Marvel trotted out Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. to present the entire cast of the Joss Whedon-directed Avengers, including new cast members Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner). Harrison Ford showed up to surprise the crowd during the Cowboys & Aliens panel, and audiences got to take an extended look at footage from the forthcoming Tron: Legacy movie, which was screened in 3-D and looked pretty damn awesome.
But the biggest surprise, in my book, was one that hasn't gotten much play at all. It turns out Guillermo del Toro, the guy behind Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies, will direct a reboot of Disney's Haunted Mansion. Yes, that's the one that you didn't see the first time because it starred Eddie Murphy. So, what's the deal? Why is this important? Well, I've seen all of del Toro's films, and I've heard him speak on several occasions, including one terrific press conference this past weekend. In my opinion, he's one of the best directors working today. He's funny, extraordinarily profane and wickedly intelligent.
Yes, of course, this is a huge Disney picture, and that automatically raises some red flags, but del Toro has never struck me as someone who would do a project strictly for the money—I don't believe he would have signed on if he weren't convinced he could make the film the way he wanted to. And if you look at what he's done in the past, he's the sort of filmmaker who pulls off extraordinary feats with minimal budgets. The budget for this film will be precisely the opposite of minimal, and I can't wait to see what del Toro does with it.
Agora: Rachel Weisz stars in this historical epic as Hypatia, a philosopher in ancient Alexandria who's stuck between the Pagans and that other rapidly growing religion, Christianity.
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore: Yes, they really made a movie with this title.
Charlie St. Cloud: Zac Efron is the titular character, a guy so broken up by his brother's death that he takes a job in the cemetery where he's buried.
Countdown to Zero: Produced by the same guy who made An Inconvenient Truth, this documentary about the history of nuclear weapons will make you want to change your undies.
Dinner for Schmucks: In order for Paul Rudd to succeed in business, he must invite a serious loser to his boss´ house for dinner. That loser is Steve Carell.
Winnebago Man: Back in the '80s, Jack Rebney shot a corporate video for Winnebago, and the outtakes, which are profane and painfully funny, ended up online and viral. Director Ben Steinbauer's documentary about finding him is as interesting as it is exploitative. See our review on Page 22.
ONE TIME ONLY
Beautiful Losers and Scribble.08: Two terrific documentaries about art and the artists who art it. Part of the Survey Select exhibit, it begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, at the Wonderbread Factory, Downtown.
Leap!: Advertised as picking up where The Secret left off. That should either persuade you or dissuade you. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, at Vision: A Center for Spiritual Living in Clairemont Mesa.
Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks? Check. Blistering satire? Check. Insightful thoughts on racism? Check. One of the first films to feature farts on screen? Double-check. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Run away! Run away! Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
To Catch a Thief: The annual film and wine series kicks off with the Hitchcock classic. Cary Grant is a jewel thief on the French Riviera forced to come out of retirement when someone is using his bag of tricks. French vino will be served. Starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 29, at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.
Surf's Up: I don't know about you, but I'm glad they stopped making all those movies about penguins. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 29, poolside at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley. Free.
East of Eden: Man, James Dean was cool. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 29 and 30, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: Turns out this animated adaptation of the beloved children's book is really charming. Don't go on an empty stomach, though. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, July 30, at La Mesita Park in La Mesa. Free.
The Game Plan: Remember when The Rock used to pummel other guys in the ring? Well, in this one, he's a swingin'-single NFL quarterback who learns he has an 8-year-old daughter. Cuteness ensues. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, July 30, poolside at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley. Free.
Hachiko: A Dog's Story: In Lasse Hallestrom's remake of the 1987 Japanese film, Richard Gere's best friend is a dog. Screens at dusk, Friday, July 30, at Market Street Plaza in Lincoln Park. Free.
San Diego International Children's Film Festival: You'll have to pony up to get into the New Children's Museum, but once you're in, the dozens of films screening at this year's SDICFF are gratis. Runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 31, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1.
Race to Witch Mountain: Remember when The Rock used to pummel other guys in the ring? Well, in this one, he remakes a Disney classic. Cuteness ensues. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 31, poolside at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley. Free.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: That skull looked like something a production assistant picked up on clearance at Party City. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Spice World: Can you remember any of their songs? Can you believe Elvis Costello has a cameo? Screens at midnight, Saturday, July 31, at the Ken Cinema.
Jaffa: This Israeli film looks at young lovers who come from different faiths in the mixed-religion city of Jaffa. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Herb & Dorothy and Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight: The Survey Select exhibit keeps its weekly arts-oriented double features going. Starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, at the Wonderbread Factory, Downtown.
Enter the Dragon: Bruce Lee would have turned 70 this year, and the San Diego Asian Film Festival will celebrate his legacy with his first ass-kicking film. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, at Piazza Carmel Shopping Plaza in Carmel Valley. Free.
Wedding Crashers: Not only is it funny, but Wedding Crashers also paved the way for the modern R-rated comedy. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Goonies: Whatever happened to the kid who played Data? Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
The Blind Side: Whether or not she was deserving, Sandra Bullock was extraordinarily gracious when she accepted her Best Actress Oscar. Screens at dusk, Wednesday, Aug. 4, at Harbor Square in Liberty Station. Free.Now Playing
Breathless: This gorgeous new print celebrates the 50th anniversary of Jean-Luc Godard's amazing debut. Ends July 29 at the Ken Cinema.
Kisses: A sweet little Irish film about two young runaway teens in Dublin.
The Love Ranch: Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci—both of whom have Oscars, remember—star in this look at the early days of Nevada's brothel industry.
Salt: Angelina Jolie is a CIA agent who beats down a ton of people after she's accused of being a Russian spy.
Ramona and Beezus: There's a perfectly good chance this adaptation of Beverly Cleary's book will be charming. Or it might destroy your childhood memories.
Restrepo: This documentary keeps the cameras on a U.S. platoon in one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan for a solid year. Harrowing.
Inception: Christopher Nolan's follow-up to The Dark Knight is epic, complex and beautiful. In short, it's the stuff that dreams are made of.
The Kids Are All Right: Decent family drama about a lesbian couple played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore whose family is altered when their children seek out the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who made it all possible.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice: They needed someone incredible to star as the crazy wizard in this huge live-action adaptation of the classic cartoon. Instead, they got Nic Cage. Jay Baruchal plays the broom.
Predators: Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger is no Adrien Brody, but when it comes to action movies, Brody is no Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Despicable Me: Steve Carrell voices Gru, an animated master criminal trying to steal the moon—until he meets three little girls who think he might make a better dad than a crook.
The Girl Who Played with Fire: The second film in the massively successful Millennium trilogy gives us more of Lisbeth Salander, the ass-kicking female hacker heroine, and less originality.
Cyrus: Mumblecore meisters Jay and Mark Duplass go big-time with a real studio film. John C. Reilly is a sad sack who meets Marisa Tomei, the girl of his dreams. There's only one problem—her 21-year-old son, Jonah Hill, who still lives at home and is a little too tight with his mother.
I Am Love: Tilda Swinton is terrific as the Russian matriarch of a wealthy Italian family who falls for a chef who just happens to be her son's best friend.
The Last Airbender: M. Night Shyamalan directs a big-screen, live-action adaptation of the hugely popular Nickelodeon animated series. That sounds so wrong. Oh, and it's in 3-D.
The Living Sea: The latest IMAX film at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center looks at all the creepy crawlies that live down in the deep blue.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: Blah blah blah Robert Pattinson. Blah blah blah Taylor Lautner.
The Ultimate Wave Tahiti: The latest IMAX entry at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park follows super surfer Kelly Slater as he does his thing on some massive waves.
Grown Ups: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider are a bunch of dumbasses. And they're in a movie together.
Knight and Day: Neither Tom Cruise nor Cameron Diaz has the box-office power they once did, so will a thriller starring the two of them have more or less drawing power?
Winter's Bone: Debra Granik's noir thriller, set in a closed meth-cooking community in the Ozarks, is as intense and grim as its name. It's well-written and well-made and features an amazing performance from Jennifer Lawrence, a 17-year-old who has to find her deadbeat father or she and her young brother and sister will lose their home.'
Toy Story 3: Any idea where the toys you loved as a kid ended up? When Andy goes off to college, Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang end up at a day-care center.
The Karate Kid: So, they remade the '80s teen movie with Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi and Jaden Smith—son of Will—as Ralph Macchio. Wax on, indeed.
Sex and the City 2: A must for the fans, a miss for the rest of us.
Exit Through the Gift Shop: Legendary prankster street artist Banksy's first film is a brilliant take on art and its nature. It may sound stuffy, but it's engaging, insightful, funny and subversive—and smarter than anything else you'll see this summer. Run, do not walk, to see this one. Ends July 1 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
The Secret in Their Eyes: This Argentinean thriller won the Best Foreign Language award at this year's Oscars. It's good, spanning decades and the relationship between a federal prosecutor and the boss with whom he's infatuated.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Thriller about a male journalist and a female hacker hired to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of a member of a Swedish crime family.
Hubble: Leonardo DiCaprio lends his pipes to this IMAX film, which uses CGI and real footage to take a close look at Saturn's rings. Just stay away from Uranus. 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.