On paper, the animated adaptation of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs looks generic. The characters don't look particularly real, what with their big heads and giant eyes. The voice cast doesn't sport any A-list talent. And the 3D cartoons just aren't as special as they once were.
And yet, it turns out Cloudy is a ray of sunshine. It's one of those rare movies that's just as appropriate for grown-ups as it is for kids. It's got good messages for kids and great jokes for their parents, and, hell, it would even make a good date film, but go to a late show, after the elementary-school set has gone to bed.
It all revolves around Flint (Bill Hader), a pariah of an inventor who lives on the island of Swallow Falls, the onetime sardine capitol of the world. When his new creation makes the sky rain food—literally—he's suddenly a hero, at least in the eyes of the greedy mayor (Bruce Campbell), the cute weather girl (Anna Faris) and the law (Mr. T). Of course, it all gets out of control, and, before long, human-size hot dogs rain down on the city, forcing Flint to try to save both the day and the planet.
The writing in Cloudy is as sharp as a steak knife. Yes, the movie is very funny, but it's also well-crafted, which isn't always the case with kid-oriented flicks (this is, by the way, the only movie you'll see this year that features a monkey voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). Within the strange little world the filmmakers have created, everything makes sense, and the reincorporation of plot points ties the story together nicely. The social commentary—don't be wasteful, eat responsibly, being smart is OK and make sure you tell your kids how you feel—isn't particularly complex, but it doesn't need to be to be both worthwhile and effective.
Really, the film's only drawback is the 3D, which is perfectly suitable but ultimately unnecessary. But that's not much of a drawback. Just make sure you eat ahead of time, because, otherwise, you'll be starving when you get out.
Big Fan: Patton Oswalt delivers in his first dramatic role as an obsessed New York Giants fan who has an ill-fated encounter with his favorite player. See our review on Page 25.
The Burning Plain: Guillermo Arriaga, who wrote Babel and Amores Perros, directs Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger in a non-linear film about a woman trying to come to terms with her past.
Flame & Citron: Based on a true story, this is a look at two Danish resistance fighters during the tail-end of World War II who were sent on a mission to kill someone who was once very close to one of them.
Paraiso Travel: A young Columbian couple moves to New York in the hopes of a better life, but they find it a whole lot tougher than they'd imagined. John Leguizamo has a supporting role in this film, part of the San Diego Latino Film Festival's Cinema en tu Idioma series.
The Informant!: Steven Soderberg directs a pudgy, mustachioed Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a '90s-era whistleblower with aspirations of greatness and a propensity for bending the truth.
Jennifer's Body: Megan Fox stars in this Diablo Cody-penned horror film about a hottie who acquires a serious taste for men. Literally.
Love Happens: Will Jennifer Aniston be the woman who helps widower Aaron Eckhart cope with his loss? Yes.
One Time Only
D Tour: Documentary about Rogue Wave's Pat Spurgeon, whose kidney started to fail just as his band broke big. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Were the World Mine: Marking the first entry of FilmOut's monthly series, this musical is about a young gay man in a repressed town who discovers a love potion, à la A Midsummer's Night Dream. Soon, everyone's in love. Gay love, that is. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Point Break: How can any movie with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze be this awesome? Screens at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Pulp Fiction: Is Inglourious Basterds Tarantino's best? Possibly, but Pulp Fiction is still pretty damn good. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. Free.
This is... Spinal Tap: Featured as the Museum of Photographic Arts' POP Thursday entry, this one still goes all the way to 11. Party starts at 7, movie starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at MOPA in Balboa Park.
VANS Warped Tour 15th Anniversary: Can you believe the Warped Tour has been going on for 15 years? This compilation, shot on Sept. 6, includes blink-182, Katy Perry, Ozomatli and Ice-T. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at four area theaters. www.fathom
The Collective: Groundbreaking video pieces from 2004. All the proceeds go to the San Diego Mountain Bike Association. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Ken Club. Save a buck by biking to the bar.
Muriel's Wedding: The sweet little import that (deservedly) made Toni Collette a star. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, through Saturday, Sept. 19, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Ping Pong Playa: Family-friendly comedy about C-Dub, a Chinese-American who's obsessed with basketball and forced to take over his parents' ping-pong classes when his mom gets hurt. Screens at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, at Market Street Plaza in Encanto. Free.
The Dark Knight: What have you done for us lately, Christian Bale? Terminator Salvation doesn't count. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, at Maffuci Field at Army and Navy Academy. Free.
Field of Dreams: If you show it for free, they will come. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Park at the (Petco) Park, Downtown. Free.
Iron Man: Does whatever a spider can. No, wait. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at Maffuci Field at Army and Navy Academy. Free.
Fidel: The Untold Story: Director Estela Bravo got her hands on all kinds of footage and interviews of the Cuban dictator, even if she didn't really delve into how tough the Cuban people have had it under his rule. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Camille: Sienna Miller heads to Niagara Falls with her bad-boy boyfriend James Franco, hoping a little romance will change his tune. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Age of Stupid: An, ahem, documentary set in 2055 looking back at what happened when we didn't stop global warming. Screens at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at several area theaters. www.ncm.com.
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil: After the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba almost went down, too, until it cut its dependence on fossil fuel. This benefit for the organic farm La Milpa begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, at Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. Free, but donate.
Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Peter Sellers is brilliant in all three roles he plays in Kubrick's masterpiece of political gamesmanship. Fact: He was supposed to play Slim Pickens' role, too, but got hurt and couldn't do it. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, the East Lawn of the Price Center on the UCSD campus. Free.
The Wizard of Oz: Presented in HD in theaters around the country in honor of the 70th anniversary. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23. www.fathomevents.com.
Breakfast at Tiffany's: Sure, it deviates from the book, but Audrey Hepburn is crazy delicious as Holly Golightly. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks' brutally funny, anti-PC satire about a black man hired to be the new sheriff of a town in the Old West. Also, the first film to include fart sounds. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. Free.
The September Issue: A not-so-revealing look at Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
9: Shane Acker's animated movie, starring Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelley as living rag dolls in a post-apocalyptic world, is stunning to watch, even if its style outweighs its substance.
The Baader Meinhof Complex: Lengthy look at the domestic terror cell that terrified Germany during the 1970s, committing bombings and murder in the hopes of undermining the country's still wet-behind-the-ears democracy.
Earth Days: Documentary about the origins of the tree-hugging holiday and the hippies who want you to give up your Hummer.
Play the Game: Grandson teaches Andy Griffith how to be the nursing-home playa.
Sorority Row: All the best serial killer movies involve sorority girls.
Whiteout: Kate Beckinsale is a U.S. marshal tracking a killer in Antarctica, just as the continent is about to be plunged into six months of darkness.
Extract: Comeback kids Mike Judge and Jason Bateman team up for a comedy about a factory owner (Bateman) hoping to have an affair with one of his employees (Mila Kunis).
All About Steve: If you can buy into the idea that Sandra Bullock is smart enough to create crossword puzzles, this romcom, which also stars Bradley Cooper and Thomas Hayden Church, is for you.
Gamer: Hard to understand why Gerard Butler and Michael C. Hall would star in an R-rated futuristic gorefest that looks like it should feature some guy who used to be in the WWE. But it was made by the Crank guys.
My One and Only: It's 1953, and Renee Zellweger takes to the road after hubby Kevin Bacon can't keep it in his pants. But even though she's MILFy, it's tough to find a husband when you've got two teenage sons.
World's Greatest Dad: Robin Williams does his best work in years as the father of a repellent teenager who dies while masturbating. Not surprisingly, it's directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.
The Final Destination: The fourth movie in the franchise—we're guessing not the final one.
Halloween 2: Technically, the second Halloween 2.
It Might Get Loud: Documentary about the art of guitar as played by Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Turn it up.
Taking Woodstock: Ang Lee turns one of the major cultural touch-points of the last half-century into a let's-save-the-family-farm unfunny comedy.
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg: Documentary about groundbreaking TV pioneer Gertrude Berg.
Inglourious Basterds: Tarantino's new brutal, bloody, hysterically funny WWII movie isn't gonna be for everyone, but it certainly is for us. Take that, Hitler!
Cold Souls: Paul Giamatti plays a distraught actor named, um, Paul Giamatti who decides to have his soul extracted in order to play the title role in Uncle Vanya. Giamatti is terrific, and the film is nicely shot and entirely unique.
Shorts: Kid finds a magical wishing rock. Not surprisingly, grownups want to steal it.
Ponyo: The new movie from legendary Japanese animator Miyazaki is gorgeous, good for kids and a nice break from the standard CGI cartoons we see today.
District 9: This terrifically fun Peter Jackson-produced sci-fi flick has two messages. One, discrimination sucks. Two, alien guns rule.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard: Jeremy Piven and crew are brought in to save a Temecula auto dealership from bankruptcy through intense liquidation and R-rated comedy.
The Time Traveler's Wife: Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams star in the massively delayed adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's sci-fi romance.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: It was only a matter of time.
Julie & Julia: Meryl Streep is Julia Child, and Amy Adams is her biggest fan, Julie Powell, who got through life with the help of Child's My Life in France.
G-Force: Animated guinea pigs save the world, destroy the art of filmmaking.
The Ugly Truth: Actually, the ugly truth is that this Katherine Heigl / Gerard Butler romcom looks really stupid.
(500) Days of Summer: A terrific film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. It's a date movie, sure, but be forewarned, this is a break-up story and not a standard love story.
The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow's tense new film focuses on an Iraq unit that specializes in defusing bombs. Well-made, well-written and well-acted—not what you expect for an summer action movie.
Food, Inc.: A documentary about how fucked-up the food system is in this country. Pass the buttered popcorn.
Moon: Director Duncan Jones delivers an impressive debut, and Sam Rockwell gives one of his best performances to date as a lonely miner on the far side of the moon whose entire worldview changes after he finds a body out on the surface.
The Proposal: Ryan Reynolds is Sandra Bullock's assistant. She pushes him into a marriage of convenience (at least for her), but we're guessing it sticks.
The Hangover: They cut a good trailer for Todd Phillips' new film, about three buddies—Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis—who wake up the morning after a brutal bachelor party with no memory of what happened or where the groom is.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Space Theater: After undergoing significant renovations, the Fleet is re-opening its dome Imax theater, complete with a kick-ass new screen. Films vary week-to-week. Showtimes and prices can be found at www.rhfleet.org.
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.