In case you haven't had enough vampires recently, there's another film featuring bloodsuckers coming out on Friday.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is the third entry in the franchise, a prequel that describes how the ongoing race war between vampires and werewolves (sorry—Lycans) began. I have to confess, I haven't seen the new one, but the entire series has a cultish fan base, and there are some actors of note, like Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen, who lend it some credibility and gravity. One thing I can tell you is that they've made a decent move by casting Rhona Mitra as the love interest (Kate Beckinsale has backed out after two installments). Mitra, who plays Sonja, a vampire in love with a werewolf, is becoming the go-to action girl these days, and having sat next to her last summer at a Comic-Con roundtable interview for this film, I can testify that she's one of those rare people who's even more attractive in person than on screen. Sure, that probably makes me shallow, but it's also a selling point, knowing that she's wearing all-leather outfits and kicking both vampire and werewolf ass in this one.
The Dark Knight: Huh? Didn't this come out in July and make a zillion bucks? Yep, but with awards season coming around, the powers that be think they might be able to tap you for a few more ducats on the strength of Heath Ledger's Joker. If you're gonna see it again, make sure you see it in Imax.
Inkheart: A girl discovers that her writer dad (Brendan Fraser) can actually bring his characters to life. Too bad he's written some nasty villains, like Paul Bettany's Dustfinger.
Outlander: The year's first Viking Alien Predator Dragon-slayer movie. Jim Cavezial (aka Jesus from The Passion of the Christ) crash-lands his spaceship during Viking times, bringing along some outer-space dragons he then has to kill with primitive Viking weapons. You know those sci-fi originals you watch when you come home drunk? This is like that, but it costs $10.50.
Wendy and Lucy: Michelle Williams gives an amazing performance as a young woman on the brink. Kelly Reichardt's film moves slowly but is a tragic look at people living on the margins of society. See our review on Page 23.
One Time Only
Beautiful Simplicity: Paul Bockhorst's documentary about Southern California's arts and crafts architecture features plenty of San Diego homes. Screens at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21, at the Museum of San Diego History in Balboa Park.
Brokeback Mountain: We still can't believe Brokeback lost the Best Picture Oscar to Crash. We don't know how to quit this movie. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
CitizenFest IV: Citizen Video's Craig Oliver has put together another collection of short films from local filmmakers, accompanied by some rocking from Blessure Grave. Screens at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Whistle Stop in South Park. Free.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Sure, Spielberg and Lucas did their best to wreck yet another beloved franchise with Crystal Skull, but Raiders is still awesome. Screens at midnight Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Ken Cinema.
Tulia, Texas: Documentary looks at a huge drug bust in Tulia, Texas, where most of the defendants were African-American and all of them were implicated by a single white cop—who turned out to be rogue cracker fulfilling his own agenda. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Panama Deception: Barbara Trent's film won the 1993 Best Documentary Oscar by exposing the real reasons the U.S. invaded Panama in 1989. Hate the current Bush? Now you can hate his Dad a little more, too. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
Branded to Kill: This Japanese hit-man movie pairs up with Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog and rounds out Citizen Video's January matinées. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, at the Whistle Stop in South Park. Free.
Fargo: Sure, Frances McDormand is terrific as Marge Gunderson, the pregnant chief of police who foils a kidnapping / murder scheme. But don't forget William H. Macy—though he didn't win an Oscar as the so-called brains behind the operation, he probably should have. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Notorious: Biopic about the Notorious B.I.G., the rotund rapper who was assassinated in 1997 at the tender age of 24 in the culmination of the now infamous East Coast / West Coast rap wars.
Defiance: The story of the Bielski brothers, played by Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell, is amazing: They took to the Bellarussian forests during World War II, fought the Nazis and eventually built a community of 1,200 Jews who survived the war. Director Ed Zwick, however, makes sure you know that you're watching a Very Important Movie.
Hotel for Dogs: Good road-trip tip—all Motel 6s take dogs. This kid-friendly movie, on the other hand, makes bitches out of actors like Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon.
Last Chance Harvey: Emma Thompson is terrific as the woman Dustin Hoffman takes a shine to when he's in the U.K. for his daughter's wedding. A romance for The Bucket List set.
My Bloody Valentine 3-D: Pro: Slasher movie in 3-D! Con: It's not Halloween, and Valentine's Day is a month off.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop: Rent-a-cops across the nation rejoiced when they learned their story would finally be told. Then they found out Kevin James is playing Blart.
Waltz with Bashir: Considering the violence in Gaza, there's no more timely film to see right now than Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir. The movie is essentially an animated documentary, as Folman works to recover his memories as a soldier during the 1982 Israel-Lebanon conflict and discover why he repressed them in the first place.
Bride Wars: Sadly, not an R-rated movie about women in wedding dresses duking it out in a steel cage. No, this first film of 2009 is about two BFFs—Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway—who become bitter rivals after they schedule their weddings on precisely the same day. For the 27 Dresses set.
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.
Revolutionary Road: Sam Mendes directs his wife, Kate Winslet, and Leonardo DiCaprio in what might be called American Beauty: The Early Years. It's another look at the unspoken seamy underbelly of American suburbia in the 1950s, but it just doesn't hold together. Unpleasantville.
The Unborn: Poor Casey was abandoned by her mom when she was a child. Turns out it was because of a nasty family curse that comes in the form of a demon that wants to possess her. What, we wonder, is Gary Oldman doing in this movie?
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 Reader: Kate Winslet is amazing as a grown woman who has an affair with a 15-year-old boy in post-war Berlin. Their paths cross again years later when she's on trial for war crimes.
Valkyrie: He's the greatest fighter pilot, the best race-car driver, the superest future cop, the coolest hustler, the awesomest drink mixer and the sharpest sports agent. So why can't Tom Cruise kill Hitler? Huh? Why? Why?
Bedtime Stories: Remember that stupid Adam Sandler movie this summer, where he was a former Mossad agent-turned-New York gigolo hairdresser? Made $200 million worldwide. How much can he rake in with a family-friendly flick?
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.
Marley & Me: Jennifer Aniston bonds with Owen Wilson over a stinky dog.
Seven Pounds: Will Smith's annual December movie is a feel-good film that doesn't feel all that good. He's an IRS agent trying to atone for past sins by giving, perhaps too generously, to strangers. Rosario Dawson is wonderful, though, as a girl with a weak heart, both literally and figuratively.
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.
Frost/Nixon: Ron Howard is restrained in his take on the Broadway play about the interviews between lightweight talk-show host David Frost and President Nixon. Both Michael Sheen and Frank Langella reprise their stage roles as Frost and Nixon, respectively—Langella delivers a masterful performance of Mr. Not-a-Crook himself.
Yes Man: Jim Carrey dips back into the well (over-the-top funny with a sweet spot) that made him an A-lister, playing a dude who decides to say “yes.” To everything.
Milk: Sean Penn delivers yet another tremendous performance as the first openly gay elected politician in the country, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated, along with the mayor of San Francisco, in 1978. Gus Van Sant directs, but the movie is all Penn, and it is nothing if not timely in light of Prop 8.
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.
Twilight: Never heard of Twilight? It's like Harry Potter, with vampires, for tweens and their moms, all of whom react to it like desperate meth addicts. If you have heard of Twilight, you know we're telling the truth.
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.