In recent years, most of Michael Moore's movies have been released to controversy and big PR campaigns. So, you might be surprised to hear that he has a new film coming out on Tuesday, Sept. 23. Yep, Slacker Uprising chronicles the Hefty Lefty's 62-city cross-country journey during the 2004 election season, an attempt to draw people toward John Kerry's ill-fated campaign. Why haven't you heard of it? Probably because it's not coming out in theaters or, initially, even on DVD. In fact, Moore's film is one of the first films from a major filmmaker—if not the first—to debut online. Shown in better-than-YouTube quality, Slacker Uprising will be available, for free, for three weeks at Slackeruprising.com (sign up there to get a note when it's ready). The DVD version drops two weeks later.
Flow: We're so busy fretting about the cost of oil that we often overlook how bad our water situation has become. And not just at the tap—there's no shortage of multinationals looking to cash in on how you get your agua and how much you pay for it.
Ghost Town: Ricky Gervais finally gets the lead in an American movie. But is this the right one for his big stateside break? He's a nasty dentist who dies on the operating table, and once he's revived, he sees—and can talk to—dead people, all of whom are soon asking for favors. Like Ghost meets The Sixth Sense with a chubby Brit.
Igor: John Cusack voices the title character in this animated creature-feature, a hunchbacked lab rat desperate to become a mad scientist. The supporting cast includes Steve Buscemi and John Cleese, but we're really looking forward to Eddie Izzard's take on Dr. Schadenfreude.
Lakeview Terrace: Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington move in next to Samuel L. Jackson, an angry cop who doesn't want a biracial couple as neighbors. It's from director Neil LaBute, so prepare your buttons now—they will likely be pushed.
Ligaw Liham: After the post office shuts down, a simple young man makes a move on his childhood crush, sending her letters that she thinks are for someone else. Part of the San Diego Asian Film Festival's ongoing Filipino film series, Ligaw Liham runs from Sept. 19 to 25 at the UltraStar Chula Vista.
Maldeamores: Benicio del Toro is one of the executive producers of this Puerto Rican film, which stars the ridiculously cool Luis Guzmán. The movie is set on the island and is made up of three stories that take a look at the different ways we love at different times in our lives. Presented by the San Diego Latino Film Festival, this one runs Sept. 19 to 25 at the UltraStar Hazard Center.
My Best Friend's Girl: Irritating comic Dane Cook is hired by his best friend, the irritating Jason Biggs, to woo the irritating Kate Hudson, so she'll see how great the irritating Biggs is. Surprise! The irritating Cook falls for her. We're guessing that at some point, we'll hear the somewhat irritating song from The Cars that the movie is named after.
Towelhead: Alan Ball's feature debut, taken from Alicia Erian's novel, is easy to appreciate, if difficult to enjoy, because the subject matter is so intense. Thirteen-year-old Jasira (played by 20-year-old Summer Bishil, who does an amazing job) moves in with her Lebanese father in Houston on the eve of the first Gulf War. As she begins to explore her budding sexuality, so does her neighbor, a slightly bigoted Army reservist played by Aaron Eckhart. Strong performances all around.
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Local short films: Citizen Video has another block party with its neighbors, the Whistle Stop bar, and a collection of shorts by local filmmakers. Swing by to see groundbreaking art, cheer on your friends or just get hammered. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the Whistle Stop in South Park. Free.
The Motorcycle Diaries: Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a pre-revolutionary Che Guevara, on a road trip with his best bud (Roderigo De la Serna), doing things young men do as they look for their place in the world. Of course, not so many young men end up taking over small island nations. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at Otay Ranch Town Center. Free.
Boogie Nights: Before There Will be Blood and Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson made Boogie Nights, an epic look at porn. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Almost Famous: We're guessing someone at Stone went to school with San Diego prodigal son Cameron Crowe, because Crowe's Vinyl Records is giving out swag at the screening of this semi-autobiographical story of a 16-year-old rock journalist sent on the road by Rolling Stone to cover a seriously big band. Loosely based on Crowe's teen experiences on the road with The Allman Brothers, the film's funny, sensitive and sweet, and it introduced the world to Patrick Fugit. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival: Sure, it's a bit of a drive, but Temecula's not a bad place to spend a few days watching movies and drinking wine. Gena Rowlands and composer Lalo Schifrin will get the Fest's Lifetime Achievement Awards, and the lineup includes a decent mix of features, shorts, foreign films and animated works, including The Waitlist, a documentary shot by several SDSU alums at Sundance last year. The fest runs Wednesday, Sept. 17, through Sunday, Sept. 21. www.tviff.com.
SDSU 3Day Film Fest: SDSU's School of Theatre, Television and Film puts on three nights of student projects. A lot of up-and-comers have come out of the university in recent years—this could be one of those before-they-were-famous weekends. Undergrad films are Thursday and Friday nights, and grad films are on Saturday. Starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, through Saturday, Sept. 20, at SDSU's Don Powell Theater.
The African Queen: Can you believe this is the only film Bogie won an Oscar for? Well, he earned it, playing a boozy riverboat captain who ferries an uptight Katharine Hepburn up the creek to blow up a German ship during World War I. Action-packed, totally romantic and still utterly awesome. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, through Saturday, Sept. 20, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Imperial Beach Film Festival and Art-Walk: For details, see CityWeek.
Sicko: So, Michael Moore's treatise against the healthcare industry didn't win last year's Best Documentary Oscar. Seriously, though, that was more backlash against the filmmaker himself—Sicko is one of his best films yet. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at the North County Democratic Unity Office (135 E. Grande Ave. in Escondido). Free.
Hannah Montana: Bring the tweens. Screens at dusk on Saturday, Sept. 20, at the 4-S Ranch Sports Park in Rancho Bernardo. Free.
Pleasantville: Before he donned tights, Tobey Maguire starred in this funky little movie that thinks it's about more than it actually is. Still, the sudden colorization of the black-and-white 1950s TV world into which Maguire and bad-girl sister Reese Witherspoon are sucked is pretty cool. Everything goes right until, suddenly, it doesn't, and the inhabitants don't know what to do. Joan Allen is great as their new TV mom. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Downtown Central Library. Free.
Ashta Chemma: This light-hearted comedy is the latest entry from Bollywood promoter Gold Spirit Films. Screens on Sunday, Sept. 21, at the UltraStar 8 Del Mark Highlands. The start time had not been announced by press time—check www.goldspiritfilms.com for details.
Pan's Labyrinth: Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006, Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece could have been up for Best Picture (though it never would have won, being so weird and in Spanish and all). Amid war in 1944 Spain, Ofelia escapes her vicious stepfather by retreating into a fantasy world. But is it really just her imagination? Captivating, terrifying, thought-provoking and beautiful. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
Reprise: An assured and confident debut from director Joachim Trier about two young aspiring Norwegian writers, it's all about the trials and tribulations that come with growing up and trying to express and define one's self through any artistic medium. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, at the Downtown Central Library. Free.
Orwell Rolls in His Grave: This doc asks leading intellectuals if we've arrived at the point in America when collaborations betwixt mildly smart politicians and dumb media people have started to resemble Orwell's 1984. Screens at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 23, at Lestat's Coffee House in Normal Heights. Free.
Ladron que Roba a Ladron: The San Diego Latino Film Festival's final film in its current series at Otay Ranch is a caper comedy. Two washed-up crooks reunite to go after a rich dude who's made his money via infomercials that rip off Latino immigrants. So they put together a team of amateurs who won't be noticed because they're, well, immigrants. Call it “Ocean's Catorce.” Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Otay Ranch Marketplace. Free.
Pulp Fiction: Tarantino's character-ridden, dialogue-spurting, timeline-shifting criminal masterpiece was retro even when it was new. It's still as cool as the other side of the pillow, even if it is what gave John Travolta his career resurgence. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Jurassic Park and Rifftrax: Mike Nelson, formerly of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Weird Al Yankovic will act like a pack of velicoraptors, tearing apart the Spielberg joint via Rifftrax's running commentary, closing out this summer film series. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
Gulong: The latest entry in the San Diego Asian Film Festival's ongoing Filipino film series, Gulong is about a young boy whose quest for an old bicycle kicks off a chain of events that affects everyone around him. Through Sept. 18 at the UltraStar Chula Vista.
Another Gay Sequel: Gays Go Wild: Cute gay boys head to Florida for hot spring-break action. Instead, they find love. Wrong state, fellas—marriage is out of the cards.
Burn After Reading: The Coen brothers' new film is a thriller-comedy reuniting bromancers Pitt and Clooney. Pitt, along with Frances McDormand, is a gym employee who blackmails a gnarly ex-CIA guy (John Malkovich) who leaves his unpublished memoirs behind after a workout. Let's hope it's more Fargo than The Ladykillers.
In Search of a Midnight Kiss: A Web 2.0 romance. An unhappy L.A. dude just wants New Year's Eve to wrap itself up so he can start fresh. But a buddy talks him into posting a craigslist ad that's answered by a woman looking for just the right guy to plant one on at midnight.
Mister Foe: Jamie Bell is the titular Mister Foe, a screwed-up kid with a talent for peeping on people and plenty of anger directed towards his stepmother, whom he blames for his mother's death.
Righteous Kill: Two aged New York cops investigate murders that are eerily reminiscent of a case they tackled years ago. Just check the cast: Al Pacino. Robert De Niro. And 50 Cent? For reals.
Sixty Six: Yes, it's about a young Jewish boy in England preparing for his bar mitzvah. But Paul Weiland's semi-autobiographical picture is universal. It's 1966, and there's a chance England will make the World Cup Finals on exactly the same day poor geeky Bernie is slated to have his bar mitzvah. Helena Bonham-Carter is his mum, and Steven Rea plays the doctor who looks after him.
Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys Together: Two families, one white and one black, are intertwined in an adulterous web, pitting matriarchs Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates against each other.
The Women: Annette Bening and Meg Ryan star as rich New York bitches in this remake of George Cukor's 1939 take on Clare Booth Luce's classic play.
Bangkok Dangerous: Another Nic Cage action movie. This time, he's a hit man who goes to Thailand to whack people but ends up falling in loooooove. Actually, this one has promise—it's written and directed by Asian-horror-meisters the Pang brothers, who remake their own insane 1999 Thai film.
Babylon A.D.: Vin Diesel returns to sci-fi, the genre that made him the massive star he once was. He's a mercenary taking a woman from Russia to China. Sounds easy, but she hosts some sort of nasty organism that a freaky cult wants to get its hands on. Mathieu Kassovitz, who made Gothika and the searing La Haine, is at the reins.
Disaster Movie: It's a small-budget parody of big-budget disaster films, and we wish it would melt in the heat of a plane that's crashing into a volcano during a massive earthquake tsunami. No surprise, Carmen Electra plays “Beautiful Assassin.”
Mamma Mia!: The Sing-Along Edition: Perhaps you wish you could stand up in a darkened theater and belt out the ABBA songs featured in Mamma Mia! Well, your time has come. There's a new edition of the based-on-the-hit-Broadway-musical film starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan that will feature the lyrics to all the songs on the screen, like a disturbingly large karaoke machine. You'll be with a group of like-minded ABBA fans, so your version of “Take a Chance on Me” will be supported—nay, encouraged—by the rest of the faithful.
Traitor: Don Cheadle is a former U.S. Special Operations officer who may or may not have been compromised by the extremist and terrorist groups he's been infiltrating undercover for years. Guy Pearce is the straight-laced FBI man sent to track him down.
Transsiberian: An American couple (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) are living a lifelong dream, taking a trip from China to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Too bad the folks they start hanging out with are drug dealers, putting them smack in Johnny Law's crosshairs. And once the train is rolling, well, it's hard to get away from former KGB agent Ben Kingsley.
Death Race: The satire that originally appeared in Roger Corman's 1975 camp classic, Death Race 2000, is missing, but if you're the sort who wants to see pimped-out armored cars armed with massive machine guns shooting at each other on an enclosed prison racetrack, you won't care. Jason Statham is Jensen Ames, a former NASCAR driver framed for murdering his wife so a crooked warden (Joan Allen) can get him behind the wheel of her ass-kicking deadly racing franchise. Sure, it's thin, but it puts the muscle in muscle car.
Elegy: Isabel Coixet directs this adaptation of Philip Roth's short novel The Dying Animal, about a serial seducing college professor, played by Ben Kingsley, and how his life is turned upside down by a former student (Penelope Cruz) whom he finds himself falling for.
Hamlet 2: There's something to offend everyone in Hamlet 2, and Steve Coogan is terrific as Dana Marschz (last name intentionally unpronounceable), a failed actor turned drama teacher who writes, directs and then stars as Jesus Christ in a musical sequel to the greatest play ever written in the English language.
House Bunny: Anna Faris is a Playboy bunny who gets tossed from the mansion only to wind up at a sorority house full of socially inept ugly ducklings. Just like in real life, it turns out the women of Zeta Alpha Zeta just need a really hot, skimpily clad chick around to make them feel good about themselves.
Bottle Shock: A terrific premise that is sadly more schlock than shock. Bill Pullman is the winemaker who could, the man whose Chardonnay beat out the French in a blind 1976 tasting, putting Napa wines on the map. But the dialogue is trite, and his relationship to his slacker son, Chris Pine, just never feels real. It's like a bottle opened too soon. Alan Rickman is great, though, as the Englishman who puts the event together. Like a fine wine, Rickman just gets better with age.
Fly Me to the Moon: This is the first animated film made specifically in the new 3D, and word is that they got it right. Still, it's a cartoon about three young houseflies that stow away in the Apollo 11 moon flight. Take the kids, and then explain to them that it's Buzz Aldrin, and not Buzz Lightyear, voicing Buzz Aldrin.
Mirrors: Keifer Sutherland moves from his super secret agent on 24 to a mall cop, charged with making sure nothing goes down in an abandoned mall. Too bad it's haunted by scary mirrors.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2: Three years after their first film, the Sisterhood, including Amber Tamblyn and Ugly Betty's America Ferrera, is back, transitioning into a time when young women go through new changes in their lives. That's right, college. As in, keggers, sororities, the freshman 15. They stay connected via their amazing pair of magic pants, which—now that the girls are older—have college boys trying to figure out how to get inside them.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Force goes animated. The new film—really the pilot for an ongoing show on the Cartoon Network—doesn't capture the awesomeness of the 1977 original. But it's still better than the last three movies.
Tropic Thunder: Ben Stiller directed and stars in this monster comedy about a bunch of spoiled actors dropped into a real war zone. The thing is, they think it's a movie set, but the guerrillas they're up against are the real deal. Jack Black stars as the funnyman taking on a serious role, and Robert Downey Jr. is the award-winning actor who dyes his skin to play the part of the unit's black sergeant. Like most of Stiller's stuff, it's really dumb and kinda funny. Oh, and in this case, it's rated R, so it's also really violent.
Vicky Christina Barcelona: Will Woody Allen ever make another film in New York? After shooting the last two in the U.K., he moved his act overseas. Scarlett Johanssen and Rebecca Hall are tourists in Barcelona who find themselves infatuated with mysterious brooding painter Javier Bardem. When his crazy ex-wife (Bardem's real-life honey, Penelope Cruz) enters the picture, the whole trip becomes a total bummer.
Man on Wire: James Marsh directs this compelling documentary about Frenchman Philippe Petit, who illegally tightrope-walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Man on Wire explores Petit's obsessive and meticulous plotting, and how he convinced a group of wild-eyed young adventurers to assist him. Drawing on gorgeous archival footage and charming the audience with vivid storytelling, it's an imaginative, entertaining riff on heist movies.
Pineapple Express: Seth Rogen and James Franco play buddies Dale and Saul, whose possession of some ultra-rare weed leads them into compromising situations with the police, thugs, drug dealers and a Chinese crime syndicate. Yeah, it's as dumb as it sounds. It's also hilarious and hugely entertaining, with a star-making performance by Danny McBride as Red. Keep an eye out for the absurd props, which provide some unexpected laughs.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: It's hard to imagine there were fans begging for a second sequel in The Mummy franchise, but Brendan Fraser is back for this trilogy-capping finale, co-starring Maria Bello and Jet Li. Chances are Fraser will deliver a lot of dumb catchphrases, Bello will look hot and Li will, um, kick people in the face.Step Brothers: An excuse for Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly to act like 14-year-old boys. Both are 40-year-olds who still live at home. When their parents get hitched, they suddenly find they have to get in each other's faces. Yes, it's scatological and raunchy—it's so over-the-top that Step Brothers benefits from its R-rating. Still, it feels like it's a movie for 15-year-old boys who will have to sneak in.
The Dark Knight: It's finally here, and yes, Christopher Nolan's new Batman movie is everything you hoped it would be. An epic two-and-a-half-hour crime drama that examines the complicated nature of good, evil and heroism and simply must be seen on an Imax screen to be believed. Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhard are all well-served by a tense, taut script, but it truly is Heath Ledger's movie, as he plays Batman's nemesis, The Joker, with a shambling malevolence that's terrifying and intense.
Mamma Mia!: The hit Broadway musical consisting of nothing but Abba tunes is turned into a big, fat Hollywood movie. But this one's got Meryl Streep as an overbearing mother. Her daughter Sophie is getting married, but she doesn't know who her dad is. So she invites all of mom's exes—Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård—to the wedding.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.