Film Review

Smith happens

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Every year there's at least one: the adorable-old-coot fest, usually British, that proves harmless and reassuring and lightly tear/laughter producing enough to convince a certain demographic that it's safe to go to the movies again, just this once. The last months have seen two, both starring Maggie Smith (who's also queen of that audience's home viewing via Downton Abbey), and in this case more is probably less.Read more »

The damage done

The versatile Robert Carlyle hits a melancholy note in 'California Solo'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Robert Carlyle is the kind of actor who usually elicits a slow-dawning response in realm of "Oh, right ... that guy. What was he in again?" Well, a lot, but if you're not British (let alone Scottish), his visibility has probably been erratic and infrequent — plus he does that exasperating English thing of taking TV assignments like they're perfectly OK, as opposed to the US approach of doing series work only when your big-screen career is in the toilet.Read more »

Still the fairest

Heigh-ho to 'Snow White' on her 75th birthday

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM One of the few upbeat by-products of the increasing infantilization of popular movies is that the same impulse to dumb down live action for permanently adolescent tastes also raises the bar for animation, which no longer has to target grade schoolers as its primary audience. Even not-so-special 2012 had more sophisticated and interesting animated features than you'd find in any given year a couple decades or more ago. Wreck-It Ralph won't win the Best Picture Oscar. But it will almost certainly be better than whatever movie does.Read more »

The awful truth

'The Central Park Five' examines a shocking crime — and its troubling outcome

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM Early last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 15-film shortlist from which the five Best Documentary nominees will be culled. There are some strong contenders — including The Waiting Room, set at Oakland's Highland Hospital — but two of 2012's highest-profile docs were oddly absent: Amy Berg's West of Memphis (which opens locally Feb. 8) and Ken Burns' The Central Park Five, which opens Friday. It might be ironic that both films are about injustice.Read more »

father and law

Make time for sensitive indie drama 'In the Family'

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM With a running time of just under three hours, writer-director-star Patrick Wang's In the Family rewards patient viewers with its quietly observed tale of a man battling for custody of his son.Read more »

A hello to arms

Who, exactly, is the target audience for Red Dawn?

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The master

'Hitchcock' goes behind the scenes of Hollywood history

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Goth-hmm city

Sean Penn takes a bizarre road trip in 'This Must Be the Place'

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Staunch characters

The leading ladies of 'French Cinema Now'

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM Last year's The Artist is still glowing months after its multi-Oscar triumph — its canine star just released a memoir, Uggie: My Story, and its human star, Jean Dujardin, will appear in Martin Scorsese's 2013 The Wolf of Wall Street.Read more »

The rescuer

'Gigli' is forgiven: 70s thriller 'Argo' is Ben Affleck's best yet

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM A decade or so ago, Ben Affleck was drowning in Bennifer mania and starring in schlock like Daredevil (2003) and Gigli (2003). Rumors percolated that Affleck and Matt Damon hadn't really written that Oscar-winning script for 1997's Good Will Hunting — though Damon's career was bearing more fruit at the time (see: 2002's The Bourne Identity), the "Jenny From the Block" video was nauseating enough to make anyone question the authenticity of anything Affleck-associated up to that point.Read more »