Comparisons to The Blair Witch Project (1999) and last year’s Paranormal Activity are the inescapable fate of Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism, if only because all three movies employ a similar ruse: they are scary stories masquerading as vérité snuff. And there’s nothing scarier than the idea, fueled by a bogus Internet rumor, that the bogeyman this time is real.
Exorcism seems in one way less gimmick-driven than the others, since it doesn’t arrive on the heels of a viral campaign touting its authenticity. Yet it comes across as the genuine article – we’re not fooled, exactly, but we are willing to believe. The story earns credibility.
Welcome, dear friends, to the first Indie Theater Roundup ever (partially) written and published from 30,000 feet above – hold on, let me check – Michigan! Will the wonders of technology ever cease to amaze? Let us all take a moment of silence to thank Richard Branson for this thrilling innovation to modern flight, then turn our attention to the matters at hand: movies! You want 'em, and the city's indie theaters have 'em. Check these out:
Built in 1910, San Francisco's Clay Theatre, a single-screen cultural institution on Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, will close its doors, presumably for the last time, this weekend.
Though the San Francisco Film Society offered to buy the theater or to pay for the lease that Landmark Theatres has held since 1991, their overtures were rebuffed by the Clay's landlord, Balgobind Jaiswal. The future of the space remains unclear.
Those wishing to pay their last respects can do so Sunday evening, when the theater will bow out with an 8 p.m. screening of Radu Mihaileanu's romantic comedy The Concert.
Conceived 32 years ago as producer Roger Corman’s tongue-in-cheek spin on the Jaws formula, Piranha returns with a new 3-D gimmick courtesy of director Alexandre Aja, who resurrected Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes in 2006 with passably nasty results.
Aja's latest requires little explanation. It’s spring break under siege, as busty coeds lose their tops and then their limbs in graphic enough detail that Piranha, deemed too raunchy for Comic-Con, earns its R rating the old-fashioned way. It helps that besides the engaging Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott (TV’s Party Down) and Richard Dreyfuss, who starred in Jaws, several members of the supporting cast are porn stars.
Edgar Wright, the English director of the exuberant romantic comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, cites 2007’s Hot Fuzz, his Point Break-inspired follow-up to the 2004 zombie satire Shaun of the Dead, as the movie that afforded him the chance to film in his hometown of Wells, and to pay tribute to influences ranging from Agatha Christie to Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II.
It sounds impressive, all this talk of universal logic, rule-following paradoxes and absolute certainties, rolling so melodically off the tongue of John Hurt, who could bring gravitas to a reading of the phone book. Yet even Hurt, cheerfully chewing the scenery as curmudgeonly Oxford professor Arthur Seldom, cannot save Álex de la Ingelsia’s arbitrary murder mystery from its own miscalculations.
Adapted from a novel by mathematical logician Guillermo Martínez, The Oxford Murders works best as a showcase for Hurt, who preaches the gospel of Wittgenstein before lecture halls packed with disciples, and Elijah Wood’s blue eyes, ablaze with earnest agitation even when his delivery falls flat.
After the rousing success of last year's inaugural festival – an affordable, star-studded three-day event at picturesque Cavallo Point – the second Sausalito Film Festival kicks off tonight at the Callippe Theater and Ballroom with the Bay Area premiere of The Dry Land, writer-director Ryan Piers Williams' story of war veteran returning from Iraq to rebuild the life he left behind in small-town Texas.
Henry Harrison is not known for his kindness. The outspoken eccentric at the center of The Extra Man, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s buoyant adaptation of a 1998 Jonathan Ames novel, he is rather a textbook narcissist.
Thoughtless and hopelessly self-absorbed, he is a “confirmed bachelor” positioned “to the right of the Pope” in matters of bedroom politics. He is casually contemptuous of the rich, older women who subsidize his threadbare lifestyle at high-society’s fringes. And that is precisely why Kevin Kline wanted to play him.
With the second-ever Athiest Film Festival arriving at the Red Vic and the Sausalito Film Festival celebrating its opening night with the regional premiere of Ryan Piers Williams' The Dry Land, Bay Area cinephiles might find their dance cards full this Friday – and the rest of the week seems just as promising. As always, here's a list of some of the finest films currently playing at an indie theater near you.
A Rotten Tomatoes reader described The Expendables thusly: “Its purpose is to be violent.” Mission accomplished. Sylvester Stallone’s long-rumored convening of the Lat Pack – a motley crew of action stars past and present, including Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and, in his first dramatic role since 2004’s Around the World in 80 Days, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – is a love letter to bloody excess.
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