There were a lot of directors in San Diego for last weekend's Comic-Con. Tim Burton was here. So was James Cameron and Jon Favreau. But none of them was working as hard as Luke Ricci, whose dark comedy How to be a Serial Killer is playing at the Reading Gaslamp.
Unlike the projects from those other directors, the fate of Ricci's film—expanded distribution or straight to DVD—depends entirely on how well it does here. So while those other guys were on stage in the convention center's Hall H, Ricci and producer Todd Makurath were on the street, promoting the film, handing out a comic-book prequel and trying to make a personal connection with potential filmgoers.
“I literally handed out a thousand of those comic books on the street, personally inviting people to come and check out the movie,” Ricci told me on Friday, the opening day of his film, which stars Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds, (500) Days of Summer) as an apprentice to serial killer Dameon Clarke. “Reaching out to people is the only way to get awareness. Part of the transaction we make with the public is that it's OK if they hate it or don't like it. But we hope they'll check it out and give it a chance, because independent film on this level is dying.”
He's right about that. It has become harder and harder for smaller films to see the inside of a multiplex, and Ricci knows an extended run is no sure thing. “It might expand; it might get pulled in a week. Who knows?” he says. “The best thing we can do is be out there fighting the good fight, on the street, on Facebook, on MySpace.”
Reaching out is something Ricci's good at. In last week's issue, I wrote a somewhat dismissive two-sentence blurb about his film. He called me on it. And he has a point—I got into this racket because of my love of independent films. So I set up a meeting and found some time to watch the movie, which is funny and bloody and very different from pretty much everything else currently in theaters. But the only way to ensure that it remains in theaters is if moviegoers—that's you—go see it. You already know if it's up your alley, so if it is, I'm not kidding, go see it today. You'll be supporting real independent film here in San Diego, and unless you do, there's no guarantee that it'll be there tomorrow.
Aliens in the Attic: Aliens neglect to ensure that their mind-control ray works on meddling kids. It's unclear why said children fail to welcome our new alien overlords.
The Collector: An ex-con plans a break-in, only to find a psycho has designed a series of deadly Saw-style traps in the very home he's invading.
Funny People: Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen star in Jud Apatow's latest. Sandler's a comedian who thinks he might be dying; Rogen's the protégé he takes under his wing.
In the Loop: This crafty, satirical look at the methods behind the run-up to the Iraq war works because it—accurately—portrays people at every level of government as being average people, which means they're often self-involved, vicious and narcissistic. See our review.
Local Color: A successful artist recalls 1974, the year that defined who he came to be. With the likes of Ray Liotta, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Charles Durning, Samantha Mathis and Ron Perlman.
Shrink: Kevin Spacey is the shrink, a Hollywood guru in a downward spiral of unhappy pot smoking, unable to look after the patients who turn to him for help.
Tulpan: Having completed his stint in the Russian military, a young man returns to his future tough life as a shepherd. But first, he must woo and win the hand of Tulpan, the only single girl for miles.
One Time Only
Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone: An epic anime imported from Japan, the first of a four-part series about teenage mecha pilots—kids who drive giant fighting robots, for you noobs—trying to save a post-apocalyptic Tokyo 2.0 from awesome invading aliens. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, at UltraStar Mission Valley.
Harold and Maude: Film editor Anders Wright's favorite movie. Death-obsessed young Harold (Bud Cort) falls for Maude (Ruth Gordon), an almost-octogenarian who is all about life. Screens at 8 p.m., Wednesday, July 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Snatch: It's been downhill for Guy Ritchie since this sharp, funny crime drama that turned Jason Statham into a leading man. You can't understand a word Brad Pitt says, and it's one of the best things he's ever done. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. Free.
Bottle Shock: Alan Rickman is the best part of this fictional taste of the legendary 1976 tasting that finally gave California wines some credibility. It also stars Bill Pullman and Chris “Cap'n Kirk” Pine. Executive producer Robert Baizer will introduce the film, and, yes, vino will be served. Screens at 8 p.m., Thursday, July 30, at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: Purists don't think Terry Gilliam's fantastical adventure lives up to Time Bandits or Brazil, but it's still visually stunning. Screens at 8 p.m., Thursday, July 30, at Screen on the Green in Balboa Park. Free.
Vertigo: The other classic Alfred Hitchcock / James Stewart pairing, besides Rear Window. He's a private eye set up to take a fall, which is made even worse by his fear of heights. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Longshots: Family-friendly film starring Ice Cube about the first girl ever to play Pop Warner football. Directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. Really. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, July 31, at Market Creek Plaza in Encanto. Free.
Holiday: This classic romance with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant is still swoon-worthy after all these years. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1 and 2, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Grease: It's is the word, you know. Screens at dusk on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the NTC Landing and Sail Ho Golf Course in Liberty Station. Free.
Beverly Hills Cop: Remember when Eddie Murphy used to kill people? Those were the days. Screens at midnight on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Ken Cinema.
The Great Buck Howard: John Malkovich is terrific as an aging mentalist trying to make a comeback. That said, the movie is about his assistant, a law-school dropout, played by Colin Hanks, trying to find himself. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Yes, it's the Holy Grail of Monty Python movies. That joke was not worthy. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Silent Sundays: Alchemy's resident mixologist offers up prohibition-era cocktails in front of movies you won't have to shush anyone over. Starts at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, at Alchemy in South Park. Free.
The Ant Bully: Kid floods ant colony, ends up ant-sized. Lessons are learned. Julia Roberts and Nic Cage headline the voice cast. Screens at dusk on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine. Free.
The Goonies: Call it nostalgia convergence. Both summer outdoor film series where booze is served are screening the kiddie classic on the same night. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma and 8:30 p.m. at Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. Both free.
G-Force: Animated guinea pigs save the world, destroy the art of filmmaking.
Humpday: The anti-bromance. Lynn Shelton's movie is about two straight-male friends who suddenly find themselves in a hotel room, about to make a porno. Starring them.
Orphan: Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga totally pick the scary kid at the orphanage.
Seraphine: Biopic about the French painter Séraphine de Senlis, who was discovered while working as a maid to German art critic and collector Wilhelm Uhde.
Soul Power: Documentary about the music festival that took place around the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight championship between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Zaire '74 featured performances from James Brown, BB King, Bill Withers and others.
Tetro: Vincent Gallo stars as an unpleasant, self-destructive writer in Francis Ford Coppola's new picture.
The Ugly Truth: Actually, the ugly truth is that this Katherine Heigl / Gerard Butler romcom looks really stupid.
Unmistaken Child: Documentary about a Buddhist monk's search for the reincarnation of a Tibetan master.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The latest entry in the Potter franchise is terrific summer entertainment, but only if you're already a fan.
(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 Stoning of Soraya M.: Cyrus Nowrasteh tells the story of Freidoune Sahabjam's best-seller about an Iranian woman who was stoned to death under false pretenses in 1986.
Brüno: In his follow-up to Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen proves that Paula Abdul is a moron, Ron Paul is woefully out of touch, and ignorant, homophobic crackers are ignorant, homophobic crackers.
Blood: The Last Vampire: A hot vampire in a schoolgirl outfit kills demons with a seriously sharp sword. Otherwise known as a fanboy's wet dream.
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.
I Love You, Beth Cooper: When high-school valedictorian Denis (Paul Rust) professes his love for popular girl Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere) during his grad speech, the last thing he expects is for her to show up at his house that night.
The Girl From Monaco: When a brilliant attorney heads to Monaco for a trial, he doesn't count on falling for a psychotic vixen who distracts him from his upcoming case.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: When, oh when, will animated mammoths remember their rightful place as construction equipment?
Public Enemies: Michael Mann's movie about the end days of John Dillinger is long on history, style—and length.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Angels and Demons: More fun than The Da Vinci Code, but just as stupid.
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.
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.