There is one enormous difference between the 1982 movie First Blood, which spawned the Rambo franchise (as well as Son of Rambow, reviewed on this page), and its source material, David Morrell's novel. In the movie, the best of the series, Rambo is led away in handcuffs and goes on to three sequels. In the book, he dies, a victim of the system that created him, chewed him up and spat him out. That's right, he dies. For real. That means no Rambo: First Blood, Part 2, no Rambo III and no Rambo.
There's been plenty of debate over whether saving Rambo's life in First Blood was the way to go, because the popular wisdom about the franchise nowadays is that the films are little more than exercises in ultra-violence. But here's the thing—the filmmakers actually shot another ending, in which Rambo does get killed.
On Thursday, May 15, the night before Son of Rambow opens in San Diego, you can decide for yourself which they should have gone with. That night, First Blood will be shown on about 400 screens across the country, in preparation for a Rambo DVD set coming out later in the month. Following a video interview with Stallone and a showing of First Blood, you'll be treated to, yes, the death of Rambo.
It plays Parkway Plaza, Rancho San Diego Cinema, AMC La Jolla, AMC Mission Valley, Horton Plaza and Edwards Mira Mesa, and every show starts at 7:30 p.m.—Anders Wright
Before the Rains: This Merchant Ivory flick, set in the 1930s in India, is the English-language debut of director Santosh Sivan. As a nationalist fervor grips the region, a young man must decide what to do when he discovers that his English employer (Linus Roache) is having an affair with a local village girl (Nandita Das). The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: Disney returns the four Pevensie kids to the CGI world of Narnia, where a millennium has passed since they first went through the wardrobe. Things in Narnia have gone downhill, so, once again, they must take up arms to ensure that Prince Caspian, another Christian allegory, ends up large and in charge.
How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer: America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) stars as the youngest member of three generations of Mexican-American women in writer/director Georgina Riedel's first feature. She's a teenager, hooking up with her first boyfriend. Her single mother is looking for love, too, and, hey, even grandma finds herself with a gentleman caller.
Son of Rambow: Set in the 1980s in England, this is a charming look at imagination and friendship as seen through the eyes of two boys, both outsiders. Will is a member of a religious sect who has never seen a TV show or a movie. Lee is a rebellious troublemaker who shows Will a bootlegged copy of First Blood. This, of course, blows Will's mind, and before long, the two are making their own version of the Stallone film. But the movie breeds fame and celebrity, and when word gets out at school, everyone wants in on the action. See our review on Page 31.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies: Before James Bond, there was Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, also known as OSS 117, a French secret agent whose adventures were chronicled in something like 250 novels. This new film parodies the entire genre, sending de la Bath to Cairo, where he shoots and seduces his way through the story, saving the world in the process.
One time only
The Motorcycle Diaries: Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a pre-revolutionary Che Guevara, off on a road trip with his best bud (Roderigo de la Serna), doing the things young men do as they look for their place in the world. Of course, not so many of them end up taking over small island nations. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
El Mariachi: The movie that gave Robert Rodriguez his start is the star of the Museum of Photographic Arts' Pop Thursday. An unemployed musician whose guitar case is stashed with weapons is on a quest for vengeance. The terrifically fun and violent precursor to Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico was shot for about $7,000, some of which Rodriguez raised by volunteering for medical experiments. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 15, at MOPA in Balboa Park.
La destinazione: A young police recruit stationed in Sardinia is faced with investigating a murder in a culture very different from his own. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, May 16, at the Italian Community Center in Little Italy.Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino's character-ridden, dialogue-spurting, timeline-shifting, criminal masterpiece was retro even when it was new. It's still as cool as the other side of the pillow, even if it is what gave John Travolta his career resurgence. Screens at midnight Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17, at the Landmark La Jolla Village Cinemas.
The Princess Bride: It has romance, sword-fighting, magic, death-defying stunts, Andre the Giant and Fred Savage when he was in his Wonder Years-cute phase. Is there a better date film? Inconceivable. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 15 through 17, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.Washington, You're Fired: Straight-up look at the chumps running the country. Guaranteed to piss off even the most apathetic voter. Screens at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 18, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
The TV Set: Jake Kasdan directed this smart little movie, which stars David Duchovny as a guy whose personal vision for his show is morphed and twisted every which way by the suits, led by Sigourney Weaver in a brutally funny performance. Loosely taken from Jud Apatow's experiences with his one-season wonder, Freaks and Geeks. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 19, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
Death Note: The popular comic translated to anime, and on the big screen. A student finds a mysterious notebook that will kill anyone whose name he writes in it. But when crooks start dropping dead, the authorities send a detective after him. Unrated, but seriously brutal. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, May 20 and 21, at AMCs Mission Valley and Mira Mesa and at Horton Plaza.
FilmPower!: Press Rewind: Cool idea. A collection of student films from now-famous directors. Included are George Lucas' Electronic Labyrinth: HX 1138 4EB, Field of Honor from Robert Zemeckis, a pair of shorts from David Lynch and others from Mira Nair, Andrei Tarkovsky and Richard Bare. Oh, and appropriate for any student-oriented event, it's free. It happens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at Porter's Pub on the UCSD campus.
The River: Sanjayit Ray actually served as a non-credited assistant director on Claude Renoir's 1951 film, about three girls living in Bengal, India, all of whom fall for the same man. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at Balboa Park's Museum of Photographic Arts.
The Flamingo Kid: This marked a bit of a career turn for Matt Dillon, who had made his name in S.E. Hinton movies. Sort of an 1980s Graduate, Dillon is Jeffrey Willis, a recent high-school grad trying to figure out the facts of life. So he takes a summer job at the Flamingo beach club, where he idolizes Phil Brody (Richard Crenna) and romances hottie Carla Samson (Janet Jones). Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Red Belt: This David Mamet film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mike Terry, an L.A. jiu jitsu instructor and former special-forces guy who refuses to fight for money. Too bad, since he doesn't have enough of it, and when an accident involving an off-duty police officer leaves him deep in the hole, he's quick to hitch his wagon to a fading action star (Tim Allen, in a terrific departure) who takes a liking to him and tries to set him up with some film work. But this is David Mamet, so the fix is in. It isn't long before Terry's stuck between a rock and hard place, forced to decide whether earning some cash in the ring is more important than trading in his dignity.
Flight of the Red Balloon: Juliette Binoche is a single Parisian mother harried by her children and her work, so she takes in a Taiwanese nanny (Fang Song), who finds herself connecting to the young boy Simon and his imaginary world, in which they are constantly shadowed by a red balloon. Eventually, of course, it's the child that teaches his mother about what's important.
Speed Racer: The Wachowski brothers, of The Matrix fame, turn their act PG, taking on the classic Japanese cartoon Speed Racer. Emile Hirsche is the man in the Mach 5, and the movie looks amazing, a Dr. Seussian future of freakish colors, car racing and corporate malfeasance. But though the effects are great, the movie has plenty of problems, like a lengthy running time, a thin plot and unremarkable acting.
Then She Found Me: Helen Hunt stars in her own directorial debut as April, an adopted woman desperate to become pregnant. Which is unfortunate, since her man-child of a husband (Matthew Broderick) has left her, just as her talk-show-host birth mother (Bette Midler) has found her. The only upside might be Frank, a hunky single dad whose wife has also given him the slip, but only if she can avoid screwing things up.
What Happens in Vegas: Both Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz are in Vegas when they meet, get drunk and—surprise!—wake up hung over and married. If that's not bad enough, one of them wins a huge jackpot on the other's quarter, leading a judge (Dennis Miller) to order them to stay hitched. Hey, if they can do it, their kids might not be so bright, but they sure will be good-looking.
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!
Made of Honor: Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey is a good-looking dude who's been playing the field for years. But when his best friend, Michelle Monaghan, gets engaged, he realizes she's the one and agrees to be her maid of honor in hopes of hooking up and perhaps not destroying her happiness in the process.
Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay: The sequel to the surprise 2004 pot-smoking hit picks up where the last one left off. Sadly, Harold and Kumar's trip to Amsterdam is thwarted by The Man—in the form of government agent Rob Corddry, who sends them to detention instead. Most important: Neil Patrick Harris is back. As Neil Patrick Harris.
Baby Mama: Making the jump from writer to SNL cast member to 30 Rock star to the big screen, Tina Fey is Kate, a single executive who hires low-class Amy Poehler to be a surrogate mother. The movie is terribly obvious but has its moments. Fey is the lead, but Poehler steals much of the show. Sigourney Weaver has some nice moments as the head of the surrogate agency, and Dax Shepard is hilarious as Poehler's dumb-ass common-law husband. Oh, and look for Steve Martin's extended cameo. The problem is, for a movie that's about women and babies, none of the women are particularly smart; each makes one bad decision after another, unable to see the forest for the babies.
The Visitor: Tom McCarthy follows up his debut, The Station Agent, with this subtle look at immigration. Veteran character actor Richard Jenkins (the dead dad on Six Feet Under) is a burnt-out professor adrift in his life. Things change when he befriends a pair of illegal immigrants in New York, and when one of them is arrested and detained, he finally finds something to inspire him. This is another sweet, subtle film from McCarthy, who makes his points through people instead of politics.
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed: Ben Stein—former Nixon speechwriter and game show host and the “Anyone? Anyone?” teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off—stars in this anti-science treatise in favor of Intelligent Design. Stein, also a former law professor, is a very intelligent guy, but he's also the embodiment of the differences between intelligence and smarts.
88 Minutes: Al Pacino is a professor who spends his off-hours working as a forensic shrink for the FBI, until the day he gets a phone call telling him he has just 88 minutes to live. So he spends his last hour-and-a-half trying to sort out which of his enemies is to blame.
Forbidden Kingdom: An American kid who is, like, seriously into kung fu finds himself transported back to ancient China, where he hooks up with a group of warriors to free the jailed Monkey King. Those monkeys. Always making trouble. Instead of going down as the first film to really tie together the problems with monkey rule, Forbidden Kingdom will be remembered as the first (and perhaps only) collaboration between Jet Li and Jackie Chan.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Jason Segel of Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother wrote and stars in this sweet rom-com, playing Peter, a composer dumped by his TV-star girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). When he heads to Hawaii to clear his head, he finds he's staying at the same resort as her and her hunky new rock-star boyfriend. Both heartfelt and raunchy, Sarah Marshall has plenty of full-frontal nude scenes—and all of them are of Segel.
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?: The title is a question no one seems to be asking. Except for Morgan Spurlock, that is. The Super Size Me guy is doing W.'s work for him, heading to the Middle East in search of the 9/11 mastermind. By simply asking around after Osama, Spurlock finds more than perhaps he should, casting light and explaining the hatred many folks in that part of the world feel about the United States.
Young@Heart: The average age of the Young at Heart Chorus is 80, which means some of them are old enough to have told kids to stop playing the devil's music when rock 'n' roll was young. Still, that doesn't stop this crew of senior citizens from performing tunes by the likes of The Clash, James Brown, Coldplay and The Ramones. File this one under “Uplifting” or “Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.”
Priceless (Hors de Prix): Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a young bartender, is mistaken for a rich dude by gorgeous, web-spinning succubus Irene (Audrey Tatou), who seduces him, only to find that he really just pulls drinks. So she ditches him—but he won't ditch her. Suddenly, the hunter is the hunted, and everywhere Irene turns, there's Jean trying to win her heart. The question is, will his love be enough to win over a woman who is interested only in money? We're not telling, but we definitely ™ Audrey Tatou.
Smart People: There's a fine line between intelligent and smart in this Sundance fave. Dennis Quaid is a brilliant asshole of a college professor, Ellen Page (in her first big post-Juno role) is his straight-laced, type-A daughter and Thomas Haden Church is the black-sheep adopted brother who chauffeurs Quaid after the latter loses his license. Sarah Jessica Parker, a onetime student of Quaid's, plays the ER doctor who treats the professor, both on and off the job, after an accident. Both dad and daughter are so intelligent they're insufferable, and while Haden Church may not be a scholar, he's smarter than everyone else when it comes to how people tick.
Street Kings: Plotted by L.A. crime-fiction king James Ellroy, Street Kings is another intricately drawn portrayal of crooked cops and dirty deeds, set in present day with Keanu Reeves as tortured detective Tom Ludlow. The movie is smart and cynical, but unlike its natural predecessors—L.A. Confidential (based on Ellroy's novel) and Training Day (written by director David Ayer), Kings isn't blessed with a star who has the chops to pull it all off.
Nim's Island: This adaptation of Wendy Orr's novel finds Abigail Breslin as Nim, a young girl who imagines the island she lives on is magical, based on the fictional adventurer Alex Rover in her favorite books. But when her dad goes missing, Nim teams up with Alex Rover's author (Jodie Foster) to track him down. Gerard “This. Is. Sparta!” Butler plays Nim's dad and Alex Rover.
Shine a Light: Martin Scorsese directed this Rolling Stones concert film, shot in two nights at New York's venerable, 2,800-seat Beacon Theatre in 2006. Jack White, Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy all came out to play with them, and the Clintons were in the audience. Man, that must've been a tough ticket.
21: Utterly formulaic adaptation of Ben Mezrich's great little airport read, Bringing Down the House, about the MIT card-counting team that took its act to the Vegas blackjack tables and made a ton of money.
Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk: Robert Redford narrates this new Imax journey, following environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. as he rafts his way through the Grand Canyon, on the Colorado River, along with anthropologist Wade Davis, as the two document new efforts to conserve water and restore the river. Music is provided by the Dave Matthews Band. Grand Canyon Adventure plays only at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Counterfeiters: Winner of this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, The Counterfeiters is about Operation Bernhardt, the Nazi attempt to counterfeit British and American currency in the waning days of World War II. It tells the story of Jewish master forger Sally Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), who heads up the detail of craftsmen whose lives are spared as long as they support the German war effort, knowing the entire time that if they do their job well, the war will continue on.
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, Grand Canyon Adventure 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.