Either way, you've never seen anything quite like Scott Pilgrim, which is adapted from Bryan Lee O'Malley's beloved series of graphic novels. Michael Cera is the title character, a ditzy, unemployed 20-something bass player for a middling band in Toronto who dates high-schooler Knives Chau. All that changes when he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the gorgeous punk who's, literally, the girl of his dreams. Scott's a pathetic pursuer, but Ramona sees something endearing in him. There's just one catch. He must fight her seven evil exes, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman among them, to the death, video-game style, to be with her.
Wait. What? To the death? Huh? If that's what you were thinking, you may be in the epilepsy camp.
That's how it works, and that's how Edgar Wright works. His style of direction has always been stylish and fanboy-friendly, and Scott Pilgrim is no different, using expository widgets, which pop up all over the screen, and graphics that emanate from fists or musical instruments. In fact, the movie almost stays too close to the source material—five exes to fight would have been just fine.
Yes, it's all shot through a video-game lens, one that'll be familiar to anyone who grew up on Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. But there's more to it. There are metaphors in Scott Pilgrim, if you're willing to look for them. Sure, Scott must fight all of Ramona's exes to have a shot. In reality, that's what we all must do when we start a new relationship. No, most of us don't wind up in theatrical beat-downs, but we all must face up to our partner's baggage.
And Wright and O'Malley turn video games into an analogy for love. If you're a fan of Mario Brothers, or God of War, or soccer, or cooking, or anything at all, you know that if you keep making the same mistakes, you'll never get it right. You'll never move forward. If there's one absolute truism about falling in love, that's it: We must learn from our mistakes. As we all know, that level of introspection is difficult and unpleasant. Hell, it's the reason plenty of people play video games. Scott learns those lessons the hard way, by getting his ass kicked over and over in hopes of getting the girl. Which is what we all go through every day in real life.
Eat Pray Love: Julia Roberts does all of the above. Women swoon.
The Expendables: Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren and some wrestlers kill people.
The Extra Man: Kevin Kline is a male escort for wealthy society ladies, and Paul Dano is his protégé.
Farewell: Loosely based on events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, this spy movie focuses on people rather than action. It's intricate and well-made and features top-notch performances. See our review on Page 23.
Legends of Flight: Examines old and new breeds of planes with a huge lens, a cockpit seat and the Fleet's giant dome IMAX screen. Runs Aug 18 through 22 at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Life During Wartime: Todd Solondz's film is a noble experiment, following up his 1998 picture Happiness with different actors playing the same characters several years later. Sadly, not all experiments are successful.
Musica en Espera: Composer Ezekiel finds just the tune he's looking for in the hold music for his bank. When he goes there to find out what it is, he meets Paola, who is pregnant and single. Presented by the San Diego Latino Film Festival, it screens for one week at UltraStar Mission Valley.
Peepli Live: This satire about the suicides of Indian farmers and the government's lackluster attempt to respond was the first film from that country to compete at Sundance.
Regresa: Maria undergoes hypnosis when she thinks her husband is having an affair. When she comes to, however, she thinks she's engaged to a prince from the 15th century. Presented by the San Diego Latino Film Festival, it screens for one week at UltraStar Mission Valley.
ONE TIME ONLY
The Cool School: Story of the Ferus Art Gallery and The Universe of Keith Haring: Another arttastic double feature from the people behind the Survey Select art exhibit. It starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, at the Wonderbread Factory in East Village.
Film on Tap: Summer Lovin': San Diego Film Festival's monthly shorts series goes down at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, at BEACH at the W Hotel. Free, or a $10 donation gets you a beer and a raffle ticket.
Animation Film Night: A Selection of Short Animated Films: Thank you, San Diego Asian Film Festival, for creating a title that requires no explanation. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, at Piazza Carmel Shopping Plaza in Carmel Valley. Free.
Sideways: Vino would be the appropriate beverage for this hysterically depressing Paul Giamatti / Thomas Haden Church bromance set in the Santa Barbara wine country. Starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: It's true—this is loosely based on the adventures of Cameron Crowe, who posed as a high-schooler to spend an extra year at Clairemont High. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
Like Water for Chocolate: When Tita's (Lumi Cavazos) true love marries her own sister, she finds serious sexual healing through cooking. Part of the Museum of Photographic Arts' Classic Mexican film series, it screens at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 12, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Roman Holiday: Audrey hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar for Roman Holiday in 1953. It's one of the greatest date films ever, and the chemistry between her and newsman Gregory Peck is what makes it all work. As part of the Flicks on the Bricks series, Italian reds will be served. Starts at 8
p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.
Robin Hood: This Disney cartoon is so much better than the recent dreary Ridley Scott / Russell Crowe version. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, poolside at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley. Free.
Twice Upon a Yesterday: An unemployed actor gets a chance to go back in time and not screw things up with his girlfriend. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 12 and 13, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Imagine That: Workaholic Eddie Murphy's problems are solved by his neglected daughter's imaginary world. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13, poolside at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley. Free.
Little Giants: Sort of like Bad News Bears with football. And Ed O'Neill. Screens at dusk, Friday, Aug. 13, at Market Creek Plaza in Lincoln Park. Free.
The Spiderwick Chronicles: Even with its terrific cast, you can't help but think it's a Harry Potter knockoff. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, poolside at the Handlery Hotel in Mission Valley. Free.
How to Steal a Million: Audrey hepburn has to steal from a Paris museum to conceal her dad's art forgeries. Peter O'Toole helps. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14 and 15, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Edge of Dreaming: Director Amy Hardie starts having prophetic dreams of her own death. That's no fun. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A look at the lives of two of the founding mothers of the suffrage movement. Part one screens at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17, and part two rolls at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
Iron Jawed Angels: Hilary Swank and Frances O'Connor star as Alice Paul and Lucy burns, respectively, two of the founders of the National Women's Party, who staged a hunger strike following their arrests for advocating for women's rights. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Visual Acoustics: The modernism of Julius Schulman / The Universe of Keith Haring: Two terrific films about two entirely different artists. Part of the Survey Select art exhibit, this double-feature begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at the Wonderbread Factory in East Village.
Planet B-Boy: The rest of us are just living in it. Actually, this look at break-dancing around the globe, presented by the San Diego Asian Film Festival, is unbelievable. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at Piazza Carmel Shopping Plaza in Carmel Valley. Free.
Revenge of the Nerds: Um, nerds are doing pretty well these days, actually. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Zoolander: Ben Stiller came up with his character's name by merging the monikers of two real male models, Mark Vanderloo and Johnny Zander. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
The Concert: A janitor who was once the conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra decides to fake his way into a comeback.
Get Low: Robert Duvall does crotchety old man better than anyone, and this crotchety old man wants to throw himself a funeral party while he's still alive.
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel: He's also very active on the pajama-wearing circuit. Ends Aug. 12 at the Ken Cinema.
The Other Guys: Mark Ferrell and Will Wahlberg team up as cops. Or is it the other way around?
Step Up 3-D: These street dancers will kick you in the face. At least it'll feel that way.
Zen: Buddhism! The origin story!
Agora: Rachel Weisz stars in this historical epic as Hypatia, a philosopher in ancient Alexandria who's stuck between the Pagans and that other rapidly growing religion, Christianity.
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore: Yes, they really made a movie with this title.
Charlie St. Cloud: Zac Efron is the titular character, a guy so broken up by his brother's death that he takes a job in the cemetery where he's buried.
Countdown to Zero: Produced by the same guy who made An Inconvenient Truth, this documentary about the history of nuclear weapons will make you want to change your undies. Ends Aug. 12 at the Ken Cinema.
Dinner for Schmucks: In order for Paul Rudd to succeed in business, he must invite a serious loser to his boss' house for dinner. That loser is Steve Carell.
Winnebago Man: Back in the '80s, Jack Rebney shot a corporate video for Winnebago, and the outtakes, which are profane and painfully funny, ended up online and viral. Director Ben Steinbauer's documentary about finding him is as interesting as it is exploitative. Ends Aug. 12 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
The Love Ranch: Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci—both of whom have Oscars, remember—star in this look at the early days of Nevada's brothel industry.
Salt: Angelina Jolie is a CIA agent who beats down a ton of people after she's accused of being a Russian spy.
Ramona and Beezus: There's a perfectly good chance this adaptation of Beverly Cleary's book will be charming. Or it might destroy your childhood memories.
Restrepo: This documentary keeps the cameras on a U.S. platoon in one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan for a solid year. Harrowing.
Inception: Christopher Nolan's follow-up to The Dark Knight is epic, complex and beautiful. In short, it's the stuff that dreams are made of.
The Kids Are All Right: Decent family drama about a lesbian couple played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore whose family is altered when their children seek out the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who made it all possible.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice: They needed someone incredible to star as the crazy wizard in this huge live-action adaptation of the classic cartoon. Instead, they got Nic Cage. Jay Baruchal plays the broom.
Predators: Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger is no Adrien Brody, but when it comes to action movies, Brody is no Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Despicable Me: Steve Carrell voices Gru, an animated master criminal trying to steal the moon—until he meets three little girls who think he might make a better dad than a crook.
The Girl Who Played with Fire: The second film in the massively successful Millennium trilogy gives us more of Lisbeth Salander, the ass-kicking female hacker heroine, and less originality.
I Am Love: Tilda Swinton is terrific as the Russian matriarch of a wealthy Italian family who falls for a chef who just happens to be her son's best friend.
The Last Airbender: M. Night Shyamalan directs a big-screen, live-action adaptation of the hugely popular Nickelodeon animated series. That sounds so wrong. Oh, and it's in 3-D.
The Living Sea: The latest IMAX film at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center looks at all the creepy crawlies that live down in the deep blue.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: Blah blah blah Robert Pattinson. Blah blah blah Taylor Lautner.
The Ultimate Wave Tahiti: The latest IMAX entry at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park follows super surfer Kelly Slater as he does his thing on some massive waves.
Grown Ups: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider are a bunch of dumbasses. And they're in a movie together.
Knight and Day: Neither Tom Cruise nor Cameron Diaz has the box-office power they once did, so will a thriller starring the two of them have more or less drawing power?
Winter's Bone: Debra Granik's noir thriller, set in a closed meth-cooking community in the Ozarks, is as intense and grim as its name. It's well-written and well-made and features an amazing performance from Jennifer Lawrence, a 17-year-old who has to find her deadbeat father or she and her young brother and sister will lose their home.
Toy Story 3: Any idea where the toys you loved as a kid ended up? When Andy goes off to college, Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang end up at a day-care center.
The Karate Kid: So, they remade the '80s teen movie with Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi and Jaden Smith—son of Will—as Ralph Macchio. Wax on, indeed.
Exit Through the Gift Shop: Legendary prankster street artist Banksy's first film is a brilliant take on art and its nature. It may sound stuffy, but it's engaging, insightful, funny and subversive—and smarter than anything else you'll see this summer. Run, do not walk, to see this one.
The Secret in Their Eyes: This Argentinean thriller won the Best Foreign Language award at this year's Oscars. It's good, spanning decades and the relationship between a federal prosecutor and the boss with whom he's infatuated.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Thriller about a male journalist and a female hacker hired to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of a member of a Swedish crime family.
Hubble: Leonardo DiCaprio lends his pipes to this IMAX film, which uses CGI and real footage to take a close look at saturn's rings. Just stay away from Uranus. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.