Considering how many classic fairy tales Walt Disney adapted for his early animations, it’s a wonder the Mouse House founder never followed through on his desire to do the same for Rapunzel, the Brothers Grimm’s account of a fair-haired maiden trapped in a tower high above the German countryside.
Seventy years after Disney first sent the story into development, where it languished and seemingly died of neglect, comes Tangled, his empire’s 50th animated feature and, since Pixar ushered the studio into the digital age with Toy Story, one of its most rewarding.
If your post-holiday plans don't involve football and a tryptophan-induced nap, make your way to Embarcadero Center, where some of this year's strongest Oscar contenders, including 127 Hours and Fair Game, are now playing. Check out the Castro's two-day celebration of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, beginning Saturday. Or update your Netflix queue to include John Hughes' classic Thanksgiving comedy Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Happy Turkey Day!
1. Animal Kingdom
Like the heroin-addicted cop he plays in Faster, the aggressive new thriller in which he co-stars opposite a bulked-up Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton rarely minces words. So when he volunteers an off-the-cuff assessment of American movies today, you can expect nothing less than brutal candor.
“We’re living in a time where we’re making the worst movies in history,” says Thornton, 55, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter and star of the 1997’s Sling Blade, which he directed. “They’re geared toward the video-game generation.
Was Eliot Spitzer, the so-called "Sheriff of Wall Street" whose attention-grabbing crusade against big-business corruption catapulted him to New York's governorship, sabotaged by his own hubris or the victim of a calculated political hit?
Rather than draw out their long goodbyes in a single sitting, as Peter Jackson’s Hobbits did in his too-long Lord of the Rings finale, Team Harry’s swan song will unfold in two parts, a decision dismissed in some quarters as purely a marketing strategy.
Yet even at two-and-a-half hours, the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling’s conclusion to the saga of an orphaned wizard destined to battle a Hitler-like menace, sacrifices some particulars of the author’s story but emerges as the most faithful adaptation in the series. Readers expecting everything plus the kitchen sink – or, in this case, seven magical Horcruxes – should not be disappointed.
The San Francisco Film Society's annual celebration of New Italian Cinema, which closes Sunday with Paolo Virzi's touching drama The First Beautiful Thing, takes center stage at the Embarcadero this weekend, while Harry Potter and his magical minions take the fight to the murderous Lord Voldemort in the first installment of David Yates' Deathly Hallows. Elsewhere:
1. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
His downfall plays like Greek tragedy, a flawed hero laid low by hubris. It has inspired Saturday Night Live skits, the 18th-season finale of Law & Order and the hit CBS drama The Good Wife. Now, the story of the former New York governor brought down by his ties to a high-priced prostitution ring is revisited in Alex Gibney’s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.
Skyline, in which an army of airborne aliens comes up with the novel idea of storming Los Angeles in search of fresh human brains, shatters the unintentional comedy scale with its clunky dialogue and laughably straight-faced treatment of B-movie schlock.
As a showcase for brothers Colin and Greg Strause, visual-effects specialists with a single directorial credit to their names– the middling Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) – the film confirms their ability to create a diverting spectacle on a limited budget, but speaks little to their storytelling acumen.
In April 2003, a falling boulder pinned Aron Ralston to the wall of Utah's remote Blue John Canyon for nearly five days, forcing the 27-year-old mountain climber to amputate his right arm in a desperate bid to survive.
In bringing his story to the screen, Danny Boyle deftly avoids the obvious stumbling blocks, transforming a mostly one-man show with a well-publicized ending into arresting drama that speaks not only to Ralston's implacable will but also to the durability of the human spirit. Boyle has described 127 Hours as an action movie about a man who can’t move, and the description is apt. Ralston’s existential struggle seems almost to sprint to its grisly conclusion.
The fifth San Francisco International Animation Festival kicks off tonight at the Embarcadero with Here Comes the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized, a colorfully eccentric interpretation (by four different artists) of the acclaimed 2009 album by indie-rock stalwarts The Decemberists. The festivities wind to a close Sunday with Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, Brent Green's moving tribute to a Kentucky hardware-store clerk who, during the 1970s, built a crazy-quilt house to cure his wife's cancer. Elsewhere:
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