Dennis Harvey

"Three on a Match"

64 hurtling minutes, packed with pre-Code incident
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REVIEW This 1932 pre-Code gem is a fine example of the era's snappy Warner Bros. style and economical storytelling. Three women are reunited by chance years after being Manhattan grade-school classmates: goodhearted "bad girl" Mary (Joan Blondell) became a Broadway baby via reform school. Smart but poor valedictorian Ruth (Bette Davis, whose screen prospects were considered pretty wan at this point) became a humble stenographer. Product of privilege Vivian (Ann Dvorak) married childhood sweetheart Robert (Warren William) and is now the consummate socialite wife and mother. Read more »

Scary kids scaring kids

A feast of little bejeebers creeps across the Castro screen
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PG TERROR The real magic kingdom is Disney Inc., which has managed to completely dominate family entertainment for at least 70 years, from Snow White (1938) to High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2007). Yet there was a period in the 1980s when the post-Walt studio appeared to have lost its way. Read more »

Senioritis

What's Vanessa Redgrave doing in the geezer ghetto?
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It seems inevitable that no matter how admired and lauded the actor, a time comes sooner or later when there ain't much left but the Crotchety Comedy Coot roles. Some, like Peter O'Toole, Helen Hayes, Walter Matthau, or Maggie Smith, build entire second-act careers out of them; others are dragged kicking and screaming into those twinkle-eyed support slots. (You've got to respect Glenda Jackson, who quit acting for politics at age 55, snorting "I don't fancy hanging around to play Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Read more »

Horrible! Overlooked! Best!

The Year in Film 2008: A Guardian critic counts down his hours in the dark
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DENNIS HARVEY'S 16 HORRIBLE EXPERIENCES AT THE MOVIES:

1. Over Her Dead Body (Jeff Lowell, USA) Paul Rudd can redeem anything. Or so I thought.

2. Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry, USA) When the cause of whimsy and movie-love requires making every character onscreen a grating comedy 'tard, you gotta wonder: what made this Gondry joint better than Rob Schneider?

3. Read more »

Banal life, beautiful film

Winslet is perfection in Revolutionary Road
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REVIEW Outwardly perfect, glamorous Frank (Leonardo Di Caprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) are the envy of fellow post-World War II nesters in an Eisenhower era suburban cul-de-sac. They've done everything right — including attracting each other as alpha-species mates. But they're dissatisfied. Shouldn't life have amounted to more than meaningless Madison Avenue employment, housewifery, Connecticut commuterdom, the little trap of two young children and a mortgage? Read more »

Tiger tales

This just might be the worst drinking-game DVD ever
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SRSLY, WTF? "Throughout history, the greatest saviors have come in the darkest hours." No, that's not Oprah on Obama, but a subsidiary character in Masters of the Impossible appraising the ultimate cartoon superheroes: Siegfried and Roy.

Just reissued by children's DVD label NCircle, Siegfried and Roy: Masters of the Impossible was produced in 1996 for precise reasons unknown. Read more »

Valkyrie

Captain Eyepatch to the rescue!
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REVIEW In a world gone mad ... only one man can save Nazi Germany from itself: Captain Eyepatch! Jaw perpetually clenched and speech sotto voce to underline he's being, y'know, intense, Tom Cruise plays Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who returned home after being wounded by Allied fire in Tunisia to a Germany he felt had already lost the war. He and high-ranking others disillusioned by Nazism and Hitler's losing strategies hatched a plan to assassinate Der Führer in 1944, hoping to end World War II early and spare the country complete devastation. Read more »

Gonna fly now?

A battered Mickey Rourke bids for late-round greatness in The Wrestler
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Sometimes a role seems so closely tailored to a public persona and private notoriety it becomes inseparable from that combined mythos — less a demonstration of acting than an extension of what we already suspected about the actor. Errol Flynn both distinguished and humiliated himself with late-career portrayals of sodden louts. Marlon Brando appeared to be playing his own supremely weird-ass id in Last Tango in Paris (1972). Read more »

Brainy scifi

Timecrimes is an Escher painting of a narrative
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REVIEW Middle-aged Hector (Karra Elejalde) is lounging outside his country home when he spies through binoculars a young woman naked in the woods. Investigating, he's attacked by a man with a face covered by bloody bandage, and flees to a nearby property where a laboratory worker (Nacho Vigalondo) tells him to hide from his pursuer in a mechanical device. When Hector

reemerges from the as-yet-untested time machine, it's several hours earlier — and his binoculars now spy himself, or "Hector 2," at home going through the same pre-attack motions. Read more »

Dick in a box

An ex-prez and a journalist make TV history in Frost/Nixon
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If the assassination of JFK was a defining, traumatic blow to American hopefulness, the Watergate scandal a decade later arguably created something worse: a deep collective cynicism that our politics could never escape corruption, or that the guilty would be truly punished even when caught red-handed. How much worse have we shrugged off since?

As the most secretive White House in modern memory pulls up stakes, there's a fear that particular history may repeat itself. Read more »