The coolest thing about The Foot Fist Way isn't actually how funny Danny McBride is as Fred Simmons, a narcissistic buffoon who runs a Tae Kwon Do school in Concord, N.H. No, the coolest thing is how the movie found its way into the multiplex. McBride, along with writer/director/co-star Jody Hill and co-writer/co-star Ben Best, shot the movie in 19 days and for $70,000 and then failed to get a deal at Sundance in 2006. But the picture went viral among the Hollywood comedy elite, and eventually the trio got a call: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay loved it and wanted to release it under their banner. Now all three dudes have careers.
In the movie, Fred's world falls apart when his wife gets it on with somebody else. Unable to keep it together, he goes on a pilgrimage to meet his hero, Chuck “The Truck” Wallace (Ben Best), an alcoholic martial-arts movie star who ends up making things even worse. It's a small movie, and parts of it feel ragged, but it's clearly something that wasn't made with test audiences in mind. The Foot Fist Way is unapologetic and raunchy; scene after scene leaves you feeling squeamish and uncomfortable. The filmmakers are hoping for a sort of Napoleon Dynamite kind of success, albeit with an older audience ('tweens will have a tougher time seeing it, what with the R-rating and all).—Anders Wright
Fugitive Pieces: Rade Sherbedgia (the “sneaky f-in' Russian” from Snatch) is Athos, a Greek archaeologist in Nazi-occupied Poland who shelters Jakob (Robbie Kay), an orphaned 7-year-old Jewish boy. After the war, Athos and the boy emigrate to Canada, but as he grows into a man (Stephen Dillane), Jakob can't shake the loss of his family.
Jellyfish: This Israeli film by Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret tells wildly varying, intertwined stories of three Tel Aviv women who seemingly have little in common. But as their tales unfold, the trio is bound by cultural and familial issues, as well as several serendipitous occurrences. The film, which had its local premiere at the Jewish Film Festival, sounds heavy, but it's more of a comic, magical realist version of Babel.
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. Dustin Hoffman is terrific as Po's conflicted sensei, and though the movie plays out plenty of kung fu movie clichés, that's the idea, grasshopper.
Reprise: An assured and confident debut from director Joachim Trier about two young aspiring Norwegian writers. It's all about the trials and tribulations, as well as the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, that come with growing up and trying to express and define one's self through any artistic medium. You could call it “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Writer.” Please see our review on Page 27.
Stuck: The reviews are mostly positive for this off-kilter little noir, which stars a corn-rowed Mena Suvari as a nurse's assistant who plows her car into homeless Steven Rea. Dude ends up halfway through her windshield, so she drives home and stashes him in her garage. And that's when things get really weird. From director Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame, perhaps unsurprisingly.
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. Our prediction: many gags about farting and way too much Rob Schneider.
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Juno: You either embraced or hated this cute little teen-pregnancy film that earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Diablo Cody. Ellen Page is great as Juno, a knocked-up teen who spouts her own pop philosophy with every single line. It's the dialog that people either loved or loathed, because you either went with the stylized approach or thought that no teen ever talked that way. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Anyone? Anyone? Most of these screenings are 21-and-older, but this one's open to minors (with accompanying old folks, that is). Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, at the Stone Brewing Company Bistro in Escondido. Free.
A Fistful of Dollars: Clint Eastwood's first spaghetti western still kicks much ass. He's the man with no name, a drifter who finds himself in a town controlled by two warring families. Sure, he gets beat up, shot at and generally abused, but that doesn't stop Clint from dealing his vengeance with lead, friend. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Free.
Five Easy Pieces: A Nicholson film that almost never sees the big screen. Jack is Bobby, a silver-spoon kid with a talent for the piano who left his family behind to work on oil rigs. When his dad gets sick, he packs up the car and his dim girl (Karen Allen) and heads home, where a culture clash awaits. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 5 and 6, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties: Title pretty much gives you the details, as people who have been detained under the USA Patriot Act tell their stories. Screens at 6 p.m. Friday, June 6, at the Sierra Club offices, 3820 Ray St. in North Park. Free, following a finger-food potluck.
Back Nine at Cherry Hills: The Legends of the 1960 U.S. Open: Ah, golf. The sport of kings and other rich people. The last half of the 1960 tourney was a legendary showdown between Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and this HBO doc examines the game itself and the three men who went up against each other. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 6, at Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla. Free.
The War on Democracy: Veteran journo John Pilger takes a hard look at the relationship between the U.S. government and some of the Latin American governments it has either taken down or propped up. Screens at 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 6, at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest. Free.
E.T.: It's ironic that one of the highest-grossing and best-loved American movies of all time is about an alien with a glowing finger that “touches” children. You'd think Reagan-era conservatives would've had a field day with that one. Just sayin'. Little green dude phones home at dusk at Old Town's Heritage Park. Free.
Sinav: Five Turkish students desperately need to get their hands on the answer to an exam, which is prepared by the government and protected by armed guards. So they turn to the only thief in the world capable of pulling off the job: Jean-Claude van Damme. For real. Presented by the America Turkish Association of SoCal, it screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 7, in Room 105 in Center Hall on the UCSD campus. Free.
Evil Dead 2: After midnight, Bruce Campbell's gonna let it all hang out. Guts, that is. Vats of guts and gore and blood and other nastiness. It's all part of the Ken Cinema's latest midnight movie series. This is, oddly, a truly seminal cult film and one of the greatest things Campbell has ever done, so give him a hand. For the uninitiated, it's directed by Sam Spider-Man Raimi. Screens at midnight, Saturday, June 7, at the Ken.
Arsenic and Old Lace: Frank Capra's 1944 dark comedy is about two elderly sisters who take in elderly single men as boarders and then kindly murder them. Cary Grant is just terrific as Mortimer, the charming nephew who learns their secret on his wedding day. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Flash Gordon: Not only is Citizen Video showing the 1980 classic, it's also having an ultra-rad trivia contest. Hmm, sample questions? Who performed the mega-awesome theme song? Which Flash Gordon actor also played James Bond? Are love interest Dale Arden's hot pants too hot for reentry? How does Flash get his hair to stay so tubularly feathered in zero gravity? These and other questions will be answered at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 8, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
Stay: Ryan Gosling is Henry, a disturbed art student who has promised to kill himself on his 21st birthday. Ewan McGregor is Sam, the shrink trying to save him. But Sam finds himself deeply immersed in the kid's freaky, mind-bending obsessions. It's from director Marc Forster, who sometimes hits (Stranger Than Fiction and Monster's Ball) and other times misses (Kite Runner). Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 9, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
35MM: Offshore: This time around, the San Diego Film Festival's summer rooftop doc series tackles the ocean. Ambitious, sure, but that means sand sculptures, docs about surfing from pros and amateurs alike and, with any luck, skimpily clad good-looking people. Scads of prizes given out, along with one free beer (free beer!) per attendee. Screens at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 10, at the Beach on top of the W Hotel Downtown.
Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody: Based on the popular comic series by Japanese artist Tite Kubo, this awkwardly titled anime feature has a two-night run in theaters across the country. In the ongoing battle between the Soul Society and the Valley of Screams, a Soul Reaper called Senna holds the key to saving the world. If that sounds just awesome, congrats, you're the targeted demographic. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, June 11 and 12, at AMC Mission Valley, Edwards Mira Mesa and Horton Plaza.
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.
300: The Spartan-heavy, pec-laden, FX bonanza 300 cries out for running commentary from your stupid, drunken friends. But what if you were friends with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 geeks? Then it would be just like what's going down at Stone Brewery, when Rifftrax (the artists formerly known as MST3K) tell the Spartans just where to stick those spears. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, at the Stone Brewing Company Gardens in Escondido. Free. 21-and-older.
Children of Huang Shi: Based on a true story, Roger Spottiswoode's film follows George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an English journalist who escaped the Japanese atrocities at Nanking in 1937, winding up taking care of a remote Chinese orphanage. He eventually walked more than 60 boys hundreds of miles, helping them escape from both the Japanese army, which would have killed them, and the Chinese army, which would have conscripted them. Chow Yun-Fat also stars.
The Fall: It took one-named writer-director Tarsem three long years to shoot The Fall, a gorgeous mess of a movie. A 1920s stuntman (Lee Pace) lies in a hospital, crippled by a broken back and dying of a broken heart. He tells a young girl epic tales of a band of heroes aiming to take down a nefarious emperor, all the while hoping she'll steal him a fatal dose of morphine. There's sumptuous eye candy here, blue cities and incredible slo-mo sequences, but unfortunately, the story—as well as the story within the story—loses its way.
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. The Strangers: Creeptastic. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are staying at their isolated vacation house when three masked intruders knock on the door and tell them they're about to die.
Surfwise: Doug Pray's documentary about surf patriarch Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz and his nine surfing children sneaks up on you. Initially, you might want to emulate the kids' upbringing, all living in a cramped camper, surfing every day instead of going to school. But by the end, it's also clear that raising your kids in a salt-encrusted bubble has its disadvantages, too.
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.
Roman de Gare: The only film willing to take on Indiana Jones, this creepy murder mystery stars the always-interesting French actor Dominique Pinon as a guy who may or may not be a serial killer who is being investigated by a thriller writer as a possible character in her new book. 'Course, if he is a killer, maybe she doesn't want to get too close.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.