The last decade has been pretty good to Matthew Broderick. No, he hasn't had any breakout blockbuster roles, but the guy doesn't need it—he's got all that cheddar from his Ferris Bueller days, and his wife has done pretty well headlining a little show/movie called Sex and the City. What Broderick has had are really good, challenging parts that aren't always the lead or even likeable, but he's been turning in great work in movies like Then She Found Me and The Producers, not to mention two terrific films, Election and You Can Count on Me.
His role in the new Finding Amanda is the same sort of thing. He's Taylor Peters, a formerly drug-and alcohol- and currently gambling-addicted TV writer who heads to Vegas to find his trick-turning 20-year-old niece, played by Brittany Snow. Of course, Sin City is a town that's not so hot for anyone trying to give up vices, and there are some great moments, when it's clear the too-young-to-drink-hooker has some of her shit more together than the 40-something professional.
The film is the feature debut from Peter Tolan, a longtime writer and producer who collaborates with Dennis Leary on the terrific firefighter TV show Rescue Me, and it has its moments, though it also tries to tie together too many subjects. Still, Broderick's performance is what's going on here, as he lies, gambles and drinks his way through trying to be a good person and do the right thing.—Anders Wright
Brick Lane: Turns out that, for women, arranged marriages don't always result in blissful paradise. Based on the bestseller from Monica Ali, Brick Lane is the story of Nanzeen, a 17-year-old sent from Bangladesh to be the hot young wife of a London man, a fat old dude who makes her life miserable. But when local bad boy Karim enters her life, she has to make some tough decisions.
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 Singing Revolution: The Russians finally left the Baltic state of Estonia, along with its neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, in 1991, something the natives had hoped for since the end of WWII. This documentary from James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty explores how the Estonians collectively hung on to their culture in the face of an overwhelming Soviet assimilation blitz, primarily through their own nationalist folk songs. It's equal parts intense and beautiful, and even if you've never been there (as cities go, the capitol, Talinn, rocks), you'll wish you were Estonian.
Tuya's Marriage: Tuya, who lives in Inner Mongolia, has been taking care of her legless husband and the rest of her family for years. But once she's injured, they decide to split up so she can find a man who will be able to take care of her. But leaving her crippled husband behind isn't quite as easy as she hoped it might be.
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, and don't miss The Wackness. See our full review on this page.
One time only
Blazing Saddles: Sure, these days Mel Brooks is mostly synonymous with The Producers and Young Frankenstein, thanks to the Broadway musicals. But his masterpiece will always be Blazing Saddles, a brutally funny, anti-PC satire about what happens when a black man is hired as the new sheriff of a town in the Old West. Oh, and it's often regarded as the first film to have fart sounds on screen. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation: After seeing the original Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1982, three 12-year-olds from Mississippi started work on a shot-by-shot re-creation of the original film. It took them seven years to finish. The result is an absolute must-see for Raiders fans—they literally hit every single shot, occasionally improvising when they couldn't get their hands on a plane, say, or a huge explosion. The Adaptation isn't available on DVD, because of a licensing agreement the trio have with Spielberg and Lucas, and you'll appreciate it more seeing it with a big group as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art-San Diego's Parking Lot Pictures series. Screens as 8 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at MCASD's La Jolla Branch.
Saboteur: Yet another classic from the fat man, Alfred Hitchcock. This one stars Robert Cummings as Barry, framed as a saboteur and on the lam to clear his name and, if he's lucky, prevent the bad guys from striking again. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 10 and 11, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!: You probably wouldn't attend without a kid in tow, but if you have a carpet rat, you'll have a decent time. Gorgeous animation keeps things Seussical, and the celeb voices—Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, mainly—don't overshadow the premise. Plus, the movie's message of tolerance and anti-conformity is a decent one for kids of all ages. Screens outdoors at dusk on Friday, July 11, at Old Town's Heritage Park. Free.
The Royal Tenenbaums: Wes Anderson's third movie will always have to live with the fact that it came right after Rushmore. But this star-studded affair is still solid, as child-prodigy sibs Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson each must face up to long-lost Dad (Gene Hackman), who returns bearing cancer and greed. Screens at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Influx coffeehouse in Golden Hill. Your $15 benefits the Greater Golden Hill Community Development Fund.
Reservoir Dogs: Just imagine if Quentin Tarantino hadn't slipped this script to Harvey Keitel at the right time. Bam—no Pulp Fiction. But this gritty crime drama, in which seven strangers are recruited to pull off a diamond heist, is a classic in and of itself. And it gave new life to the old Stealers Wheel tune “Stuck in the Middle.” Screens at midnight, Saturday, July 12, at the Ken Cinema.
King Creole: Danny Fisher is a nice young boy who flunks out of high school and just can't keep a job until he starts playing music. Oh, did we mention he's Elvis Presley? Walter Matthau plays a mobster who wants him to play his club or something. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13 at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Lost Boys: Man, vampires were so cool when this came out. And it wasn't just vampires that were cool; it was these vampires, hanging out by the beach, eating hot chicks, waiting for the likes of Jason Patric and Corey Haim to move to town. Sure, it looks a bit dated—surfer vampires like Keifer Sutherland would never have feathered hair like that in the new millennium, but if you want to prep for Lost Boys: The Tribe, the direct-to-DVD sequel that comes out later this month (we're not kidding; plus Corey Feldman's in it), there's nothing better than the original. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 13, at the Whistle Stop in South Park. Free.
Waking Life: The neo-rotoscoping that Richard Linklater used in A Scanner Darkly was pioneered here, as a cast of characters wax philosophic on dreams and the meaning of life. The script's deep thoughts go hand-in-hand with the movie's psychedelic look and feel. Check it out at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 13, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest.
Be Kind Rewind: Simple. A magnetized Jack Black erases all the videos in his buddy Mos Def's shop, so they have to re-shoot, well, everything. Including (but not limited to) Driving Miss Daisy, Rush Hour 2, Ghostbusters, Robocop, Back to the Future and The Lion King. There is only one man who could make this movie, and it's Michel Gondry, the dude behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Luckily, he did. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 14, at the Downtown Central Library. Free.
Batman Begins: This reinvention of Batman kinda rocked, due mostly to a sharp director (Chris Nolan) and an awesome actor playing Batman (Christian Bale). And there's no better way to get prepped for The Dark Knight, which opens on July 18 (see it in Imax, for real, get your tickets early, gonna be a transcendent movie experience) than to watch the first one. Poolside. In a cabana. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Pont Loma. Free.
El Mariachi: Sweet. Over at Stone Brewing, they have the movie that made Robert Rodriguez, well, Robert Rodriguez, and they're hosting a nice selection of Mexican craft beers to go along with it. An unemployed musician whose guitar case is stashed with weapons is on a quest for vengeance. The terrifically violent precursor to Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico was shot for about 7 grand, some of which Rodriguez raised by volunteering for medical experiments. Anything for art, right? Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
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.
Encounters at the End of the World: Werner Herzog spent seven weeks in Antarctica making this odd little documentary, ostensibly about who ends up falling all the way down to the bottom of the world. But Herzog is a master of this sort of encounter, and while the people he meets are fascinating, it's the land and water and what's underneath all of it—much of which feels almost entirely alien—that is truly amazing.
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.
Savage Grace: Based on true events, Savage Grace tells the tragic tale of Barbara Baekeland (Julianne Moore), heir to the Baekeland plastics fortune. Her husband thinks their son is a loser, so to protect him she gets a little too close, especially as he gets older. Actually, she gets way, way, way too close, as in, read between the lines too close.
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.
Constantine's Sword: Former priest and National Book Award-winning writer James Carroll tries to come to terms with his relationship with Christianity in this documentary. Sadly, in the course of his research, he determines that the church, historically, is all cozied up to violence and has a lot of 'splaining to do. Liev Schreiber, Natasha Richardson and Philip Bosco all lend their pipes.
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.
War, Inc.: John Cusack co-wrote and stars in this anti-war satire, playing Hauser, an assassin sent to the recently invaded and occupied nation of Turaqistan to off a foreign oil minister, run a Brand U.S.A. trade show and preside over the wedding of the Central Asian version of Britney Spears. It's ultimately too broad and scattered but has some moments of deadly cleverness.
Up the Yangtze: Yung Chang's doc is ostensibly about damming up the Yangtze River, but it's really a portrait of what it's like to be poor in China. Heartbreaking.
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.
The Love Guru: Mike Myers returns to his first live-action movie in years. This time he's Pitka, an American-born, foreign-raised self-help guru returned to the United States to annoy the shit out of audiences.
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.
The Rape of Europa: Anne Archer narrates this sharp documentary, which had its premiere at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival earlier this year, about the artistic treasures the Nazis plundered during World War II, and also about the many people who risked—and sometimes lost—their lives to prevent Hitler and Co. from getting their hands on even more.
The Foot Fist Way: Fred Simmons' (Dany McBride) 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 Happening: The latest end-of-the-world project from M. Night Shyamalan stars an airborne toxin that compels people to commit violent suicide, sending survivors like science teacher Marky-Mark Wahlberg and his estranged honey, Zooey Deschanel, on the run.
The Incredible Hulk: Call it Hulk 2.0, now with 78 percent more smashing. This time around, Edward Norton is Bruce Banner, on the run from General Ross (William Hurt) and trying to find a cure for his gamma radiation poisoning, which turns him seriously mean and green if his heart rate gets too high. Certainly it's better than Ang Lee's ‘03 take on the character, which missed the mark because it assumed that fans wanted to see Banner suffering through his trauma, when what they really want is to see him rip shit up. Hulk has a new foe, too, in Tim Roth, who plays supersoldier Emil Blonsky, who also undergoes the procedure and becomes Abomination (who is—we have to admit—kinda cooler than the Hulk).
The Promotion: Sure, it's billed as a comedy, but The Promotion, which stars Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly as Chicago-area supermarket assistant managers bucking for the same leg up, is far more emotional and tragic than your standard laugher. Still, the two dudes are funny guys, and the script, from first-time director Steve Conrad, lets both of them shine.
When Did You Last See Your Father?: It's the age-old father/son struggle for Colin Firth, who has to come to terms with his father's behavior and their historically conflicted relationship, as his dad (always-awesome Jim Broadbent) suffers from a terminal illness.
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.
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.
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. 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 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.
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.