Film

Techulation

'The Singularity' explores the ever-shrinking differences between computers and humans

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM Anytime you start taking about a robot uprising, people are going to listen — even if you mean it in a theoretical sense, not in a Cyberdyne Systems sense. Local filmmaker Doug Wolens (he made 2000's Butterfly, about activist Julia Hill) tackles artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, conscious machines, and, yes, science fiction in his new doc The Singularity. I spoke with him recently about all of the above.

San Francisco Bay Guardian What is the singularity?Read more »

Tonight at the Castro: the most beautiful/depressing movie about global warming ever

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Greedy Lying Bastards, a film about climate change, opens this Friday (look for my review in tomorrow's paper); it takes a confrontational approach to the subject. But here's the thing: you can argue with a politician or a lobbyist, but a melting iceberg will simply respond with a cold, cold stare.

Tonight and tomorrow at the Castro, check out 2012's similarly-themed but far more meditative Chasing Ice. You may have caught a glimpse of its striking glaciar photography on the Oscar telecast, since that song I didn't like in my review (below) was one of the unlucky tunes shoved into a quick "Here's Best Song nominees that weren't sung by Adele, Hugh Jackman, or Norah Jones, therefore they don't matter" montage. (Needless to say, it didn't win, but it did expose this powerful film to the billion watching, so there's that.)

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The Oscars are over ... time for some new movies!

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The Oscars are over! You may now openly admit that Silver Linings Playbook offered just a slightly edgier twist on a pretty predictable rom-com, with one great lead performance (duly rewarded) and a De Niro crying scene. Time to revisit the should-have-won-everything Holy Motors (which came out on Blu-ray this week) and cheer that theaters will finally begin phasing out all the awards hopefuls and bringing in fresh new movies.

This week: Cinequest continues in San Jose, the Roxie screens both a gleefully nasty pre-Code fest (Dennis Harvey's appreciative article here) and a Jeffrey Dahmer doc (my review here). Hollywood trots out yet another fairytale-inspired CG spectacle, Jack the Giant Slayer; a submarine drama with Ed Harris and David Duchovny, Phantom; and a PG-13 horror sequel, The Last Exorcism Part II.

More reviews, including the Oscar-nominated Chilean import No and an informative doc about hunger in America, A Place at the Table, after the jump.

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If you're nasty

Exotic terrors and fast women abound in the Roxie's latest 'pre-Code' series

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM The current hand-wringing over whether an irresponsible entertainment industry corrupts our youth is notable for being such a blatant diversionary tactic by gun-control foes — their argument being a little beside the point, of course, since incidents are rather few of people being shot dead by a copy of Grand Theft Auto or a Saw flick.Read more »

American horror story

Hypnotic hybrid doc 'The Jeffrey Dahmer Files'

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM "Go look in the refrigerator." Normally, that's not a particularly sinister phrase. But if the fridge in question happens to be sitting in Jeffrey Dahmer's Milwaukee kitchen, circa 1991, it contains the following: a box of Arm & Hammer, condiments (mustard, ketchup, steak sauce), and a freshly severed human head.Read more »

Countdown to the Oscars! Plus: Cinequest and new flicks

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Important: the Oscar broadcast starts at 4pm on Sunday on ABC. If tradition holds, the ceremony won't actually begin until a little later, but if you want to soak up the full awkwardness of the red carpet, with its "Who are you wearing?" and its reporters mistaking Denzel Washington's daughter for his wife (true story), you will want to tune in on time. (If you're a true fiend, E! starts their red-carpet coverage at 2:30pm.)

As far as Oscar winners go, I thought I had it figured out, but really ... it's anyone's game, unless your name is Daniel Day-Lewis. Fingers crossed for local filmmaker Sari Gilman to win Best Documentary Short for her Kings' Point.

This week, I took a look at San Jose's Cinequest festival (zombie lovers, get on this one!) Among the new releases, the Rock goes undercover for the DEA to clear his son's name in Snitch, and Keri Russell battles supernatural suburban invaders in Dark Skies. Reviews below the jump of mystical drama Bless Me, Ultima; Oscar-nominated doc The Gatekeepers; and Werner Herzog's latest doc, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga.

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Sundance 2013: a local tragedy, an ongoing romance, and top picks

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Ryan Coogler's Bay Area story Fruitvale picked up the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize; it is, of course, based on the life and death of Oakland's Oscar Grant, a young man gunned down by a BART cop on New Year's Day 2009. I emerged from this important, wonderfully-made debut like everyone around me in the sold-out theater — in devastated tears.

Lead actor Michael B. Jordan is absolutely gripping as Oscar — no surprise for anyone who saw him as Wallace on the first season of HBO's The Wire, or as one of Josh Trank's accidental superheroes in 2012's surprisingly gritty Chronicle. Coogler is a skilled director; the way he slowly builds toward his story's inevitable conclusion is worthy of praise.

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Is the trailer for 'The Internship' the most cringe-worthy of all time?

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See video

The answer is yes. "THE INTERNSHIP stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital world. Trying to prove they are not obsolete, they defy the odds by talking their way into a coveted internship at Google." Is this movie from 1998? Eeugh.

Sundance 2013: love and confusion

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I only got to experience half of this year's US Dramatic Competition films (unfortunately, missing David Lowery's buzzed-about Ain't Them Bodies Saints, which shared the Best Cinematography Award with Andrew Dosunmu's breathtaking Mother of George).

Still, among the films I saw, I was pleasantly surprised by James Ponsoldt's brutally poignant coming-of-age drama The Spectacular Now. With a straight-ahead script that avoids clichés, the film benefits greatly from a pair of standout performances by its young stars. Miles Teller, from John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole (2010) and Craig Brewer's underrated remake of Footloose (2011), perfectly embodies a high-school asshole, while Shailene Woodley (so good in Alexander Payne's 2011 The Descendants) is spot-on as the class loner.

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Sundance and Slamdance 2013: powerful docs

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Scroll on up Pixel Vision for Jesse Hawthorne Ficks' previous Utah festival reports.

In recent years, Sundance has become well-known for its strong documentary offerings — to the point of overshadowing its dramatic films. And with good reason, when docs like Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's After Tiller are among the selections.

The film follows the four remaining doctors in the United States who continue to perform third-trimester abortions; it's a decidedly direct character study that uncovers the complex and difficult choices these physicians go through on a daily basis. (Not to mention the element of danger they face, as the title's reference to the murder of Dr. George Tiller suggests. With that in mind, there was a protective police presence at all of After Tiller's Sundance screenings.) The doc's impact didn't end when the lights came up; for days after the screening, I found myself drawn into fascinating conversations with folks who were eager to discuss their feelings about the film and the issues it explores. Read more »