Comic-Con is completely sold out, so if you waited this long to get passes, well, you waited too long. But there are still some Con-oriented film-going options for the too late, the unlucky and the lazy:
Killer Tomatoes Double Feature—The San Diego Asian Film Festival gets into the act with the homegrown favorite. Yes, camp classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was shot at UCSD, and it eventually pollinated a sequel—Return of the Killer Tomatoes—that featured a young George Clooney sporting the Hottest. Mullet. Ever. Both can be caught, for free, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at the Park at Petco Park.
Superman: The Museum of Contemporary Art's Parking Lot Pictures presents the superhero of superheroes. Yep, the Man of Steel himself, Superman. Of course, you know Superman projects are cursed, right? No, seriously, Google it and you'll see. Still, you'll want to get to the parking lot of MCASD's La Jolla branch faster than a speeding bullet. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24. Free.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: For the third year in a row, the cult classic plays the Lyceum Theater at Horton Plaza just in time for the Con. So, yes, you can do the time warp yet again. Dress up if you're the sort. It's Comic-Con. You won't be alone. Screens at 11 p.m. Thursday, July 24. $10.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark: It's the 20th anniversary of Elvira's cult classic, and the original Elvira, cleavage and all, will be on hand, introduced by the unexplainably incredibly attractive Peaches Christ. This is the only known print of the film, and it will roll at 10:30 p.m. Friday, July 25, at the Gaslamp Reading Cinema, Downtown. $20 at www.elvira.com.
Plan 9 From Outer Space: Ed Wood's Plan 9 is widely considered the worst movie ever. Hell, Tim Burton even made a movie about it (Ed Wood). So who better to take it apart on the big screen than RiffTrax, the Artists Formerly Known as Mystery Science Theater 3000? Screens at 7 and 9:30 Saturday, July 26, at the Civic Theater, Downtown. $27.50.
SD Children's Film Festival: So, this one you do need a pass for. But if you've got one, any kid you take who's 12 or younger will get into the Con for free (on Sunday only). If you get in, the Children's Film Festival will be running kid-oriented flicks all day long.
Bustin' Down the Door: Surfing doc about the summer of 1975, when a crew of shredders from South Africa and Australia descended on Hawaii, changing the sport forever.
Chris & Don: A Love Story: Tina Mascara and Guido Santi direct this touching documentary about the romance between American painter Don Bachardy and British writer Tom Isherwood. As it chronicles the blossoming of their unlikely relationship, the film draws on a wealth of archival footage and Isherwood's diary entries, read by consummate Brit Michael York.
CSNY Déjà Vu: Concert documentary about the reunion between Crosby, Stills, Nash and, of course, Young and the tour that followed, taking political music to the people as another war rages in the distance.
Step Brothers: An excuse for Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly to act like 14-year-old boys. Both are 40-year-olds who still live at home. When their parents get hitched, they suddenly find they have to get in each other's faces. Yes, it's scatological and raunchy—it's so over-the-top that Step Brothers benefits from its R-rating. Still, it feels like it's a movie for 15-year-old boys who will have to sneak in. See our review here.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe: Is the truth still out there? It's been more than half-a-decade since Mulder and Scully went on the run and The X-Files went off the air. The new movie, directed by series creator Chris Carter, revisits the iconic characters, giving them another case that'll test their mettle and, perhaps, their faith.
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Sin City: Comic-Con starts Thursday, July 24, but you can get your geek on a night early with this groundbreaking adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels from Miller himself and Robert Rodriguez. An epic, twisted, mostly black-and-white, rotoscoped crime drama featuring Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba and an amazing Mickey Rourke, Sin City is as important as Pulp Fiction was when it came out. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: One of the ultimate high-school comedies, written by Cameron Crowe and starring Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates and many others, including bit roles for Anthony Edwards, Nic Cage and Forest Whitaker—but it wouldn't have been the same without Sean Penn's Spicoli, who needs only tasty waves and a cool buzz to be just fine. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at Stone Brewing Company Bistro in Escondido. Free.
First Person Singular: I.M. Pei: Chinese architect I.M. Pei discusses his life and work, which includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Gallery of Art. Part of a quarterly film series presented by the San Diego Architecture Foundation, the screening is preceded by a social hour at 6:30 p.m. and an introduction by architect Jennifer Luce. Screens at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 24, at Luce Loft, 1037 J St., Downtown. $10 donation suggested.
War Games: Man, you think the Internet is slow now? It took Matthew Broderick ages to almost blow up the world in one of the earliest geek films. He had to dial the number (that's right—dial a number), stick the phone in that giant cradle and wait. Still, there weren't any pop-ups. The movie is celebrating its 25th anniversary and will include never-before-seen interviews and a peek at the wretched-looking straight-to-DVD sequel. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at AMC Mission Valley, Horton Plaza and Edwards Mira Mesa. $20.
In a Lonely Place: One of Bogart's most disturbing performances. He's a violent, washed-up screenwriter suspected of murder until Gloria Grahame provides him with an alibi. Still deeply unsettling. Screens on 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 24 and 25, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Citizen Video Short Film Faves: Every film in this collection of shorts has won the hearts and minds of the Citizen Video staff. Oh, and Christmas Island, described as San Diego's newest minimalist surf punk band, will offer up a gift and play the intermission. It all takes place at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at the Whistle Stop Bar. Free.
Selena: Remember when Jennifer Lopez wasn't famous? We can't either. A pre-ubiquitous J. Lo is slain Chicana pop singer Selena Quintanilla in Gregory Nava's 1997 biopic. The always-dignified Edward James Olmos plays her father Abraham, and Jon Seda is love interest Chris Perez. Sing along at 7 p.m. Friday, July 25, at Market Street Plaza Amphitheater in Encanto. Free.
The Shining: “Here's Johnny!” It's hard to imagine a more fully realized horror film than this 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's novel. Sure, Jack Nicholson gives one of his most memorable (and overblown) performances as Jack Torrance, but it's director Stanley Kubrick's groundbreaking use of steadicam that turns an isolated mountain resort into the embodiment of pure evil. Don't bring the kids. Screens at midnight Saturday, July 26, at the Ken Cinema.
Arizona Dream: Serbian director and two-time Palme d'Or winner Emir Kusturica's surrealist film stars Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and, strangely, Jerry Lewis. It's the kind of cult curiosity devoted movie nerds appreciate, and the WTF factor is raised even higher by a subplot concerning, um, rare halibut. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 26 and 27, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Repo Man: Easily the best thing Emilio Estevez has ever done, this freakish punk-rock fairy tale follows Otto, a repo man apprenticed to Harry Dean Stanton, on the trail of a stolen car with dead aliens stashed in the trunk. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 27, at the Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
Who Killed the Electric Car?: Find out whodunnit in this entertaining, very timely documentary. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 27, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
The Cup: Two young Tibetan boys arrive as refugees at a monastery in India, but their desperate need to watch the World Cup does a number on the quiet serenity the monks are generally used to. Still, as the Buddha said, life is suffering. Screens at 6 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the Tibet Gift House in Normal Heights. $5 donation suggested.
Persepolis: Sure, it's animated, but there are no cute animals or cars in Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical account of growing up in Iran before, during and after the 1979 revolution. It looks simple, taking its old-school, black-and-white look from the author's graphic novels, and it's so good, so beautiful and so tragic that you might forget you're watching a cartoon. There's a reason France offered it up as its entry in the Foreign Language Film category for last year's Oscars. Screens at 6 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Energy Crossroads: Progressive San Diego and Debbie Cook, the mayor of Huntington Beach who's running for Congress, present this film about how fucked up gas prices are. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 29, at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest. Free.
RECOUNT: The Story of the 2000 Presidential Election: Originally shown on HBO, RECOUNT is about how Karl Rove stole the 2000 election. Directed by Jay Roach, the guy who made the Meet the Parents and Austin Powers franchises, the movie stars Kevin Spacey as Ron Klain, then Al Gore's chief of staff, and Laura Dern as villainous Katherine Harris. Chads will dangle at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 29, at Lestat's in Normal Heights. Free.
A Hard Day's Night / Making of a Hard Day's Night: Perfect night out for Beatlemaniacs. A Hard Day's Night is, of course, the Beatles' classic black-and-white day-in-the-life film. And the making-of doc that follows it will show you just how real—or not—what you just finished watching was. Got that? Whatever—just love me do. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
National Lampoon's Vacation: Ah, Wally World, destination of kings. And tourists, like the Griswold clan, who go through hell and back to get there. They're led by the hapless Clark, played to the hilt by Chevy Chase, when he was at the top of his super powers. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
The Dark Knight: It's finally here, and yes, Christopher Nolan's new Batman movie is everything you hoped it would be. An epic two-and-a-half-hour crime drama that examines the complicated nature of good, evil and heroism and simply must be seen on an Imax screen to be believed. Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhard are all well-served by a tense, taut script, but it truly is Heath Ledger's movie, as he plays Batman's nemesis, The Joker, with a shambling malevolence that's terrifying and intense.
Mamma Mia!: The hit Broadway musical consisting of nothing but Abba tunes is turned into a big, fat Hollywood movie. But this one's got Meryl Streep as an overbearing mother. Her daughter Sophie is getting married, but she doesn't know who her dad is. So she invites all of mom's exes—Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård—to the wedding.
Space Chimps: Andy Samberg plays a chimp—not a stretch—who's the grandson of the original space-bound monkey. He and his cohorts end up on a strange planet that is, sadly, not the Planet of the Apes. But it is ruled by nasty overlord Jeff Daniels. Oh, yeah, it's animated. In case you weren't sure.
Tell No One: A French doctor, whose wife was murdered years ago, finds that the police have reopened the case and that he's a suspect once again. Worse, he gets an e-mail that links to a video clip that suggests that perhaps his wife is actually still alive.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Guillermo del Toro and his big-fisted, solid-rock superhero are back for a rematch with the supernatural. This is a good thing. We got the origin story out of the way in the first movie, so del Toro should be freewheeling and fancy-free when it comes to this story, which has something to do with Hellboy saving Earth from the demon hordes. There is no director working today with such command over visual imagery, and Ron Perlman makes for a great Hellboy.
Journey to the Center of the Earth: Kids won't have to be too tall to ride the undoubtedly forthcoming theme-park ride based upon this 3D re-envisioning of the Jules Verne classic, because it is decidedly PG. It's not bad, necessarily, just somewhat bland and inoffensive. Brendan Fraser is the laughingstock of the scientific community who takes his nephew and a hot Icelandic mountain guide down into, well, the center of the earth. Where there are T-Rexes and all sorts of other dangers, all of which conveniently throw themselves directly at the camera. The 3D effect is OK, but the movie's appeal is going to fall off dramatically on DVD.
Meet Dave: Eddie Murphy is an alien who has fallen to Earth and is trying to fit in. Except that he's not just one alien—he's actually a robot being controlled by a hundred tiny little aliens, led by their captain—Eddie Murphy. Our prediction: stupid as shit, and makes a ton of dough.
The Wackness: Terrific coming-of-age story about a young pot dealer in NYC in 1994 trying to get to college, listen to phat beats and get with his shrink's stepdaughter (played by Juno's BFF, Olivia Thirlby). Oh yeah, and the shrink is the pot-smoking, pill-popping Ben Kingsley, going through a midlife crisis and delivering a performance that's equal parts tragic and hilarious. Don't miss his make-out scene with Mary-Kate Olsen.
Hancock: In Peter Berg's dark new picture, Will Smith is Hancock, something of a quintessential American superhero—powerful as a locomotive, generally drunk and surly, often doing far more harm than good in a world of good intentions. But things change when he saves the life of idealistic publicist Jason Bateman, because the new guy decides to remake Hancock's public image, and because his wife—Charlize Theron—is way hot.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson: Can a documentary really capture all the insanity and fear and loathing that really was Hunter S. Thompson? Consider—the director is Alex Gibney, who won an Oscar last year for Taxi to the Dark Side, and who is a gonzo filmmaker of sorts. And while most people think of him in terms of the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson was also an astute writer of both sports and politics, not to mention culture. And ladies, if that's not enough, Johnny Depp provides the narration.
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl: Abigail Breslin stars as a precocious young reporter. It's got a seriously high-profile supporting cast, but if you're the target demo, you shouldn't be reading CityBeat.
Wanted: The real star of this summer actioner isn't poor-loser-turned-assassin James McAvoy or seriously MILFy Angelina Jolie—it's Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, who goes to town with his massive Hollywood budget and his R-rating.
Wall*E: Our hopes are high for the cute li'l titular robot, whose trailers are enough to make us both laugh and cry. It's hundreds of years in the future, and Wall*E's been cleaning up our mess since we left. And along the way, he's gotten lonely. Sure, we already get the An Inconvenient Truth messaging, but Pixar has yet to do us wrong.
Get Smart: Do 20-something hipsters today even know what Get Smart is? OK, primer time: This is a film based upon a Mel Brooks-created spy-spoof show that ran for five years, starting in 1965, starring the very funny Don Adams. Someone, somewhere, decided that a remake would make a good vehicle for Steve Carell.
Mongol: It's like the early life and times of Genghis Khan. Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar last year, this biopic is epic and bloody, as young Genghis is lowered to less than nothing. Of course, he then proceeds to kick everyone's ass until he unites the tribes, rules Mongolia and waits for Part 2 of the planned trilogy to be filmed.
Kung Fu Panda: Jack Black voices Po, a chunky kung fu-fanboy Panda who's just as surprised as the legendary fighters he admires when he's chosen to save the Valley of Peace from the brutal snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane). Panda looks kind of ridiculous on the surface, but it looks kind of awesome on the screen, one of those for-children-of-all-ages experiences. The animation is top-notch, and the action sequences are exciting and, unlike most animated flicks, not impossible to follow.
You Don't Mess with the Zohan: There's been some talk that Adam Sandler's latest vehicle is actually sort of subversive, because it comes complete with plenty of jokes about terrorism and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. But it also has Mariah Carey, which kind of cancels out any political overtones. The sometimes-funnyman is a former Mossad agent who runs off to New York to become a women's hairdresser.
Sex and the City: The Movie: The big-screen version of the hit HBO show. Insert your own “women go cuckoo for this” joke here.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: It's great to have Harrison Ford back in his trademark fedora, even if the convoluted script feels more like just another sequel than a reinvention. Still, Indy 4 is easy-going entertainment and will easily be one of the biggest box-office earners of the year.
Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man. Da na na na na Nah na na na na na Nah na na nah! Has he lost his mind? Da na na na na Nah na na na na na Nah na na nah!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: No, it's not a time warp—the love-it-or-hate-it camp classic continues its midnight run in its 37th year of release. When the lead character of the film is a transvestite scientist named Dr. Frank-N-Furter, you know you're in for some seriously trashy viewing. And, of course, this is the one movie where you want the audience shouting at the screen. Screens Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas.
Fridays at the Fleet: Sea Monsters and Mysteries of Egypt are some of the rotating films shown each Friday at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center's IMAX theater where, for only $7.50, you can catch four flicks. Sure, it's more Discovery Channel than Transformers, but the Fleet's enormous old-school dome screen is way cool, and some of the talent—narrators like Meryl Streep or Johnny Depp—is impressive. You might find yourself as mesmerized as the little kiddies sitting around you. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Check www.rhfleet.org for the screening list.