Month: April 2015

The Barnesyard’s Now Playing Power Rankings (May 1-7, 2015)

index* = SF Bay Area only

BUMPED

1) It Follows
2) American Sniper
*3) Wild Tales
4) Clouds of Sils Maria
*5) Dior and I
*6) Kung Fu Killer
*7) What We Do in the Shadows
*8) Song of the Sea
9) Ex Machina
*10) The Wrecking Crew
*11) Lambert & Stamp

MIXED-POSITIVE

index2*12) Man from Reno
13) Chappie
14) Kingsman: The Secret Service
15) The Salt of the Earth

MIXED-NEGATIVE

16) Paddington
*17) Black Souls
18) Monkey Kingdom
19) Danny Collins

DUMPED

20) True Story
21) Insurgent
22) Avengers: Age of Ultron
23) The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

imagesHAVEN’T SEEN (in alphabetical order)

The Age of Adaline
*Boychoir
Brotherly Love
Cinderella
*Closer to the Moon
Do You Believe?
*Far From the Madding Crowd
*Felix and Meira
Furious 7
Get Hard
Home
Jupiter Ascending
*Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Little Boy
The Longest Ride
McFarland, USA
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
*Revenge of the Mekons
*Roar
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Unfriended
The Water Diviner
While We’re Young
Woman in Gold
You’re My Boss

This list is updated every Wednesday/Thursday. The rankings reflect the opinion of Daniel Barnes only. All films playing in Sacramento area theaters are listed, as well as select films playing exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Kung Fu Killer”

imagesKung Fu Killer/Jungle (2015; Dir.: Teddy Chan)

GRADE: B

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens today at AMC Metreon in San Francisco, the 4 Star in San Francisco, Century 20 in Daly City, and Camera 3 in San Jose.

I honestly have no idea what to call this Hong Kong action epic about a serial killer who targets martial arts masters. The IMDB page and all of the advance press material refer to it as Kung Fu Killer, but the onscreen title and the film’s Letterboxd page identify it as Kung Fu Jungle. By any name, it’s an absolute blast, a frenzied fight film steeped in the history of martial arts movies, and a genre-hopper that borrows elements from sources as diverse as Silence of the Lambs and gunslinger westerns. In a charismatic lead performance, Donnie Yen plays Hahou Mo, a seemingly reformed ex-kung fu guru quietly serving time for murder. When a crippled killer starts offing his old associates, Hahou assists the police in tracking him down, but both Hahou and the killer appear to hold secret motives. Kung Fu [Whatever] makes a big deal about honoring the masters of martial arts cinema, which sets a high bar that director Teddy Chan and his fight choreographers and performers manage to meet. One dizzily and intricately conceived hand-to-hand combat sequence follows another – a fight atop a gigantic skeleton, a death match on a film set, and an audacious and effective use of flash-forwards and flashbacks in the grappler sequence. The detective angle to the story starts out as a neat twist on the genre, but it ends up needlessly bloating the film, and serves to delay the inevitable big fight finish. But when that big fight finish arrives, in the middle of a busy freeway, with Hahou and the killer crawling between cars and underneath roaring semis: holy shit.

Daniel Barnes @ the SN&R (4/23 issue)

images#barnesyardbumps:

*Alex Garland’s sleek sci-fi chamber play Ex Machina works best as a showcase for Oscar Isaac, who reimagines the evil scientist as a socially isolated scumbag jock, equal parts Victor Frankenstein and Frank T.J. Mackie.

#barnesyardharrumphs:

*The Oscar-nominated documentary The Salt of the Earth charts the 40-year career of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. The venerable German filmmaker and documentarian Wim Wenders co-directs, but you get the impression he only came aboard to shape decades of disparate material into this coffee table book of a movie.

#barnesyarddumps:

*James Franco and Jonah Hill trade concepts of moral culpability and media ethics instead of bong rips and masturbation jokes in Rupert Goold’s bland true-life drama True Story.

The Barnesyard’s Now Playing Power Rankings (April 24-30, 2015)

index* = SF Bay Area only

BUMPED

1) It Follows
2) American Sniper
*3) Wild Tales
*4) Clouds of Sils Maria
*5) Kung Fu Killer
*6) What We Do in the Shadows
*7) The Wrecking Crew
8) Ex Machina
*9) Lambert & Stamp
*10) Merchants of Doubt

indexMIXED-POSITIVE

*11) Man from Reno
12) Chappie
13) Kingsman: The Secret Service
*14) Cheatin’
*15) Living is Easy with Eyes Closed
16) The Salt of the Earth

MIXED-NEGATIVE

*17) Black Souls
18) Monkey Kingdom
19) Run All Night
20) Danny Collins

indexDUMPED

21) True Story
22) Insurgent
23) The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

HAVEN’T SEEN (in alphabetical order)

Age of Adaline
*Brotherly Love
Child 44
Cinderella
*Dior and I
Do You Believe?
The DUFF
Furious 7
Get Hard
Home
Jupiter Ascending
*Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Little Boy
The Longest Ride
McFarland, USA
Paddington
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
*Revenge of the Mekons
*Roar
*The Road Within
*Seymour: An Introduction
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Unfriended
The Water Diviner
While We’re Young
Woman in Gold
You’re My Boss

This list is updated every Wednesday/Thursday. The rankings reflect the opinion of Daniel Barnes only. All films playing in Sacramento area theaters are listed, as well as select films playing exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Clouds of Sils Maria”

imagesClouds of Sils Maria (2015; Dir.: Olivier Assayas)

GRADE: B+

By Daniel Barnes

*Now playing at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas in San Francisco, the Albany Twin in Albany, and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

Oliver Assayas directs Juliette Binoche as an insecure actress who agrees to appear in a new production of the play that made her famous, only this time in the older woman role instead of the ingénue part.  Although Clouds of Sils Maria is essentially a three-woman picture, with Kristen Stewart as an overworked personal assistant and Chloe Grace Moretz as the TMZ-gen Eve to Binoche’s Margo Channing, the narrative is incredibly dense, and it takes Assayas the entire first act just to unpack it all and lay it on the bed.  As Binoche and Stewart retreat to a mountain villa, the separation between performance and reality grows blurry – are they just running through lines, or picking at the scab of their own older woman/ingénue dynamic?  The film explores the psychology of female role-play with depth and intelligence, and the performances are outstanding – Binoche brings her expected ethereal complexity, and a newly affectation-free Stewart cuts through her aura like vinegar through grease.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Cheatin’

cheatinCheatin’ (2015; Dir.: Bill Plympton)

GRADE: B-

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens today at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley, and the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol.

In a genre overwhelmingly dominated by major studios, nine-digit budgets, digital animation, wisecracking animals, A-list voice casts, and costly pop song licensing rights, animator Bill Plympton remains an iconoclast. Cheatin’, which had its U.S. premiere at Slamdance in January 2014 but is only now trickling out to theaters, is Plympton’s seventh feature film. It has all of the Plympton hallmarks, most especially the hand-drawn animation (you can practically feel every stroke of his pencil), but also the lack of true dialogue, the grotesque character design, and the focus on body mutilation and transmogrification. The film is structured as a series of absurdist gags, many of them quite crude, but it coalesces into a more traditional narrative as it develops. After a “meet-cute” on the bumper cars that is more horrifying than endearing, a young man and woman find love and an intense physical chemistry together, but a scheming woman tears them apart. Plympton blends elements from Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Being John Malkovich, and The Prestige into this story of sex, obsession, revenge, and magic, and there are a number of awe-inspiring visual sequences. You certainly can’t fault Plympton for ambition; if only the jokes were a little stronger!