Pixel Vision

THE GUEST opens today! Plus more new movies!

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FINALLY, clever, retro-styled thriller The Guest is here. Check out our interview with the filmmakers and star here, and then go see The Guest this weekend. You're welcome. 

After you've TCB in that regard, you might also want to check out sleek new Patricia Highsmith adaptation The Two Faces of January (review here), family drama The Judge (interview with the director here), or journalism thriller Kill the Messenger. How to decide? Read on for reviews of these and even more films, plus trailers. 

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Essay: Revisiting the Coen Brothers' 2013 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

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Joel and Ethan Coen have been creating films for 30 years, dating back to their still-stunning, low-budget debut, neo-noir Blood Simple (1984); it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1985. They followed with the screwball satire Raising Arizona (1987), which contains a pair of timeless (and quotable) performances by Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter.

And yet the Coens' next three films lost millions: the tough-nosed noir Miller's Crossing (1990), the darker-than-black comedy Barton Fink (1991), and their surprisingly enjoyable ode to Frank Capra, The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). Luckily, their brilliant mid-Western Fargo (1996) followed, winning them an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a trophy for Frances McDormand (Joel's partner in crime) for Best Actress. 

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"All our families are f-ed up:" Director David Dobkin on his Duvall vs. Downey drama 'The Judge'

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With dysfunctional family tale-meets-courtroom drama The Judge (out Fri/10), director David Dobkin is no longer simply "the guy who directed The Wedding Crashers (2005)" — he's also the guy who got Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall to go toe-to-toe. Downey plays hotshot Chicago lawyer Hank, who verrrry reluctantly returns to his rural hometown after the death of his mother; he's met with hostile hospitality from his aging, long-estranged father, the town judge (Duvall), who verrrry reluctantly allows his son to represent him when he's accused of murder. 

The Judge's biggest flaw (besides its nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time and some sentimental tendencies) is that it tries to be too many genres at once. But those marvelously acted Downey vs. Duvall tête-à-têtes — and one memorably hilarious jury-selection scene — can't be ignored. Prior to its theatrical release, The Judge screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and I got a chance to speak with Dobkin about his latest film.

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Mill Valley, 'Gone Girl,' and TWO flicks featuring Satan: yep, must be time for new movies!

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The 37th annual Mill Valley Film Festival opened last night and runs through October 12 at all the big Marin venues (Larkspur's Lark Theater, Mill Valley's Cinearts@Sequoia, and San Rafael's Smith Rafael Film Center). Guardian critics take on the Children's FilmFest program, docs, and offer short takes; for complete information, visit www.mvff.com

This side of the Golden Gate, it's a big week for Hollywood as David Fincher's latest thriller goes up against Jason Reitman's take on social-media malaise, as well a demonic doll and a Nicolas Cage-goes-evangelical howler (all involved in the latter better clear a shelf or two when Razzies season rolls around).

Read on for short reviews and trailers! 

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Festival-sized doses of art, food, and technology at Portland's TBA fest

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As the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) presented the 12th iteration of the Time-Based Art Festival September 11-21, two newer festivals (Feast Portland and XOXO) also peppered the Rose City with foodie events and tech talk galore.

TBA, under the artistic direction of Angela Mattox, formerly the performing arts curator at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, emphasized music and vocal experiments in this year’s program. The international festival is distinct in its presenting platform and density of experimental performance, making it well worth the hour flight to Oregon from San Francisco.

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TIFF 2014: Three more notables, plus a lucky top 13

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Jesse Hawthorne Ficks reports from the recent 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Previous installment here!

Three films at this year's Toronto Film Film Festival achieved a consistently exhilarating cinematic aesthetic. 

The first was instant horror classic Goodnight Mommy (Austria), which had critics tripping over each other as they ran out of the theatre. I overheard one woman hailing the psychological terror film as the best movie she had seen at TIFF in five years.

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Sound sneak preview: Ai WeiWei Alcatraz exhibition

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Here’s a taste from @Large, the exhibition by internationally renowned Chinese artist Ai WeiWei, which will open to the public on Alcatraz Sat/27.

This recording is from Illumination, one of the sound installations, which makes use of the prison hospital – an Alcatraz site not normally open to daytime visitors. Read more »

Extended review: British prison drama 'Starred Up'

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By Haley Brucato

Scottish filmmaker David Mackenzie’s prison drama Starred Up is a brutally raw indie film starring rising actor Jack O’Connell as Eric, a 19-year-old offender who has just been “starred up,” or transferred to an adult prison due to his uncontrollable and dangerous behavior. Though he's passive when we get our first look at him, he won't be for long: One of the first things Eric does upon entering his new cell is expertly rig a shank out of a toothbrush and a shaving razor, which he then hides in an overhead light fixture. Clearly, he's done this before.

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TIFF 2014: American standouts

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Jesse Hawthorne Ficks reports from the recent 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Previous installment here!

In high school, Hal Hartley was my first cinematic battle. On paper, his existential themes of truth, his French New Wave references, and the stilted dialogue he favored seemed like they would align perfectly with my sensibilities. Like many film students of the era, I gobbled up The Unbelievable Truth (1989), Trust (1990), and Surviving Desire (1993) multiple times. But as Simple Men (1992), Amateur (1994), and Flirt (1995) graced art-house theaters, I found Hartley's films to be more and more like fingernails shrieking down a neverending chalkboard.

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Mezcal: Mexico In a Bottle fest sets high bar for mezcal lovers

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When it comes to tasting mezcal, the experts have some generally accepted rules. Chief among them is that "you should never taste more than four together," cautioned Oaxaca's Graciela Carreño of Mezcal Real Minero at the Mezcal: Mexico In a Bottle event, held at Public Works, Sept. 14. It's usually good advice: With the spirit's alcohol content regularly topping 50 percent ABV, and its flavor components so nuanced yet so varied from one bottle to the next, it can be hard to distinguish mezcal's finer points when your tastebuds are aflame with intense spice, smoke, and minerality.

But when you're staring down nearly 20 of the world's absolute best mezcal brands in one room, each of which has at least three or four different offerings on hand (if not plenty more), heeding that first caveat is a patent impossibility.

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