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Mill Valley Roundup: 7 Movies to See at the Film Festival

After an open weekend highlighted by the regional premieres of Lone Scherfig’s An Education and Katherine Dieckmann’s Motherhood, which helped earn star Uma Thurman a festival award, Mill Valley’s annual celebration of cinema from all corners of the globe continues through next weekend. (Tickets for individual screenings are available, and can be purchased here.) The highlights include:

1. Up in the Air
Where:
Smith Rafael Film Center, 118 4th St., San Rafael, 415-454-1222
When: Oct. 14
Why: The latest from Juno and Thank You for Smoking director Jason Reitman finds George Clooney compulsively flying the friendly skies, traveling from one upscale hotel to the next in anticipation of earning his 10 millionth frequent-flyer mile. Life on the ground isn't quite as serene for Ryan Bingham, the corporate hatchet man Clooney plays with surprising warmth despite the character's mostly impersonal interactions with those around him. Yet he's more than engaging enough to drive Reitman's dramatic farce, which emerged as a crowd favorite at the Toronto Film Festival and should land Clooney in the Best Actor hunt.

2. The Girl on the Train
Where:
Smith Rafael Film Centerr, 118 4th St., San Rafael, 415-454-1222
When: Oct. 15
Why: Based on a controversial 2004 incident in which a non-Jewish girl (played here by Émilie Dequenne) claimed to be the victim of an anti-Semitic attack, André Téchiné's new drama boasts an impressive ensemble cast featuring Catherine Deneuve, Ronit Elkabetz and Michel Blanc. The story, which sparked a firestorm in the French press, turned out to be a fabrication, but the movie, a featured selection at the City of Lights, City of Angels French film festival in Los Angeles, uses it as the starting point for a fascinating character study.

3. Youth in Revolt
Where: Century Cinema, 41 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 415-924-6505
When: Oct. 13
Why: Michael Cera plays two roles in Miguel Arteta’s raucous new comedy – mild-mannered Nick, who dreams of a life free of inhibitions, and Francois, his fiendish alter ego. Despite a warm reception at Toronto, Revolt’s release was recently pushed back to January 2010, but that’s hardly an indictment of the film, which delivers big laughs, a delightfully twisted romance and a memorable performance from Justin Long, as an incorrigible stoner who spices up Thanksgiving dinner with his stuffed-mushroom surprise.

4. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Where: Smith Rafael Film Center, 118 4th St., San Rafael, 415-454-1222; Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, 415-388-4862
When: Oct. 17, 18
Why: By leaking the contents of the top-secret Pentagon Papers to the media and forever altering America's perception of the Vietnam War, former Marine and military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, now 78, helped bring on the downfall of the Nixon administration. His story is told here concisely and powerfully by documentarians Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, who recall a time when mainstream journalists were less hesitant to challenge White House propaganda.

5. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Where: Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, 415-388-4862
When: Oct. 12
Why: Writer-director Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity) returns with her acclaimed drama about a devoted wife (Robin Wright Penn) whose marriage to an aging publisher (Alan Arkin), now resigned to life in a posh Connecticut retirement community, stifles her desire for freedom. Co-stars include Keanu Reeves as the handsome younger man next door and Winona Ryder as a hysterical friend whose weepiness begins to test the nerves.

6. Zombie Girl: The Movie
Where:
Smith Rafael Film Center, 118 4th St., San Rafael, 415-454-1222
When:
Oct. 16
Why: Winner of the Spirit Award at this year's Slamdance Festival, the documentary Zombie Girl chronicles Emily Hagins' two-year quest to make her directorial debut with the low-budget psychological thriller Pathogen. What's unique about Hagins, whose efforts were backed by her parents and several high-profile members of the Austin, Texas, community, is that she made the movie at the age of 12.

7. Winnebago Man
Where: Sequoia Theatre, 25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, 415-388-4862
When: Oct. 15, 17
Why: Jack Rebney became a viral video star by cursing his way through a hilarious Winnebago commercial that helped doom his career as a corporate pitchman. Director Ben Steinbauer's equally funny new documentary, a favorite of Michael Moore's, seeks to reveal the man behind the Internet legend.