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Stories by Scott Marks

Escapes, a docu-biography

Who knew that Blade Runner was financed in part by Flipper’s TV dad?

Contemporary documentarians, adrift without historical recordings to help illustrate their case, too often try and pass off stock shots from vintage black-and-white studio releases as the emmes. Michael Almereyda’s docu-biography Escapes never once attempts to ...

How do you like your popcorn?

By the bucket or by the bag?

Popcorn became part of the moviegoing experience beginning in the late ’20s. The cinematic staple was originally dispensed in a paper sack, the crinkling of which by inconsiderate patrons was said to drown out dialogue. ...

Damaged parents

The Glass Castle, by San Diego’s own Destin Daniel Cretton

An old joke came to mind while watching Destin Daniel Cretton’s The Glass Castle. A father and his two young children stand outside a 7-Eleven, asking all who enter to spare a little change. Before ...

The Glass Castle: local director goes from self-made DVD to Naomi Watts

Destin Cretton just wanted to stick a disc on the shelf and see if anyone bit

Flash back a decade: I’m working the counter at Citizen Video in South Park. Enter Destin Daniel Cretton, a lanky, well-scrubbed local lad in his late 20s with a DVD copy of Drakmar: A Vassal’s ...

Valerian is a...dim the lights, would ya?

A true-life story from the front lines of cinema

The private screening, generally a matinee performance that plays to an audience of one, is becoming an all-too-common occurrence. At a time when patrons can’t log off long enough to survive a feature without developing ...

Dig a hole: June Foray

Cartoon-character voice-artist made it to 99

Little Scotty’s weekdays began with Chicago’s legendary Ray Rayner Show. One could always count on Ray for a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon featuring June Foray as the voice of Granny. Lunchtime fun consisted of Bozo’s ...

Where to see Dunkirk in 70mm

Pick your battle station wisely

When a studio goes to the effort of setting up an IMAX screening for the press, consider me first in line. It’s a luxurious perk and one that generally comes back to reward its backers ...

The original Rotten Tomato

B.J. wouldn’t allow anyone to make it out the front door without asking, “How many stars?”

For every knowledgeably staffed Kensington Video, Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, Facets Multimedia, or any number of cutting-edge video rental stores that once gave lonely cinephiles a place to go and someone to talk to, there ...

Damn hurty Apes

We now believe a motion-capture monkey thinks, feels, reasons, and eventually speaks

The 20th Century Fox fanfare (with CinemaScope addendum) that opened War for the Planet of the Apes was performed on jungle drums and didgeridoo. Sometimes a film earns points even before the opening credits hit ...

Director Nick Hamm on his Journey

The road less troubled?

The historical understructure of Nick Hamm’s The Journey came as news to me. Your humble correspondent Mr. Ugly American must have been at the movies the week Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) ...

No refund on free passes?

How about cash back if you don't like the picture?

The sun was shining, the climate genial, and a Terence Davies picture that deserved a fate better than a single-screen living room playing at the Digital Gym. Time to go to the movies. Talk about ...

A warm Kaiser role from Christopher Plummer

Knew more about Wilhelm II than the movie reveals

The last time San Diegans saw Christopher Plummer perform was as fictional Nazi hunter Zev Guttman in Atom Egoyan's Remember. This time around he plays an exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception which opens ...

Beatriz at Dinner makes the history books

Salma Hayek’s Beatriz has the worst haircut of the actress’s career

I’m not alone in my observation that Beatriz at Dinner will make the history books as the first narrative feature released since Trump took office that takes direct aim at the billionaire-game-show-host-turned-POTUS. It also has ...

Beatriz at Dinner is served

Director Miguel Arteta feasts on Salma Hayek

Sometimes the first impression of an artist whose work one will later grow fond of drops anchor in the unlikeliest of places. Such was the case of Miguel Arteta, whose latest, Beatriz at Dinner, opens ...

Let’s get younger females to see a movie about war

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and producer Pete Shilaimon discuss Megan Leavey

Read the review and enjoy a few words about Megan Leavey (and Blackfish) from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and producer Pete Shilaimon. Scott Marks: You got a lot of nerve, sister, showing your face in this ...

Megan Leavey, a damn fine little combat picture

Her and Rex. Bring Kleenex.

According to the TV spot, Elle and People magazines are going slug-nutty over Megan Leavey, proclaiming the fact-based girl-and-her-dog war drama both “inspiring” and “heartfelt.” Do I heed the advice of these venerated strongholds of ...

Do not open until 4 p.m.

Strict review embargo on Captain Underpants

Why was there no review of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie in this week’s print edition? Studio’s orders. Admittance to last week’s screening hinged on one minor condition. According to the email: “The global ...

A talk with Bambi and Thumper

On the occasion of Walt Disney’s Bambi turning 75

Walt Disney’s Bambi turns 75 this year. To mark the June 6 release of its Signature Collection Blu-ray combo pack, the studio made available for interviews the original voices of young Bambi and Thumper, Donnie ...

That Movie You Love, Part Four

The analysis will include John Rambo and Ethan Hunt

If Part Two is a sequel and Part Three a threequel, what term describes a film franchise’s fourth installment? Four-Shit would be a fitting brand, seeing as most of them are, but my editor will ...

Long Strange Trip, one night only

Get the untold story of the Grateful Dead on Thursday, May 25

Not unlike an actual Grateful Dead concert, Amir Bar-Lev’s candid Dead doc Long Strange Trip plays one night only — Thursday, May 25 — and runs just slightly over four hours. My initial interest in ...

The cool mom

Jonathan Levine discusses Snatched, Schumer, and Goldie

There’s been an ugly trend of late where Oscar-winning actresses who have been out of the limelight for some time return to play flamboyantly kooky mother figures. Jane Fonda did it twice (Monster-In-Law, Georgia Rule) ...

Extreme cinema

La Mesa gets Titan XC, Reading Cinema’s large-screen exhibition

“Stub me,” I asked while stopping to split my ticket with the usher on duty at Reading Cinemas Grossmont Center. My left hand was preoccupied with notebook and silo of Coke, so I extended my ...

More Katherine Heigl?

For what it’s worth, the performance is easily her finest movie work to date

Halfway through the trailer for Unforgettable, a warning voice began yelling in my ear: Oh no... it can’t be... SOMEONE WENT AND BUDGETED ANOTHER KATHERINE HEIGL PICTURE! It’s been two years since Heigl’s appeared in ...

Storied Streets brings tales of homelessness to local students

The San Diego Film Foundation brings documentary producer to five high schools

The San Diego Film Foundation, best known for putting on the San Diego Film Festival, will present special screenings of Storied Streets at five area schools. Documentarian Jack Henry Robbins’s Storied Streets explores homelessness through ...

James Cromwell on The Promise and the hoops of Hollywood

He once kicked dirt on a director

This was the first time James Cromwell and I have spoken, but it wasn’t the first time I was in his presence. Starting at age 13, my family began making semi-regular visits to Los Angeles ...

San Diego Asian Film Festival hosts 20 films

April 20-27 at UltraStar Hazard Center

In spring, a San Diego cinephile’s fancy turns to the Asian cinema. With its 20 film schedule, this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival’s Spring Showcase is the biggest in its seven-year history. The festival ...

Werner Herzog and Nicole Kidman partner on a Florence of Arabia

Director’s first story to unfold from a woman’s point-of-view

Unlike most purveyors of based-on-a-true-story biopics, Werner Herzog didn’t wait until the closing crawl to reveal a snapshot of his real life Queen of the Desert. Even before the opening credits announce that the part ...

Singin’ the praises of Gene Kelly

Patricia Ward Kelly brings her one-woman show to Balboa Theatre on April 15

She was 26 when first they met, he was 73. He just happened to be showbiz royalty, one of the most recognizable hoofers on the planet. The ten years Patricia Ward Kelly spent with her ...

Steamboy returns to the Ken April 1

Midnight Saturday and Sunday morning screenings

Released in 2004, Steamboy examines the subject of technology and the modern world through a paucity of plot and an overabundance of vision. It demands a big-screen visit, which is exactly what you’ll get this ...

Thora Birch or Scarlett Johansson?

Daniel Clowes on Wilson and inklings of Scarlett

Graphic novelist and occasional scenarist Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, Art School Confidential) returns to the screen after an 11- year absence. His latest big screen adaptation, Wilson, directed by Craig Johnson, opens Friday at Landmark’s ...

A gutsy role for Kristen Stewart

Director Olivier Assayas on his Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas is far from his twilight years. Assayas and I were both born in 1955. That comes as kind of a surprise when one considers how steadily the director’s films radiate the mood and ...

Beauty and the beastiality

Alabama drive-in boycotts Beauty and the Beast?

It would be one thing if Alabama drive-in theatre owner Carol Laney had refused to book Disney’s latest retread of Beauty and the Beast (Lickona liked the sets) based solely on a perceived lack of ...

San Diego Latino Film Fest returns

Festival runs Thursday, March 16, through Sunday, March 26

It’s that time of year when one of San Diego’s top-tier cinematic showcases comes to town. The 24th San Diego Latino Film Festival brings with it, among other things, a return visit from the reigning ...

It’s a movie theater, not a McDonald’s Playland

Cinépolis brings “kid-friendly” auditorium to Vista

It is the sworn duty of parents to instill within a child the three golden rules of moviegoing: Sit down, shut up, and enjoy the picture. Little more than a restaurant that shows movies, the ...

Week of film classics returns to the Ken March 10

See McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Reservoir Dogs, Princess Mononoke, and more

For those whose knowledge of Warren Beatty doesn’t extend much beyond last week’s unparalleled round of egg on Oscar’s face, it’s time to put in an appearance at Landmark’s Ken Cinema for their latest installment ...

Trump orders review for Soviet hacking at Oscars

Warren Beatty folds under pressure to ad lib

As pressure from Congress grows for greater public understanding of exactly what Russia did to touch off this year’s Best Picture brouhaha, the White House and President Donald J. Trump have today ordered a full ...

Amma Asante just says yes to A United Kingdom

The romance of President of Botswana Seretse Khama and British bride Ruth Williams

Narrative cinema rarely unearths heretofore overlooked historical truth, but three of least year’s releases — Denial, Hidden Figures, and now A United Kingdom — have their heart set on proving that adage wrong. Filmmaker Amma ...

Female-fashioned frights

XX: A killer quartet

"Four deadly tales directed by four killer women.” That’s the tagline for XX, the new horror anthology opening Friday at the Digital Gym. This type of press agent math never adds up. Has there ever ...

Nine films, two Saturdays, twelve Excedrin

AMC Best Picture Showcase kicks off February 18

She pulled within a seat of me and couldn’t wait to inquire about the open notepad on my lap. “You a critic?” she asked. “Nah,” I deadpanned, “if the movie stinks I’ll doodle.” “Seriously,” she ...

San Diego Film Week showcases a vast menu of local cinema

Festival runs Friday, February 10 to Sunday, February 19

Following the the footsteps of San Diego Restaurant Week (or Beer Week) comes San Diego Film Week: 7 days, 7 festivals, 7 workshops, 100 shorts and features, and thankfully only 2 parties. The project is ...

Is indoor drive-in the next big thing?

No. No, it’s not.

The Variety headline read, “Dine-In Cinema Gets Immersive: Indoor Drive-In to Open in Nashville.” An indoor drive-in offering an immersive dining experience translates to Carbon Monoxide Cocktails on sale at the concession stand and a ...

Three films to see at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Seventh annual festival at MOPA through Sunday

The Museum of Photographic Arts Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theatre once again plays home to the Human Rights Watch Film Festival which runs Thursday, February 2 through Sunday, February 5. For more information and a ...

Marx Brothers ballyhoo

Majestic the cat helps find some hidden gems

Return to a time when movie promotion meant something more than web page banners or a lone poster fastened before an auditorium door. It began by googling “Mary Tyler Moore” in search of a memorial ...

Paterson’s hometown pride

Life surrounds us with poetry

Paterson refers both to the film’s New Jersey locale and lead character (Adam Driver), a married bus driver who fancies himself a poet. Imagine The Honeymooners’ Ralph Kramden as the Bard of Bensonhurst: Cook me ...

Paul W.S. Anderson puts an end to Resident Evil

3D or not 3D: that is the question!

I became aware of Paul W.S. Anderson while teaching film classes at Chicago’s Columbia College. It was around the time Anderson’s Mortal Kombat was released on home video and one of my students couldn’t wait ...

Glasses aren’t just for drinking

“You say ‘Asante,’ I read ‘Assante.’ Asante, Assante…”

The email subject heading read: “A United Kingtdom Press Screening and Phoners.” Great! And who is Fox Searchlight pitching for a possible phone interview? None other than durable leading man Armand Assante who, according to ...

That ’70s movie

Life in Santa Barbara, 1979, “the time before America lost its individuality”

The characters in Mike Mills’s third feature, 20th Century Women, can’t wait to share their writer-director’s sketchy reminiscences of life in Santa Barbara, 1979. Mills calls it “the time before America lost its individuality,” but ...

They don’t care if their picture sucks

2016, the year in review

Critics and fans alike are calling 2016 a terrible year for movies. That would be the case if all one took in were the blockbusters and the well-intentioned message pictures that round out the list ...

Digital Gym and the NAT team for Reel Science

All four Saturdays in January

The little theater that could and the best screening venue in Balboa Park — sorry, MoPA, you’ve been outclassed — and a group known only as Film Geeks SD are joining together for a month-long ...

Boresese

Scorsese’s painful piety

Silence isn’t golden. He may not be the hardest working man in show business — not with just one theatrical release every two years — but at 74, and with almost 60 features, shorts, and ...

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