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The 29th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival

10/5/06 - 10/15/06

Fall has descended upon the Bay Area yet again and while many of us mourn the passing of summer, film lovers have reason to celebrate! The 29th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival is nigh and with it comes a plethora of films jockeying for US distribution, some excellent documentaries, foreign gems, and countless other celluloid (and digital) delights.

Once again, the crack programming team at MVFF has assembled a mix of films that is bound to attract a large audience. As the Mill Valley Film Festival approaches its third decade, this yearís mix of films is as solid as ever and likely portends what film lovers will have to look forward to in decades to come. Below are a few films worthy of your time and money.

Johnny Sladeís Greatest Hits

A poor manís Frank Sinatra, Johnny Slade, plays to some of the scummiest lounges imaginable. Despite stellar albums such as Itís Not About The Pizza and Soda Fountain of Love, Johnny somehow has been unable to make it big. Luck finally smiles on Slade when the enigmatic "Mr. Samantha" calls upon him to play night after night at one of the most happening nightclubs in town.

Sounds good, but the gig is contingent upon Slade singing Mr. Samanthaís god-awful songs. As it turns out, the painful lyrics of Mr. Samanthaís songs are not what they appear to be and Slade finds himself in an awkward position as crime reports seem to dovetail eerily with the prior eveningís performance. Director Larry Blamire (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra) crafts a campy, indie comedy that is bound to be a hit.
Rating:4 out of 5 stars

The Treatment

Jake Singerís (Chris Eigeman) life is a bit of a mess. Jake is a relatively accomplished teacher at an elite private high school, but there are few other areas of his life where success has come his way. Heís been jettisoned by his girlfriend, heís estranged from his father, and his career is effectively stymied.

Fortunately, Jakeís shrink, Dr. Morales (Ian Holm) is there for him and while his draconian methods are a bit jarring, no one said healing was painless. Jakeís path towards a better life takes an interesting turn upon meeting the beautiful widow Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen). Sometimes the best therapy is done while not on the doctorís couch.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Full Grown Men

While the brilliant television series "Arrested Development" was unfortunately cancelled, Full Grown Men provides an opportunity to delve into the world of one Alby Cutrera (Matt McGrath) who unquestionably suffers from a serious case of arrested development. While Alby is married and has a child of his own, his behavior bears barely a passing resemblance to that of an adult at the ripe age of 35! Albyís terminal case of "Peter Pan-demonium" is an amusing and poignant examination of the challenging journey to adulthood many of us face.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Walking to Werner

Speaking of journeys, Linas Phillips takes on a journey that is likely an avid pedestrianís wet dream. Linas (director and star of the film) embarks on a journey from Seattle to Los Angeles on foot in hopes of connecting with the man who inspired him to become a filmmaker, Werner Herzog. Hezog himself is a passionate walker having trekked from Munich to Paris to see a sick friend in 1974.

In this fascinating documentary, we see Linas travel through corners of the country seldom seen and encounter characters seldom encountered. All of which contributes to a bizarre and beautiful journey, regardless of destination or outcome. Will Linas meet Werner when he arrives? Does it matter? Walking to Werner is one of the best vicarious road trips you can take.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Breast Cancer Diaries

Breast cancer afflicts one out of seven women. A disease that scars (physically and emotionally) countless women every year pays a visit to TV journalist and mom, Ann Murray Paige. Over the course of nine painful, humorous, and inspiring months we are privy to Annís journey through hell. If The Breast Cancer Diaries doesnít inspire one to join the fight against this terrible affliction, little will. Murray allows us into the most intimate parts of her life and itís impossible not to feel some kind of emotional connection with this remarkable woman and her incredibly supportive family.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Trials of Darryl Hunt

Rounding things out is perhaps the most powerful documentaries of the Mill Valley Film Festival (and the year), The Trials of Darryl Hunt. One August morning in 1984, the body of Deborah Sykes was found two blocks from her office. The search for Deborahís rapist and killer began in earnest. While Darryl Hunt was tried and convicted, there was clear evidence from the outset that this atrocious crime was never handled correctly and Hunt was the unfortunate victim of racial scapegoating.

The Trials of Darryl Hunt is an inordinately compelling, chilling, and infuriating examination of arguably one of the most tragic and unjust convictions in the history of the U.S. legal system.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Mill Valley Film Festival runs from October 5-15 at the Rafael Theater, Sequoia Theater, and the Throckmorton Theater.