Andrew Bujalski, the mumblecore King, will be on hand for Sushi Arts' second edition of its Cinema Lounge, held at Basic Urban Kitchen & Bar on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. Bujalski, the man behind Mutual Appreciation, is at the foreground of this new DIY lo-fi film movement, also known as bedhead cinema, that often consists of improvised dialogue and non-professional actors in films that focus on relationships more than anything else. No, they don't necessarily mumble—the term refers to the often-crappy sound quality of movies like this, frequently made on a frayed shoestring of a budget. Either way, Bujalski will screen his latest, People's House, while Kate Dollenmayer (star of Mutual Appreciation and Bujalski's other film, Funny Ha Ha), will show her short film Andrew is Tired, and the Duplass brothers, Mark and Jay—the guys behind the awesome 2005 film The Puffy Chair, bring The New Brad. All the filmmakers will be in attendance, so stick around for the Q&A, or at least to listen to a solid set from The Muslims. Pay what you will.—Anders Wright
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days: An extremely well-made, excruciatingly tough movie about a back-alley abortion during the waning years of Romania's communist period. Writer-director Cristian Mungiu's film deservedly took the Palm d'Or at Cannes last year, and though it's tough to watch, it's a superb piece of art. Mungiu sits back and lets the camera run, giving his actors long, extended takes that reflect the brutal emotions and dehumanizing politics of the day. It's not pro- or anti-abortion rights, nor is it any sort of morality tale, but it is terrifyingly real.Be Kind Rewind: Simple. A magnetized Jack Black erases all the videos in his buddy Mos Def's shop, so they have to re-shoot, well, everything—including (but not limited to) Driving Miss Daisy, Rush Hour 2, Ghostbusters, Robocop, Back to the Future and The Lion King. There is only one man who could make this movie, and it's Michel Gondry, the dude behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Luckily, he did.
Charlie Bartlett: A Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the Paxil generation, this dark coming-of-age comedy stars Anton Yelchin as Charlie, a rich kid who gets popular at public high school by dishing psychiatric advice and prescriptions to his fellow students. Yelchin is a star in the making—he stole all his scenes in last year's Alpha Dog and has signed on to play Chekhov in the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. Robert Downey Jr. plays the principal, and the routinely excellent (and under-appreciated) Hope Davis is Charlie's mother Marilyn.
The Signal: As TVs, radios and cell phones emit mysterious transmissions to the populace, citizens begin to turn against each other in a bloody, jealous rampage. The twist? These ain't old-school zombies—even those who have “the crazy” maintain the capacity for logic. A spiritual cousin to the films of Cronenberg and Romero, The Signal consists of three vignettes, each helmed by a different director. Its mix of grim social commentary and pitch-black humor is thrilling, faltering only when its desire to push the status quo overwhelms its ability to make complete sense.
Vantage Point: An assassination attempt on the president (William Hurt) is seen through eight different viewpoints, each of which gives a different impression of what actually went down and why. Also stars Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker on the grassy knoll.Witless Protection: Outside of Cars, Larry the Cable Guy sucks.
One Time Only
The Breakfast Club: “You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain and an athlete and a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.” Right on, and, hey, don't you forget about me. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
A Union Man: Life and Work of Julius Margolin: A doc about longtime friend of labor activist Julius Margolin, who started recording music in 1999 in his 80s. Margolin will be on hand at the screening, which is co-sponsored by the San Diego-Imperial Labor Council, Activist San Diego and the local branch of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (yep, the stagehands). Screens at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Sculpture Garden Theater in Balboa Park. Free.
Jodhaa Akbar: An epic period piece about Emperor Akbar who weds the Princess Jodhaa and finds more than just a marriage of convenience. This is what Bollywood is all about—epic battles, romance and, of course, lots of singing and dancing. Screens once a day at UltraStar Del Mar Feb. 20 through 22 and Edwards Mira Mesa on Feb. 24. $10.95. Check www.goldspiritfilms.com for showtimes.
Harold and Maude: Film editor Anders Wright's favorite movie, complete with all the bells and whistles of the Museum of Photographic Arts' Pop Thursdays. Check out “City Week” on Page 15 for the details. Badlands: Before there was Natural Born Killers there was Terence Malick's Badlands, which stars a youthful Martin Sheen as a man who goes on a murder spree in the '50s. The story's told from the distorted POV of his girlfriend (Sissy Spacek) who seems incapable of understanding what's going on around her. A must-see for film-schoolers, Badlands is cinematically gorgeous while maintaining a truly psychic ugliness. Screens at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
The Nines: This cool little film got a limited release in '07 but didn't see the inside of a San Diego theater. Ryan Reynolds plays three dudes—an actor, a TV-show runner, and a video-game designer—whose lives are like intersecting circles. Hey, Donnie Darko fans, this one's for you. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Mystic Pizza: The 1988 chick flick isn't really so flavorful, but it's a kick to see Julia Roberts, Lili Taylor and Annabeth Gish when they were just getting started, playing chicks growing up at a pizza parlor in Mystic, Conn. Blink and you'll miss Matt Damon's film debut, but stick around for the food and drink provided by your hosts. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 (cocktails @ 6!), at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center. Free.
Iron Ladies of Liberia: A doc about Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Who? Look, this lady rules. Literally. She's the first elected female president of Liberia, taking power in 2005 after years of national instability. And though she's called the Iron Lady, she has yet to resort to an iron fist. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Insert your own “Anyone? Anyone?” joke here. Then twist and shout. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 8 p.m. at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Definitely, Maybe: Precocious Maya (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin) forces her about-to-be-divorced dad (Ryan Reynolds) to tell her how he and her mom got together. Like the slow-pitch-softball version of How I Met Your Mother.
George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead: Romero's latest, shot with handheld cameras, is an indictment of mass media, the blogosphere and those of us who consume the news—all told amid the imminent zombie apocalypse. Honeydripper: Probably best known for Lone Star, John Sayles has been writing, directing, and editing his own films for so long that he makes it look easy. Honeydripper is another fine addition to his canon of well-plotted pictures about intersecting people, this one with terrific dialogue and a sharp performance from Danny Glover as a hard-luck club owner in Alabama in the early '50s who needs a break. Deftly taking on racial tensions, religion and the early days of rock 'n' roll, Sayles weaves together a dozen well-drawn characters and a conclusion that sings. Honeydripper isn't Sayles' best, but it's still better than almost anything else.
Jumper: The last time Hayden Christensen faced off against Samuel L. Jackson, he zapped him out a big window in Revenge of the Sith. In Jumper, he has a gene that allows him to teleport anywhere, anytime. This makes him rich and good-looking—but not particularly bright. Jackson, sporting a freaky dye job, is on the hunt for him and others like him. Great idea, cool FX, but very dumb, very standard execution with any nifty metaphysical questions shunted aside in favor of dumbing down for the overseas box office.
Let's Get Lost: Legendary photographer Bruce Weber's soulful documentary on Chet Baker, the equally legendary trumpet player with a legendary drug habit. What could have been a snow job instead explores deeply all of Baker's bad habits, but it also manages to convey just what an amazing and tragic musician he really was.
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The latest kids' fantasy-novel-turned-big-budget-movie-adaptation, Spiderwick tells the story of siblings Mallory (Sarah Bolger), Jared and Simon Grace (both played by Freddie Highmore) as their family moves into the mysterious Spiderwick Estate. The big surprise? They discover an alternate world filled with all sorts of mystical, magical creatures played or voiced by a barrage of big-name talent (Seth Rogen, David Strathairn, Martin Short, Nick Nolte).
Step Up 2 The Streets: Dancer Andie is an outcast in her new hoity-toity arts school—she just has too much street in her. But it comes in handy when she and the other dance geeks enter a hardcore dance contest. Yep, you can take the girl out of the streets, but you can't take the streets out of the girl. Or the title.
Fool's Gold: Matthew McConaughey. Kate Hudson. Skimpy bathing suits. And something about sunken treasure. In Bruges: Noted playwright Martin McDonagh's dark comedy finds Colin Farrell as a killer with a conscience—a return to the charismatic, small-film style of acting that got him all those big crappy movies. Brendan Gleeson is, as always, great as his mentor, and Ralph Fiennes swears a whole hell of a lot.
Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days and 30 Nights—Hollywood to the Heartland: All-around charmer Vaughn leads a group of comedians on a tour bus in this road-trip documentary. There are plenty of profile-boosting cameos from Vaughn's satellite Frat Pack crew (Justin Long, Jon Favreau, etc.) and a disproportionate amount of dumb-ass male bonding, but the movie has heart and is a welcome diversion from the standard mindless winter comedy. Comic Ahmed Ahmed is the stand-out here, but each has a number of (often unexpected) hilarious bits.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins: Master mugger Martin Lawrence is a massively successful self-help talk-show host—the perfect blend of Oprah and Dr. Phil—who returns to the South for his parent's 50th anniversary. Egos are blown. Lessons are learned.
The Eye: Ah, the lucrative Japanese-horror-film-remake market. Jessica Alba is a ridiculously hot blind violinist who gets new corneas. So, she can see, which rules, but soon she starts seeing all kinds of frightening otherworldly shit, which sucks. Alessandro Nivola is her ridiculously hot doctor, and Parker Posey picks up a paycheck.
Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both World Concert 3-D: Like porn for 'tweens. Or maybe crack. Or porn on crack. For 'tweens. In 3-D. Yeah, that's nasty.
Strange Wilderness: Adam Sandler is the executive producer of Strange Wilderness, which stars Steve Zahn as the new host of a flailing nature show on the verge of cancellation—so zahn and his sidekick Allen Covert go after Bigfoot. Funnymen Jeff Garlin, Justin Long and Ernest Borgnine bait the trap, but, really, no nature show would be canceled, what with the writers strike and all.
Meet the Spartans: This! Is! Satire! The latest chintzy spoof, Spartans is from the team that brought you Scary Movie, Date Movie and Epic Movie. With that pedigree, this film is certain to be a joke, but not the good kind. That said, we can't substantiate the claim, ‘cause it's not screening for press. Go figure.
Rambo: Rambo: First Blood Part II (the second film in the franchise) was one of the first entries in the hard-R ultra-violent category of the '80s. And now, more than 20 years later, the latest installment, which features our favorite vet taking on, uh, Burma, ups the violence quotient. These human-rights violations aren't for the faint of heart. Or stomach.
U2 3D: Sure, it hits all the concert-film clichés, but U2 does those clichés better than anyone, and the technology and giant IMAX screen puts you right in the concert—both in the front row and on the stage—in a way you've never experienced, giving you a real sense of what it's like to play to a stadium full of people. It's hard not to get caught up in “Beautiful Day” or “With or Without You,” but if you're allergic to Bono, stay away, because he'll be right there, large as life, and you can't reach out and smack him.
Untraceable: Dude puts up a killer blog—literally. It's a thriller about a serial killer who puts his victims online—the more people who tune in to watch, the quicker he kills them, and, of course, he's untraceable. Only a hot detective (Diane Lane) can figure it out, so the bad guy starts to flame her. As if parents weren't already freaked out about MySpace.
27 Dresses: Katherine Heigl is the perpetual self-sacrificing bridesmaid, driven to the edge when her self-absorbed sister (Malin Akerman) hooks her all-around-great-guy boss (a puffy Ed Burns), for whom she's pined for years. At the same time, reporter Kevin (James Marsden) picks up on her story as his ticket off the wedding beat. Heigl and Marsden are charming enough to keep it fun, even if Burns phones it in. Prospective husbands beware: this is a simple, inoffensive chick-flick for chicks into weddings.
Cloverfield: The Big Apple looks so tasty that a giant monster hauls itself out of the ocean to take a serious bite. One of the most anticipated films of '08, Cloverfield is produced by Lost/Alias honcho J.J. Abrams and is shot exclusively from the POV of hand-held video cameras of people on the scene. Could be the perfect storm of giant monster flicks.
Persepolis: Yes, it's animated, but there are no cute animals or cars in Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical account of growing up in Iran before, during and after the 1979 revolution. It looks simple, taking its old-school, black-and-white look from the author's graphic novels, and it's so good, so beautiful and so tragic that you might forget you're watching a cartoon. There's a reason France offered it up as its entry in the Foreign Language Film category for this year's Oscars.
There Will Be Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson's first project since Punch-Drunk Love is easily one of the year's best, anchored by an epic, astonishing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. He plays Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-20th-century oilman driven by greed and competition and utterly loathing of the world around him. The Bucket List: Smart blue-collar Morgan Freeman and rich jerk Jack Nicholson meet in a hospital room where they're both battling cancer and become best buddies, determined to live the rest of their lives to the fullest. Interesting first act that quickly turns into an irritatingly goofy travelogue as they hit the road to check off items on their “Kick the bucket list”—like Wild Hogs for the senior set. Did those years on the political sidelines made Rob Reiner soft? He directs, but with no particular flair.
The Orphanage: Produced by Guillermo del Toro of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy fame, this first-time feature from director J.A. Bayona falls back on some horror-movie standards but is so well-made and so darn creepy that you won't care. Laura (Belén Rueda) returns with her husband and son to the orphanage where she was raised, only to discover that some spooky stuff went down since her adoption, and some of her childhood friends might still be hanging around.
Charlie Wilson's War: What lazy filmmaking. There's no sign of the Mike Nichols we know and love, Aaron Sorkin's usually crisp dialogue is inane, Julia Roberts sucks and everyone's trying to skate on Tom Hanks' trademark charm. Sure, he's fun as the party-go-lucky congressman who spearheaded funding the Afghani resistance back in the '80s, but Charlie's only saving grace is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who runs the entire picture from behind the scenes as a veteran covert operator.
The Kite Runner: This is the picture that forced the studio to relocate its two child stars and their families. It's a terrific story, dealing with the childhood friendship of two Afghani boys, Amir and Hassan, and the terrible traumas that tear them apart. Based on the best-selling novel by UCSD grad Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner follows Amir's return to his homeland after the Russians have left and the Taliban have taken over. Serious weeper, sure, but director Marc Forster makes it far more sentimental than it needs to be.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Tim Burton teams up once again with Johnny Depp and longtime girlfriend Helena Bonham-Carter to goth up Sondheim's classic musical. Depp is the barber himself, slashing throats left and right and working with his landlady to grind the remains into meat pies, all in the hopes of eventually getting revenge against Alan Rickman. Woe be to anyone who stands in his way, including Sacha Baron Cohen. None of the principals have great singing voices, but the movie looks so good that you might not care.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets: Nicolas Cage and his band of merry men and hot chicks sort out who's buried in Grant's tomb.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Jason Lee is Dave Seville, the man attempting to keep computer-animated Alvin, Simon and Theodore from engaging in their typical wacky chipmunk antics. The bad news: If you have kids, chances are they'll whine until you take 'em to see it. The good news: It's only 90 minutes long.
Juno: Fizzy and enjoyable, the year's best feel-good film centers, surprisingly, on an unwed pregnant teen. That'd be Juno (Ellen Page), who decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) and toy with her good friend and the father of her child, Paulie Bleeker (an excellent Michael Cera). With sharp dialogue from stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody and solid direction from Jason Reitman, Juno is a solid, if inoffensive, triumph.
Atonement: Though they've gone out of their way to make Atonement look like a generic period romance, Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's shatteringly good novel is crisply directed, gorgeous to look at and terribly well-acted by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley as a star-crossed couple whose future is taken from them when Knightley's younger sister misinterprets something she sees and later turns McAvoy's Robbie in for a crime he did not commit. The buzz has been about the six-minute tracking shot on the war-strewn beaches of Dunkirk, but the real heat is between the two leads.
Enchanted: A deconstructed Disney cartoon, Enchanted, which stars Amy Adams as an animated princess turned to real life on the streets of New York, is far more enchanting than its premise. Grey's Anatomy's McDreamy co-stars, along with Prince Charming James Marsden of X-Men fame.
No Country for Old Men: Their first decent film since Fargo, No Country is a Coen Brothers masterpiece and perhaps the best picture of '07. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the story centers on a good ol' boy (Josh Brolin), an aging county sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones), a unstoppable psychopathic killer (Javier Bardem) and a valise thick with drug money. Tight, taut, challenging and brutal, it just gets better with repeated viewings.
Into the Wild: Sean Penn takes on John Krakauer's book with Emile Hirsch as Alexander Supertramp, the young man formerly known as Chris McCandless, who left his suburban family behind in the early '90s and took to the road, eventually making his way to an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. Penn makes Hirsch a little too much of a Christ figure, but the supporting cast is great, especially Hal Holbrook in the best role of his career.
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.
Fridays at the Fleet: Sea Monsters, The Living Sea and Mysteries of Egypt are some of the rotating films shown each Friday at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center's IMAX theater where, for only $7.50, you can catch four flicks. Sure, it's more Discovery Channel than Transformers, but the Fleet's enormous old-school dome screen is way cool, and some of the talent—narrators like Meryl Streep or Johnny Depp—is impressive. You might find yourself as mesmerized as the little kiddies sitting around you. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Check www.rhfleet.org for the screening list.