Our Weekly Picks: Jan. 1-6, 2014




Breakfast at Tiffany's

Why does Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961) wield such enduring, iconic power? Perhaps it has something to do with the characters — aside from Mickey Rooney's, ah, regrettable Mr. Yunioshi, they're believable, with deceptive complexities. Audrey Hepburn's Holly is like a dazzling bird caught in flight; she loves everything too much and yet maybe not enough, protecting her vulnerability with an aloof, mesmerizing facade. George Peppard's Paul is a dreamer, a writer, and a nobody; he plays us, the viewer incarnate. Then there's New York City, a character in itself, with all the glittering allure of a Tiffany's diamond, the mod Bohemia of a townhouse party, and the danger of Sing Sing prison. The film is a romance, and yet also a rejection of that through Holly's search for self-emancipation. It's a perplexing comedy, by turns dark and droll, and it chases after Truman Capote's version of the American Dream: feminized, floppy, middle-class, and eternally sophisticated. (Kaylen Baker)

2, 4:45, and 7:30pm, $8.50-$11

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF





Brian McKnight

Contemporary R&B powerhouse Brian McKnight isn't just a singer. Take a peek at his Wikipedia page and you'll learn the man can also play piano, guitar, bass guitar, percussion, trombone, tuba, flugelhorn, and trumpet. I gave new single "Sweeter" — from his 15th studio album, 2013's More Than Words — a spin, and while that track contains no evidence of tuba or flugelhorn, McKnight's velvety vocals are in full effect. However, the video for "Sweeter," which uses a honey-dripping scene to literalize lyrics such as "Girl, you make everything in my life much sweeter," proves his voluminous skill set also includes wooing women (duh) and looking cool on a motorcycle (again, duh). Catch the crooner, whose discography features 2000 monster hit "Back at One," during his weekend stint at Yoshi's; as of this writing, one show was already sold out, so make haste to the box office for maximum slow-jam enjoyment. (Cheryl Eddy)

Tonight and Fri/3-Sat/4, 8 and 10pm (Sat/4, 8pm show sold out); Sun/5, 7 and 9pm, $50-$65

Yoshi's San Francisco

1330 Fillmore, SF




The Tempest

Perhaps San Francisco was once a magical island where people could travel to escape the outside world, but now it's awash in smartphone sorcery and tech-Prosperos treating people like Caliban. Analogies aside, it's also home to the Do It Live! Theater company and its production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Directors (and company co-founders) William Hand and Kenny Toll promise to feature the "action," "energy," and "human biology" of the play, which stars local veteran Bill Peters as Prospero. Rarely attempted by small companies, the Bard's final play blends tragedy and comedy, and delights on any scale. (Ben Richardson)

Through Jan 18

Previews tonight, 7pm and Fri/3, 8pm; opens Sat/4, 8pm

Runs Thu and Sun, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm, $15

Thick House

1695 18th St, SF





Sundance Film Festival shorts

So you can't make it to Park City this year. And you didn't make it last year, either. (Related: are you me?) Fortunately, San Rafael is a lot closer than Utah — and requires no snow boots — so you can soothe your Sundance Film Festival longings by checking out the Smith Rafael's program of eight shorts, many award-winners among them, all plucked from the 2013 fest. Animation, comedy, documentary, and drama are represented, with highlights like Michael Almereyda's Skinningrove, about a photographer's work in an isolated seaside community; Jenni Toivoniemi's The Date, about a teenage boy wrangling his family's "stud cat;" Tony Donoghue's Irish Folk Furniture (an animated film about ... Irish folk furniture); and Kibwe Tavares' fanciful, Zanzibar-set "big fish story," Jonah. (Eddy)

Through Jan 9, $6.50-$10.75

Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center

1118 Fourth St, San Rafael




"Hello 2014: A Sci-Fi Art Event"

Science fiction artwork is the stuff of outer space dreams and prog-rock album covers: strange alien beasts, forbidden planets, robot overlords, fanciful ships suited for interstellar travel. The Paint Pens Collective — which describes itself as dedicated to "low-brow, urban, and modern art" — faces the future in D-Structure's first show of 2014, with 14 artists applying their various styles and techniques to the sci-fi theme. Some of the participants' monikers ring a little otherworldly themselves (Sucklord, Tofusquirrel, and Metaworks in particular) — and preview images suggest that Grumpy Cat and KISS are among the pop-culture icons that'll make the jump to art in hyperspace. (Eddy)

7-11pm, free (RSVP via Facebook)


520 Haight, SF





Great Apes

Mike Park, patron saint of Asian Man Records and the San Jose punk scene, sure knows how to pick 'em. And the former Skankin' Pickle saxophone player made a good choice adding Great Apes to his label's roster. The band sounds like an updated version of pop-punk bands from the early 2000s, but its lyrical content is yea more profound. In 2013, the group released Thread, a concept album of sorts inspired by conversations or interviews with friends. It's none too common for a band to unleash a cohesive and thought-provoking record right out of the gate — and for that reason alone, Great Apes are worth going bananas over. (Erin Dage)

With Void Boys, Travesura, Five Eyes

9pm, $8

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St, SF




"reveries and elegies"

Mary Armentrout Dance Theater's site-specific reveries and elegies is also solar- and lunar-specific: its variable show schedule is timed to coincide with sundown. But that's not to say the show is harnessed to the clock; in fact, the artist describes it as "a shifting, wandering installation" that deals with difficult-to-simplify themes of "change, loss, and dislocation." Armentrout has performed the experimental, exploratory reveries in various locations — since its 2012 premiere, the work has journeyed between local "venues" like Baker Beach and Temescal Alley, plus made a visit to Louisiana. But these current shows are of particular significance, since they'll all take place in Armentrout's home-turf studio space. Capacity is just 25, so make sure you pick up tickets beforehand via Brown Paper Tickets (linked on Armentrout's website, listed below). (Eddy)

Tonight and Sun/5, 4:15pm; Jan 11-12 and 18-19, 4:30pm; Jan 25-26, 4:45pm, $20


Sunshine Biscuit Factory

851 81st St, Oakl



"Saturday Cinema: Holiday Animation"

"Essentially, this little movie is a series of headshots of people (mostly children) trying to keep a very nasty candy in their mouths for as long as possible," reads an IMDB review of Jessica Yu's 1993 Sour Death Balls — a five-minute short that's also the future Academy Award winner's first film. (She won for her documentary short, Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien, in 1996, and made one of the best jokes in Oscar history, musing that her borrowed gown probably cost more than her film did.) The Exploratorium kicks off its Cinema Arts calendar for 2014 with a collection of high-energy animations; alongside Yu's killer candies, the program features Nelson Boles' whimsical Little Boat and Jacques Drouin's Imprints, a nifty exploration of "pinscreen" animation. (Eddy)

Noon, 2, and 4pm, free with museum admission ($19-$25)


Pier 15, SF




"Shane Carruth: Hard Science and Human Nature"

Thank the movie gods for Shane Carruth, the director-writer-actor-composer-mad genius behind 2004's Primer and last year's Upstream Color. In an industry obsessed with fame, bankability, and sequel potential, he's an oddity, having rocketed to fame with Sundance sensation Primer (2004) — and then promptly dropping off the map. Where had this vaunted purveyor of low-budget indie sci-fi gone? Was he trapped in one of Primer's time-travel devices? Was he working on a Hollywood breakout? Had he left the film industry behind? Though the mystery was kinda fun for a hot minute, all Carruth faithful rejoiced when Upstream Color dropped — more polished and sophisticated than Primer, but no less intensely imaginative or pleasurably mind-warping, and with the added bonus of fierce star Amy Seimetz. Both films screen tonight, and Skype chats with Carruth will follow each. Drink every time someone asks, "So, what's the deal with the pigs?" (Eddy)

Primer, 7:30pm; Upstream Color, 9:30pm

Roxie Theater, $7.50-$10

3125 16th St, SF




The Spits

If the Ramones were dosed with a debilitating amount of apathy and handed a synthesizer, it would sound like the Spits — a band dedicated to perfecting the art of slacker garage-punk. Tonight's gig kicks off a week's worth of shows celebrating the Rickshaw Stop's 10-year anniversary. Formed in part by brothers Sean and Erin Wood, the band is known for performing in costumes that range from hazmat suits to Ronald Reagan masks. And in its past 13 years, it has become a staple in the garage-rock community. Though the band is known for its slew of numeral album titles, it has recently reissued a collection of rarities and b-sides dubbed Kill the Kool. That said, go to the show — and pick up an assortment of overlooked goods (Kill the Kool, duh) on your way out. (Dage)

With Violent Change, Crez Deedee

8pm, $17 ($65 for a pass to all 10th anniversary shows through Jan. 12)

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF