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Don’t Mess With Lily Tomlin

On the documentary front, viewers have two choices. One film is a country-hopping tribute to steak porn. Hubert Sauper’s film, by contrast, limits its setting to the newly formed country of South Sudan. But his award-winning look at the return of the old colonialism/exploitation games to South Sudan is required viewing.

But for those seeking entertaining and intelligent comedy/drama, the new Lily Tomlin film is the one to catch. Paul Weitz writes and directs the veteran comedienne in a tale about a flat broke grandmother trying to scrounge up money for her teen granddaughter’s abortion. The timing of the film’s release provides a welcome riposte to the GOP meatheads determined to outlaw abortion access in America.

Digging For Fire

In Joe Swanberg’s new film, Tim and Lee are an East L.A.-based married couple with a 3-year-old son. Despite these trappings of adulthood, the couple’s marriage has gone stale. A house-sitting eventually leads to the couple getting some alone time from each other. But while Lee’s out for a night on the town, Tim goes the stag party route with his buddies, which involves heavy drinking and toking and an uncomfortable tip-toeing into marital infidelity.

Opens August 28 at the Roxie Theatre. Skype Q&A with Swanberg after the 8/28 7 PM show.

Frank The Bastard

Newly divorced Clair returns with best friend Isolda to the small depressed Maine town where she grew up. There, the divorcee slowly discovers that her old home town is full of dark secrets including the possibly suspicious death of Clair’s mother and the junkyard kingpin who has both illegitimate children and sinister plans for the town.

Opens August 28 at the Marina Theatre

Grandma

On the day poet Elle (an incredible Lily Tomlin) breaks up with her far younger lover Olivia (Judy Greer), granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up with a serious problem. The teenager needs $630 for an abortion…which is scheduled for 5:45 PM that day. However, the poet is literally flat broke. The duo travels around Los Angeles in the old car belonging to Elle’s recently deceased lover Violet, and approach various people from Elle’s past to raise the money for Sage’s procedure. It’s soon a question whether Sage’s biggest problem will be getting the money in time, or seeing Elle’s temper and past skeletons disastrously set back people’s willingness to give money for the procedure.

Opens August 28 at the Century San Francisco Centre 9 and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Learning To Drive

Director Isabel Coixet adapts a biographical essay by The Nation columnist Katha Pollitt. Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) is a middle-aged writer whose husband has left her for a younger woman. Darwan (Academy Award-winner Ben Kingsley) is an Indian taxi driver about to fulfill an arranged marriage. When Wendy hires Darwan to teach her how to drive, the unlikely friendship that develops between these two people helps the duo prepare to embrace their new lives.

Opens August 28 at the Embarcadero Center Cinema

Memories Of The Sword

This historical action film is an attempt to do the Korean equivalent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and similar wire-work swordplay films. Seol-rang and Yu-baek used to be rebel comrades until the day Yu-baek sided with the crown by killing rebel leader (and Seol-rang’s husband) Poong-chun. Seol-rang escaped with her child Hong-hee and raised her to be a fierce warrior. Now that Hong-hee is 18 years old, she’s determined to avenge her parents’ deaths.

Opens August 28 at the AMC Metreon 16

Steak (R)evolution

In this globe-trotting documentary, filmmaker Franck Ribiere and his favorite butcher Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec search for the world’s best steak. As they talk to everyone from cattle breeders to meat experts, the duo show how healthy and delicious steak is made. Equally importantly, their film shows how new practices are turning steak into a luxury product.

Opens August 28 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

We Come As Friends

Director Hubert Sauper (Darwin’s Nightmare) flies his homemade plane of tin and canvas on a cinematic trip into the heart of modern-day Africa. Specifically, he visits pre-division Sudan and talks to everyone from Chinese oil workers to Sudanese warlords to learn their thoughts and dreams. What the director sadly discovers is that this may be the 21st century, but colonialism and wars over land and resources are still common phenomena. Winner of awards at both the Berlinale and Sundance Film Festivals.

Opens August 28 at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood and the Roxie Theatre

Zipper

Ambitious federal prosecutor Sam Ellis (Patrick Wilson) looks as if he has a bright future in politics. His wife (Lena Headey) dreams of being First Lady. But Ellis’ penchant for paying for dozens of high-priced escorts threatens to undermine his ambitions. WARNING: If this review is typical, you may want to approach the film as a hatewatching experience.

Opens August 28 at the Presidio Theatre

About the Author

I’m a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film…but don’t tell anyone.

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