The Racing Extinction Challenge

Nightmares of varying degrees characterize quite a few of this week’s openings. Peace Officer looks at cops wit big guns running amok. Racing Extinction looks at the ways human activity is sparking a sixth mass species extinction. Goodnight, Mommy, the must-see horror film mixes isolation and macabre tension.

For those who prefer something a little lighter or more inspiring, the Roxie offers either the dark humor of Roy Andersson or a woman who fought back against online bullying.

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

Since she was a little girl, Lizzie Velasquez has been the object of bullying. First, the bullying centered around her looking different from other children thanks to a rare disease which prevents her from gaining weight. In her teens, the bullying arose out of a You Tube video which dubbed her “the world’s ugliest woman.” Sara Bordo’s documentary relates the story of Velasquez’ transformation from bullying victim to anti-bullying activist.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the Roxie Theater

Goodnight, Mommy

Austria’s entry into the Oscar race is set in an isolated rural home. There, a mother is recuperating from plastic surgery. Also in the house are the mother’s precocious twin sons, who are disconcerted by the unrecognizable woman in bandages claiming to be their mother. The summer heat and the slowness of her recovery cause the mother to be short-tempered and very ready to punish her sons. The boys soon suspect the bandaged woman may not be who she claims to be, but they want to be certain. How the boys plan to accomplish this task will leave the viewer shivering.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the Embarcadero Center Cinema and the Shattuck Cinemas

The Green Inferno

Eli Roth’s new horror film goes after the Gamergate demographic. Lawyer’s daughter Justine joins student activist Alejandro on his new project to save the Amazon jungle. But the project goes awry when the plane carrying Justine and her fellow activists crashes in the Peruvian jungle. To make matters worse, the survivors get captured by a hungry cannibal tribe. Needless to say, things get very messy.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the AMC Van Ness 14, the Century 20 Daly City, and the Century At Tanforan

Lost In Hong Kong

Xu Lai (director/writer Xu Zheng) and Yang Yi were once lovers and art school students, but they soon split up. 20 years later, Yang has become a superstar artist while Xu makes do being a bra designer. Xu’s former lover invites him to Hong Kong for the opening of her new exhibition and to have a secret rendezvous. But Xu has a couple of very big problems. His wife’s family has come along for the trip. More importantly, brother-in-law and aspiring documentarian Cai Lala has practically epoxied himself to Xu’s side.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the Century 20 Daly City

Meet The Patels

Director and documentary subject Ravi Patel has a big problem. He’s almost 30 and still single. Ravi accompanies his family to India on a vacation and hopes to do whatever it takes to find love. However, in Ravi’s family, everybdy’s surname happens to be Patel (and no, it’s not an incest thing) and whoever Ravi eventually marries needs to have a Patel surname. Can Ravi find an American Patel woman whom he can love?

Opens September 25, 2015 at the Embarcadero Center Cinema and the Shattuck Cinemas

Mission To Lars

All severely autistic Tom Spicer wanted out of life was to fulfill a lifelong dream of meeting Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. One day Tom’s siblings Kate and Will decide to make their brother’s dream come true by busting him out of his English residential care home and take him to America to meet the drummer in person. However, Tom’s siblings find that they’re having trouble living with Tom’s condition. Tom himself feels overwhelmed by both the outside world’s noise and strangers’ misunderstanding of autism. Of course, there’s also the problem of finding Mr. Ulrich so the long-wished-for meeting can actually happen…

Opens September 25, 2015 at the Roxie Theater

Peace Officer

Thirty years ago during his tenure as sheriff, William “Dub” Lawrence established and trained his state’s first SWAT unit. In the present day, that same SWAT unit shot and killed Lawrence’s agitated son-in-law despite the fact that the gun the dead man had was pointed only at himself. Police denial of misconduct prompts Lawrence to investigate the fatal shooting. That investigation leads him to look at other recent disturbing officer-involved shootings. Winner of Best Documentary Awards at the South By Southwest Film Festival.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence

The 2014 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner premieres this week. Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor) finally concludes a loose trilogy of films with this collection of absurd and horrifying comic vignettes. Two loose storylines run through this new film. One concerns a pair of hapless novelty salesmen attempting to sell their inventory of vampire fangs and rubber masks. The other follows the appearance in modern times of the notoriously bellicose Swedish king Charles XII, who seems doomed to continue a string of disastrous defeats.

Opens Septrember 25, 2015 at the Roxie Theater and the Smith Rafael Film Center

Racing Extinction

In the new film from Academy Award-winning director Louis Psihoyos (The Cove), he and a group of artists and activists race around the world to capture images both of humanity’s role in driving species to extinction and of the beauty of the victims of humanity’s abattoir-like practices. As Psihoyos notes, the common factor behind the last five mass extinctions has been a spike in carbon dioxide.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the Balboa Theatre


Roland Emmerich’s new film dramatizes the events of the Stonewall Riots through the fictional white gay character Danny Winters. Ejected from his homophobic parents’ home, Danny flees to Greenwich Village, where he falls in with a group of street kids. Those kids introduce Danny to their favorite watering hole, the Stonewall Inn. However, it isn’t much of a haven. The bar is mafia-owned, gay-bashing is far too commonplace, and the New York cops regularly enjoy harassing the Stonewall’s patrons. A rage slowly builds in Danny and the other denizens of the Stonewall.

Note: In Emmerich’s re-telling, drag queens of color and lesbians played minor roles in the riots. History suggests otherwise.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the AMC Metreon 16, the CineArts Sequoia, and the Clay Theatre, and the Shattuck Cinemas


Teenage Mackenzie is sent to live with her uncle in Alaska while her mother is in treatment in Seattle. But when her uncle’s attentions turn threatening, the teen flees into the Alaskan wild. She has no way to contact her mother. Going to the authorities will result in Mackenzie’s being sent back to her uncle. All the teenager can do is plunge deeper into the Alaskan interior and hope for the best. A chance encounter with gruff backpacker Bartlett (Bruce Greenwood) offers the girl a slim chance for survival, provided she can convince him to not get rid of her.

Opens September 25, 2015 at the 4-Star 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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