Natalie Portman Channels Jackie Kennedy

Natalie Portman leads the weekend’s openings with her performance as Jacqueline Kennedy in Pablo Larrain’s new acclaimed film. The actress studied the real-life First Lady intently for this role. So come watch the film that may well earn Natalie Portman another Oscar nod.

For those who can’t stand movies with Natalie Portman for whatever reason, try checking out some of these alternatives. There’s an acclaimed documentary about the worlds of desperate African refugees and Italian residents united by a small island. Steven Okizaki delivers a documentary portrait of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. And the director of Innocence returns with a disturbing cinematic enigma set at a seaside village.

Between Natalie Portman as Jackie and Jessica Chastain’s turn as a ruthless lobbyist, there’s no shortage of good female lead performances this weekend.

All We Had: Katie Holmes As A Rootless Single Mother

Actress Katie Holmes makes her directorial debut in this adaptation of Annie Weatherwax’s novel of the same name. Rita Carmichael (Holmes) and teen daughter Ruthie move from one town to the next. Repeatedly, Rita falls in love with a dishonest man who promises stability and then things go badly. Then one day, a grift gone wrong at a small town diner forces the duo into stability. Rita involuntarily begins work as a diner waitress to pay for her stolen meals. She eventually does well enough that it’s a win-win for everyone. Then a local real estate agent convinces Rita to take a subprime loan on a recently foreclosed house…

Now at the 4-Star Theatre

Befikre: Bollywood Romance In Paris

In Paris, the sexist homophobe Dharam and the common-sensical Shyra turn a crazy one-night stand into a relationship. However, they soon break up because they realize they’re tempermentally incompatible. A vow to remain friends gets seriously tested after the two of them start new love lives.

Now at the Century 12 San Mateo and the Century San Francisco Centre 9

Beyond The Gates: Horror From A VCR Board Game

Two estranged brothers re-unite to liquidate their father’s old video rental store. Nobody knows what’s happened to the older man, who’s been missing for months and is a known alcoholic. In the course of the liquidation process, the brothers discover an old VCR board game called Beyond The Gates. To play the game, players must follow the videotaped instructions of an onscreen hostess (Barbara Crampton, Re-Animator). But gameplay gets serious when the brothers discover their missing father’s soul is trapped in a hellish alternate reality.

Now at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Burn Country: Setting Up Roots In The Foreign Land Of America

Osman is a former fixer for Western journalists in Afghanistan. When he’s forced to relocate to a small bohemian Northern California town, he hopes his new newspaper reporter job will help him assimilate. However, the job proves far less than he expected. More worryingly, his beat slowly brings him into the unamused path of the Sokurov Brothers crime family. Now Osman can’t return to Afghanistan, but he can’t find a purpose in America.

Now at the Roxie Theatre

Evolution: A Nightmare By The Sea

Lucile Hadzihalilovic, the acclaimed director of Innocence, returns with a disturbing new film. 10-year-old Nicolas lives in a remote seaside village where the only inhabitants are boys and adult women. The discovery of a dead boy with a red starfish on his stomach causes Nicolas to question everything about his life. What are the half-remembered images from another life flitting through the boy’s mind? Is the woman claiming she’s his mother the real deal? Hadzihalilovic leaves explanations vague, which will make audiences wonder if the reality is worse than they imagined.

Now at the Roxie Theatre

Fire At Sea: Eyewitnesses To Desperate Mediterranean Crossings

What is it like to live on the frontlines of an ongoing humanitarian disaster? The Italian island of Lampedusa has been the destination of African refugees hoping to eventually reach the safety of Europe. But the boats these refugees rely on are far too frequently small and barely seaworthy. So the inhabitants of Lampedusa live next to the sight of desperate people’s drowned corpses regularly pulled from the sea. Don’t miss Gianfranco Rosi’s Berlinale Film Festival award-winner.

Now at the Roxie Theatre

Jackie: Natalie Portman Gives Acclaimed Performance As Jackie Kennedy

Pablo Larrain (Neruda) scores again with this psychological drama about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In the days after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, traumatized First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) struggles to plan her husband’s funeral, console her grieving children, and preserve her slain husband’s historical legacy. In a series of flashbacks that occur during a press interview, Jackie recalls life in Camelot and the assassination itself. Beat the buzz and see the film that’s likely to earn Natalie Portman an Oscar nomination and maybe a gold statuette.

Now at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas, the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Lion: A Real Life Needle In A Haystack Search With Google Earth

When Saroo was five years old, he was accidentally separated from his family and eventually wound up in a Calcutta orphanage. Fortunately, he was adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham) and grew up safe and secure. However, the emotional cost of Saroo’s new life was paid by his suppressing any thought of trying to re-unify with his mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some Indians eventually re-awakens Saroo’s yearning. Drawing on his scant memories, his own determination, and a new device called Google Earth, will Saroo be re-united with his long-lost birth family? Based on a true story.

Now at the Embarcadero Center Cinema

Mifune–The Last Samurai: A Portrait Of The Great Japanese Actor

Toshiro Mifune became world cinema’s first non-white action star. In 16 collaborations with seminal director Akira Kurosawa, Mifune’s performances in such films as Seven Samurai and Yojimbo would influence the likes of Sergio Leone and George Lucas. Academy Award-winning documentarian Steven Okizaki (Days Of Waiting) tells the story of Mifune’s life with generous clips from Mifune’s films, recollections of such seminal incidents as the falling out between Mifune and Kurosawa, and interviews with people ranging from Mifune’s son to the fight director killed more than a hundred times by Mifune.

Now at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

Miss Sloane: Jessica Chastain Vs. Pro-Gun Lobbyists

John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) directs Jessica Chastain in a thriller set in the high stakes world of Washington, D.C. political lobbying. Powerhouse lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) has built a ferocious reputation for deviousness and a fierce determination to win at any cost. After rejecting a job by an NRA-like organization to do a pro-gun ownership campaign, Sloane joins a boutique lobbying firm to argue for gun background checks. When the veteran lobbyist goes up against the pro-gun organization, the price required to win may be far more than Sloane feels comfortable paying.

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

Old Stone: A Good Deed Goes Nightmarishly Wrong

Taxi driver Lao Shi makes an accidental swerve and hits a motorcyclist. But when neither police nor ambulance arrives, Lao thinks nothing of driving the injured man to the hospital and checking him in. That selfless act backfires on the taxi driver. Becoming liable for the injured motorcyclist’s ruinous hospital bills is just one part of a developing nightmare. To save his cab, his job, and his family, Lao is forced to take very desperate measures.

Now at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

Sugar Mountain: Deception And Pursuit In The Alaskan Wilderness

To escape his debts to a vicious local thug (Jason Momoa), Miles convinces girlfriend Lauren and brother Liam to help fake his disappearance in the Alaskan wilderness. The local sheriff (Cary Elwes) mistakenly thinks Miles’ disappearance indicates foul play. The discovery of a shocking secret forces Lauren and Liam to stay one step ahead of both the crooks and the cops.

Now at the 4-Star Theatre

The Super Parental Guardians

Arci is a gay social media manager who becomes an involuntary godfather after his best friend Sarah gets murdered. Paco, Sarah’s stuntman brother and gang leader, co-habitates with Arci to raise Sarah’s orphaned children. Can these two men change their lives around, raise two kids, and avoid getting killed by a criminal syndicate that very much wants them dead?

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

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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