There's a robust film industry in the Philippines, but aside from a semi-regular series at Horton Plaza, which focuses on romantic comedies, and screenings sponsored by the Asian Film Festival, Filipino films rarely see the inside of a San Diego theater. That makes the kidnap thriller Graceland, opening Friday, April 26, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas, notable enough, but the film is also tight and engaging, with several twists that are tough to see coming.
Marlon (Arnold Reyes) has the unfortunate job of driving for corrupt Congressman Manuel Changho (Menggie Cobarrubias). It's unfortunate because although Marlon desperately needs the money—his wife is in very poor health—Changho has a bad habit of sleeping with underage prostitutes and letting Marlon deal with the aftermath.
When the press gets wind of Changho's unsavory activities, he drops Marlon as collateral damage, which makes for extraordinarily bad timing for the former driver, because that's the same day both men's daughters are kidnapped. Marlon looks like the prime suspect and has to navigate the orders of the omnipresent kidnapper versus those of the cops and his former boss if he stands a chance of getting his daughter back alive.
The movie delves into the seedy world of human trafficking, and though director Ron Morales has a number of tricks up his sleeve, his greatest strength is in working with the actors, who display real emotion, adding weight to the film that could have otherwise felt like an exploitative genre pic. It's not a perfect movie, but it's a smart one and an entirely different take on the subject matter than, say, Taken.
Arthur Newman: Colin Firth plays Newman, an unhappy divorcé who stages his own death in hopes of starting over.
The Big Wedding: Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton are a long-divorced couple who must pretend to be married at the wedding of their adopted son.
May Day Workers Film Festival: Four films over four days at different venues around San Diego. Get all the details at workersfilmfestival.com.
Mud: Matthew McConaughey continues to deliver the emotional goods in this coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy who idolizes a drifter with a violent past. .
No Place on Earth: Documentary about a group of Ukrainian Jews who escaped the Holocaust by hiding out in underground caves.
Pain and Gain: Michael Bay's new one stars Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie as Florida bodybuilders whose kidnapping scheme goes awry.
The Pirogue: A group of African men attempts to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain in hopes of a better life. Screens at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Renoir: French biopic about the impressionist painter in his twilight years.
Simon Killer: A slightly off-kilter young American travels to Paris after a breakup and has a relationship—with a prostitute—that finally exposes his dark secrets. Screens for one week at the Ken Cinema.
Upstream Color: The new feature from Shane Caruth, whose 2004 film Primer was smart and inventive, is another serious sci-fi mind trip.
¡Vivan las Antipodas!: Documentary about two of the Earth's dry spots, which lie in opposite places on the globe. Opens Tuesday, May 30, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One Time Only
In a Lonely Place: Bogie gets all existential in Nicholas Ray's 1950 noir. He's a screenwriter suspected in a murder, which is messing up his relationship with actress Gloria Grahame. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the Mission Valley Library.
Avatar: No one takes it seriously anymore, but James Cameron's 3D sci-fi adventure changed the way people watch movies all around the globe. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Trashed: Jeremy Irons narrates this environmental documentary, the highlight of the third annual Environmental Film Festival, which starts at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Oceanside Museum of Art.
Passione: This portrait of Naples is directed by John Turturro. Presented by the San Diego Italian Film Festival, it screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
The Virgin Suicides: The Public Library wraps up its Sofia Coppola series with her debut feature, an adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, at the Central Library, Downtown
Driving Miss Daisy: It's easy to make fun of now, but this sentimental movie about an elderly Southern woman (Jessica Tandy, who earned Best Actress honors) and her longtime chauffeur (Morgan Freeman) is a Best Picture winner. Screens at 7:45 p.m. Friday, April 26, at the Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
The Impossible: Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are a married couple who are separated, along with their kids, during the 2004 tsunami. The scenes of the tsunami are harrowing. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Antiviral: A young man has to save himself from the same virus that killed a famous celebrity. It's the feature debut of Brandon Cronenberg, son of David. Screens at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
School of Rock: He'd previous starred in Shallow Hal, but Richard Linklater's rock 'n' roll elementary-school movie was the first time we truly believed Jack Black could be a leading man. Screens at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
Fight Club: To talk about Fight Club is to violate the first rule of Fight Club. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 27, and Tuesday, April 30, at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
The Little Rascals: Big-screen take on the beloved Our Gang shorts from the 1920s and '30s. Screens at 7:45 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
Promised Land: Matt Damon and John Krasinski co-wrote and star in Gus Van Sant's film, which starts out with a promising premise: showing both sides of the fracking debate by pitting sincere natural-gas corporate man Damon against eco Boy Scout Krasinski. It takes sides by the end, however. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 29, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Pulp Fiction: Still Tarantino's best, this crime-thriller-comedy that spans dozens of characters and fractures its own timeline is a terrific piece of work. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, April 29, at Reading Cinemas Town Square.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: Stay classy, San Diego. By the way, the sequel is shooting in Atlanta. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
San Diego Asian Film Festival Spring Showcase: This collection of films runs through Thursday, April 26, at the Digiplex in Mission Valley.
Disconnect: Henry Alex Rubin's new film focuses on people having a hard time communicating despite being wired in. It stars Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Michael Nyqvist and designer Marc Jacobs in his acting debut.
Filly Brown: A young female hip-hop artist has to decide if she wants to water down her music to sign a big record deal.
Future Weather: After her flighty mother ditches her and moves to California, a teen's grandmother moves in and the two must learn to get along. End April 25 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Girl Rising: A girl-power documentary about nine young women from nine different countries, narrated by folks like Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Liam Neeson.
Home Run: Cinematographer-turned-director David Boyd's debut is about a Major League baseball player with a substance-abuse problem who's reduced to coaching Little League to remember what he loved about the game.
Lords of Salem: The new one from Rob Zombie stars his wife, Sheri Moon, as a DJ who receives a record that triggers visions of her town's brutal past—and possibly its future.
My Brother the Devil: An England-born Egyptian tries to get away from the tough streets he comes from just as his younger brother tries to get in. Sally El Hosaini's debut, which won a cinematography award at Sundance, is a very different experience than you expect it to be. Ends April 25 at the Ken Cinema.
Oblivion: Tom Cruise plays a spaceman sent back to pull the last few remaining resources out of a depleted Earth.
To the Wonder: Terrence Malick's new movie is almost more straight-up art than it is a film. This meditation on humanity, faith, nature and our relationship to everything around us will be sweet poetry to some and a pretentious bore to others.
The We and the I: Director Michel Gondry worked closely with New York teens to create this movie about a group of, um, New York teens, who are heading home on the bus on the last day of school.
Room 237: Bizarrely enjoyable documentary about Stanley Kubrick's take on The Shining, featuring interviews with people who have incredible theories regarding what the movie's really about. There are no talking heads, however—everyone's points are made through film footage.
42: Biopic about the baseball player who wore that number, which has been retired by every single Major League team. Spoiler: It's Jackie Robinson.
The Company You Keep: Robert Redford directed and starred in this drama, playing a former '60s radical whose hidden past is uncovered by plucky young journalist Shia LaBeouf.
It Takes a Man and a Woman: This Filipino romantic comedy is the third in the A Very Special Love trilogy. It screens at UA Horton Plaza.
Sadda Haq: This Punjabi film about young men standing up to a corrupt government in the 1980s and '90s was banned in many parts of India.
Scary Movie 5: In our most recent issue, we reported that Scary Movie 5 was opening last week. We were wrong. The fact that you're reading about it twice must be terrifying.
Trance: Danny Boyle's new hypno-thriller is a combination of Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Ends April 25 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Evil Dead: The updated version of Sam Raimi's classic is a serious gore-fest.
Jurassic Park 3D: Now with more velociraptor!
The Place Beyond the Pines: Ryan Gosling re-teams with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, playing a motorcycle daredevil who starts robbing banks because he's got a kid on the way. Bradley Cooper is the lawman on his trail.
The Sapphires: Though it's standard stuff, this story of four young Aboriginal women who go to Vietnam with their obnoxious Irish manager (Chris O'Dowd) wears its heart on its sleeve. Loosely based on a true story.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Channing Tatum returns as Duke, and this time Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis join him in blowing things up.
The Host: The new movie from author Stephanie Meyer—aka the woman who wrote the Twilight books—stars Saoirse Ronan as a teen trying to save the world from some bodysnatching aliens.
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor: A marriage counselor ends up in a serious affair with one of her clients. Perry's not actually in this one; Kim Kardashian, however, is.
Admission: Tina Fey plays a Princeton admissions officer who could blow her career by accepting a student who just might be the kid she gave up for adoption 18 years ago.
The Croods: Animated caveman movie featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone.
Olympus Has Fallen: Terrorists take over the White House and take the president hostage before being killed by disgraced Secret Service agent Gerard Butler. It's ludicrous, for sure, but pretty enjoyable as R-rated action films go.
The Call: Halle Berry is a 911 operator who takes a call from a girl who's been kidnapped by a serial killer.
Oz: The Great and Powerful: Sam Raimi directs this big-budget prequel. James Franco, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis are all off to see the wizard.
Rocky Mountain Express: The IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center was recently overhauled. This latest entry takes viewers through the Canadian Rockies without leaving San Diego.
Identity Thief: Jason Bateman hits the road to find out who stole his identity. Not a spoiler: It's Melissa McCarthy.
Side Effects: This thriller is rumored to be Steven Soderbergh's final theatrical release. If so, he's going out on top with this one, about a woman (Rooney Mara) whose shrink (Jude Law) prescribes her anti-depressants that end up plunging both of them down a rabbit hole.
Quartet: It's surprising that it took Dustin Hoffman this long to direct a movie. Quartet, about what happens when a faded opera singer (Maggie Smith) is forced to move into a home for retired musicians, including the rest of the quartet she left behind, is slight, but enjoyable. Ends April 25 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Cosmic Collisions: So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels.
Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a bipolar guy from Philly who's just out of the mental hospital, having lost his job, his home and his wife. He moves in with his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro) in hopes of regaining his marriage, but things are thrown askew by Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has problems of her own.
Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is.
Flying Monsters 3D: No, it's not a crappy studio blockbuster—this one is all about dinosaurs and was written and directed by Richard Attenborough, using Avatar-like technology, and plays the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
To the Arctic 3-D: Cute-animal-movie alert No. 2. Meryl Streep narrates this new IMAX movie about a mama polar bear and her two cubs.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.