Film Features

Fall Arts: Before and after Halloween

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cheryl@sfbg.com

1. Death Sentence Not to be confused with The Brave One (see "Popcorn — and Human Pies"), but you're forgiven if you do: old-school vigilantes are the new hotness. Splat packer James Wan (Saw) directs this adaptation of Brian Garfield's novel — the sequel to Death Wish — in which a brush with violence turns a mild-mannered dude (Kevin Bacon) into the human equivalent of Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance. (Aug. 31)

2. Read more »

Fall Arts: I screen, you screen

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johnny@sfbg.com

"Switching Schools Sucks" Jesse Hawthorne Ficks serves up a triple dose of teen alienation: Pump Up the Volume, Footloose, and the Andrew Stevens–starring, Heathers-influenced Massacre at Central High.

Aug. 31. Castro Theatre (info below)

"Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany" Perhaps the most expansive retrospective of East German film in the United States, spanning from the early 1960s to 1990.

Sept. 1–Oct. 27. Read more »

Fall Arts: Popcorn -- and human pies

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

1. Across the Universe Stage visionary (The Lion King) turned occasional film director (Titus, Frida) Julie Taymor's latest attracted advance attention of the wrong kind. Revolution Studios found her final cut of this Vietnam War–<\d>era musical drama — whose characters break into Beatles songs — too surreal and abstract, reediting it without her consent. Read more »

Faithfully unfaithful

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The world of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos (a.k.a. The Stoolie, 1963) is an incredibly complicated one. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that its inhabitants are ex-cons, petty thieves, snitches, and ambiguous lovers, all of whom are as loyal as they're unfaithful. Or maybe the complexity emerges from the strong sense of honor and morality that these underground characters share.

Maurice (Serge Reggiani), a robber, is sent to prison because somebody snitches on him. He's willing to believe that it was his best friend, Silien (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who betrayed him. Read more »

Arcade fire

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cheryl@sfbg.com

"That ape is very cunning, and he will do what he needs to, to stop you." This nugget of wisdom, tossed off by a spectator who's hoping to witness a record-setting Donkey Kong score, is at once simple and poignant — much like The King of Kong, which chronicles the rivalry between two of the game's elite players, both men in their 30s who take the pursuit of arcade excellence very, very seriously. Read more »

New! Odd! Fantastic!

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Cheryl@sfbg.com

Rampaging genitalia, families of half-wits, towns shielding deadly secrets, and the end of the world — yep, there are good times to be had with the selection of new films in Dead Channels: The San Francisco Festival of Fantastic Film. The most buzzed-about title, Uwe Boll's Postal (it's a war-on-terror comedy that pokes fun at Sept. 11, among other topics; Seinfeld's Soup Nazi plays fun guy Osama bin Laden), wasn't available for prescreening. Read more »

Two great cult movies

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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (John Newland, US, 1973). As Grindhouse viewers or true grindhouse aficionados know, starting a title with Don't was once a popular way to strike fear in sleazoids. The fact that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was made for TV would suggest it's tame — that is, if the Don't era didn't coincide with the glory, rather than gory, days of frightening TV movies. In fact, this little number is at least as great as Dan Curtis's 1975 Trilogy of Terror, with which it shares some knee-high shocks while being much less campy. Read more »

Iron curtain in outer space

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Throughout its history, the Soviet Union felt like the final frontier to many Americans. What was happening on the other side of that iron curtain? The Russians wondered too. Since travel between the countries was so limited, their inhabitants often had to turn for information to the cultural products that made it — both ways — past Russia's gatekeepers. How better to hide meaning than in fairy tales and outer space? Read more »

Holiest of holies

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If you've seen the late, great MTV sketch comedy show The State (look for the long-awaited DVD in October) or 2001's summer-camp-movie parody Wet Hot American Summer, you can imagine what the Bible's gonna look like in the hands of director David Wain. Or maybe not — in The Ten, Wain and cowriter Ken Marino interpret the 10 Commandments with typically off-the-wall (and thus completely unpredictable) humor. I recently spoke with Wain, who doesn't fancy himself the next Cecil B. Read more »

The closer you get

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

How does one begin to write about Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up (1990), a film as layered as an onion? I remember that when I first watched it, I felt touched by what I then perceived to be its affectionate ending. Read more »