Month: July 2017

The Barnesyard’s Sacto/SF Now Playing Power Rankings (July 28-August 3, 2017)

Click the links to read Daniel’s reviews.

* = playing in SF Bay Area only

OFFICIALLY BUMPED

1) A Ghost Story
*2) Dawson City: Frozen Time
3) Dunkirk
*4) The Little Hours
*5) Detroit
6) Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
*7) Endless Poetry
8) Spider-Man: Homecoming
9) Maudie

MIXED-POSITIVE

10) War for the Planet of the Apes
*11) Landline
*12) Lady Macbeth
*13) The Beguiled
14) Cars 3
*15) Alien: Covenant
16) Atomic Blonde
*17) Beatriz at Dinner

MIXED-NEGATIVE

18) The Big Sick
19) Wonder Woman
*20) The Hero
*21) Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

OFFICIALLY DUMPED

*22) Paris Can Wait
23) The Mummy
*24) Letters from Baghdad
25) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
*26) Everything, Everything
*27) The Last Face

HAVEN’T SEEN

All Eyez on Me
Baby Driver
The Boss Baby
*The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s…
*Churchill
Despicable Me 3
The Emoji Movie
*The Exception
*Family Life
Girls Trip
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
The House
*Lost in Paris
*Marie Curie
*The Midwife
*The Transfiguration
Valerian and the City…
Wish Upon

These rankings are updated every Thursday, and are only intended to reflect the opinion of Daniel Barnes. All films playing in Sacramento area theaters are listed, as well as most films playing exclusively in the S.F. Bay Area.  Repertory showings are excluded, because they are obviously the superior option wherever available.  Underlined films are on my catchup list.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Landline”

Landline (2017; Dir.: Gillian Robespierre)

GRADE: B-

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, July 28, at the AMC Kabuki in San Francisco, the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley and the Regency Cinema 6 in San Rafael.

Another spiked-punch punch-puller from Obvious Child auteur Robespierre, again headlined/saved by the electrifying Jenny Slate.  Less the lead than part of the ensemble this time, Slate plays Dana, jittery bride-to-be to a doughy schmuck (Jay Duplass) in the analog mid-1990s.  Just as Dana starts cheating on her fiancee with a mutual friend, her teenage sister Ali uncovers evidence of their father’s infidelity; meanwhile, Ali’s preternatural wisdom gets belied by some bad decisions of her own.  John Turturro and Edie Falco play the parents, but the film is stolen by Abby Quinn as Ali, portraying the perfect mix of emotional hostility, moral superiority and immature self-destruction.  Like Obvious ChildLandline brings a consistent energy without ever going anywhere, offering a fair amount of barbed insight and allowing room for the actors to breathe while also maintaining a low-key dramatic momentum.  It’s impossible for me to dislike a film that relies so heavily on 1990s alternative rock to set the mood, but it’s also impossible to deny that Robespierre once again falters in the finish.  Landline is the sort of film that heroically refuses to be the sort of film where everyone works out their problems by hugging and smiling, until suddenly it’s the sort of film where everyone works out their problems by hugging and smiling, the end.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “The Last Face”

The Last Face (2017; Dir.: Sean Penn)

GRADE: D

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, July 28, at the Presidio in San Francisco, and on VOD services.

Every bit the self-righteous howler we all hoped and feared after its hostile reception at Cannes 2016, The Last Face makes the humiliating narcissism of Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea look timid by comparison.  It would take a proper Dare Daniel review to catalog every embarrassment, so I’ll just single out a few of my favorites:

1) Dental hygiene as foreplay. Yes, there is a scene in this film where Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem’s painfully dedicated relief aid doctors initiate sex by flirtatiously brushing their teeth. I just thank God cinema wasn’t alive to see this.

2) Very…very…long……PAUSES! Penn’s overuse of absurd dramatic pauses and companion shock cuts extends from the nonsensical opening crawl to the overwrought conclusion. It’s the sort of thing you might expect from a film school freshman, not from an accomplished director. Not…from…an accomplished…DIRECTOR!

3) Red Hot Chili Peppers sex scene. Let me be perfectly clear about one thing: there is a sex scene set to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song in this film. Have I mentioned yet that this “sweeping love story” unfurls against a backdrop of bloody African genocide, and that the conclusion involves a child choosing to shoot himself in the head rather than murder his father?  But yeah, Peppers sex scene!  Sweet!

Theron and Penn are both deeply committed to these causes in real life, but the film’s bumbling mix of drippy romance, fetishized violence and self-serving sermonizing in a context-deficient void only makes a mockery of that commitment.  One character delivers a rambling monologue about how magical it is to dance with a girl with a slashed vagina, and he comes as close as anyone to articulating the film’s pedantic yet psychotic worldview.  After a while, you get the feeling that black bodies are just indistinguishable, awareness-raising props to Penn, and so he wallows in Mel Gibson-like viscera.  The Last Face doesn’t do much for the displaced people it depicts, but it’s a feast for Bad Movie aficionados.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Endless Poetry”

Endless Poetry (2017; Dir.: Alejandro Jodorowsky)

GRADE: B

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, July 21, at the Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.

Full disclosure: I have not seen Jodorowsky’s 2014 comeback film The Dance of Reality, the spiritual successor to this semi-autobiographical fantasy, so feel free to disregard my take on Endless Poetry accordingly.  That previous film covered Jodorowsky’s youth in Chile, while this fever dream follow-up examines his coming-of-age, his separation from his family, and his immersion in a world of outrageous bohemian artists and poets.  As should be expected from Jodorowsky, the film practically swoons with magi-delic realism, vicious satire and fourth-wall perversions, and he clearly feels liberated by the intimacy and logistics of digital cinema.  The mix of vulgarity and spirituality, of affectionate freak show and savage political theater, is pure Jodorowsky, and you can feel his restless invention swirling through every scene: the mother sings all of her dialogue; “invisible” stagehands rearrange the scenery; Alejandro (played by Adan Jodorowsky, the director’s son) ages from boy to man overnight; a midget dressed as Hitler declares “war on high prices.”  Of course, there is an inescapable narcissism at the heart of the project, and enthusiasm for Endless Poetry will vary based on pre-existing enthusiasm for Jodorowsky and his works.  It gets a little tiresome at two hours, but the energy and invention emanating from behind the camera, as well as a welcome streak of absurdist physical comedy, are enough to hold your interest throughout.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Harold and Lillian”

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2017; Dir.: Daniel Raim)

GRADE : C+

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, July 21 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, the Rialto Elmood in Berkeley, the Rialto Sebastopol in Sebastopol and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

When Andy Warhol opined that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” he forgot to mention that even those that never achieve fame will still get kid-glove documentaries made about them.  The latest over-inflated trifle is this cutesy “love story” about storyboard artist/production designer Harold Michelson and movie researcher Lillian Michelson, a married couple that put their thumbprints on a number of Hollywood classics.  A film about their respective processes, an examination of the way that minor contributors make a mark on another person’s work, could have been fascinating, but writer-director Raim seems content to equate Harold and Lillian’s contributions with authorship, which is insane.  It’s an easy watch, and there is the occasional intriguing glimpse into the inner workings of a long-lasting Hollywood marriage, but Lillian’s open refusal to discuss difficult aspects of her past limits any potential for insight, and makes you wonder why this movie even exists.  Crazy thought: if the subject of your soft-pedaling documentary refuses to talk about her own life, you probably don’t have enough material for a feature.

The Barnesyard’s Sacto/SF Now Playing Power Rankings (July 21-27, 2017)

Click the links to read Daniel’s reviews.

* = playing in SF Bay Area only

OFFICIALLY BUMPED

*1) Your Name.
*2) A Ghost Story
*3) Get Out
*4) Kedi
*5) Dawson City: Frozen Time
6) Dunkirk
*7) The Little Hours
8) Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
*9) Endless Poetry
10) Spider-Man: Homecoming
11) Maudie

MIXED-POSITIVE

12) War for the Planet of the Apes
*13) Lady Macbeth
14) The Beguiled
15) Cars 3
*16) Alien: Covenant
*17) Beatriz at Dinner

MIXED-NEGATIVE

18) The Big Sick
19) Wonder Woman
20) The Hero
*21) Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

OFFICIALLY DUMPED

22) Transformers: The Last Knight
23) The Mummy
*24) Letters from Baghdad
25) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
26) Everything, Everything
27) Baywatch

HAVEN’T SEEN

Baby Driver
*The Bad Batch
The Boss Baby
*The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s…
*City of Ghosts
Despicable Me 3
Girls Trip
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
The House
*It Comes at Night
*Lost in Paris
*Marie Curie
*Moka
*Moscow Never Sleeps
*Our Time Will Come
*Pop Aye
Valerian and the City…
Wish Upon

These rankings are updated every Thursday, and are only intended to reflect the opinion of Daniel Barnes. All films playing in Sacramento area theaters are listed, as well as most films playing exclusively in the S.F. Bay Area.  Repertory showings are excluded, because they are obviously the superior option wherever available.  Underlined films are on my catchup list.