Dennis Harvey

Go Daddy-o

Cinematic ass-kickin' runs in the Thrillsville family
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CULT FILM STAR Veteran actor Robert Viharo apparently doesn't like talking about the shlockier stuff in his résumé. Read more »

Sci-fi campsterpiece

"The Starslyderz Experience"
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PREVIEW OK, so 2007's Transformers was Michael Bay's best movie — which is sort of like saying "best strep throat experience," but let it go. Still, he will never, ever equal the achievement of Starslyderz (2005), an intergalactic adventure made with about 1/7,500th of Transformers's budget (yes, I used a calculator) and several megatons the awesomeness. Premiered here two years ago at the Another Hole in the Head film festival, Garrin Vincent and Mike Budde's homemade epic is the poignant tale of Capt. Read more »

SFIFF: Explosive stuff!

Craig Baldwin turns space junk into magickal treasure with Mock Up on Mu
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SFIFF The pop detritus of today is the archaeological evidence of tomorrow, to be pieced together by future generations — should there be any — who will no doubt want to know what the hell we were thinking. Their conclusions may be bizarre. Read more »

Sibling rivalry

Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli's My Brother Is an Only Child
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REVIEW This week most San Francisco cineastes will be focused on the International Film Festival — but please don't let this Italian import, one of the best in years, leave town before you catch it. Cowritten (with director Daniele Luchetti) by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli of the fantastic Best of Youth (2003), the film shares that four-hour epic's ability to pare decades of roiling postwar Italian political history into an absorbing personal drama. Accio (Elio Germano) is the youngest child, perpetually at odds with everyone in his poor family. Read more »

Offbeat direction

The Visitor charms but overstays its welcome
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When successful actors turn to directing, you can often gauge how long they've been immersed in fiction by the degrees of condescension and cliché in their movies. Ethan Hawke is an unfortunate recent example. I'd say John Cassavetes is the classic one ... but then people would hunt me down and kill me.

Of course, some actors can think outside themselves behind the camera: George Clooney, Sarah Polley, and Ben Affleck (who knew?) provide recent testimony. Even Mel Gibson might qualify. Read more »

Fun but no Dice Man

Chaos Theory gets giddy, then retreats
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Though early paperback editions brandished a "Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture" tag, there's never been a movie of the 1971 cult novel The Dice Man. That's a pity, because this tale of a psychiatrist who ditches his too-orderly life — by beginning to roll dice to make decisions — is a screen natural. I bet screenwriter Daniel Taplitz has read the Luke Rhinehart (a.k.a. George Cockcroft) book. His and director Marcos Siega's Chaos Theory is a Dice Man update, softened and family values–sweetened for our counter-counterculture age. Read more »

Tom's jones

A short cruise through the history of United Artists
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Last year, after he was "fired" by Paramount for becoming the new Wacko Jacko, Tom Cruise bought United Artists. As the company prepares to Cruise into an uncertain future, the Castro Theatre is presenting a retrospective of its oft-glorious middle period. It kicks off with some Woody Allen (1977's inevitable Annie Hall and 1975's rare Love and Death). Read more »

Youth gone wild

Tir na nóg translates Edna O'Brien's debut novel to the stage
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It's hard for a contemporary reader to fathom why — indeed, it was probably hard for many non-Eire readers to fathom even then — but when Edna O'Brien's debut novel, The Country Girls, came out in 1960, she was considered a disgrace to all of Ireland. Priests burned it in churchyards and denounced it from the pulpit. Read more »

There won't be blood

Michael Haneke gives the United States the Funny Games it deserves
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Michael Haneke would likely be offended if you said you enjoyed his movies — though no doubt he would enjoy hearing you were offended by them. The chill surface neutrality of a Haneke feature such as Caché (2005) is designed to intrigue and then frustrate — by depriving extreme situations of their usual sensationalism and neat narrative resolution so that we end up implicated by our own thwarted expectations. Even as a scold, Haneke is too disciplined to let us join him on his soapbox. Read more »

Saint Peter

Bogdanovich gets his due in a Castro Theatre tribute
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Arguably no modern film director made a better sustained entrance than Peter Bogdanovich, whose first four features were all triumphs. Targets (1968) was a chilling conceit that brought Hollywood pretend terror (Boris Karloff basically playing himself) against a modern real-world horror, the randomly mass-murdering sniper. That critical success led to a major studio deal to adapt (with then wife and collaborator Polly Platt) Larry McMurtry's novel The Last Picture Show (1971), a melancholy black-and-white flashback to 1950s rural Texas. Read more »