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DEAD RINGERS (1988) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:13pm

Twins have been a common theme in horror films and macabre master David Cronenberg tackles the topic here. Elliot and Beverly Mantle (Jeremy Irons, A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE) are identical twin gynecologists. Beverly is the shy, scholarly scientist, who developed a revolutionary surgical instrument when he was a student at college. Elliot is a flashy ladies man, who serves as the public face for Beverly’s work.

One day, actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold, THE HOUSE OF YES) comes to see Beverly at his office to see if she can get pregnant. During the examination, Elliot switches places with Beverly and seduces Claire. When Elliot gets bored of Claire, he hands her over to Beverly again. Beverly falls in love with Claire, who is quite disturbed when she finds out about Elliot.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:53pm

As for the classic horror films, the FRANKENSTEIN series is considered by many as the best. I haven’t seen enough of the classic monster films to say from personal experience, but from having seen the first two films in the series I cannot argue with popular opinion.

The original FRANKENSTEIN sticks out in my mind more clearly than DRACULA or THE MUMMY, because it has less of the stagey performing that hurts many films from the 1930s. It also has the strangely engaging central character — Frankenstein’s monster. In BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the same things can be said.

The film is part sequel and part remake of the original. The second film has more of the original Mary Shelley novel in it though. The film actually begins with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester, LASSIE COME HOME) sitting by a fire on a stormy night with her husband Percy (Douglas Walton, MURDER, MY SWEET) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon, NOTORIOUS), who recaps what happened in the first film, which spurs Mary Shelley to tell the real ending of the tale. Considering the first and second film don’t follow the book all that much it seems silly to have Shelley tell the tale, but the brief intro does quickly recap the first film and set up the start of the new film, which takes over where the last film left off.


BLACK NARCISSUS (1948) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:43pm

The filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were early adopters of color in their films. Along with THE RED SHOES, this film is a shining example of how color can play a huge role in a picture when used correctly. The intoxicating eroticism of the Himalayan setting is brought brilliantly to life in rich visual splashes. Color works as a mysterious character that haunts every frame of this masterpiece.

Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr, THE INNOCENTS) is a snobby and arrogant nun, who is assigned her own mission in the Himalayas with a handful or so of other nuns under her, despite her young age. A prince has given the nuns an old palace where a harem was once housed. The prince pays his people to attend the school there and the nuns are afraid to treat the sick in their hospital because of the fear that the natives will rebel against them if the patient ends up dying. British ex-patriot Mr. Dean (David Farrar, GONE TO EARTH) tries to help the nuns, but he butts heads with Sister Clodagh due to her holier than thou disgust for his frivolous lifestyle. However, Mr. Dean’s sexual appeal is not lost on off-kilter nun Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron, 1996’s EMMA).


BAY OF BLOOD (1971) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:15pm

Mario Bava is considered the granddaddy of Italian horror. He was a cinematographer who began directing at age 46. He was always assigned genre films. He is known for his striking visuals, envelope-pushing violence and gore and a distinctive style with off-kilter humor.

This film begins with a fly committing suicide in a lake. Then we move to a highly dramatic scene of Countess Federica Donati (Isa Miranda, THE NIGHT PORTER) rolling her wheelchair to the window on a rainy night staring out at a boathouse in lament. The music swells as she moves back into the room and then suddenly the music is cut off, a noose is thrown around her neck and she is pushed off her wheelchair to hang herself. This shocking first death is only the tip of the iceberg in what surprises lie within the twisted world of this film.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:06pm

For me a comedy needs to do two things — 1) establish a world and keep with it and 2) make me laugh. If a comedy can also make me think and care about the characters, then that’s just gravy. ANCHORMAN is just plain lumpy, mashed potatoes, but I liked the taste of it nonetheless.

When ANCHORMAN works, it’s really funny. When it’s doesn’t, it’s dead silence bad. However, the good really outweighs the bad and it moves on so quickly to a new joke that you forget that the one right before really tanked. Sometimes the joke starts out bad and they just go with it until it works. This is where the talent of the performers is highlighted.

Will Ferrell, possibly the most consistently funny guy working in Hollywood today, plays Ron Burgundy — an anchorman for a local San Diego news station, who has made himself a legend in his own mind. The film is set in the 1970s when men ruled the newsroom and sexual harassment was an alien concept. Ron is worshipped by his crew, which includes Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, THE SHAPE OF THINGS), dimwitted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN) and sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner, A GUY THING). The station head Ed Harken (Fred Willard, BEST IN SHOW) is pressured to add diversity to the newscast and hires ambitious reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, TV’s MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN). Ms. Corningstone must endure endless harassment and ridicule, but she hangs in there, trying to hold off her attraction to Ron.


UNLEASHED (2005) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:57pm

I struggled with this film throughout. At times it works on your emotions successfully, but undercuts those emotions with characters that are inconsistent.

The story follows Danny (Jet Li, HERO), a savage hitman who has been beaten of his humanity by gangster Bart (Bob Hoskins, MONA LISA). Danny wears a collar that makes him docile, but when Bart removes it Danny becomes a raging, unstoppable killer. As the story progresses, Danny ends up meeting and eventually taken in by blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman, MILLION DOLLAR BABY), who has a stepdaughter named Victoria (Kerry Condon, NED KELLY). Sam and Victoria make Danny a part of their unusual family. They also go about teaching Danny to readjust to normal society.


PALINDROMES (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:09pm

Director Todd Solondz is a director of films that are for an audience with extremely open minds. He is not afraid to push buttons, take chances or offend. He is also very cynical and sarcastic, which to some is off putting.

PALINDROMES is his most experimental film and the film in which he has taken the most chances. At the beginning, he brings back characters from his first movie WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and then runs them through the wringer for the entire picture.

The main character of DOLLHOUSE, Dawn Weiner, has committed suicide and her snobby sister has told their young cousin Aviva that she is destined to turn out just like Dawn, a pathetic loser who will be unloved. Aviva’s mother Joyce (Ellen Barkin, THE BIG EASY) reassures her 14-year-old daughter that she will be fine and that her and her father will always love her. At this point Aviva declares that she wants to have lots and lots of babies so that she will always have someone to love. So Aviva hooks up with horny Judah (Robert Agri), the son of a family friend, so she can get pregnant.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:49pm

This independent film came out of the Sundance Film Festival with a lot of praise, winning a grand and a special jury prize. It went on to win several awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Much of the recognition has deservedly been lumped on writer/director/star Miranda July, who previous to making this film worked as a performance artist. Her film could be categorized as a romantic comedy, but that term undermines its dramatic and intellectual depth.

In a world of growing technology, Christine Jesperson (July) finds it harder and harder to really communicate with other people and develop new relationships. She’s working on a museum art piece during her off hours and operates a taxi service for the elderly to make money. One day while taking a client out to buy shoes, she meets recently divorced shoe salesman Richard Swersey (John Hawkes, THE PERFECT STORM), who has a strange philosophical outlook on life that instantly attracts her to him.


LAND OF THE DEAD (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:40pm

Director George A. Romero created our modern image of the zombie as the flesh-eating walking undead. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD are horror classics and DAY OF THE DEAD is very underrated. LAND OF THE DEAD is the beginning in a new cycle of Romero zombie films. For the four films it’s on par with DAY.

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies roam the streets of cities while humans hole themselves up in a small community surrounded by water. Rich people live in a huge apartment complex called Fiddler’s Green while the poor people scrounge the abandoned cities for food and luxuries.

Riley (Simon Baker, THE RING TWO) has created the Dead Reckoning, a mobile fortress that allows the humans to venture out into zombie-infested areas. However, Riley wants to leave the city behind, because he sees how the decks are loaded and doesn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. Cholo (John Leguizamo, MOULIN ROUGE), on the other hand, believes that if he does enough favors for the Fiddler’s Green boss Kaufman (Dennis Hopper, EASY RIDER) that he’ll be able to buy his way into the luxurious high-rise.


KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:30pm

Ridley Scott’s (GLADIATOR) KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is a solidly made historical epic that has a resonance for the modern world. Set in the 1100s, the film deals with an issue that still plagues the world today — ownership of Jerusalem.

In the film, the Christians rule the city and the leper king, Baldwin (Edward Norton, FIGHT CLUB), has carved a peace with the Muslim king Saladin (Ghassan Massoud, in film debut). The film begins with Baron Godfrey (Liam Neeson, BATMAN BEGINS) seeking out his bastard son Balian (Orlando Bloom, ELIZABETHTOWN) to join him in Jerusalem. Balian has just lost his child, which spurred his wife to commit suicide. He is reluctant to go with his estranged father at first, but hopes for spiritual redemption for himself and his wife in the Holy Land.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:17pm

First off, I have read the famed book that inspired this film and I found it disappointing. The film does capture the silly anarchy of the book fairly well, but it still wasn’t all that funny.

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, LOVE ACTUALLY) wakes up one morning to discover that his house has been scheduled for destruction to make way for a throughway and he didn’t know it. But this is the least of his worries, because his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def, BROWN SUGAR), who is really an alien, informs him that the Earth has been scheduled for destruction to make way for an intergalactic throughway. So Ford and Martin hitch a ride on the demolition crew’s spaceship and thus starts their crazy adventures throughout the galaxy.


HIGH TENSION (2005) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:05pm

This French horror film has already become somewhat of a cult classic. Released in Europe in 2003, the gory film recently made the top 50 horror films list conducted by TOTAL FILM magazine.

Marie (Cécile De France, 2004's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS) is traveling with her friend Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco, THE FIFTH ELEMENT) to Alex's parent's house in the country. For a short film, the beginning seems to be padded a bit with a lame scene in a cornfield. As the girls settle in at the farmhouse, we are introduced to the killer (Philippe Nahon, IRREVERSIBLE), who has a fetish for decapitated heads. When the killer arrives at the house, he butchers Alex's family one by one. It's extremely bloody and violent. Marie desperately tries to avoid the killer and save Alex.


DOWNFALL (2004) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:55pm

This film was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film for 2004. It’s the first German film to tackle the topic of the Nazis, chronicling the last days of the Third Reich as a paranoid Adolf Hitler desperately clung to the hope of victory and his sanity.

The film was controversial and a huge box office success in Germany. It was controversial because it attempts to present Hitler as an evil human not just a caricatured monster. Those who have discovered the film know how good it is. On the invaluable movie website, readers currently rank this film as the 56th best film of all time.

Bruno Ganz (WINGS OF DESIRE) is magnificent as the Fuhrer, who is kind and respectful to his loyal servants, but enraged with irrational hatred, racism and anger. Our point of view for the film is Hilter’s secretary Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), who in real life has written a book about her experiences and participated in a documentary called BLIND SPOT right before her death. She claims that she knew nothing of the atrocities the Nazis carried out, but many feel that she must have known something and could not bring herself to admit it.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:46pm

All the word about this film centered on the strange performance of Johnny Depp. I liked it and therefore I liked the film. It’s not nearly as good as the original, but it is a thoroughly entertaining re-envisioning of the classic tale.

Charlie (Freddie Highmore, FINDING NEVERLAND) is a good kid (maybe a bit too good). He is part of a loving family. They are poor, but his parents (Helena Bonham Carter, FIGHT CLUB, & Noah Taylor, SHINE) try their best. His Grandpa Joe (David Kelly, WAKING NED DEVINE) has a love for the Wonka Chocolate factory just as much as Charlie does and they get very excited when its announced that Willy Wonka (Depp) will give out five golden tickets allowing five lucky kids and one guardian each to visit the wondrous factory.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:35pm

David Cronenberg is best known for his horror films like THE FLY and VIDEODROME. Of late he has been moving into more dramatic territory with films like SPIDER. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is his most mainstream film and probably his best film thus far.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen, LORD OF THE RINGS) is a family man who owns a diner in a small Mid-Western town. One day, gun-totting bad guys come to the diner looking to rob it. We already know they’re cold-blooded killers. Soon enough Tom has disarmed and killed the men, becoming a reluctant hero to his town. He is also a hero to his loving wife Edie (Maria Bello, THE COOLER) and his son Jack (Ashton Holmes, TV’s ONE LIFE TO LIVE), who is picked on by the jocks at school. The media attention given to Tom then brings new bad men to town. Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris, APOLLO 13) is a gangster from Philly who believes Tom is not the person he says he is.


THE WICKER MAN (1973) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 12:54pm

I saw this film on the big screen in college and hated it. It probably had something to do with that fact that I was required to go see it outside of class, which prompted such disdain. It's also a bit dated, which takes some getting use to.

Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward, BECKET) is sent a letter that a girl has gone missing on a private island. When he goes to investigate, the townsfolk at first deny her existence. But Sgt. Howie quickly discovers proof that she not only existed, but may have been murdered. Disturbing the extremely repressed Christian detective more is that the island is inhabited by pagans, who worship sun and orchard gods, engage in public sex and erect monuments to the penis.


Yard sale, T'giving

NIK & NANCY are having a garage sale (surprise, surprise!!!!) . . . Come see
what new treasures will be unearthed in our basement . . .Something for
everyone . . . from an opera Supernumery Breast Plate to vintage clothing
and household gadgets (a couple we are still trying to guess what they are).


2066 30th Avenue (between Pacheco & Quintara)

If you don't need anything just come by and say hello . . .

AND don't forget Thanksgiving Dinner here! -- bring something to eat or
drink to share and non perishable food for the food bank barrel!!!


PES Screening & Reception


If you receive this and ARE NOT interested in animation PLEASE NO NOT come
to the party!!!! This is an ASIFA event and everyone is welcome... but if
you just want to come to a party at our house - wait until Thanksgiving
Day!!! Thanks,
Nik and Nancy

Thursday, November 3 8:15 PM

San Francisco State's Coppola Auditorium, Fine Arts 101 Free and Public

to a special




Our reception and screening for PES will include his award winning ROOF SEX
plus several amazing stop-motion commercials (and we do mean amazing!!!).
His "Coinstar Shoe" ad just won Best Animated commercial at Ottawa. You can
see lots of work by PES at, but the excitement will be greater on
a big screen at SF state with a receptive audience.


THE COURT JESTER (1956) (****)

This Danny Kaye swashbuckler spoof is driven by a complicated, yet ingenious, plot, highlighted by stellar dialogue.

King Roderick I (Cecil Parker, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON) has usurped the throne of England from the rightful heir, an infant boy with the family birthmark of a purple pimpernel on his bottom. Hubert Hawkins (Kaye, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY) is part of the rebels trying to the get the true heir on the thrown. Disguised as the new court jester Giacomo, he infiltrates the palace to get the key to the secret passage into the castle.

Along the way he has fallen in love with the female fighter Maid Jean (Glynis Johns, MARY POPPINS), who is kidnapped as a wench for the king, who is arranging an unwanted marriage for his daughter Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury, TV’s MURDER, SHE WROTE), who threatens to kill herself along with her witchcraft welding maid Griselda (Mildred Natwick, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON), who ends up bewitching Hubert, who is mistaken by conniving Sir Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD) as the real Giacomo, an assassin sent to kill the King so Ravenhurst can take the thrown. Woo, take a moment to catch your breath.


BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) (****)

Like THE GODFATHER, BOOGIE NIGHTS brings a story of family into a sleazy world, but this time it’s the porn industry and not gangsters.

The most simple plot explanation is that the film follows the rise, fall and redemption of porn star Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg, THE ITALIAN JOB). His real name is Eddie Adams and he comes from a family were his mother is verbally abusive. Rumors abound at the nightclub where he works that he has huge talent in his pants. Porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds, DELIVERANCE) takes Eddie under his wing and turns him into Dirk. If Jack is Dirk’s mentor/father-figure than veteran porn star Amber Waves (Julianne Moore, FAR FROM HEAVEN) is his surrogate-mother/lover.


KWIK STOP (2002) (***1/2)

This film has been on my list to see ever since it received such praise from Roger Ebert, who programmed it at his Overlooked Film Festival. It’s a wonderfully smart film filled with surprises throughout.

Didi (Lara Phillips, ROAD TO PERDITION) meets Mike aka Lucky (Michael Gilio, DON KING: ONLY IN AMERICA) at the Kwik Stop convenience store where she spots him shoplifting. She threatens to turn him in unless he gives her a ride home before he heads off to Los Angeles to start an acting career. Along the way, Didi convinces Mike to take her to LA with him.

At first you think, the film will be a quirky romantic comedy/ road movie, but the film is too good to fall into a simple label. Other key characters include the sad alcoholic Emil (Rich Komenich, MR. 3000) and the heartbroken waitress Ruthie (Karin Anglin, DIRTY WORK).


THE INTERPRETER (2005) (***)

Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman, THE HOURS) is an interpreter for the UN. One night she overhears a plot to assassinate a dictator named Zuwanie (Earl Cameron, THUNDERBALL), who will be visiting the UN for a speech. After she reports the incident, secret service agents Tobin Keller (Sean Penn, MYSTIC RIVER) and Dot Woods (Catherine Keener, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) are assigned to the case. At first, Keller doesn’t believe Broome, because it seems kind of fishy that someone overhears an assassination plot in a language that she happens to know that most people in American couldn’t even understand a word of.

The film keeps the suspense level high throughout and the film is filled with strong central characters. The underlying message isn’t revolutionary, but it adds a topical intelligence to the film that has been lacking from thrillers since the 1970s.


FEVER PITCH (2005) (***1/2)

Based on a Nick Hornby book, this romantic comedy was directed by the Farrelly Brothers, who brought us THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and SHALLOW HAL. The film is far more typical Hornby than Farrelly.

Ben (Jimmy Fallon, 2004’s TAXI) is a school teacher who meets Lindsey (Drew Barrymore, EVER AFTER) while he is taking his students on a field trip to where she works. She’s not really gung ho about the frumpish teacher at first but he wins her over with his charm and sweetness. Then he drops the big “relationship killer” on her. He’s a Red Sox fanatic, who has been religiously following the team since he was seven and has inherited season tickets from his uncle.

The film truly understands the nature of obsessing on one pastime and how others react to that passion. The story makes Ben an over-the-top fan, but you believe it 100%. I know people like Ben and I understand the passion one can develop on one thing. I loved the scene when Ben takes Lindsey to her first game. He knows all the people around him. They related the losing history of the team with a sad reverence. It’s their shared misery. The film gets it right.


3-IRON (2005) (***1/2)

From Ki-duk Kim, the director of SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER… AND SPRING, comes this haunting romance that plays like a silent film. It contains imagery that I will never forget. Or more accurately, never want to.

Tae-suk (Hyun-kyoon Lee) is a college grad who has disappeared into a simple existence of taping menus to doors and then breaking into the houses that don’t remove the menus when he returns later in the day. He’s not a criminal; he just needs a place to stay. He washes the clothes of the people who live there and often fixes or plays a trick with an item in the house. For instance, he changes a scale in one house to read weights much lower than they are.

One day he enters a mansion where a beaten woman named Sun-hwa (Seung-yeon Lee) is quietly hiding. Tae-suk doesn’t notice she’s there for quite some time as she watches him. Then her businessman husband Min-gyu (Hyuk-ho Kwon) comes home and is abusive to Sun-hwa again. Eventually, Tae-suk and Sun-hwa run away together having never spoken a single word to each other.