Ryan Gosling Trips The Light Fantastic

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone launch the weekend as romantic leads in an acclaimed modern day tribute to classic Hollywood musicals. Another film opening this weekend also involves a musical, but this one doesn’t star Ryan Gosling. Instead, the creative talent involved includes Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince.

Among the week’s other openings is a fantasy which portrays God as a malevolent thug. It’s also the only film this year where viewers can see a very sweet version of bestiality.

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

In 1981, legendary creators Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince premiered their new reverse chronology musical Merrily We Roll Along. Yet the show closed after just 16 performances. Director and original cast member Lonny Price tells the story of this ill-fated premiere. Viewers will learn why the musical originally bombed, the fates of the other original cast members, and the musical’s passage into legend. Interviews are had with Sondheim, Prince, Mandy Patinkin, and Frank Rich among others.

Opens December 16 at the Clay Theatre and the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood

Black Rose

A serial killer dubbed the “Black Rose Killer” has been killing a string of young Russian-American women in Los Angeles. At wit’s end, the LA Police Department bring in Russian Police Major Vladimir Kazalov (director Alexander Nevsky) to build the community rapport needed to find information to stop the killer. Kazalov and profiler Emily Smith slowly close in on the murderer. But does the Black Rose Killer actually have the upper hand?

Opens December 16 at the Roxie Theatre

The Brand New Testament

In Jaco Van Dormael’s blasphemous comedy, God (Benoit Poelvoorde) exists and lives in Brussels. However, He’s also a bastard to both humanity and His family. One day, God pushes His 10-year-old daughter Ea (Pili Groyne) too far and she retaliates. Every human in the world receives a text message telling how much time the recipient has left to live. Ea also escapes into Brussels to meet six apostles and gather their stories for her Brand new Testament. Deprived of His ultimate hold over humanity, a furious God follows Ea into Brussels’ streets. This is the one film you’ll see this year where the legendary Catherine Deneuve shares a bed with a gorilla.

Opens December 16 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas, the Rafael Film Center, and the Shattuck Cinemas

City Of Dead Men

Wandering American backpacker Michael arrives in Medellin, Colombia penniless and desperate. A beautiful girl introduces Michael to her friends, The Dead Men. They’re a group of young misfits who live in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. The group’s name comes from their attitude of living life with the expectation of dying at any minute. Michael accepts shelter and companionship from The Dead Men, but soon discovers his life may be in danger.

Opens December 16 at the Roxie Theatre

Kiki: Love To Love

Five tales of love and sexual fulfillment take place over one particularly hot Madrid afternoon. The protagonists include a man whose wife is confined to a wheelchair, a couple looking to reignite their sexual relations, and a woman unable to reach orgasm with her husband. The key to achieving their carnal fulfillment involves going beyond vanilla sex to such unusual sexual indulgences as somonophilia and dacryphilia. A co-presentation with Cine + Mas SF.

Opens December 16 at the Roxie Theater

La La Land

This Los Angeles-set modern day callback to the classic Hollywood musical comes from director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash). Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a struggling jazz pianist who dreams of opening up his own music club. Mia (Emma Stone) is an actress struggling to land a role. These two aspiring artists fall in love and support each other as they pursue careers they love. But can this duo have both a relationship and an artistic career? If you haven’t heard the soundtrack, it sounds as if both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone provide their song vocals.

Opens December 16 at the AMC Bay Street 16, the California Theatre, the Century San Francisco Centre 9, the Redwood Downtown 20, and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Theo Who Lived

In 2012, struggling American reporter Theo Padnos slipped into Syria to report on the country’s ongoing civil war. Shortly after his arrival, Padnos got kidnapped by Al Qaeda In Syria. For months, his captors tortured him because they suspected he was a CIA agent. But Padnos’ fluency in Arabic plus his own personal expansiveness led to his engaging with and even understanding his captors. By the time Padnos was released 22 months later, he had become a confidante of Al Qaeda’s top Syrian commander. David Schisgall’s documentary follows Padnos on a return trip to the Middle East, where he retraces both the events of his kidnapping and his internal struggle to survive.

Opens December 16 at the Roxie 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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