Resolved to the necessity of violence in order to achieve peace, The Keeping Room begins with a horrifically pragmatic quote from General William Sherman: "War is cruelty...the crueler it is the sooner it will be over."
As the American Civil War comes to a bloody conclusion, Union scouts ravage the countryside in advance of the larger invasion to come. Two of these men, Moses (Sam Worthington) and Henry (Kyle Stoller), have taken it upon themselves to kill anyone in their path.
Meanwhile, three women try to survive by themselves at a massive manor house. Augusta (Brit Marling) can handle a rifle as good as any man, but her sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) is much more demure. Their house slave, Mad (Muna Otaru), stays mostly silent despite the growing realization that her life of servitude is set to drastically change at any moment.
These two groups eventually clash in what becomes a straightforward home invasion film, with the growling Northern occupiers laying siege to the resilient women of the South itching to reclaim some sense of victory in the face of total defeat.
Director Daniel Barber expresses a similarly cold view of human nature in his revenge drama Harry Brown, which found Michael Caine's badass geezer doing battle with a bunch of English street thugs. You'll find an infatuation with wounds and arterial spray in both films.
Certain images in The Keeping Room, which opens Friday, Oct. 30 at the Ken Cinema, are rightfully post-apocalyptic. There's the shot of a panicked horse pulling a burning stagecoach and later one of a once beautiful Southern belle's decomposing body.
But Barber's taut Western eventually degenerates into a pedestrian horror film despite the feminist trappings and bracing subject matter. By shrouding convention in a veil of shock and awe, the film's nihilistic perspective feels far less daring as a result.
A Ballerina’s Tale: This incredible documentary tells the behind-the-scenes story of dancer Misty Copeland’s journey to become the first African-American performer for the American Ballet Theater. Screens through Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Burnt: Bradley Cooper stars as a very Anthony Bourdain-like chef who destroys his career with drugs only to get a second chance at redemption and spearhead a new restaurant in London.
Cut Snake: This Australian thriller follows two ex-cons who hatch a scheme to burn down a nightclub. Opens Friday, Oct. 30, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain Film Center.
Love (3D): Gaspar Noé’s provocative melodrama follows an American living in Paris who enters a highly unstable and electric relationship with a mysterious woman. Opens Friday, Oct. 30, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain Film Center.
Nasty Baby: Sebastian Silva’s dramedy is about a gay couple that tries to help their single friend get pregnant, which leads to myriad conflicts that threaten their relationships. Screens through Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Our Brand is Crisis: An American campaign strategist (played by Sandra Bullock) heads down to a volatile South American country to help a struggling politician get elected.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse: The Boy Scouts of America have been waiting a long time for this one.
The Keeping Room: Three women trying to survive in the war-torn South at the tail end of The Civil War come under attack by marauding Northern troops.
Truth: Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford star in this based-on-true-events drama depicting the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report by Dan Rather investigating then-President George W. Bush’s military service record.
One Time Only
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: Pedro Almodovar’s patented brand of heightened melodrama and mania is on full display in this classic from 1988 starring Antonio Banderas and Carmen Maura. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the Mission Valley Public Library.
2001: A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece about the dangers of modern technology must be seen on the biggest screen possible. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego.
Shaun of the Dead: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play deadbeat Londoners who try and survive the zombie apocalypse in Edgar Wright’s hilarious debut. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Birds: Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark disaster film will force you to look at those pesky crows in a whole different light. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 29 – 31, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Wrecking Crew: A musical celebration of the band known as The Wrecking Crew, which was made up of background singers for famous performers like The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, at San Diego Public Library in East Village.
The Hunt for Pancho Villa: Local filmmaker Paul Espinosa’s documentary looks at the moment in history when revolutionaries loyal to Pancho Villa crossed into the United States and attacked a small town in New Mexico, setting off a manhunt that would result in the largest U.S. troop deployment since The Civil War. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. FREE SCREENING. RSVP at digitalgym.org/hunt-for-pancho-villa.
Zoolander: Ben Stiller plays a clueless fashion model who is brainwashed into assassinating the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.