Charlie Kaufman Puppet Show

The must-see among this week’s openings is the new Charlie Kaufman film. It harkens back a little to Being John Malkovich because puppets are involved. But beneath the bizarre setup created by Charlie Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson, there is a pulsing and very human story at their film’s core.


Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) and Duke Johnson (the “Community” episode Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas) use stop-motion puppet animation for this dark comedy about an emotionally desperate man. To the outside world, motivational speaker and writer Michael Stone is successful in both his professional and personal life. Internally, his mundane existence is suffocating him. On a business trip to Cincinnati, Stone finds a possible escape route. It’s an unassuming Akron bakery good sales representative named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who might possibly be his one true love.

Opens January 8, 2016 at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas

Censored Voices

Shortly after the successful end of Israel’s Six Day War, writer Amos Oz and editor Avraham Shapira decided to record interviews with soldiers returning from the war. Their thoughts and feelings about the war contrasted sharply with Israel’s nationalist euphoria. The recordings of those interviews were partially censored at the time by the Israeli Defense Forces. Mor Loushy’s documentary takes these newly released recordings and has the now 70-ish interview subjects listen to their younger selves.

Opens January 8, 2016 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas

The Himalayas

Lee Seok-hoon dramatizes the real-life tale of the relationship between two mountaineers. When Daemyung University amateur alpinist Park Moo-taek (Jung Woo) first meets legendary mountain climber Um Hong-gil (Hwang Jung-min), the younger man’s lack of skill and judgment leaves a spectacularly negative first impression on the more experienced man. However, over the passage of years, Moo-taek eventually earns the older man’s respect. The two become mountain climbing partners for a number of years until Hong-gil is forced to retire. Moo-taek dies in 2004 from exposure while attempting a Mt. Everest climb. Hong-gil comes out of retirement and assembles a party to try retrieving Moo-taek’s body from the mountain’s dreaded “death zone,” the oxygen-deprived area of Everest located over 26,000 feet above sea level.

Opens January 8, 2016 at the AMC Metreon 16 and the Century 20 Daly City

My Bebe Love

Maine Mendoza plays the rebellious daughter of lonely businessman Vito (Vic Sotto). Alden Richards plays Dondi, the submissive nephew of Vito’s business rival Corazon (Ai Ai delas Alas). When the Mendoza and Richards characters fall in love, Vito and Corazon reluctantly join forces to split the young couple apart. What the two business rivals don’t expect is to fall in love with each other.

Opens January 8, 2016 at the Century at Tanforan

The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale

The new film from Park Hong-joon, the director of gangster thriller New World, is an epic historical action tale. It’s the early 20th century, and Korea is under Japanese occupation. Hunter Chun Man-duk (Choi Min-sik, Lucy) and others have been tasked by a Japanese commander with killing the last Korean tiger in what is now South Korea’s Jirisan Peninsula. The hunt, where the tiger displays a special talent for mauling the Japanese occupiers, leads to Chun’s developing a grudging admiration for the beast.

Opens January 8, 2016 at the Century 20 Daly City


Disgraced and grieving ATS officer Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) finds a new reason to live through his growing friendship with wheelchair-bound chess grandmaster Panditji (Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan). The grandmaster asks the law enforcement man to investigate his daughter’s accidental death at the Welfare Minister’s house. He believes his daughter was murdered by the Welfare Minister. Danish’s unofficial investigation of the case brings an unexpected response: Panditji gets attacked by a mysterious assailant known only as Wazir. What is the connection between Wazir and the Welfare Minister?

Opens January 8, 2016 at the Century San Francisco Centre 9

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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