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Three New Films and Two Summer Film Festivals

It’s a busy film week in Sacramento, with multiple new releases, all driven by female leads, as well as the opening of two film festivals.

17th Annual Sacramento French Film Festival (SFFF)

The next two weekends, at the Crest Theatre, will see the best in current, as well as classic, French cinema as always carefully curated by the SFFF programming team. And it looks as though it’s an upbeat and inclusive year, as best described by Executive Director Cecile Mouette Downs, “In this year’s selection of 19 features (17 Premieres & 2 Classics), the comedies have edge and the dramas often have happy – or at least hopeful – endings. All of the films are powerful, compelling, and exciting; and they are all extremely diverse, in genres, styles, and subjects.”

The SFFF also continues its tradition of welcoming filmmakers and special guests to the Festival, and information regarding those attendees may be found here.

The full program and further information may be found here.

Studio Ghibli Festival

The Tower Theatre celebrates Japanese animation with their Studio Ghibli Festival, running from June 13th – Aug 23rd. The Festival includes 11 Studio Ghibli films, one per week, each being played on a Wednesday evening at 7pm (in Japanese, with English subtitles) and repeated at 11am on Thursday morning (with English dubbing). Titles, in sequence, are “Princess Mononoke,” “Nausicaa,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Porco Rosso,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Tales From Earthsea,” “Castle in the Sky,” “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and “From Up On Poppy Hill.”

More information on this and other Tower Theatre films and programs can be found here.

Moviebriefs – recent releases

Hotel Artemis” is good (if not clean) fun, albeit not especially original in content. It’s as if Arthur’s sister from Amazon’s “The Tick” had opened a clinic in John Wick’s favorite hotel franchise – with the outcome being what might best, therefore, be described as JohnWickCare. If you’re an outlaw and you pay your premium, you’ll get fixed up at Hotel Artemis, as long as you follow some pretty basic rules: Most notably, you don’t bring in guns and you don’t kill the other guests. All of this has been overseen since its inception by one tired and jaded nurse (played by Jodie Foster), who hasn’t set foot outside the building in years. But it all comes to a head one evening, as future Los Angeles is subject to especially heavy rioting in the face of water shortages and privatized security – neither of which sound all that far-fetched. It’s loud, bloody, funny, and successfully lives up to its own derivative premise.

Hereditary” is well produced and well acted, especially by lead Toni Collette as a troubled artist, wife, and mother, slowly losing her grasp on reality. Strong performances also come from Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff as her children, with a very muted Gabriel Byrne as the long-suffering and relatively passive husband. I’m a terrible judge of movies like this, but it was drawing some loud, jumpy reactions from the rest of the audience. But, while it did much of what it does very well, it seemed to be trying to do too much, never quite settling on what kind of story it is – a ghost story, a story of demonic possession, or a story focused on mental instability. Not that those things can’t co-exist, as they try to here, but it does complicate itself a little. That said, it’s largely about how the family members cope and relate, or not, and those complication certainly lead to some intense confusion and terror from the Graham clan.

Ocean’s 8” exists in the same world as, and as a spinoff to, the other modern (re)incarnations of what started in 1960 with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., et. al. Sandra Bullock, as Debbie Ocean, is sister to George Clooney’s recurring Danny Ocean character (“Ocean’s Eleven,” “…Twelve,” “…Thirteen”). She has spent five years in prison and has perfected, in her mind, a plan to steal jewelry from the annual Met Gala in New York. The problem here is in the perfection. She assembles an all-female crew (with an all-female “Ocean’s…” film as the basic premise of the project) but there’s never any tension or conflict. It’s one of those extended sequences of “What about…?” followed by “Don’t worry, I already thought of that” for just about every possible outcome – including the seemingly unpredictable, un-plannable vagaries of human emotion. It’s a fun film to watch, with some enjoyable performances from a great cast, but it would be easily ruined by thought.

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About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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