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Hiddleston Goes Country

A turn by Tom Hiddleston as country music legend Hank Williams will probably make I Saw The Light the most high-profile film currently in the art film theaters. But as the reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice show, high-profile doesn’t necessarily mean excellence in filmmaking. I’d recommend waiting until High-Rise comes out to get your Hiddleston needs satisfied.

The better true-life drama worth catching is Pablo Trapero’s chilling true-crime drama about an ordinary suburban family engaged in kidnapping. Ethan Hawke is said to deliver a nice turn as legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker.

Jeff Nichols’ new film is also a don’t miss. It’s more overtly science fiction-oriented, but he still shows the psychological insight skills he displayed in Take Shelter.

Born To Be Blue

Ethan Hawke plays legendary 1950s jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Thanks to his heroin addiction, by the 1960s Baker’s life and career are in ruins. Now, spurred in part by his romance with a new flame (Carmen Ejogo), the former star trumpeter is struggling with a professional comeback.

Now at the Opera Plaza Cinema and the Rafael Film Center

Chongqing Hot Pot

Writer-director Yang Qing’s comedy caper film concerns a trio of lifelong friends whose relationship fractures after making a disastrous investment in an underground eatery called “Cave Hot Pot.” A DIY expansion aimed at saving the business has unexpected consequences when the trio accidentally break into a neighboring bank vault. When an old friend and disgruntled employee of the accidentally breached bank learns of the trio’s situation, she comes up with a questionable get-rich-quick scheme. But their plans clash with a heist being planned by another gang of robbers.

Now at the AMC Metreon 16

The Clan

Acclaimed Argentine director Pable Trapero’s new film dramatizes a real-life crime story. The Puccios, led by patriarch Arquimedes, appear to be an unexceptional middle-class family who enjoy home-cooked dinners and discuss the day’s events. But eldest son and star rugby player Alejandro soon learns about the Puccios’ dark secret when Arquimedes drafts him into implementing the father’s carefully planned abductions. After kidnapping turns into murder, Alejandro is forced to face the ugly truth about his father’s nature. Trapero won the Silver Lion Best Director Award for this film at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.

Now at the Embarcadero Center Cinema

Everybody Wants Some!!

Richard Linklater’s new comedy is set at a ratty home for a college’s baseball players in 1980 southeastern Texas. Jake is a promising freshman pitcher who arrives at the team’s house before the school year starts. He nervously finds he’s not fully accepted by the other players. Unofficial team leader Roper decides to socially break the ice by taking Jake and some other team players out for a wild welcome-week trip. The trip features lots of drinking, chats about Space Invaders strategies, and even the possible hint of romance. Add in a soundtrack featuring the likes of Blondie, Van Halen, and the Sugarhill Gang, and you have a wonderful ode to the 1980s.

Now at the Century San Francisco Centre 9 and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

I Saw the Light

Tom Hiddleston plays country music legend Hank Williams in this biopic which follows the singer/songwriter’s rise to fame in the 1940s and his marriage to fellow musician Audrey Mae Williams (Elizabeth Olsen). But Williams’ alcoholism and infidelity threaten to undermine both his career and his marriage.

Hiddleston and Olsen are said to give great performances. However, when your Rotten Tomatoes critical review rating is 15% (slightly over half the cumulative critical rating for the critically slammed Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), it might be a sign to the viewer that the filmmakers have done something spectacularly wrong.

Now at the Century San Francisco Centre 9, the Clay Theatre, the Guild Theatre, and the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood

Ki And Ka

In this Hindi romantic comedy, two people develop an unusual domestic relationship. Kabir (Ka) has no career ambitions and just wants to be like his housewife mother. Kia (Ki) is so career-focused she dreams of being a company CEO. When the two accidentally meet on a flight to Delhi, they become friends. Ka eventually proposes to Ki that the two of them should get married because their life goals are so compatible. What could shake the foundations of such an ideal relationship?

Now at the AMC Metreon 16

Kill Your Friends

Ex-A&R man John Niven adapts his black-hearted novel about the music business to the big screen. It’s 1997 and Britpop rules the music charts. Unfortunately for A&R executive Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), it’s been way too long since he shepherded a #1 hit record. And the antiheroic executive is very willing to do whatever it takes to live the expense-account fueled high life again.

You might want to save your money on this one. Reviews have indicated the film is very badly made. Also, sitting through the film has been likened by one reviewer to taking a bath in anthrax.

Now at the 4-Star Theatre

Marguerite

Catherine Frot won a Cesar Award for Best Actress for her performance as the title character in this historical comedy/drama. Marguerite Dumont (Frot) is a 1920s societal pillar whose love of singing operatic arias to her guests blinds her to the awfulness of her voice. When Marguerite becomes determined to hold a public concert featuring her singing, just how badly will things turn out?

Now at the Aquarius Theatre, the Embarcadero Center Cinema, and the Rafael Film Center

Midnight Special

Director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) pays homage to early John Carpenter films with this tale of a boy with very special powers. The boy’s existence sparks a struggle among government spooks, religious zealots, and the boy’s father (Michael Shannon) to either control the child or ensure his freedom.

Now at the Alamo Drafthouse San Francisco and the AMC Metreon 16

Take Me To The River

Ryder is a gay Californian teenager who is definitely not happy being at a family reunion with his spectacularly conservative Nebraskan relatives. His decidedly eyebrow-raising antics make him an object of admiration to 9-year-old cousin Molly. When the two of them sneak out together to look for a bird’s nest in the barn’s rafters, their covert trip makes Ryder an object of family suspicion. But it also leads to the uncovering of a long buried family secret.

Now at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

Thank You For Playing

Video game programmer Ryan Green and his wife learn their son Joel has cancer. Their solution to dealing with the news of Joel’s illness is to create the video game “That Dragon, Cancer” to chart their emotional journey. David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s documentary follows the Greens over two years, as the game evolves from a medium of emotional catharsis into an acclaimed work of art.

Now at the Roxie Theater

Transfixed

Documentary subject Martine Stonehouse is a Canadian trans woman with Asperger’s syndrome. She’s engaged to fellow Asperger’s sufferer and straight male John Gelman. However, Gelman won’t have sex with Stonehouse until after she gets gender confirmation surgery. But Stonehouse’s weight and other medical issues make a transition operation a very bad idea. What can be done?

Now 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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