It would be easy to rebuke a flimsy and clumsy genre film like Girl on a Bicycle. On paper, it's rom-com recycling. But while the movie's narrative oozes with schmaltz, it impresses one theme in particular that's worth considering. Unlike most romance pictures of its ilk, Girl on a Bicycle takes a shovel to the types of overblown fantasies that can lead us astray from the people that matter most.
Italian tour-bus driver Paolo (Vincenzo Amato) complicates his engagement to a German stewardess (Nora Tschirner) due to a sudden infatuation with a French actress (Louise Monot). Spurred on by his British colleague (a nicely sleazy Paddy Considine), Paolo crosses the line from curiosity to action, causing a ripple effect that gets him into a very deep and unexpected commitment with this new woman.
Charming enough to pass muster, the film nonetheless is a throwaway trifle that isn't interested in exploring such ideas beyond the surface. Each bad decision may cause a different emotional domino to fall, but there's never any doubt that the stars will once again align for all involved. Even worse, the film has an identity issue.
Girl on a Bicycle—which opens Friday, Feb. 14, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas—initially seems like another Francophone swoon-fest imported just in time for Valentine's Day. But, in truth, it's about as French as I am. Despite taking place in Paris and containing a slew of European actors, including major characters from Italy and Germany, most of the film is in English. It's almost shocking when you see some subtitles.
So, what's the difference between director Jeremy Leven's film and, say, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation starring Miley Cyrus? Only a forthright treatment of sex and a slightly more rosy sense of humor. But maybe that's enough.
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. Screens through 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.
The Returned: This Spanish zombie film puts an interesting twist on the genre by creating a world where the infected live normal lives thanks to a retroviral drug. The only problem is, the miracle cure is running out. Screens at Reading Gaslamp 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.
One time only
When Harry Met Sally…: The ultimate romantic comedy about two friends who risk their platonic relationship when they let their physical urges overwhelm their common sense. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
An Affair to Remember: Cary Grant woos Deborah Kerr on an ocean liner, and the two agree to meet in six months at the Empire State Building after they’ve cleaned up their respective love lives. Screens at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Arclight La Jolla.
The Neverending Story: Nobody provides fantastical air transport like Falkor. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at Modern Times Beer Tasting Room in Sports Arena.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Watch Audrey Hepburn become a star before your eyes in this charming classic romance. Screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at Arclight La Jolla.
Ex (Many Kisses Later): Six volatile couples come under the romantic-comedy microscope in this Italian import that follows their relationships from Christmas to Valentine’s Day. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
About Time: Most people celebrate their 21st birthday with a wee bit of alcohol. Tim (the amazing Domhnall Gleeson) gets some surprising news instead: The men in his family are able to time travel. But will his super powers find him true love or infinite complication? Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14 and 15, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Tim Curry is a national treasure. His kinky performance as the “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania” proves why. Screens at midnight Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Ken Cinema.
We Are What We Are: A family of cannibals must deal with the death of their matriarch, whose demise threatens to reveal their secret to the residents of their rural town. Screens at 9:15 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
2001: A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick’s mind-melting sci-fi masterpiece is best seen on the largest screen possible. Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, at Arclight La Jolla.
Lucky: In post-apartheid South Africa, a 10-year-old orphan leaves his Zulu village to make his own life in the city, only to find a wave of animosity and negativity. Only an elderly Indian woman provides him with any support. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.
The Attack: How well do you really know your spouse? An Israeli Palestinian surgeon considers this question after his wife dies and is accused of masterminding a suicide attack. This sends him into an unbearable existential crisis. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
Dirty Dancing: The Swayze proves that nobody puts Baby in a corner, unless you can groove your way into her heart. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Brightest Star: A listless young man (Veronica Mars’ Chris Lowell) realizes he hasn’t gotten over his college girlfriend, even though she’s already moved on. Then he meets a wisecracking coffeehouse singer who sets this whiney man-child straight. Ends Feb. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Love is in the Air: The French know romance, and here we find a soon-to-be-married woman falling in love with a traveling playboy when they are seated next to each other on a flight to Paris. Ends Feb. 13 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
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.
San Diego Jewish Film Festival: Featuring more than 60 feature films, this 11-day festival event running through Feb. 16 showcases the best in Jewish cinema. Get details at sdcjc.org/sdjff.
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. Opens on Friday, Jan. 31 at the Ken Cinema.
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.
Devil’s Due: Newlyweds experience a lost night on their honeymoon thanks to good ol’ Lucifer, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy and a potential Antichrist scenario. Call in Father Merrin!
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 Past: An Iranian man (Tahar Rahim) returns to Paris to finalize his divorce from his French wife (Bérénice Bejo), only to uncover a series of hidden secrets. Master dramatist Asghar Farhadi once again focuses on the devastating ramifications of past trauma. Ends Feb. 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Ben Stiller revamps the 1947 Danny Kaye classic with a bigger budget and a bigger emphasis on the healing power of corporate products.
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.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Infamous San Diego newscaster and lothario Ron Burgundy (Will Farrell) brings his motley crew of wacky colleagues to New York City in hopes of making it big on a national television channel.
Inside Llewyn Davis: Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest odyssey is set in 1961 Greenwich Village, where a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac) comes to grips with his failure as an artist and a human being.
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.
Coral Reef Adventure: Local filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall directed this lush documentary that takes viewers to the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, from Tahiti to Rangirora atoll. Ends Feb. 13 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.
Cosmic Collisions: So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels. Ends Feb. 13 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.