Presented as an essential and immediate document for our time, Dirty Wars —opening Friday, June 21, at Hillcrest Cinemas—exposes the shadowy details behind secret U.S. Special Forces operations being waged in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill stoically occupies the center of nearly every tense shot, asking probing questions and reflecting through calculating voiceovers that border on poetic. The film positions Scahill as a tenacious hero battling for truth against the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the most covert of military units, whose near-universal striking power is sanctioned by the president himself. This clear-cut dynamic is ultimately problematic when considering the complexities of the material.
By taking a baseball bat to Obama-era foreign policy instead of using a scalpel, Scahill sensationalizes the government's lies regarding secret night raids that have left hundreds of civilians dead. This is disconcerting since the essence of his work is undeniably thought-provoking and necessary, especially considering the debate over secret drone strikes.
His rigorous investigation begins with interviews of one Afghan family in the town of Gardez who lost four of their own to a brutal raid led by the JSOC, referred to as "American Taliban" by locals. The shocking revelation prompts Scahill to dig deeper, revealing the unit's widespread strikes in Yemen and past operations in Iraq, and an ever-expanding kill list of targets that includes American citizens abroad.
Each of Scahill's glaring revelations feels staged for maximum emotional effect. Whether it's director Rick Rowley's kinetic Bourne -like visuals or Kronos Quartet's brooding string score, the look and sound of Dirty Wars almost always trumps the content. Throw in Scahill's endless musings about professional integrity and the film feels like one man's personal highlight reel posing as social commentary.
The Bling Ring : Sofia Coppola takes aim at our celebrity-obsessed culture in a film based on true events surrounding a string of high profile thefts in Beverly Hills. See our review on Page 20.
Dirty Wars : Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill documents the brutal secret war being waged by U.S. special forces in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. See our review on Page 20.
Midnight's Children : This lush visual epic from Indian director Deepa Mehta follows the stories of two boys switched at birth. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Monsters University : Professional frighteners and quibbling buddies Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) are back for Pixar's first-ever prequel set during their wild college days.
Much Ado About Nothing : The Avengers director Joss Whedon steps out of his comfort zone and updates the Bard's classically romantic skirmish of wits with this jazzy black-and-white ensemble piece.
The Painting : Director Jean-Francois Laguionie explores class division and inequality in this inventive animated parable about the lives of multiple characters living inside a painting. Screens for one week at the Ken Cinema.
Stolen Seas : An unflinching and complex documentary about the Somali piracy trade and culture. Screens through June 27 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
World War Z : The zombie apocalypse is in full swing as Brad Pitt attempts to save the world from certain demise. It's based on the popular graphic novel by Max Brooks.
One Time Only
Carnival of Souls : Ghostly apparitions, surrealistic dream sequences and disorienting visuals make this one of the all-time great horror films. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at Scripps Ranch Library.
Me, Myself, and Irene : This wild Farrelly Brothers romp stars Jim Carrey as a well-meaning cop with an identity disorder attempting to save Renée Zellweger's damsel in distress. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Office Space : Damn it feels good to be a gangsta! Drink a cold one and watch the disillusioned Initech boys wax wise at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19.
Breaking the Taboo : A documentary produced by Sir Richard Branson about the many failures of the war on drugs. Screens at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. The film will be followed by a Q&A with Branson.
The Demons of St. Petersburg : Italian filmmaker Giuliano Montaldo examines the life of Fyodor Dostoyevsky during a critical and tumultuous moment in Russian history. Presented by the San Diego Italian Film Festival, it screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Bell, Book, and Candle : Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak are experts in bewitching charm in this romantic comedy from 1958. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 20 and 21, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Uncharted Waters : The turbulent and tubular life of surfer Wayne Lynch gets the documentary treatment by filmmaker Craig Griffin. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 21, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof : Sexual frustration and steamy sweat dominate this hot adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Terminator : Arnie's back, as promised, in the original sci-fi masterwork from Avatar director James Cameron. Screens at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at Arclight Cinemas La Jolla.
Beauty is Embarrassing : AIGA San Diego presents this documentary about artist Wayne White ( Pee Wee's Playhouse ) trying to find a balance between his work and his art. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 24, at Tiger!Tiger! in North Park.
Quartet : Verdi, gossip and Dame Maggie Smith. Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this comedy about the residents of a home for retired musicians. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.
The Neverending Story : The flying beast Falcore and a gaggle of other strange creatures help a troubled young boy overcome his fears in this classic 1984 fantasy. Screens at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, June 25 and 26, at Reading Grossmont and Town Square Cinemas.
The Goonies : Chunk, Sloth and the rest of the rag-tag Goondocks gang fight to save their neighborhood from corporate thugs in this playful 1980s adventure. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido.
Sex and the City : All the world's a fashion runway in this movie adaptation of the popular HBO comedy series starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The East : Brit Marling leads an impressive cast of indie-film regulars, including Ellen Paige and Alexander Skarsgård, in this story about a covert eco-terrorist group aiming for high-profile corporate targets.
Greetings From Tim Buckley : Jeff Buckley ( Gossip Girl 's Penn Badgely) makes his musical debut at a Brooklyn tribute concert for his once-infamous father-musician in this tender coming-of-age story. Ends June 20 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Man of Steel : Director Zach Snyder ( 300 , Watchmen ) attempts yet another reboot of the Superman origin story with Henry Cavill sporting the famous tights and Amy Adams cracking wise as Lois Lane.
Hey Bartender : Craft cocktails, anyone? This documentary follows multiple bartenders on their quest to reinvent an entire industry with spiritual creativity. Screens for one week at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Pandora's Promise : Robert Stone's controversial new documentary deals head on with our current energy crisis by focusing on a mosaic of talking heads and alarming stats. Ends June 20 at the Ken Cinema.
Shadow Dancer : Andrea Riseborough stars as an IRA operative forced to choose between survival and loyalty in James Marsh's political thriller, which co-stars Clive Owen. Ends June 20 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
This is the End : It's the end of the world as we know it, and the Judd Apatow reunion tour feels just fine. Directed by Seth Rogen, this comedy apocalypse is sure to include multiple plumes of ganja smoke.
Fill the Void : An 18-year-old Orthodox woman in Tel Aviv sees her imminent arranged marriage fall to pieces when her older sister dies during childbirth.
The Internship : Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson try to re-train themselves in the digital age with a Google internship. Prepare yourself for Lewinsky jokes.
The Kings of Summer : Three teenage boys, sick to tears of their parents, build a house in the woods and run away for the summer.
The Purge : In the not-too-distant future, the government declares all crime legal for a 12-hour period, hoping to thin the herd of humanity. That's too bad for married couple Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, who, along with their children, are taken hostage by some seriously bad guys.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks : This look at Julian Assange and Bradley Manning is put together by Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning director who's made docs such as Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room . Ends June 13 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Wish You Were Here : Joel Edgerton stars in this smart, well-told Aussie drama about a vacation gone seriously wrong.
After Earth : In M. Knight Shyamalan's movie, it's 1,000 years since humanity was forced off of Earth. Now, a father (Will Smith) and son (his son Jaden) are forced to return, as the son has to undergo a dangerous journey to save the father.
Before Midnight : Almost two decades after Richard Linklater teamed up with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy on the romantic fantasy Before Sunrise , the trio comes together for the final film of the trilogy. Jessie and Celine aren't as young as they used to be, and that makes it the best of all of them.
Now You See Me : Four illusionists—Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco—pull off amazing heists against the 1 percent and give the money to the rest of us.
Epic : Animated flick about a young girl who teams up with a ragtag collection of characters to save the world. It features the voices of folks like Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Beyoncé, Colin Farrell and the guy who voiced Bender on Futurama .
Fast & Furious 6 : Surprisingly, No. 5 was the best of the bunch. This time, Dwayne Johnson brings Vin Diesel and Paul Walker on board to try to take down a former special-forces guy (Luke Evans) who's all about vehicular warfare. There's already a No. 7 in the works.
Frances Ha : The new one from Noah Baumbach stars Greta Gerwig as a New Yorker who couch-surfs, apprentices for a dance company without being a dancer and is generally an odd duck.
The Hangover Part III : Drink, drank, drunk.
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's : Matthew Miele's documentary profiles the legendary Manhattan department store, known for being the pinnacle of high fashion.
Star Trek: Into Darkness : The sequel to J.J. Abrams' rollicking reboot feels more like a summer blockbuster than a vital part of the Trek universe. Still, it's always good to see Benedict Cumberbatch on the big screen.
The Great Gatsby : Baz Luhrmann, who made Moulin Rouge , takes on the American literary classic. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby in this tale of class warfare.
Love is All You Need : A Danish hairdresser (Trine Dyrholm) who's lost her hair to cancer travels to Italy for her daughter's wedding, where she meets Pierce Brosnan, an angry widower and the father of her soon-to-be son-in-law.
Iron Man 3 : The summer blockbuster season kicks off with that snarky Tony Stark saving our ungrateful hides once again.
Kon-Tiki : New film about Thor Heyerdal's 1947 ocean adventure, in which he sailed across the ocean on a balsa raft to prove that South Americans were able to cross in pre-Columbian times.
Mud : Matthew McConaughey continues to deliver the emotional goods in this coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy who idolizes a drifter with a violent past.
42 : Biopic about the baseball player who wore that number, which has been retired by every single Major League team. Spoiler: It's Jackie Robinson.
Rocky Mountain Express: The IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center was recently overhauled. This latest entry takes viewers through the Canadian Rockies without leaving San Diego.
Cosmic Collisions : So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels.
Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is.
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.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.