. Weird-looking Michael Shannon is their manager, Kim Fowley.
Terribly Happy: Well-received Danish film about a big-city cop transferred to the sticks after a nervous breakdown. He stands out like a sore thumb, trying to solve a crime in a town where everyone knows everyone else—except him.
One time only
The Horse Boy: Moving doc based on the best-selling book about a couple who take their autistic son to Mongolia to ride horses and visit shamans. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Garden: Terrific documentary about an organic community farm that's coveted by developers. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla. Your $5 benefits Slow Food San Diego.
Major League: Baseball season must be just around the corner. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
La Cobarde: Part of the Museum of Photographic Arts' classic Mexican film series, this 1953 entry about three men in love with the same mysterious woman sports absolutely gorgeous cinematography. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 8, at MoPA in Balboa Park.
Amarcord: Fellini's semi-autobiographical raucous comedy is presented, natch, by the San Diego Italian Film Festival. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 8, at UltraStar Flower Hill.
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29: This talking-head doc about an Ivy League showdown from the ‘60s is pretty interesting, and non-fans needn't worry—it won't turn you into a football geek. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 8, at The Loft on the UCSD campus
Purple Rain: Prince's utterly awesome '80s movie will be playing while you wear purple (or possibly paisley, or both) and get down. Yes, this is what it looks like when doves cry. Screens at 9 p.m. Thursday, April 8, at Beauty Bar in City Heights.
Fallbrook Film Festival: George Hamilton and his tan will be on hand to accept a Career Achievement Award at this year's festival, which takes place Friday, April 9, through Sunday, April 11, in, well, Fallbrook. Visit www.fallbrookfilmfestival.com for a list of films, showtimes, ticket info, panels and so on.
Pan's Labyrinth: Presented by MiraCosta College, Guillermo del Toro's frightening fairy tale will screen three times on Friday, April 9—at 10 a.m. at the Community Learning Center in Oceanside, at 1 p.m. in Room 204 on the San Elijo campus and at 7 p.m. in the Little Theatre on the Oceanside campus. Free.
Seduced and Abandoned: Classic Italian film about a teenage girl who has a fling with her sister's fiancé and the fallout that occurs when her family finds out. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 9, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
An Education: Carey Mulligan should have won the Best Actress Oscar for this one. She plays Jenny, a 15-year-old in ‘60s-era London who falls under the spell of creepy 30-something Peter Sarsgaard. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10, at Cinema Under the Stars in Balboa Park.
Public Secrets and Blood Sugar: Artist and UC Santa Cruz film and digital media professor Sharon Daniels will present a pair of multimedia documentary projects designed to mobilize political action. It starts at 6 p.m. Monday, April 12, in Room 240 in the Arts Building on the CSU San Marcos campus. Free.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Cameron Crowe posed as a student at Clairemont High for a year to get the material for the film that would turn lots of young actors into huge stars. Screens at 7 and 9 p.m., Monday, April 12, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
What's On Your Plate?: Catharine Gund's documentary looks at what we're eating these days, through the eyes of two 11-year-old African-American girls. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.
Office Space: Looks like someone's got a case of the Mondays. Er, Wednesdays. Mike Judge's feature debut is still painfully hilarious. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Secret of Kells: This Irish animated film came out of nowhere to earn an Oscar nomination. Beautifully drawn, but this tale of a young monk drawing a sacred text isn't really for kids.
Clash of the Titans: The remake is just as awful as the 1981 original, but without the camp value.
The Last Song: Miley Cyrus is the cranky daughter to Greg Kinnear's sensitive estranged dad. Take your insulin.
Vincere: Historical drama about Mussolini's first wife, Ida Dalsar, whom he eventually denied and imprisoned. Good rule of thumb: Don't fall for undergrads or fascists.
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?: Tyler Perry strikes again, this time with Janet Jackson.
Hot Tub Time Machine: Truth in advertising. John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Cordrry and Clark Duke go back to the '80s in a hot-tub time machine. Totally out-raunches The Hangover by using every bodily fluid there is.
Coral Reef Adventure: The Fleet's classic IMAX film takes you for a visit to the reefs of Tahiti, which is cheaper than airfare and your own SCUBA gear, by the way. Fridays at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Art of the Steal: A documentary about the vicious court battle over an art collection valued at $25 billion. One week only at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Chloe: Julianne Moore works with hot young thing Amanda Seyfried to figure out if hubby Liam Neeson is having an affair. That can't be a good idea.
Greenberg: The latest from The Squid and the Whale director Noah Baumbach is an observational character piece starring Ben Stiller as Greenberg, a guy who can't accept that life didn't work out the way he had hoped.
How to Train Your Dragon: Jay Baruchel voices the lead in this 3-D animated flick about a Viking teen who's supposed to learn to kill dragons but instead brings one home as a pet.
The Bounty Hunter: You might expect an awesome action movie with a title like this and a star like Gerard Butler. Instead, you get a rom-com with Jennifer Aniston.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Follows a snarky middle-schooler through an academic year. Next month, Chloë Grace Moretz, the 13-year-old female lead, will slaughter bad guys in Kick-Ass.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Thriller about a male journalist and a female hacker hired to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of a member of a Swedish crime family.
Hubble: Leonardo DiCaprio lends his pipes to this IMAX film, which uses CGI and real footage to take a close look at Saturn's rings. Just stay away from Uranus. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Red Baron: Set during WWI, when dogfighting had nothing to do with the NFL.
Repo Men: More a sequel to Repo! The Genetic Opera than Repo Man. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are guys who will take back your shiny new organs if you can't keep up your payments.
Green Zone: Matt Damon teams up with Paul Greengrass, the guy who made the last two Bourne movies, for an Iraq action film.
Remember Me: Set in New York in the summer of 2001, Ruben Pattinson is an angry young man who has a tumultuous relationship with his father (Pierce Brosnan). Emilie de Ravin of Lost just might be the girl to straighten him out, if audiences are prepared to watch Pattinson do something besides Twilight.
She's Out of My League: Jay Baruchel gets his first lead since Undeclared, and it's about time, even if it's in a Jud Apatow rom-com knock-off. He's Kirk, an average guy working for the TSA who can't believe that hottie Alice Eve wants to be with him.
A Prophet: Brutally intense film about a young Arab man (Tehar Rahim) who becomes a mob kingpin after he's sentenced to six years in a French prison. Ends April 1 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have remade Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepy Hollow together (and let's not forget about Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood). Alice marks the first time they've gone 3-D. Question is, can Burton infuse a sense of humanity into Lewis Carroll's classic?
Brooklyn's Finest: Training Day director Antoine Fuqua has clearly been watching The Wire in recent years, but his new dirty-cop drama, starring Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle, is black-and-white, rather than more interesting shades of gray.
The Crazies: A remake of George Romero's 1973 freak show, about a small Iowa town whose residents go nuts and start killing each other.
Dolphins: It's only a matter of time before they tell us, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” In IMAX at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Ghost Writer: We all know what Roman Polanski is capable of, and we're not talking about the events that have him under house arrest in Switzerland. This political thriller—starring Ewan McGregor as a ghost writer who bites off more than he can chew when he goes to work on the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan)—is a solid, if unremarkable, piece of filmmaking.
Shutter Island: Leonardo DiCaprio is U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels in Martin Scorsese's latest, investigating a missing heiress who's escaped from an asylum and is presumed to be hiding out on the desolate titular atoll.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief: It's tough times for young Percy. His dad is Poseidon, his mom has gone missing and he's the prime suspect in the case of Zeus' missing lightning bolt. Also, it's tough times for anyone who believed in a deity that isn't Greek.
The Greatest Places: This IMAX adventure features seven locales, which range from Greenland's icebergs to the enormous waterfall at Iguazu. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Crazy Heart: Sure, it's a clean-and-sober story, but Jeff Bridges is guaranteed an Oscar nomination for playing faded country singer and legendary drunk Bad Blake. Ends April 1 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
A Single Man: Colin Firth delivers on the role of a lifetime in fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut.
Broken Embraces: This one from Pedro Almodovar, starring Penelope Cruz as the former mistress of a blind film director musing on his past, ends April 8 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
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.
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.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.