Paolo Sorrentino's film Il Divo was nominated for the Palme D'Or at Cannes and wound up taking home the jury prize instead. It's a brilliantly made film, exquisitely shot and directed in an operatic fashion that's certainly reminiscent of dudes like Scorsese and Coppola. The biggest hitch for American audiences, however, is that it's about the life and political career of Giulio Andreotti, an Italian mover and shaker who's been named Senator for Life in that country, in spite of the trial he underwent for collusion with organized crime.
Why is that a problem? Well, let's face it, there's no shortage of Americans who can't name the prime minister of Canada or the president of Mexico. We're a proud nation of gun-toting individuals, many of whom will never get closer to Rome than our local Olive Garden. The learning curve, she is steep.
But even if all the nuances are tough to follow—the movie is about Andreotti's seventh and final election to Italy's parliament and the trial that followed—from a purely filmmaking standpoint, Il Divo is a must-see diva. The camera is a moving beast, creating strange angles that capture a stunning production design. Toni Servillo's performance as Andreotti, who is quick of wit, if diminutive in stature, is mannered and fascinating. He creates a man—often referred to in Italy as the Hunchback—who might be best considered a cross between Truman Capote and Dick Cheney, with a dash or three of Dr. Evil for good measure.
It truly is a gorgeous film, and even if it just makes you a tourist of one country's recent political history, well, there are few countries that are better to take a vacay to than Italy.
Cheri: Set in 1920s Paris, a woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), breaks a younger man's heart, sending him spinning into a fantasy world. Based on the novels of Collette, the movie's directed by the always-reliable Steven Frears from a screenplay by Christopher (Dangerous Liasons) Hampton.
Empty Nest: A middle-aged couple are forced to finally deal with each other when their final child leaves home. In English, with Spanish subtitles.
My Sister's Keeper: The summer's first big weeper. Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric have a second child, Abigail Breslin, in hopes of providing a donor match for their leukemia-stricken firstborn.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: In one of the last summer blockbusters of the year, giant robots blow shit up.
Under Our Skin: This documentary takes the medical and insurance industries to task for not dealing with Lyme disease, which can be contracted by more people each year than HIV, avian flu and the West Nile virus combined.
Whatever Works: The combination of Larry David and Woody Allen should be a comedy slam dunk, but it just feels like two old guys kvetching.
One Time Only
Dazed and Confused: Richard Linklater's epic look at the lives of middle-school and high-school kids on the last day of school in 1976 is one of the best movies about the 1970s—ever. Even if it unleashed Matthew McConaughey's career. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Iron Man: Yes, the Robert Downey Jr. superhero movie was one of the most entertaining of 2008. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be mocked. Catch the movie with running commentary from the fine folks at Rifftrax at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, at Stone Brewery and Bistro in Escondido. Free.
Casablanca: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, Ingrid Bergman walks into Humphrey Bogart's. Absolutely an American classic. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 25, through Sunday, June 28, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Best chase scenes ever: Citizen Video pulls together footage from some of the great chase scenes in cinema history. We're partial to Steve McQueen in Bullitt. Starts at 9 p.m. Thursday, June 25, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
The Wizard of Oz: Somewhere, over the rainbow, you showed up early enough to get a good spot for your blanket. Screens at dusk, Friday, June 26, at Heritage Park in Old Town.
Wet Hot American Summer: The list of people on their way up who appeared in this T&A take on '80s softcore camp comedies includes Janeane Garofolo, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Molly Shannon and Michael Ian Black. Screens at midnight Saturday, June 27, at the Ken Cinema.
The Road Warrior: In the all-time-favorite action movie of CityBeat film editor Anders Wright, Mel Gibson takes on some seriously ugly post-apocalyptic bad guys while trying to get enough gas for his pimped-out ride. Screens at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 28, at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Free.
King Corn: Corn—called maize by our Native American friends—is a troubling crop. This doc looks at how we grow it, distribute it, run our cars with it and eat it with butter. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 28, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
Fugitive Pieces: Rade Sherbedgia (the “sneaky effin Russian” from Snatch) is a Greek archaeologist in Nazi-occupied Poland who shelters Jakob, an orphaned 7-year-old Jewish boy. After the war, they migrate to Canada, but as the boy grows into a man, he can't shake the loss of his family. An early kickoff for the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, it screens at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 28, at the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture in La Jolla.
Elegy: Isabel Coixet directs this adaptation of Philip Roth's short novel The Dying Animal, about serial-seducing college professor Ben Kingsley, whose life is turned upside down when he falls for former student Penelope Cruz. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 29, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
For the Bible Tells Me So: This documentary monitors five all-American families that include gay sons or daughters. San Diego Pride is putting on the screening, and any donations received will go toward bolstering youth programming in this year's festival (July 18 and 19). Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 30, at Lestat's West in Normal Heights. Donation requested.
Top Gun: Most famous movie ever shot in San Diego? Nah, that's Some Like it Hot, but Top Gun's a close second. Just imagine a world in which Goose scared off Iceman and the Russkies because Maverick didn't make it. We can dream, right? Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 1, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Princess Bride: If you've seen Rob Reiner's 1987 fantasy and didn't like it, you have no soul. Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn and Peter Cook only add to the reasons you should want to revisit this one. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 1, at Stone Brewery and Bistro in Escondido. Free.
Sleep Dealer: Alex Rivera's dystopian border movie has shades of The Matrix and Brazil. It'll be interesting to see what happens he can accomplish if someone gives him a real budget.
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.
Revanche: The lives of a crook and a cop intertwine in this Austrian thriller that was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
Year One: Jack Black and Michael Cera star in what could be subtitled History of the World, Part 2.
Away We Go: Director Sam Mendes continues his examination of the American psyche with this road-trip comedy about a young pregnant couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) looking for parenting role models.
Emilio: Landmark Theatres founder Kim Jorgensen sits in the director's chair for this picture, about a young Mexican man making his way to L.A. to find his missing sister.
Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29: Documentary about an epic football game between a bunch of snotty rich kids.
Imagine That: The latest Eddie Murphy family flick finds financier Eddie solving his problems via his daughter's imaginary world.
Street Dreams: A talented young skateboarder is in trouble in school and with the law. The story you've seen before, but the skating looks awesome.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3: Whenever this remake, which stars Denzel Washington as a subway dispatcher and John Travolta as the guy who takes a subway car hostage, slows down, it's easy to see how ridiculous it is.
Departures: This Japanese film about a cellist who becomes a mortician of sorts earned the Best Foreign Film Oscar in February.
Outrage: Kirby Dick's documentary takes on closeted conservative politicians. And, yes, he names names.
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.
Little Ashes: Yes, another film about Salvador Dali. In this one, however, the surrealist is played by Twilight vampire hunk Robert Pattinson.
Land of the Lost: Will Ferrell turns a totally cheesy TV show into a big-screen movie whose trailer can't even make it look good.
My Life in Ruins: It's hard to believe how much money My Big Fat Greek Wedding made. Well, the star and writer of that movie, Nia Vardalas, is back, and this time she's going to Greece.
Drag Me to Hell: Sam Raimi returns to his roots with a small horror film that stars Alison Lohman as a sweet girl going to hell.
Easy Virtue: Period comedy starring Jessica Biel as a goofy American who marries into an uptight British family.
Up: The trailer for Pixar's first 3D film doesn't sell it, but this story of an old man who flies his house to South America via helium balloons is just as good as what you've come to expect from those guys.
Valentino, the Last Emperor: Documentary about the legendary designer Valentino Garavani.
The Girlfriend Experience: Porn star Sasha Grey stars in Steven Soderbergh's new film, examining the life of a top-shelf call girl.
The Brothers Bloom: Dirty-rotten-scoundrel brothers Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo target wealthy heiress Rachel Weisz as their final mark before leaving the business.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: CGI history-revision lesson with Ben Stiller and Robin Williams.
Summer Hours: Three adult siblings are forced to revisit their childhood when their mother dies and they need to go through her things.
Terminator Salvation: The franchise reboot, which stars Christian Bale as humanity savior John Connor, has some mind-blowing action sequences, but they're not enough to make you ignore the timeline issues the movie doesn't address.
Angels and Demons: More fun than The Da Vinci Code, but just as stupid.
Rudo y Cursi: Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna reunite for the first time since they made Y Tu Mama Tambien, playing small-town brothers who find success playing soccer on the national level and also find themselves succumbing to all the temptations that come with fame.
Star Trek: The JJ Abrams-directed franchise reboot boldly goes to the heart of the original show and makes it fun again. It's fun, fresh and exciting, the first badass Trek movie since The Wrath of Khan. Good for Trekkies, good for non-Trekkies and great for Trek.
Every Little Step: Meta documentary about Broadway hopefuls auditioning for a revival of A Chorus Line, a musical about Broadway hopefuls auditioning for a Broadway musical.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Critic-proof summer blockbuster that kicks off the entire season. Decent action sequences, sure, but we prefer our Wolverine to be a short, squat badass, not a brooding sex symbol.
Obsessed: Idris Elbra, aka The Wire's Stringer Bell, has a gorgeous wife in Beyonce and a gorgeous stalker in Ali Larter. Things could be worse.
The Soloist: Adaptation of Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez's book, about the talented homeless musician (Jamie Foxx) he befriended. Robert Downey Jr. plays Lopez.
17 Again: Teen heartthrob Zac Ephron is an old dude who suddenly gets young again. You know, like Benjamin Button.
Sin Nombre: Cary Fukunaga's first feature earned him this year's Best Director award at Sundance. It's a harrowing tale of two immigrants—one a Mexican gang member, the other a young Honduran girl—who find themselves connected through violence as they head north.
Fast and Furious: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker re-team for the fourth entry in the fast-car franchise.
Sunshine Cleaning: Almost a sequel to Little Miss Sunshine. Some of the same producers are on board, the film is also shot in New Mexico and Alan Arkin plays pretty much the same part. Still, it has that vibe that made LMS so appealing, as Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play sisters who start a business cleaning up violent crime scenes.
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.