Welcome Back, Zhang Yimou

This weekend’s art film openings are dominated by new offerings from some very familiar names. Johnnie To brings a musical about corporate corruption with the legendary Chow Yun-Fat playing one of the villains. Francois Ozon’s adaptation of a Ruth Rendell story will tweak sexually conservative viewers’ comfort levels. But the big opening of the weekend sees Chinese director Zhang Yimou team up once again with actress Gong Li.

Coming Home

Director Zhang Yimou and actress Gong Li reunite for this drama set during China’s Cultural Revolution. Twenty years ago, Lu got arrested for having unapproved political beliefs and was sent to a prison camp. Left behind were Lu’s wife Feng (Li) and their small daughter, who’s raised solo by Feng. Now, Lu has been released but finds that his family has been fractured. Feng has become so traumatized by Lu’s absence that she no longer recognizes her husband. The daughter has become a hardcore Communist Party member eager to perform in The Red Detachment Of Women. The returned man is determined to restore his wife’s memory and re-awaken the past.

Opens September 18 at the Embarcadero Center Cinema


Clint (Elijah Wood) is an aspiring writer working as a substitute teacher at his old elementary school. When a batch of chicken nuggets made from really bad meat gets delivered to the school, practically all the school’s kids turn into flesh-eating zombies by recess. Clint and his fellow teachers barricade themselves inside the school, but this group of oddballs are stuck trying to figure out next steps as they fight off attacks from a schoolful of literal kid monsters.

Opens September 18 at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood

East Side Sushi

Juana is a working-class single Latina mother. Circumstances force her to trade her fruit-cart vending job for a kitchen assistant job at a local Japanese restaurant. Watching the sushi chefs work inspire Juana to learn how to make a variety of sushi and, equally importantly, to dream of becoming a sushi chef herself. To quite a few eyes, Juana is both the wrong sex and the wrong race to be a sushi chef. But that opposition doesn’t stop the young mother from pursuing her dream.

Opens September 18 at the Smith Rafael Film Center and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas. Director Anthony Lucero appears for a Q&A after the Sundance 7:20 PM show on September 19.

The New Girlfriend

Francois Ozon’s adaptation of a Ruth Rendell story will push conservative viewers’ buttons (no duh). After Laura (Anais Demoustier) learns of her best friend Claire’s death, she reaches out to comfort Claire’s now bereaved husband David (Romain Duris). But David has a big secret: he enjoys dressing up as a woman. Claire soon plots with David to help the latter realize a very fond dream.

Opens September 18 at the Clay Theatre, the Piedmont Theatre, the Shattuck Cinemas, and the Smith Rafael Film Center


This week’s under-the-radar opening is something very different from Hong Kong directing legend Johnnie To: a musical comedy/drama about corporate politics starring screen legends Chow Yun-Fat and Sylvia Chang. Feared CEO Miss Chang (Chang) plans to take her billion dollar company public on the stock exchange. Chairman Ho Chung-Ping (Chow) promises the CEO (who’s also his lover) plenty of shares in the company. But when an audit reveals irregularities in the company’s accounts, Chang and Ho’s dreams of making a financial killing are soon endangered. Add to the mix young optimistic idealist Lee Xiang, and the duo’s plans may very well be foiled.

Opens September 18 at the AMC Metreon 16

Pawn Sacrifice

Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) is a young chess prodigy whose unpredictable skill and talent at the chessboard has led him to defeat practically every major chess player around. However, Fischer’s also very paranoiac. Yet this mentally unstable young man may be the Nixon Administration’s best hope. For the year is 1972. The Vietnam War, the ongoing Watergate scandal, and the cold war with Russia has left the US government in dire need of a propaganda victory. It’s hoped that victory can come from Fischer’s defeating the reigning chess grandmaster Russian Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). But will Fischer’s mania ultimately sink his shot at chessboard glory? Based on a true story.

Opens September 17 at the AMC Metreon 16, the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas


In this Korean action dramedy blockbuster, police detective Seo Do-Cheol has a reputation for always bringing the target of his investigations to justice. However, Seo’s new target Jo Tae-oh isn’t losing any sleep over Seo’s pursuit of him. That’s because young Jo, the heir to a super-wealthy conglomerate, always slips out of Seo’s grasp thanks to his having very highly placed friends.

Opens September 18 at the Century 20 Daly City

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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