Some movies try so hard to be dramatic they end up looking like comedies. John Slattery's debut, God's Pocket , a leaden and messy 1970s mosaic that mistakes continued hysterics for conflict, is a perfect example. Despite the round robin of terrible things happening onscreen, one can't help but snicker at how poorly it's all being represented.
The flowery voice-over that opens God's Pocket should be the first sign of its creative limitations. Spoken by a burnt-out journalist, (Richard Jenkins) and describing a blue-collar neighborhood in South Philadelphia, the narration poetically introduces a unique type of working-class specimen mired in the cyclical doldrums of poverty and ignorance. While the writer's words are later proven to be inadequate, there's something in their pomposity that trickles down to the filmmaking itself.
One can sense this level of self-righteousness in the crucial opening scene where a loud-mouthed construction worker (Caleb Landry Jones) is violently dispatched in full sight of the entire crew. The victim's idiotic mother (Christina Hendricks) instantly smells a cover-up when the police report her son's death to be an accident. She sends her lackey husband (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) to investigate, setting off a string of events that pinball off each other in ridiculously convoluted ways.
By attempting to portray the social contradictions of an impoverished neighborhood through the lens of a crime film, Slattery's movie makes a play for genre territory previously mined by The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Mystic River . Boy does it fail. The dialogue is laughably off-kilter and tonally confused, spoken without a hint of confidence from an otherwise ace cast that also includes John Turturro and Eddie Marsan.
If you want to truly honor the late, great Hoffman, skip God's Pocket (opening Friday, May 16, at Hillcrest Cinemas, if you must) and give another spin to his Sidney Lumet collaboration, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead . Now there's a spider's web worth getting caught up in.
Belle : The illegitimate, mixed-race daughter (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) of a navy admiral being raised by aristocrats finds herself in a precarious social position in Victorian England.
Chef : Jon Favreau returns to comedy filmmaking with this story of a well-respected chef who opens a food truck after being fired by a posh restaurateur.
The Double : Jesse Eisenberg plays a government clerk whose already-failing confidence is shattered when his exact physical double starts working in the same office.
For a Woman (Pour une Femme) : A writer delves into her family's history, including her parents' time in a concentration camp, their ties to communism and a mysterious uncle no one wants her to know about. Screens through May 22 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
God's Pocket : In a rough-and-tumble blue-collar neighborhood in South Philadelphia, a low-level hustler (Philip Seymour Hoffman) tries to please his fragile wife (Christina Hendricks) after her son is killed. S
Godzilla : The gigantic mutant lizard is back and bigger than ever, ready to decimate a city near you.
Million Dollar Arm : On a mission to find the next baseball phenom in the unlikeliest of places, a sports agent (Jon Hamm) travels to India in hopes of convincing talented cricket players to play American baseball.
One Time Only
Heathers : Being cool could get you killed in this iconic dark comedy about a high-school outsider (Winona Ryder) who takes revenge on the bullying "in" crowd. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Di Madre in Figlia (From Mother to Daughter) : This documentary looks at the collaboration between electro-folk group Fiamma Fumana and Mondine de Novi, a women's chorus that first formed in Modena, Italy, during the World War II resistance movement. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 15, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Grease : Classic musical starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta about a good girl who challenges the high-school dynamic when she starts dating a bad boy. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 15, through Saturday, May 17, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Julian Wild and Scenic Film Festival: The third annual event will showcase films about nature, community activism and environmental justice. Runs Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17, at locations in an around Julian. Visit julianfilmfestival.com for details.
Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival : Documentary about a goat farm in the middle of the Mojave Desert that became the location for the largest burlesque revival since the 1940s. Screens at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Summer '82: When Zappa Came to Sicily : It's 1982 and a young Sicilian journeys to Palermo to see Frank Zappa perform. He misses the concert, but 30 years later, he sets out to piece together not only that moment in his life, but Zappa's as well. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at the Convivio Center in Little Italy.
Japan Film Festival: Spend the day watching a triple feature of cutting-edge and entertaining Japanese films. Runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Get details at japan-society.org.
Budrus : This doc follows Ayed Morrar, a resident of the Palestinian town of Budrus who organizes nonviolent protests to stop the construction of Israel's West Bank barrier. Screens at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at the Rancho Bernardo Library.
Tiny: A Story About Living Small : A documentary about one couple's attempt to build an itty-bitty house. Screens at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 18, and 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Koran by Heart : Three 10-year-olds leave their hometowns to take part in the annual International Holy Koran competition in Cairo. A discussion follows the film, as part of the library's "Muslim Journeys: Let's Talk About It" project. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 19, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Stolen Seas : The first film in the International Rescue Committee's International Documentary Film Series explores the Somali-pirate phenomenon and why it's become a multimillion-dollar growth industry. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, May 19, at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Stripes : Deadbeat friends (Bill Murray and Harold Ramis) decide to quit their boring jobs and join the Army. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 19, at Arclight La Jolla.
A Night at the Opera : This pay-what-you-can benefit for the San Diego Opera includes a showing of the Marx Brothers film and a performance by the opera chorus. Screens at 8 p.m. Monday, May 18, at the Ken Cinema.
Veronica Mars : Former teenage private eye Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) may be years removed from her high-school escapades, but in this film sequel to the popular television show, she's once again pulled into a disturbing murder mystery. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
In a World : Attempting to prove her arrogant father wrong, a lowly voice coach enters a film-trailer voice-over competition against a young rival. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
Caddyshack : All hell breaks loose on an executive golf course when a rowdy new member starts challenging the old guard. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Cesar's Last Fast : In 1988, activist Cesar Chavez participated in his last hunger strike in protest of farmers' use of pesticides that harmed immigrant workers in the fields. Richard Rey Perez's documentary uses remarkable found footage to tell this final act in Chavez's amazing life. Ends May 14 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The German Doctor : A family traveling through Patagonia, Argentina, happens upon a mysterious German doctor hell-bent on continuing his radical experiments left over from World War II.
For No Good Reason : Ralph Steadman is one of the pivotal artists who worked alongside Hunter S. Thompson to advance the gonzo movement. In this documentary by Charlie Paul, Johnny Depp visits Steadman to talk history, hallucinogens and aesthetics. Ends May 15 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Legend of Oz: Dorothy Returns : Hollywood goes back to the well with this animated sequel to the classic Wizard of Oz , finding Dorothy whisked back to the magical land in order to save her friends from a new villain.
Locke : Set entirely in a car, this thriller follows Ivan Locke's (Tom Hardy) downward spiral after he receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will change his life forever.
Moms' Night Out : Sure to be advancement for modern feminism, this comedy follows a series of mothers who leave their clumsy husbands and rowdy children behind for a night out on the town.
Neighbors : A newly relocated couple can't enjoy their beautiful new residence after a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Every homeowner's worst nightmare comes true .
No Good, No Master : In Washington, D.C., circa 1919, politicians begin receiving package bombs at their doorsteps, prompting a federal agent (David Strathairn) to begin an investigation that leads him down a dark and seedy path. Ends May 14 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Amazing Caves : From the Grand Canyon to the coastal waters off the Caribbean, spelunk into the world's deepest and darkest caves in this mesmerizing IMAX journey that spans the globe. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 : Andrew Garfield returns as the high-flying web slinger to battle an assortment of new villains (Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx) while trying to save New York City and his beloved Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) from imminent destruction.
Blue Ruin : A bearded drifter goes on a precipitous journey of revenge when his parents' murderer is released from prison after 10 years. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Fading Gigolo : A failed bookstore owner (Woody Allen) convinces his blue-collar friend (John Turturro) to start sleeping with wealthy women for money. Nothing could go wrong with this idea, right?
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden : Documentary about a real-life murder mystery that occurred in the 1930s on the uninhabited Floreana Island, where settlers found themselves at odds in an undiscovered habitat. Ends May 15 at the Ken Cinema.
Brick Mansions : In the not-so-distant future, an impoverished Detroit neighborhood is sectioned off from the world by a massive containment wall. A volatile detective (Paul Walker) goes undercover to destroy a drug kingpin who holds court over the isolated ghetto.
Only Lovers Left Alive : Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star as moody vampires who can't quit each other in the brilliant new movie by master filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. Ends May 15 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
The Other Woman : Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned. In this case three women—Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton—bound together by one cheating bastard.
Walking with the Enemy : In Hungary during the final months of World War II, a young man steals a Nazi uniform and begins a long search for his missing family. It's directed by Mark Schmidt, founder of San Diego-based Liberty Studios.
Bears : Narrated by John C. Reilly, this nature documentary follows a family of Alaskan bears over a period of years.
Finding Vivian Maier : While working as a nanny, Vivian Maier took more than 100,000 photographs, which earned her a posthumous reputation as an accomplished street photographer. But her story goes much deeper than that. Ends May 15 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
A Haunted House 2 : Because humanity needed another sequel to a spoof of a sequel to a bad original film nobody needed.
Heaven is for Real : Drama starring Greg Kinnear, whose young son dies on the operating table but is brought back to life. After waking up, the boy confesses to having been to Heaven, sharing his experience with those who are willing to listen.
The Railway Man : Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in this tense drama about a World War II vet who falls in love with a divorcée after meeting her on a train. In order to move forward, both must confront demons from their past and learn to forgive.
Transcendence : After working as cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's Batman films and Inception , Wally Pfister makes his directing debut with this mind-bending sci-fi film about a terminally ill scientist (Johnny Depp) who uploads his mind to a computer after a terrorist attack leaves him in a coma.
Draft Day : Kevin Costner plays the general manager for an NFL team looking to score big on a young player in the latest draft. Somewhere, drama will be created out of thin air.
Captain America: Winter Soldier : Chris Evans reprises his role as the patriotic avenger who must now battle a mysterious super soldier who's threatening to destroy Washington, D.C.
Noah : Darren Aronofsky's long-gestating epic about the titular biblical figure (Russell Crowe) and his epic quest to build an ark and save the world's species from a worldwide flood.
Divergent : The future is a world divided into factions based on tested virtues. A young woman (Shailene Woodley) threatens to topple this rigorous framework when she's deemed "divergent"—an outsider who must be disappeared.
The Lunchbox : In Mumbai, thousands of lunchboxes are delivered every day, thanks to a famously efficient service run by couriers. When one of these orders is delivered to the wrong address, the mistake inadvertently connects an aging businessman and an unhappy housewife.
The Grand Budapest Hotel : Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in director Wes Anderson's latest film, which takes place inside an elaborate European hotel populated by eccentric characters.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman : Animated adventure about a father and son who invent a time machine, travel back to witness famous historical events and then find themselves racing to repair the past and save the future.
Journey to the South Pacific : Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Lego Movie : That movie adaptation based on a classic toy set you knew was always coming but didn't think would actually get made. Well, it did, and it's here.
Mysteries of the Unseen World : This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.