In recent years, Comic- Con has become much more about celebrities, Hollywood movies and TV shows than about comic books, mostly because, these days, most of the big movies are based on comics. I'll be down at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas on Saturday night, July 23, with actor Thora Birch, presenting Ghost World, one of the greatest comic book films of all time, though there's nary a superhero to be found.
Yes, Ghost World, that strange, awkward, terrific movie about recent high-school grads Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), who play a nasty prank on a middle-aged middle manager (Steve Buscemi), which leads to a friendship between him and Enid that's sweet, codependent and disturbing.
The film came out 10 years ago, and, at the time, the San Diego Film Critics Society—the organization presenting the film, of which I am the current commander-in-chief—gave it several awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Terry Zwigoff and Best Actress honors for Birch.
This really is a wonderful movie, and we're proud to be putting it on the big screen in 35mm. Showtime is 9 p.m., and by the time you read this, tickets should be available online. Oh, and did I mention that we're keeping it affordable? Yep, it's only $5 to get in, and Comic-Con badges are not required.
There'll be plenty of caped-crusading, spandex-wearing, steroid-addled crime-fighters at Comic-Con, doing their best to save the world and empty the wallets of teenagers in Korea. That's all well and good, but I hope you'll join me, the rest of the San Diego critics and Birch for a super movie that's not about superheroes.
Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest: There's been all kinds of controversy surrounding Michael Rappaport's film, as he and the band have squared off over which accounts are really true.
Captain America: The First Avenger: Chris Evans plays the superhero in this week's superhero movie.
Friends with Benefits: Best buddies Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis can't find anyone to date, so they start sleeping with each other, no strings attached. Um, you lost us at Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis can't find anyone to date.
If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front: The title says it all. Hayduke lives!
A Little Help: Jenna Fischer is a single mom who gets caught up in a series of lies while trying to provide for herself and her son.
Love Etc.: A documentary about five different New York City couples, who span a variety of ages and sexual orientations.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: Wayne Wang adapts Lisa See's novel about two young 19th-century Chinese girls who communicate via a secret language written in the folds of a silk fan.
Tabloid: Documentarian Errol Morris takes a break from the heavy stuff in telling the story of Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming accused of kidnapping and raping a male Mormon missionary back in the '70s, and the newspapers that covered her tale. See our review on Page 22.
ONE TIME ONLY
Down and Out in Beverly Hills: Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler are a vacuous couple whose lives are totally transformed when they allow homeless guy Nick Nolte to move in. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Stand By Me: Turns out Wil Wheaton won't attend the screening, but it's still a good movie. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.
Chocolat: Single mother Juliette Binoche finds the only thing tastier than chocolate is Johnny Depp. The film screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21, with a full menu at To the Point café in Ocean Beach. Reservations suggested.
Splendor in the Grass: High-school sweeties Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty have to decide how far to go at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 21 and 22, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Fountainhead: Ayn Rand wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of her novel, which should not be confused with an actual fountain, even though it's screening in front of the San Diego Museum of Art at 8 p.m. Friday, July 22.
Raising Arizona: Go ahead, name a funnier movie. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Gremlins: You're not supposed to feed them after midnight, which is appropriate, considering that it's screening at midnight, Saturday, July 23, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
The Maltese Falcon: There's been plenty of good noir throughout the years, but Bogart as Sam Spade remains one of the best. Screens at midnight, Saturday, July 23, at the Ken Cinema.
2001: A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick's film about human evolution and the human condition remains a masterpiece, even if the title is somewhat outdated. Screens at noon, Sunday, July 24, and 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 26.
The Dark Knight: Pretty damn dark, alright. And pretty damn good. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 25, at The Go Lounge in La Mesa. Free.
Tekken: Blood Vengeance 3D: Exactly what you'd think a 3D movie based on a 2D fighting game would be. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 26, at several area theaters. Hit fathom events.com for locations and tickets.
Devil Girl from Mars: And all this time I thought Devil Girls were from Venus. Schlockfest continues at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks' western is satirical and subversive and hysterically funny. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Dark Crystal: It's family night, so bring the kids to see Jim Henson's Muppet fantasy epic. Just, you know, don't give them beer. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: It's tough to say goodbye, but fans will be thrilled with the franchise's conclusion, which streamlines the final half of the final book and offers up some serious wizardry—in story and special effects.
Phase 7: This Argentinean zom-com (zombie comedy) is about a guy trying to protect his pregnant wife after the dead start to walk the Earth. It screens at 10 p.m. Wednesdays and midnight on Fridays through July 22 at the AMC Mission Valley.
Project Nim: Director James Marsh (Man on Wire) tells the heartbreaking story of a chimp who was raised like a human, with disastrous results. Ends July 21 at the Ken Cinema.
Vincent Wants to Sea: A young guy with Tourette's escapes the institution his dad puts him in, along with a gorgeous anorexic girl and a guy with OCD, and heads out on a road trip. This being a German film, there's a preponderance of track suits. Ends July 21 at the Ken Cinema.
Winnie the Pooh: The tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff is back.
Zindagi Na Milega Dobara: Three Indian guys take an extended bachelor road trip in Spain in this Bollywood release, screening at Horton Plaza.
A Better Life: Demián Bichir is great as an illegal immigrant in L.A. who works backbreaking hours as a gardener while trying to keep his son in school and out of a gang.
Horrible Bosses: Put-upon drones Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day decide to murder their employers, played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. It's a comedy—ha!
Terri: There's warmth in this small coming-of-age film about an over weight teen who's taken to wearing pajamas to school. John C. Reilly is the vice principal who befriends him.
Zookeeper: Talking animals try to prevent zookeeper Kevin James from blah blah blah.
Larry Crowne: Tom Hanks gets laid off from his job at Home Depot because he doesn't have a degree. So he goes back to community college, where he meets disillusioned public-speaking teacher Julia Roberts, who eventually falls for him. Yeah, that'd happen.
Monte Carlo: Tween rom-com about three vacationing American girls who end up in Monte Carlo because one of them looks like someone else. It stars Justin Bieber's girlfriend.
Page One: Inside The New York Times: Actually, this doc is a year spent inside the New Media side of the Grey Lady. Most interesting is the portrait of David Carr, the irascible journo who's just a joy to watch.
Le Quattro Volte: Almost wordless look at the cycle of life through the waning days of an elderly shepherd who lives in the mountains of Italy.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: No, the third film in the franchise has nothing to do with either “Bark at the Moon” or “Dark Side of the Moon.” Is there still more than meets the eye?
Bad Teacher: Horrific instructor Cameron Diaz is hot for her school's new teacher, played by her real-life ex, Justin Timberlake.
Buck: Documentary about Buck Brannaman, one of the leading experts in horses and the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer.
Cars 2: The cars from Cars go overseas, or something. Also, there are spies. Pixar makes gazillions!
Beginners: Ewan McGregor is in the throes of a new relationship with Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) while trying to deal with his father (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet at age 75.
Green lantern: Ryan Reynolds is the superhero in this week's superhero movie.
Super 8: J.J. Abrams-directed and Spielberg-produced, this is a throwback to '80s-era summer goodness, about a bunch of kids who start investigating weird goings on after a train wreck near their town.
13 Assassins: Cult director Takashi Miike's new film, about a crew of samurai on a suicide mission, is more Wild Bunch than Seven Samurai, featuring a 45-minute slice-and-dice fight sequence where the odds aren't good but the action is awesome.
The Tree of Life: You might consider Terrence Malick's new movie a masterpiece or find it self-indulgent and pretentious. What you can't deny is its ambition. By focusing on a Texas family in the '50s, led by patriarch Brad Pitt, the director examines life, the universe and everything. Beautiful to watch, challenging to understand, staggeringly deep.
X-Men: First Class: Another X-Men origin-story movie! Set in the swingin' '60s, it stars James McAvoy as a young Professor X (who has yet to lose his hair), Michael Fassbender as Magneto and scads of other famous actors, like Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon and January Jones.
The Hangover Part II: It just gets harder to recover as you get older.
Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's most charming film in years stars Owen Wilson as a Jazz Age-infatuated screenwriter and aspiring novelist who ends up hanging with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Bridesmaids: Kristen Wiig moves from scene-stealer to leading lady in this raunchy girl-comedy, and it turns out she's well suited to the promotion.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams: werner Herzog takes a small team and 3-D cameras into France's Chauvet caves, home of the oldest cave paintings.
Boto be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
I Am: After a near-death experience, director Tom Shadyac—who also made films like Ace Ventura, Patch Adams and Bruce Almighty—changes direction, making a documentary that asks some of the world's political and spiritual leaders why we're so messed up.
Tornado Alley: This new IMAX film, which travels into twisters with some professional storm chasers, has to be better than Twister, the movie. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
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.