True, Jason Statham never says no to a crime drama, but The Bank Job is better than most of the dumb action-first, plot-second pictures he's done lately. The film is very loosely based on a 1970s robbery that had England buzzing until the government clamped a lid on the press, allowing the screenwriters to wildly and widely speculate about what might have actually been stolen.
Roger Davenport's film is made up of intricately drawn villains from both sides of the law, and in the middle of all of them are Statham and his gang, recruited to tunnel under a bank vault, smash through the floor and break into the safety-deposit boxes. But it's once they've made off with the loot that things get serious—they find themselves hunted by secret agents, vengeful pornographers, incriminated politicians, crooked cops and angry black militants, all of whom want their stuff back. Oh, and Statham's wife is pretty pissed off, too, because he's stepped away from the straight and narrow.
The film has a gritty '70s feel and more substance than flash. It moves slowly and lets the tension build as it makes its way to its conclusion. Yes, Statham does get to kick an ass or two, but The Bank Job is more of a slow boil than, say, Crank or The Transporter. That you can take to the bank, though you might not want to leave it there.—Anders Wright
10,000 B.C.: Roland Emmerich's first film since The Day After Tomorrow could be subtitled “The Day Before Yesterday.” It follows a young mammoth hunter who takes on sabertooth tigers and a nasty dominant civilization. The effects look terrific, and everyone speaks English, which totally comes in handy when it comes to those unfortunate time-machine accidents.
Alice's House: This award-winning Brazilian picture looks at middle-aged Alice, a manicurist whose life revolves around caring for her husband and sons. When an ex-boyfriend enters the picture, Alice must decide whether she should stand by her men.
College Road Trip: Martin Lawrence is an overbearing cop who insists on escorting his smokin'-hot 17-year-old daughter to the schools she's interested in. Yep, she's embarrassed. So is the audience.
The Counterfeiters: Winner of this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, The Counterfeiters is about Operation Bernhardt, the Nazi attempt to counterfeit British and American currency in the waning days of World War II. It tells the story of Jewish master forger Sally Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), who heads up the detail of craftsmen whose lives are spared as long as they support the German war effort, knowing the entire time that if they do their job well, the war will continue on. See our review.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Frances McDormand is Miss Pettigrew, an English governess in need of a job who signs on as the assistant of a ditzy American actress (Amy Adams) whose romantic life is in such turmoil that only a strict English governess can sort it out. Of course, as she blossoms in her new high-society role, it's not impossible that Miss Pettigrew will attract some beaus of her own. Frances McDormand is terrific in everything she touches, and Amy Adams just gets better and better.
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Uncounted: Director David Earnhardt's documentary takes a too-close-for-comfort look at the voting shenanigans in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 that turned the White House over to a group of semi-illiterate fuckwits who started a stupid war, ruined the country and drunkenly shot their friends in the face. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 5 at the downtown Central Library. Free.
Almost Famous: San Diego's prodigal son, Cameron Crowe, wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical story of a 16-year-old rock journalist who gets sent on the road by Rolling Stone to cover a seriously big band—based on Crowe's teen experiences on the road with The Allman Brothers. It's funny, sensitive and sweet, introduced the world to Patrick Fugit, earned Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations and sent Crowe to the podium for Best Screenplay. Watch for Phillip Seymour Hoffman as legendary rock critic Lester Bangs. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
San Diego Latino Film Festival: Truck on over to Page 21 for details. Also, our ad department tells us there's something about it starting on Page 25 as well.
Agata and the Storm: Screened by the Italian Film Festival, this one's about a bookshop owner who causes magnetic storms in her wake, something that is only magnified when a hunky young fella takes a fancy to her. Another quirky fable from director Silvio Soldini of Bread and Tulips fame. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Free.
The Invisible Mexicans of Deer Canyon: Director Juan Carlos Frey spent more than a year with the migrant population that lives in the canyons near some of San Diego's most valuable real estate. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 7, at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest. Free.
Soraida, Woman of Palestine: Part of “Voices,” a women's-rights series sponsored by The Cultural Worker and Eveoke Dance Theatre, this documentary follows an average Palestinian woman as she attempts to live an everyday existence in an occupied land. Conflicted between joining the resistance and getting her kids to school on time, Soraida's victory comes when she doesn't allow the violence around her to affect her quality of life. Screens at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at Eveoke Dance Theatre in North Park.
War Made Easy: Examines the spin presidents put on war, from Johnson to Junior, and the media complicity that nudges the populace into following its leaders into, say, Vietnam or Iraq. Sean Penn narrates, reminding us that we still haven't learned from our recent mistakes. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 9, at the downtown Central Library. Free.
The Reflecting Pool: A Russian-American journalist teams with the father of a victim to prove that 9/11 was an inside job, marking the first piece of historical fiction on the subject, but billed here as investigative drama. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 9, at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest. Free.
Rocket Science: Writer/director Jeffrey Blitz scored a huge hit with his spelling-bee documentary Spellbound, but this follow-up never really caught on, even though it's terribly sweet. The film follows young Hal Hefner (Reece Thompson), an awkward teen with a terrible stutter who joins the debate team to get close to the girl he's crushing on. Man, high school sucks. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 10, at the downtown Central Library. Free.
King Corn: In order to find out just how pervasive those little yellow kernels are in our society, two college buddies move to Iowa, grow an acre of corn and then try to follow the crop's progress into the food chain. What they find and what this documentary reports on is, well, disturbing, but anything related to the inner workings of the American food industry, especially the fast-food side of it, is pretty gnarly. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at the downtown Central Library. Free.
Dr. No: The first James Bond film feels a little old-fashioned, but its success ushered in a wave of '60s spy films, kicked off a franchise that has earned a ridiculous amount of money and made us all wish we were as cool as Sean Connery. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Band's Visit: This charming drama was disqualified as Israel's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission because so much of it is in English. But you can see why they put it forward—the story of an Egyptian police band stuck in a backwater Israeli settlement is sweet and funny without being cloying, with subtle performances and a theme that plays like a soft Chet Baker trumpet solo.
City of Men: The feature-length film version of the Brazilian TV show of the same name—which was created as a sequel to the film City of God—City of Men follows two lifelong friends, Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha) as they struggle with young adulthood and the day-to-day issues of living in an impoverished Rio 'hood. It's good, though not as good as its big-screen predecessor—but that's a big comparison to live up to.
The Other Boleyn Girl: So, you're Henry VIII and you look just like Eric Bana. Nice. You can have your pick of the English birds, but you're drawn to the Boleyn sisters, who look remarkably like Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Now, this isn't historically accurate in any way, shape or form, but it seems like a win-win for Henry, even if he eventually beheads the sister he ends up with.
Penelope: Christina Ricci is the titular character, born a wealthy girl who must find true love if the family curse that gave her a pig's snout for a nose is to be broken. But no dude wants to be with a schnozz like that, so Penelope ditches her family, hooks up with tough girl Reese Witherspoon and finds that maybe being different isn't so bad. Especially if you end up with James McAvoy.
Semi-Pro: You know how Will Ferrell movies oscillate between being really dumb and funny and just really dumb? This one, which finds Will playing Jackie Moon, the owner/coach/player of an ABA basketball team who got his money by singing a sexy, Barry White-esque '70s love song, is the just really dumb kind.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days: An extremely well-made, excruciatingly tough movie about a back-alley abortion during the waning years of Romania's communist period. Writer-director Cristian Mungiu's film deservedly took the Palm d'Or at Cannes last year, and though it's tough to watch, it's a superb piece of art. Mungiu sits back and lets the camera run, giving his actors long, extended takes that reflect the brutal emotions and dehumanizing politics of the day. It's not pro- or anti-abortion rights, nor is it any sort of morality tale, but it is terrifyingly real.
Be Kind Rewind: Simple. A magnetized Jack Black erases all the videos in his buddy Mos Def's shop, so they have to re-shoot, well, everything—including (but not limited to) Driving Miss Daisy, Rush Hour 2, Ghostbusters, Robocop, Back to the Future and The Lion King. There is only one man who could make this movie, and it's Michel Gondry, the dude behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Luckily, he did.
Charlie Bartlett: A Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the Paxil generation, this dark coming-of-age comedy stars Anton Yelchin as Charlie, a rich kid who gets popular at public high school by dishing psychiatric advice and prescriptions to his fellow students. Yelchin is a star in the making—he stole all his scenes in last year's Alpha Dog and has signed on to play Chekhov in the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. Robert Downey Jr. plays the principal, and the routinely excellent (and under-appreciated) Hope Davis is Charlie's mother Marilyn.
Vantage Point: An assassination attempt on the president (William Hurt) is seen through eight different viewpoints, each of which gives a different impression of what actually went down and why. Also stars Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker on the grassy knoll.
Definitely, Maybe: Precocious Maya (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin) forces her about-to-be-divorced dad (Ryan Reynolds) to tell her how he and her mom got together. Like the slow-pitch-softball version of How I Met Your Mother.
George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead: Romero's latest, shot with handheld cameras, is an indictment of mass media, the blogosphere and those of us who consume the news—all told amid the imminent zombie apocalypse.Jumper: The last time Hayden Christensen faced off against Samuel L. Jackson, he zapped him out a big window in Revenge of the Sith. In Jumper, he has a gene that allows him to teleport anywhere, anytime. This makes him rich and good-looking—but not particularly bright. Jackson, sporting a freaky dye job, is on the hunt for him and others like him. Great idea, cool FX, but very dumb, very standard execution with any nifty metaphysical questions shunted aside in favor of dumbing down for the overseas box office.
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The latest kids' fantasy-novel-turned-big-budget-movie-adaptation, Spiderwick tells the story of siblings Mallory (Sarah Bolger), Jared and Simon Grace (both played by Freddie Highmore) as their family moves into the mysterious Spiderwick Estate. The big surprise? They discover an alternate world filled with all sorts of mystical, magical creatures played or voiced by a barrage of big-name talent (Seth Rogen, David Strathairn, Martin Short, Nick Nolte).
Step Up 2 The Streets: Dancer Andie is an outcast in her new hoity-toity arts school—she just has too much street in her. But it comes in handy when she and the other dance geeks enter a hardcore dance contest. Yep, you can take the girl out of the streets, but you can't take the streets out of the girl. Or the title.
Fool's Gold: Matthew McConaughey. Kate Hudson. Skimpy bathing suits. And something about sunken treasure.
In Bruges: Noted playwright Martin McDonagh's dark comedy finds Colin Farrell as a killer with a conscience—a return to the charismatic, small-film style of acting that got him all those big crappy movies. Brendan Gleeson is, as always, great as his mentor, and Ralph Fiennes swears a whole hell of a lot.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins: Master mugger Martin Lawrence is a massively successful self-help talk-show host—the perfect blend of Oprah and Dr. Phil—who returns to the South for his parent's 50th anniversary. Egos are blown. Lessons are learned.
The Eye: Ah, the lucrative Japanese-horror-film-remake market. Jessica Alba is a ridiculously hot blind violinist who gets new corneas. So, she can see, which rules, but soon she starts seeing all kinds of frightening otherworldly shit, which sucks. Alessandro Nivola is her ridiculously hot doctor, and Parker Posey picks up a paycheck.
Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both World Concert 3-D: Like porn for 'tweens. Or maybe crack. Or porn on crack. For 'tweens. In 3-D. Yeah, that's nasty.
Rambo: Rambo: First Blood Part II (the second film in the franchise) was one of the first entries in the hard-R ultra-violent category of the '80s. And now, more than 20 years later, the latest installment, which features our favorite vet taking on, uh, Burma, ups the violence quotient. These human-rights violations aren't for the faint of heart. Or stomach.
27 Dresses: Katherine Heigl is the perpetual self-sacrificing bridesmaid, driven to the edge when her self-absorbed sister (Malin Akerman) hooks her all-around-great-guy boss (a puffy Ed Burns), for whom she's pined for years. At the same time, reporter Kevin (James Marsden) picks up on her story as his ticket off the wedding beat. Heigl and Marsden are charming enough to keep it fun, even if Burns phones it in. Prospective husbands beware: this is a simple, inoffensive chick-flick for chicks into weddings.
There Will Be Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson's first project since Punch-Drunk Love is easily one of the year's best, anchored by an epic, astonishing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. He plays Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-20th-century oilman driven by greed and competition and utterly loathing of the world around him. The Bucket List: Smart blue-collar Morgan Freeman and rich jerk Jack Nicholson meet in a hospital room where they're both battling cancer and become best buddies, determined to live the rest of their lives to the fullest. Interesting first act that quickly turns into an irritatingly goofy travelogue as they hit the road to check off items on their “Kick the bucket list”—like Wild Hogs for the senior set. Did those years on the political sidelines made Rob Reiner soft? He directs, but with no particular flair.
The Orphanage: Produced by Guillermo del Toro of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy fame, this first-time feature from director J.A. Bayona falls back on some horror-movie standards but is so well-made and so darn creepy that you won't care. Laura (Belén Rueda) returns with her husband and son to the orphanage where she was raised, only to discover that some spooky stuff went down since her adoption, and some of her childhood friends might still be hanging around.
The Kite Runner: This is the picture that forced the studio to relocate its two child stars and their families. It's a terrific story, dealing with the childhood friendship of two Afghani boys, Amir and Hassan, and the terrible traumas that tear them apart. Based on the best-selling novel by UCSD grad Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner follows Amir's return to his homeland after the Russians have left and the Taliban have taken over. Serious weeper, sure, but director Marc Forster makes it far more sentimental than it needs to be.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets: Nicolas Cage and his band of merry men and hot chicks sort out who's buried in Grant's tomb.
Juno: Fizzy and enjoyable, the year's best feel-good film centers, surprisingly, on an unwed pregnant teen. That'd be Juno (Ellen Page), who decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) and toy with her good friend and the father of her child, Paulie Bleeker (an excellent Michael Cera). With sharp dialogue from stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody and solid direction from Jason Reitman, Juno is a solid, if inoffensive, triumph.
Atonement: Though they've gone out of their way to make Atonement look like a generic period romance, Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's shatteringly good novel is crisply directed, gorgeous to look at and terribly well-acted by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley as a star-crossed couple whose future is taken from them when Knightley's younger sister misinterprets something she sees and later turns McAvoy's Robbie in for a crime he did not commit. The buzz has been about the six-minute tracking shot on the war-strewn beaches of Dunkirk, but the real heat is between the two leads.
No Country for Old Men: Their first decent film since Fargo, No Country is a Coen Brothers masterpiece and perhaps the best picture of '07. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the story centers on a good ol' boy (Josh Brolin), an aging county sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones), a unstoppable psychopathic killer (Javier Bardem) and a valise thick with drug money. Tight, taut, challenging and brutal, it just gets better with repeated viewings.
Into the Wild: Sean Penn takes on John Krakauer's book with Emile Hirsch as Alexander Supertramp, the young man formerly known as Chris McCandless, who left his suburban family behind in the early '90s and took to the road, eventually making his way to an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. Penn makes Hirsch a little too much of a Christ figure, but the supporting cast is great, especially Hal Holbrook in the best role of his career.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: So, acclaimed American painter Julian Schnabel makes a movie in French about Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of the French edition of Elle who, following a stroke, can only communicate by blinking his left eyelid. And it's really, really good. Gorgeous to look at and heartbreaking to experience, The Diving Bell gets deep into the psyche of Bauby, who ended up writing his memoirs one letter at a time. The film features an extraordinary performance from Mathieu Amalric as Bauby and earned Schnabel Best Director honors at Cannes.
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.
Fridays at the Fleet: Sea Monsters, The Living Sea and Mysteries of Egypt are some of the rotating films shown each Friday at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center's IMAX theater where, for only $7.50, you can catch four flicks. Sure, it's more Discovery Channel than Transformers, but the Fleet's enormous old-school dome screen is way cool, and some of the talent—narrators like Meryl Streep or Johnny Depp—is impressive. You might find yourself as mesmerized as the little kiddies sitting around you. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Check www.rhfleet.org for the screening list.