Yes, that's Seth Rogen starring in Observe and Report, the latest mall-cop movie to hit your multiplex. Seriously, what is it with these guys? Somehow, security guards have become the new architects when it comes to movie professions. Kevin James' Paul Blart was wildly successful, and just last year, Keifer Sutherland played a security schmo in Mirrors.
Observe and Report is a little different from those, mostly because writer / director Jody Hill uses the same over-the-top, raunchy humor he used in The Foot Fist Way and the HBO show East Bound and Down. Rogen is Ronnie Barnhart, the gung-ho head of mall security who—just like Foot Fist's narcissistic tae kwon do master, Fred Simmons—is bombastic and annoying and fairly unlikable. He springs into action when a flasher starts frequenting his turf, especially after he exposes himself to Brandi (Anna Faris), the object of Ronnie's eye who works at a cosmetics counter and won't give him the time of day. Ronnie's big problem isn't actually the crime at the mall, though—it's the cop (Ray Liotta) who's brought in to actually solve the crime. Because, you see, Ronnie has serious problems. He is king of the mall, and someone is invading his turf. He's more Travis Bickle than Paul Blart, and Observe and Report, which is rated R for good reason, eventually strikes a discordant, disturbing chord.
Jody Hill has developed his own brand of theater-of-the-awkward. It's entirely different than the sort of work Ricky Gervais perfected across the pond. Hill's characters are wholly unrefined. More so, they're uneducated, self-involved, and—if I may—trashy.
Observe and Report is very funny, but at a certain point, you realize you're laughing at a guy who has real psychological issues that are going to prevent him from ever amounting to more than he is. Rogen swears in every conversation he has, only has a shot with Faris (who's terrific) if she's literally passed-out drunk and, basically, isn't a very bright guy. Yeah, OK, he's fun to laugh at, but when the movie stops being funny and starts getting violent (though not to worry, it circles back to funny by the end), you have to ask yourself whether it's Ronnie Barnhart who is inappropriate, or whether it's you for laughing at him.
Dragonball: Evolution: Before you get all high and mighty over a movie based on a cartoon about a young warrior who must collect seven magical orbs, be aware that Hong Kong action legend Chow Yun-Fat deigned to be in this one. Then again, so did Ernie Hudson.
Hannah Montana: The Movie: This just makes us feel old. And we're not old.
Paris 36: It's Paris, 1936, and the local music hall has closed down. So three former employees and plenty of locals get together and—guess what—put on a show!
Sugar: New film from the directors of Half-Nelson about a young Dominican pitcher trying to make it to the majors. See our review on Page 20.
Tokyo!: Three different directors—Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho—tell intersecting stories set in Kyoto. Just kidding, Tokyo.
One time only
The Naked Eye: Examines the work of Len Stouman and his photographic animation technique. Earned a 1956 Best Documentary Oscar nomination. Screens at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Urban Cowboy: Yep, that's John Travolta playing a cowboy who moves to Houston, where he runs into city slickers and tries to get into Debra Winger's tight-ass jeans. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Babette's Feast: This Danish film won the 1988 Best Foreign Language Oscar, and it will make you seriously hungry. Good thing it's at a restaurant with a movie-night prix-fixe. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. Free.
Before the Rain: Nominated for the 1994 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Before the Rain explores the violence in
Bosnia through different characters and stories, all of which are linked together. Screens at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, April 12, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
Young Mister Lincoln: Obama's awesome, but Lincoln's totally still the best president. John Ford's classic stars Henry Fonda. Screens at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Betrayal: Shot over 23 years, Ellen Kuras' documentary follows a Laotian family's journey to America after the secret U.S. bombings against their country during the Vietnam War. Part of the International Documentary Film Series, proceeds benefit the International Rescue Committee San Diego. Screens at 7 p.m., Monday, April 13, at La Jolla Village Cinemas
Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians: Curtis photographed and recorded Native Americans in the early part of the last century. This doc takes a look at his life and his own changing attitudes toward the people he documented. Screens at 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 15, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Free with museum admission.
Rocky: Philadelphia has given the world only two things: cheese steak and Rocky. Oh, right, and liberty or something. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Sin Nombre: Cary Fukunaga's first feature earned him this year's Best Director award at Sundance. It's a harrowing tale of two immigrants—one a Mexican gang member, the other a young Honduran girl—who find themselves connected through violence as they head north.
Adventureland: Greg Mottola follows up Superbad with a summer romance that stars Kristen Stewart as the unattainable love interest and Jesse Eisenberg, who holds the entire thing together.
Alien Trespass: Remember those cheesy monster movies from the 1950s that used to be on TV on Saturday afternoons? This is a send-up of those, and it's just as cheesy.
The Black Balloon: Toni Collette is the matriarch of an Aussie family struggling to take care of her autistic eldest son.
The Edge of Love: Keira Knightley's latest period piece. She's Vera Phillips, Dylan Thomas' girlfriend. Also stars Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy.
Fast and Furious: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker re-team for the fourth entry in the fast-car franchise.
The Haunting in Connecticut: Evil lives in the hardest state to spell.
Monsters vs. Aliens: Reese Witherspoon brings some life to this huge 3-D animated extravaganza, but the story is dwarfed by the special effects.
The Great Buck Howard: John Malkovich is terrific as an aging mentalist trying to make a comeback. That said, the movie is about his assistant, a law-school drop-out, played by Colin Hanks, trying to find himself.
As it is in Heaven: This Swedish picture, nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, follows a famous, morose orchestra conductor (Michael Myquist) who drops his career to return to his hometown, where he becomes the local choirmaster.
Crossing Over: Harrison Ford stars in this multilayered immigration drama that's very much in the vein of Crash. Though it features some decent performances, it's ultimately overwrought.
Duplicity: Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are good-looking spies who are definitely sleeping together and probably betraying each other.
I Love You, Man: Judd Apatow's fingers are nowhere to be found on this bromance, which stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segal. But they might as well be.
Knowing: If you can buy Nic Cage as an MIT prof, you'll happily go with him uncovering a time capsule that predicts all the global catastrophes of the last 50 years—and the imminent end of the world.
Sunshine Cleaning: Almost a sequel to Little Miss Sunshine. Some of the same producers are on board, the film is also shot in New Mexico and Alan Arkin plays pretty much the same part. Still, it has that vibe that made LMS so appealing, as Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play sisters who start a business cleaning up violent crime scenes.
Everlasting Moments: A young, working-class Swede decides to keep the camera she won in a lottery and ends up documenting everything she sees around her.
The Last House on the Left: A remake of Wes Craven's brutal '72 original. A gang kidnaps and assaults a young girl and then takes refuge in her parents' summerhouse. Bad move, 'cause the folks are pissed.
Race to Witch Mountain: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a Vegas cabbie who picks up two kids brimming with ESP who are on the run.
Watchmen: Zack Snyder follows up 300 with a big budget take on the legendary graphic novel about the tattered personal lives of superheroes in an alternate 1985, where Nixon is still president and the world is on the brink of nuclear armageddon. It looks terrific, but it simply doesn't live up to its own source material.
Che: Steven Soderbergh's biopic about Che Guevara is four-and-a-half hours long and in Spanish. But you don't have to agree with Che's politics to appreciate how well it's made.
Two Lovers: The final film from Joaquin Phoenix, whose hip-hop career seems to really be taking off, finds him playing Leonard, a depressed Brooklyn boy living with his parents. Vinessa Shaw is great as the girl he should be with, but he only has eyes for drama queen Gwyneth Paltrow. What's unclear is why either of them have any interest in him.
The Class: No, Laurence Cantet's film about a year in a low-income multi-ethnic classroom in Paris didn't win the Oscar on Sunday night, but it's still absolutely worth seeing.
Tyler Perry's Medea Goes to Jail: Perry's been cranking out—and usually starring in—two movies a year for a while. Reprising his most popular character, crazy senior citizen Medea, this time he takes his shtick behind bars.
The International: Tom Tykwer's new film is gorgeously shot and edited, especially a huge shoot-out in New York's Guggenheim Museum. But it takes itself so seriously that it feels tragic when the logic behind it just doesn't hold up. Plus, the enormous international conspiracy is far more interesting than the good guys—Clive Owen and Naomi Watts—trying to take it down.
Coraline: Henry Selick's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Hugo-winning novella is the first of the new 3-D movies that uses the tech to complement the story. Dakota Fanning voices the lonely little girl who finds a doorway to a parallel universe that turns out to be far more dangerous than her own, and Teri Hatcher is her mom—and her Other Mother, too.
He's Just Not That Into You: A look at the dating adventures of young people in Baltimore—people like Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connelly, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Ginnifer Goodwin and plenty of others. C'mon. No one that good-looking lives in Baltimore.
Taken: Liam Neeson is a former CIA man whose daughter gets kidnapped by white slavers in Paris. So he goes to the city of lights and kills everybody. Pierre Morel has crafted a brutally violent guilty pleasure.
Gran Torino: For all the buzz, Clint Eastwood's new film is flawed. Yes, his cranky old guy, Walt Kowalski, manages to be the funny kind of equal-opportunity offender who finds some salvation by taking a good-natured Hmong neighbor under his wing. The problem is that it turns out he's right about everyone he dislikes. Black, white, Asian, his own relatives—they're all awful people in the world of Gran Torino, justifying Walt's latent racism. Nice.
The Wrestler: Yes, Mickey Rourke is just as good as you've heard, playing Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a washed-up wrestler who was big 20 years ago and is now the old man on the high-school gym circuit. Occasionally, it veers toward sentimentality but never goes over the edge. Marisa Tomei, too, is great as the stripper he'd like to get closer to, and Evan Rachel Wood is perfect as the daughter who can't find it in herself to forgive him.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Director David Fincher directs Brad Pitt as a man born old and growing young. Beautifully shot, the film is less about youth no longer being wasted on the young than it is about the decades long love story between the characters played by Pitt and Cate Blanchett, who are going in different directions.
Doubt: Best. Catholic. Priest. Abuse. Movie. Ever. John Patrick Shanley adapted and directed his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play and landed a couple of acting heavyweights for the leads. Meryl Streep is a nasty nun who goes after popular priest Phillip Seymour Hoffman, because she A. doesn't like him, and B. thinks he might be getting a little too close to one of his altar boys.
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.
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.
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.