As far as movies go, most Americans think of Brazil in very strict terms—people there are either very rich or very poor, and there's very little in between. These ideas come from films like City of God or The Elite Squad, both of which are high-quality pictures, two of the very few from that country that make it to the U.S.
But Brazil is where it's at right now. It's hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later, and while much of our recent attention has been focused on China, Brazil has become its own economic powerhouse, with an emerging middle class rarely seen in the movies.
Until now, that is. Neighboring Sounds, the debut film from Kleber Mendonça Filho—a former film critic, I should mention—opens this Friday at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp, and it's won raves across the festival circuit for a reason.
On the surface, Sounds is an intimate look at a block full of upper-middle-class Brazilians in a smaller coastal city. There's the patriarch who owns most of the buildings; his grandson, who manages some of the properties; and another grandson, who's into boosting radios. There's the housewife who's always in desperate competition with her sister, who sneaks off to smoke pot when her family isn't looking. That sort of thing.
This is today's Brazil, and while everyone is well off, all is not well. There's a vague undercurrent of unease, if not dread, running through the picture, and when a private security firm pushes the residents to engage in its services, the residents are both placated and additionally stressed—it's as though the extra security is just inviting more problems.
In many ways, Filho's movie, which is broken into three parts, is an exploration of the seamy side of modern Brazil, but it's an underbelly that's more psychological than actual. It's a terrifically interesting debut from a talented filmmaker who's truly stepping out onto a world stage.
24/7 In Love: This romantic comedy from the Philippines stars a slew of good-looking young people, all of whom are trying to get ahead and get into each other's pants.
Chasing Ice: National Geographic photographer James Balog pointed timelapse cameras at glaciers for a solid year and captured some unbelievable images.
The Collections: A guy escapes the clutches of a horror-movie-type serial killer, only to be cajoled into rescuing a cute girl from a booby-trapped warehouse.
I Do Bidoo Bidoo: This Filipino romantic musical comedy would probably sit nicely on a DVD shelf next to Mama Mia and Rock of Ages.
Hitchcock: Anthony Hopkins plays the famed director, and Helen Mirren his wife, during the time Hitchcock was shooting Psycho.
Killing Them Softly: Brad Pitt shows why he's a movie star, effortlessly exuding cool as a mob enforcer in Andrew Dominik's art-house take on a gangster flick.
Talaash: The Answer Lies Within: A cop tries to deal with his crumbling marriage and solve a mystery in this new Bollywood thriller.
Wu Xia (Dragon): A small-time village craftsman comes under investigation by cops and criminals when he beats up a pair of gangsters who are shaking down a local shopkeeper.
One Time Only
Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear: Not nearly as good as the original. Screens at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park.
The Royal Tenenbaums: All of Wes Anderson's films are about dysfunctional families, and they don't get any more dysfunctional than the Tenenbaums. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Beach Bar: A one-time Internet sensation has to pull his friends together and save his beloved beach bar. Shot mostly in San Diego, the film screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 (doors open at 7), at Ginger's in the Gaslamp, which is featured in the movie.
The Time Machine: This is the terrific 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel, not the crappy 2002 version. Screens at noon and 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at Reading Cinemas Town Square in Clairemont.
Legend of Aahhh's: Despite its porno title, this is the latest extreme-skiing film from Greg Stump. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at UltraStar Mission Valley.
Elevator to the Gallows: Louis Malle's 1958 noir film features a great score by Miles Davis. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Jurassic Park: Lincoln isn't the only dinosaur Steven Spielberg made a movie about (just a joke, people!). Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Of course, you know this is based on Cameron Crowe's experience posing as a Clairemont High School student, right? Screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
Safety Not Guaranteed: Aubrey Plaza of Parks & Rec is a cub reporter who gets involved with a guy (Mark Duplass) who's placed a classified ad looking for a partner in his time-traveling venture. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Reservoir Dogs: The movie that made Tarantino a star gets the big-screen treatment just a couple of weeks before his latest, Django Unchained, hits theaters. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at several area theaters. Check fathomevents.com for details.
Jingle All the Way: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad duke it out over a toy. Starts at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park.
Die Hard: Bruce Willis says "yippee-kaiyay motherfucker" to terrorist Alan Rickman in the best Christmas action movie ever. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Red Dawn: The updated edition of the 1984 Cold War-paranoia pic stars Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth, who signed on and shot the movie years ago, before they were rich and famous.
Anna Karenina: Director Joe Wright teams up again with his Pride & Prejudice star Keira Knightley to take on another period drama.
Citadel: A terrified young father must join forces with a priest to save his baby daughter from the same freakish, feral children who brutally attacked his wife.
Holy Motors: Leos Carax's new film is a mindbender, starring Denis Lavant as a man/creature who inhabits different lives throughout Paris over the course of a single day. It's at times beautiful, at times disturbing, and the meaning behind it is, perhaps, best left to the audience. Also, Kylie Minogue has a part. Ends Nov. 29 at the Ken Cinema.
Life of Pi: Ang Lee's adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning novel about a boy, a tiger and a lifeboat is this year's movie that you simply must see on a big screen and in 3-D. Really.
Rise of the Guardians: The Immortal Guardians—aka the Easter Bunny, Santa, etc.—team up to kick evil-spirit ass.
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.
A Royal Affair: Period piece about a Danish woman, the German doctor she loves and her crazy husband, who happens to be the king.
ab Tak Hai Jaan: The final Bollywood musical from Yash Chopra, one of the industry's legends. Screens at Horton Plaza.
Let it Snow: The IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park gets animated and kid-friendly just in time for the holidays.
Lincoln: It might as well have been called The 13th Amendment. Despite another spellbinding performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln's biopic is really about getting legislation through Congress.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2: At last, the long national nightmare is over.
A Late Quartet: A famous string quartet, whose members include Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, struggle to stay together after one of them gets some terrible news.
Skyfall: Daniel Craig's third outing as 007 is thankfully closer to Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace. This time, he's going up against Javier Bardem, who has some history with MI-6.
Flight: Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film in more than a decade suffers from many of the standard alcoholism-film clichés, but it features a tremendous performance from Denzel Washington, playing a pilot who lands his broken jet miraculously, with minimal loss of life.
The Other Son: An Israeli and a Palestinian discover they were switched at birth.
Tales of the Maya Skies: This IMAX movie explores the rich history of the Mayan people, just in time for the end of the world. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Man With the Iron Fists: The Wu-Tang Clan's RZA co-wrote (with Eli Roth), directed and stars in this ultraviolent martial-arts epic, which also features Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. They're all on the trail of a fortune in gold.
Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk: Go white-water rafting without actually getting wet. Screens on Fridays through November (except Nov. 30) at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West: Get up close and personal with the famous explorers in IMAX, Fridays through November (except Nov. 16) at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Sessions: John Hawkes is great as Mark O'Brien, a writer and poet paralyzed by polio who turns to a sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt) in order to lose his virginity at age 38.
Wreck-It Ralph: The latest animated film from Disney stars John C. Reilly as Ralph, the bad guy in an old-school video game who desperately wants to be liked.
Chasing Mavericks: A surfing movie, surprisingly co-directed by Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson, about a teen who turns to crusty surfing legend Gerard Butler to help him survive a massive wave.
Cloud Atlas: This epic production is almost three hours long and stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving in multiple roles. It consists of six stories that span different time periods, with a running storyline about reincarnation and the effects of our actions on future generations.
Fun Size: A teenage girl loses track of her little brother while attending a Halloween party thrown by a really cute boy.
Alex Cross: We're used to Morgan Freeman in the role of this famous detective. Now the part is played by Tyler Perry. Another obvious sign of the impending apocalypse.
Paranormal Activity 4: Now with more paranormal.
Seven Psychopaths: Martin McDonagh returns with another violent comedic drama. Colin Farrell stars as Marty, an L.A. screenwriter surrounded by psychopaths such as Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits. Like McDonagh's debut, In Bruges, this one has an emotional heart to it, despite the blood and guts.
Argo: Ben Affleck directs and stars in this take on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and believe it or not, it's gonna be a Best Picture contender.
Here Comes the Boom: High-school biology teacher Kevin James becomes an MMA cage fighter in order to keep his school's extracurricular activities afloat.
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.
Frankenweenie: Tim Burton hasn't made a film that's been an original idea in years, so it sort of makes sense that he'd remake one of his own movies.
Taken 2: Remember all those dudes Liam Neeson killed in the thoroughly violent Taken? At least one of them has a family member out for a little payback.
Hotel Transylvania: You won't be surprised to hear that this new animated film involves vampires. And 3-D.
Looper: Director Rian Johnson (Brick, Brothers Bloom) teams once again with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for this time-twister; JGL is a hit man whose future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to be rubbed out.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: This adaptation of the beloved young-adult novel has made plenty of old adults feel for their youth.
Pitch Perfect: Anna Kendrick is the new girl at college who finds her place by joining a bad-ass all-girl vocal group.
The House at the End of the Street: Jennifer Lawrence and her mother, Elisabeth Shue, move next door to a house where there'd been a brutal murder. When Lawrence makes friends with the sole surviving family member, things get dangerous.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days: If it feels like they release one of these every summer, that's because that they release one of these every summer.
The Dark Knight Rises: Christopher Nolan's epic Batman trilogy concludes.
Ice Age: Continental Drift: So cold.
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.
Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity: Liam Neeson narrates this IMAX film, screening 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.