Film

SF IndieFest, and a whole lot more: new movies!

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First things first: the San Francisco Independent Film Festival kicked off last night and runs through Feb. 21 at various venues (mostly the Roxie). Check out my interviews with local shorts directors here, and some top picks throughout the festival here.

Also this week: cult director Don Coscarelli's John Dies at the End (my chat with Mr. Bubba Ho-Tep here), Amy Berg's West Memphis Three doc, West of Memphis (check out Nicole Gluckstern's review here), and the Vortex Room's love-ly new series (Dennis Harvey's take here).

What's more, 1986 action classic Top Gun gets the 3D IMAX re-release treatment (because any list of things that are better when they're bigger, louder, and more in-yo-face include Soviet MiGs, Tom Cruise's teeth, and Kenny Loggins jams). Reviews of comedies Identity Thief and Shanghai Calling, plus Steven Soderbergh's maybe-swan song Side Effects, below the jump.

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Sundance 2013: the way of the gun

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Festival veteran Jesse Hawthorne Ficks files his third report from the 2013 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals. Read his first two reports here and here.

British filmmaker Sean Ellis' Philippines-set Metro Manila took home the Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic at Sundance. It's a gritty, neo-realist journey into Manila's Catch 22'd slums that's every bit as shocking as it is hypnotic. When I saw it, the entire audience (myself included) was left gasping for air while wiping their tears — it's ruthlessly realistic, insanely inspired, and a taut thriller to boot.

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Sundance (and Slamdance) 2013: 'Dirties' talk

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Festival veteran Jesse Hawthorne Ficks files his second report from the 2013 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals. Check out his first report here.

The most controversial and inspired film amid this year's Utah fests actually screened at the Slamdance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Sparky Award for a Narrative Feature. The Dirties, by 28-year-old Canadian writer-director-star Matthew Johnson, is an utterly brilliant, unstoppably hilarious found footage entry that follows two high school cinephiles as they try and make a documentary about "bullying," while they themselves continue to get uncomfortably bullied at their own school.

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My campy Valentine

Fall in love with vampires, acid, severed hands, and interplanetary war at the Vortex Room

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FILM Love is the drug, or so sang somebody once. Yet violent conflict has always been a more predominatingly addicting factor in movies — which is why it seems both natural and despairing that the Vortex Room's "For Your Vortex Only" celebration of "Love...Vortex Style" (please guys, only one title per series), every Thursday in February, features eight vintage movies in which "love" is less a matter of romantic fulfillment than a titular selling point.Read more »

Weird tales

Filmmaker Don Coscarelli on Elvis, Bigfoot, and 'John Dies at the End'

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM It was a particular thrill to talk to Don Coscarelli on Jan. 8 — Elvis' birthday. He is, after all, the guy who made 2002's Bubba Ho-Tep, which imagined an elderly version of the King fighting the evil mummy that's menacing his nursing home. Coscarelli's other credits include 1979's Phantasm (and its 1988, '94, and '98 sequels), 1982's The Beastmaster, and his latest: supernatural noir buddy comedy John Dies at the End, based on David Wong's comedy-horror novel.Read more »

West Memphis blues

'West of Memphis' asks some long-overdue questions of a notorious case

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM At this point, it's hard to imagine a present-day murder trial more painstakingly documented than that of the so-called West Memphis Three. The subject of four documentaries, with a feature film in the works (starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, no less), and inspiring at least as many books, websites, and countless articles, the story of the three teenagers convicted of the brutal killings of three small boys has never quite dropped from public attention.Read more »

Sundance 2013: Viva Silva!

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Festival veteran Jesse Hawthorne Ficks files his first report from the 2013 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals.

This year's Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals were both outstanding, so I did my best to pack my schedule as full as humanly possible (sacrificing sleep in the process). With close to 50 programs achieved, I can assure you it's gonna be one helluva year for cinema. Make sure to mark some of these titles down for 2013.

Filmmaker Sebastián Silva brought two new entries to Sundance, and they both happened to be two of my most cherished experiences. Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic were filmed in Chile at the same time, and showcase the almighty Michael Cera — who learned Spanish just for these projects. If you are able to avoid the countless spoiler-heavy reviews (this isn't one of them) and enter these films at your own risk, you will be treated to Silva's masterful, even transcendental, slow burn.

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Stallone, Walken, zombies, Oscar shorts, and more: new movies!

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Yes you can find time to see a movie this otherwise football-y weekend. The ongoing Noir City and Sketchfest still have a lot of great upcoming programming, Sly Stallone is back in evocatively-titled action flick Bullet to the Head, a zombie finds love in Warm Bodies (review below), and all the Academy Award-nominated shorts are now available for big-screen viewing, for anyone who takes winning the office Oscar pool as seriously as ... the Superbowl.

And speaking of the big game, the Roxie will be hosting its annual "Men in Tights" viewing party, a benefit for the theater and the upcoming SF IndieFest. So you can have your pigskin, and eat your popcorn too. GO NINERS!

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'United in Anger' reveals ACT-UP's surprising intricacies

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In the end, it was the women who saved us -- and we, in turn, helped save them.

As a gay man, this was one of the lessons I took from Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman's brilliant, sometimes harrowing film, United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP, which I caught yesterday at the GLBT History Museum in the Castro, and which screens again tonight Fri/1 at 6pm at the San Francisco Art Institute. The 93-minute movie, bristling with mindblowing archival footage, swiftly but effectively traces the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power movement from its rambunctious beginnings in 1987 in New York, through its major actions like the die-in inside St. Patrick's Cathedral and the storming of the NIH headquarters in Maryland, to its eventual, sad dissipation under the weight of endless death in the mid-1990s. There is a lot of great retro fashion in this, btw.

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Fairy tales, Noir City, insane drummers, and more! Yep, it's movie time

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An odd week of new releases, this: three disposible genre flicks (ensemble comedy Movie 43; Jason Statham ass-whupper Parker; and Jeremy-Renner-what-is-going-on-with-your-career-dude? puzzler Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) — plus old-folks comedy Quartet (read Dennis Harvey's take here, probably the only Quartet review on the planet to compare it to 1979's Roller Boogie).

Your best bets are the two films reviewed after the jump (music doc Beware of Mr. Baker and South Korean import In Another Country), or buying a sheaf of tickets to the always-quality Noir City (now in its 11th year; runs through Feb.3 at the Castro).

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