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Don Cheadle Is Miles Davis

As can be seen below, the Jake Gyllenhaal-Naomi Watts starrer is the most high-profile of the weekend’s openings. But some of the offerings showing on one or two screens are also worth checking out. Don Cheadle makes his directorial debut playing legendary jazz musician Miles Davis. For those who don’t want to see Cheadle as Davis pointing a gun in a record company executive’s face or engaging in “justifiable” theft, there are more low-key but satisfying offerings available. A Japanese film celebrates well-made sweet red bean paste. The new offering from Arnaud Desplechin is an exercise in appreciating one’s youth. There’s even a horror film that plays like a cross between Repulsion and The Shining.

But the worthy film that might fly under the moviegoer radar is an animated feature film set in an alternate world France. A Best Feature winner at the Annecy animation festival, the film in question boasts incredible design work by a noted comics genius. Having a cute talking cat as one of the main characters seals the deal.

April And The Extraordinary World

It’s 1941 France, but not the World War II-era France we know. In this alternate world, human technology never progressed past the Age of Steam. April Franklin (Marion Cotillard in the subtitled version) is trying to create a serum that will reverse any effects of physical harm or disease. However, she and her talking cat Darwin are pursued by fanatical police Inspector Pizoni as well as a mysterious organization which uses electrical weapons and cyborg rat spies. Legendary comics artist Jacques Tardi designed the look of this alternate world.

Opens April 8 at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

The Dark Horse

Genesis “Gen” Potini is a charismatic Maori speed-chess champion who also struggles with bipolar disorder. Older brother Ariki is also the leader of a tough street gang. Nephew Mana attempts to resist the pressure to join Ariki’s gang. But it isn’t until Gen volunteers to coach the ragtag members of the Eastern Knights chess club that Mana sees an opportunity for redeeming his own life. Based on a true story.

Opens April 8 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas

Darling

Mickey Keating (director of Sundance hit Carnage Park) helms this low-budget but stylish black-and-white tale of a mentally disturbed young woman (Lauren Ashley Carter) who gets hired as caretaker for the posh mansion of an emotionally icy rich woman (Sean Young, Blade Runner). The new caretaker soon discovers just how true the stories are about the mansion’s very troubled past. Needless to say, the young woman’s mental problems will get one heck of a psychological steroid shot, and violence will ensue. Co-produced by Larry Fessenden.

Opens April 8 at the 4-Star Theatre

Demolition

The life of successful investment banker Davis (Jake Gyllenhal) emotionally unravels after his wife dies in a car crash. What starts emotionally turning Davis around is his sending a complaint letter to a vending machine company. The single complaint letter becomes a series of letters where Davis makes some very personal admissions. Customer service representative Karen (Naomi Watts) notice these letters and eventually she and Davis form an unusual connection. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club).

Opens April 7 at the AMC Bay Street 16 , the AMC Metreon 16, the AMC Van Ness 14, the Aquarius Theatre, the California Theatre, the Century 20 Daly City, the Century at Tanforan, the CineArts at the Empire, the CineArts Sequoia, the Piedmont Theatre, and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Hardcore Henry

Ever wonder what it’s like being in a first-person shooter game? Ilya Naishuller’s balls-to-the-wall action film might have the answer, as it’s shot completely from the title character’s perspective. You are an amnesiac named Henry, and your wife (Haley Bennett) has just brought you back from the dead as a super-soldier. Five minutes later, you’re going through the first of many shootouts and your wife’s been kidnapped by a Russian warlord named Akan. The warlord wants to create an army of bio-engineered soldiers, and you’re pretty much the only person standing in his way. As you slowly regain your memory and develop further abilities, you don’t know who you can trust while you attempt to rescue your wife.

Opens April 8 at the Alamo Drafthouse and the AMC Van Ness 14, the Century 20 Daly City, the Century at Tanforan, the Century San Francisco Centre 9, the Regal Jack London Stadium 9, and the UA Berkeley 7

The Invitation

Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) directs this effective thriller set in a luxurious mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Will and girlfriend Kira go to a gathering of friends hosted by David and Eden, whom they haven’t seen in at least a couple of years. What begins as an exercise in social awkwardness (Will and Eden used to be a couple until their son died) turns into steadily increasing paranoia for Will as the evening progresses. Supposedly innocuous behavior starts becoming increasingly suspicious, and it’s a question of what’s really going on and why.

Opens April 8 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Miles Ahead

Actor Don Cheadle makes his directorial debut with this portrait of legendary jazz genius Miles Davis (Cheadle) at a low point in his life. It’s the 1970s, and Davis has become a public leader in jazz innovation. However, instead of going further in his musical explorations, the musician disappears from the public eye and becomes a hermit in his own home. His hip is deteriorating and his voice has been muted by pain medications. Enter a persistent music journalist (Ewen McGregor), who manages to get Davis out of his house and on the hunt for a stolen tape of the jazzman’s newest compositions.

Opens April 8 at the Embarcadero Center Cinema and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

My Golden Days

Acclaimed director Arnaud Desplechin’s new film concerns three episodes in the youth of protagonist Paul Dedalus (played as an adult by Mathieu Amalric). These stories deal with such subjects as parental mental illness, an amateur spy mission to the USSR, and the first love of his college days. The film is in a way a coming home for Desplechin, as Dedalus was the lead character in the director’s breakthrough film My Sex Life…or, How I Got Into An Argument.

Opens April 8 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

One More Time

Christopher Walken is faded Frank Sinatra-like crooner Paul Lombard, who still hopes for a comeback. Jude (Amber Heard), one of Lombard’s daughters, has some musical talent but no personal ambition. The duo get thrown into close contact after Jude loses her Brooklyn apartment and is forced to boomerang back to Lombard’s mansion. Needless to say, their relationship gets spectacularly strained despite their emotional similarities.

Opens April 8 at the Presidio Theatre

Sardaar Gabbar Singh

Cruel Bhairo Singh runs the mining mafia in Rattanpur. Into town comes the new police officer Gabbar. The new cop, who’s a natural chick magnet, becomes a romantic rival to Bhairo for the hand of local princess Arshi. But Gabbar’s real threat to Bhairo’s rule is the cop’s being a combination Wong Fei Hong/Musashi Musashino/Captain America who regularly lays waste to Bhairo’s goons.

Opens April 8 at the Century 20 Daly City and the Century at Tanforan

Sweet Bean

Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) bakes dorayaki pancakes for his loyal clientele. The heart of the pancakes is the titular sweet red bean paste. However, making that paste is elusive for Sentaro as depression has left his baking an exercise in going through the motions. Enter the eccentric seventy-six-year-old Tokue (Kirin Kiki), the baker’s new assistant. Tokue’s revelation to Sentaro of the perfect sweet red bean paste leads to the flourishing of Sentaro’s bakery. But the old woman’s illness threatens her happy times with the baker.

Opens April 8 at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Too Late

Dennis Hauck’s debut feature tries to put a fresh spin on the Los Angeles noir genre. John Hawkes (Martha Mercy May Marlene) stars as Sampson, a private eye hired to find a missing woman (Crystal Reed). Of course, clashes with thugs and other lowlifes ensue. Hauck attempts to redeem the plot’s familiarity by a) using one 35 mm film mag per scene and b) chopping and editing the scenes so that the film’s story is told in a non-linear fashion. How well the whole thing works is one of those Your Mileage May Vary situations.

Opens April 8 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

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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