Mill Valley Film Festival
The 28th annual Mill Valley Film Festival runs Oct 6-16 at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; CinéArts@Sequoia, 25 Throckmorton, Mill Valley; 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton, Mill Valley; and Century Cinema, 41 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera. For tickets (most shows $8-10), call (925) 866-9559 or visit www.mvff.com. For commentary, see Critic's Choice. All times p.m. unless otherwise indicated.
Rafael Mrs. Henderson Presents 7.
Sequoia The Matador 7 and 7:15.
Rafael Wolf Summer 4:30. A Touch of Space 6:30. My Tiny Universe 6:45. Girlfriend, Someone Please Stop the World 7:30. Guernsey 9. The Art of Breaking Up 9:15. Bed Stories 9:45.
Sequoia "5@5: All I Really Want to Do" (shorts program) 5. Sophie Scholl: The Last Days 6:30. Brotherly Jazz 7:15. The Queen of Sheba's Pearls 9:15. Forty Shades of Blue 9:30.
Throck Return to the Land of Wonders 7. El Perro Negro 9:30.
Rafael "Lynda Hansen Seminar" 11am. A Piece of Bread 12:30. The Devil's Miner 1. "Frame by Frame Seminar" 1:30. The Girl from Auschwitz 3. Saratan 4. The Lady from Sockholm 4:15. In Memory of My Father 6. "Tribute: Michael Powell" 6:30. Tropic of Cancer 6:45. The Undeserved 8:30. Web Cam Girls 9. Delicatessan 9:15.
Sequoia Max and Josef: Double Trouble 10am. The Fakir 11:30am. The Bridge So Far noon. The Californians 2. Springtime 2:15. Dallas Among Us 4:30. Sir! No Sir! 5:15. Berkeley 6:45. Wellstone! 7:30. North Country 9. "The Hi De Ho Show" 10.
Throck Let the Children Lead 10:30am. Amongst White Clouds 12:30. "Tender Gender Benders" (shorts program) 2:45. iThemba-Hope 5:15. Al-Ghazali 7:15. Butterfly Jazz 9:30.
Rafael Immediate Boarding 10am. "Digital Independence Seminar" 10:30am. Carpathia noon. I Know Where I'm Going 12:15. 39 Pounds of Love 1:30. Springtime 2:45. "Spotlight: Felicity Huffman" 3. In Memory of My Father 4:15. Sound of the Soul 5:45. Fateless 5:45. Bed Stories 6:45. Delwende 7:45. Moon and Cherry 8:30. The Queen of Sheba's Pearls 8:45.
Sequoia Hoppity Goes to Town 11:30am. Return to the Land of Wonders 12:15. Hidden Flaws 1:30. Soul of Justice 2:45. Frozen Angels 3:45. Music is My Life, Politics My Mistress 5. The Society of Jesus 6. Scared New World 7:45. The Last Moon 8:30.
Throck "Short Films for Little People" 11am. Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story 1:30. The Devil's Miner 3:30. "Different Drummers" (shorts program) 5:30. The Underserved 7:45.
Rafael The Winter Song 4:45. "5@5: All I Really Want to Do" (shorts program) 5. Frozen Angels 6. Shopgirl 7. Al-Ghazali 7:15. Fateless 8:15. State of Fear 9:30. Wellstone! 9:30.
Sequoia "5@5: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (shorts program) 5. A Touch of Spice 6:30. Trudell 6:45. North Country 8:45. Amongst White Clouds 9.
Throck Soul of Justice 7. Music is My Life, Politics My Mistress 9.
Century Innocent Voices 6:30. TBA 9.
Rafael Immediate Boarding 4. Bluebird 4:15. "5@5: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (shorts program) 5. Berkeley 6:15. Live and Become 6:30. Sir! No Sir! 7. The Society of Jesus 8:30. Boats Out of Watermelon Rinds 9. The Last Moon 9:30.
Sequoia "5@5: Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" (shorts program) 5. Bride of Silence 6:15. Been Rich All My Life 7:15. Ellektra 8:45. Guernsey 9:30.
Throck "Tuesday Night Comedy" 8.
Century Prime 7.
*24 Hours on Craigslist See Movie Clock. (1:16) Red Vic.
*Capote See "In Colder Blood." (1:50) Clay, Empire, Shattuck.
*Good Night, and Good Luck See "Anchor Steam." (1:30) Embarcadero.
The Gospel An R&B star (Boris Kodjoe) rediscovers his church roots after his Bishop father (Clifton Powell) falls ill. (1:45) Century 20, Century Plaza, Shattuck.
*Henri Langolis: The Phantom of the Cinematheque It's hard to overestimate the impact of Henri Langlois on film history even on the very existence of that concept. Starting out as an obsessed fan collecting, screening, and sometimes singlehandedly saving films, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1936, he hid and protected an ever-growing store of fragile reels from the Nazis (who would have destroyed titles from Allied countries) through World War II, opening his first real (if tiny) theater a few years afterward. That venue one of very few places around the globe back then where you could view movies no longer in commercial release magnetized a generation of avid "students" who went on to comprise the French New Wave's directors (Truffaut, Chabrol, Rivette, et al), critics, and historians. Yet even as the portly Langlois was becoming recognized around the world as an educator and preservationist, his eccentric, even anarchic managerial methods created opponents who plotted to replace him with someone more politically cooperative. His attempted ouster in 1968 (just before the famous May uprisings) drew protestors, police confrontations (Godard got clubbed), and angry missives from international filmmakers. Twenty years after the 1977 heart attack that killed him, a fire shuttered his Musée du Cinéma an event that some thought proved government antipathy continued even after he passed away. "They killed him by exhausting him with vile administrative pettiness," one ally opines. Whether viewed as victim, visionary, or his own worst enemy, Langlois lived an extraordinary life that this jam-packed documentary (two hours edited down from a 210-minute original) summarizes in a fascinating, breakneck compilation of interviews and archival footage. (2:08) Roxie. (Harvey)
In Her Shoes Two wildly different sisters (Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette) finally learn to get along when their long-lost grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) brings them together. (2:10) Century 20, Century Plaza.
The Overture Who knew the early-20th-century world of Thai music was so totally cutthroat? This fictional biopic, loosely based on the life of celebrated music master Luang Pradit Pairoh, offers a serious look at the World War II-era crackdown on Thai traditions, where new "cultural guidelines" outlawed anything deemed "outmoded and obsolete." This greatly affects Sorn (played as an old man by Adul Dulyarat), an esteemed performer and teacher whose famed skills on the Ranad Ek, or lead xylophone, make him a target for the new regime. The Overture's most dynamic scenes, however, come during its many flashbacks to Sorn's youth, as the prodigy (portrayed as a young man by Anuchit Saphanphong) realizes the full extent of his musical gifts thanks in no small part to a glowering archnemesis he encounters on the streets of Bangkok. Director Itthi-sunthorn Wichailak lenses both city and country scenes with lush beauty, but he's also prone to using melodramatic slo-mo whenever emotion runs high. The music, however, is undeniably majestic. (1:44) Balboa. (Eddy)
Separate Lies The title may sound generic, but it's an accurate summation of this story of death in plush places, a low-key thriller of manners that becomes a modest and quietly satisfying tale of a tested marriage. A fatal hit-and-run accident in the Buckinghamshire countryside ensnares a stolid, well-off solicitor (Tom Wilkinson), his emotionally neglected wife (Emily Watson) and her affectless playboy lover (Rupert Everett) in a roundelay of guilt-transference and complicity. Who was behind the wheel? Who should confess and who should keep quiet? Separate Lies first seems like another exercise in civilized nastiness and beastly bourgeois hypocrisy, but it avoids petty misanthropy, instead treating even the trashiest characters with very old-fashioned humanism, so that when the screws are steadily tightened, each plot twist seems organic rather than just another hoop for the players to leap through. Making his directorial debut after having written Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes operates with finesse, but the film would be slight if Wilkinson and Watson weren't giving some of the best performances of their careers. (1:27) Albany, Embarcadero. (Amanatullah)
Three Dancing Slaves A few years back, I sat near director Gaël Morel at a screening of Ken Park, and it's safe to say Morel's latest movie has taken a cue or two from Larry Clark in terms of ogling young male bodies. This trait is only partly a new one, as Morel is an acolyte of the masterful André Téchiné, whose best film, Wild Reeds (which actually stars Morel), isn't blind to similar sights, though a bit less crude in its appreciation of them. Three Dancing Slaves matches the rare flair for brisk sunlit movement the capability of capturing teeming activity in a single shot of the best Téchiné, but the pupil has yet to match his mentor's knack for tying disparate story threads together. Morel's look at a trio of troubled brothers has its angry, La Haine-like moments (courtesy of skinhead Nicolas Cazalé, ever ready to strip), its incisively somber workforce chapters (featuring former boy toy Stéphane Rideau), and its dreamy first-love passages (Thomas Dumerchez and Salim Kechiouche in a hot beachside tête-à-tête). But those elements don't cohere into anything especially deep or memorable. (1:30) Act I and II, Lumiere. (Huston)
Two for the Money It's McConaughey vs. Pacino in this drama set in the world of high-stakes sports gambling. (1:56) Century 20, Century Plaza.
Waiting ... Writer-director Rob McKittrick's first feature is set during one afternoon-to-closing shift at Shenanigan's, a middlebrow eatery in the vein of Applebee's or Sizzler. This happens to be the first day for high school-aged trainee Mitch (John Francis Daley), whose nonplussed reactions are meant to underline just how the wild 'n' wacky the staff here is. They are led by snarky, underage-womanizing waiter Monty (Ryan Reynolds), his cynical onetime girlfriend Serena (Anna Faris), his nice-guy housemate Dean (Justin Long), plus the lesbian bartender, teenage wiggers, and various others, including two who are pretty much defined by being pee-shy and saying "fuck" a lot (respectively). This is a movie whose central running gag revolves around something called "the penis-showing game." At one point Faris calls the humor of all these twentysomething-going-on-twelve jackoffs "an exercise in retarded homophobic futility," and elsewhere muses, "If you guys go five minutes without referencing your genitals, I'll be amazed." Y'know, having a character nail the peurile lameness of your crushingly unfunny and derivative flick doesn't make its failings "ironical" just more pathetic. If you are old enough to get into the R-rated yet wholly juvenile Waiting ... alone, you're old enough to recall that even Porky's Revenge was better. (1:33) Century 20, Century Plaza. (Harvey)
*Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Aardman's adorable claymation heroes finally get their own full-length film, codirected by Steve Box and critter creator Nick Park. Though Were-Rabbit is hardly a transcendant work of cinematic greatness, it is the best kind of children's film, which is the kind that pleases kids and parents alike (as well as nonparental adults, though perhaps to a lesser degree). The overriding joke that the dog, Gromit, is smarter than the man, Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) serves Were-Rabbit's fanciful story well, as cheese-loving inventor Wallace accidently transforms himself into the title monster on the eve of a giant-vegetable competition hosted by his carrot-haired crush (Helena Bonham-Carter, on an animated roll after Corpse Bride). Naturally, it's up to Gromit who can drive cars, handle power tools, and even fly airplanes, not to mention overcome his muteness with wryly evocative gestures and expressions to save his master from a gun-toting romantic rival (Ralph Fiennes). For maximum hare-raising, watch this film, then go home and read Bunnicula with the rugrats. (1:25) California, Century 20, Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Orind a, Presidio. (Eddy)
*The 40-Year-Old Virgin Though Wedding Crashers has its moments of Vince-Vaughn-and-maple-syrup goodness, fellow R-rated comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin boasts more laughs and way more insta-classic moments. Freaks and Geeks guru Judd Apatow makes his feature-directing debut, with a script cowritten by star Steve Carell (The Daily Show). It's all there in the title: Andy (Carell) has never done the deed; he's so blandly nice that an acquaintance is moved to observe, "I'm pretty sure he's a serial murderer." After they discover his secret, Andy's well-meaning coworkers (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Seth Rogan) attempt to steer him into debauchery, leading to comic high points involving porn, apple bongs, manscaping, and the following advice on how to talk to a woman: "Be David Caruso in Jade!" Of course, as it turns out, Andy doesn't really need their help, winning over single mom Trish (Catherine Keener) despite his blatant dorkiness. Though Virgin eventually reaches a predictable climax, the path it takes to get there crude enough to include puke humor, random enough for a running Michael McDonald joke, and guffaw-inducing throughout is well worth it. (2:00) 1000 Van Ness, Balboa, Century 20, Kabuki. (Eddy)*2046 Once upon a time in Wong Kar-wai-ville, at the end of a movie called Days of Being Wild which would turn out to be the beginning of a now-completed trilogy of movies about loving and leaving and the lingering memory of Hong Kong circa 1962 actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai suddenly appeared onscreen. The movie was almost over, but Leung who was quite a well-known Hong Kong actor at the time had only just arrived. No one at the time could quite figure out where Leung's character, or indeed where Days of Being Wild's writer and director, had come from. Nearly a decade later, Wong finally found himself in the mood to revisit the story. Leung (as a tabloid scribe named Chow) and Cheung (as a lonely wife named Su Li-zhen who lives next door) came back with him, as brokenhearted neighbors in a brokenhearted rhapsody called In the Mood for Love. Now, and possibly forever, they're back again, in what may well be Wong's magnum opus. In 2046, Chow's smoldering but unreturned love for Su escapes and expands across fragments of time and the excruciating beauty of wide-screen space and resolves, somewhere between a future-shock space opera and a curdled-memory remix of the far-too-recent past, into one of the greatest love stories the movies have ever known. (2:07) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Stephens)
The Aristocrats Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's extended riff on a joke that's a secret handshake of sorts in the stand-up world is cast-of-hundreds inclusive. Yet it's also uncomfortably skewed: A few Whoopi bits aside, Chris Rock is about the only nonwhite performer, and he's the only one who doesn't seem to be enjoying himself in the closing-credits outtakes. The Aristocrats can be uproarious, and there are off-the-cuff high jinks aplenty, from Rip Taylor's migrating red wig to Fred Willard's Victorian dandy impersonation. But why no Mo'nique, Wanda Sykes, or Dave Chapelle, when Carrot Top and Emo Phillips are allowed (if only for a few seconds) to stink up the screen? The absence is especially notable since Jillette repeatedly notes the joke's best renditions involve the type of improvisation mastered by John Coltrane. The title of The Aristocrats is also the punch line of an obscene joke detailing a family's showbiz act, it has its roots in vaudeville, but you could easily argue it's indebted to the Marquis de Sade, who was all about detailing the perverse proclivities of the privileged classes. Of course, de Sade isn't as funny as Gilbert Gottfried, whose version at a roast for a leathery and discomfited Hugh Hefner inspired this doc. (1:26) California, Opera Plaza. (Huston)
*Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Space and time entangle in poetic ways to generate the premise for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, based on the highly acclaimed novel of the same name by Chinese author Dai Sijie (who also directs). The setting is early 1970s Maoist China, and two teenage children of the "reactionary bourgeoisie" are relocated to a remote village along the Yangtze River to be reeducated in the ways of the "revolutionary peasantry." This involves a shedding of the fetters of Western culture including literature, cooking, and classical music and an assumed subsequent appreciation for the joys of shoveling shit and carrying it up mountains. Fueled by hormones and romanticism, the two pupils, Luo (Kun Chen) and Ma (Ye Liu), take it upon themselves to turn the tables on the villagers, introducing rural minds to the world of storytelling and rudimentary dentistry. They find an especially willing accomplice in the beautiful Little Seamstress (Xun Zhou), whose mind is exploded by French writers and the notion that her life can be more than survival. The story and eye-catching cinematography capture the contradictions of the times the sweet inner nature of premodern Chinese culture and the unstoppable locomotive of development. (1:51) Smith Rafael. (Odes)
*Broken Flowers When does soulful become sardonic and minimalism register as merely boredom? As taciturn ladies' man Don Johnston a role director Jim Jarmusch wrote exclusively for him Bill Murray is in full middle-aged, morose mode. Moping on the couch in a Fred Perry tracksuit, Don stares catatonically at his flat-screen TV as Sherry (Julie Delpy), his latest lady friend, prepares to leave him. Her departure is only the beginning of Don's female trouble: A pink epistle from an anonymous former girlfriend arrives, informing the sad-sack lothario that he is the father of a 19-year-old son. Don's neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright) takes great interest in this letter from an unknown woman and drafts a travel itinerary for Don, who crosses the country in search of the ex-paramour who wrote the missive. Jarmusch masterfully finds a way to make Murray's pared-down style seem fresh by matching him with a wonderful array of actresses who play Don's exes: Delpy, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton. The characters may have crossed wires, but Broken Flowers is a shimmering display of actor-actress give-and-take, with Jarmusch crafting for each woman a meaty, if minor, role, a mini-showcase for her talents to complement and often surpass Murray's laconic style. (1:46) Balboa, Opera Plaza. (Melissa Anderson)
*The Constant Gardener With Ralph Fiennes as its star, rather than, say, Tom Hanks, the film version of John le Carré's 2000 novel, The Constant Gardener, isn't likely to be as popular an entertainment as it could have been. Which is everybody's loss: This is a very good movie almost any post-teenage viewer could enjoy, and within its classic framework of life-love lost and avenged, excellent points are made about how the world really works. Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, a British civil servant posted to Kenya, where he upholds the standard of international diplomacy by maintaining a polite smile, turning a blind eye, and privately wishing one could do something for these people. Storming into his quiet life with placards afire is Tessa (Rachel Weisz), the kind of borderline obnoxious but indomitable child-of-bourgeois-liberal-activist who actually does get things done. We know from very early on that she ends up raped, murdered, and burned in an ambush on a rural road, presumably for pushing her activist sleuthing. Gardener charts Justin's attempts to find out who ordered her death and why, intercutting that quest with flashbacks to their relationship. In his English-language debut, director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) creates a thoroughly accomplished work that manages old-school plot intrigue, conventional romance, globe-trotting location work, and a heavyweight cast with ease. (2:08) Empire, Four Star, Galaxy, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Orinda. (Harvey)
*El Crimen Perfecto Life, according to Spanish filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia, is absurd. Further, as womanizing protagonist Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) puts it, "Life is absurd, stupid, and unpleasant." But that sentiment surfaces only after he is deposed from management of paradise, incarnated as an oasis of regimented beauty, elegance, and expensive perfume: the women's section at a local department store. Things fall apart when archrival men's department manager Don Antonio (Luis Valrela), claws his way to the top of the food chain and becomes floor manager. The two come to blows, resulting in Don Antonio's accidental and gleefully gory death. But there is a witness, homely yet maniacal salesgirl Lourdes (Monica Cervera), who aspires to entrap Rafael by becoming his accomplice, positioning her to get revenge for a lifetime of misery inflicted at the hands of superficial men. This sort of manipulation is apparently the raw material used to forge the chains of marriage an institution de la Iglesia seems to be skeptical of. He also skillfully provokes some musing about just what mayhem lurks beneath the shimmer of consumer culture. (1:45) Smith Rafael. (Odes)
Everything Is Illuminated Frodo as 8 1/2-era Marcello Mastroianni? First-time director, SF native, and evident '60s-film buff Liev Schreiber evokes zanily surreal mid-period Fellini in his quest to capture the full meta-mania of Jonathan Safran Foer's debut novel. In his role as a young Jewish American writer named Jonathan Safran Foer in search of the Ukrainian woman who saved his grandfather during World War II, Elijah Wood plays the attractive if stylized foil in a suit and horn-rims (weirdly resembling Mastroianni, Harold Lloyd, and Wood's Sin City psychopath, but who can resist turning the ring-bearer into an icon?) to the cast of quirk-ridden characters encountered back in the old country. Among the latter, Gogol Bordello frontperson Eugene Hutz stands out adding welcome humor and the scrappy texture of reality as a wannabe b-boy translator. Visually striking moments abound in this ambitious adaptation, but do moments add up to a strong narrative when it comes to this erratic feature, one that obviously places such value in the loaded, cathartic power of storytelling? (1:42) Albany, Embarcadero. (Chun)
*The Exorcism of Emily Rose Based on the real-life story of German student Anneliese Michel, who died during a 1976 exorcism ritual, The Exorcism of Emily Rose updates the action to present-day America and focuses on the trial of Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson), the priest charged with negligent homicide in the girl's death. The prosecutor (Campbell Scott) aims to prove that wholesome college freshman Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) suffered from epilepsy and died because Moore encouraged her to pursue spiritual, not medical, treatment. Meanwhile, defense attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) must gather enough evidence to support Moore's belief that the teenager was possessed by several very pissed-off demons, including good ol' Lucifer himself. The top-drawer cast was clearly lured by the film's meatier themes faith versus science is a key topic in the courtroom scenes and Emily Rose's muscular (if flashback-heavy) plot elevates it above most shriek-of-the-week flicks. Of course, what'll really lure audiences are the scare tactics, which inevitably crib from The Exorcist (and, oddly, The Amityville Horror), though they're PG-13 sanitized for your protection. Still, between all the black-eyed apparitions and Carpenter's creepy performance, Emily Rose does deliver some decent jolts. (1:38) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Shattuck. (Eddy).
Flightplan Jacked-up Lifetime mom Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) faces not just stranger danger but also terrorism when her six-year-old daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), implausibly vanishes aboard a jumbo jet. The small family is traveling from Berlin to New York with a tragic mission: to bury Dad, whose coffin is loaded into the plane's belly as Julia solemnly watches. Director Robert Schwentke, working from a script by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) and Peter A. Dowling, foreshadows gleefully, playing off travel fears in the manner of another recent in-flight thriller, Red Eye. When Julia goes missing, Kyle a propulsion engineer who conveniently knows her way around the gigantic plane's every nook and cranny goes ballistic, demanding the captain (Sean Bean) allow her free reign to search. He's willing to help, at least until the question of whether or not Julia was even aboard in the first place is raised; a snippy air marshal (Peter Sarsgaard) and throngs of anxious passengers only make matters worse. Flightplan's reasonably tense first 80-odd minutes are compromised less by its expected twist than by its ridiculous epilogue, which tenders the ham-handed suggestion that we can all get along despite a little "turbulence" along the way, of course. (1:28) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Kabuki, Presidio, Shattuck. (Eddy)
The Future of Food It sounds like science fiction, but it ain't: We really do live in a world where fiddling around with plant DNA is the main order of business for corporations angling to control the world's food supply. Deborah Koons Garcia's The Future of Food traces the history of the "green revolution" the formerly well-intended plan to make agriculture systematic, like industry as well as the twisted tale of Monsanto, the greedy, seed-hoarding megacorp that gleefully sues farmers it believes have infringed on its many (try 11,000) patents. Animated illustrations map out how, exactly, genetic engineering works (helpful for those of us who barely remember The Double Helix from high school science); experts and activists chime in to discuss the long-term negative effects of playing God. If you don't seek out organic produce already, the eye-opening (and incredibly alarming) lessons shared by The Future of Food will no doubt speed you in that direction. (1:29) Shattuck. (Eddy)
*The Goebbels Experiment As a key early Hitler supporter and Germany's minister of propaganda from 1933 to 1945, Joseph Goebbels was hugely important in shaping the people's enthusiastic compliance in what would soon be considered the most loathsome regime in history. This striking documentary by Lutz Hachmeister and Michael Kloft is assembled from lesser-seen archival footage that chronologically charts its subject's saga from well-heeled, well-educated if sickly youth to a career that wielded extraordinary power and broke sophisticated new ground in using mass media to shape the public will (or the public ignorance, when preferable). Among many fascinating moments here is when Goebbels his diary entries read by Kenneth Branagh, who hasn't given a better film performance in years sneers at a British propagandistic film's clumsiness, since the ones he oversaw for Germany achieved a state of nonstop rabble-rousing climax. We also hear him complain about Triumph of the Will director Leni Riefenstahl's (offscreen) "lunatic histrionics," dismiss Churchill as a "revolting fat beast," and so forth. A true believer in the Social Democratic "German Revolution," and a fierce anti-Semite and stirring orator, Goebbels was also full of private competitiveness, resentment, and neurosis, often giving in to self-pitying depression at the slightest hurdle. If you saw Downfall, you know that as Allied forces raided Berlin, he and his wife took the lives of their six children before taking their own. If you see Exp eriment, you'll understand the personality that could consider such unfathomably extreme actions a natural endpoint in patriotic duty. (1:47) Roxie. (Harvey)
The Greatest Game Ever Played Surely the greatest game ever played involves drinking and Showgirls, but the title of this Disneyfied golf flick does not refer to the sport of golf in general, but rather to a tiebreaker round played in the 1913 US Open. After an opening credit sequence that looks like Andy Warhol had a bad dream about Cheers, director Bill Paxton asks the classic sporting question: What does it mean to be a true gentleman? In this film golf stands for class separation: Caddies aren't allowed to play, and a truly phenomenal golfer like British champion Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) is too common-born to join the elite club that houses his trophies. So it feels honorable when three golfers of lower class origins including Vardon and the film's 20-year-old hero, caddy Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) whup a bunch of upper-class pricks and end up battling it out in the finals of the US Open. Morality lessons and an ever-swelling score overwhelm the plot, but LaBeouf plays his earnest part well. Unfortunately some filmic devices hail too much from this century spaceship noises accompany X-treme close-ups of golf balls, and the competitors play through pouring rain with such slo-mo grit captured by Just-Do-It camerawork that their tweed caps might as well sport the swoosh. (1:55) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Century Plaza. (Koh)
Green Street Hooligans Unfairly chucked out of Harvard, a young American (Elijah Wood) crosses the Atlantic and falls in with a "firm" of football hooligans led by his brother-in-law (Charlie Hunnam). That firm is the GSE (Green Street Elite, fan-gang for West Ham United's team the Hammers), a fight club for yobbos who get bigger existential kicks from brawling with opposing firms than from watching football. Wood uses the pervy hint in his overripe cherub's face to convincingly play a lost sheep that runs with wolves and eventually becomes one, and Hunnam gives the picture vitality even his wonky Cockney accent is an energy burst. Lexi Alexander, a quondam kickboxer, cowrote and directed; if you've ever wondered what a film made by a German kickboxing champ would look like, this jittery, vamping pounder is it. A sentimentally macho paean to the thrill of being in a screaming, bloodlusting, happily homosocial mob, Hooligans feels obligated to pay lip service to the costs of violence but celebrates the very relations that cause it; the film's crude buddy-values system (stand your ground and stick by your mates) can't foster genuine ambivalence. Despite the reality of firm hooliganism, the drama is vainly trumped-up. (1:49) Galaxy. (Amanatullah)
*Grizzly Man The cold reaches of the Kodiak archipelago touch the heart of German filmmaking legend and Grizzly Man documentarian Werner Herzog, who presents the fascinating life and gruesome death of self-styled grizzly expert, wildlife preservationist, and ex-actor Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell lived for five seasons, without a gun, with his beloved bears, in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Reserve, extensively videotaping his own life and his wildlife for a nature series before he was killed and devoured along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, in 2003. Herzog has shot his share of nonnarrative cinematic poetry, but he refrains in Grizzly Man, giving the fascinating story of the late activist, would-be nature-doc star, and wannabe grizzly a wide, respectful berth, as if he wanted to allow the slumbering beast within Treadwell to come out and caper on film. To that end he uses extensive video shot by the self-made grizzly expert, of himself and his animals, permitting them the space and air they seem to demand. The rest of Grizzly Man is shaped through interviews with Treadwell's friends and skeptical observers who viewed the naturalist as insane and/or naïve in his violation of the unspoken boundaries between animals and humans. (1:43) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Chun)
*A History of Violence Peel away an all-American facade, and you'll find a murderous gangster underneath: This message lurks throughout David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. The doc-like title of Cronenberg's latest (adapting a graphic novel of the same name) is par for a director whose vision has always been coolly antiseptic, and the first "big word" in its title is anathema to contemporary amnesia. Nonetheless, this lean and mean family tale has definite mainstream crossover appeal; Cronenberg's version of national allegory trumps Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, not least because it favors genre (Out of the Past, anyone?) and archetypes over bogus realism. From the Lynch-like diner small-talk about coffee and pie, to the foreboding, shiny black car slowly creeping into sunbathed golden settings, Americana fits the Canadian auteur like a surgical glove. The result is his best movie since Dead Ringers. There's a reason the name of History's protagonist, Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), is so plain, so benign, though he's loathe to reveal it to wife Edie (Maria Bello), son Jack (Ashton Holmes), and daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes). Mortensen's Mt. Rushmore of a face is the film's riddle, allowing a pair of wonderfully outsize Mafia turns by a sarcastic Ed Harris and a hilarious William Hurt to effectively steal scenes, if not lives. (1:35) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Metreon, Orinda, Presidio. (Huston)
Into the Blue Director John Stockwell (Blue Crush) sure does love a tropical paradise. In a movie like Into the Blue, which is full of more hot air than a fleet of inflatable rafts, the setting is particularly important. Without the Bahamas, there'd be no sunken treasure (represented by a downed plane stuffed with cocaine, as well as a gold-laden shipwreck), no opportunities for underwater emoting, and no Jessica Alba undulating in a bikini. Yep, this movie clearly knows it's vacuous, and feels no shame about it, so neither should you for enjoying its coconut oil-glazed silliness. Scott Caan gets most of the funny lines as leading himbo Paul Walker's goofy-asshole buddy; Josh Brolin gets a few (unintentional) laughs as Walker's asshole-asshole treasure-hunting rival. Also: sharks! (1:50) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Century Plaza, Kabuki. (Eddy)
Just Like Heaven The latest from director Mark Waters (Mean Girls) is pure fantasy and not just because it's about a lonely guy (Mark Ruffalo) who falls in love with the restless spirit of a woman (Reese Witherspoon) whose apartment he has just begun subletting. Sure, the romance is far-fetched (and indebted to Ghost, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and every other supernatural love story ever filmed), but the real fantasy here is the apartment itself: enormous, gorgeous, and blessed with a private roof that affords the kind of San Francisco views that only gazillionaire city dwellers dare to dream about. Of course, the metaphysically mismatched couple is so cornball and adorable, so cosmically meant to be together (screw your living will, darling!) that it's almost enough to let certain suspension-of-disbelief elements slide. As an occult bookstore clerk with "the gift," Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder casually swipes every scene he's in. Alas, his character is one of precious few offbeat elements that distinguish Just Like Heaven from Witherspoon vehicles past. (1:41) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Kabuki. (Eddy)
Lord of War Set in the years immediately following the end of the cold war, the latest from writer-director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) follows the happy-go-corruptly Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), a Ukraine-born New Yorker with a knack for illegal arms dealing. Similar in structure to Blow another as-years-go-by look at an international crook who manages to be both sympath etic and corrupt Lord of War follows Yuri's rise, and rise, and rise in his chosen profession. At his apex he adds tanks and rocket launchers to his product line and begins doing frequent business with Liberia's bloodthirsty dictator. It's a jazzy enough concept for a movie, and the cast which also includes Jared Leto as Yuri's druggie brother; Bridget Moynahan as Yuri's oblivious trophy wife; and Ethan Hawke as Yuri's Interpol nemesis is nearly as pretty as Niccol's flashy visual style. But Lord of War ultimately falters, thanks in part to the film's breakneck pace, which zooms through the 1980s and '90s like a highlight reel of Yuri's misdeeds. In addition, character development is nonexistent, unless you're willing to accept Yuri's pithy voice-overs as evidence of personality. (2:02) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Shattuck. (Eddy)
*March of the Penguins Pity the emperor penguin. His name is glorious, but his lot in life as incredulously documented by Luc Jacquet and narrated with morbid amusement by Morgan Freeman is one of unrelenting duty and sacrifice. If social Darwinists love the traditional top-of-the-food-chain tale, only a true evolutionary thinker can really appreciate this one. Or a working parent. March of the Penguins has less in common with French adventures into animal kingdoms Microcosmos, Winged Migration than it does with the more moralizing cultural work of, say, Robert Flaherty. But it's still got to be the most beautifully filmed animal story of the year, in one of the landscapes most endangered by rapacious humanity: gorgeous mile after mile of frozen earth, with pastel skyscapes, brutal storms, and line after line of amazing, tuxedoed birds, devotedly marching in formation. (1:20) Bridge, Piedmont, Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Gerhard)
*MirrorMask Even if you aren't familiar with any of MirrorMask's touchstones the work of Sandman's Neil Gaiman, who wrote the story; artist and frequent Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean, who directs; or any of the Jim Henson Company's darker, Kermit-free output (The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth) you can still dive headfirst into the film's fantasy world. Bored with her seemingly exotic life as a performer at the pocket-sized circus run by (groan) her parents, Helena (Stephanie Leonidas), dreams instead of being a boring, average teenager. When her mother (Gina McKee) falls suddenly ill, Helena travels into a world seemingly conjured by her own drawings, filled with off-kilter, Wonderland-Meets-Oz characters: sphinxes, giants, monkey birds, and masked jugglers. A dying-kingdom ticking clock (elements of The NeverEnding Story) and a particularly trippy Burt Bacharach interlude guide MirrorMask toward its fairy-tale conclusion, which springs no surprises equal to those conveyed by the film's truly unique visuals, a painterly mix of live action and animation. (1:41) Act I and II, Lumiere, Smith Rafael. (Eddy)
Oliver Twist Charles Dickens wrote with sarcastic rage about the gap between the haves and have-nots; in this new Gilded Age he's become our contemporary. But Roman Polanski's film doesn't have much of Dickens's vigor: Reviewers who congratulate themselves on pointing out personal resonances between Oliver's harrowing childhood and Polanski's own are compensating for this adaptation's lack of passion or personality. The film agreeably trots through the familiar story: Oliver (Barney Clark), fresh from the workhouse, falls into the fetid stinkhole of industrial-age London, joining a gang of pickpockets trained by the ratty, treacherous fence Fagin (Ben Kingsley). The film is beautifully made, and that's its first problem: the Masterpiece Theatre score, storybook sets, and overburnished lighting are too pretty and rob the tale of immediacy. Kingsley's grotty, shambling Fagin is more a bit of playacting than an actual performance, yet the film, atoning for the book's anti-Semitism, tries to soften and humanize the character, only managing to rob him of his power as part of a larger pattern of sapping Dickens' melodramatic iron. Despite Polanksi's missteps, in the hands of a gifted director the story remains a crowd-pleaser. Even after 160 years, the audience still claps when villainous Bill Sykes gets his comeuppance. (2:15) Century 20, Piedmont, Presidio, Shattuck. (Amanatullah)
The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio Apparently no longer content to don a housedress solely for worldly deconstructions like The Hours and Far from Heaven, Julianne Moore embraces her inner cornball in this kitschy yet earnest melodrama, with generally positive results. Moore plays Evelyn Ryan, the whip-smart, long-suffering mother of 10 trapped in midcentury Midwestern purgatory. When her bitter, dimwitted husband (Woody Harrelson, born to play a fedora-sporting ultrasquare) almost literally drinks the family out of house and home, the only thing that keeps them afloat is plucky Evelyn's pen she compulsively enters jingle-writing contests, winning everything from sizable cash prizes to grocery store shopping sprees. As directed by Marin County filmmaker Jane Anderson (it's based on a memoir by SF writer Terry Ryan), Moore lends Evelyn much less of a trailblazing blush than the film's title implies: Here, defiance is a place more than a state of mind. Instead, Evelyn's obvious talents, which she could have fully exploited in another era (and income bracket), allow her to dexterously work a system she has resignedly accepted with a knowing inner sigh and bittersweet smile. Raising 10 kids on 25 words or less? Just think what she could have done with a 200-word movie blurb. (1:39) 1000 Van Ness. (Devereaux)
Proof Shakespeare in Love director John Madden reteams with that film's Oscar-winning star, Gwyneth Paltrow, for this cinematic take on the Pulitzer-winning play by David Auburn (who coadapted the screenplay with Rebecca Miller). Impressed yet? Fortunately, Proof feels hardly as overloaded and "actorly" as it could've been, even considering the rest of the cast is Anthony Hopkins (as a brilliant mathematician who struggles with madness), Hope Davis (as his uptight daughter, and sister to Paltrow's character, Catherine), and Jake Gyllenhaal (as a grad student and Catherine's sorta-boyfriend). Proof zeroes in on the double meaning of its title after the sisters' father dies, leaving behind an important mathematical discovery that may have actually been made by Catherine herself. Meanwhile, the dour, bitter Catherine struggles with the idea that if she shares her father's genius, she may also share his proclivity for mental illness. Devotees to the play may bristle at filmmaking liberties taken, but generally strong performances do make the big-screen Proof worthwhile. (1:39) Embarcadero, Empire, Piedmont. (Eddy)
*Red Eye The unfriendly skies get their due in Red Eye, a tense tale that enhances Carl Ellsworth's so-so script with skilled direction by veteran horror-helmer Wes Craven and strong performances by its leads, both rising stars who're already having a damn good summer: Rachel McAdams, from Wedding Crashers, and Cillian Murphy, from Batman Begins. Lisa (McAdams) hates to fly. But she's the top concierge at a fancy Miami hotel, and her crisis-management skills are sorely missed while she's attending Grandma's funeral in Texas. When her late-night flight is delayed, she meets the blue-eyed Jack (Murphy), who ends up sitting next to her on the plane positioning that, we soon learn, is by no means coincidental. Craven, who sealed his name into legend with A Nightmare on Elm Street (and made Hollywood love him all over again with the gazillion-dollar Scream trilogy), is working in somewhat new territory here. Though Jack aspires to Freddy Krueger-esque cruelty, he's only human; Red Eye is a bare-bones thriller rooted firmly in reality. As one character observes, fo reshadowing Lisa's fate as well as making a broader comment on current events: "Travel is war these days." (1:25) Galaxy. (Eddy)
Roll Bounce This disco-era, coming-of-age comedy stars hip-hop's Bow Wow (he ain't Lil' no more) as a Chicago roller skater whose neighborhood crew finds trouble when their local rink is shut down. Making matters worse, they're subsequently served a challenge by the "baddest mo-fos on wheels," Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan) and his gang of Tootsie Rolls. Director Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother) puts an energetic soul spin on the whiter-than-Wonder-Bread roller skating genre (previously best-known for classics like Patrick Swayze's Skatetown U.S.A. and Linda Blair's Roller Boogie). Roll Bounce's funky routines are quite thrilling and are performed with genuine late-'70s flair by the young cast, especially the scene-stealing Rick Gonzalez (Coach Carter). Though the genre's traditional focus on T&A is mostly foregone in favor of broken-family issues well-intentioned but way too sentimental Roll Bounce's bumpin' soundtrack and the final skate-off turn this mother sucka on for maximum retro pleasure. (1:47) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Kabuki. (Jesse Hawthorne Ficks)
*Serenity From the opening spaceship chase scene over a wild west planet, to the final showdown with scary, ultraviolent cannibals, Joss Whedon's Serenity delivers the kind of smarty-pants science fiction action his fans expect. Whether this movie spin-off of Whedon's cult SF-western TV series, Firefly, will work for the Star Wars and War of the Worlds crowds is another matter. Exciting and well-written, Serenity isn't exactly a special-effects extravaganza. Instead, it's a character study of a small group of renegades whose revolution was crushed by the wealthy, imperial Alliance (a mishmash of the former US and Chinese governments) several years before the film begins. On the frontiers of known space, the crew of the ship Serenity is lead by former rebel leader Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his first officer, Zoe (the amazing Gina Torres). They've become outlaws to survive. But their thieving goes awry when Malcolm decides to steer the crew on a final and possibly fatal mission to undermine the social controls of the Alliance. In the process, they'll solve the mystery of Serenity's most mysterious crew member, a psychic, superpowerful young woman named River whose brain was modified by Alliance doctors. Fun, action-packed, and full of bizarre future-Mandarin curses, Serenity is sure to please anyone who likes adventure stories with brains. (1:59) 1000 Van Ness, Century 20, Century Plaza, Kabuki, Shattuck. (Annalee Newitz)
*Thumbsucker "Sensitive" masculine coming-of-age quandaries are found in Mike Mills's Thumbsucker, a likable, pointedly critical American snapshot that nonetheless illustrates the current somewhat immature? US indie tendency to cling to liberal milieus rather than infiltrate conservative ones. Given Mills's fondness for silly slogan T-shirts, black-hair-by-Clairol teen sirens, and off-kilter characters Keanu Reeves's New Age dentist is a genius stroke of cameo star-casting he has a kinship of sorts with Miranda July. There's something potentially radical about a thumbsucking main man, though Mills never really investigates the psychosexual aspects of the first addiction favored by ADHD high-schooler Justin (Lou Pucci) beyond father-substitute Reeves's assertion that he's found a replacement for Mom's breast. Television and psychopharmaceuticals are the two main targets Mills takes aim at from a postrecovery vantage point. Thankfully, he's too irreverent to be righteous, letting wisecracks and Justin's debate-club travels prove his points. (1:36) Lumiere. (Huston)
*Tim Burton's Corpse Bride God bless Tim Burton, the ever-lovin' freak. Just when you thought he'd become completely immersed in the tar pit-like sap of Big Fish or encased in the sickly hard candy shell of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he emerges like a stop-motion butterfly with this visually stunning, thoroughly winsome fable. And he manages to rescue Johnny Depp (at least his vocal chords) in the process. Not since the Depp-Burton love-match Edward Scissorhands has the director displayed such a knack for conjuring Gothic morbidity leavened with a gentle, childlike sweetness. Depp plays sad-sack hero Victor Van Dort, whose resolve is even more precarious than his Skellington-esque spindly legs. He's meant to be the every-puppet in this scenario, but the surprising emotional core is the wistful Corpse Bride herself. Possessing the body of former Burton flame Lisa Marie (she's voiced by current squeeze Helena Bonham Carter) and adorned with blue Play-Doh Fun Factory hair and Courtney Love's (new) lips, she's a gorgeous-frightening misfit who just wants to be loved is that so wrong? Call her Bride of Scissorhands. (1:15) 1000 Van Ness, California, Century 20, Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Kabuki. (Devereaux)
*Touch the Sound Touch the Sound opens with muffled noises, faint under the kind of muted hiss that most people actually interpret as "silence." Then the camera zooms through a warehouse toward petite percussionist Evelyn Glennie as she savagely plays an enormous gong. Director Thomas Riedelsheimer (Rivers and Tides) lifts the gauze off the film's sound mix and the intensity of the ringing fills the movie theater an ear-splitting reminder that the profoundly deaf Glennie can hear far less than we through her ears alone. But as Riedelsheimer reveals, Glennie has learned to tune her whole body to noises and pitch, until her extreme sensitivity to the vibrations of music is, as the title of the film suggests, based on touch. Riedelsheimer's aim is to show how integrated Glennie's love of music is, not only with the soundscapes of various locations busy New York City, a Japanese meditation garden but with every aspect of her life. As a poetic statement, this is lovely, but anyone looking to learn more about Glennie, a renowned percussionist, will have to do so elsewhere. The film unfolds gorgeously, though the last half-hour drags after a somber climax. Touch the Sound is the second in Riedelsheimer's planned trilogy of documentaries on Scottish artists. (1:53) Smith Rafael. (Koh)
'Bicycle Film Festival' See 8 Days a Week. Victoria Theatre.
*The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream This Canadian documentary has news for us energy hogs: To quote one expert interviewed, "A political, economic, and social shitstorm" is headed our way, and when it arrives, it won't be going away. Amusing old archival promo clips show the "happy-go-spending world" of young nuclear families in the "age of the push-button," living large in subdivisions while cities were allowed to crumble behind them. It was a suh-weet lifestyle, but having been founded on a notion of endless energy abundance, it turns out to have been "the greatest misallocation of wealth in the history of the world." And the bill is coming due, very, very soon. Various authorities here have no doubt that we are just passing a peak in oil and natural-gas production. The long decline to come hasn't been prepared for in any meaningful way or even noted by popular media (there's no money in it for them). Skyrocketing costs will make automobile usage and even home heating a whole new ballgame; trade relationships with other countries will destabilize; having their presumed "birthright" to the "entitlements of suburbia" will make a lot of Americans angry angry angry, leading no doubt to even crazier promise-making, democracy-shrinking political leaders than we've got now. The good news: Self-contained, local economic-production systems and New Urbanism may (by necessity) become the waves of the future. The bad news: Getting there will be, uh, shit-stormy. This feature by Gregory Greene has a "host," one Barrie Zwicker, whose presence periodically makes it seem like one long TV news special; but the info contained is as fascinating as it is hair-raising. (1:18) Artists' Television Access, San Francisco Public Library. (Harvey)
*Werewolf Woman Rino De Silvestro's 1976 Eurotrash should-be classic starts off with a real howl why don't more movies run their credits over a naked woman frolicking in a ring of fire? Especially when said frolicking leads into the woman (Annik Borel) becoming a werewolf, by way of a Cats-esque costume that leaves her flowing blonde hair untouched? Unfortunately, the opening sequence is all you'll see of a werewolf proper; as the action cuts from torch-bearing villagers to mod times, the beast is reincarnated as Daniella, a rich girl left mentally unstable by a long-ago sexual assault. Whenever she gets turned on ... she kills! Werewolf Woman's most exciting quality is that it takes place in a world where both doctors and cops accept the werewolf curse as a probable, and entirely plausible, cause for Daniella's rampages. The dialogue (especially the medical jargon) is amazing, the actors barely clothed, and the werewolf woman mysteriously knows how to operate a crane in a pivitol scene set in a junkyard which, in light of all that comes before, is really a point not worth arguing with. (1:30) Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (Eddy)