Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Dennis Harvey, Lynn Rapoport, and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock.
The Company You Keep In this political thriller, a young journalist (Shia LaBeouf) pursues a scoop that uncovers the secret identity of a Weather Underground activist (Robert Redford, who also directs). (2:05) Albany.
Disconnect Ensemble drama about the darker effects of technology starring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Andrea Riseborough, and Alexander Skarsgard. (1:55)
42 Biopic about baseball great and civil rights hero Jackie Robinson (played by TV actor Chadwick Boseman); also stars Harrison Ford and John C. McGinley. (2:08) Marina, Vogue.
The Mafu Cage and The Witch Who Came from the Sea Don't miss this Roxie double-bill of two neglected but fascinating 1970s psychological horrors about craaaaaazy women. Karen Arthur's 1978 The Mafu Cage has Lee Grant and Carol Kane are sisters who were raised by an eccentric anthropologist father in Africa. Grant, the older, "normal" one, is now a professional astronomer who resists romantic overtures from her nice coworker (James Olson) because she has a "secret" life care taking the wildly unstable Kane, who never leaves their house and appears to have been warped beyond salvage by their bizarre childhood. She keeps pet apes, acts like them, and in occasional rages kills them. When Grant goes away for a few days, all hell breaks loose as Kane goes "savage" and unfortunately, she finds a human quarry to put in the ape cage. The performances are terrific (Kane is electrifying here), the situation farfetched yet very credibly drawn, and the whole atmosphere both suspenseful and strangely poignant. Italian director Matt Cimber's 1976 Witch a bizarre, disorienting psycho chiller-cum-suspense-drama was little-seen when it first came out, and has been very hard to find since. Millie Perkins (of 1959's The Diary of Anne Frank and Monte Hellman's cult classics) plays Molly, a cocktail waitress in a Santa Monica dive bar who lives with her two young nephews and sad-sack welfare-mother sister. No one seems to be paying attention, but Molly is going quite insane, apparently the result of childhood molestation by the father she claims was "lost at sea" (the truth, we discover, is a lot more sordid). Prone to irrational rages, blackouts, drinking binges, and indiscriminate pill-popping, plus the occasional homicide, Molly has increasing trouble separating fantasy from reality ... and so do we, since the movie deploys distortive sound/visuals and unclear time progression to convey her slippery sanity. With its very thorny protagonist and depressing view of LA's "fringe" life, Witch is moody, creepy, and unique. Roxie. (Harvey)
My Brother the Devil Though its script hits some unsurprising beats, Sally El Hosaini's drama is buoyed by authentic performances and a strong command of its setting: diverse London 'hood Hackney, where sons of Egyptian immigrants Rashid (James Floyd) and Mo (Fady Elsayed) stumble toward maturity. After his best friend is killed in a gang fight, older "bruv" Rashid turns away from a life of crime, but dropping his tough-guy façade forces him to explore feelings he's been desperately trying to deny, especially after he meets photographer Sayyid (Saïd Taghmaoui). The only thing he knows for certain is that he doesn't want his little brother to start running with the drug-dealing crew he's lately abandoned. The less-worldly Mo, already dealing with a tidal wave of typical teenage emotions, idolizes his brother until he finds out Rashid's secret, and reacts ... badly, and the various conflicts careen toward a suspenseful, dread-filled, life-lessons-learned conclusion. Added bonus to this well-crafted film: sleek, vibrant lensing, which earned My Brother the Devil a cinematography prize at Sundance 2012. (1:51) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Eddy)
No Place on Earth "Every cave I enter has a secret," muses caver Chris Nicola in his clipped New York accent at the start of No Place on Earth. An interest in his family's Eastern Orthodox roots brought him to the Ukraine soon after the Soviet Union dissolved; while exploring one of the country's lengthy gypsum caves, he literally stumbled over what he calls "living history:" artifacts (shoes, buttons) that suggested people had been living in the caves in the not-too-distant past. Naturally curious, Nicola investigated further, eventually learning that two families of Ukrainian Jews (including young children) hid in the caves for 18 months during World War II. Using tasteful re-enactments and interviews with surviving members of the families, as well as narration taken from memoirs, director Janet Tobias reconstructs an incredible tale of human resilience and persistence; there are moments of terror, literally hiding behind rocks to escape roaming German soldiers, and moments of joy, as when a holiday snowfall enables precious outdoor playtime. Incredibly, the film ends with now-elderly survivors one of whom lived just seven miles from Nicola in NYC returning to "say thank-you to the cave," as one woman puts it, with awed and grateful grandchildren in tow. (1:24) Elmwood, Embarcadero. (Eddy)
Scary Movie 5 Not to be confused with A Haunted House, which came out earlier this year and also spoofed the Paranormal Activity series but did not feature cameos by Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. (1:35)
To the Wonder See "Rambling Man." (1:53) California, Embarcadero.
Trance Where did Danny Boyle drop his noir? Somewhere along the way from Shallow Grave (1994) to Slumdog Millionaire (2008)? Finding the thread he misplaced among the obfuscating reflections of London's corporate-contempo architecture, Boyle strives to put his own character-centered spin on the genre in this collaboration with Grave and Trainspotting (1996) screenwriter John Hodge, though the final product feels distinctly off, despite its Hitchcockian aspirations toward a sort of modern-day Spellbound (1945). Untrustworthy narrator Simon (James McAvoy) is an auctioneer for a Sotheby's-like house, tasked with protecting the multimillion-dollar artworks on the block, within reason. Then the splashily elaborate theft of Goya's Witches' Flight painting goes down on Simon's watch, and for his trouble, the complicit staffer is concussed by heist leader Franck (Vincent Cassel). Where did those slippery witches fly to? Simon, mixed up with the thieves due to his gambling debts, cries amnesia the truth appears to be locked in the opaque layers of his jostled brain, and it's up to hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to uncover the Goya's resting place. Is she trying to help Simon extricate himself from his impossible situation, seduce Franck, or simply help herself? Boyle tries to transmit the mutable mind games on screen, via the lighting, glass, and watery reflections that are supposed to translate as sleek sophistication. But devices like speedy, back-and-forth edits and off-and-on fourth-wall-battering instances as when Simon locks eyes with the audience, read as dated and cheesy as a banking commercial. The seriously miscast actors also fail to sell Trance on various levels believability, likeability, etc. as the very unmesmerized viewer falls into a light coma and the movie twirls, flaming, into the ludicrous. (1:44) Piedmont, Shattuck. (Chun)
Upstream Color See "Stop Making Sense." (1:35) Elmwood, Roxie.
Admission Tina Fey exposes the irritating underbelly of the Ivy League application process as Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan. When her school falls to number two in U.S. News and World Report's annual ranking, Portia and her colleagues are tasked by their boss (Wallace Shawn) with boosting application numbers to bring the university back into the lead. Alterna-school headmaster John Pressman (Paul Rudd) has one more applicant to add to the pile: a charmingly gawky autodidact named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), who John is convinced is the child Portia gave up for adoption back when they were both students at Dartmouth. Stuck in a dreary 10-year relationship with an English professor (Michael Sheen) whose bedtime endearments consist of absentmindedly patting her on the head while reading aloud from The Canterbury Tales, and seeming less than thrilled with the prospect of another season of sifting through the files of legacies and overachievers, Portia is clearly ripe for some sort of purgative crisis. When it arrives, the results are fairly innocuous, if ethically questionable. Directed by Paul Weitz, the man responsible for bringing Little Fockers (2010) into the world, but About a Boy (2002) as well, Admission is sweet and sometimes funny but unmemorable, even with Lily Tomlin playing Portia's surly, iconoclast mother. (1:50) Presidio, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Rapoport)
The Call (1:34) SF Center.
The Croods (1:38) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio.
Evil Dead "Sacrilege!" you surely thought when hearing that Sam Raimi's immortal 1983 classic was being remade. But as far as remakes go, this one from Uruguayan writer-director Fede Alvarez (who'd previously only made some acclaimed genre shorts) is pretty decent. Four youths gather at a former family cabin destination because a fifth (Jane Levy) has staged her own intervention after a near-fatal OD, she needs her friends to help her go cold turkey. But as a prologue has already informed us, there is a history of witchcraft and demonic possession in this place. The discovery of something very nasty (and smelly) in the cellar, along with a book of demonic incantations that Lou Taylor Pucci is stupid enough to read aloud from, leads to ... well, you know. The all-hell that breaks loose here is more sadistically squirm-inducing than the humorously over-the-top gore in Raimi's original duo (elements of the sublime '87 Evil Dead II are also deployed here), and the characters are taken much more seriously without, however, becoming more interesting. Despite a number of déjà vu kamikaze tracking shots through the Michigan forest (though most of the film was actually shot in New Zealand), Raimi's giddy high energy and black comedy are replaced here by a more earnest if admittedly mostly effective approach, with plenty of decent shocks. No one could replace Bruce Campbell, and perhaps it was wise not to even try. So: pretty good, gory, expertly crafted, very R-rated horror fun, even with too many "It's not over yet!" false endings. But no one will be playing this version over and over and over again as they (and I) still do the '80s films. (1:31) Balboa, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Harvey)
From Up on Poppy Hill Hayao (dad, who co-wrote) and Goro (son, who directed) Miyazaki collaborate on this tale of two high-school kids Umi, who does all the cooking at her grandmother's boarding house, and Shun, a rabble-rouser who runs the school newspaper in idyllic seaside Yokohama. Plans for the 1964 Olympics earmark a beloved historic clubhouse for demolition, and the budding couple unites behind the cause. The building offers a symbolic nod to Japanese history, while rehabbing it speaks to hopes for a brighter post-war future. But the past keeps interfering: conflict arises when Shun's memories are triggered by a photo of Umi's father, presumed lost at sea in the Korean War. There are no whimsical talking animals in this Studio Ghibli release, which investigates some darker-than-usual themes, though the animation is vivid and sparkling per usual. Hollywood types lending their voices to the English-language version include Jamie Lee Curtis, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, and Gilllian Anderson. (1:31) Embarcadero, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)
GI Joe: Retaliation The plot exists to justify the action, but any fan of badass-ness will forgive the skimpy storyline for the outlandish badassery in GI Joe: Retaliation. Inspired by action figures and tying loosely to the first flick, Retaliation starts with a game of "secure the defector," followed by "raise the flag," but as soon as the stakes aren't real, the Joes outright suck. They don't have "neutral," which is maybe why a mission to rescue and revive the Joes as a force is the most ferocious fight that ever pit metal against plastic. The set pieces are stunning: a mostly silent sequence with Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) on a mountainside will leave the audience gaping in its high speed wake, and a prison break featuring covert explosives is nonstop amazing. You'll notice an emphasis on chain link fences and puddles (terra nostra for action figures) and set pieces conceived as if by kids who don't have a concept of basic irrefutable truths like gravity. It's just that kind of imagination and ardor and limitlessness that makes this Joe incredible, memorable, and a reason to crack out your toys again. (1:50) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Vizcarrondo)
Ginger and Rosa It's the 1960s, nuclear war is a real possibility, and nuclear-family war is an absolute certainty, at least in the London house occupied by Ginger (Elle Fanning), her emotionally wounded mother (Mad Men's Christina Hendricks), and her narcissistic-intellectual father (Alessandro Nivola). In this downbeat coming-of-age tale from Sally Potter (1992's Orlando), Ginger's teenage rebellion quickly morphs into angst when her BFF Rosa (Beautiful Creatures' Alice Englert) wedges her sexed-up neediness between Ginger's parents. Hendricks (playing the accordion just like Joan!) and Annette Bening (as an American activist who encourages Ginger's political-protest leanings) are strong, but Fanning's powerhouse performance is the main focus though even she's occasionally overshadowed by her artificially scarlet hair. For an interview with writer-director Potter, visit www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision. (1:30) Smith Rafael. (Eddy)
The Host (2:01) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Steve Carell dips into the men-at-work comic genre so associated with Will Ferrell: he's Burt Wonderstone, who starts out as a picked-on kid discovering his powers via a kit by Las Vegas magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin). The ensuing years have not been kind to Burt, a relatively decent guy struggling to shed the douchey buildup of ego, corn, and dated moves à la David Copperfield (ta-da, who magically appears), while working for benevolently threatening casino boss Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) with his childhood best friend Anton (Steve Buscemi, reviving the naifitude of The Big Lebowski's Donny) and side fox Jane (Olivia Wilde). The shot of adrenalin to the moribund heart of Burt and Anton's act: Jim Carrey's "Brain Rapist," who aims to ream his colleagues by cutting playing cards from his flesh and going to bed on fiery coals. How can the old-schoolers remain relevant? Hard work is key for Carell, who rolls out the straight-man sweetness that seem to make him a fit for romantic comedies though his earnestness and need to be liked, as usual, err on the side of convention, while taking for granted the not-quite-there chemistry with, in this instance, Wilde. Fortunately whatever edge is lacking materializes whenever Carrey's ridiculously ombré-tressed daredevil is on screen. Using his now-battered, still-malleable features to full effect, he's a whole different ball of cheese, lampooning those who will go to any lengths gouging, searing, and maiming to entertain. (1:40) Metreon. (Chun)
Jack the Giant Slayer (1:55) Metreon.
Jurassic Park 3D "Life finds a way," Jeff Goldblum's leather-clad mathematician remarks, crystallizing the theme of this 1993 Spielberg classic, which at its core is more about human relationships than genetically manufactured terrors. Of course, it's got plenty of those, and Jurassic Park doesn't really need its (admittedly spiffy) 3D upgrade to remain a thoroughly entertaining thriller. The dinosaur effects particularly the creepy Velociraptors and fan-fave T. rex still dazzle. Only some early-90s computer references and Laura Dern's mom jeans mark the film as dated. But a big-screen viewing of what's become a cable TV staple allows for fresh appreciation of its less-iconic (but no less enjoyable) moments and performances: a pre-megafame Samuel L. Jackson as a weary systems tech; Bob Peck as the park's skeptical, prodigiously thigh-muscled game warden. Try and forget the tepid sequels including, dear gawd, 2014's in-the-works fourth installment. This is all the Jurassic you will ever need. (2:07) 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, SF Center, Shattuck. (Eddy)
No Long before the Arab Spring, a people's revolution went down in Chile when a 1988 referendum toppled the country's dictator, Augusto Pinochet, thanks in part to an ad exec who dared to sell the dream to his countrymen and women using the relentlessly upbeat, cheesy language of a Pepsi Generation. In No's dramatization of this true story, ad man Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) is approached by the opposition to Pinochet's regime to help them on their campaign to encourage Chile's people to vote "no" to eight more years under the brutal strongman. Rene's well-aware of the horrors of the dictatorship; not only are the disappeared common knowledge, his activist ex (Antonia Zegers) has been beaten and jailed with seeming regularity. Going up against his boss (Alfredo Castro), who's overseeing the Pinochet campaign, Rene takes the brilliant tact in the opposition's TV programs of selling hope sound familiar? promising "Chile, happiness is coming!" amid corny mimes, dancers, and the like. Director-producer Pablo Larrain turns out to be just as genius, shooting with a grainy U-matic '80s video camera to match his footage with 1988 archival imagery, including the original TV spots, in this invigorating spiritual kin of both 2012's Argo and 1997's Wag the Dog. (1:50) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Chun)
Olympus Has Fallen Overstuffed with slo-mo shots of the flag rippling (in breezes likely caused by all the hot air puffing up from the script), this gleefully ham-fisted tribute to America Fuck Yeah estimates the intelligence of its target audience thusly: an establishing shot clearly depicting both the Washington Monument and the US Capitol is tagged "Washington, DC." Wait, how can you tell? This wannabe Die Hard: The White House follows the one-man-army crusade of secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the last friendly left standing when the President (Aaron Eckhart) and assorted cabinet members are taken hostage by North Korean terrorists. The plot is to ridiculous to recap beyond that, though I will note that Morgan Freeman (as the Speaker of the House) gets to deliver the line "They've just opened the gates of hell!" the high point in a performance that otherwise requires him to sit at a table and look concerned for two hours. With a few more over-the-top scenes or slightly more adventurous casting, Olympus Has Fallen could've ascended to action-camp heights. Alas, it's mostly just mildly amusing, though all that caked-on patriotism is good for a smattering of heartier guffaws. (2:00) Four Star, 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)
On the Road Walter Salles (2004's The Motorcycle Diaries) engages Diaries screenwriter Jose Rivera to adapt Jack Kerouac's Beat classic; it's translated to the screen in a streamlined version, albeit one rife with parties, drugs, jazz, danger, reckless driving, sex, philosophical conversations, soul-searching, and "kicks" galore. Brit Sam Riley (2007's Control) plays Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise, observing (and scribbling down) his gritty adventures as they unfold. Most of those adventures come courtesy of charismatic, freewheeling Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund of 2010's Tron: Legacy), who blows in and out of Sal's life (and a lot of other people's lives, too, including wives played by Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst). Beautifully shot, with careful attention to period detail and reverential treatment of the Beat ethos, the film is an admirable effort but a little too shapeless, maybe simply due to the peripatetic nature of its iconic source material, to be completely satisfying. Among the performances, erstwhile teen dream Stewart is an uninhibited standout. (2:03) Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Eddy)
Oz: The Great and Powerful Providing a backstory for the man behind the curtain, director Sam Raimi gives us a prequel of sorts to 1939's The Wizard of Oz. Herein we follow the adventures of a Depression-era Kansas circus magician named Oscar (James Franco) Oz to his friends as he cons, philanders, bickers with his behind-the-scenes assistant Frank (Zach Braff), and eventually sails away in a twister, bound for a Technicolor land of massively proportioned flora, talking fauna, and witches ranging from dazzlingly good to treacherously wicked. From one of them, Theodora (Mila Kunis), he learns that his arrival in Oz, just to clarify has set in motion the fulfillment of a prophecy: that a great wizard, also named Oz, will bring about the downfall of a malevolent witch (Rachel Weisz), saving the kingdom and its cheery, goodhearted inhabitants. Unfortunately for this deserving populace, Oz spent his last pre-twister moments with the Baum Bros. Circus (the name a tribute to L. Frank Baum, writer of the Oz children's books) demonstrating a banged-up moral compass and an undependable streak and proclaiming that he would rather be a great man than a good man. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this theme is revisited ad nauseam as Oz and the oppressively beneficent witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) whose magic appears to consist mainly of nice soft things like bubbles and fog stand around debating whether he's the right man for the task. When the fog clears, though, the view is undeniably pretty. While en route to and from the Emerald City, Oz and his companions among them a non-evil flying monkey (voiced by Braff) and a rather adorable china doll (Joey King) wander through a deliriously arresting, Fantasia-esque landscape whose intricate, inventive construction helps distract from the plodding, saccharine rhetoric and unappealing story line. (2:07) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki. (Rapoport)
The Place Beyond the Pines Powerful indie drama Blue Valentine (2010) marked director Derek Cianfrance as one worthy of attention, so it's with no small amount of fanfare that this follow-up arrives. The Place Beyond the Pines' high profile is further enhanced by the presence of Bradley Cooper (currently enjoying a career ascension from Sexiest Man Alive to Oscar-nominated Serious Actor), cast opposite Valentine star Ryan Gosling, though they share just one scene. An overlong, occasionally contrived tale of three generations of fathers, father figures, and sons, Pines' initial focus is Gosling's stunt-motorcycle rider, a character that would feel more exciting if it wasn't so reminiscent of Gosling's turn in Drive (2011), albeit with a blonde dye job and tattoos that look like they were applied by the same guy who inked James Franco in Spring Breakers. Robbing banks seems a reasonable way to raise cash for his infant son, as well as a way for Pines to draw in another whole set of characters, in the form of a cop (Cooper) who's also a new father, and who as the story shifts ahead 15 years builds a political career off the case. Of course, fate and the convenience of movie scripts dictate that the mens' sons will meet, the past will haunt the present and fuck up the future, etc. etc. Ultimately, Pines is an ambitious film that suffers from both its sprawl and some predictable choices (did Ray Liotta really need to play yet another dirty cop?) Halfway through the movie I couldn't help thinking what might've happened if Cianfrance had dared to swap the casting of the main roles; Gosling could've been a great ambitious cop-turned-powerful prick, and Cooper could've done interesting things with the Evel Knievel-goes-Point Break part. Just sayin'. (2:20) California, Embarcadero, Piedmont, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)
Quartet Every year there's at least one: the adorable-old-cootfest, usually British, that proves harmless and reassuring and lightly tear/laughter producing enough to convince a certain demographic that it's safe to go to the movies again. The last months have seen two, both starring Maggie Smith (who's also queen of that audience's home viewing via Downton Abbey). Last year's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in which Smith played a bitchy old spinster appalled to find herself in India, has already filled the slot. It was formulaic, cute, and sentimental, yes, but it also practiced more restraint than one expected. Now here's Quartet, which is basically the same flower arrangement with quite a bit more dust on it. Smith plays a bitchy old spinster appalled to find herself forced into spending her twilight years at a home for the elderly. It's not just any such home, however, but Beecham House, whose residents are retired professional musicians. Gingerly peeking out from her room after a few days' retreat from public gaze, Smith's Jean Horton a famed English soprano spies a roomful of codgers rolling their hips to Afropop in a dance class. "This is not a retirement home this is a madhouse!" she pronounces. Oh, the shitty lines that lazy writers have long depended on Smith to make sparkle. Quartet is full of such bunk, adapted with loving fidelity, no doubt, from his own 1999 play by Ronald Harwood, who as a scenarist has done some good adaptations of other people's work (2002's The Pianist). But as a generator of original material for about a half-century, he's mostly proven that it is possible to prosper that long while being in entirely the wrong half-century. Making his directorial debut: 75-year-old Dustin Hoffman, which ought to have yielded a more interesting final product. But with its workmanlike gloss and head-on take on the script's very predictable beats, Quartet could as well have been directed by any BBC veteran of no particular distinction. (1:38) Opera Plaza, Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)
Reality Director Matteo Garrone's Cannes Grand Prix winner couldn't be more different from his 2008 Gomorrah, save one similarity: that film was about organized crime, and dark comedy Reality stars Aniello Arena, a former gangster who was allowed out of prison to shoot his scenes. All things considered, he's rather winning as Neapolitan everyman Luciano, whose daily life slinging fish can't compete with his big dreams of appearing on the Italian version of Big Brother. He makes it through the second round of auditions and soon starts believing he's being watched by casting agents considering whether to put him on the show. His level-headed wife (Loredane Simioli) suspects he's being paranoid (as does the audience, before long), though he's told "never give up!" by cheesy-sleazy Big Brother vet Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a character clearly designed to comment on reality TV's own peculiar brand of insta-fame. Nobody who's ever watched reality TV will be surprised at the film's ultimate messages about the hollow rewards of that fame, but Arena's powerful performance makes the journey worthwhile. (1:55) Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)
Renoir The gorgeous, sun-dappled French Riviera setting is the high point of this otherwise low-key drama about the temperamental women (Christa Theret) who was the final muse to elderly painter Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet), and who encouraged the filmmaking urges in his son, future cinema great Jean (Vincent Rottiers). Cinematographer Mark Ping Bin Lee (who's worked with Hou Hsiao-hsein and Wong Kar Wai) lenses Renoir's leafy, ramshackle estate to maximize its resemblance to the paintings it helped inspire; though her character, Dédée, could kindly be described as "conniving," Theret could not have been better physically cast, with tumbling red curls and pale skin she's none too shy about showing off. Though the specter of World War I looms in the background, the biggest conflicts in Gilles Bourdos' film are contained within the household, as Jean frets about his future, Dédée faces the reality of her precarious position in the household (which is staffed by aging models-turned-maids), and Auguste battles ill health by continuing to paint, though he's in a wheelchair and must have his brushes taped to his hands. Though not much really happens, Renoir is a pleasant, easy-on-the-eyes experience. (1:51) Clay, Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Eddy)
The Revolutionary Optimists If the children, as someone once sang, are our future, the inspiring work done by youth activists living in the slums of Kolkata, India hints that there might be brighter days ahead for some of the poorest communities in the world. Under the guidance of Amlan Ganguly and his non-profit, Prayasam, kids whose daily struggles include lacking easy access to drinking water, having to work backbreaking long hours at the local brick field, and worrying that their parents will marry them off as soon as they turn 13, find hope via education and artistic expression. Sensitively directed over the span of several years by Nicole Newnham (who made the excellent 2006 doc The Rape of Europa) and Maren Grainger-Monsen, The Revolutionary Optimists shows stories of both success (12-year-old sparkplug Salim speaks before Parliament about bringing water to his neighborhood) and failure (16-year-old Priyanka is forced into an abusive marriage, ending her dreams of becoming a dance teacher). With harsh reality keeping its stories firmly grounded, the film which is, of course, ultimately optimistic offers a look at how the youngest members of a community can help effect real change. (1:23) Marina. (Eddy)
The Sapphires The civil rights injustices suffered by these dream girls may be unique to Aboriginal Australians, but they'll strike a chord with viewers throughout the world at right about the same spot stoked by the sweet soul music of Motown. Co-written by Tony Briggs, the son of a singer in a real-life Aboriginal girl group, this unrepentant feel-gooder aims to make the lessons of history go down with the good humor and up-from-the-underdog triumph of films like The Full Monty (1997) the crucial difference in this fun if flawed comedy-romance is that it tells the story of women of color, finding their voices and discovering, yes, their groove. It's all in the family for these would-be soul sisters, or rather country cousins, bred on Merle Haggard and folk tunes: there's the charmless and tough Gail (Deborah Mailman), the soulful single mom Julie (Jessica Mauboy, an Australian Idol runner-up), the flirty Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), and the pale-skinned Kay (Shari Sebbens), the latter passing as white after being forcibly "assimilated" by the government. Their dream is to get off the farm, even if that means entertaining the troops in Vietnam, and the person to help them realize that checkered goal is dissolute piano player Dave (Chris O'Dowd). And O'Dowd is the breakout star to watch here he adds an loose, erratic energy to an otherwise heavily worked story arc. So when romance sparks for all Sapphires and the racial tension simmering beneath the sequins rumbles to the surface the easy pleasures generated by O'Dowd and the music (despite head-scratching inclusions like 1970's "Run Through the Jungle" in this 1968-set yarn), along with the gently handled lessons in identity politics learned, obliterate any lingering questions left sucking Saigon dust as the narrative plunges forward. They keep you hanging on. (1:38) Albany, Piedmont, SF Center. (Chun)
Side Effects Though on the surface Channing Tatum appears to be his current muse, Steven Soderbergh seems to have gotten his smart, topical groove back, the one that spurred him to kick off his feature filmmaking career with the on-point Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) and went missing with the fun, featherweight Ocean's franchise. (Alas, he's been making claims that Side Effects will be his last feature film.) Here, trendy designer antidepressants are the draw mixed with the heady intoxicants of a murder mystery with a nice hard twist that would have intrigued either Hitchcock or Chabrol. As Side Effects opens, the waifish Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), whose inside-trading hubby (Tatum) has just been released from prison, looks like a big-eyed little basket of nerves ready to combust internally, it seems, when she drives her car into a wall. Therapist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who begins to treat her after her hospital stay, seems to care about her, but nevertheless reflexively prescribes the latest anti-anxiety med of the day, on the advice of her former doctor (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Where does his responsibility for Emily's subsequent actions begin and end? Soderbergh and his very able cast fill out the issues admirably, with the urgency that was missing from the more clinical Contagion (2011) and the, ahem, meaty intelligence that was lacking in all but the more ingenious strip scenes of last year's Magic Mike. (1:30) 1000 Van Ness. (Chun)
The Silence Maybe "fun" is a tasteless way to describe The Silence, which hinges on pederasty and child murder though in the end this is more an intelligent pulp thriller than serious address of those issues, uneasily as it straddles both at times. In 1986 two men abduct an 11-year-old girl one the initially excited, then horrified observer to the second's murderous sexual assault. Twenty-three years later, another young girl disappears in the same place under disturbingly identical circumstances. This event gradually pulls together a large cast of characters, many initial strangers including the original victim's mother (Katrin Sass) and the just-retired detective (Burghart Klaubner) who failed to solve that crime; parents (Karoline Eichhorn, Roeland Wiesnekker) of the newly disappeared teen, who experience full-on mental meltdown; a solidly bourgeoise husband and father of two girls (Wotan Wilke Möhring), inordinately distressed by this repeat of history; and the erstwhile friend he hasn't contacted in decades, an apartment-complex handyman with a secret life (Ulrich Thomsen). Part procedural, part psychological thriller, part small-town-community portrait, director-scenarist (from Jan Costin Wagner's novel) Baran bo Odar's The Silence is just juicy and artful enough to get away with occasional stylistic hyperbole. It's a conflicted movie, albeit handled with such engrossing confidence that you might not notice the credibility gaps. At least until thinking it over later. Which, don't. (1:59) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)
Silver Linings Playbook After guiding two actors to Best Supporting Oscars in 2010's The Fighter, director David O. Russell returns (adapting his script from Matthew Quick's novel) with another darkly comedic film about a complicated family that will probably earn some gold of its own. Though he's obviously not ready to face the outside world, Pat (Bradley Cooper) checks out of the state institution he's been court-ordered to spend eight months in after displaying some serious anger-management issues. He moves home with his football-obsessed father (Robert De Niro) and worrywart mother (Jacki Weaver of 2010's Animal Kingdom), where he plunges into a plan to win back his estranged wife. Cooper plays Pat as a man vibrating with troubled energy always in danger of flying into a rage, even as he pursues his forced-upbeat "silver linings" philosophy. But the movie belongs to Jennifer Lawrence, who proves the chops she showcased (pre-Hunger Games megafame) in 2010's Winter's Bone were no fluke. As the damaged-but-determined Tiffany, she's the left-field element that jolts Pat out of his crazytown funk; she's also the only reason Playbook's dance-competition subplot doesn't feel eye-rollingly clichéd. The film's not perfect, but Lawrence's layered performance emotional, demanding, bitchy, tough-yet-secretly-tender damn near is. (2:01) Metreon, Presidio, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)
Spring Breakers The idea of enfant terrible emeritus Harmony Korine 1997's Gummo, 2007's Mister Lonely, 2009's Trash Humpers directing something so utterly common as a spring break movie is head-scratching enough, even moreso compounded by the casting of teen dreams Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, and Ashley Benson as bikini-clad girls gone wild. James Franco co-stars as drug dealer Alien, all platinum teeth and cornrows and shitty tattoos, who befriends the lasses after they're busted by the fun police. "Are you being serious?" Gomez's character asks Alien, soon after meeting him. "What do you think?" he grins back. Unschooled filmgoers who stumble into the theater to see their favorite starlets might be shocked by Breakers' hard-R hijinks. But Korine fans will understand that this neon-lit, Skrillex-scored tale of debauchery and dirty menace is not to be taken at face value. The subject matter, the cast, the Britney Spears songs, the deliberately lurid camerawork all carefully-constructed elements in a film that takes not-taking-itself-seriously, very seriously indeed. Korine has said he prefers his films to make "perfect nonsense" instead of perfect sense. The sublime Spring Breakers makes perfect nonsense, and it also makes nonsense perfect. (1:34) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)
Starbuck Starbuck has a great (if not entirely original) comedic concept it chooses to play seriocomedically i.e., less for the laughs it seldom earns than for the heart-tugging it eventually pretty much does. An ingratiatingly rumpled Patrick Huard (a major Quebec star best known for the mega-hit Les Boys series and 2006's Good Cop, Bad Cop) plays David, erstwhile stellar contributor to a Montreal sperm bank in his salad days. Now older but no wiser, he finds himself confronted by the reality of 533 biologically fathered, now-grown offspring who've filed a class action lawsuit to discover his identity even as he deals with mob debt and an exasperated, pregnant semi-ex-girlfriend (Julie LeBreton). This is one of those "loser manboy must semi-grow up fast amid crisis, finding family values en route" scenarios tailor-fit for Adam Sandler. That said, the overlong, stubbornly endearing Starbuck is so much less insufferable than anything Sandler has made since ... um, ever? Halfway through, this agreeable movie gets clever as David stumbles into a meeting of his prodigious anonymous progeny and remains reasonably so to the satisfyingly hard-won happy ending. It's still got moments of contrivance, editorial fat (too many montages, for one thing), and more climactic hugs than any self-respecting dramedy needs to get the redemptive point across. Yet it's also got something few comedies of any national origin have today: a lovely, distinctive, bright yet non-cartoonish widescreen look. (1:48) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)
Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2:06) 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.
Warm Bodies A decade and a half of torrid, tormented vampire-human entanglements has left us accustomed to rooting for romances involving the undead and the still-alive. Some might argue, however, that no amount of pop-cultural prepping could be sufficient to get us behind a human-zombie love story for the ages. Is guzzling human blood really measurably less gross than making a meal of someone's brains and other body parts? Somehow, yes. Recognizing this perceptual hurdle, writer-director Jonathan Levine (2011's 50/50, 2008's The Wackness) secures our sympathies at the outset of Warm Bodies by situating us inside the surprisingly active brain of the film's zombie protagonist. Zombies, it turns out, have internal monologues. R (Nicholas Hoult) can only remember the first letter of his former name, but as he shambles and shuffles and slumps his way through the terminals of a postapocalyptic airport overrun by his fellow corpses (as they're called by the film's human population), he fills us in as best he can on the global catastrophe that's occurred and his own ensuing existential crisis. By the time he meets not-so-cute with Julie (Teresa Palmer), a young woman whose father (John Malkovich) is commander-in-chief of the human survivors living in a walled-off city center, we've learned that he collects vinyl, that he has a zombie best friend, and that he doesn't want to be like this. We may still be flinching at the thought of his and Julie's first kiss, but we're also kind of rooting for him. The plot gapes in places, where a tenuous logic gets trampled and gives way, but Levine's script, adapted from a novel by Isaac Marion, is full of funny riffs on the zombie condition, which Hoult invests with a comic sweetness as his character staggers toward the land of the living. (1:37) Metreon. (Rapoport)
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