Film Features

Pride of Frankenstein

"As Sure as My Name Is Boris Karloff" honors horror's enduring icon
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There were macabre and fantastical American films in the silent era, many starring "Man of a Thousand Faces" Lon Chaney. But horror as a Hollywood genre arguably didn't exist before 1931, when Universal released what may be the two biggest monster franchise titles in cinematic history.Read more »

Blood brothers

DIY filmmakers Rick Popko and Dan West pursue guts and glory
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cheryl@sfbg.com

It's Easter weekend in the Mission District, and despite the rabbit snuffling around Rick Popko's backyard, Cadbury eggs are the last thing on anyone's mind. "I think we've killed everyone we know," Popko explains grimly, grabbing his cell phone to try and recruit one more zombie for the final day of filming on the horror comedy RetarDEAD. Moments later, Popko and RetarDEAD codirector Dan West survey the scene in Popko's basement. Read more »

Live through this

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It would be a mistake to describe Clean as another entry in the already crowded field of movies about drug addicts. Yes, the film's plot follows a familiar arc with serious bottoming out en route to recovery, and yes, the leading role — played by Maggie Cheung — is, typically, the kind of juicy part that allows an actress to stretch her chops to emotional and physical extremes. Read more »

My crones sleep alone

4: berserk reasons to believe in Russian cinema, if not society
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johnny@sfbg.com

Drop Marina (Marina Vochenko), one of the three main characters in Ilya Khrzhanovsky's 4, into Eli Roth's Hostel, and she'd be a Nameless Evil Whore, instead of a leather trench-coated weary Moscow hooker with a wryly crude sense of humor. It's all a matter of perspective, and Roth's even if lampooning American xenophobia is his excuse is boring.Read more »

Girls afraid

Just My Luck and Somersault map wildly different paths to maturity
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cheryl@sfbg.com

As far as Lindsay Lohan goes these days, the title of a recent New York Times essay on her vida loca offers a succinct, if not entirely flattering, summation: "Lindsay Lohan: Portrait of the Party Girl as a Young Artist." The freckled former Disneyite has lately been on the verge though whether it's the verge of a grown-up career breakout or a total Britney Spearsstyle image meltdown seems unclear.Read more »

Anatomy lessons

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Bogart never says "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca, and most noirs don't feature slinky jazz scores, but the misconceptions persist. In the case of the latter, it's easy enough to see why: A wailing saxophone doesn't seem far removed from the femmes fatales and smoky nightclubs that populate film noir. But, alas, many of these movies were made before Hollywood discovered jazz — a development that largely took place in the 1950s. Read more »

Arctic vessels

Matthew Barney serves up cold fish in Drawing Restraint 9
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johnny@sfbg.com

The significance of a different numeral is noted near the finale, but the number in the title of Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 makes it clear that the film is but one chapter within a gargantuan project that Barney has been working on for close to two decades, the first seven entries an array of vitrines and video installations predating and possibly even anticipating his Cremaster cycle. Read more »

Behind the public machine

"Public Image Ltd."
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The sales pitch is "democracy," suggesting national autonomy and individual choice. But the reality here and abroad is free-market corptocracy, which delivers pretty much the opposite. Yet for all their control on government policy and civilian life, corporations largely remain invisible to those not directly involved with them.

So, corporate culture — and the face-lifted culture it exports for public consumption — may be this century's Esperanto, a language everyone ought to speak but few have bothered to learn. Read more »

That's amore

DocFest loves up pizza, pageants, and pinball
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cheryl@sfbg.com

There are some serious-minded films on the program of this year's San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, like Cracked Not Broken, about a stockbroker turned crack addict, and The Chances of the World Changing, about one man's crusade to save endangered turtles. But when there's an option in life to sample something called Pizza! The Movie, there's really no way around it. You have to go for the pie.Read more »

Tragic replay

Are filmgoers ready for United 93?
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