With November just around the corner, it's a good time to remember the suffragettes who paved the way for the 19th Amendment (um, that's the one that gave women the right to vote). That's just one reason why the San Diego Film Critics Society (full disclosure: I'm a member) has teamed with the San Diego Women's History Museum for a benefit screening of Iron Jawed Angels, a little-seen film about the suffragette movement starring Hilary Swank, Frances O'Connor, Lois Smith, Vera Farmiga, Julia Ormond, token male Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey and Anjelica Huston, who won a Golden Globe award for her role. Swank is suffragette leader Alice Paul, the original author of an early Equal Rights Amendment, who went on a lengthy hunger strike after being arrested and convicted for leading nonviolent protests at the White House.
Originally made for HBO, this is a solid film that serves as a terrific history lesson for both men and women. The screening takes place just a short while after Women's Equality Day, and several public officials will be on hand to comment on the film and the suffragette movement, so bring your daughters. Sisters will be doing it for themselves at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. There's a suggested $10 donation, and reservations can be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
America the Beautiful: Darryl Roberts wrote and directed this doc about America's obsession with beauty. Sure, we've all read The Beauty Myth, and we all know about airbrushing, boob jobs and Botox, but there's nothing quite like interviews with pre-teen and teen girls who think they're ugly juxtaposed with interviews with the magazine editors who know they make them feel that way.
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.
College: Three high-school seniors get hooked up with a frat during a weekend visit to look at colleges. Turns out the sorority girls who come to the house to party dig them, something the frat bros don't appreciate. Imagine, Greek system and college-girl humiliation a whole year early!
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.”
Inang Yaya: A 2006 Filipino film that earned all sorts of acting awards, Inang Yaya stars Maricel Soriana as Norma, a mommy-nanny who cares for the 7-year-old daughter of a middle-class couple. When the family moves to Singapore, Norma is forced to decide if she should stay in the Philippines with her own daughter or move with the girl who feels like her own. Inang Yaya runs Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 at the UltraStar Chula Vista.
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.
One time only
American Pie: Sure, when we think about this movie, the only thing that comes to mind is Jason Biggs fucking an apple pie. And something that happened one time at band camp. But there's actually something sweet and universal about the franchise's first (and only good) film. No, it's not the getting-laid part—it's the way all those guys are suffering through their last year of high school, terrified to leave their friends behind. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Transformers with Rifftrax: Got Shia? The folks at Stone have lined up all three Artists Formerly Known as Mystery Science Theater 3000 for this screening of last summer's monster Michael Bay explode-a-thon. That's awesome, because there wasn't really that much more than meets the eye to the movie. Kick back with eight beers and let Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett provide the running commentary. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Free.
National Lampoon's Animal House: The Museum of Photographic Arts throws its annual POP Thursday shindig with the John Belushi classic. Toga optional, food fight mandatory. The keg is tapped at 6 p.m., and the movie starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, at MOPA in Balboa Park.
alt.pictureshows.2008: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego film curator Neil Kendricks has done it again, putting together a terrific collection of short films screened in different locations throughout the museum. Film lovers, this one's not to be missed. All the fine details are on Page 19, but if you don't have time to flip the page, it's at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, at MCASD in La Jolla.
Paper Moon: Long before she became the poster girl for troubled child actors, Tatum O'Neal became the youngest person ever to win an Oscar for playing Addie Loggins, a Depression-era tyke teamed with real-life dad Ryan O'Neal to fleece folks who can't afford to be fleeced. Peter Bogdanovich directed. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, at Screen on the Green in front of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Free.
Roman Holiday: Audrey Hepburn was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar five times but only took a walk to the podium for Roman Holiday in 1953. Her performance as the princess who escapes her handlers to pal around with newsman Gregory Peck is sweet and innocent, and the chemistry between them makes Holiday one of the great romances of the last century. Screens at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 28, through Sunday, Aug. 31, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Wiz: No, really, Michael Jackson used to be black, even if he was always weird. Here's proof. Ease on down the road at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, at Market Street Plaza in Encanto. Free.
Ratatouille: Somehow, Pixar made a cartoon about a rat in the kitchen that was one of the best movies of 2007. If you haven't seen it, do. It starts at dusk on Friday, Aug. 29, at Heritage Park in Old Town. Free.
American Beauty: Sam Mendes' 2000 Best Picture Oscar winner stars Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham, a suburbanite loser experiencing a midlife crisis. His wife (Annette Bening) and daughter (Thora Birch) loathe him, and his job sucks, so he looks for any way to deviate from the routine and combat complacency. It isn't quite as brilliant as the Academy may have thought, but it's an excellent debut from Mendes, nonetheless. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31, at Cafe Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
The Longest Yard: Remember that lame-ass Adam Sandler football movie with Chris Rock, Nelly and Burt Reynolds from a few years ago? This isn't that. This is the 1974 original, which does, in fact, star Reynolds as a convict quarterback who puts together a football team to take on the guards. The remake was a Hail Mary, but the original's way tough. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Before you make your own “Anyone? Anyone?” joke, isn't it weird that super-smart Ben Stein, the economics teacher from this film, the former Pepperdine law professor, White House speech writer and host of Win Ben Stein's Money, is the star of a Creationist documentary created to counteract Bill Maher's Religulous? Just thought you should know. Still, it's family night in Escondido, so bring the kids. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
A Man Named Pearl: It could almost be considered a good thing that potential neighbors told Pearl Fryar, who is African-American, that they didn't want him to move in near them because “black people don't keep up their yards.” Because, otherwise, he never would have taught himself how to make such an incredible garden that went on to inspire his entire community, even the crackers. Call it better living through topiary.
Boy A: Jack is 24, but he's spent the bulk of his life in juvenile prisons for committing a brutal crime as a minor. A new identity protects him from his history but means he has to come to terms with not being able to truly open up to anyone he meets. Andrew Garfield stars in the title role, and Peter Mullan is Terry, the case worker who stands by him.
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.
Donsol: The San Diego Asian Film Festival kicks off a 365-day-long series of Filipino films with Donsol, a Foreign Language Oscar submission from the Philippines about two lonely people, a broken-hearted man and an older woman suffering from breast cancer, who find each other. It runs from Aug. 22 to 28, at the UltraStar Chula Vista.
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.
The Longshots: Family-friendly football film directed by—drum roll, please—Fred Durst. That's right, Fred “Did it all for the nookie” Durst. Fred “Sex tape on the Internet” Durst. And, apparently these days, Fred “Wholesome family man” Durst. Keke Palmer is Jasmine Plummer, in this true story of the first girl to ever play in the Pop Warner football tourney. Ice Cube's her dad.
Pretendiendo (Ugly Me): A Chilean film about a beautiful woman who takes on a homely alter-ego to be taken more seriously. When a co-worker takes an interest in both of her identities, she finds herself in a love triangle—with herself. This is the first of the San Diego Latino Film Festival's Cinema en tu Idioma Film Series, showcasing one film a month for the next four months. Ugly Me runs Friday, Aug. 22, through Thursday, Aug. 28, at the UltraStar Mission Valley. Tickets are $9.50, or a full series pass can be purchased at www.mediaartscenter.org.
The Rocker: Every rose has its thorn. Sure, Rainn Wilson's first big lead, The Rocker, is a School of Rock knock-off. But there's something pleasant about the story of a hair rocker who gets a second chance.
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.
Frozen River: It's about time Melissa Leo got a leading role. Best known as a cop on TV's Homicide and for being harassed by ex-beau John Heard, Leo dropped off the map for a while, but she returns in this intense little drama. She's a single mother who teams up with an Indian to smuggle immigrants on the reservation between the U.S. and Canada. The film earned Grand Jury Prize honors at Sundance.
Henry Poole is Here: Want to get away? Just ditch your girl and your career and buy a crappy house in the crappy suburban neighborhood you grew up in. That's what a depressed Luke Wilson does, and it works just fine, until his neighbors see Jesus in a water stain in his stucco.
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.
Brideshead Revisited: The latest version of Evelyn Waugh's pre-WWII novel is brought to life by director Julian Jarrold and a cast of distinguished Brits, including Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon. If you like Atonement and Merchant Ivory productions, this should be right up your alley. The rest of us may be caught nodding off from time to time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.