Tag Archives: Shattuck Cinemas

Big Screen: ‘Stranger by the Lake’ is never boring

Stranger by the Lake is "a fascinating feature guaranteed to polarize opinion."
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In his now legendary concurring opinion in the case Jacobellis v. Ohio, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously noted that, despite the difficulty of defining the pornographic, “I know it when I see it.” I used to think that was a pretty fair definition, too, but after screening the NC-17 rated L’inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake, opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Feb. 7), I’m not so sure anymore.

Written and directed by Alain Guiraudie, Stranger by the Lake is both incredibly intense (in terms of on-screen sex) and incredibly languorous (in terms of Guiraudie’s approach to storytelling). It’s a fascinating feature guaranteed to polarize opinion, a cinematic poster child for the cliché “you’ll either love it or hate it,” and a film all but certain to generate a few walkouts by low-information moviegoers. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Oscar-nominated short subjects

HBO’s Prison Terminal: "I'd be shocked if it doesn’t win the Oscar Documentary prize," says our film critic John Seal
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It’s time once again to handicap the Oscar races that most obsess Berkeleyside readers – I’m speaking, of course, of the short subjects. 2013’s crop of nominees is a strong one, and as in previous years will play as a package at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas beginning on Friday, Jan. 31.

Of the three categories, the Live Action group is (with one notable exception) particularly impressive. I’m picking former child actor Xavier Legrand’s Just Before Losing Everything – the riveting tale of a Frenchwoman (Lea Drucker) attempting to escape from her abusive husband – as the winner. Suspenseful and moving, the film suggests Legrand could easily transition to feature length productions should he so desire. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Last Days on Mars

Last Days on Mars
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Did you hear the one about the joint American-British-Chinese-Irish mission to Mars — the one that didn’t actually include any Chinese astronauts? No? Well, prepare to discover it in Last Days on Mars, a thoroughly average science fiction adventure opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Dec. 13.

Directed by Ruairí Robinson, Last Days on Mars is headlined by Liev Schreiber, last heard in these parts narrating Federal Reserve documentary Money for Nothing. Schreiber plays Vince Campbell, one of an octet of astronauts who’ve spent the last six months conducting scientific research on the Red Planet: collecting soil samples, monitoring the weather, and trying to prove that Marvin the Martian really exists. Their tour of duty almost up, the group eagerly awaits the imminent arrival of space shuttle Aurora and a restful return trip to Earth. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams
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I have to admit I didn’t expect to be writing about another Rwanda documentary this year, but here we are. After being featured in cycling epic Rising from Ashes in a September review, the central African nation returns to the Big Screen Berkeley spotlight only three months later, this time in the form of Sweet Dreams, a locally grown feature opening Friday, December 6th at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas.

Produced and directed by siblings Lisa and Rob Fruchtman – she, a resident of Berkeley and Academy Award winner for her editing work on The Right Stuff (1983); he, a Sundance Best Director winner for Sister Helen (2002); each a veteran of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) – Sweet Dreams offers another perspective on Rwandan efforts to recover from the genocide of 1994. This time, bicycles are nowhere in evidence, here replaced by traditional drums and decidedly non-traditional ice cream scoops. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Let the Fire Burn

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On May 17, 1974, my impressionable 11-year-old eyes watched an after-school special I would never forget: the live television broadcast of a police shootout. Hundreds of heavily armed officers were besieging a Los Angeles house occupied by a revolutionary group known, cryptically, as the Symbionese Liberation Army, and Eyewitness News was there to record every gunshot and explosion. By the time the siege was over, six members of the SLA were dead, the house was destroyed, and television’s vast wasteland had expanded into some disturbing new territory.

Eleven years later, an eerily similar incident took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but with even grimmer results: 11 deaths and the destruction of four city blocks. The events leading up to this tragedy are examined in Let the Fire Burn, a remarkable new documentary opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Nov. 1.  … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Torn, a terrorist plot set in East Bay

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What kind of person would detonate a bomb in the middle of a busy suburban mall – a Muslim teenager seeking revenge for the mistreatment of his father at the hands of the American government, or a non-Muslim teenager making good on a schoolyard threat? That’s the question posed by Torn, a locally produced drama opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, October 25.

Directed by Jeremiah Birnbaum and written by Michael Richter, Torn takes place in an inconspicuous and unnamed East Bay burg. Judging from a glimpsed Argus newspaper headline it’s probably Fremont, but wherever it may be, Anytown USA is home to Ali (Iron Man’s Faran Tarir) and Maryam Munsif (Mahnoor Baloch), Pakistani immigrants living the middle-class American dream with their high-school age son Walter. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Muscle Shoals

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Memo to filmmakers: if you’re planning to make a music documentary, please resist the temptation to call Bono’s agent. Judging from his recent appearances in rockumentaries about The Ramones, Leonard Cohen, Joe Strummer, and B. B. King, the world’s most annoying and pompous tax-evading rock star is hovering anxiously over the phone waiting for another invitation to expound pointlessly on music far superior to any he’s ever created himself.

He’s at it again in Muscle Shoals, an uneven but reasonably entertaining feature opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, October 11. Mumbling platitudes about songs rising from the mud, the man and his ostentatious designer sunglasses is accompanied this time by other familiar but slightly less annoying rock gods, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Steve Winwood. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Hannah Arendt’ is a superior biopic

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Along with Jeanette McDonald-Nelson Eddy musicals and John Wayne westerns, biopics are, generally speaking, among my least favorite films. More often than not, they are boring recreations of historical (or, frequently, ahistorcial) events ripe for molehill-to-mountain criticism concerning the tiniest of factual errors. Biopics rarely entertain or enlighten, apparently existing only to generate buzz during awards season and annoy pedants.

Sometimes, however, the humble biopic puts the lie to my crude stereotyping and blunt-force pigeonholing. Consider Hannah Arendt (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, August 2): Despite a title promising another predictable trawl through the life and times of a Very Important Person, it actually manages to deliver more than another dose of birth, school, work, death. … Continue reading »

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‘The Hunt:’ A remarkable, beautifully shot film

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In 1995, Danish filmmakers Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg released their infamous Dogme Manifesto, an artistic ‘vow of chastity’ designed (it was claimed) to cut away the layers of artifice they believed had grown, barnacle-like, upon the body of cinema. As if to prove their point, the very first Dogme film, Vinterberg’s The Celebration (Festen), subsequently won the Jury Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

Fifteen years and several dozen films later, the Manifesto has, by and large, gone by the wayside. Neither Von Trier nor Vinterberg attach the Dogme label to their work; indeed, Von Trier seems now to be more interested in exploring the artificiality of cinema (see, for example, 2011’s Melancholia) than in abiding by the extremely strict and somewhat puckish rules (‘the film must not contain superficial action’) he and Vinterberg cooked up one long ago afternoon. … Continue reading »

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‘Pandora’s Promise’: A love letter to atomic energy

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Over the years I’ve reviewed more than my fair share of ‘right-on’ left-wing documentaries, so it’s only fair that every now and then I spend a little time with one from across the tracks. Of course, Pandora’s Promise (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, June 14) relies almost exclusively on liberal talking heads to make its conservative point—so perhaps I’m cheating ever so slightly.

It takes some major cojones to make a pro-nuclear power film only two years after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, but that’s precisely what director Robert Stone (whose excellent Radio Bikini earned an Oscar nomination in 1988) has done. A love letter to atomic energy, Pandora’s Promise will provoke considerable controversy in tree-hugging circles. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Wish You Were Here & Waterwalk

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My fellow westerners: If you’ve ever been tempted to take a trip to an exotic locale in a far away land, don’t. Though foreign resorts want your tourist dollars, you’re still likely to offend the locals with your strange foreign ways, refusal to learn their language, penchant for hard drinking and ridiculous dancing, ostentatious camera equipment, and hideous Bermuda shorts. We’re simply more trouble than we’re worth.

If you insist on going, though, you’re likely to come a cropper – and you won’t recognize your mistake until it’s much, much too late. How do I know? I’ve been to the movies. Time and again, world travelers out for a little fun in the tropical sun get into big trouble as soon as they pass through Hollywood’s customs and immigration checkpoints. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Sightseers, a comedy of darkest hue

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Middle-class Americans have the luxurious Winnebago. The English, of course, must make do with something a little smaller, but just as representative of their economic aspirations – the humble caravan. Hauled from campsite to campsite by a fleet of Austin Montegos and Vauxhall Vectras, these cramped homes away from home are as common a summer sight on Britain’s motorways and B roads as flattened badgers.

Behind the laced curtains, however, lurks something much more sinister than a quilted duvet or Union Jack tea cosy. “I’ve known a lot of people who’ve had very bad experiences in caravans,” presciently observes a character in Sightseers, a British comedy of darkest hue opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas today. And so it shall prove to be. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: The Painting

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It seems I’ve become obsessed with French animation. Over the last few years I’ve reviewed The Rabbi’s Cat, A Cat in Paris, The Illusionist, and A Town Called Panic, which is actually Belgian but (with apologies to my Flemish and Walloon readers) may as well be French. Admittedly, there was that time I raved about Toy Story 3, but surely that’s the exception that proves the rule, right?

Opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, May 24, The Painting (Le Tableau) is the latest in this lengthening list of Francophone features. Written and directed by Jean-François Laguionie, it’s a little less droll and a wee bit darker than the aforementioned films, but will still appeal to inquisitive youngsters and parents desperate to avoid another fart-joke-infested kids’ movie. … Continue reading »

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