Archive | Film

AMC Metreon 16 is screening “Snowpiercer”

johnhurtI have a love/hate relationship with the Weinsteins. For all of the great film work they bring to the universe they also do a great deal of damage on the independent circuit. For some reason, going all the way back to the days of Miramax, they love to buy up the rights to Asian films and either sit on them or hack the shit out of them (earning the name Miramaxe). I recall 2003 being a rather spectacular year for the Weinsteins when they sat on Shaolin Soccer, Hero, and Infernal Affairs. All three films are now considered classics, but Asian film fans were chomping at the bit waiting for the movies to be released stateside.

I’d forgotten about this tendency until the current debacle with remnants of humanity on a train dystopian film Snowpiercer. For nearly a year now I’ve been waiting for the Weinsteins to trust the U.S. audience by releasing Snowpiercer. Much of the reason for the delay is due to typical Weinsteinian fiddling. They wanted to hack the film and make it easily digestible for a US audience and director Bong Joon-ho wasn’t having any of it. Neither side would flinch and the film has languished – until now.

My God, America, can you believe the Weinsteins are going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you might want to see an uncut foreign film? It’s true! Mostly. A tiny handful of theaters around the country are screening Snowpiercer. In San Francisco, the pleasure goes to AMC Metreon 16.

Snowpiercer is based on Jean-Marc Rochette’s graphic novel of the same name. The English translation of the graphic novels were released earlier this year by Titan.

Petition: Build Lucas Cultural Arts Museum in San Francisco

The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum was one of the three proposals rejected to be built on the gateway of the Presidio. Since the proposal was rejected George Lucas and his museum team have been shopping the proposal around to other cities. This month San Francisco Mayor Ed lee plans to present Lucas with alternative sites. There’s currently a petition circulating  to show public support for the museum to be built in San Francisco. Personally, I’d like to see it land in Oakland, but would be content with the museum ending up anywhere within a public transit ride from where I live. Sign the petition here.

SFIFF 57: The quirky, the scary, and the creepy

sfiff57The 57th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival* starts on April 24 with more than 100 films spanning two weeks. The more than 100 films screening at SFIFF captures the whole gamut of film genres from documentaries to dramas to the downright creepy. This post is mostly interested in the latter. Below you’ll find five films from this year’s film festival that will leave cinephiles with either pounding pulses or pondering brains.

Borgman Netherlands

Screenings:
Wednesday, April 30 | 9 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Monday, May 5 | 9 p.m. | New People Cinema

Most reviews of Borgman suggest the film is a home invasion story at it’s heart. Before you roll your eyes and mumble something about “home invasion” movies having run their course take a moment and reflect on You’re Next. Most horror film fans tend to agree that You’re Next, which screened at last year’s SFIFF, took the subgenre and managed to squeeze rewarding fresh life out of it. Everything I’ve read about Alex van Warmerdam’s dark horror/comedy seem to suggest it does the same. Jordon Hoffman wrote for Film.com “What works wonderfully, however, is the unease of not knowing just who, if anyone, deserves our sympathy in this story. The infiltrators are all so charismatically nonchalant (and well dressed) that it is hard not to cheer them on, but as the body-count of innocents unlucky enough to get in the way of their scheme increases, the “Funny Games” fourth-wall break isn’t even required.”

Coherence USA

Screenings:
Friday, April 25 | 9:45 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Tuesday, April 29 | 9:45 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki

Coherence is an indie sci-fi flick that comes to SFIFF riding on a wave of buzz created at last year’s Fantastic Fest. Reviews for this film are spoiler heavy, so I won’t be linking out for this one, but the festival guide describes it as “delightfully weird and brain-busting.” If you wanted to have a loose theme for your festival  viewing experience Coherence would act well as a bridge between Borgman and The Double.

The Double UK

Screenings:
Saturday, April 26 | 1 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Tuesday, April 29 | 9:15 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki

The Double, based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name, follows mundane office worker Simon James as he copes with the sudden appearance of an out-going and well-liked doppelganger of himself. Fans of  Terry Gilliam’s kingdom of schizophrenic alienation will feel right at home while taking in Richard Ayoade’s sophomore effort. While the film has been received with considerable praise where there is negative criticism it mostly relates to Ayoade’s dependence on his influences. Considering the source material this criticism seems appropriate. Dostoyevsky scholars see The Double as the important juncture where the author was still under the shadow of his influences, but also showing the signs of his personal voice.

History of Fear Germany/France

Screenings:
Wednesday, April 30 | 7 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Friday, May 2 | 9 p.m. | New People Cinema
Wednesday, May 7 | 8:45 p.m. | BAM/PFA

History of Fear provides a different sense of paranoia and anxiety than The Double. While The Double offers an object of paranoia for the audience History of Fear goes the opposite direction. The audience is only granted vague suggestions of what’s creating the air of anxiety in a Buenos Aires suburb. It’s the sort of storytelling that isn’t well-suited for mass consumption, but, as The Hollywood Reporter‘s Boyd van Hoeij writes, “is the kind of feature that requires an active investment from its audience, making this more suited to festivals.”

The Sacrament USA

Screenings:
Saturday, April 26 | 11:45 p.m. |Sundance Kabuki
Monday, April 28 | 9 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki

I won’t lie, You’re Next was one of my favorite films of 2013, so it brings me some pleasure to reference it twice in this post. Fun trivia: In You’re Next the character Tariq, who takes a cross bolt to the head during dinner, was played by The Sacrament director Ti West. This year West brings to the festival a horror film that takes many of its queues from the Jamestown Massacre…maybe?  Using the “found footage” technique the film follows  ambitious Vice reporters as they travels to the Eden Parish commune where all isn’t as it seems…or is it?  I don’t know the answers to these questions…or do I?

* disclosure: this author is a seasonal employee of the San Francisco Film Society

Bay Area Crowdfunding: The New Parkway Facade

newparkwayNot comic book related, but a very worthy mention for one of the coolest indie movie theaters in the United States. Oakland’s New Parkway is raising money to put a new façade on the space. Not only will this help bring attention to the theater, but also make a glum section of 24th & Telegraph a little brighter. The Kickstarter has less than 39 hours left and they’re more than $20,000 away from their goal, so the chances they’ll get what they need this round isn’t likely. This is less of plea for readers of The Shared Universe to pledge, but more of a hope that The New Parkway will try again.

It should be noted that I only found out about this campaign this morning thanks to a sponsored post on Facebook. It’s tragic really, because I spent eight hours in The New Parkway lobby for CAAMFest on Sunday and if there was anything alerting patrons to the Kickstarter it certainly didn’t catch my eye. If they relaunch the campaign I have a handful of suggestions for making a more successful campaign:

1. Have they sought a façade improvement grant through the city of Oakland? The city has limited funds earmarked for helping businesses make better first impressions. There’s no guarantee that The New Parkway would qualify, but I’d like to know the theater at the least made the effort.

2. What materials will go into the façade? How much labor? One of the many things I love about The New Parkway is the entire venue is very DIY. I imagine this will continue when creating the new façade and as a backer I’d like to know how much of the funding is going toward materials and how much is going toward manual labor.

3. How will they promote the campaign? What’s the plan for getting the word out? Any in-house events planned?

4. Lower backer levels. Statistically projects with reward levels of $20 or less are more likely to succeed. Kickstarter isn’t shy about sharing data, so it’s known that Kickstarters without a reward level under $20 only succeed 28 percent of the time while those with a reward level below $20 succeed 45 percent of the time.  Also, the most popular backer level is $25.

5. More updates. I have no statistics on updates, but I do know when I back a campaign I feel more connected if I receive four or five updates during the life of the campaign. In addition to feeling valued it keeps the campaign in my mind and I push it out to friends. For the first Kickstarter the New Parkway made eight updates during the life of the campaign, but this time they only made their first three days ago.

The New Parkway is an amazing space and it deserves to have a top notch street facing showcase.  If you haven’t been it’s worth checking out.

Roxie Theater to host Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pizza Party

When the programmers at San Francisco’s historic Roxie Theater looked at the cinemas long list of accomplishments they realized there had somehow never been a “totally tubular all-night pizza party.” They’re tmnt_poster-195x300planning to remedy that situation this weekend with the help of the 90s-era Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. On Saturday and Sunday the theater will be screening Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze back-to-back. On March 8 the doors open at 7:30 p.m. and on March 9 at 2 p.m.  According to the Roxie:

Join us for a night of pizza, photo booths, costume contests, drinks, and those heroes-in-a-half-shell themselves: Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Leonardo!  Fun starts at 7:30pm!  Your ticket includes ALL YOU CAN EAT PIZZA (Vegan ‘za, too, brah!)

TMNT, originally created as a 1984 comic by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, has been experiencing a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of years. IDW started publishing a new TMNT series in 2011, a CGI-series was launched by Nickelodeon in 2012, a new film is scheduled for release later this year, and Vanilla Ice has been getting back in touch with his TMNT roots through a mac & cheese commercial and headlining an epic crowdfunded TMNT party.

Thought Bubble: Rumored Fantastic Four casting doesn’t go far enough

The insider sourced casting rumors regarding the Fantastic Four film reboot has the Internet all atwitter. In a declarative headline TheWrap reports the cast has been found while going on to write with less certainty “Hollywood was buzzing Wednesday with news that Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell are nearing deals to star in the studio’s reboot of the popular comic book franchise.” “Nearing deals” doesn’t mean “set in stone” in Hollywood and the article goes on to point out justified reasons to doubt the reporting, but let’s run with these rumors as being accurate, because the rest of the unsourced echo-chamber Internet is doing so.

Michael B. Jordan possibly playing Johnny Storm isn’t going over well with purists.*

Frankly, director Josh Trank could, and should, do so much more to shake up the status quo. The superhero film universe is overwhelmingly white due in part to the big two comic book universes being historically overwhelmingly white. When the second Captain America hits the screen with Falcon he’ll be the third black superhero since the first Iron Man film introduced a non-War Machine James Rhodes in 2008 (I’m counting Thor‘s Heimdell). All of these roles are secondary at best and there hasn’t been an African-American in a starring role since 2004’s Blade Trinity. The Johnny Storm casting decision will fill a decade long absence.

The only issue I have with the casting decision is that Sue Storm and Johnny Storm are brother and sister. There are some obvious ways to address this issue. One is that the Storm family could have multiethnic heritage and the other is one of the Storm children could have been adopted. Both of those story lines could work, but it would be a huge leap forward for cinematic superheroes if Sue was a black woman. The only cinematic black female superhero to date has been Halle Berry as Catwoman (and unfortunately she was the victim of Hollywood choosing an artsy French director with only one previous film under his belt).

A secondary benefit of casting an African-American Sue is the need for more interracial relationships in mainstream films. It’s sad to think that casting the future wife of Reed Richards as a black woman would be progressive in the 21st Century, but in light of the shameful Internet response to an interracial couple in a Cheerios commercial it seems the media consuming populace needs more opportunities to realize it doesn’t need to be an issue.

* I don’t necessarily agree that fans who demand there be no change in comic character race are racist. Many are the same people who were upset when Sam Raimi gave Peter Parker biologically-based web shooters instead of technology-based web shooters. They are against change from the funny book gospel.   That said, yes, there are definitely racists upset with the possible decision.

 

Bay Area Crowdfunding: “Death is No Bad Friend” tells the story of Robert Louis Stevenson fighting death at Mount Saint Helena

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I had no idea Robert Louis Stevenson, author of such classics as Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, spent time fighting death more than once in the Bay Area. I never questioned how the land mass in the bay came by such a whimsical name as “Treasure Island” without featuring an amusement park or a single pirate ship. It makes so much more sense now.

Robert Louis StevensonThe Scottish-born author’s journey across the United States in 1879 brought him to the brink of death and he spent three months in Monterey recovering. Once he was well enough he carried on to San Francisco where, shortly after taking a new wife, he fell ill once again. To recuperate the author travelled with his family to Mount Saint Helena in what is now known as Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. His recovery at the foot of Mount Saint Helena is the story Siren’s Gaze Productions hopes to tell with support through an IndieGoGo campaign.

Siren’s Gaze was founded during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival by a trio of female filmmakers. Their first project, Death is No Bad Friend, is the story of Stevenson facing his personal demons as he hangs close to death at Mount Saint Helena. They’re seeking between $10,000 and $20,000 to tell this important chapter of often overlooked Bay Area history.

The screenplay is being written by G.E. Gallas who is no stranger to telling the tales of eccentric creatives of the 18th and 19th centuries. Since November 2012 she’s been producing an online graphic novel about poet and painter William Blake called The Poet and the Flea. In her story Blake is visited by “The Ghost of the Flea” who seeks to take advantage of Blake’s grief following his daughter’s death. The story, currently on hiatus, will eventually answer the question of whether or not Blake falls “victim to the fleas corruption.”

UNAFF to screen “The Comic King of Guatemala”

UNAFF Logo

UNAFF Logo

It’s always nice when two of my passions overlap. This time it’s film festivals and comics.

The United Nations Association Film Festival, taking place mostly in Palo Alto, will be screening “The Comic King of Guatemala” on October 23 at 5 p.m. The short documentary tells the story of a passionate comic loving duo who tackle the challenge of opening the first comic shop in Guatemala. It’s an uphill battle not only due to the high illiteracy rate in the country, but also the lack of distributors willing to send new titles. The film screens with “Strong Enough to Fight,” which exams Kenyan youth leaving behind ethnic prejudices when they enter a boxing club, and “Familia Araya,” which follows a foundation’s efforts to use hip-hop to create positive change for kids who have been abused. The trailer for “The Comic King of Guatemala” is below followed by the festival’s description.

The Comic King of Guatemala – Teaser from Oh My! on Vimeo.

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Bay Area enters unofficial film festival season

Cinephiles are spoiled in the Bay Area. Film festivals in the Bay are as common as tourists on Fisherman’s Wharf with a fest seemingly every other week. The rich tapestry of culture that is the Bay is well represented in the festivals with fests dedicated to specific nationalities, sexual proclivities, various causes, and a wide swath of genres. It can be difficult to navigate — especially if a film fan is willing to travel for the sake of celluloid. If any season had to be declared “festival season” in the Bay Area it would likely be these last three months of 2013. Starting at the end of September there are very few opportunities for movie buffs to get out of darkened theaters into the daylight. Below is an effort to create a comprehensive list of film festivals in the region from the end of September through December.

Oakland Underground Film Festival (September 25 – 29, 2013)
Tonight sees the kick-off of the fifth annual Oakland Underground Film Festival with a free screening at Grand Lake Theater of Citizen Koch. As a former Madisonian this film holds a special place in my heart since it features numerous scenes from the 2011 Capitol uprising. That film will be followed by a biopic of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hannah, who is considered one of the pioneers of the riot grrrl movement of the early-90s. The festival continues over the remaining four days with a mixture of narratives, shorts, and documentaries. From the website: “a showcase for independent and Do-It-Yourself film, video, and projection-art based in Oakland, California. The Oakland Underground Film Festival places special emphasis on local filmmakers, social justice, urban life, the environment and works of fiction and non-fiction that thrive outside of classic narrative filmmaking.” OakUFF’s website: http://www.oakuff.org

Mill Valley Film Festival (October 3-13)
Marin County gets in on the festival action with the 36th annual Mill Valley Film Festival. MVFF is a bit more starstruck than many other festivals in the region with spotlights and tributes to Jared Leto, Dakota Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ben Stiller, and others. MVFF is an all-encompassing festival featuring films from around the globe  and in multiple genres. According to the festival’s mission: “With its reputation as a filmmakers’ festival, this prestigious noncompetitive event showcases international features, documentaries, shorts and children’s films — something for every filmgoer.” MVFF’s website: http://www.mvff.com
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