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Young Barack Obama Meets Michelle

A charmingly loose recounting of the first date of Barack Obama and Michelle Alexander highlights the week’s openings. The Barack Obama portrayed here is not someone already aware of his future destiny. But the film shows how this date would eventually lead to the creation of the future First Couple.

For those who dislike Barack Obama for Trumpian reasons, they can catch a biopic about the founder of the Jesuits. For the rest of us, there are debut directorial efforts from actresses Clea DuVall and Natalie Portman. There’s a fish out of water comedy-drama about an aspiring black rapper in Heidelberg. And there’s a documentary about Disney Studios’ first African-American artist.

Floyd Norman: An Animated Life

Do you love Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book and/or Scooby Doo? Then thank animator Floyd Norman, the man who worked on these and other famed animated works. Michael Fiore and Eric Sharkey’s new documentary pays tribute to Disney Studios’ first African-American artist. Still active at age 81, Norman has been referred to as the Forrest Gump of animation. This film will show why he earned that title.

Now at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Ignacio de Loyola

This Philippine-produced religious biopic tells the story of Ignacio de Loyola. Drawn from de Loyola’s memoirs, the film tells how this soldier eventually became the founder of the Jesuit order. It captures de Loyola’s struggles, both physical (the Battle of Pamplona) and emotional (depression and near-suicide). But de Loyola’s biggest challenge would be against the forces of the Inquisition.

Now at the Century at Tanforan

The Intervention

Clea Duvall makes her directorial debut with this ensemble comedy/drama. Four couples gather for a weekend getaway. But this supposedly friendly reunion is actually a scheme orchestrated to provide an intervention on the marriage of couple Peter (Vincent Piazza) and Ruby (Cobie Smulders). The intervention’s goal, though, is convincing Peter and Ruby to get a divorce.

Now at the Roxie Theatre

Ixcanul

This Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear award-winner comes from Guatemala. A traditional Mayan family of coffee pickers lead a hardscrabble life living on a volcano’s side. The parents plan to marry pretty daughter Maria off to the plantation foreman. Maria, on the other hand, wants to run away with coffee cutter Pepe to the United States. But Pepe’s abandonment of the now pregnant Maria becomes the first of many betrayals befalling the girl.

Now at the Opera Plaza Cinema and the Shattuck Cinemas

Morris From America

Widower soccer coach Curtis Gentry (Craig Robinson, The Office) has moved with his son Morris (Markees Christmas) to Heidelberg, Germany. Officially, the father has a new job coaching a soccer team. Unofficially, the duo are grieving over their recent family tragedy in an unfamiliar environment. Aspiring rapper Morris develops a crush on his slightly older and rebellious classmate Katrin. Yet the boy’s hopeless desire for a deeper connection leads him into trouble and embarrassment.

Now at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

The People v. Fritz Bauer

Lans Graume’s historical drama is set in Germany 1957. Jewish Attorney General Fritz Bauer has been continually unsuccessful in prosecuting crimes committed during the Third Reich. The German government has preferred to conceal the country’s shameful past rather than deliver justice. Now Bauer learns that Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi official who arranged mass Jewish deportations, is hiding in Buenos Aires. Instead of pursuing another prosecution, the Attorney General tips off the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Bauer’s tip leads to his prosecution by the German government for revealing state secrets.

Now at the Opera Plaza Cinema

Southside With You

It’s the summer of 1989. First year associate Barack Obama convinces attorney Michelle Robinson to spend the afternoon with him touring Chicago’s South Side. Michelle, well aware that she and Barack are the only two African American attorneys at their firm, wants to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Yet Barack’s attraction to Michelle trumps any sense of caution. Over the course of the afternoon, the duo will visit an art exhibit and watch Do The Right Thing. Neither of them will be aware that history has something bigger in store for Barack Obama than writing a book.

Now at the AMC Bay Street 16, the AMC Metreon 16, the Century 20 Daly City, the Century at Tanforan, and the Shattuck Cinemas

A Tale Of Love And Darkness

Natalie Portman’s directorial debut is based on the memories of writer Amos Oz. The setting is Jerusalem in the years before Israel achieved statehood. 10-year-old Amos lives in the city with academician father Arieh and imaginative mother Fania (Portman). The family had escaped
Nazi persecution, but the stifling tedium of everyday life weighs on Fania’s spirit. The mother cheers both herself and her son up with fanciful tales of adventure and immersion in the joys of language. But eventually young Amos must face his own new beginning with the birth of Israel.

Now at the Embarcadero Center Cinema

Time Raiders

This Chinese fantasy actioner is based on Xu Lei’s online novel series Daomu Biji. Antique shop owner Wu Xie comes from a family of tomb raiders. He recounts the story of how a mysterious piece of ancient bronze led him and his family to the lost buried kingdom of Xiwangmu Dynasty. Among the raiding party is the mysterious Zhang Qiling, a talented martial artist who has a personal mission to complete.

Now at the AMC Metreon 16

Tunnel

Kim Seong Hoon directs Bae Doo Na in this contemporary disaster movie. A new but badly constructed mountainside tunnel collapses while a man is driving through it. The government mounts a rescue operation to save his life. Yet as days pass without success, the expense of the operation and public frustration start raising questions about how far the rescuers should go to save just one life.

Now at the AMC Van Ness 14

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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