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Annette Bening, Alternative Single Mother

The new Mike Mills film opening this week features Annette Bening giving a career-best performance. This semi-autobiographical tale follows a makeshift family raising a teenage boy during the late-1970s’ social and political changes. Annette Bening leads the cast as the single mother heading this offbeat family.

Jackie director Pablo Larrain has another anti-biopic arriving this week. Its subject is a hedonistic and rabble-rousing poet and Communist. Yet is the story about efforts to capture him or the line between creation and created?

100 Streets

Idris Elba (The Wire, Pacific Rim) produced and stars in this contemporary London ensemble drama. Ex-rugby player Max (Elba) is cheating on his ex-actress wife Emily (Gemma Arterton). She in turn has started an affair with former friend Jake. The ex-actress is also trying to help small-time drug dealer Kingsley leave the streets for a theater career. Things soon get messy.

Opens January 13 at the Roxie Theater

20th Century Women

The semi-autobiographical new film from Mike Mills (Beginners) stars Annette Bening as Dorothea, a single mother in 1979. She wants to raise her teenage son Jamie to be a good man. So Dorothea recruits punk artist boarder Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and provocative teen neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) to help with the task. What happens next to this makeshift family is both poignant and touching. Reviewers who have seen the film say Annette Bening gives one of her best performances as the unconventional mother.

Opens January 13 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the Embarcadero Center Cinemas, and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Chronic

Chronically depressed David Wilson (Tim Roth) is a hospice nurse who cares for several terminally ill patients. Wilson bears two burdens: caring for other peoples’ dying loved ones and the decision that destroyed his family. In this deliberately paced film, people’s fears of mortality clash with their need for finding comfort and support during emotionally trying times. Winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Opens January 13 at the Roxie Theatre. Tim Roth will participate in a Skype Q&A after the 7 PM show on January 13.

Claire In Motion

College mathematics professor Claire (Betsy Brandt, Breaking Bad) refuses to believe her husband Paul is dead. Yet the ornithologist spouse failed to return from a forest camping trip and an intensive manhunt was unsuccessful. Tensions rise with both the discovery of Paul’s interest in making art and the arrival of Allison. She’s the beautiful graduate student who was both Paul’s friend and art collaborator. Can both women come together to process their mutual loss?

Opens January 13 at the Roxie Theatre

Extra Service

In this Filipino action-comedy, three sexy ex-convicts are recruited by a secret Filipino organization to recover three missing and incredibly valuable pearls. The film’s level of humor is represented by having the lead characters’ names be a pun on the acronym OMG. Only those seeking male masturbation material should bother with this film.

Opens January 13 at the Century at Tanforan

Neruda

Pablo Larrain (Jackie) creates an anti-biography of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The post-World War II Chilean government has decided (with US prompting) to crack down on Communists. Neruda (Luis Gnecco) may be a Chilean Senator and Nobel Prize-winner. But he’s also a Communist. Tasked with both arresting and publicly discrediting the poet is Police inspector Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal). Yet the cop’s dogged pursuit is less Inspector Javert and more Inspector Clouseau. And for a fugitive, Neruda treats the government pursuit as an entertainment.

Opens January 13 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas, the Shattuck Cinemas, and the Smith Rafael Film Center

Ocean Waves

Long-time anime fans will recognize this film as I Can Hear The Ocean. For newbies, this film adapts Saeko Himuro’s best-selling novel. Taku and best friend Yutaka are high school students who live in the Japanese seaside town of Kochi. The arrival of Tokyo transfer student Rikako upends this supposedly uneventful school year. The new student is beautiful but also possessed of a mercurial personality. Rikako’s presence eventually creates a life-changing love triangle among her, Taku, and Yutaka.

Opens January 16 at the Roxie Theatre

OK Jaanu

This Bollywood romantic drama wonders whether two people with very different career dreams will stay together. Adi is a promising game designer with dreams of moving to America and making it big. Tara is an architecture student who wants to pursue higher education in Paris. They like each other enough to live together. But both agree marriage isn’t for them. Ten days before Adi and Tara must separate to pursue their dreams, their feelings for each other gets put to the test.

Opens January 13 at the Century 12 San Mateo

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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