Though one is probably in the works, a feature film simply won't capture the reality of Man on Wire, James Marsh's documentary about Philippe Petit, the young Frenchman who, in 1974, spent 90 minutes on a tightrope that he and some friends strung up more than 1,300 feet high between the not-yet-complete World Trade Center towers. A fictitious take on Petit's story simply couldn't convey the danger and would likely look fake, especially when we know the real Petit, who was arrested almost immediately after coming down from his incredible feat, would likely not have been saved by the net below if he'd taken a tumble. A French circus performer, Petit's a great interview, charming and witty, but he's not the only star of this movie—the ultimate fate of the twin towers heightens their appeal here; it's impossible to watch Man on Wire without thinking about what became of them.
A Jihad for Love: There's a reason we don't hear much about homosexuals in Islam. It's because same-sex relationships are cause for capital punishment in many countries. Director Parvez Sharma's documentary profiles Muslims in several areas who are forced to hide their private lives for fear of persecution or even death. Somewhat limited in reaching satisfying conclusions, the film still manages to shed light on a religious subculture that is rarely addressed.
American Teen: Have you ever watched The Breakfast Club and cringed at its portrayal of high-school archetypes? Here's your chance to watch the lives of five very different Midwestern teenagers play out in real life. OK, it might not be entirely real; the film has been criticized as a large-scale facsimile of reality television. But it's presented with enough verve by director Nanette Burstein to keep viewers engaged, even if it seems like the filmmakers might be nudging these kids in a questionable direction. See our review here.
Quentin Tarantino presents Hell Ride: Gnarly biker dudes Vinnie Jones, Michael Madsen and Dennis Hopper ride around, act tough and hurt each other. There's lots of naked chicks and debauchery, too, and Tarantino is on board as executive producer. That pretty much says it all.
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.
One Time Only
Dirty Dancing: Is there anything worse than having to watch Patrick Swayze pirouette around in an insipidly plotted 1980s romance? Ladies, we know you love it, but we beg you not to drag your boyfriends out to this one. Have a heart! Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 8 p.m. at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Princess Bride: If you've seen Rob Reiner's 1987 fantasy and didn't like it, you have no soul. Safe enough for kids, clever enough for adults and charming enough for damn near everybody, it's hard to beat The Princess Bride for across-the-board appeal. Endlessly quotable appearances by Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn and Peter Cook only add to the reasons you should want to revisit this one. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The third film in Sergio Leone's “Man with No Name” trilogy is among the greatest westerns ever. It also gave us one of the silver screen's most iconic characters in Clint Eastwood's snarling, cigar-puffing sharp-shooter. From Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to the supporting cast (including perennial bad-asses Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach), everything about this flick is eternally awesome. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Free.
Sabrina: Billy Wilder's 1954 love story stars William Holden and Humphrey Bogart as brothers David and Linus Larrabee, both vying for the affection of the gorgeous Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn). Forget about the unnecessary 1995 remake; this version is one of the few truly classic romantic comedies. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at Screen on the Green in front of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Free.
Pee Wee's Big Adventure: Say what you will about the whole public-masturbation thing; Paul Reubens got a pretty bad rap. Let's not forget how hilarious he is as Pee Wee Herman in Tim Burton's surreal 1985 comedy, which Reubens co-wrote with the late Phil Hartman. Worth the price of admission for the opening sequence alone, Pee Wee's Big Adventure is still Burton's funniest and most quotable movie. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, in the parking lot of the Museum of Contemporary Art's La Jolla branch. Free.
Shadow of Doubt: Described as Alfred Hitchcock's “finest film” by playwright David Mamet, Shadow of Doubt follows young Charlotte “Charlie” Newton as she wrestles with the news that her favorite Uncle Charlie might be a serial killer who preys on rich widows. Screens at 8:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Aug. 7 and 8, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Who Killed the Electric Car?: Find out whodunnit in this entertaining, very timely documentary, presented this time as part of North County Democratic Unity's “Cruisin' and a Movie” series. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, following light refreshments at 6:30 p.m. at 135 E. Grand Ave. in Escondido. Free, but donations are accepted.
The Game Plan: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays a superstar quarterback whose promiscuous past comes back to haunt him when he discovers he has a 7-year-old daughter. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, at the Market Street Plaza in Encanto. 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 possible 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 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at Influx in Golden Hill. The $15 charge benefits the Greater Golden Hill Community Development Fund.
An Affair to Remember: Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr star in Leo McCarey's remake of his own 1939 romance Love Affair. Nickie (Grant) and Terry (Kerr) play socialites who have a passionate affair on a cruise ship, despite both being engaged to other people. Testing themselves by separating for six months, they make a pact to meet atop the Empire State Building if they still love each other after their time apart. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9 and 10, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
San Diego Children's Film Festival: More than 50 short animated, fiction and documentary children's films from around the world are screened over two days. Screenings will be clustered by age group, making sure the themes are appropriate for your little ones. The full lineup can be found at www.sdchildrensfilm.org, and everything runs from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9 and 10, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Free.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: The Wes Anderson critical backlash began with this 2004 comedy starring Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Angelica Huston and Jeff Goldblum. It's not nearly as bad as some made it out to be, and despite complaints that the characters are underdeveloped, Anderson's intricate set and costume design make it worth watching again. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, at Café Libertalia in Hillcrest. Free.
35MM: Soundtrack: This music-and-film “experience” features a selection of music videos and short band documentaries, with appearances by the bands and filmmakers. The event offers special live performances, as well as the opportunity to make your own musical instruments. Things start at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 12, at the Beach on the roof of the W Hotel, Downtown.
Chariots of Fire: You probably remember only two things about this film: the synth-driven theme song by Vangelis and the dudes running barefoot on the beach. What it's really about is two runners in post-World War I Britain who overcome various difficulties to race in the 1924 Olympic games. It's the Dive-In Theatre “Olympics Edition” and screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: Probably the weakest of Monty Python's feature films, but, then again, average Python is better than most comedy troupes' best material. Made up of several vignettes each documenting an “answer” to one of life's perplexing questions, some of the shorts are gross, but almost all of them elicit a few laughs. You'll never have a “wafer-thin mint” after a large meal again. Screens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. Free.
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 Last Mistress: Dynamic Italian actress Asia Argento stars in French director Catherine Breillat's 19th-century period drama, exploring the erotic desires hidden behind the aristocracy's veil of nobility and honor. Breillat's visual style can be thrilling, but you may end up wishing there were more sex and less chatting.
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.
The Stone Angel: An adaptation of the 1964 novel by Canadian author Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel plot line sounds warily similar to a Manitoba version of The Notebook or Fried Green Tomatoes covered in maple syrup. But this tale of old biddy Hagar Shipley (Ellen Burstyn) flashbacking on her life is controversial enough to have provoked fundamentalist Christians to call it “blasphemous” and “obscene,” which is a ringing endorsement in our book.
Swing Vote: Kevin Costner stars in this presidential-election comedy, playing a lazy, beer-drinking everyman who, through some no-doubt-plausible chain of events, becomes the one man whose vote will decide who becomes the next president of the United States. There's a whole mess of other household names, including Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper as the Democratic Party candidate.
Bustin' Down the Door: Surfing doc about the summer of 1975, when a crew of shredders from South Africa and Australia descended on Hawaii, changing the sport forever.
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 X-Files: I Want to Believe: Is the truth still out there? It's been more than half-a-decade since Mulder and Scully went on the run and The X-Files went off the air. The new movie, directed by series creator Chris Carter, revisits the iconic characters, giving them another case that'll test their mettle and, perhaps, their faith.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.