Month: October 2017

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Tragedy Girls”

Tragedy Girls (2017; Dir.: Tyler MacIntire)

GRADE: C

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, November 3.

Appealing newcomers Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp headline this ghoulish and unfunny horror satire, playing high school cheerleaders and lifelong besties with an unhealthily active interest in serial killers.  In an attempt to expand their skills and increase their followers, murderous social media addicts Sadie and McKayla kidnap a seasoned serial killer (Kevin Durand), wreaking homicidal havoc in his name when he refuses to help and using the resulting infamy to promote their online brand.  As bodies pile up in increasingly cartoonish fashion, Sadie and McKayla’s natural-born-killers bond gets tested by cute boys and the vicissitudes of teenage popularity.  Director MacIntire and co-writer Chris Lee Hill pile on the bratty amorality, but it’s all in the service of a cheap, bad-looking, one-joke movie (Millennials and their social media amirite nyuk nyuk nyuk) filled with enough tired and uninsightful self-referential jokes to fill Scream 5 through 7.  Only the sheer adorable-ness of Hildebrand and Shipp makes Tragedy Girls the least bit bearable.

The Barnesyard’s Sacto/SF Now Playing Power Rankings (Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2017)

Click the links to read my reviews.

* = playing in SF Bay Area only

OFFICIALLY BUMPED

1) The Florida Project
*2) Dunkirk
*3) Faces Places
*4) Endless Poetry
*5) Wind River
6) Spider-Man: Homecoming

MIXED-POSITIVE

7) All I See is You
*8) Rat Film
*9) Lucky

MIXED-NEGATIVE

10) Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
*11) The Killing of a Sacred Deer
*12) Columbus
13) Thank You for Your Service
*14) The Big Sick
15) Marshall

OFFICIALLY DUMPED

16) Blade Runner 2049
*17) Battle of the Sexes
*18) Breathe
19) The Foreigner
20) It
*21) 78/52
22) Victoria & Abdul

HAVEN’T SEEN

American Made
Boo 2! 
*BPM
Geostorm
Goodbye Christopher Robin
Happy Death Day
*Human Flow
*Jane
Jigsaw
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Lego Ninjago Movie
*Loving Vincent
The Mountain Between Us
My Little Pony
Only the Brave
*The Paris Opera
The Snowman
Suburbicon
*Wonderstruck

These rankings are updated every week 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, as they are obviously the superior option wherever available.  Underlined films are on my catchup list.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Rat Film”

Rat Film (2017; Dir.: Theo Anthony)

GRADE: B-

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, October 27, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

Director Anthony makes his feature debut with this unconventional documentary about the persistent rat problem in Baltimore, and the connections between the thriving vermin and the city’s long history of racist zoning laws.  Rather than the usual deadening context of talking head interviews, Anthony follows several different people devoted to killing and/or caring for the rats, including a laid-back city exterminator and several amateur hunters with a wide array of weapons, everything from a dart-spewing blowgun to a fishing line and a baseball bat.  Meanwhile, an omniscient female narrator intersects with historical insights on the local housing laws that segregated the black (and rat) population in unhealthy ghettoes, as the well as the connection between rats (and black people) and social/medical research, including studies conducted by Johns Hopkins University in inner-city Baltimore.  Rat Film tackles an unusual and complex subject in an original and engrossing manner, although the oversimplified [rats = black people] metaphor is somewhat offensive.  Anthony really falters when he reaches for Herzog-ian fascist-humanist fantasy-babble in the final segment, imagining a dream scenario where Baltimore-ians gather to celebrate the destruction of their city, with plans to randomly re-distribute the lots (of smoldering ash, I guess) at “corner stores.”  Whatever.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “78/52”

78/52 (2017; Dir.: Alexandre O. Phillippe)

GRADE: C-

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, October 27, at the Alamo Drafthouse at New Mission; now playing on VOD services.

Superficial cinephilia from The People vs. George Lucas director Phillippe, a wide-ranging non-examination of the infamous shower scene from Psycho (the title of the documentary refers to the 78 shots that comprise the 52-second sequence).  Bloviating dude after bloviating dude gives their mostly unnecessary takes on Hitchcock, naturally leading to spurious claims about how Psycho was the first film to ever do everything.  Obviously, I’m interested to hear what film scholars and qualified experts like Janet Leigh body double Marli Renfro and ex-critic/contemporary Peter Bogdanovich have to say about Hitchcock (although Bogdanovich appears especially grumpy here, possibly the victim of an overly tight ascot), but not narcissistic windbags like Eli Roth and Richard Stanley.  Not Bret Easton Ellis.  Not Elijah Wood.  Not Danny Elfman and not even Amy Duddleston, the editor of the Psycho remake (although this does lead to a marvelous story about a tense moment in the editing room, when she and Van Sant realized their version of the shower sequence wasn’t working, even though they were following the original film shot-for-shot…that was the only time this concern came up?!).  Most irritating: Phillippe’s overuse of shoddy re-enactments and chintzy black-and-white cinematography, while actual clips from Psycho are sparingly seen.

The Barnesyard’s Sacto/SF Now Playing Power Rankings (Oct. 20-26, 2017)

Click the links to read my reviews.

* = playing in SF Bay Area only

OFFICIALLY BUMPED

1) The Florida Project
*2) Dina
*3) mother!
*4) Dunkirk
5) Spider-Man: Homecoming

MIXED-POSITIVE

*6) Chavela
*7) Lucky
*8) Atomic Blonde

MIXED-NEGATIVE

9) Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
*10) Columbus
*11) The Big Sick
12) Marshall
13) Wonder Woman
*14) Dolores

OFFICIALLY DUMPED

15) Blade Runner 2049
16) Battle of the Sexes
17) Breathe
18) The Foreigner
19) It
20) Victoria & Abdul

HAVEN’T SEEN

American Assassin
American Made
Boo 2! 
Despicable Me 3
The Emoji Movie
*The Force
Geostorm
*Goodbye Christopher Robin
Happy Death Day
*Human Flow
*Ingrid Goes West
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Lego Ninjago Movie
*Loving Vincent
The Mountain Between Us
My Little Pony
Only the Brave
*Rebel in the Rye
Same Kind of Different…
The Snowman
*Tom of Finland

These rankings are updated every week, 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) – “Dina”

Dina (2017; Dir.: Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles)

GRADE: B+

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, October 20, at the Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.

The best documentary of the year so far, and also the most touching love story.  Directors Santini and Sickles (Mala Mala) follow Dina Buno, a middle-aged autistic woman with a tragedy-filled past, as she prepares to get married for the second time.  Her music-obsessed fiancee Scott also has autism, and although he lovingly dotes on Dina, he is unable to express his love physically, increasing tension in the relationship as the marriage approaches.  Santini and Sickles shoot and structure the film more like an indie rom-com than a documentary, and while there is a slight touch of Errol Morris-ian anthropological quirk, there is nothing condescending or cruel about Dina.  Instead we get a rich, funny, fully drawn portrait of complex people leading complex lives and dealing with complex emotions, starring characters who display a wide range of abilities and limitations (Dina is sexually mature but unable to hold a job; Scott works at Wal-Mart but recoils from physical intimacy; other friends drive cars and raise children).  There is a rare mix of raw intimacy and artifice to Dina, with obvious camera set-ups and movie-like music cues but also amazing moments of tenderness, humor and candor.