The summer-movie season kicked off with a bang when The Avengers smashed all kinds of box-office records earlier this month. But there’s more to the season than superhero vampires and exploding robots—though there’s plenty of them, too.
Here’s a collection of movies that I’m looking forward to this summer, as well as a nifty guide to what’s happening in local screenings during the next couple of months. All of the release dates listed are specific to San Diego, which means that for some of the smaller films, they’ll probably change, and other films that are equally interesting will probably be added to the marquee.
This is not a comprehensive summer schedule, just a profile of the movies that intrigue me. There’s no doubt that I’ve missed some films, and it’s possible that some included here will turn out to be terrible. But them’s the breaks, kid, and, hopefully, amid the ginormous budgets and terrible scripts that often represent the studio summer offerings, you’ll find a gem or two that you otherwise might have missed.
Tonight You’re Mine: Two feuding rock stars end up handcuffed together at one of those massive British rock festivals. That sounds terrible, right? But director David Mackenzie’s last film, Perfect Sense, a romantic tragedy about the end of the world, was so smart and wonderful that I can’t wait to see if he pulls this one off. (June 1)
Moonrise Kingdom: It’s the ’60s and two summer campers fall for one another, running away to escape their parents and scoutmaster Edward Norton. I don’t love every movie from Wes Anderson, but those that I do love, I love a lot. (June 8)
Prometheus: Ridley Scott, director of the original (and the best) Alien, returns to that universe with a sort of prequel. Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce and Idris Elba have to face off against the legacy of Sigourney Weaver. (June 8)
Safety Not Guaranteed: Aubrey Plaza from Parks & Recreation is a magazine intern sent to write a story about Kenneth (mumblecore veteran Mark Duplass), a lonely guy who placed a classified ad looking for a time-travel companion. Probably quirk city, but let’s hope it’s timeless. (June 15)
Brave: Despite Cars 2, I have an enormous amount of faith in Pixar, and this new one, set in an ancient mythical Scotland, is the studio’s first to have a female lead. Kelly Macdonald voices Princess Merida, a young girl who bristles under her father’s authority just enough to unleash some kind of nasty ancient evil. (June 22)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: Steve Carell takes a road trip in hopes of reuniting with his high-school sweetheart. There are two problems. First, his neighbor, Keira Knightley, somehow insinuates herself into his plan. And second, an asteroid is going to crash into earth in a couple of weeks and kill everyone. Like Melancholia, but sweet. (June 22)
Your Sister’s Sister: Emily Blunt invites Mark Duplass to stay at her family’s vacation spot as he grieves for his brother. That’s where he hooks up with her sister, Rosemarie DeWitt. This one is written and directed by Lynn Shelton, who manages to make creepy funny and funny creepy. (June 22)
Magic Mike: Yeah, it’s a movie about male strippers starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer. But it’s a movie about male strippers made by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh. Can he pull it off? Either way, bring your singles. (June 29)
To Rome, With Love: The plot of Woody Allen’s latest film sounds eerily familiar: A cross-section of people from different generations and ethnic backgrounds have to deal with all sorts of romantic misunderstandings. But wait, this time it’s set in Rome! Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and the Woodster himself all make appearances. And lest we forget, Allen’s last movie, Midnight in Paris, was his best in years. (June 29)
Elena: Word is, this Russian drama is just amazing. An older woman learns that her ailing husband plans to cut her and her son out of his will, forcing her to take drastic steps. Just like vegetables, subtitles are good for you, and as you get older, you appreciate them more and more. (June 29)
The Amazing Spider-Man: I loved (500) Days of Summer, though I’m not sure it qualifies Marc Webb to take over this massive franchise. Still, Andrew Garfield, the new Spidey, is talented, best known for paying Eduardo Savarin in The Social Network. (July 3)
Take this Waltz: Sarah Polley’s new movie is an erotic drama starring Seth Rogen. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but he’s actually playing the jilted husband, a cookbook writer whose dissatisfied wife, Michelle Williams (who does erotic drama with the best of them), takes up with the hunky neighbor down the block. (July 6)
Ted: Mark Wahlberg has to decide between his gorgeous girlfriend, Mila Kunis, or his foul-mouthed living teddy bear, Ted, voiced by writer-director-co-star Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. Hey, every generation needs its Harvey. (July 13)
Beasts of the Southern Wild: You don’t earn Grand Jury and Best Cinematography Prizes at Sundance for nothing. Benh Zeitlin’s feature debut is about a young girl, Hushpuppy, who leaves her Delta community in search of her lost mother. Oh, and there are prehistoric creatures kicking around after an environmental catastrophe. (July 13)
The Dark Knight Rises: Not much needs to be said. Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale wrap up their trilogy. Anne Hathaway is Catwoman, and Tom Hardy—who stole all his scenes in Nolan’s last movie, Inception—is the bad guy. (July 20)
Ruby Sparks: The last movie Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris made was Little Miss Sunshine. Paul Dano stars as a lonely writer who invents a fictional girl who might love him. And then she turns up, looking just like Zoe Kazan. (July 25)
The Queen of Versailles: Not the French historical drama you were expecting. No, this documentary is about a couple who made billions in timeshares and now live in a 90,000-square-foot mansion designed to look like Versailles. (July 27)
Dark Horse: Todd Solondz makes movies that are just so weird. In this one, a male toy collector and a female outcast fall for each other. Plus, it’s got Christopher Walken. Prepare to be creeped. (July 27)
Searching for Sugar Man: We’ve all spent time wondering what happened to those musical artists who impacted us in our youth and then went completely off the radar. Even if you haven’t, it’ll be worth seeing what happens when a pair of South Africans cross the globe to find out what happened to Rodriguez, a rocker from the ’70s who didn’t even know he was big in South Africa. (Aug. 10)
ParaNorman: The last movie made by the folks at LAIKA was Coraline, and it was terrific—an amazing stop-action animation coupled with terrific 3D that managed to tell a story that was smart, sensitive and creepy. This new one is about a strange little boy (voiced by Codi Smit-McPhee) whose talent for talking to the dead comes in handy when zombies invade his town. (Aug. 17)
Lawless: John Hillcoat’s movies, such as The Road and The Proposition, are exciting and atmospheric. Here’s hoping he pulls off the same thing with this tale of Prohibitionera moonshine-running brothers, played by Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke and Shia LaBeouf. Guy Pearce is the G-man sent to take them down. (Aug 31)
Gangster Squad: Technically, this comes out in September, but let’s add it anyway. Because who wouldn’t want to see a pulpy take on the Los Angeles Police Department’s efforts to keep the East Coast mob out of the city in the ’40s and ’50s? The dynamite cast includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin and Sean Penn as legendary mobster Mickey Cohen. (Sept. 7)
Movies are all over San Diego in the summer.
You can find them in bars, libraries, restaurants, museums and, yes, even movie theaters. The great news is that you can buy booze at some of these screenings. For the others, CityBeat recommends drinking beforehand. Or investing in an inconspicuous flask.
Wednesday is the go-to night for one-off movies. The latest entry is Movie Night at The Propagandist, the new bar Downtown. Owner Brian Divine’s taste in films feels both familiar and eclectic, with movies like The Royal Tenenbaums and Tremors. Plus, he always provides snacks and drink specials. The Range in Hillcrest offers a Dinner Theater night once a month, though July gets two of them. The event starts at 7 p.m., and films roll at 8 p.m. Moulin Rouge is slated to run on June 13, but the big deal is the Pride film in July. Make reservations at therangesd.com for this one: It’s The Wizard of Oz.
Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido kicks off its annual film fest with the perennial favorite The Big Lebowski, and, yes, they also run every Wednesday. Other highlights throughout the summer include grown-up movies like Fight Club and Tropic Thunder and Rifftrax’s notso-grown-up takes on Rise of Planet of the Apes and 300. Not to be overlooked is The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma, which screens movies on Wednesday night year round in its Dive-In Theatre. And, hey, they’re San Diego-centric; Almost Famous and Top Gun are already on the summer docket.
Go from Dive-In straight to your car with Full Moon Drive-In, kicking off this summer. It’s a new twist on an old idea: Watch the classics from your car. Location will be announced in a couple of weeks, so sign up for details at fullmoondrivein.com. They charge by the car, not the head, so sit on laps rather than hiding your friends in the trunk.
Speaking of classics, that’s what Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills does best. This season leans heavily on Orson Welles, who has the bulk to hold things up with films like Touch of Evil, The Third Man and, of course, the Citizen Kane of classic films, Citizen Kane.
Speaking of classics, again, the San Diego Museum of Art’s Screen on the Green series replaces its monthly First Friday Film for the summer months. Three movies, all starting at 8 p.m., are slated to get the outdoor treatment this summer. Details at sdmart.org.
Over at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park, KPBS’s Beth Accomondo has joined forces with local film writers Miguel Rodriguez and Ian Forbes to present Shot by Shot, a monthly series that will feature Rushmore this Thursday, May 24, in anticipation of Wes Anderson’s new film being released in San Diego next month, and the original Alien in June, in front of Prometheus.
On top of all that, the Central Library (Downtown) and Reading Cinemas’ 40 Foot Film series (readingcinemasus.com) continue to screen interesting films. And what summer-movie guide would be complete without a listing of midnight movies? There’s only one witching-hour film series this summer, and it happens at the Ken Cinema. Amongst standards like The Big Lebowski and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, there’s cool stuff like Pink Flamingos and Drive. Best of all, though, is Battle Royale, the brutal Japanese film that makes The Hunger Games look like, well, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Oh, and Turtles is also on the bill. Details at landmarktheatres.com.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. You can follow Anders on Twitter at @anderswright.