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Film, "Ballet 422": Jody Lee Lipes' New York City Ballet Documentary

"Ballet 422": Jody Lee Lipes' New York City Ballet Documentary

In this beautifully muted documentary by cinematographer-director Jody Lee Lipes, a New York City Ballet company dancer gets and takes a chance to create his own show. At 25, newbie choreographer Justin Peck is perhaps not the most effusive fellow,…
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Film, "Mr. Turner": A Strange and Wonderful Movie About a Strange Person

"Mr. Turner": A Strange and Wonderful Movie About a Strange Person

It's hard to imagine the curmudgeon-maverick director Mike Leigh even deigning to utter the word "biopic," let alone making one. If there's anything we can safely expect from Leigh, it's that he won't go boiling down famous historical figures into…
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Film, "The Homesman": The Old West Gets More and More Savage as Time Goes On

"The Homesman": The Old West Gets More and More Savage as Time Goes On

Two decades after Unforgiven and four after The Wild Bunch, are revisionist Westerns a thing anymore? Even if they are, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman is less of a revisionist Western and more of a tone poem on just how…
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Film, "The Notebook": Postwar Kids Will Say the Savagest Things

"The Notebook": Postwar Kids Will Say the Savagest Things

Sometimes children abide during times of darkness, and sometimes the darkness is so overwhelming they let it into their hearts as a means of survival. János Szász's The Notebook considers the latter. As World War II winds down and Hungarian…
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Film, "The Trip to Italy": A Journey of Two Very British Minds Into the World of the Sequel

"The Trip to Italy": A Journey of Two Very British Minds Into the World of the Sequel

Known for making films that don't resemble each other, director Michael Winterbottom tries a sequel to his quasi-fictive road movie The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on a tour of English restaurants and rich comedic rivalry. This Italian…
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Film, "Palo Alto": It Takes the Offspring of Coppolas, Kilmers, and Robertses to Realize the Vision of Franco

"Palo Alto": It Takes the Offspring of Coppolas, Kilmers, and Robertses to Realize the Vision of Franco

There are reasons to resist Palo Alto. Foremost, yes, it's another James Franco product, adapted from his short-story collection and built around an uncomfortably snug-fitting role for him as a high school girls' soccer coach with predatory tendencies. Beyond that,…
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Film, "Belle": Guess Who's Coming to 18th Century England

"Belle": Guess Who's Coming to 18th Century England

Director Amma Asante's handsome historical drama is a picture of social importance whose simplistic progressivism, however right-on, still unfortunately reads as 20-20 hindsight. The title character (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is the biracial love child of a slave and a British naval…
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Best of San Francisco, Arts & Entertainment

Best Undead (and Better Than Ever) Movie Theater

We got nervous when the Embarcadero Cinema shut down in June 2013. Owners assured us it was a temporary closure for renovations, but after losing so many theaters in recent years, it was hard not to worry that we'd never…
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Film, "Alan Partridge": In Which the British Once Again Try to Reach Us With Their "Humor"

"Alan Partridge": In Which the British Once Again Try to Reach Us With Their "Humor"

After a failed attempt to break into the American comedy mainstream with 2008's Hamlet 2, British actor Steve Coogan has gained a higher profile in America through more dramatic films, such as What Maisie Knew and especially Philomena. But the…
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Film, "The German Doctor": The Nazi Will See You Now

"The German Doctor": The Nazi Will See You Now

Even at their most monstrous, some famous Nazis still seem recognizably pathetic. You can joke about them. You shouldn't, but you can. Then there's Josef Mengele. The memory of him seems permanently terrifying. Mengele was the SS physician, a sort…
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Film, "Only Lovers Left Alive": As Close to What We Imagine a Doc About Tilda Swinton's Life Can Get

"Only Lovers Left Alive": As Close to What We Imagine a Doc About Tilda Swinton's Life Can Get

What a concept: vampire movie, as done by Jim Jarmusch. By turns groovy and morose, Only Lovers Left Alive could so easily be a goof, but for Jarmusch, aging now into an indie-film immortal, it's opportune — a mellow tract…
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Film, "Jodorowsky's Dune": The Greatest Film Ever, Probably

"Jodorowsky's Dune": The Greatest Film Ever, Probably

In the mid-1970s, fresh off the success of the surprisingly profitable cult films El Topo and The Holy Mountain, director Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to film Frank Herbert's sci-fi novel Dune. Jodorowsky's version of the movie never got made, and…
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Film, Nymphomaniac: Volume I film review

Nymphomaniac: Volume I film review

When it was announced that Lars von Trier's next film was going to be a two-parter called Nymphomaniac, I was worried. 2009's Antichrist and 2011's Melancholia were both astonishing and frequently difficult films, but also breathtakingly gorgeous works whose most…
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Film, "Bethlehem": Israel, Palestine, and the Secrets They Swap

"Bethlehem": Israel, Palestine, and the Secrets They Swap

By virtue of timing, and of temperament, the Israeli film Bethlehem seems fated to serve as a sort of flip-side companion piece to the Palestinian Oscar nominee Omar. Both are raw thrillers about a young Palestinian informant for the Israeli…
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Film, "Visitors": When You Stare Into the Movie, the Movie Stares Into You

"Visitors": When You Stare Into the Movie, the Movie Stares Into You

The feature films of director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass have never been for everyone, and their new black and white collaboration Visitors is unlikely to cut into The Lego Movie's profits. Not offering the same kind of visual…
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Film, "The Wind Rises": A Whimsical History of a Killing Machine

"The Wind Rises": A Whimsical History of a Killing Machine

Isn't it just like humans to invent a thing of gravity-defying beauty and then use it to slaughter each other? Hayao Miyazaki's tribute to Zero fighter-plane designer Jiro Horikoshi has sparked controversy not just for having fictional elements, but for…
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Film, "Tim's Vermeer": Re-Creating a Masterpiece, Starting with the Room in Which It Was Painted

"Tim's Vermeer": Re-Creating a Masterpiece, Starting with the Room in Which It Was Painted

The documentary category is rich with contenders this awards season, so it's understandable if a film about a low-priority and admittedly insoluble 17th-century mystery seems less urgent than some other rightly lauded fare. But Tim's Vermeer, in which a non-painter…
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Film, "The Armstrong Lie" : The World's Greatest Fights His Way to the Bottom

"The Armstrong Lie" : The World's Greatest Fights His Way to the Bottom

There once was a man who won the world's toughest athletic contest seven times in a row, and also beat cancer, and presided invincibly over a vast empire of splashy fundraiser bracelets. He had some help from drugs, which means…
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Film, "12 Years a Slave": A Collision of Early American Dreams

"12 Years a Slave": A Collision of Early American Dreams

(Opens Nov. 1.) In the 1840s, a free black man from upstate New York found himself kidnapped and sold into slavery. After a dozen years in hell, his rescue came from an abolitionist played by Brad Pitt. Ah, did we…
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Film, "Pandora's Promise": Rethinking Nuclear Power

"Pandora's Promise": Rethinking Nuclear Power

While Mark Kitchell's recent documentary A Fierce Green Fire showed some of the infighting that's occurred within the environmental movement over the decades, Robert Stone's new Pandora's Promise narrows the focus to one of the most hotly debated subjects: nuclear…
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