It probably wasn't supposed to happen this way, but Filth and Wisdom, the directorial debut from Madonna, and Rocknrolla, the latest crime thrilla from her soon-to-be-ex-husband Guy Ritchie, open here in San Diego on Friday.
Both films are set in London, where the couple resided the last few years, and both deal with society's under-classes. But that's where the similarities end.
In Madonna's movie, A.K. (Eugene Hutz, the Gogol Bordello frontman) and his two roommates, Juliette (Vicky McClure) and Holly (Holly Weston) are living in a venereal world on the fringes of society. He's trying to be a rock star but earns his rent by humiliating the upper crust of fashionable society. Juliette steals pills from the pharmacy where she works to support starving kids in Africa, and Holly is giving the pole a whirl after her ballerina days end.
The conceit's not bad—according to A.K.'s dollops of wisdom, you have to wallow in shit so that being a good person seems appealing—but the execution is.
In recent years, Ritchie has strayed from the path of the convoluted underworld-crime dramas that made him rich and, some might say, the husband of Madonna. His early films are full of complex characters, slick editing and sharp camera work, but the follow-ups flopped, so Ritchie's returned to the world of shady deals and good guys who are also bad guys.
Gerard Butler is OneTwo, and Idris Elba (The Wire's Stringer Bell) is his partner Mumbles—they're small-time crooks trying to pull off a massive real-estate scam and caught between a Russian billionaire and a London gangster.
Rocknrolla is a return to form, but it doesn't have the crackling kinetic energy of its upstart predecessors. Still, Ritchie's fans will be thrilled, even if it sometimes feels like he's reaching into the exact same bag of filmmaking tricks he's used in the past.
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.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley: Molly's parents made a pact with the devil when she was a baby. Now she's about to turn 18, and it looks like he's coming to collect. Man, high school sucks.
I've Loved You So Long: There's Oscar buzz around Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Juliette, released after 15 years behind bars, and taken in—surprisingly—by her sister, Lea. In French and English.
I.O.U.S.A.: Brutally humorous doc about how and why the economy is so fucked up (um, short answer: too much debt). Still, this simplifies the why and the how and offers up some reasonable ideas of how to move forward.
The Other End of the Line: A globalized rom-com. Priya is a call-center worker in Bangalore who loves all things U.S. of A. So when she hits it off on the phone with an American, she forsakes her family and heads stateside in the name of love. Like Coming to America 2.0.
Sukiyaki Western Django: Japanese horror director Takashi Miike helmed this weird-ass Japanese spaghetti western that's not so dissimilar to Kirosawa's Yojimbo, or Eastwood's Fistful of Dollars. Lone warrior finds himself in a town caught between two rival gangs. Though neither of those other movies have Quentin Tarantino in a supporting role.
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.
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Poltergeist: Ah, the movie that gave the nearing-midlife-crisis set nightmares when it first came out in 1982. And just in time for Halloween! Dress up for the screening and perhaps someone will take pity on you. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
What's Your Point, Honey?: This documentary about seven young women who are part of the 2024 Project, which aims to elect the first female president within the next 16 years, takes a look at how far women in politics have come and what obstacles still stand in their way. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at The Loft on the UCSD campus.
The Silence of the Lambs: It's true—a movie about a cannibalistic serial killer earned Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Director Oscars. How about some fava beans and a nice Chianti? Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Pi (with an appearance from editor Oren Sarch): Darren Aronofsky's debut film was a breath of fresh air when it came out a decade ago, the strange and twisted tale of a mathematician pursued by various groups—scientific, religious and financial—after his work with Pi has results that could explain life, the universe or the stock market. Editor Oren Sarch will appear at this ArtPower! Film presentation to explain how the film came together in post-production. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Price Center Theatre on the UCSD campus.
Rosemary's Baby: Roman Polanski's horror flick is still creepy after 40 years. Mia Farrow is Rosemary, a pregnant suburbanite whose impending offspring is having devastating effects on those around her. Well, that's what happens when you're birthing the Antichrist. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location.
Iron Jawed Angels: Hilary Swank and Frances O'Connor are Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, two leading suffragists who went to jail to earn women the right to vote. Take that, Sarah Palin! Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Center in Hillcrest. Free.
L'iceberg: Life is mundane and robotic for Fiona and her family. But when she's locked in the freezer at the restaurant where she works, no one notices she's gone, opening her eyes and sending her on a soul-searching journey. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park. Free.
The Big Lebowski: The Dude has now abided for a decade. Easily the Coen brothers' cultiest cult film, Lebowski stars Jeff Bridges as The Dude and wraps up this year's Cinema Under the Stars season. He's a serious stoner who shares his name with the wealthy husband of a kidnap victim. After a mistaken-identity incident results in his rug being soiled, The Dude seeks recompense and hilarity ensues. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, through Sunday, Nov. 1, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Seriously, you want us to do the time warp yet again? It just won't die. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and Jurassic Park: A prehistoric double-header! The '70s camp classic Dinosaurs involves hot blonde women sacrificed to prehistoric beasts in a world in which the big reptiles lived with cavemen. And Jurassic Park—well, you know Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs screens at 3 p.m., Jurassic Park at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, in Studio 106 in the Art Union Building in Golden Hill. Free, but RSVP to email@example.com—seating is limited.
A Clockwork Orange: You and your droogs can't miss Stanley Kubrick's epic, extraordinary tale of anti-conformity and how the system has its way. Malcolm McDowell is Alex, a young man obsessed with pretty girls and ultra-violence who gets arrested and reconditioned. It's impossible to know whom to root for. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
Zoolander: Ben Stiller directed himself as celebrity male-model Derek Zoolander, who, at the tail-end of his career, is brainwashed and programmed to kill the prime minister of Malaysia. Why? Who cares. Will Ferrell is great as the baddie, in one of his final movies before he became mega-famous. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Breakfast With Scot: Eric (Tom Cavanaugh of Ed) and Sam (Ben Shenkman) are DINKs—Dual Income, No Kids—and the straight-leaning gay couple find themselves taking care of a recently orphaned boy who's something of a sissy.
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.
Pride and Glory: Four NYC cops are dead, and Ed Norton is dispatched by his dad (Jon Voight) to figure out whodunit. But all roads seem to lead to another cop—his brother, Colin Farrell.
Yella: Leaving her East German husband behind for a new life in West Germany, things finally seem like they're going Yella's way. Except, you know, for the really strange stuff that starts happening.
Max Payne: This was actually a groundbreaking video game in its day, the first real instance of Matrix-like bullet-time at your fingertips. Mark Wahlberg is Max, a burnt-out cop whose family has been murdered, who teams up with a hot female assassin for a little vengeance at a thousand frames per second.
Saw V: But we missed the first four, aiieee!
High School Musical 3: Senior Year: But we missed the first two, lalala!
Morning Light: This documentary about 15 young sailors, both men and women, who train and then race a high-end sloop in an open-ocean 2,300-mile race against professionals, first screened here during the San Diego Film Festival.
Secret Life of Bees: Dakota Fanning runs away with her housekeeper, Jennifer Hudson, ending up at the home of three African-American sisters in South Carolina in 1964. Queen Latifah is the matriarch, Alicia Keys the rebellious sister.
Sex Drive: An 18-year-old virgin hits the road with his two best pals to hook up with a chick he met over the Internets. Crazy shit happens between his place and hers, including a run-in with Amish farmer Seth Green.
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.
What Just Happened?: It's all slings and arrows for fading Hollywood producer Robert De Niro, who's struggling desperately to get his new movie made. Great supporting cast includes Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Kristen Stewart and Bruce Willis as himself.
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.
Quarantine: A reporter and her cameraman investigate an infection that makes its victims all zombie-like, only to find themselves trapped in an apartment complex with several other survivors when the authorities cordon off the building and refuse to let anyone out.
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.
Appaloosa: The Western continues its comeback. Ed Harris directs and stars as a lawman with good-lookin' Viggo Mortensen as his sidekick, going after a bad dude.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Um. Ratdogs get Babe treatment.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist: Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are the titular characters, kicking around New York all night in search of their favorite band and a love connection with each other. Not perfect but terribly sweet, with a great soundtrack that includes a nice score from Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh.
Religulous: Bill Maher travels the world, talking to different people about a God he doesn't believe in.
Fireproof: Kirk Cameron takes a break from those Left Behind movies to play a super-brave firefighter who doesn't have the courage to stand up to his own wife. Until, you know, something with Jesus.
The Duchess: Keira Knightley's latest period piece also stars some other Brits, like Ralph Fiennes and Dominic Cooper and (yawn) zzzzzzzzz.
Eagle Eye: Shia LaBeouf re-teams with director DJ Caruso for this terror-thriller. He's a slacker, Michelle Monaghan's a single mom, and both are being pushed to do horrible things by a threatening voice on the other end of the phone. Seriously, how have we survived this long without another Shia movie? Oh, right. Easily.
Nights in Rodanthe: Richard Gere and Diane Lane get busy in a small North Carolina town with the awkward name of Rodanthe. Let's just hope they both have residency and vote Democrat.
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 Dark Knight: It's finally here, and yes, Christopher Nolan's new Batman movie is everything you hoped it would be. An epic two-and-a-half-hour crime drama that examines the complicated nature of good, evil and heroism and simply must be seen on an Imax screen to be believed. Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhard are all well-served by a tense, taut script, but it truly is Heath Ledger's movie, as he plays Batman's nemesis, The Joker, with a shambling malevolence that's terrifying and intense.
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.