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Some Incredibly Weird Movies Coming to The Bay This Autumn

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Surprise!  The end of summer and the beginning of fall will be far from a dull month at the movies.  This month’s listings include everything from three different film festivals to a horror fantasy praised by both Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro to period looks at three different cities’ underground scenes to even a wingsuit flight over an active volcano.  Take a look below. The thrash metal documentary in particular promises to be a hot seller.

August 23

Bunuel In The Labyrinth Of The Turtles–In 1930 Paris, filmmaker Luis Bunuel’s fortunes are at a low ebb.  He’s broke. His most recent film “L’Age D’Or” has led to both a hostile public reception and a falling out with co-creator Salvador Dali.  (Then again, savagely ridiculing bourgeois sexual mores and the Roman Catholic Church will do that to an artistic career.) A second chance for Bunuel comes when friend Ramon Acin wins the lottery and uses the money to finance the director’s next film.  The duo heads to a remote mountain village in Spain to film what will eventually become the documentary “Land Without Bread.” This animated film mixes both biography and actual clips from Bunuel’s documentary. (Note: The associated program “A Bundle Of Bunuel” will allow interested viewers to see “L’Age D’Or,” “Un Chien Andalou (Bunuel’s prior collaboration with Dali), and of course “Land Without Bread.”)  (Roxie Theatre)

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil–Gang boss Jang Dong-su finds his reputation as a fierce criminal in tatters after he barely survives a chance murder attempt by a serial killer known as K.  To regain his underworld standing, he needs to find K so he can kill him and scatter K’s body parts around the city. But doing so requires working with ambitious police detective Jung Tae-seok to locate the elusive killer.

This Korean film features one of the most jaw-dropping beatdowns you’ll see at the movies this year.  It involves Jang kicking down a karaoke bar door, trapping an unfortunate schlub under the door, and then beating the crap out of the schlub by punching repeatedly through the door’s wood.  Catch the original before Sylvester Stallone comes out with his Hollywood remake. (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission)

Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy

Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy–Don’t miss the Hong Kong action film of the summer, a country-hopping tale pitting undercover cops against an international terrorist organization.  This film isn’t a sequel, it’s a whole new film featuring the same three leads from the first “Line Walker” (Francis Ng, Nick Cheung, and Louis Koo) playing entirely different characters.

Miss John Woo-style male camaraderie and insane shootouts?  They’re here.  But there’s also quite a few of your favorite Hong Kong action film cliches given a modern twist.  There’s an insane city shootout involving dozens of extras that would make Michael Mann jealous.  And name another film whose climax features a car chase, a shootout, and a throwdown…all taking place during Pamplona’s famed running of the bulls!  (Century 20 Daly City)

Ready Or Not–Who knew marrying into money can be literal murder?  Ex-foster kid Grace (Samara Weaving) finds out the hard way when she marries Alex Le Domas.  For the very stuck up and wealthy Le Domas family are playing Hide And Seek to celebrate Grace’s wedding night.  But if a Le Domas family member finds Grace before dawn, they get to kill her with sword, crossbow, or whatever lethal weapon they have.  To survive, Grace will have to discover her own capacity for violence. Fortunately for the viewer of this horror comedy, she does.  Reviews of the film have been mixed, but the premise at least is fun. (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, AMC Kabuki 8, AMC Metreon 16)

Rompiendo Puertas (Break And Enter)–Insanely increasing rents.  Forced relocations of poor families of color.  An increasingly gentrified neighborhood. Is this S.F.’s Mission and Bayview Districts in 2019?  Nope, it’s New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1970s. However, the displaced NYC residents fought back with Operation Move-In.  This project found vacant city-owned housing slated for demolition and moved in poor Dominican and Puerto Rican families. This documentary captures what happened next. (Artists Television Access)    

August 24

The Corporate Coup D’Etat –Why is the US government failing to protect its most vulnerable citizens?  Journalists Chris Hedges and Lee Fang (The Intercept) argues it’s the result of a decades-long process of the U.S. government selling its soul to big corporations.  The result: corporate lobbyists and a strong pro-corporate mentality rendering the government deaf to the voices of ordinary citizens. This infuriating and horrifying documentary traces how we got here.  Fang and co-producer Jeff Cohen will have a Q&A after the screening. (Roxie Theatre)

Poltergeist, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, & Halloween III: Season Of The Witch–Chills and wonder can be found in equal measure in this triple feature of 1980s genre films shown on the Castro Theatre’s big screen!  

Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s horror classic “Poltergeist” is set in the days before 24-hour TV broadcasting was the norm.  Back then, when a TV station finished its broadcast day, it’d play “The Star-Spangled Banner” before going off the air and leaving a static-filled TV screen.  But what if one particular static-filled TV screen became a portal allowing supernatural entities to enter our world?

Steven Spielberg’s warm and fuzzy “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” concerns a lonely suburban boy named Elliott who tries to help alien friend E.T. return home before government forces capture him.  This film would inspire the pop culture phrase “E.T. phone home.” 

“Halloween III: Season Of The Witch” attempted to return to John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s original idea of having the “Halloween” franchise be a series of individual horror movies taking place around Halloween.  Blumhouse’s Hulu horror series “Into The Dark” would extend that idea by using a different holiday for each episode. But unlike the far later Hulu show, “Halloween III” unfairly bombed with audiences who wanted more Michael Myers carving up teens.  Now it’s being reconsidered in horror fan circles as unfairly maligned.    

The story:  The mysterious murder of a man in his hospital room leads treating physician Dr. Dan Challis and the victim’s daughter Ellie to the small town of Santa Mira, California.  The town owes its prosperity to Silver Shamrock Novelties. Conor Cochran’s company produces wildly popular latex Halloween masks. Yet why do these masks contain microchips as well as the ability to shoot laser beams of death?  And what’s the connection between the mysterious homicidal men in suits and Silver Shamrock?    

August 25

The Feeling Of Being Watched–Director Assia Boundaoui grew up in an Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago.  Yet most of her neighbors felt they were under U.S. government surveillance for over a decade.  When the director starts investigating these claims, she learns about an FBI operation code-named Operation Vulgar Betrayal.  This operation subjected the director’s hometown to blanket government surveillance long before 9/11. The film follows the director’s struggles to learn why the FBI conducted this investigation and to make public the FBI’s investigation records. (Roxie Theatre)

Old School James Bond Triple Feature–Is it possible to watch an old-school James Bond movie ironically?  Interested Broke-Ass readers will have the chance to find out at this triple feature anniversary screening of old school James Bond films.  “Goldfinger” established such Bond movie staples as the exotic assassin (here, it’s Oddjob and his bowler hat of death), the boldly evil plot (this one involves Fort Knox), and the elaborate death trap (this is the one with the near-emasculation by laser beam).  On the other hand, nothing epitomizes the series’ old school sexism more than the presence of initially lesbian Bond Girl Pussy Galore. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is the film version most faithful to the original Ian Fleming novel, and it does have Diana Rigg (aka “Game Of Thrones”’ Queen Of Thorns) playing the Bond Girl.  “Moonraker,” with Roger Moore as 007, sends Bond into outer space (the popularity of “Star Wars” may have played a part) and the return of Richard Kiel’s unforgettable exotic killer Jaws. (Castro Theatre

August 29

The Decline Of Western Civilization–If you’ve never seen Penelope Spheeris’ classic documentary about the Los Angeles punk music scene around 1979-1980, what are you waiting for?  It’s a portrait of musicians who recognize Western cultural decline exists yet create liberation from decline through incredibly fast and aggressive music.  Features interviews and performances by such seminal bands as The Germs, X, Black Flag, and Fear. (Pacific Film Archive)

The Decline Of Western Civilization

Ticket Of No Return–Wonder what the late-1970s LGBT underground scene looked like in Berlin?  Director Ulrike Ottinger gave viewers an unforgettable answer with this story of an alcoholic woman who encounters such prominent underground figures as Magdalena Montezuma and Nina Hagen.  A cult film and also a Broke-Ass Free Screening. (San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch)

August 29 & 31

California Independent Film Festival–This film festival has been running since 1997.  However, aside from website puffery (“fastest growing film festival”) and the usual things you get at other film festivals (e.g. see world-class films, meet filmmakers from around the world), the official site doesn’t really say much.  Fortunately two different film days of the festival has one or two programs of interest. At the Orinda Theatre screenings, there’s the Japanese drama “Amonagawa–The One I’ve Longed” (rebellious high school girl Shiori learns to live again thanks to her interactions with a robot controlled by a young man paralyzed in a traffic accident).  At the Castro Theatre screenings, there’s the short documentary “MOTHERship To Reno” (every Easter weekend, drag queens Heklina and Sue Casa somehow wrangle together over 100 drag queens and other S.F. weirdos for a bus trip to Reno) paired with the feature film “Steam Room Stories: The Movie!” (Ee-vill cosmetics magnate Sally Fay (Traci Lords) will steal the rejuvenating waters of the Steam Room unless the Steam Room Guys can stop her).  (Orinda Theatre & Castro Theatre)

August 30

Brittany Runs A Marathon–In this hit Sundance comedy, hard-partying Brittany (Jillian Bell) gets an unwelcome wake-up call from her doctor.  She needs to lose a lot of weight as her heart rate’s gotten too fast and her blood pressure has become too elevated. A nosy neighbor inspires her to pursue little goals, so she starts by running a block.  That small success and others inspire Brittany to join a running club. She soon plans to run the New York City Marathon in a year. Her running successes also spur her to make other changes in her life. But will bad habits and backsliding undo all the good work Brittany puts in?  (AMC Kabuki 8, Embarcadero Center Cinemas)

Give Me Liberty–Medical van driver Vic is having a chaotic day.  A political protest has closed off the roads he usually travels to pick up his clients.  Nobody except him is available to drive his kvetching Russian grandfather and his friends to a funeral.  Vic’s regular clients aren’t happy about sharing the van with the Russians, especially when it turns out the funeral-goers have retrograde views regarding interracial relations.  The comic results from this cultural collision made this film a hit at both Cannes and Sundance. (Roxie Theatre)

This Is Not Berlin–In 1986 Mexico City, Carlos and Gera are high school friends who don’t quite fit in with either their schoolmates or their families.  A new world opens up when Gera’s sister invites the two boys into the underground nightlife scene. They discover sexual liberty and drugs, but will their friendship be torn apart?  A highlight of the recent Frameline LGBT Film Festival. (Opera Plaza Cinemas)

This Is Not Berlin

Vision Portraits–How does becoming blind or visually impaired affect your ability to create art?  Director Rodney Evans, whose own vision was lost thanks to a rare genetic eye disorder, sets out to answer that question with a deeply personal documentary in which he’s one of four artists dealing with this issue.  The other artist subjects are photographer John Dugdale, dancer Kayla Hamilton, and writer Ryan Knighton. (Opera Plaza Cinemas)

September 4

Buffy Fest–Come catch this marathon of 10 fan favorite episodes from the beloved “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” TV series in a theater filled with fellow Slayer fans.  Among the episodes to be shown are “Halloween,” “Graduation Day (Pt. 2),” “Hush,” and (of course) “Once More With Feeling.” In addition, admire art from such folks as Emma Munger (who does the window art for Comix Experience) and even watch Buffy burlesque and drag. (Balboa Theatre)

Dreams Of Suitcases And A Blue Lobster:  Latin Surrealism–The best film program title of the month belongs to this collection of disturbing and irrational shorts from South American countries.  Included are “The Blue Lobster” (secret agent investigates radioactive lobsters), “Las Ventanas de Salcedo” (on the sculptures of Bernardo Salcedo, as rendered via frenetic editing and fragmented soundtrack), and “The Suitcase” (Raul Ruiz’s presumed lost first film, which mixes somnambulists and suitcases).  (Pacific Film Archive)

September 6

Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages–Catch what may well be the first documentary feature ever made.  Even though it was made in 1922, this film still offers more than a few shocking images of pagan worship.  Nine Inch Nails provide the film’s new score. (Artists Television Access)

Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool–If there was one theme to jazz legend Miles Davis’ life, it was his constant need to break boundaries and traditions.  For Davis’ musical collaborators, that quality made him an inspiration. For the people who loved Davis, that quality made him a pain in the posterior.  Stanley Nelson’s new documentary distills the essence of the man who embodied cool. (Roxie Theatre)

Tigers Are Not Afraid–Your must-see genre film of the month is this Mexican horror film that’s been praised by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Guillermo del Toro.  10-year-old Estrella lives in an area of Mexico that’s heavily hit by drug cartel violence. When the girl receives three magic wishes, she uses one for the return of her missing mother.  The incredibly bad results lead the girl to seek refuge with a gang of children whose parents also fell victim to cartel violence. After the kids run afoul of a dangerous drug cartel, Estrella’s two remaining magic wishes may be their only means of survival.  (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission)

September 10

Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday–Think you know what to expect with a “Friday the 13th” movie?  Then you need to see this film which throws logic out the window and turns the insanity dial up to 11.  You’ve got cannibalism, a bondage shaving session, and even a stashing of a baby in a cardboard box. Expect lots of gore and more than a little comedy.  (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission)

Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

September 11

Monos Sneak Preview–Catch a sneak preview of one of Sundance 2019’s best films, followed by a conversation between director Alejandro Landes and actress Julianne Nicholson.   In an unnamed South American country, a group of teen guerillas known as the Monos have been entrusted by The Organization with guarding the American hostage known as Doctora (NIcholson).  But when the Monos are forced to flee into the countryside with Doctora, whatever power structure the teens had slowly disintegrates. Landes’ film has been likened to a cross between “Apocalypse Now” and “Lord of the Flies.” (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission

September 12

This Ain’t No Mouse Music!–Are you a Bay Area resident who’s a fan of folk/roots/blues music?  Then Chris Strachwitz and his Arhoolie Records label is a name you either already know or should become familiar with.  Les Blank collaborators Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon deliver a biographical portrait of the sonic sleuth who brought popular attention to such musicians as Flaco Jimenez and Lightnin’ Hopkins.  A Broke-Ass Free Screening. (Pacific Film Archive)

September 12 & 14

Murder In The Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story–Director Adam Dubin’s documentary traces the history of the more intense form of metal music known as thrash.  The film shows how tape trading networks and zines were part of the fan network that built thrash into a thriving musical genre.  Interviews with such bands as Metallica, Anthrax, and Death Angel (among others) are included here.  

Warning: If you’re interested in catching this film, don’t sleep on getting tickets.  The SF DocFest screenings of this film sold their tickets out in record time. The first of the Alamo screenings have also sold out as of this writing.  (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission and Roxie Theatre

September 15

Devil’s Freedom–What is it like living with omnipresent Mexican drug cartel violence?  Everardo Gonzalez’ documentary attempts to answer that question via interviews with both victims and victimizers.  What makes this film take a turn to the surreal is seeing the interviewees clad in face-tight, ghostly masks and possibly being more candid than they would normally be.  (Pacific Film Archive)   

Short Order–This film brunch program brings together a bunch of short films from around the world done in formats ranging from live action to animation.  Among the offerings are “The Boombox Collection – Boots Riley” (the writer/director behind “Sorry To Bother You” gives a tour of Oakland and reflects on music and capitalism), “Brainworm Billy” (tale about a young man haunted by a famous comedian, courtesy of animator Emily Hubley and son Max Rosenthal), and “Patison Avenue” (a single-take short about an actress and single mother torn between making the audition of a lifetime or tending to the son who’s suddenly been left alone at home). (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission)

“The Boombox Collection – Boots Riley” from Short Order

September 18

Taste Of Cherry–In this Abbas Kiarostami masterpiece on the meaning of life, Mr. Badii drives through the streets of Tehran looking for a man to help him die.  Why Badii wants to die is never explained. The real interest comes from seeing what happens in the interactions between Badii and the people he meets along the way.  Film critic Godfrey Cheshire will appear in person to talk about the film and to sign his new book Conversations With Kiarostami.  (Pacific Film Archive)  

September 20

Ms. Purple–Justin Chon’s follow-up to his in-your-face “Gook” goes for a more intimate family drama.  Siblings Kaysie and Carey come from a broken family. Their mother abandoned them when they were children, while their father Young-il was openly abusive.  Now, as Young-il’s slowly dying, the two siblings are forced to truly re-connect. But can that re-connection also help them deal with their personal traumas? (Theater TBA, but Chon and several cast members will be appearing in person during the film’s opening weekend screenings) 

Out In Ost-Berlin–Back when Germany was still divided into East and West Germany, the Communist-controlled East Germany had decriminalized homosexuality by 1968.  But decriminalization was not the same thing as open social and cultural acceptance of LGBTs. This documentary presents stories of former East German LGBT citizens who were working against that existing sociopolitical taboo.  Another Broke-Ass Free Screening. (San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch

September 22

Case #1, Case #2–Let’s say you have a student who disrupts a class, but you don’t know who it is.  Are the disrupting student’s classmates now obligated to divulge that student’s identity, or should they stay silent and accept punishment en masse?  This simple question was posed by director Abbas Kiarostami to a variety of educators, politicians and religious figures. Yet the answers these interviewees give provide an intriguing lesson in civil rights and surveillance.   Eerily, many of the people interviewed in the film would become key figures in or victims of the Iranian Revolution. (Pacific Film Archive)

September 24-29

San Francisco Green Film Festival–The annual film festival dedicated to sparking ideas and discussions regarding green ideas and change returns for its 9th edition.  Over 50 environmental-themed films from around the world will bring snapshots of what’s happening on the front lines of environmental change.  As of this writing, this year’s program has not been announced yet. (Various theaters including the Castro Theatre, 518 Valencia, and the Roxie Theatre)

September 25

Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans–Star Nicolas Cage exquisitely channels his inner Klaus Kinski under the direction of Werner Herzog.  The plot is disposable, as Lieutenant Terrance Mc Donough (Cage) tries to get to the bottom of a drug deal gone bad.  Get ready to see a Maximum Cage performance as well as hear lines about shooting dancing souls and iguanas on the coffee table.  (Alamo Drafthouse New Mission)

September 26

Chulas Fronteras (Beautiful Borders) & Del Mero Corazon (Straight From The Heart)–Give MAGA-brand hate the cultural finger by catching this 4K restoration of these lively immersions into Tex-Mex Nortena music.  In this music, traditional Mexican harmonies get mixed with European dancehall rhythms and something a little extra to create everything from lively dance tunes to soulful work songs.  Among the artists mentioned in these two films are Flaco Jimenez, LIttle Joe & La Familia, and Los Alegres de Teran. Filmmakers Maureen Gosling, Chris Strachwitz, and Harrod Blank appear in person. (Roxie Theatre)

Long Train Running: A History Of The Oakland Blues–Who knew Oakland had a thriving blues scene in the late 1940s to 1950s?  Thank the Bay Area influx of African American shipyard workers for that, as many of those workers came from Texas and Louisiana.  Marlon Riggs and Peter Webster made this study of the Oakland blues their thesis project, and peppered it with such things as vintage photographs and recordings of performances at Eli’s Mile High Club.  (Pacific Film Archive)

September 26-28

Women Sports Film Festival–Excited following the progress of Megan Rapinoe and the US Women’s National Soccer Team at the World Cup?  Then you need to check out the 4th edition of this film festival dedicated to presenting documentaries celebrating female athletes.  This mix of shorts and feature films include “At The Heart Of Gold: Inside The USA Gymnastics Scandal” (recounts the roots of this sports scandal, particularly how USA Gymnastics’ “win at all costs” ethos led to overlooking sexual abuse), “Cracking Ice Ceilings” (meet the Cholita Climbers, Bolivian women who trade in their high-mountain cooks role for the joys of high-mountain climbing), “Gopro: Roberta Mancino’s Wingsuit Flight Over Volcano” (the titular Go Pro athlete realizes her dream of flying above Chile’s active and smoky Villarrica stratovolcano in a wingsuit), “Hardball: The Girls Of Summer” (the members of the US Women’s National Baseball Team struggle to win a Gold Medal at the Women’s Baseball World Cup while trying to develop both a professional career for themselves and open up opportunities for the girls behind them), and “Chasing The Sublime” (Kate Rew and Kari Furre founded the Outdoor Swimming Society, whose members engage in cold water swimming).  (Brava Theater Center)

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.