It must be tough being Wes Anderson. The guy is a sharp director and a solid writer, and his films are always interesting. But everything he makes is going to be compared to Rushmore, his sophomore film. It's just so damn good, a picture-perfect portrait of awkwardness and tenderness. Jason Schwartzman is Max Fischer, a poor kid at an expensive, prestigious boarding school who wants to be more than he is. He's failing all his classes and yet excelling at his myriad extracurricular activities, like his theatrical adaptation of Serpico and his efforts to save classes in Latin.
Bill Murray is both protagonist and antagonist Herman Blume, a rich guy who needs to change his life. They're friends, but it's a friendship that turns when they realize they're part of a love triangle with Max's teacher (Olivia Williams). Rushmore is rich and warm and terribly personal and tragic, and also ridiculously funny. A great midnight film at the Ken on Saturday, July 19. $7.25.
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. See our review here.
The Edge of Heaven: Somewhere between Germany and Turkey, apparently, lies The Edge of Heaven. A Turkish expat living in Germany invites a hooker to live with him—something his son, a professor of German literature, can't abide.
Elsa and Fred: Elderly Fred moves into a new apartment only to find the even older Elsa bursting into his life, determined to help him live the rest of it to the fullest. Like Cocoon, without the aliens. Or Steve Guttenberg.
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.
Space Chimps: Andy Samberg plays a chimp—not a stretch—who's the grandson of the original space-bound monkey. He and his cohorts end up on a strange planet that is, sadly, not the Planet of the Apes. But it is ruled by nasty overlord Jeff Daniels. Oh, yeah, it's animated. In case you weren't sure.
Tell No One: A French doctor, whose wife was murdered years ago, finds that the police have reopened the case and that he's a suspect once again. Worse, he gets an e-mail that links to a video clip that suggests that perhaps his wife is actually still alive.
One Time Only
Batman Begins: This reinvention of Batman rocked, due 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—and get your tickets early because it's 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: The movie that made Robert Rodriguez, well, Robert Rodriguez. Stone Brewery is hosting a nice selection of Mexican craft beers to go along with this tale of a musician on a question for vengeance, on tour with a guitar case stashed with weapons. The movie was shot for about 7 grand, some of which Rodriguez raised by volunteering for medical experiments. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
Beck '08: Just so we're clear: Glenn Beck is a total fucking dickhead, and we wouldn't include his bullshit here if it weren't for our self-imposed total-coverage mandate. His one-man comedy show is being simulcast live in theaters across the country (tape delayed on the West Coast) on Thursday, July 17, and in San Diego you can catch it at Otay Ranch, Horton Plaza, AMC Mission Valley and La Jolla Village and Edwards Mira Mesa, all at 8 p.m. But seriously? Stay home. Fuck that guy.
The Big Clock: Ray Milland is George Stroud, an up-and-coming magazine man framed for murder by his boss, Charles Laughton. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 17 and 18, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Shrek the Third: The twisted fairy-tale Shrek adventures continued with this one, which reunited the regulars—Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy—and also added Justin Timberlake as Artie, Fiona's long-lost cousin. Now, that must've been weird, since Diaz and Timberlake were bringing sexy back at the time. Still, that's the thing about animation—you love the one you're with. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, July 18, at the Market Creek Plaza Amphitheater in Encanto. Free.
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!: You probably wouldn't attend without a kid in tow, but if you have a carpet monkey to take, 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. It's outdoors at dusk on Saturday, July 19 at the 4-S Ranch Sports Park. Free.
The Thomas Crown Affair: The '99 remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo was pretty good, but this '68 original is terrific. Steve McQueen is the brash millionaire jewel thief Thomas Crown, and Faye Dunaway is the investigator hot on both his trail and tail. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 19,at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
9 Star Hotel: The public library teams up once again with Media Arts Center San Diego and POV to show a doc before it airs on PBS. This one is about young Palestinian men working illegally for Israeli contractors building a hotel. They're caught between the Israeli Security Forces, which are after them at night, and the Palestinian Authority, which they see as having failed them. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 20, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
All About My Mother: Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has an extraordinary track record, and this is one of his best. He's also one of the best male directors at nailing roles for women—in this case, Cecelia Roth is a single mother who sees her 17-year-old son die on his birthday. Shattered, she travels to Barcelona to find the boy's father, who never knew he had a son. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 20, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest.
My Blueberry Nights: Yes, it's Norah Jones' big-screen debut, but My Blueberry Nights is also the Chinese auteur Wong Kar-Wai's first English-language film. Jones is a New York girl who goes on an Americana road trip to mend her broken heart, staying in touch with café owner Jude Law (at his Jude Lawiest) via postcards. Along the way, she runs into unhappy cop David Strathairn (who delivers another terrific performance) and skimpily clad gambler Natalie Portman. Like all Kar-Wai's films, it's gorgeous to look at, even if the storyline is a little thin. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 21, at the Central Library Downtown. Free.
Sin City: Comic-Con starts Thursday, July 24, but you can get your geek on a night early with this groundbreaking adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels from Miller himself and Robert Rodriguez. An epic, twisted, mostly black-and-white, rotoscoped crime drama featuring Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba and an amazing Mickey Rourke, Sin City is as important as Pulp Fiction was when it came out. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: One of the ultimate high-school comedies, written by Cameron Crowe and starring Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates and many others, including bit roles for Anthony Edwards, Nic Cage and Forest Whitaker—but it wouldn't have been the same without Penn's Spicoli, who needs only tasty waves and a cool buzz to be just fine. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at Stone Brewing Company Bistro in Escondido. Free.
Finding Amanda: Matthew Broderick shines in the feature directorial debut of Peter Tolan, who's the other guy, besides Denis Leary, behind the sharp FX firefighter show Rescue Me. Broderick's a TV producer who heads to Vegas to locate his niece (Brittany Snow), who's found work in the world's oldest profession. Ideally, he'd take her to rehab. But Vegas isn't really a good place for a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with a penchant for the ponies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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 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.