Pixel Vision

Ki-ki-ki-ah-ah-ah: new movies for Friday the 13th

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Naturally, there's at least one horror movie, Insidious: Chapter 2,  opening in honor of Friday the 13th — two if you count Our Nixon — as well as a new series paying tribute to the singular Pier Paolo Pasolini (check out Dennis Harvey's round-up here). Read on for more new reviews and one special holiday recommendation.

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Self service: SF Fringe Festival tells it like it is

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Note: this is an extended version of an article that appears in this week's print version.

Sitting in the Exit Café with a can of Guinness and the San Francisco Fringe Festival program is one of life's modest but absorbing pleasures. For those without much inside knowledge on the lineup (currently encompassing 36 companies and 158 performances), it's a little like taking a vacation by pitching darts at a wall map. There were several immediate sub-themes to choose from for 2013. I could have picked shows with bananas in the title, for instance. But for whatever reason, I dived into the service and servitude sector.

Of course, the Fringe, now in its 22nd year, is a lottery-based operation, so it is fate's fingers that pluck these patterns from the cultural whirl. At the same time, you don't need the I Ching to know that serving the rich is about all that's left of the economy for most of us, making it hardly surprising to find so many stories of bartenders, wait staff, sex workers, and mermaids-who-are-also-sex-workers floating in the pool.

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The Performant: Mean Streets and Matchsticks at the Vancouver Fringe

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Here in Vancouver, the Fringe Festival has been in full swing since Sept. 5, and its early bustle has come as something of a welcome surprise. Shows have been selling out right and left, including those by the five-woman sketch comedy team Strapless, and the manic SNAFU Dance Theatre's survivalist romp Kitt & Jane. The buzz hangs as heavy in the air as the morning humidity. It’s interesting to compare the rowdy carnival atmosphere of the Edmonton Fringe, complete with sideshow attractions, tireless street performers, and mountains of cheap fried food and the people who eat it, with Vancouver’s more refined approach and oddience. The Vancouver Fringe is the biggest theater festival in town, I’m told, and therefore attracts a fairly large percentage of mainstream theater-goers.

But despite the fact that each show begins with an overly complicated spiel about sponsorship opportunities, the shows themselves have run the usual fringe-y gamut of content from heartfelt to hilarious, edgy to educational. Here are some of the standouts I’ve seen so far.

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Action franchise junkie Vin Diesel returns ... and more new movies!

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Who dares to challenge the box-office supremacy of Vin Diesel, who returns yet again to play the titular night vision-gifted (but really socially awkward) escaped con in sci-fi actioner Riddick?

For masochists, there's Brian De Palma's latest, Passion, which checks in for a brief Castro run (Dennis Harvey gets bored talking about it here); there are also a couple of docs, a MILF drama, and a South Korean disaster-by-numbers flick about a disease that, shockingly, doesn't spawn zombies, just bloody coughs and rapid death. Read on for our short takes (and take note of your best-bet new flick: "charming seriocomedy" Afternoon Delight). Read more »

Hormone replacement therapy and video games: Anna Anthropy talks Dy5phoria

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Video games go to alien worlds all the time, but rarely have they explored a transgender person's identity until Dys4ia. The 2012 Adobe Flash game traced designer Anna Anthropy's hormone replacement therapy journey, guiding the player through trying on women's clothing for the first time, dealing with the agony of shaving, and correcting all the people who call you "sir" instead of "ma'am."Read more »

The Performant: Fringe 101, an essential lexicon revisited.

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With the frenzy of the Edmonton Fringe Festival finally subsided, and Vancouver’s about to begin, myself and the Naked Empire Bouffons are ready for action. We have posters to plaster, our venue to scope out, and fellow artists to schmooze before the festival opens on the fifth, but in the interim I have time to let my attentions wander back momentarily to San Francisco, whose Fringe Festival also opens this week.

Did you know that we boast the second oldest Fringe Festival in the United States (the first being Orlando’s)? And that, along with Vancouver, we represent the final leg of the CAFF (Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals) circuit for touring Fringe artists, despite the small complication of not actually being Canadian? Admittedly our festival is smaller than the Vancouver event (36 shows, as compared to 91 and counting), but it’s still a veritable bacchanal of drama, dance, and comedic derring-do packed into 14 days.

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Fall films to look forward too ... and new movies to see tonight!

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Click this way for my Fall Film Preview, presented as part of this weeks Fall Arts spectacular. With bonus photo of Bradley Cooper's Brady perm!

Read on for this week's openings, including one of the best indie films of the year, the latest from Wong Kar-Wai, and, uh...the One Direction movie.

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The Performant: Fringe Dwellers

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It’s hard to believe, but the 32nd annual Edmonton Fringe is already over and touring companies like Naked Empire Bouffon are packing their bags to move on to the next festival, while artists who have finished their runs head for home — whether that’s Australia, the UK, or just North of the High Level Bridge. As at every Fringe, my goal has been to see just as many shows as I can, and in between stage-managing Naked Empire’s run and feverishly making deadlines, I saw 35, which ranged in content and execution from the merely mundane to the inarguably sublime. Here’s a roundup of my personal favorites and companies I recommend watching out for should they make over to San Francisco.

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The robot apocalypse, Mr. Darcy, outlaws, and revolutionaries: new movies!

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Let's Boo-Boo! Edgar Wright's latest bromance-in-genre-clothing, The World's End, opens today, and it's a riot. Elsewhere, there's a rom-com about Jane Austen obsessives, Hollywood's latest supernatural-teen fantasy, and an indie horror flick critic Dennis Harvey calls "a very bloody good ride." (Check out those reviews below).

Longer features this week include my interview with director David Lowery about his neo-Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints, and Harvey's take on artist-couple doc Cutie and the Boxer. Read more »

Sublime nonsense: extended interview with Wet the Hippo's John Gilkey

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Note: this is an extended version of an interview that appears in this week's paper.
 
The sets are gone, and the costumes, and that giant blue-and-yellow tent. Master clown and performance maker John Gilkey has ended his fourth stint with Cirque du Soleil since 1996. But if the wiry, often wild-haired Gilkey and his Muppet-like mug are no strangers to the big time, they move just as ferociously through a bare stage in a small venue wearing not much more than, these days, a bushy beard.
 
It’s been three years since Gilkey last performed in San Francisco — flanked by comedians Alec Jones-Trujillo and Donny Divanian, the deadpan naïfs of his avant-comedy trio, We Are Nudes. Just as the very funny yet vaguely unnerving, off-center style of Nudes occupied some indeterminate territory between sketch comedy and Dadaist destruction, Gilkey’s latest venture — the Los Angeles–based eight-member improvisational ensemble known as Wet the Hippo — takes its audience beyond the usual endpoints of improv.

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