Subject matter alone does not a successful documentary make: It's crucial to have an aesthetic identity that complements the content. A film like Tim's Vermeer proves this thesis, taking an intriguing and potentially revolutionary subject and framing it with an uninventive, irritating and banal filmmaking style.
Video engineer and media mogul Tim Jenison calls himself an obsessive inventor, but his passion projects are so consuming that they feel one step removed from unhealthy. Director Teller and producer Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) give the audience a quick tour of Jenison's crazy highlight reel in the early goings, establishing his quirky personality and extreme drive.
All of this is meant to properly foreground Jenison's latest magnum opus: an investigation of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and the amazing realness of his paintings. Joining the academic debate surrounding whether or not the artist used a primitive version of the camera obscura to create such verisimilitude, Jenison decides to test his theory using an optic device that allows a person with no formal training to paint like Vermeer.
Watching him piece together his first drawing is amazing to behold, but it's only the primer for what will become a meticulous, four-month-long process in which he tries to craft his own Vermeer, a carbon copy of "The Music Lesson." He even recreates the setting down to the smallest detail and makes his own paint, just like Vermeer did four centuries before.
Since Tim's Vermeer —which opens Friday, Feb. 21, at Hillcrest Cinemas—is founded on such visual principles, one would think the film would be a natural fit for an innovative camera style. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Teller mixes tired montages with the standard hand-held camera tool-kit. Good thing the spry Jenison is always there to remind you that what youíre seeing is far more important than how you're seeing it.
Aftermath : Two Polish brothers attempt to reveal a conspiracy among the residents of their small village, where their Jewish neighbors were massacred during World War II. Screens through Feb. 27 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Barefoot : The outcast of a wealthy family befriends a psychiatric patient who was raised in isolation her entire life and decides it's a good idea to take her home to Mom and Dad. Hilarity ensues.
In Secret : Set in 1860s Paris, this intense melodrama stars Elizabeth Olson as a sexually repressed young woman trapped in a loveless marriage who finds hope in an illicit affair with a family friend.
Pompeii : Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson sets his sights on the city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. for his latest muscle-bound action epic in 3D.
Omar : Adam Bakri shines in this complex, Oscar-nominated thriller from Palestine about a young man caught in a web of deception in the West Bank.
Three Days to Kill : CIA agent Kevin Costner's got—you guessed it: three days to kill his last target or his innocent daughter will die.
Tim's Vermeer : Tim Jenison is a mad inventor who's become obsessed with Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's verisimilitude. In this documentary from Penn & Teller, he decides to embark on a multiyear journey to prove that Vermeer used optics to paint such lifelike paintings.
The Wind Rises : Reportedly director Hayao Miyazaki's final film, this glorious animated biopic about Jiro Horokoshi examines one man's perilous tunnel vision as he designs war planes for the Japanese government during World War II.
One time only
Titanic II : A hundred years after the infamous ocean liner sank, a luxury liner follows the path of its namesake, only to be hit with its own catastrophe. What a shocker. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at ArtLab Studios in Normal Heights.
Enough Said : Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a masseuse who falls in love with her new friend's ex-husband (James Gandolfini) without realizing the connection in Nicole Holofcener's smart comedy. Screens at 8 pm. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills and at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Raze : Members of an elite secret society abduct a young woman and force her to fight other kidnap victims to the death in an unimaginable prison-like maze. Screens at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Loving Story : HBO films presents this documentary about Richard and Lidred Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriage. Screens at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Marilyn Monroe Marathon: Twenty-five dollars gets you Henry Hathaway's sleazy Niagara , Howard Hawks' sublime Gentleman Prefer Blondes , Billy Wilder's flirty The Seven Year Itch and progressive Some Like it Hot and John Huston's romantic The Misfits , all starring Marilyn Monroe. Presented by FilmOut, it all screens from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Thanks for Sharing : A recovering sex addict (Mark Ruffalo) begins a perilous relationship with his sponsor (Gwyneth Paltrow). Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Freedom Riders : Documentary about the pivotal civil-rights activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South. Screens at 2:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Pulp Fiction : If by some miracle you haven't seen Quentin Tarantino's hugely influential masterpiece, there's no better first viewing than on the big screen. Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at Arclight La Jolla.
Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) : The classic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice unfolds during Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro in this Brazilian-cinema classic. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Garibaldi's Lovers : Italian comedy about a widowed plumber whose life intersects with a penniless artist and her eccentric landlord. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Mission Valley Public Library.
¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall! : A backwater town attempts to con a group of Marshall Plan representatives by adopting traditional Andalusian stereotypes. This 1960s satire is a benchmark of Spanish cinema. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Hall of Nations in Balboa Park.
In a World : Lake Bell wrote, directed and stars in this film about a voice-over coach who finds herself competing against her arrogant father for a movie trailer gig. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Mission Valley Public Library.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days : Kate Hudson was once a big star. Movies like this prove why she isn't anymore. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
American Winter : Documentary about the economic disparity in modern America, specifically looking at the divide between those who suffer daily due to a lack of basic necessities and those who live oblivious to these realities. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Women's Museum of California in Point Loma's Liberty Station.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom : The film that spawned the PG-13 rating is also one of Steven Spielberg's most maligned films. But how can you hate a movie that has a character named Short Round and a dinner scene with monkey brains? Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at Arclight La Jolla.
About Last Night : Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy play best friends grappling with the highs and lows of new romantic relationships. Another romantic comedy just in time for Valentine's Day that will make single people cringe with disgust.
De Jueves a Domingo ( Thursday Till Sunday ): Dominga Sotomayor's stunning debut film explores the tricky emotional minefield of one family's road trip through Chile. On the verge of divorce, the parents try to shield their children from the inevitable disappointment of separation, but their attempts are no match for the inquisitive youngsters. Ends Feb. 20 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Endless Love : A pampered and isolated rich girl falls in love with a humble valet in this heated romance that's destined to make The Notebook seem sober and realistic. Nicholas Sparks may even roll his eyes at all the slushy swooning.
Girl on the Bicycle : An Italian tour guide in Paris is set to propose to his true love, a German stewardess, when he meets a French beauty who threatens to ruin it all. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Journey to the South Pacific : Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Like Father, Like Son : Exploring the different ways we can interpret family, this drama follows a wealthy architect whose seemingly perfect life is upended when he finds out his child was switched at birth. Ends Feb. 20 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Robocop : It's hard to believe Hollywood had the gall to remake Paul Verhoeven's 1987 masterpiece, but there's confidence to be had knowing Brazilian action filmmaker Jose Padilha ( Elite Squad ) is at the helm. Crossing our trigger fingers.
Vampire Academy : With a tagline like "They Suck at School," how can one go wrong?
Winter's Tale : Based on Mark Helprin's popular novel, director Akiva Goldsman's adaptation follows a burglar (Colin Farrell) who falls in love with an heiress as she dies in his arms. Good thing he has the power of reincarnation.
The Attorney : This Korean film follows a slick and corrupt lawyer who's hiding a damning professional secret and must defend a local teenager who's falsely accused of a crime, beaten and tortured.
The Lego Movie : That movie adaptation based on a classic toy set you knew was always coming but didn't think would actually get made. Well, it did, and it's here.
The Monuments Men : A museum art historian (George Clooney) recruits a platoon of unlikely soldiers to rescue art masterpieces from the Nazis. Co-stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman.
Gloria : Paulina García plays a divorcée attempting to stay vital despite the rapid changes happening in her children's lives. When Gloria meets an older man who's still seriously connected with his ex-wife and family, she's thrust into a potentially heart-breaking scenario.
Labor Day : An escaped convict (Josh Brolin) holes up with a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her 13-year-old boy during a long weekend in Jason Reitman's romantic drama.
Oscar Nominated Shorts: See the films in the category no one ever guesses right: Live-action and animated short films nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.
That Awkward Moment : When a friend is devastated by a recent breakup, three young men (Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan) vow to stay single for as long as possible. Of course, since this is a romantic comedy, things don't go according to plan.
I, Frankenstein : Frankenstein's monster (Aaron Eckhart) gets turned into an action hero caught up in a centuries-old war between different clans of immortals.
The Invisible Woman : Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) secretly courts a young actor (Felicity Jones), sending a shockwave of melodrama through the streets of Victorian England. Ends Feb. 20 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
The Great Beauty : A disillusioned novelist traverses modern Rome looking for epiphany in Paolo Sorrentino's gorgeous and surreal art film, which is a testament to physical surfaces and emotional depth.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit : Tom Clancy's favorite CIA analyst turned action hero gets his very own origin story, which involves a Russian plot to take down the U.S. economy. Chris Pine assumes the role made famous by Harrison Ford and denigrated by Ben Affleck.
The Nut Job : No nuts, no glory. So goes the tagline for this animated film about an outcast park rodent who must survive the harsh realities of the city after being banished from the park. It was only a matter of time before the squirrel population was properly represented in Hollywood.
Ride Along : Has Kevin Hart fatigue set in yet? The pervasive comedian stars in this action comedy with Ice Cube playing an angry cop and his future brother-in-law out to test his masculinity.
August: Osage County : A dysfunctional Texas family reunites when its troubled patriarch (Sam Shepard) goes missing, uncovering a barrage of dark secrets and regrets. It's based on the play by Tracy Letts and stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper.
Her : A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his new operating system (voiced by Scarlet Johansson) in Spike Jonze's tender and moving sci-fi romance.
The Legend of Hercules : Action director Renny Harlin ( Die Hard 2: Die Harder ) brings the origin story of Hercules (Kellan Lutz) to the big screen in not-so-glorious post-conversion 3-D.
Lone Survivor : Four Navy SEALs are behind enemy lines in the mountains of Afghanistan, fighting an army of Taliban insurgents. It's based on the failed Operation Red Wings of June 2005 and stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster.
The Wolf of Wall Street : Martin Scorsese's sprawling comedic look at the rise and fall of Wall Street huckster Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who became an infamous figure in New York City in the 1990s.
American Hustle : Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in David O'Russell's retelling of the infamous Abscam sting established by the FBI in order to capture corrupt politicians and gangsters in the late 1970s.
Saving Mr. Banks : Marry Poppins scribe P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) travels to Los Angeles to discuss a potential film adaptation by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in this whimsical biopic about two artists struggling to compromise.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug : Bilbo (Martin Freeman), please meet Smaug, fire-breathing dragon and protector of all things gold. Have a nice three hours together.
Nebraska : Aged retiree Woody (Bruce Dern) is determined to collect his winnings after receiving a phony sweepstakes letter, eventually dragging his reluctant son (Will Forte) on a road trip that'll change both of their lives. Alexander Payne's latest is a melancholic ode to family and the Midwest.
Philomena : Comedian Steve Coogan takes on a more serious role as a cynical journalist who ends up helping an elderly woman (Judi Dench) search for her long lost son. Oscar nominations are a certainty.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire : Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself once again fighting to survive the titular death match that has become a necessary evil in the dystopic future.
Dallas Buyers Club : In 1985, a drunken rodeo clown Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughy) learns he has HIV. Seeing an opportunity to stave off his own death and make some money, he begins smuggling unapproved drugs in from Mexico.
12 Years a Slave : Abducted and forced to work on a Southern plantation, free man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejifor) experiences the horrors of slavery in Steve McQueen's stirring period-piece drama.
Hubble : Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this journey into space allows the viewer to experience what it's like aboard the famous telescope while also giving a history of its legacy. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Rolling Stones : The iconic band performs live during their "Steel Wheels / Urban Jungle" tour in glorious IMAX. Some musical satisfaction is guaranteed. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Mysteries of the Unseen World : This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.