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¡Viva SDLFF!: This year marks the 12th for the San Diego Latino Film Festival, one of the biggest collection of movies the city has to offer. There are plenty of pictures with high-profile stars, like Benjamin Bratt's La Mission, Jimmy Smits' Backyard, Barbara Mori's Cosas Insignificances, Chamaco with Martin Sheen and Solo Quiero Caminar with Diego Luna. Jamie Camil and Josh Hartnett will be on hand for the opening-night film, Regresa, which is enjoying its U.S. premiere.
But film festivals aren't only about seeing stars. Ideally, you immerse yourself in a serious cross-section of films, something easily done in a fest as big as SDLFF, which screens more than 150 films from 17 countries. It's teaming with the Italian Film Festival to present the film Io, Don Giovanni and with FilmOut for the fifth iteration of the Cine Gay series. The Cine Mujer series celebrates female directors, which is especially poignant considering Kathryn Bigelow's Best Director Oscar win on Sunday. Animated films are represented by the fourth edition of Cine'mation, and Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer will put in an appearance for the kids. And there's Cine Mexicano, which includes more than 40 films, celebrating the country's bicentennial. Not to be missed in that package is El General, the film that took the Best Directing Documentary award at Sundance in 2009.
In short, there's a whole lot of peliculas going on. SDLFF runs from March 11 through 21 at the UltraStar Mission Valley in Hazard Center. As you might expect, there are a slew of ticket and pass options, all of which can be found—along with a complete list of films, showtimes, panels, parties and, yes, celebrities—at www.sdlatinofilm.com.
Ajami: Co-directed by a Jew and a Palestinian, this look at a mixed neighborhood in the Jaffa part of Tel Aviv is populated by non-actors and was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Formosa Betrayed: James Van Der Beek—yes, Dawson from Dawson's Creek—won Best Actor honors at last year's San Diego Film Festival for this film. He plays an FBI agent whose investigation of the murder of a Taiwanese-American professor takes him overseas in search of the truth.
Green Zone: Matt Damon teams up with Paul Greengrass, the guy who made the last two Bourne movies, for an Iraq action film.
Our Family Wedding: Marcus (Lance Gross), an African-American man, is getting married to Lucia (America Ferrera), a Latina woman, which inflicts no end of comic anguish on their respective dads, Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia.
The Red Riding trilogy: All three films in this epic crime trilogy, examining murder and corruption in an industrial British town, are designed to stand on their own. But the experience of seeing all of them together is riveting. Clear your calendar.
Remember Me: Set in New York in the summer of 2001, Ruben Pattinson is an angry young man who has a tumultuous relationship with his father (Pierce Brosnan). Emilie de Ravin of Lost just might be the girl to straighten him out, if audiences are prepared to watch Pattinson do something besides Twilight.
Severe Clear: When First Lt. Mike Scotti made his way to Baghdad during the first days of the Iraq war, he had a Mini-DV camera with him. Severe Clear, which played the San Diego Film Festival last September, is made up of his footage and journal entries.
She's Out of My League: Jay Baruchel gets his first lead since Undeclared, and it's about time, even if it's in a Jud Apatow rom-com knock-off. He's Kirk, an average guy working for the TSA who can't believe that hottie Alice Eve wants to be with him.
The Yellow Handkerchief: Remember when William Hurt was one of the best actors around? He's finally that good again in Udayan Prasad's little Louisiana movie, playing Brett, an ex-con who hitches a ride with Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) and Martine (Twilight's Kristen Stewart) to get to New Orleans.
One time only
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.
Doña Bárbara: This romantic drama from 1943 fits nicely into the Museum of Photographic Arts' classic Mexican cinema series. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at MoPA in Balboa Park.
Estomago: A Gastronomic Story: As part of UCSD's ArtPower! Film's Foovie series, this Brazilian film, about a simple guy who rises through the prison ranks because he's such a good cook, includes live music and a full meal. Please, though, no turning your spoon into a shiv. Find details on Page 10). It starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at The Loft at UCSD.
Boondock Saints: Some people think this movie is visionary; others think it's just a vision of violence. Whatever you think, it's 10 years old, and to celebrate, it's being rolled into theaters across the country for one night only, with appearances from writer / director Troy Duffy and stars Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at several area theaters. Check www.ncm.com for locations and ticket info.
Nepotism and Other Character Flaws: Sushi's Family Matters exhibition includes films from four of the artists involved. Lisa Hutton, Andrew Kaufman, Lauren Tyler Norby and Donna Stack were given a title—and nothing else—by curator Brian Goeltzenleuchter. The results will be screened at 8 p.m. Friday, March 12, at Sushi's East Village gallery.
If I Should Fall From Grace: The Shane MacGowan Story: Hey, St. Patrick's Day is almost here, and The Pogues' frontman would want you to raise a glass or nine while watching this documentary about him. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 14, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
The Informant!: Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon put together this look at Mark Whitacre, a real-life '80s-era agri-executive who turned to the Feds when he felt the industry was engaging in price-fixing. But Whitacre is also a compulsive liar, so his handlers never knew whether to believe him. In a weird twist, too, Soderbergh cast comics in all the supporting roles. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 15, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Hurt Locker: In all likelihood, you didn't see this year's Best Picture Oscar winner on the big screen. Here's your chance—the story of a Baghdad bomb-squad adrenalin junkie screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Monday, March 15, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Shorts 'n Spirits Showcase: This month, Mental Eclectic's shorts focus on pieces taken from different web series. You've got Pretty, Sex ED: The Series, Misadventures in Matchmaking and Absolution, along with the San Diego premiere of The Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour, co-produced by Sean Becker, who directs The Guild, one of the most successful web-based shows. Starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 16, at West Coast Tavern in North Park.
Belonging: This documentary looks at the struggles of Kethiwe Ngcobo, a young South African woman raised overseas. She returned to her homeland after Apartheid but has had a tough time finding her place in the new South Africa. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 17, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
She's the One: Edward Burns followed up his massive Brothers McMullen success with another sibling-rivalry film. He's the cab-driving, jilted older brother to straight-laced Mike McGlone, a guy married to Jennifer Aniston but carrying on with his brother's ex, Cameron Diaz. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 17, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Fish Tank: Blisteringly tough film about a teen girl growing up in an unsupportive household in England. Won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year. Ends at the Ken Cinema March 11.
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.
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. Ends at the Ken Cinema on March 11.
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. Ends at La Jolla Village Cinemas on March 11.
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.
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.
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 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.