Deep in the heart of Texas, David Gordon Green's Joe immerses itself in the sweat and blood of backcountry living. Streaks of Faulkner and The Night of the Hunter color the straggly posture of this singular gothic tale about Joe (Nicholas Cage), a low-rent landscaper who offers a teenager named Gary (Tye Sheridan) and his drifter father Wade (Gary Poulter) a job poisoning trees.
For a long time, there's very little plot; instead, Green dedicates his time to exploring the cadence of language and the relationship between setting and character.
Joe moves at such a strange pace that it could be argued that the filmmakers are presenting a near ethnographic view of an alien world. Tones change on a dime, from comedic to absurdist to horrific. Funny interludes between Joe and his crew of African-American workers give way to insane moments like the one involving a deer carcass hanging in someone's living room. Unpredictability is the film's main virtue.
Themes of revenge and redemption ultimately take root, revealing themselves in the physical conflicts between Joe and the human threats knocking at his door. This is where Green's film takes a left turn into genre territory, specifically thriller tropes that stand at odds with the film's eccentric identity. Instead of adding drama, the more traditional final act simply halts momentum.
But the performances by all three leads are so strong that such a narrative digression feels moot: What remains unforgettable is Wade's wrinkled face as he stands over a man he's just brutally beaten, or Joe and Gary's drunken trek to locate a missing dog. These complex and haunting scenes prove Joe—which opens April 11 at AMC Fashion Valley—to be a wicked slice of regional cinema, wholly dedicated to the rhythms of a specific place and the darker quirks of the human experience.
Alan Partridge: Steven Coogan brings his smarmy, egomaniacal BBC radio host to the big screen in this farcical satire by director Declan Lowney. Screens through April 17 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Cuban Fury: Bruce (Nick Frost) tries to win the heart of a woman by reinvigorating his passion for salsa dancing. But an equally savvy competitor threatens to ruin his perfect plans.
Draft Day: Kevin Costner plays the general manager for an NFL team looking to score big on a young player in the latest draft. Somewhere, drama will be created out of thin air.
Joe: A strange and beguiling Southern gothic starring Nicolas Cage as a broken man out to befriend and help a teenage drifter whose drunken father poses an imminent threat to his safety.
The Raid 2: After surviving the carnage in 2012’s The Raid, a Filipino police officer named Rama goes undercover to take down the crime bosses responsible for the city’s rampant corruption.
So Right, So Smart: Documentary, narrated by Darryl Hannah, about the sustainability crisis and how it relates to corporate reform and environmental activism. Screens through April 16 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Tercera llamada: A theater group attempting to put on a big-budget production of Caligula teeters on the brink of madness as rehearsals descend into chaos. Screens through April 17 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Under the Skin: In Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi art film, Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious being that descends to Earth and begins wreaking havoc with lonely men.
The Unknown Known: Errol Morris offers an in-depth and scathing look at former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld through a series of personal interviews with the man himself.
One time only
Napoleon Dynamite: At one point, this film about a Midwest loner who tries to become class president of his high school was a large part of the cultural zeitgeist. Now, that’s incredibly hard to believe. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Chapter 2 of Peter Jackson’s three-part adaption of Tolkien’s novel. This part has a dragon. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Chastity Bites: A notorious serial killer bathes in the blood of virgins to keep herself young and beautiful forever, causing distress (and confusion) in horny young men everywhere. Screens at 10 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Rabbit Hole: Nicole Kidman grieves for a lost child in this sobering drama by director John Cameron-Mitchell. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Ride with Larry: An inspiring documentary about Larry Smith, a middle-aged man who’s lived with Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years. With hopes of inspiring others living with Parkinson’s, Larry embarks on a 300-mile bike ride across South Dakota. Screens at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
Lawrence of Arabia: Peter O’Toole and Alec Guinness star in David Lean’s masterpiece about a flamboyant British military officer who fights in the Middle East during World War I. Don’t miss it on the big screen. Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at Arclight La Jolla.
The Wait: Two sisters experience a supernatural event when they receive a phone call from a force that may or may not be their dead mother. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 14, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Amador: A young immigrant suffering from financial woes decides to work as a live-in nurse for an elderly man who may provide the solution to her problem. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Enough Said: James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus star in this straggly comedy about middle-aged characters attempting to find love in sun-drenched Los Angeles. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
Superbad: Michael Cera and Jonah Hill made quite the splash in this teen comedy that also introduced the world to McLovin’. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Breathe In: A young foreign-exchange student moves in with a family in upstate New York and complicates their lives. It stars Felicity Jones and Guy Pearce.
Captain America: Winter Soldier: Chris Evans reprises his role as the patriotic avenger who must now battle a mysterious super soldier who’s threatening to destroy Washington, D.C.
Goodbye World: A couple living off the grid suddenly find their rural oasis clogged with estranged old friends who begin showing up after a massive cyber attack cripples the American government and sends the nation into a state of collapse. Ends April 10 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Jinn: A supernatural thriller about an automotive designer whose idyllic life is uprooted when he receives a cryptic warning of imminent danger.
The Missing Picture: Rithy Pahn’s innovative documentary recreates atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, using clay figures, voice-over narration and archival footage. Ends April 10 at the Ken Cinema.
Jodorowsky’s Dune: Documentary looks back on filmmaker’s Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Dune to the big screen.
Nymphomaniac: Volume II: The second chapter of Lars von Trier’s controversial character study about a self-professed nymphomaniac named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who tells her sordid story to a stranger.
Teenage: Documentary by director Matt Wolf that uses filmed portraits, archival footage and voice-over to explore the evolution of the modern teenager. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
White Water, Black Gold: David Lavallee journeys down the Athabasca River in Canada to investigate the impact oil has on the water quality. Ends April 9 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Cesar Chavez: The first narrative film to dramatize Cesar Chavez’s attempts to unify farm workers in California’s central valley in the 1960s. It’s directed by Diego Luna and stars Michael Peña.
Enemy: A lonely college professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Toronto discovers that he has a double, and then becomes obsessed with finding out why.
Ernest and Celestine: In this Oscar-nominated animated film from France, a precocious mouse meets a grumpy bear and threatens the strict ideologies of their respective societies. Ends April 10 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Noah: Darren Aronofsky’s long-gestating epic about the titular biblical figure (Russell Crowe) and his epic quest to build an ark and save the world’s species from a worldwide flood.
On My Way: Catherine Deneuve plays Bettie, a former beauty queen whose struggling restaurant is about to fold. During a weekend road trip, she finds herself contemplating her life decisions and finding peace with their outcomes.
Sabotage: Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a brutal DEA unit tasked with taking down the worst offenders. When members of the team start dying, all signs point to a Mexican cartel.
Bad Words: A former spelling-bee loser (Jason Bateman, who also directs) decides to find a loophole in the competition rules and participate as an adult.
Divergent: The future is a world divided into factions based on tested virtues. A young woman (Shailene Woodley) threatens to topple this rigorous framework when she’s deemed “divergent”—an outsider who must be disappeared.
The Lunchbox: In Mumbai, thousands of lunchboxes are delivered every day, thanks to a famously efficient service run by couriers. When one of these orders is delivered to the wrong address, the mistake inadvertently connects an aging businessman and an unhappy housewife.
Muppets Most Wanted: Miss Piggy, Kermit and the rest of the Muppets gang find themselves embroiled in a European jewel heist. It co-stars humans like Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell.
Nymphomaniac: Volume 1: The first part of Danish auteur Lars von Trier’s epic about a self-professed sex addict (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who recalls her origins in the apartment of a stranger (Stellan Skarsgård) while recuperating from a brutal beating.
Particle Fever: Documentary about the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, one of the most expensive and ambitious physics experiments ever conceived. Ends April 10 at the Ken Cinema.
Le Week-End: An elderly British couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) come to grips with their crumbling marriage while spending a weekend in Paris.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in director Wes Anderson’s latest film, which takes place inside an elaborate European hotel populated by eccentric characters.
The Face of Love: Ed Harris and Annette Bening star in a drama about a woman who falls in love with a man who bears a striking resemblance to her late husband. Ends April 10 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Need for Speed: Based on the popular video game, this action film follows an ex-convict (Aaron Paul) street racer who vows to catch the man who set him up years before.
Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club: The title really does say it all.
300: Rise of an Empire: More Spartan chest thumping and skewering, this time in retaliation for the fallen soldiers featured in Zach Snyder’s 2006 gore-fest.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman: Animated adventure about a father and son who invent a time machine, travel back to witness famous historical events and then find themselves racing to repair the past and save the future.
Non-Stop: Liam Neeson’s seasoned air marshal deals with a series of mysterious threats aboard a transatlantic flight.
Son of God: Jesus, another biopic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.