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Of Emma Donoghue & Mary Mapes

Films featuring female protagonists provide the common link among the stronger films opening this weekend. Cate Blanchett does a star turn as embattled real-life news producer Mary Mapes in Truth. The titular assassin of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s venture into wuxia is a woman played by Shu Qi.

But the must-see of the weekend is the acclaimed adaptation of the Emma Donoghue novel Room. Not only does Brie Larson deliver an amazing turn as a young mother kept prisoner in the titular space, but Emma Donoghue herself adapted her novel to the screen with what’s said to be excellent effect.

The Amazing Nina Simone

Jeff L. Lieberman writes and directs this complementary documentary to Liz Garbus’ What Happened, Miss Simone?. In his biographical portrait of famed singer Nina Simone, Lieberman draws on interviews with Simone’s brothers and childhood friends and features bootleg recordings of Simone performances. The film’s more chronologically by the numbers, but it’s still a labor of love.

Opens October 23 at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood

The Assassin

Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien’s unique take on the wuxia genre earned him a Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival. 13 years ago, Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi) was kidnapped and trained in the martial arts to become a killer of cruel and corrupt governors. Her new assignment brings her back to her homeland. Yinniang’s new target is personal. Not only is he leader of North China’s largest military region, but he’s the cousin Yinniang was once betrothed to.

Opens October 23 at the California Theatre, the Clay Theatre, and the Guild Theatre

Experimenter

Michael Almereyda (Nadja) dramatizes the story of Stanley Milgram’s controversial psychology experiment. In 1961, Yale psychologist Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) conducts an experiment where subjects are ordered to deliver electrical shocks to a complete stranger. The experiment shakes a nation already fascinated by the ongoing Adolf Eichmann trial as its results unfortunately demonstrate peoples’ tendency to obey authority. Needless to say, quite a few people become very upset with Milgram.

Opens October 23 at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas, the Shattuck Cinemas, and the Smith Rafael Film Center

Goodbye Mr. Loser

Yan Fei and Peng Damo direct this film adaptation of a Mainland Chinese stage hit. In it, a middle-aged nobody wishes while spectacularly drunk that he had a second chance to correct his life’s mistakes. Imagine his surprise when he finds he’s magically back in high school and he can try to pursue the girl who got away the first time.

Opens October 22 at the AMC Metreon 16

Journey In Sensuality

Director Ruedi Gerber captures dancer Anna Halprin’s new work, dances in nature inspired by Auguste Rodin’s sculptures. Fred Frith supplies the musical score. The Sea Ranch Collective’s dancers rehearse with Halprin through to the final performance.

Opens October 23 at the Smith Rafael Film Center

Kanche

In this Bollywood melodrama, Indian soldier Dhupati Haru Babu joins the fight against the Nazis during World War II. He secretly fell in love with the beautiful Seetha before the war’s start. Now Babu finds himself fighting the Germans with the uncomfortable help of Seetha’s brother Eeshwar.

Now playing at the Century 20 Daly City

Ladrones

In this action comedy sequel to the hit To Rob A Thief, legendary thief Alejandro Toledo (Fernando Colunga) returns to his Robin Hood-like ways for a good cause. This time, he teams up with the incredibly talented Santiago Guzman (Eduardo Yanez) to recover a hard-working community’s stolen land. To save the town’s future, the two men and their associates must take on a ruthless family of crooks led by a beautiful diva as they perform the heist of a lifetime.

Now at the Century 20 Daly City and the Century at Tanforan

Must Date The Playboy

This Filipino adaptation of a popular Wattpad novel and mobile phone movie comes to the big screen. Kim Chiu plays a woman still obsessed after many years with one day meeting a mysterious online chat mate named Empoy. Jessy Mendiola plays the best friend of Chiu’s character. When Mendiola’s character breaks up with a model (Xian Lam), she starts up a new relationship. But Xian’s playboy publicly swears he’s going to get Mendiola’s character back. That threat prompts Mendiola’s character to ask best friend Chiu to date the playboy and secretly spy on him.

Opens October 23 at the Century at Tanforan

Room

Brie Larson headlines this acclaimed adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel helmed by Lenny Abramson (Frank). Room refers to the 10′-by-10′ space 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) inhabits with his loving Ma (Larson). The boy sees this windowless space as the entirety of their world. But Ma has helped Jack lead a fulfilling life by keeping from him the knowledge that they’re actually prisoners. Now Jack’s curiosity and Ma’s desperation leads to the hatching of an escape plan that involves dealing with their fears of the real world.

Opens October 22 at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Truth

Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford headline this adaptation of Mary Mapes’ memoir Truth And Power. On September 8, 2004, CBS’ “60 Minutes II” aired a piece produced by Mapes (Blanchett) and reported by anchor Dan Rather (Redford). It presented evidence that then-President George W. Bush had not only exploited family connections to join the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War but that Bush had spent his six years of service possibly shirking his duties. Given that Democratic presidential opponent John Kerry was having his own Vietnam War record ruthlessly swift-boated by Republican operatives at the time, this report could have been a game changer in the November 2004 presidential election had it gained popular traction. Instead, within a matter of days, the professional reputations of both Mapes and Rather were publicly ruined. How that change of fortune happened is dramatized here.

Opens October 23 at the Century San Francisco Centre 9 and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

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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