Zach Braff means well. I truly believe that. How else can one rationalize the actor-turned-filmmaker’s insanely sincere view of the world? But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Braff’s work feels dangerously delusional, a simplification of complex emotions into a safe, Bon Iver-sealed package.
It all started with 2004’s Garden State, Braff’s first effort that clicked with audiences’ thanks in large part to Natalie Portman’s charming performance and a popular soundtrack. Ten years and one successful Kickstarter campaign later, the Scrubs alum returns with his sophomore film. Wish I Was Here packs in enough twee melodrama for a Garden State trilogy, suffocating the viewer into feeling something, anything, everything.
Braff stars as Aidan, a struggling actor facing a series of crises involving finances and his family. Each problem revolves around responsibility. Aidan home-schools his two children, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) and Grace (Joey King), after his cancer-stricken father stops fronting the money for a private Jewish education. This puts more pressure on his wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), the family’s sole provider, who works a dead-end job at the local water district.
The angst provides Aidan with the necessary inspiration to finally become a man. Big surprise. In the process, Braff decorates each frame with precious details: There’s a swear jar, a colorful wig that holds special a few sci-fi dream sequences to appease the Comic-Con crowd.
The final act amounts to a massive puddle of tears. Certain moments resonate, thanks to Hudson, who manages to rekindle some of that starry-eyed Almost Famous magic. But, mostly, Wish I Was Here—which opens Friday, July 18, at Hillcrest Cinemas—proves that, without a doubt, Braff cares only about his view of the world, no matter how cloying it has become.
Boyhood: Richard Linklater’s epic drama follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18, charting all the highs and lows in between.
Closed Curtain: Under house arrest, a filmmaker (Jafar Panahi) hides his beloved dog from the authorities while interacting with some of the characters from his previous films. Screens through July 25 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Planes: Fire and Rescue: This sequel to the 2013 animated hit film finds lead race plane Dusty (Dane Cook) forced into working with a fire-and-rescue unit after his engine is damaged.
The Purge: Anarchy: It’s that time of year again to murder, murder, murder, all for the benefit of the good ol’ United States of America. Let freedom ring.
Siddharth: A desperate man searches for his missing son in Mumbai, fearing that he’s been kidnapped for slave labor. Screens through July 24 at the Ken Cinema.
Video Games: The Movie: The documentary every gamer’s been waiting for with bated breath. Just in time for Comic-Con. Screens through July 24 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Wish I Was Here: Zach Braff stars as a struggling actor attempting to overcome the avalanche of problems that face his family and parents.
One time only
Grand Piano: The worst malady for a concert pianist has to be stage fright, and Elijah Wood’s impresario suffers from it mightily. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
Pete Seeger: A Song and a Stone: A portrait of folk singer and political activist Pete Seeger, who spent decades speaking out against the Vietnam War, pollution and inequality. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Big Gay Love: A successful new homeowner meets the man of his dreams, only to screw up their relationship almost immediately. Will his friends and family be able to get him back on track? Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 17, at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Grateful Dead: Beat Club 4/21/1972: Dead Heads rejoice, one of your beloved band’s most famous concert tours is coming to a theater near you. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 17, at various theaters. Visit fathomevents.com for details.
The Big Clock: John Farrow’s classic film noir follows a magazine editor who discovers that his boss is trying to frame him for murder. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 17 and 18, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Honour: Paddy Considine stars as a bounty hunter searching for a Muslim runaway who’s disgraced her family in West London. Screens at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 19, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
How to Steal a Million: Audrey Hepburn stars in this romantic comedy about a young woman who must steal a statue from a museum in order to hide her father’s long career as a forger. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Come celebrate the mad genius of Tim Curry. Screens at midnight on Saturday, July 19, at the Ken Cinema.
American Freethought, Part 4: The rise of Roman Catholicism is the focus of the fourth part of Rod Bradford’s expansive documentary about religion and atheism. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 21, at San Diego Public Library in East Village.
London River: Two strangers are thrust together after bombings in 2005 align their fates. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
The Lego Movie: The building blocks of your childhood come alive in this rambunctious and hilarious comedy by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Point Loma’s Liberty Station.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson’s latest takes place in an opulent hotel set in a fictional Eastern European country right before World War I. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at the Mission Valley Library.
Batman: Michael Keaton stars as the caped crusader as he battles the evil Joker (Jack Nicholson) in Tim Burton’s gothic version of the famous comic. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at Arclight La Jolla.
The Endless Summer: Two young surfers travel the world, following an everlasting summer, in Bruce Brown’s legendary documentary. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music: A documentary that uses photos, concert footage and interviews to look at the life and legacy of the famous singer. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Begin Again: When a forlorn singer / songwriter (Keira Knightley) breaks from her cheating superstar boyfriend (Adam Levine), she finds newfound success with a disgraced record executive (Mark Ruffalo) willing to take a chance on an unknown talent.
Le Chef: An aspiring chef faces off against a celebrity food star in this French comedy by director Daniel Cohen.
Coherence: Old friends gets together for a dinner party, only to see the night descend into chaos after a comet creates a disturbing celestial phenomenon.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Ten years after a virus outbreak pitted apes against men, the two factions forge a fragile peace that’s tested by fear and aggression. It’s directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and stars Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis.
Hellion: A delinquent teenager and his haggard father (Aaron Paul) must get their act together in order to convince social workers to reunite their family. Screens through July 16 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Hidden Universe: Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Venus in Fur: Roman Polanski adapts David Ives’ sultry play about an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) trying to convince a director (Mathieu Amalric) that she’s perfect for a role. Ends July 17 at the Ken Cinema.
America: From the mastermind behind 2016: Obama’s America comes another hyperbolic documentary that imagines a scenario where the United States lost the Revolutionary War and America did not come to exist.
Deliver Us From Evil: A New York City police officer (Eric Bana) and an unconventional Catholic priest (Edgar Ramirez) team up to solve a series of supernatural crimes terrorizing the city.
Earth to Echo: The found-footage film has finally found its way to the children’s-sci-fi genre in this adventure about an alien who recruits a group of friends to help it return home. I’m sure E.T. is suing for copyright infringement.
Life Itself: A documentary portrait of Roger Ebert, legendary film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times who revolutionized television with his popular review show with Gene Siskel.
Snowpiercer: In a frozen post-apocalyptic future, the only human survivors live aboard a high-speed train with distinct class boundaries and brutal restrictions. A revolt by the impoverished tail section threatens to shift the balance of power.
Born to be Wild: Morgan Freeman narrates this IMAX adventure that follows the lives of elephants and orangutans from birth to their time in the wild. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Tammy: Melissa McCarthy stars as a fast-food employee who hits the road with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon) after losing her job and leaving her husband.
Yves Saint Laurent: Biopic about the famed French fashion designer who battled addiction during his rise to fame in the late 1950s.
Third Person: A successful writer (Liam Neeson) going through a mid-life crisis begins writing his next book only to find his novel splitting off in different directions. Ends July 17 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Transformers: Age of Extinction: Boom!
Jersey Boys: Clint Eastwood adapts the popular Broadway play about the rise of musical group The Four Seasons.
Obvious Child: A sassy stand-up comedienne gets dumped by her loser boyfriend and then has a one-night stand with a stranger, which results in an unwanted pregnancy. Ends July 17 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Think Like a Man Too: Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy once again star in a mosaic of couples behaving badly, this time set in Las Vegas. It’s a sequel to the 2012 comedy Think Like a Man.
22 Jump Street: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return for more violent shenanigans as undercover cops trying to expose a drug ring at a local college.
The Grand Seduction: Residents of a small harbor town try to woo a hot-shot young doctor with hopes of convincing him to relocate to their rural haven. Ends July 17 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
How to Train Your Dragon 2: Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless encounter new challenges while trying to bring their species together in harmony.
Edge of Tomorrow: Tom Cruise dies a thousand times in order to find the right info about an alien attack that will destroy Earth. It co-stars a very buff Emily Blunt.
The Fault in Our Stars: In a dramedy starring Shailene Woodley (Divergent), from the writers of (500) Days of Summer, young love is tested when a cancer-stricken teenager falls for her witty foil despite her serious illness.
Words and Pictures: Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star as rival teachers who spark a competition between their students involving the importance of photography and prose. Ends July 17 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Ida: Anna, 18, is about to become a nun in 1960s Poland. But a family secret dating back to the days of Nazi occupation threatens her faith. It’s directed by acclaimed filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski. Ends July 17 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Maleficent: Angelina Jolie stars as the infamous sorceress who sets her sights on the nubile young Princess Aurora in this big-budget reboot of Sleeping Beauty.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: The latest installment of the popular Marvel franchise finds Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) going back in time to recruit his colleagues’ younger selves in order to save mankind from the evil Sentinels.
Belle: An illegitimate, mixed-race daughter (of a Navy admiral) being raised by aristocrats finds herself in a precarious social position in Victorian England.
Chef: Jon Favreau returns to comedy filmmaking with this story of a well-respected chef who opens a food truck after being fired by a posh restaurateur.
Million Dollar Arm: On a mission to find the next baseball phenom in the unlikeliest of places, a sports agent (Jon Hamm) travels to India in hopes of convincing talented cricket players to play American baseball.
Neighbors: A newly relocated couple can’t enjoy their beautiful new residence after a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Every homeowner’s worst nightmare comes true.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Ralph Fiennes leads an all-star cast in director Wes Anderson’s latest film, which takes place inside an elaborate European hotel populated by eccentric characters. Ends July 10 at the Ken Cinema.
Journey to the South Pacific: Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Mysteries of the Unseen World: This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens 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.