Got your attention? Good. Then let me ask what makes Zombie Strippers an instant midnight movie? Is it porn queen Jenna Jameson, naked and dead and spouting Nietzsche? Or Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund as the club owner trying to cash in on his collection of zombie strippers by stashing their undead lap-dance victims in the basement? Or the way the film is based on Ionesco's classic conformity play, Rhinoceros, about the rise of the Third Reich? Is it the biting Bush and Cheney satire? Or is it just the naked pole dances and the shredded, gory bodies? Of course, it's all of the above, especially since Zombie Strippers, written and directed by Jay Lee, never takes itself particularly seriously.
Even the philosophic deep thoughts are tongue in ragged, torn-open cheek.
The plot? The nefarious CheneyCo's zombie virus has gotten loose, so a crack squad of soldiers is brought in to take out the victims. One gets bit, escapes the premises and ends up in the Rhino strip club, where he promptly takes a bite out of Jenna Jameson, who becomes A) undead, and B) an amazing nude dancer. She gives an incredible lap dance, but her customers aren't quite the same afterward. Of course, all of this disrupts the club's normal dressing-room politics.
So, is it any good? Look, this movie is called Zombie Strippers. It delivers on its title. It has zombies, and it has strippers; there are bitings and boobies, a few killer jokes and some that just drop dead. If that's your thing, dude, this is your movie, especially if you drink heavily ahead of time. You'll find Zombie Strippers is a lot cheaper than an actual strip club and a little brainier. But whether those brains are for eatin' or for thinkin' is up to you.
88 Minutes: Al Pacino is a professor who spends his off-hours working as a forensic shrink for the FBI, until the day he gets a phone call telling him he has just 88 minutes to live. So he spends his last hour-and-a-half trying to sort out which of his enemies is to blame.
The First Saturday in May: This doc includes pre-fame footage of the horse Barbaro as it tracks a half-dozen horses on their way to the 2006 Kentucky Derby, offering up insight into the racing community previously only seen by horse people. Question—is it still too soon to make Barbaro jokes?
Forbidden Kingdom: An American kid who is, like, seriously into kung fu finds himself transported back to ancient China, where he hooks up with a group of warriors to free the jailed Monkey King. Those monkeys. Always making trouble. Instead of going down as the first film to really tie together the problems with monkey rule, Forbidden Kingdom will be remembered as the first (and perhaps only) collaboration between Jet Li and Jackie Chan.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Jason Segel of Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother wrote and stars in this sweet rom-com, playing Peter, a composer dumped by his TV-star girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). When he heads to Hawaii to clear his head, he finds he's staying at the same resort as her and her hunky new rock-star boyfriend. Both heartfelt and raunchy, Sarah Marshall has plenty of full-frontal nude scenes—and all of them are of Segel. See our review here.
My Blueberry Nights: Yes, it's Norah Jones' big-screen debut, but My Blueberry Nights also marks the Chinese auteur Wong Kar-Wai's first English-language film. Jones is a New York girl who goes on an Americana road trip to mend her broken heart, staying in touch with café owner Jude Law (at his Jude Lawiest) via postcards. Along the way she runs into the likes of unhappy cop David Strathairn (who delivers another terrific performance) and skimpily clad gambler Natalie Portman. Like all Kar-Wai's films, it's gorgeous to look at, even if the storyline is a little thin.
The Unforeseen: Robert Redford and Terrence Malick exec-produced this documentary about a grassroots environmental movement that sprung up around Austin in the 1980s, when the community faced a developer trying to turn some unspoiled Texas country into profitable subdivisions. But The Unforeseen isn't a clone of An Inconvenient Truth. Rather, it strives to look at urban growth from the points of view of both the developers and the environmentalists, ultimately asking questions that aren't easy to answer.
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?: The title is a question no one seems to be asking. Except for Morgan Spurlock, that is. The Super Size Me guy is doing W.'s work for him, heading to the Middle East in search of the 9/11 mastermind. By simply asking around after Osama, Spurlock finds more than perhaps he should, casting light and explaining the hatred many folks in that part of the world feel about the United States.
Young@Heart: The average age of the Young at Heart Chorus is 80, which means some of them are old enough to have told kids to stop playing the devil's music when rock 'n' roll was young. Still, that doesn't stop this crew of senior citizens from performing tunes by the likes of The Clash, James Brown, Coldplay and The Ramones. File this one under “Uplifting” or “Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.”
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Like Water for Chocolate: Instead of marrying Pedro, Tita (Lumi Cavazos) watches him marry her older sister while Tita stays home to take care of her mother and becomes an extraordinary chef. Gorgeous, epic love story that will make you hungry for more than sweets. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision: Frieda Lee Mock earned the 1995 Best Documentary Oscar for this look at Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam War Memorial at the young age of 21. Mock will be on hand to introduce the picture and hold a post-screening discussion at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 17, at the Museum if Contemporary Art San Diego's Downtown location. Free with museum admission.
Perduto Amor: The Italian singer and composer Franco Battiato made his writing and directing debut with this 2003 film, telling the life story of a young man in three segments. Early on, Ettore is a boy growing up in Sicily, but by the end of the film, he's an artistic mover and shaker in Milan. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 18, at the Italian Community Center in Little Italy.
Limón: A Life Beyond Words: The La Jolla Music Society wraps up its dance season with the San Diego debut of famed dancer José Limón's company. Included with the price of admission is a 20-minute version of the award-winning documentary about Limón, who died in 1972 but was considered one of the most dynamic dancers of his time. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 18, at the Birch North Park Theater. Free for ticket holders.
Brazil: This is the cut of Terry Gilliam's masterpiece that you were meant to see but may not have had the chance to. The original European version of the anti-conformity, Orwellian tragicomedy is longer than the film that originally showed in the U.S. back in 1985 and has Gilliam's darker, intended ending. Gorgeous to look at, Brazil stars Jonathan Pryce as a paper-pusher in a futuristic dystopian society who starts asking the wrong kinds of questions. Screens at midnight Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19, at Landmark's La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Telling the Streets: True Urban Legends and Shadow Children: Five Stories From the Street: The library presents two documentaries about homeless youth in San Diego. Telling the Streets is the final project in a free 15-week after-school video production course for homeless kids, while Shadow Children was produced in the Center for Documentary and Drama at SDSU. Filmmakers from both movies will be on hand to discuss the work and the state of homeless kids in San Diego following the screenings at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 20, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
Romance and Cigarettes: John Turturro wrote and directed this blue-collar musical about a philandering husband (James Gandolfini), his long-suffering wife (Susan Sarandon) and the hot young thing (Kate Winslet) he's getting with. It's interesting to watch the leads—and others, including Christopher Walken, Mary Louise Parker and Eddie Izzard—belting out the classics, but let's just say that singing and dancing doesn't come naturally for everyone. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 21, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
I Know I'm Not Alone: Michael Franti of Spearhead fame (and onetime member of the ridiculously awesome Disposable Heroes of the Hiphoprisy) made this documentary, traveling to Iraq, Israel and Palestine in 2004 armed only with a camera and his guitar. If you know Franti's music, you already get a sense of what the film is like—personal, intense and important. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at Lestat's in North Park. Free, but buy some coffee.
Walkout: Part of UCSD's month-long celebration of César Chávez, Walkout tells the story of the massive Chicano student walkouts in East L.A. in 1968 to protest the inequality in the school district. More than 22,000 kids stood up and left their desks during the protests, which director Edward James Olmos calls the country's largest high-school protest ever. Power to the people, yo. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Student Services Multi-Purposes Room on the UCSD campus. Free.
A Dream in Doubt: On Sept. 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot and killed in Mesa, Ariz., by a man who thought he was a Muslim. A Dream in Doubt follows Balbir's brother's attempts to reconcile Balbir's death with his own family's American dreams. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
Amelie: Easily one of the most fun and inventive films of the last decade, Amelie introduced the world to Audrey Tatou, who plays an innocent young thing in Paris who sets out to make other people's lives, for the most part, better. It's whimsical and beautiful, with an amazing soundtrack and a visual style all its own. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who previously made Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, went in a completely new direction and made it work. If you or your sweetie has never seen Amelie, well, this is the date movie you've been missing. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Persepolis (English version): For those who love films but hate subtitles, the Oscar-nominated Persepolis salutes you—with a dubbed version and an impressive English-speaking cast. The animated autobiography, based on Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran, is funny, intense and moving, made with old-school, hand-drawn animation entirely in black and white (which is ironic, since the film has so many shades of gray). Sean Penn, Catherine Deneuve, Gena Rowlands and Iggy Pop lend their pipes.
Priceless (Hors de Prix): Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a young bartender, is mistaken for a rich dude by gorgeous, web-spinning succubus Irene (Audrey Tatou), who seduces him, only to find that he really just pulls drinks. So she ditches him—but he won't ditch her. Suddenly, the hunter is the hunted, and everywhere Irene turns, there's Jean trying to win her heart. The question is, will his love be enough to win over a woman who is interested only in money? We're not telling, but we definitely ™ Audrey Tatou.
Prom Night: Poor Brittany Snow. An insane sadistic killer from her past is slaughtering her friends and, like, totally ruining prom.
Smart People: There's a fine line between intelligent and smart in this Sundance fave. Dennis Quaid is a brilliant asshole of a college professor, Ellen Page (in her first big post-Juno role) is his straight-laced, type-A daughter and Thomas Haden Church is the black-sheep adopted brother who chauffeurs Quaid after the latter loses his license. Sarah Jessica Parker, a onetime student of Quaid's, plays the ER doctor who treats the professor, both on and off the job, after an accident. Both dad and daughter are so intelligent they're insufferable, and while Haden Church may not be a scholar, he's smarter than everyone else when it comes to how people tick.
Street Kings: Plotted by L.A. crime-fiction king James Ellroy, Street Kings is another intricately drawn portrayal of crooked cops and dirty deeds, set in present day with Keanu Reeves as tortured detective Tom Ludlow. The movie is smart and cynical, but unlike its natural predecessors—L.A. Confidential (based on Ellroy's novel) and Training Day (written by director David Ayer), Kings isn't blessed with a star who has the chops to pull it all off.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation: Set in Brazil in the politically tumultuous year of 1970, the film is about 12-year-old Mauro (Michel Joelsas), whose left-wing parents are forced to go into hiding, leaving him with his grandmother. Forced to grow up on the quick, Mauro makes friends and watches the World Cup, hoping his parents will return in time to catch the final match. Like My Life as a Dog with political dissidence.
Caramel: This sweet and subtle Lebanese chick flick examines five women whose lives revolve around a beauty parlor in Beirut. It's a window into life in the Middle East—one woman is forced to show proof of marriage to get a hotel room; another is hassled by an overzealous soldier for sitting in a car with her fiancé. These women aren't worried about bombs or guns; they're worried about the same basic issues women across the globe are concerned with: love, happiness, respect. It's a refreshing change of pace that shows that, deep down, we're not really all that different.
Leatherheads: George Clooney stars in and directs this romantic comedy set in the early days of football, playing Dodge Connelley, who's determined to bring the game into the mainstream. John Krasinski (The Office) is an Ivy League war hero who brings new tactics to the game, rivaling Clooney's authority and battling him for the affections of sports reporter Renee Zellweger. Think Bull Durham, with pigskin.
Nim's Island: This adaptation of Wendy Orr's novel finds Abigail Breslin as Nim, a young girl who imagines the island she lives on is magical, based on the fictional adventurer Alex Rover in her favorite books. But when her dad goes missing, Nim teams up with Alex Rover's author (Jodie Foster) to track him down. Gerard “This. Is. Sparta!” Butler plays Nim's dad and Alex Rover.
The Ruins: A terrific argument against sightseeing. Four young, hot American tourists in Mexico hook up with a morose German who takes them on an expedition to an ancient Mayan temple. Bummer for them, since there's an ancient evil beastie thing hiding out there, and it loves nothing more than feasting on young, hot American tourists. Guess they should have stayed at the hotel bar. Jena Malone is in on the creepiness.
Shine a Light: Martin Scorsese directed this Rolling Stones concert film, shot in two nights at New York's venerable, 2,800-seat Beacon Theatre in 2006. Jack White, Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy all came out to play with them, and the Clintons were in the audience. Man, that must've been a tough ticket.
Stop Loss: Kimberly Peirce's first film since Boys Don't Cry examines the human effects of the U.S. military's policy of unilaterally extending the contracts of servicemembers. Ryan Phillippe is Brandon King, a decorated sergeant who lost men toward the end of his Iraq tour. So just imagine his surprise when Uncle Sam tells him he has to go back. Instead, he hits the road—with Abbie Cornish, the girlfriend of his best buddy, Tatum Channing. Though flawed, Stop Loss takes on an important topic and manages to be a war film without being an Iraq War film.
21: Utterly formulaic adaptation of Ben Mezrich's great little airport read, Bringing Down the House, about the MIT card-counting team that took its act to the Vegas blackjack tables and made a ton of money.
Superhero Movie: Finally, someone in Hollywood has the stones to stand up to the comic-book geeks and make a parody of the superhero movies. Men wear tights. Leslie Nielsen cameos. Hilarity ensues. Maybe.
Under the Same Moon: Following the death of his grandmother, 9-year-old Carlos works his way across the border and heads for L.A. to find his mother, armed only with the description of the street corner she has called him from for the last four years.
Drillbit Taylor: The latest entry into the Jud Apatow family of comedies finds three high-school freshmen advertising for a mercenary to defend them against a bully. These boys need someone strong, crafty and wise. Instead, they get Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a soldier of fortune (of sorts) who has hit the skids.
Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns: Angela Bassett is Brenda, a single mom living in Chicago who loses her job and is on the verge of losing everything else when she learns the father she never met has died in Georgia. So she packs up the kids and heads south, where she meets the Browns, a family unlike any she's had before. Former L.A. Laker Rick Fox is the love interest, and Tyler Perry, who directed the film based upon his play of the same name, reprises his hugely popular Madea for the movie.
Shutter: From Dawson's Creek to cheap horror flicks. Josh Jackson is fashion photographer who travels to Japan with his new wife, only to be involved in a car accident that kills a young woman. Bummer. And if that wasn't enough, as he starts developing film from his shoots, he starts seeing dead people in the pictures.
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!: You probably wouldn't attend without a kid in tow, but if you have a carpet monkey you have to take, you'll have a decent time. Gorgeous animation keeps things Seussical, and the celeb voices—Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, mainly—don't overshadow the premise. Plus, the movie's message of tolerance and anti-conformity is a decent one for kids of all ages.
Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk: Robert Redford narrates this new Imax journey, following environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. as he rafts his way through the Grand Canyon, on the Colorado River, along with anthropologist Wade Davis, as the two document new efforts to conserve water and restore the river. Music is provided by the Dave Matthews Band. Grand Canyon Adventure plays only at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Married Life: It's the 1940s, and Harry (Chris Cooper) has fallen for Kay (Rachel McAdams), a younger, hotter woman than his wife, Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Two problems, however—first, Harry's best bud, Richard (Pierce Brosnan), finds that he, too, has a thing for Kay, and second, Harry can't bring himself to leave Pat. So he does what any patriotic, red-blooded American male would do in his situation—he decides to murder her.
Never Back Down: Take the new-kid-in-school side of The Karate Kid, add it to the underground thrashings of Fight Club, multiply it by the Ultimate Fighting Championship's Octagon and divide it all by The O.C. That's Never Back Down.
10,000 B.C.: Roland Emmerich's first film since The Day After Tomorrow could be subtitled “The Day Before Yesterday.” It follows a young mammoth hunter who takes on sabertooth tigers and a nasty dominant civilization. The effects look terrific, and everyone speaks English, which totally comes in handy when it comes to those unfortunate time-machine accidents.
The Bank Job: Jason Statham and his buddies are amateur crooks who hit the big time in this gritty, '70s-style flick that also stars Saffron Burrows as the hottie who cons Statham and Co. into pulling a bank heist. But it's only after they've got the loot that they find themselves in serious danger, as vengeful politicians, angry pornographers, crooked cops, pissed-off black militants and even MI-5 want to get their hands on what the robbers got away with. Very loosely based on the then-infamous “Walkie-Talkie Robbery,” The Bank Job is a slow boil with more class than most of Statham's recent action-thrillers.
The Counterfeiters: Winner of this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, The Counterfeiters is about Operation Bernhardt, the Nazi attempt to counterfeit British and American currency in the waning days of World War II. It tells the story of Jewish master forger Sally Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), who heads up the detail of craftsmen whose lives are spared as long as they support the German war effort, knowing the entire time that if they do their job well, the war will continue on.
The Band's Visit: This charming drama was disqualified as Israel's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission because so much of it is in English. But you can see why they put it forward—the story of an Egyptian police band stuck in a backwater Israeli settlement is sweet and funny without being cloying, with subtle performances and a theme that plays like a soft Chet Baker trumpet solo.
The Other Boleyn Girl: So, you're Henry VIII and you look just like Eric Bana. Nice. You can have your pick of the English birds, but you're drawn to the Boleyn sisters, who look remarkably like Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Now, this isn't historically accurate in any way, shape or form, but it seems like a win-win for Henry, even if he eventually beheads the sister he ends up with.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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, Grand Canyon Adventure 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.