New films: The Giver plus three moviebriefs

The Giver Directed by Philip Noyce It’s hard to consider “The Giver” without thinking about the timing of its wide release this week. The film is based on the 1993 Newberry Medal winning novel of the same name that is required reading for many schoolchildren. It was optioned for a film adaptation by Jeff Bridges only a couple of years later but, for various reasons, took almost 20 years to come to the big screen. A lot has happened in those 20 years. Whereas an earlier adaptation would have caused inevitable comparisons to films such as “Pleasantville,” the intervening years have seen the Young Adult literature segment take off with such hit series as “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” each of which have dystopian future society themes, as does “The Giver.” Indeed, that market segment has become dominated by dystopias, apocalypses, and vampires. However, “The Giver” has a more simplistic tone and was written for younger readers than the often brutal action of some of these other, more recent stories. It’s not that “The Giver” doesn’t have mature themes, after all it deals with eugenics and the forced killing of senior citizens, but it’s all very clean – it doesn’t, for example, yield a film in which teenagers are slaughtering each other in assorted bloody ways. In “The Giver,” a future version of our society, […]

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New films: Storms, Turtles, and Indian/French Cuisine

What a difference a week makes. Last week was possibly my favorite film week of the year so far, with three wonderful films (reviewed here). This week isn’t all bad but it’s various levels of disappointing.   Into the Storm Directed by Steven Quale There’s something terribly problematic about releasing a film about tornadoes in the shadow of SyFy Channel’s release of “Sharknado 2: The Second One” (one of the most brilliantly awful sequel names ever) and having it seem like the lesser of the two. “Into the Storm” desperately needed sharks or almost anything else interesting to drop out of the funnel clouds and might have been more popular if it had been called “NadoNado” as it seems to be about a storm that spawns more storms. There’s virtually no story here, with just enough of a premise to justify why a particular group of people might be stuck in the midst of the kind of weather that will win any future “…oh you think that was bad?” conversation. A down on his luck stormhunter has run out of money without managing to capture footage from inside the eye of a storm and he’s desperate to rectify that. Meanwhile his target storm is barreling towards a high school where the Vice Principal has lost track of one of his sons, who is of course […]

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North C Street

New Exhibit Showcases Mystery of Sacramento’s Unique Doorways; Artist’s Reception This Second Saturday

In a three-year venture to capture an architectural continuum of Sacramento’s commercial doorways, local award-winning photographer Martin Christian shot an array of images from the city’s alleys, railyards, and trucking corridors. What resulted is a pictorial showcase of Sacramento’s unique entryways. Now on display at East Sacramento’s Archival Gallery, the exhibit, titled “Doors of Sacramento”, focuses on the doorways of commercial buildings in the industrial areas of Sacramento. Loading docks and warehouses were frequently shot as well as the tattoo parlors and hairdressers spotted nearby. “I think the downtown core has been slow to adopt sterile, nondescript buildings,” said Martin Christian. “And that’s a good thing.” The project, Martin says, is not about preserving buildings, but simply showing what’s there and leaving viewers with a sense of mystery. “It’s a real pure, photojournalistic goal,” he said, adding that during the course of shooting, his vision for the exhibit evolved with the help of his wife. “She really challenged me to look for doors where there’s mystery there—like when you look at the door you would have more questions than answers,” Christian said. “So my focus [became] one of mystery. When you look at it you think, ‘Gosh, what in the world is there? What goes on behind those doors?’” Christian got the idea for the project when a friend who owned a bike shop on […]

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Last Showing of Marat/Sade Playing at California Stage This Weekend

“Marat/Sade”, produced by Ray Tatar of California Stage and directed by Kent Johnson, is a must see. You must be prepared for some gruesome language and extremely violent political points of view, courtesy of the German playwright Peter Weiss. But that’s the way it was in the French Revolution, a time in history with a vast amount of unrest, gross cultural misunderstandings, extreme rantings, and a level of concerted violence not even imagined by most of us so-called civilized people. Marquis de Sade has been immortalized by Weiss with due reference to his gruesome novels and subsequent quasi scientific research. Sade is played brilliantly by Richard Spierto, whose diction and dress are of museum quality. Jean-Paul Marat, played with impressive oratory by Mark Gonzalez, makes this a drama so spell-binding you cannot leave your seat or miss a word. And not a word was missed by the cast on this opening night in July. All of the twenty five supporting actors were right on with their collection of twenty songs and dances that would put our Music Circus acts to shame. Especially delightful is Penny Kline as Rossignol who has wholeheartedly entered this decadent world, and can sing like a thrush about it. There is even a role for the play’s producer, Ray Tatar, immaculately dressed in the period’s aristocratic costumery and seeking to tone […]

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New films: A Fantastic Week in Filmdom.

I can’t remember the last time I saw and wrote about three films in a single week, which I held in such collective high regard and for such different reasons. And they come together for me in a manner that is helped by memories of film critic Roger Ebert, with one of the three being a film based on his life and work (with special screening information at the end of this column). So here are three connected accounts of three otherwise unconnected films, one that made me laugh and giggle, and two that made me cry.   Guardians of the Galaxy Directed by James Gunn I can’t presume to know what Roger Ebert would have thought of “Guardians of the Galaxy” but much of my own response comes from a place and an opinion that I know he and I shared: That films are an art form that should be judged in the context of their genre and intended audience. He had famous disagreements with long time reviewing partner Gene Siskel on this point, one of which can be seen in “Life Itself” (see below). And “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a phenomenal, fun riding, summery popcorn bonanza. As with so many other recent films, it’s based on comic books of which I have virtually no knowledge and yet I never felt at a […]

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What is the sound of public art? Midtown Out Loud

Twice a month, Shine Café hosts one of Sacramento’s most prominent and provocative open mic nights, Midtown Out Loud. From 8 p.m. to well past 10, musicians, poets, and authors alike take the stage for five minutes apiece to perform, to share, and to celebrate their artistic endeavors. “Midtown Out Loud is a place for artists,” said Heather Anderson, the founder of MOL. “Be they spoken word artists or musicians, they are able to freely express themselves in an incredibly forgiving space where they’re not just appreciated but celebrated.” Beginning in 2010, the open mic night was originally hosted at what is now the Midtown Village Café, but after the passing of her mother in 2012, Anderson was forced to place the event on hiatus. Now, almost four months after its relaunch and relocation, it’s apparent that MOL has encouraged long-lasting connections among Sacramento’s artistic community. “You’re in a space where people want to do good,” Anderson said. “The time that we have, let’s spend it wrapping ourselves in art and pushing out love into the community. That’s what it’s all about.” Anderson’s take on life undoubtedly reflects certain tenets of MOL, which has raised contributions and awareness for local organizations such as the Sacramento Poetry Center’s Real Poets Writing Project and Breaking Barriers, a support service for people with HIV. Most recently, the MOL event […]

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Special Film Screenings This Week

  There are several exclusive screenings this week – here are a few details, taken from the venue websites and distributor press releases: Wednesday, July 9th: Crest Theatre, “And So It Goes” – 7:30pm Here’s the official synopsis: The New York Film Critics Series screening for July will feature a special preview of the new romantic comedy And So it Goes, directed by Rob Reiner (The Princes Bride, When Harry Met Sally), and featuring the first-ever onscreen pairing of acclaimed actors Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. In And So it Goes, a cranky, self-centered realtor (Douglas) enlists the help of his reluctant neighbor (Keaton) when he’s suddenly left in charge of the granddaughter he never knew existed until his estranged son drops her off at his home. Can the two highly-mismatched neighbors learn to overcome their differences in order to take care of this unexpected “bundle of joy, and maybe even find love in the process? Films in this series are introduced via video feed from New York and then followed by a question and answer session with key members of the cast and crew. This is an advance screening of a film due to open in Sacramento on July 25th. More information at www.thecrest.com. Thursday, July 10th: Crest Theatre, “Stop Making Sense” – 8:00pm This 30th anniversary one night screening of the Talking Heads […]

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Hot Dogs and History at the CSA Carnival!

The public is invited to spend Independence Day at the Center for Spiritual Awareness as it presents the CSA 4th of July Carnival: Picnic & Performance. This family-friendly event runs from 12 noon – 4 pm on Friday, July 4th at the Center for Spiritual Awareness in West Sacramento. The Carnival includes activities for kids, picnic food and beverages, and two special performances that explore America’s dynamic past and multifaceted present. The CSA 4th of July Carnival will begin at 12 noon, when children are invited to go outside and jump in bouncers, coast down the slip and slide, have their faces painted, and get dunked in a dunk tank. Traditional 4th of July fare such as hot dogs, potato salad, and apple pie will be offered inside CSA’s spacious social room. At 1:30 pm CSA Teens will present America the Change, an episodic new theatre piece created by teenagers who are exploring their relationship to the country in which they are living. A pastiche of spoken word, dance, and music, the cast of America the Change will offer its unique perspective on the values and viabilities of growing up American. At 1:30 pm Generation Next Media will perform The Living Constitution: A Lively Look at the Creation of America. Told with wit, humor, and breakneck energy, The Living Constitution portrays the kings, generals, statesmen, […]

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Open Studios Tour Offers an Inside Look at Artists’ Art

Skip the galleries and go straight to the source this weekend when 27 Davis artists open their studios to visitors during the Davis Art Studio Tour. The event will offer a rare insider’s view of the artists, their work, and their process. This year’s participating artists include both well-established and emerging talent working in a variety of mediums. “It really is a behind-the-scenes experience,” says Sara Post, artist and organizer involved with this year’s tour. “When you go to a gallery, especially a group show, you only see one or two of an artist’s pieces. It’s only a little slice of what they do. A studio gives you the whole idea behind the artist’s work. A lot of people have work in their studio that is never shown and you can’t see anywhere else.” Prior to the tour opening on Saturday, a Gala Reception will be held at The Artery in downtown Davis on Friday, May 30 from 7pm-9pm. The exhibit will feature works from all artists participating in the tour, giving “people the opportunity to meet the artist, see their work and really prioritize which studios they want to visit,” says Post. “It should be a lot fun. There will be some sparkling wine. Good drinks and good company.” The tour will be self-guided, with studios spread throughout the city of Davis. There are […]

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TAOHH Bridging the Literary Gap: Rap/Write Now! Lecture

The opening event of a month long celebration of graffiti art and hip hop music will take place in historic Oak Park’s Brickhouse Art Gallery (2838 36th Street) on Thursday, June 5th at 6pm. Dr. Eugene Redmond, the Poet Laureate of East St. Louis and Emeritus Professor of English, will share and discuss his views on the importance and correlation between Rap lyrics and Poetry during this opening reception of The Art of Hip Hop exhibition. The award-winning poet, writer, and educator will be joined by guest performers Noah ‘Supernova’ Hayes (Poet, Rapper, Actor and Musician), Dante’ Pelayo (Poet and Writer) and Paul Willis (Poet and Emcee). The event will be facilitated by Michael Benjamin Jr., and followed by a Q&A, performance and book signing by Dr. Redmond. General admission is $10; seniors and students admission is $7. Contact Barbara Range, Brickhouse Art Gallery Curator, at 916-475-1240, or visit the gallery’s website at www.thebrickhousegallery.net for additional information or questions. The Art of Hip Hop: Celebrating the 5 Elements is an art exhibition and hip hop festival designed to empower and educate the Sacramento community. The event will begin June 5th and ends with a closing reception on Sunday, June 29th. It is a cultural resource to promote the development, rich history and legacy of Hip Hop Culture.    

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