The Rough Cut – This Month’s Best in Local Cinema

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Khaki Scouts and Jaguar Sharks Take Over The Roxie for “Wes Ander-thon” Weekend

For reasons I will never fully grasp, there are many who are eager to dismiss Wes Anderson’s feature films as being too twee or annoyingly precious. Those that want to condemn Anderson for his
signature aesthetic and trendy soundtracks are missing the point entirely. What has always made films like Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom so alluring is how they seem to exist in another world, a place removed enough from our own lives that we can instantly recognize the humanity in the stories of characters like Steve Zissou and Margot Tenenbaum.

Fortunately The Roxie is here to give everyone a crash course in the majesty of Anderson’s work. Teaming up with Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, creator of the

San Francisco cinematic institution Midnites for Maniacs, and Spoke Art — the gallery responsible for the widely popular annual Anderson-themed “Bad Dads” art show — the Roxie will show all of Anderson’s films in 35mm, along with some select shorts, in a weekend dubbed “Wes Ander-thon.”

“Wes Anderson’s films grow with you,” Ficks says. “The more times you watch them, the more they affect you on a deeper level. His cinematic vocabulary perhaps takes some time to learn, but once you do, profound rewards often follow.”


“Wes Ander-thon” Weekend

The Roxie, 3117 16th Street, SF
August 12 – 14, Passes: $100, roxie.com


COMING SOON

The Witness

The Roxie, 3117 16th Street, SF
August 12 – 14, Passes: $100, roxie.com

In 1956, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death. What makes her murder chillingly unique is that there were 38 eyewitnesses to the crime, all of whom did nothing to stop it. The Witness is a documentary featuring the victim’s brother, who forty years after the crime, begins a probing, immensely personal investigation to understand why dozens of people all chose not to intervene on his sister’s behalf. A darkly riveting exploration of the human psyche, the film offers a definitive account of one of New York City’s most iconic crimes.

Hitchcock/Truffaut Series

Berkeley Art Museum
& Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center Street, Berkeley CA
July 14 – August 28
bampfa.berkeley.edu

Taking inspiration from Kent Jones’s acclaimed 2015 documentary, Hitchcock/Truffaut, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive offers a month-long retrospective of two of the 20th-century’s finest filmmakers. Highlights include Truffaut’s masterpiece, The 400 Blows (August 12); Hitchcock’s first entry into the thriller genre, 1927’s The Lodger (August 27, with live piano accompaniment); Truffaut’s most Hitchkcockian endeavor, The Bride Wore Black (July 31); and Hitchcock’s enduring classic, the San Francisco-set Vertigo (August 25).

Don’t Think Twice

Embarcadero Center Cinema,
One Embarcadero Center, SF
Opens July 22
landmarktheatres.com

Writer/director Mike Birbiglia is well-known for his off-Broadway shows and stand-up specials which feature, an inspired mix of comedy and personal reflection. In Don’t Think Twice, Birbiglia steps into the world of narrative film with a story about an improv troupe that must come to terms when one of their members gets a big break while the rest are left to decide what comes next. Starring comedy stalwarts like Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) and Gillian Jacobs (Community), this film promises to continue the uniquely profound brand of comedy Birbiglia has mined so well in the past.


IN REVIEW

The Neon Demon

Horror-drama. Starring Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. (R, 117 minutes)

In the opening shot of The Neon Demon, the third film from writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn, (Drive, Only God Forgives) aspiring model Jesse lies motionless, her neck splashed with blood. It’s a jarring, almost surreal image. Refn has made no secret of his interest in exploring the outlandish, letting plots evaporate in favor of compelling visuals and amoral characters. Jesse (played convincingly by Elle Fanning) is perhaps the apex of this fascination, a girl so desperate to capitalize on her looks that she’s willing to do anything in the hopes of realizing her dreams…or are they nightmares?

A thesis about the potency of beauty that’s pushed to its limit as jealousy turns violent and human nature is ravished with hellish aplomb, The Neon Demon is guilty of sometimes bloating under the weight of its own artistry. Many may take issue with the indictments on superficiality made in this tale of a model turned monster, but viewers must simply embrace The Neon Demon for the spectacle it proclaims itself to be.

Grade: B-

Pairs With: Black Swan, Under the Skin

The Infiltrator

Thriller-drama. Starring Bryan Cranston, Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo. Directed by Brad Furman. (R, 127 minutes)

Few careers have enjoyed resurgence quite as sudden as Bryan Cranston’s leap from the dad on Malcolm in the Middle to A-list actor. Of course the major onus for this shift lies in Cranston’s turn as meth peddler Walter White on Breaking Bad, but with The Infiltrator, he plays a man on the other side of the war on drugs.  Paced as a thriller and featuring an impressive supporting cast, The Infiltrator follows Cranston as real-life customs agent Robert Mazur, who went deep undercover into Pablo Escobar’s cocaine empire.

Cranston brings the gravitas and emotion necessary to flesh out Mazur, but the true stars are Benjamin Bratt and John Leguizamo, who as a close associate of Escobar’s and Mazur’s partner respectively give humanity to characters often reduced to archetypes. Director Brad Furman trusts his audience to follow along with a sometimes convoluted plot involving banking transactions, a shadowy hierarchy of Escobar’s cronies, and random moments of extreme violence. When it works, it’s captivating, but too often it settles for the expected in the hopes of riding its own genre to greatness.

Grade: B  Pairs With “Blow,” “Argo”

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