Tag Archives: Shattuck Cinemas Landmark


Berkeleyan explores identity in China adoption film

Berkeley High graduate Fang Lee in a market in China. Photo: Courtesy of Linda Goldstein-Knowlton
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By Peggy Lee Scott

Personal identity has been discussed since philosophy began, and for most of us, the answer evolves as we grow. How did I get to be who I am, and what am I doing here? Nature versus nurture? We ponder these questions ourselves, and for those of us with children, the wild ride of watching them become their own persons is an adventure all its own. We get myriad clues that we cannot control much, and it makes us wonder even more how the heck we ended up who, and where, we are.

Such are the questions raised by four teenagers in Linda Goldstein Knowlton‘s thoughtful, sometimes heart-wrenching documentary “Somewhere Between,” opening for a one-week run at Berkeley’s Shattuck Landmark Theatre (and at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco) on Friday, Sept. 21. … Continue reading »

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Review: The Expendables 2, Red Hook Summer

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A few weeks ago I reached (and, thankfully, passed) one of those horrific chronological landmarks that remind us of our inevitable, coming-soon-to-a-crematorium-near-you demise. About the same time, The Expendables 2 – the sequel to 2010’s unforgettable muscle-fest The Expendables – opened in cinemas nationwide. Coincidence? I think not.

The characters in the series are, after all, played by long in the tooth, well past their prime action stars that should be collecting Social Security instead of truckloads of stolen plutonium. As for me, I’m an over the hill film critic who should probably be spending his golden years watching old Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald musicals instead of over the top shoot ‘em ups. (Anyone wanna buy me a ticket for the next TCM Classic Cruise? Mickey Rooney’s gonna be there!)

One horrific thought festered in my mind as The Expendables 2 began: I could succumb to a fatal heart attack at any moment. Could there be a less dignified death than popping one’s clogs during a matinée screening of a film in which the bad guy’s last name is ‘Vilain’? Dear Lord Baby Jesus, Great Tree Spirit, or Ever Expanding Black Hole of Nihilistic Non-Belief, I silently begged, please don’t let it happen to me! … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Dark Horse

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Todd Solondz has quite a lot to answer for. His 1996 art-house hit Welcome to the Dollhouse laid the foundation for the late 20th century ‘American Indie’ style, and we’ve since had to contend with countless screen tales of awkward social outcasts or beautiful losers trying to adapt to the unreasonable expectations of mainstream American society.

The vast majority of these films were gratingly arch or painfully camp, but Solondz possessed tools the copycats lacked: a sharp pen and an uncompromising commitment to truthfulness. Avoiding the too clever by half, nudge-nudge wink-wink style of such indie scribes as Diablo Cody, the Duplass brothers, and Andrew Bujalski (among many others), Solondz’ scripts tackled uncomfortable topics with refreshing honesty — and his newest film, Dark Horse (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, July 20th) , is no exception.

Abe Wertheimer (Jordan Gelber) is the stereotypical All-American man-child. Balding, overweight, and in his 30s, Abe works at the realestate firm owned by father Jackie (Christopher Walken, here looking even more ghoulish than usual), and still lives at home, where his bedroom walls remain lined with mint-in-box action figures and Gremlins posters. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Nobody Else But You

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Don’t be fooled by the opening credits or poster art for Nobody Else But You (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, July 6th): despite appearances, it’s neither an erotic thriller nor a sexy fabric softener commercial. Despite these misleading first impressions, it’s actually a murder mystery in which Marilyn Monroe’s infamous fling with John F. Kennedy – and the ensuing tragedy — is recreated in a Gallic setting.

Released in France as Poupoupidou (conjuring visions of a biopic about former French President Georges Pompidou), the story begins as crime novelist and James Ellroy wannabe David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve) travels to Mouthe, the coldest town in France (its nickname is Little Siberia) to claim his inheritance. Unfortunately, David’s legacy turns out to be no more than a rather moth-eaten family heirloom, but he stumbles into a mystery that provides him inspiration for his next book. … Continue reading »

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‘Five Broken Cameras’: A ‘best documentary of the year’?

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In Five Broken Cameras (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, June 22) you’ll see overzealous security forces hurling tear gas canisters at civilians, fences being torn down, protesters throwing rocks, and a courageous camera operator recording it all for posterity. It’s not, however, the latest livestream from “Oscar Grant Plaza,” but a remarkable documentary culled from the video archives of a Palestinian “citizen journalist” who’s been filming in the Occupied Territories since 2005.

A self-described falah (peasant), Emad Burnat was born and raised in the West Bank village of Bil’in. A free spirit who preferred roaming nearby hills to picking olives with his father, Burnat acquired a new appreciation for Olea europaea after Israeli surveyors and bulldozers arrived to clear trees and prepare the way for the construction of the West Bank Wall.

Acquiring his first camera shortly after the birth of his fourth son in 2005, Burnat initially used his new toy to film village parties and family events. That same year, however, residents of Bil’in began marching each week to protest the construction of the Wall and the loss of their land to hastily built apartment complexes for ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers. Burnat and his camera were soon tagging along. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: A Cat in Paris

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Which is the real Paris — the one seen in last week’s grimy child abuse epic Polisse, or the one depicted in A Cat in Paris (Une vie de chat), a delightful Academy Award-nominated animated feature opening this coming Friday, June 1, at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas? My money’s on the former, but the latter is definitely the City of Light as we imagine — or hope — it might be.

Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, A Cat in Paris relates the tale of Dino, a pampered pet who lives a double life. By day, Dino is the loyal companion of mute youngster Zoe, who collects the dead lizards he brings her in an old sardine can. At night, however, Dino lets his hair down and accompanies Nico (Matthew Modine), a cat burglar who specializes in stealing valuable jewelry from under the sleeping (and sleepwalking) noses of wealthy Parisians. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Polisse, a gritty focus on abuse

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The stories depicted in the French drama Polisse are, the film’s prologue assures us, based on real-life cases handled by the Paris Sûreté’s Child Protection Unit. I’ve no reason to doubt that claim, but, despite its factual provenance and shelf load of awards (including the Grand Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival), Polisse (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, May 25) is more grindhouse exploitation flick than hard-hitting arthouse exposé.

Written and directed by Maïwenn (born Maïwenn Le Besco) , the film is an episodic ensemble piece in which a group of morally compromised, manipulative, and incredibly grumpy police officers humiliate people, abuse suspects, and generally get on each other’s nerves. This is probably not surprising, as their job basically consists of separating parents from their children. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Payback, Yellow Submarine

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Payback, it is sometimes said indelicately, can be a bitch. Jennifer Baichal’s new documentary Payback, opening this Friday, May 18 at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas (and most definitely not to be confused with the 1999 Mel Gibson thriller of the same name), takes a more contemplative approach to the term: payback, it turns out, can also be a restorative in the right hands.

Inspired by Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s book “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth”, the film takes a decidedly broad approach to its topic. Traveling around the world, Baichal examines the interrelatedness of payback, debt, reparations, and revenge, with especial attention paid to debts of the non-monetary variety.

The film begins in Albania, where the question emerges — how do you keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Tirana? The not so obvious answer is to invoke Kanun, an ancient, quasi-legal code of honor developed hundreds of years ago. Kanun still holds sway in the remote regions of northern Albania, where farmer Llesh Prenaga has been under virtual house arrest for the last three years. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: God Bless America

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Remember Bobcat Goldthwait? Back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s Bobcat was a stand-up comedy star, an HBO prime time staple, and an ensemble cast member of the godawful, but guiltily pleasurable, Police Academy movies. Along with the late Sam Kinison, the long-haired, gravel-throated Goldthwait was one of the MTV generation’s most popular comedians, his political edginess suggesting he could have inherited George Carlin’s throne.

Goldthwait retired from stand-up some years back, but his dark comic visions of a country gone off the rails have continued via a handful of acerbic if inconsistent features he’s written and directed, including Shakes the Clown (1992) and World’s Greatest Dad (2009). His latest film, God Bless America, opens at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, May 11th — and the good news is that it’s his best behind-the-camera effort yet.

Heavy-set Joel Murray headlines as Frank, a middle-aged Syracuse insurance salesman who’s mad as Hell and isn’t sure if he can take it anymore. Driven to distraction by his Lindsay Lohan obsessed neighbors and their mewling infant, Frank fantasizes about ending their miserable lives, but instead goes to work for another day of annoying water-cooler chat about last night’s TV lowlights, including the latest victim of the ‘American Superstarz’ fame machine. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: The Fairy

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Apparently, there’s something about Le Havre. Previously the star of Aki Kaurismaki’s eponymous shaggy dog tale, the spotlight is once again on this French port town in The Fairy (La fée), a delightfully absurd comedy opening Friday, May 4 at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas.

Dom (writer-director Dominique Abel, a scrawny string-bean who could easily pass for the love child of Steve Buscemi and Roberto Benigni) is night manager at a slightly seedy harborside hotel. He commutes to work on a rickety old bike, wears plastic bags to protect himself from the rain, and spends his shift camped in front of the telly with a tasty snack. Dom enjoys the simple things and evenings, apparently, are not very busy.

This evening, however, will prove to be different. Tourist John L’anglais (John Cleese lookalike Philippe Martz), a typically clueless Englishman who communicates via phrase book, wishes to stay the night with his pooch pal Mimi. When Dom informs him that dogs aren’t allowed in the hotel, John stashes Mimi in his plaid Gladstone bag — and, this being an absurdist comedy, Dom doesn’t cotton on to the ruse. The wily John checks in successfully and his remarkably mobile luggage walks itself upstairs. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Applause

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Love it or hate it, the Dogme Manifesto has been hugely influential since Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg puckishly penned it in 1995. Though a Dogme film hasn’t been produced since 2005, the Manifesto’s lessons and strictures have since become part of the DNA of Danish cinema.

During its lifetime, Dogme’s results were mixed: for every success such as Kristian Levring’s memorable King Lear adaptation The King Is Alive (2000), there was an unwatchable piece of nonsense such as Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy (1999). Even Dogme haters, however, can be grateful for one of the Manifesto’s unanticipated benefits, actress Paprika Steen.

The only thespian to appear in the first three Dogmes (Vinterberg’s The Celebration, von Trier’s The Idiots, and Soren Kragh-Jacobson’s Mifune’s Last Song), Steen was already in early middle age by the time she became a film star. Now closing in on 50, Steen continues to deliver quality performances in films such as Applause, a powerful character study opening this Friday, April 13th at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas. … Continue reading »

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‘The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye’ (free tickets!)

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How times change. Derided in 1976 by Tory Member of Parliament Sir Nicholas Fairbairn as a “wrecker of civilization” and forced into exile in the early ‘90s after being falsely accused by Scotland Yard of satanic child abuse, Manchester-born musician and artist Genesis Breyer P-orridge (formerly Neil Megson) recently arranged for his exhaustive archives to reside at one of the world’s greatest art galleries, London’s Tate Modern.

Bodies change, too. Now 62, Genesis was an early adopter of the so-called “modern primitive” lifestyle, adherents of which eagerly tattoo, pierce, and otherwise alter their bodies in any number of imaginative ways — and Genesis, never one for half measures, ultimately decided to take body modification to its logical conclusion after falling head over heels in love with Jacqueline Breyer (aka Lady Jaye), a one-time New York City nurse. Such was the couple’s devotion that they began a long term transition to “pandrogyny”, a state where male and female genders are united within one body. Their amazing and utterly compelling story is told in The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, a new feature opening this Friday, March 9th at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas. … Continue reading »

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Frederick Wiseman behind the scenes at Crazy Horse

crazy horse paris
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Frederick Wiseman has made 37 award-winning documentaries, beginning with Titicut Follies (1967), a stark graphic portrayal of the conditions at the Massachusetts State Prison for the Criminally Insane. Now, after a long career of hard-hitting exposés, Wiseman has gone from one kind of crazy house to another – the Crazy Horse.

The legendary Paris exotic dance show, the Crazy Horse, is famous worldwide as the premier venue for sophisticated and sensual female nudity. Crazy Horse’s uniqueness is based upon gorgeous, classically trained dancers bathed in richly colored and textured lighting designs. Its luxurious setting in a group of aged wine cellars on avenue George V adds to its allure of nude chic. … Continue reading »

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