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Dog Days Ahead: June Movie Preview

Just as winter is the season of Oscar hopefuls, the dog days belong to big-budget popcorn fare – star-studded comedies, explosive adventures and comic-book crusaders bent on saving humanity from imminent destruction. This June will be no different, with a strong crop of contenders mining for box-office gold, including:

Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

The weather outside is frightful, the fiery resurgence of Mike Singletary's 49ers so delightful, but if you've no place to go, check out one of these fine films at the city's venerable collection of indie theaters.

1. Gremlins

Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Dec. 9

Doomed Romance Blossoms in the Aftermath of an Alien Attack in 'Monsters'

It was routine mechanical failures and budgetary restraints, more than divine – marine? –  inspiration, that led a young Steven Spielberg to keep his shark from audiences throughout so much of Jaws. In the case of first-time feature director Gareth Edwards, the choice was dictated by necessity: To make a $15,000 movie about monsters, the monsters would have to stay scarce.

Monsters is no Jaws, but the comparison is apt on one level: Edwards, like Spielberg, manages to sustain tension even in the absence of early or frequent payoffs. Rather than unleashing his beasts, Edwards hides them, letting the threat they pose loom in their absence. The shadows are pregnant with peril.

Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

The San Francisco International Animation Festival continues through Sunday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema, featuring some of Walt Disney's earliest shorts and Tarik Saleh's futuristic thriller Metropia, in which a call-center drone (voiced by Vincent Gallo) breaks from his drab routine to become a wannabe spy. Elsewhere:

Investigating 'Paranormal Activity'

Most of the praise for Paranormal Activity seems centered on director Oren Peli’s achievement in making an effective thriller on an infinitesimal budget – $15,000, to be precise, though I doubt that includes whatever Paramount paid for its brilliant marketing campaign.

It’s a wonderful story, encouraging to indie filmmakers hoping for their own big break – Paranormal was stuck in cinematic purgatory until a print arrived at the desk of DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg – but it speaks only in passing to the strength of the movie itself, which deserves a more muted celebration.

Drew Barrymore Finds Her Directorial Voice with 'Whip It'

Drew Barrymore will never forget her first all-girl roller-derby adventure, the rough-and-tumble spectacle that inspired her critically acclaimed directorial debut, the lighthearted coming-of-age drama Whip It.

“When I walked into my first game, I literally thought it was my Wizard of Oz moment, where everything was in black-and-white and the world became Technicolor,” says the onetime child star, 34, whose Flower Films production company helped establish her as a bona fide superstar with comedies like 1999’s Never Been Kissed and the following year’s Charlie’s Angels.



Once More, with Flaying: Diablo Cody and Company Dissect 'Jennifer's Body'

Diablo Cody is living the Hollywood dream.

If that sounds trite, consider her circumstances. Born Brook Busey, Cody (who adopted her pen name in 2003 after repeatedly listening to "El Diablo" by the pop trio Arcadia while passing through Cody, Wyoming) attended parochial school in Illinois for 12 years before moving on to the University of Iowa. After graduating, she tore through a string of "dismal" jobs - among them, working as a secretary at a Chicago law firm and proofreading advertising copy for Minneapolis-area radio stations - until, on a whim, she took up stripping, often billing herself as Bonbon or Roxanne.

Notes from a Darkened Theater: Frameline Winners Announced, Brüno Under Fire, More Moneyball

With festival attendance topping 60,000 and ticket sales up from the last two years despite a sluggish economy, Frameline 33, the oldest and largest celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films and filmmakers in the world, reached its conclusion Sunday with the world premiere of Wendy Jo Carlton’s Hannah Free. Now, there’s only one thing left to do: announce the winners.

Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

If your idea of recreational bliss includes bowling, driving around and the occasional acid flashback, make your way to the Red Vic this weekend for a cinematic experience of the most transcendent order. And if that’s not your thing, no worries – there are plenty of worthwhile films currently in rotation at an indie theater near you.

1. The Big Lebowski
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: April 17-20
Why: So you can die with a smile on your face, without feelin' like the good Lord gypped you. Any questions?

Notes from a Darkened Theater: The Future of Batman and a Jester in King Arthur's Court

Recently, the Sun – the London-based tabloid that seems to pride itself on movie-related misinformation – reported that Eddie Murphy and Shia LaBeouf would be joining Christian Bale and rumored Catwoman Rachel Weisz in Christopher Nolan’s next Batman sequel, tentatively titled Gotham.

Though the rumor has been categorically (and convincingly) denied, I believe Murphy could make a fine Riddler, provided he muted his act to suit the dark tone of the material, as Robin Williams did for another Nolan production, Insomnia. But LaBeouf as Robin? Spare us.

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