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Murky waters: What is teenager Mia's problem in Andrea Arnold's new film Fish Tank, which earned the Jury Prize at Cannes last year? “You're my problem!” she screams at her single mother, who's asked her exactly that question. Actually, her mother is just one of Mia's troubles. She lives in shitty, working-class part of England, and all she wants to do is dance. Really. As in, hip-hop dancing.
But Fish Tank is no terrible teen dance flick. It's a blisteringly tough look at growing up in an environment that's utterly unsupportive. Mia—played by newcomer Katie Jarvis, whom Arnold discovered at a train stop—is full of self-loathing and self-destructive behavior. She's a nasty piece of work, not even capable of bottling up all that rage, lashing out at everyone and everything around her. Things finally start to change for her when her mom finds a new boyfriend. Connor (Michael Fassbender, best known for playing the charming German sniper in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds) is warm and funny, and even though he's something of a lout, he's the only adult who gives Mia any respect—which, of course, she misinterprets as something else entirely. This is a girl who has no understanding of the line between sex and intimacy, and as she grows closer to Connor, the film gets darker and creepier.
But somehow, through all that darkness, Arnold has crafted a lovely film that manages to be very real and somewhat uplifting without being preachy or saccharine. Fish Tank, which opens Friday, March 5 at the Ken Cinema, is reminiscent of the working-class movies that Mike Leigh and Ken Loach used to churn out, films like Naked and Riff-Raff. Those are terrific films, but Leigh and Loach don't really make movies like that these days. Luckily, Andrea Arnold is.
A Prophet: Brutally intense film about a young Arab man (Tehar Rahim) who becomes a mob kingpin after he's sentenced to six years in a French prison.
Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have remade Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepy Hollow together (and let's not forget about Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood). Alice marks the first time they've gone 3-D. Question is, can Burton infuse a sense of humanity into Lewis Carroll's classic?
Brooklyn's Finest: Training Day director Antoine Fuqua has clearly been watching The Wire in recent years, but his new dirty-cop drama, starring Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle, is black-and-white, rather than more interesting shades of gray.
One Time Only
Dirt! The Movie: Jamie Lee Curtis narrates this documentary about soil and how we mess it up. Not to be confused with the musical sequel to Joe Dirt. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Garden State: Remember when Zach Braff was totally cool? It's hard, right? Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Half the Sky: As part of International Women's Day, this event, which takes stories from journos Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, hopes to turn oppression into opportunity by playing in theaters across the country for one night. With appearances from Angelique Kidjo, Marisa Tomei, Michael Franti and others, it screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 4, at several area theaters. Check www.ncm.com for locations and ticket info.
Nicotine Bees: The bees are dying, honey, and this documentary examines why. Oh, by the way, if the bees die out, we probably will, too. Screens at 6 p.m. Friday, March 5, at the Sierra Club offices in Kearny Mesa. Free.
The Room: After years of sold-out midnight runs in Los Angeles, this dark comedy is finally hitting theaters in other parts of the country. Screens at midnight, Friday and Saturday, March 5 and 6, at the Ken Cinema. More on Page 13.
Akeelah and the Bee: Sweet family film about an 11-year-old African-American girl from L.A. competing in the National Spelling Bee. Screens at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 6, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Donation suggested.
Goal Dreams: Documentary about the Palestinian national soccer team, whose members are made up of different nationalities, speak different languages and have no home field to play on. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 7, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Silent Sundays: Old-school movies play above the bar, while the mixologists create cocktails that correspond. It happens on Sunday, March 7, at Alchemy in South Park.
Arusi: Persian Wedding: Filmmaker Marjan Tehrani takes her camera to Iran, where her brother Alex plans to get married just like their parents did three decades earlier. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, at the Tenth Avenue Theater, Downtown. Donation suggested.
Beautiful Losers: Doc about the young DIY artists from the '90s, like Shepard Fairey, Spike Jonze and Harmony Korine, whose work had an intense impact on the art community and pop culture in general. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 8, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Caddyshack: This movie is the only good thing about golf. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Cop Out: Kevin Smith's new cop comedy, starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, was once under the working title “A Couple of Dicks.”
The Crazies: A remake of George Romero's 1973 freak show, about a small Iowa town whose residents go nuts and start killing each other.
Dolphins: It's only a matter of time before they tell us, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” In IMAX at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Ghost Writer: We all know what Roman Polanski is capable of, and we're not talking about the events that have him under house arrest in Switzerland. This political thriller—starring Ewan McGregor as a ghost writer who bites off more than he can chew when he goes to work on the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan)—is a solid, if unremarkable, piece of filmmaking.
North Face: The only good mountain-climbing movie is the kind where something goes tragically wrong. Thankfully, this German film about Andreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz's ill-fated attempt 1936 attempt to scale the Eiger, is that kind. The scenes on the mountain are harrowing and stressful, even if the characters are fairly archetypical.
Oscar Nominated Short Films: All 10 short are playing the Ken Cinema, divided into two programs, animated and live-action. It's all great stuff, but make sure you don't miss the animated brilliance of Logorama.
Creation: Paul Bettany is great as Charles Darwin, struggling to get over the death of his daughter so he can complete Origin of Species, but the rest of the film simply doesn't evolve.
Shutter Island: Leonardo DiCaprio is U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels in Martin Scorsese's latest, investigating a missing heiress who's escaped from an asylum and is presumed to be hiding out on the desolate titular atoll.
A New Generation of Spike and Mike Animation: These short films aren't so sick and twisted, but they're still pretty awesome. Plays weekends at the La Jolla branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego through March 20. Check spikeandmike.com for listings and showtimes.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief: It's tough times for young Percy. His dad is Poseidon, his mom has gone missing and he's the prime suspect in the case of Zeus' missing lightning bolt. Also, it's tough times for anyone who believed in a deity that isn't Greek.
My Name is Khan: Bollywood film about an Indian couple in the U.S. whose relationship is profoundly changed after 9/11.
Valentine's Day: One of those movies with a lot of different people tangentially connected dealing with the same thing. In this case, that thing is Valentine's Day, and those people include Jessicas Alba and Biel, Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift, Julia Roberts, Taylor Lautner, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Garner and Topher Grace.
The Wolfman: This re-imagining, starring a shaggy Benicio del Toro, was supposed to come out, like, 18 full moons ago.
Dear John: Lasse Hallestrom can be a pretty great director, but he may be jumping the shark by adapting a Nicholas Sparks novel.
From Paris with Love: Jonathan Rhys Meyers teams up with a wisecracking John Travolta to stop a terrorist attack. Sounds terrible, but director Pierre Morel's last film, Taken, was awesome.
The Last Station: Michael Hoffman's film about Tolstoy's final days manages to avoid being a stuffy, standard period piece and features some terrific acting from Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer.
Edge of Darkness: After his daughter's murder, homicide detective Mel Gibson shoots a bunch of guys.
The Greatest Places: This IMAX adventure features seven locales, which range from Greenland's icebergs to the enormous waterfall at Iguazu. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
When in Rome: When Kristen Bell steals coins from a Roman fountain of love, she's suddenly besieged by dopey suitors like Jon Heder and Dax Shepard.
The Tooth Fairy: No, it's not a horror film. This family comedy stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a small-time hockey player forced to become the titular Fairy. Actually, that's pretty horrifying.
The White Ribbon: Michael Haneke's black-and-white examination of acts of brutality in a small German town just before WWII is a self-assured look at the roots of violence in society. Hard to watch, which means it should be watched.
The Book of Eli: Denzel Washington stars in the new film from the Hughes brothers, fighting his way across scorched earth to save a fancy book.
The Lovely Bones: Peter Jackson films Alice Sebold's novel about young Susie Salmon (Saorsie Raorsin), who narrates the picture after being raped and murdered by her creepy neighbor. Jackson works hard, but books are referred to as “unfilmable” for a reason.
Crazy Heart: Sure, it's a clean-and-sober story, but Jeff Bridges is guaranteed an Oscar nomination for playing faded country singer and legendary drunk Bad Blake.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: Terry Gilliam's latest is also Heath Ledger's last. It's a strange, fascinating and flawed piece, an examination of good versus evil, with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law filling in for Ledger, who died midway through shooting.
Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr. is great, as usual, even if his Sherlock Holmes is more brawn than brains.
A Single Man: Colin Firth delivers on the role of a lifetime in fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut.
It's Complicated: A romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. Yet another sign of said pending apocalypse.
The Young Victoria: The Devil Wears Prada's Emily Blunt stars as, well, a young Queen Victoria.
Avatar: James Cameron's sci-fi magnum opus is too long and has an inevitable love story. But, for once, when they say you've never seen anything like it, they're right. This is a film and a truly rendered alien planet that must be seen on the big screen and in 3D.
Up in the Air: George Clooney is at his charmiest (charm + smarmy) as Ryan Bingham, flown in to fire employees at companies he has nothing to do with and aspiring to little more than more frequent flier miles. He's a lock for a Best Actor nomination.
The Blind Side: The book this is based upon is about the economics of football and an enormous, poverty-stricken young black man—adopted by a white family—who has the potential to be a highly paid professional athlete. So, of course, they turned it into a Sandra Bullock movie.
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire: Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry helped produce this film about an obese Harlem teen in the 1980s.
An Education: Nick Hornby of High Fidelity fame wrote the script and does a 180 by writing about a girl who desperately wants to grow up and thinks she may have found a shortcut in a good-looking charmer twice her age.
Amazon: There are all sorts of insane animals to be encountered in this 4,000-mile IMAX trek through the South American basin. Keep your hands in the boat. Screens Fridays at 8 p.m. at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow's tense new film focuses on an Iraq unit that specializes in defusing bombs. Well-made, well-written and well-acted.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.