The biggest drawback, though, is that if you go the press-conference / interview route, more often than not, you don't get to see the exclusive footage and the bells and whistles that got you psyched about movies in the first place.
In any case, I spoke with a lot of really smart, interesting people during Comic-Con. By the end, I was excited about a few movies, including Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim; Rian Johnson's Looper; Neill Blomkamp's District 9 follow-up, Elysium; and, most of all, Django Unchained, the new film from Quentin Tarantino that's slated to be released on Christmas Day. In it, Jamie Foxx plays Django, a one-time slave turned bounty hunter who wants to free his wife (Kerry Washington) from the sinister clutches of a plantation owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Neither Tarantino nor DiCaprio participated in interviews, but I spoke with Foxx, Washington, Walton Goggins and Christoph Waltz, who earned an Oscar for his role in Tarantino's last film, Inglourious Basterds, and I came away with the sense that each of them considers the movie deeply personal and important, dealing with an ignoble part of our shared history in a way that's honest, brutal and, this being Tarantino, sometimes funny.
In other news, the Full-Moon Drive-In had a successful test run last week, and now they're making it official. Opening night of the new venture will feature Top Gun, which will buzz by at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 20, followed by E.T. on Saturday, July 21, and When Harry Met Sally on Sunday, July 22. It all goes down in the parking lot of Pacific Beach Middle School (4676 Ingraham St.); tickets can be purchased at fullmoondrivein.com.
Also, Dan Bennett, the longtime film critic at North County Times, has a little something going on the side. He's the guy behind the San Diego International Children's Film Festival, which wraps up its current season Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. All screenings are free for everyone. Find details at sdchildrensfilm.org.
30 Beats: New Yorkers (Paz de la Huerta, Justin Kirk, Lee Pace, Jennifer Tilly and others) intersect in excessively sexual ways during a summer heatwave.
Americano: Mathieu Demy, the son of filmmakers Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy, pays homage to his parents in this drama about a young Frenchman (played by Demy) who travels to L.A. to sort out his mother's estate.
The Dark Knight Rises: Christopher Nolan's epic Batman trilogy concludes.
Drunkboat: John Malkovich plays an alcoholic whose coincidental contact with his family offers him a shot at redemption.
The Magic of Belle Isle: Morgan Freeman is a wheelchair-bound, alcoholic writer who ends up living next to single mother Virginia Madsen and her three daughters in Rob Reiner's extremely sentimental new film.
One Time Only
Gayby: A woman and a gay man who've been friends since college decide to have a kid together now that they're in their 30s. Presented by FilmOut at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Shut Up and Play the Hits: This concert film of LCD Soundsystem's final show at Madison Square Garden screens on Wednesday and Thursday, July 18 and 19, at Hillcrest Cinemas.
The Big Lebowski: See how the rug really ties the room together at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at Gingham in La Mesa.
Point Break: Best surfer heist movie ever. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy and her posse hit the yellow road while you eat dinner and celebrate Pride. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at The Range in Hillcrest. Reservations suggested.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: Will Ferrell is almost funny enough to make NASCAR cool. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.
Batman: Adam West won't be confused with Christian Bale anytime soon. The 1966 original screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 19, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park.
Key Largo: They really don't make movies like this anymore. Bogart takes on Edward G. Robinson down in Florida, directed by none other than John Huston. That's tough stuff. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 19 and 20, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Dark Knight Marathon: Leading up to Christopher Nolan's final chapter, you can catch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 19, at several area theaters. It culminates with The Dark Knight Rises right at 12:01 a.m., and by the time you're done, you will have seen almost nine hours of Batman.
The Bus: Dude, this documentary about the VW bus screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 19, at Hansen's surf shop in Encinitas. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry: This documentary about China's celebrated artist and intense dissidents will open in San Diego in August, but you can catch it early at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 20, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, where Weiwei's exhibition Zodiac Heads / Circle of Animals: Gold is on view.
The Room: Beth Accomondo of KPBS will introduce what often makes lists of Worst Movies Ever at midnight, Friday, July 20, at the Ken Cinema.
Silent Film Classics: Organist Dean Mora will accompany these rare and classic silent films, including George Melies' Trip to the Moon, the film featured in Martin Scorsese's Hugo. Starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at the Balboa Theatre, Downtown.
Dead Alive: Long before he made those Lord of the Rings films, Peter Jackson churned out this immensely gory, hysterically funny horror comedy, which screens with Chris LaMartina's Witch's Brew at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at the 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown.
Ivanhoe: Robert and Elizabeth Taylor star in this classic at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 21, in front of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Let's Make Love: Yves Montand plays a billionaire pretending to be an actor so he can get close to Marilyn Monroe, the leading lady in a Broadway show that's all set to satirize him. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: It's just a jump to the left, at midnight, Saturday, July 21, at the Ken Cinema.
Dirty Dancing: Have the time of your life at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, at Gingham in La Mesa.
Little Miss Sunshine: This beloved road-trip comedy, about a family trying to get their awkward young daughter to a beauty pageant in Southern California, won a Best Screenplay Oscar and earned Alan Arkin a Best Supporting Actor award. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, at the Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Rio: Animated flick about a macaw from Minnesota (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who finds himself adrift in Rio with a girl bird (Anne Hathaway) who's every bit the free spirit that he is not. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.
Cocktail: Things get tricky when a guy tells his mom he's dating his girlfriend's roommate rather than his girlfriend in this Bollywood rom-com.
Eega: Bollywood sci-fi thriller about a murdered man who's reincarnated as a housefly bent on revenge.
Beasts of the Southern Wild: This Sundance success, about a little girl living in Louisiana after an apocalyptic environmental disaster, is beautiful and beguiling. See our feature on Page 29.
Bol Bochchan: The lastest Bollywood romantic comedy to play Horton Plaza.
Ice Age: Continental Drift: So cold.
Kimmy Dora and the Temple of Kiyeme: A Filipino horror-comedy about twin sisters whose lives start getting really weird when they both accept marriage proposals. Ends July 19 at UA Horton Plaza.
Natural Selection: An infertile Christian woman from Texas is shocked to learn that her dying husband's been secretly making donations at sperm banks throughout their marriage and now has a slew of kids across the country. Ends July 19 at the Ken Cinema.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Apparently, he does whatever a spider can. In 3-D, too.
Katy Perry: Part of Me: She's also in 3-D!
Neil Young Journeys: Neil Young is old-school. Ergo, no 3-D. This one's directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme. Ends July 19 at the Ken Cinema.
Savages: Oliver Stone directs this thriller about two pot growers, played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, who take on a Mexican cartel after the bad guys kidnap their girlfriend (Blake Lively). As in, they share.
Take This Waltz: Michelle Williams is just amazing in Sarah Polley's second film, playing a Toronto woman who's happily married to a cookbook author (a surprisingly restrained Seth Rogen) but finds herself falling for her neighbor.
Deep Sea: This IMAX undersea film was made by Del Mar's Howard and Michele Hall and is narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Magic Mike: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey and some other oiled-up boys take off their clothes for dollar bills.
People Like Us: When his father dies, Chris Pine learns that he has a half-sister, played by Elizabeth Banks. He goes to her to explain the situation and give her part of their dad's estate but finds that, well, she's kinda hot. Yeah, that's creepy.
Ted: Mark Wahlberg's girlfriend gives him an ultimatum: It's either her or his walking, talking, foul-mouthed teddy bear, voiced by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane, who also wrote and directed.
To Rome with Love: Woody Allen is his own worst enemy, because every time he turns out a mediocre movie—and this pastiche of stories set in Rome is certainly mediocre—it gets judged against his previous work.
Tyler Perry's Medea's Witness Protection: What the world needs now, apparently, is another Medea movie.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: Finally, American children get to learn about Abraham Lincoln.
Brave: Princess Merida would rather be shooting arrows than playing dress-up, but when she defies her Scottish tribe, she sets loose a horrible curse that only she can fix.
Your Sister's Sister: Lynn Shelton's latest improvised film finds Emily Blunt taking Mark Duplass to her family's vacation home while he's grieving his dead brother, and he ends up getting busy with her sister, Rosemarie DeWitt. Ends July 19 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Rock of Ages: Yes, that's Tom Cruise belting out hair-metal tunes in this '80s rock 'n' roll musical.
Safety Not Guaranteed: This sweet, quirky Sundance rom-com stars Parks & Recreation's Aubrey Plaza as a magazine intern investigating a guy who placed a classified ad looking for a time-traveling companion.
Moonrise Kingdom: Set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, this new one about two 12-year-olds who fall in love and run away from the dysfunctional adults in their lives will be adored by those who worship at the altar of Wes Anderson.
Madagascar 3: Apparently kids still fall for this. Parents, too.
Prometheus: Ridley Scott returns to outer space, exploring the origins of humanity and the original Alien. It's worth seeing on the big screen and in 3D.
For Greater Glory: Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria star in this account of the 1920s-era Cristero War, the uprising against the Mexican government over religious freedom. Though it was shot in Mexico, it's in English.
Flying Monsters 3D: No, it's not a crappy studio blockbuster—this one is all about dinosaurs and was written and directed by Richard Attenborough, using Avatar-like technology, and plays the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
The Intouchables: French blockbuster sensation about an aging Caucasian paraplegic who hires a poor young black man to be his caretaker.
Snow White and the Huntsman: Big-budget retelling of the fairy tale finds the huntsman (Thor's Chris Hemsworth) teaming up with Snow White (Kristen Stewart) to try to end the reign of the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron).
Chernobyl Diaries: Oren Peli, who wrote and directed Paranormal Activity here in San Diego, wrote this found-footage thriller about tourists who hire a guide to take them to that glowing vacation spot, Chernobyl.
Men in Black 3: Will Smith has to go back in time to prevent Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement from murdering Tommy Lee Jones, who's represented in the past by Josh Brolin.
Battleship: Peter Berg's adaptation of the Hasbro board game, pitting the American Navy against invading aliens, is seriously loud and explodey.
Bernie: Jack Black plays the real-life Bernie Tiede, a popular Texas funeral director who was convicted of murdering an 81-year-old widow.
The Dictator: Sacha Baron Cohen—aka Borat, Bruno and Ali G—is back as a despot willing to do anything to prevent the spread of democracy.
What to Expect When You're Expecting: No, this probably wasn't begging to be adapted into a feature film, but that didn't stop Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison and Jennifer Lopez from getting involved.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: There's a charm to this movie about British retirees who outsource their retirement to India, mostly because the cast is made up of folks like Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith.
Dark Shadows: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp just can't remake enough stuff. This time, it's the campy gothic soap from the '70s which, apparently, was dying for the big screen.
The Avengers: It set box-office records for the biggest opening weekend ever, and for good reason. Joss Whedon's take on the Marvel franchise is well-written, superbly edited, funny and enormously entertaining.
Headhunters: A corporate headhunter who steals art on the side finds himself up to his neck in trouble. Ends July 19 at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
To the Arctic 3-D: Cute-animal-movie alert No. 2. Meryl Streep narrates this new IMAX movie about a mama polar bear and her two cubs.
Think Like a Man: Four guys decide to get even when they learn that their girlfriends have been using Steve Harvey's relationship advice against them. Not surprisingly, it's based on Steve Harvey's book.
The Cabin in the Woods: This satirical deconstruction of the horror movie, from Joss Whedon and Lost veteran Drew Goddard, is one hell of a lot of fun.
The Hunger Games: The most anticipated movie of the year to date is about a dystopian future where teens like Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are forced to kill one another to stay alive.
21 Jump Street: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in a comedy do-over of the undercover-cops-in-high-school TV show that launched Johnny Depp's career.
Secret of the Cardboard Rocket: Two kids build a rocket in their garage and end up in outer space in this IMAX film screening Saturday mornings in March at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity: Liam Neeson narrates this IMAX film, screening at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Born to be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.