One of the greatest things about New York City is that at any time of day, at any time of year, you can pick up the phone and order any type of cuisine—and they'll bring it to your door. You pay the delivery person and offer up a couple bucks as a tip, close the door and dive in. Take Out, the new indie shot by Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou that opens Friday at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas, takes a look at the person who's actually bringing you your meal and how far a decent tip can go.
Shot for next to nothing, Take Out is a very important day in the life of Ming Ding (Charles Jang), an illegal Chinese immigrant who delivers orders from a Chinese restaurant. His day doesn't begin well—he's awakened by guys he owes money to, and they offer him an ultimatum: Pay up tonight or we'll double your debt. What that means, basically, is that Ming has to work his ass off all day and that every botched order, every flat tire, every customer who doesn't tip has real consequences.
The film is shot like and feels like a documentary, as the camera follows Ming from door to door to door to door. And though there's plenty of repetition, as he rides his bike through the rainy streets of Manhattan, the movie isn't dull, probably because, like Ming himself, we never know who's going to open the door to collect the food. In fact, the directors found many of their deliverees on craigslist, offering them a few moments of indie-film fame. And no, Take Out isn't an immigration picture—it's a people picture. And the next time you get Chinese or a pizza brought to your door, you might toss your delivery person an extra couple of bucks.—Anders Wright
The Day the Earth Stood Still: Remake of Robert Wise's groundbreaking 1951 sci-fi thriller about an alien who's come to earth to save it—from us. The update has crazy FX and Keanu Reeves, and no, he doesn't play the robot.
Eden: An Irish couple find their marriage hitting the skids just as they reach their 10th anniversary. Eugene O'Brien adapted his own stage play for the screen; Declan Recks directed.
Frost/Nixon: Ron Howard is restrained in his take on the Broadway play about the interviews between lightweight talk-show host David Frost and President Nixon. Both Michael Sheen and Frank Langella reprise their stage roles as Frost and Nixon, respectively—Langella delivers a masterful performance of Mr. Not-a-Crook himself. See our review on Page 31.
The Matador: Like soccer, there are some countries where bullfighting is taken seriously. San Diego native Scott Dunklee executive produced this documentary, which followed matador David Fandila for three years. Dunklee will be on hand to premiere the picture on Friday, Dec. 12, at the Landmark Hillcrest; the details can be found on Page 15.
Nothing Like the Holidays: San Diego's Rick Najera co-wrote the screenplay to this holiday film, about a Puerto Rican family in Chicago. The very strong cast includes Alfred Molina, John Leguizamo, Luis Guzman, Freddy Rodriguez and Debra Messing.
Order of Myths: Director Margaret Brown goes behind the scenes of America's oldest Mardi Gras in Mobile, Ala. The pageant actually started there in 1703 and continues on, even though it's still segregated by race.
Repo! The Genetic Opera: There was a lot of buzz about this film from Saw II, III and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman. 'Cause who wouldn't want to see a rock opera about donated organs being repossessed that stars Paris Hilton and the dude from Hedwig and the Angry Inch? Though it's not getting a full-fledged release here in San Diego, you can catch it at midnight on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13, at the Ken Theater.
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. Three films will run in rotation initially: Wild Ocean, Van Gogh: Brush with Genius and Animalopolis. Showtimes and prices can be found at www.rhfleet.org.
One Time Only
Blade Runner: The San Diego Architectural Foundation is screening the final cut of the Ridley Scott / Harrison Ford dystopian masterpiece. And why not? The L.A. of that future is surely an architectural Xanadu. And by “Xanadu” we mean like in Citizen Kane, not in, you know, Xanadu. Doors open at 6 p.m., film rolls at 7 on Wednesday, Dec. 10, at Luce Loft, Downtown. $10 donation suggested.
Helvetica: Documentary about the font you probably use all the time. Unless you're one of those Times New Roman bitches. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, at the Downtown Central Library. Free.
Warren Miller's Children of Winter: Some of us hate the snow. But all of us love that crazy Warren Miller action—the kind of rock 'n' roll skiing you can't find on YouTube. The latest movie plays all over the area, and we've got the skinny on Page 15). Screens Wednesday, Dec. 10, through Sunday, Dec. 14. Tickets and showtimes are at www.warrenmiller.com.
Elf: Yes, he is our anchorman. But isn't it time for a Will Ferrell backlash? Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Midnight Express: Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay for Alan Parker's brutal look at a young American tossed into a Turkish prison when he's caught smuggling hash. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.
Blast of Silence and The Year Without a Santa Claus: Allen Baron wrote, directed and stars in Blast, a sharp 1961 Christmas hit-man movie. But we're all about The Year Without a Santa Claus, because we can't stop singing those Heat Miser and Snow Miser songs. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Whistle Stop in South Park. Free.
This Christmas and A Colbert Christmas: The folks at Café Libertalia are showing This Christmas, a somewhat by-the-numbers family movie (you know, dysfunction is eventually defeated by holiday spirit). The real draw is A Colbert Christmas, which finds our favorite faux-conservative talk-show host singing ditties with the likes of Jon Stewart and Willie Nelson. Starts at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
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—Harry's best bud, Richard (Pierce Brosnan), also 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 this situation—he decides to murder her. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
Tootsie: Washed-up actor Dustin Hoffman goes to an audition in drag and lands the part. Now everyone thinks he's a she—and he can't get laid. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
A Secret: French actor Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) stars as the patriarch of a Jewish family in Paris after World War II whose son discovers a devastating secret about how he came to be.
Cadillac Records: Adrien Brody is Leonard Chess of the legendary Chess Records, who introduced the world to the likes of Etta James (Beyonce), Chuck Berry (Mos Def) and Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright).
Hounddog: In the South during the 1950s, young Lewellen (Dakota Fanning) has had a horrendous upbringing, but she finds solace and meaning in the music of a young Elvis Presley. The movie's best known, however, for the Dakota Fanning rape scene. Ick.
Nobel Son: Young Barkley Michaelson has always lived in the shadow of his father, a brilliant, womanizing intellectual (ruthlessly played by Alan Rickman). So it's no surprise that when he's kidnapped for his dad's Nobel Prize money, his old man doesn't want to give it up. The cast also includes Mary Steenburgen, Bill Pullman, Ted Danson, Eliza Dushku and Danny DeVito.
Punisher: War Zone: The Marvel movie about the ruthless vigilante has a new star, as well as a director who was fired during post-production. Still, it also has Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty in The Wire) as the bad guy. It's this year's ultra-violent holiday movie.
Australia: Baz Luhrman comes from a land down under, where women glow and men plunder. The glowing lady, in this case, is Nicole Kidman, who plays an uptight Brit, while Hugh Jackman is the looter. Of course, all three are from Australia, the setting for Luhrman's epic romance adventure. Sort of like a landlocked Titanic.
Four Christmases: Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn are a married couple whose vacation plans fall through, so they're forced to spend the big day with their insane families. Just like, you know, the rest of us.
Milk: Sean Penn delivers yet another tremendous performance as the first openly gay elected politician in the country, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated, along with the mayor of San Francisco, in 1978. Gus Van Sant directs, but the movie is all Penn, and it is nothing if not timely in light of Prop 8.
Transporter 3: Apparently, Jason Statham hasn't moved on from the franchise that turned him into an action star. Go figure. Bolt: Disney's latest animated adventure takes a page from Pixar's playbook. John Travolta is a TV-star dog who takes a fantastic journey outside the studio, where he learns he doesn't have the powers he thinks he does.
Slumdog Millionaire: A young, uneducated Indian man is tortured by police who want to find how he knows all the questions he's gotten right on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The answers are all in his life story, which is full of poverty, abuse, hopes for true love, and the crossroads between coincidence and destiny.
Twilight: Never heard of Twilight? It's like Harry Potter, with vampires, for tweens and their moms, all of whom react to it like desperate meth addicts. If you have heard of Twilight, you know we're telling the truth.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: During WWII, little Bruno meets a boy wearing striped PJs who's on the other side of a fence. Turns out Bruno's dad's been transferred to Auschwitz, and the little fella has to learn the hard way that Jews aren't so bad after all.
Quantum of Solace: Remember how awesome the Daniel Craig '06 James Bond franchise reboot was? Well, even though the new one takes place about 20 minutes after Casino Royale ended, this one isn't awesome at all.
Let the Right One In: Young Oskar falls for a 12-year-old girl who happens to be a vampire whose father slaughters young boys. Yep, it's your average love story, and this one's gorgeously shot and filled with garish violence, high emotion and a shining young cast.
Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa: Stranded animated animals try to make it back to NYC but wind up in Africa.
Role Models: Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott are two juvenile dudes sentenced to work with real juveniles—one of whom is Chris “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse—as community service.
Synecdoche, New York: Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut is a glorious, sprawling mess. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a theater director who builds a life-size replica of NYC in a warehouse. Yes, life-size.
Changeling: Angelina Jolie is actually very good as Christine Collins, a single mother whose son vanished in 1928 in Clint Eastwood's new film, based upon true events. When the LAPD brings back the wrong boy and insists he's hers, she resists, ending up in a mental ward. It's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest crossed with Zodiac and L.A. Confidential.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno: Believe it or not, Kevin Smith's new film is his most adult yet—in more ways than one. Yes, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) set out to make porn to pay their bills, but they fall in love along the way. It's got Smith's trademark rat-a-tat raunchy dialog, and Rogen and Banks are great together.
Happy-Go-Lucky: Mike Leigh's new one is a change in direction from his recent work. Instead of exploring the seamy underbelly of the human condition, he looks at Poppy (Sally Hawkins), an effervescent schoolteacher who won't grow up. She's sort of infectious, sort of annoying, but the effect she has on everyone around her is far more real than, say, Peter Pan.
W: Oliver Stone directs and Josh Brolin plays the title character in this Lone Star melodrama. We just wish it had come out several years earlier, because we're so fucking sick of George W. Bush.
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.
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.
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.
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.