Month: April 2017

IN THEATERS (SF) – “My Entire High School…”

rsz_1032542-gkids-releases-new-clip-my-entire-high-school-sinking-seaMy Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2017; Dir.: Dash Shaw)

GRADE: C+

By Daniel Barnes

*Now playing at the Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinemas in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.

Jason Schwartzman voices another Max Fischer-esque high school fabulist in this singular but strangely aggravating animated feature, an odd blend of crude hand-drawn animation and sophisticated Photoshop.  Like the 34 year-old debut feature director, the protagonist is named Dash Shaw, a high school sophomore and fledgling journalist prone to printing fantasy as fact.  The lengthy title should be taken literally – after Dash uncovers a real conspiracy involving fudged environmental impact reports, the entire high school sure enough sinks into the sea.  Dash and his nerdy friends scramble up the floors to safety, while their classmates and teachers die horrible deaths all around them.  It’s meant to play like the sketchbook fantasies of a 15 year-old outcast, and the characterizations of high school archetypes are Daria-level broad (the lunch lady knows kung fu, etc.), but it feels more like an extended, not funny version of a Community gimmick episode.  My Entire High School… is deadpan to a fault, with monotone line readings that feel unnaturally disconnected, a tone that lacks command and a story that feels feckless and bored.  Better things are surely ahead for Shaw, so just file this one  under J for “juvenilia.”

IN THEATERS (SF) – “The Assignment”

rsz_the_assignment_michlle_rodriguezThe Assignment (2017; Dir.: Walter Hill)

GRADE: B-

By Daniel Barnes

*Now playing at the Presidio 4 in San Francisco.

The devolution of the Hollywood mainstream from a relatively low-frills genre film factory into soulless purveyors of perversely over-branded pap cleanly overlaps with the career arc of writer-director Walter Hill.  Over the course of forty-plus years in the industry, Hill went from invigorating tyro to beleaguered A-lister to old-school washout, and now he’s moved on to feisty outsider.  His latest independent film is The Assignment (originally titled (Re) Assignment when it  premiered last year at TIFF), the story of a scuzzy hitman (Michelle Rodriguez) forcibly gender re-assigned into a woman by a wealthy, weirdo doctor (Sigourney Weaver) who seeks revenge for her brother’s death.  It’s vintage meat-and-potatoes Hill – gritty and funny, brusque and stylishly economic, with a fun streak of fuck-it trashiness throughout.  Unfortunately, any sense of low-brow, comic book fun continually crashes against a concrete wall made of one-note performances (the casting of Weaver and Rodriguez is so on-the-nose that it’s borderline parody) and a lunkhead, monologue-heavy script.