- Photo courtesy of Flickr / Richard O. Barry
Last week, news broke that the iconic Ken Cinema would close its doors on April 27. In a statement, Landmark Theaters said it "was not able to negotiate an acceptable new lease with the landlord." A shockwave of panic pulsed through the San Diego film community, inspiring film critics and business owners alike to rally a last-ditch effort to save the beloved theater.
Whatever happens to the Ken Cinema, for me, the alarming news of its closure brought back memories of growing up in San Diego during the transition from single-screen theaters to the now-standard multiplex. One of my earliest film experiences was seeing Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home at the majestic, 1,000-seat Grossmont Center Theater in 1986. The screen was titanic, a fitting introduction to the all-consuming powers of cinema.
The single-screen Ken doesn't evoke such classic grandiosity, but its vintage look and dedication to independent film remains a necessary reminder of what film exhibition used to be like before the corporations took over. This is the spot that introduced me to works by Jean-Pierre Melville, Federico Fellini and Jean-Luc Godard. It's sad to think that younger generations of San Diegans might not have the opportunity to see these types of challenging films on the big screen.
There seems to be some hope that an agreement can be reached and the Ken will remain a film venue, possibly under the control of another operator. In the meantime, Landmark has programmed a series of classic films to screen during the theater's final days: Seven Samurai (2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 25), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (midnight on Friday, April 25), Lawrence of Arabia (2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26), The Big Lebowski (midnight on Saturday, April 26) and Singin' in the Rain (3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Sunday, April 27). It might be the last time that we purists get to feel old-school again. Let's hope not.
Brick Mansions: In the not-so-distant future, an impoverished Detroit neighborhood is sectioned off from the world by a massive containment wall. A volatile detective (Paul Walker) goes undercover to destroy a drug kingpin who holds court over the isolated ghetto.
Dancing in Jaffa: In this documentary, Pierre Dulaine, a world-renowned ballroom dancer, moves back to Jaffa, the city of his birth, to teach Jewish and Palestinian Israelis to dance. Screens through May 1 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Hateship Loveship: Kristen Wiig stars in a surprising dramatic role as an eccentric nanny who develops a friendship with her employer (Guy Pearce), a recovering addict. Screens through May 1 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
How to Boil a Frog: Eco-documentary that uses comedy to examine solutions to economic and sustainability issues threatening the planet. Screens through May 1 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Filmatic Festival: The first-annual festival focuses on interactive performances and screenings, gaming, media installations and workshops that all look at the transformative nature of film. Runs Thursday, April 24, through Sunday, April 27, at UCSD. Visit filmaticfestival.com for details.
International Mobil Film Festival: The third annual fest at Grossmont College focuses entirely on movies shot with mobile phones. Runs Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27. Find details at mobilfilm
Only Lovers Left Alive: Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star as moody vampires who can’t quit each other in the brilliant new movie by master filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. See our review on Page 22.
The Other Woman: Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned. In this case three women—Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton—bound together by one cheating bastard.
Walking with the Enemy: In Hungary during the final months of World War II, a young man steals a Nazi uniform and begins a long search for his missing family. It’s directed by Mark Schmidt, founder of San Diego-based Liberty Studios.
One time only
I Give it a Year: Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall play newlyweds who seem happy despite what their friends and family think of their relationship. As their first anniversary approaches, attractive alternatives threaten to prove their closest confidants right. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at the Mission Valley Library.
Chasing Ice: Jeff Orlowski’s documentary is about photographer James Balog’s use of time-lapse cameras to document the melting of polar ice caps. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at the Women’s Museum of California in Point Loma’s Liberty Station.
WALL-E: A kind and adventurous robot living amid the rubble of post-apocalyptic Earth meets an advanced droid and falls in love, then embarks on a journey to save the human race. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Shatner’s World: The legendary Star Trek actor performs his one-man show. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at various theaters. Check fathomevents.com for details.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The King Arthur legend gets skewered by one of the most famous troupes of English humorists. Screens at midnight on Friday, April 25, at the Ken Cinema.
Seven Samurai: Akira Kurosawa’s action masterpiece about a rogue group of ronin who band together to protect a small village from a rampaging horde of invaders. Screens at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 25, at the Ken Cinema.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: A lonely photo archivist (Ben Stiller) working at Life magazine daydreams about living a fantastic life, then decides to do so when his job is threatened amid a hostile takeover. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Lawrence of Arabia: David Lean’s massive biopic of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), an enigmatic adventurer who found himself in the middle of the battle for Arab sovereignty after World War I. Screens at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at the Ken Cinema.
The Big Lebowski: Joel and Ethan Coen evoke the ghosts of Preston Sturges and Raymond Chandler for this wacky, darkly comic labyrinth of mistaken identity and white Russians. Screens at midnight Saturday, April 26, at the Ken Cinema.
Singin’ in the Rain: Gene Kelly tap-dances his heart out in this 1952 masterpiece. Screens at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at Arclight La Jolla and at 3, 5:30, and 8 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at the Ken Cinema.
Four Sisters: This 26-minute documentary by Caley Cook follows four women who each lost a brother to suicide. Screens at 5 p.m. Monday, April 28, at USD’s Warren Auditorium, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker and the USD Wellness Team.
Better Living Through Chemistry: When a pharmacist (Sam Rockwell) begins a sordid affair with a trophy-wife customer, his life begins to spiral out of control. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 28, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Philomena: Steve Coogan stars as a disgraced political journalist who helps a woman (Judi Dench) search for her son, who was taken away by the government right after his birth. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Office Space: Damn, it feels good to be a gangster. But it doesn’t feel so good working at a mind-numbing corporate job where you have to come in on Saturdays. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
200 Cartas: An aspiring comic-book artist meets a beautiful woman at a New York City club, only to lose track of her after a bar fight ruins the night. Determined to find the love of his life, he flies to Puerto Rico. Screens through April 24 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Afternoon of a Faun: Director Nancy Buirski’s film is about Tanaquil Le Clercq, a celebrated ballerina who influenced all of the great modern dancers, including George Balanchine. Ends April 24 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Bears: Narrated by John C. Reilly, this nature documentary follows a family of Alaskan bears over a period of years.
Dom Hemingway: The titular safe cracker, played by Jude Law, is released from prison after 12 years and sets out to reconnect with his estranged daughter and collect on old debts.
Finding Vivian Maier: While working as a nanny, Vivian Maier took more than 100,000 photographs, which earned her a posthumous reputation as an accomplished street photographer. But her story goes much deeper than that.
Gringo Trails: Documentary that explores the impact that tourism has had on regions as diverse as Thailand, Bolivia and Mali. Screens through April 23 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Haunted House 2: Because humanity needed another sequel to a spoof of a sequel to a bad original film nobody needed.
Heaven is for Real: Drama starring Greg Kinnear, whose young son dies on the operating table but is brought back to life. After waking up, the boy confesses to having been to Heaven, sharing his experience with those who are willing to listen.
Kid Cannabis: A really smart and reasonable teenager drops out of high school to start a drug-trafficking business with his older burn-out friend. This has “success story” written all over it.
Pacific Arts Movement’s Spring Showcase: The series showcases 11 new films from nine Asian countries. The fourth annual event run through April 24 at UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas.
The Railway Man: Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in this tense drama about a World War II vet who falls in love with a divorcée after meeting her on a train. In order to move forward, both must confront demons from their past and learn to forgive.
Transcendence: After working as cinematographer on Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and Inception, Wally Pfister makes his directing debut with this mind-bending sci-fi film about a terminally ill scientist (Johnny Depp) who uploads his mind to a computer after a terrorist attack leaves him in a coma.
Watermark: Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky (Manufactured Landscapes) travel the world and document our modern relationship with water, and they include major sequences set at the Hoover Dam and the River Ganges in India. Screens through April 24 at the Ken Cinema.
Grand Canyon Adventure: A team of explorers embarks on a journey through the majestic natural wonder, looking for solutions to the environmental concerns plaguing the arid region. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Alan Partridge: Steven Coogan brings his smarmy, egomaniacal BBC radio host to the big screen in this farcical satire by director Declan Lowney. Ends April 24 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
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.
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. Ends April 24 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Ends April 24 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
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.
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.
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.