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The Writing Of James Baldwin Still Matters Today

2016’s best documentary, one where the words of James Baldwin play a significant role, is this weekend’s cinematic highlight. Black History Month gets a reminder via James Baldwin that the racial issues Baldwin wrote remain unresolved and worse.

Along with the film about James Baldwin, get a jump on this year’s Academy Awards by catching another nominee, the new film from Asghar Farhadi. It mixes Death of a Salesman with marital tension. Those seeking lighter fare should make the trip to catch a new adaptation of Journey to the West courtesy of Stephen Chow (words) and Tsui Hark (directing).

Dark Night

This ensemble drama from director Tim Sutton was of course inspired by the Aurora, Colorado shooting which took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. In a Sarasota, Florida suburb, the lives of six ordinary people are followed over the course of a day. These people include an aspiring lingerie model, a former combat engineer, and the shooter. Their lives will intersect fatally at a screening of the film Dark Night.

Opens February 3 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

I Am Not Your Negro

Director Raoul Peck delivers your must-see documentary of the week. Its springboard is the proposal for the unfinished James Baldwin book Remember This House. The book would have seen James Baldwin remembering friends and assassinated civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. Peck uses Baldwin’s words to launch a freewheeling look at the past and future of American race relations. Drawing on everything from The Birth of a Nation to the Black Lives Matter protests, the film shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Samuel L. Jackson reads the words of James Baldwin.

Now at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the California Theatre, and the Embarcadero Center Cinema

Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back

Hong Kong cinema legend Stephen Chow scripts and produces while action-meister Tsui Hark directs this new take on the classic fantasy adventure. In this buddy action/comedy, naive Buddhist monk Tang (Kris Wu) continues his pilgrimage to India accompanied by a party that includes the anti-authoritarian Sun Wukong (Kenny Lin). On the journey, Tang shows an annoying penchant for accepting charity from magically-disguised demonic Samaritans. Wukong must protect the monk from such perils as man-eating tarantula succubi disguised as beautiful women.

Opens February 3 at the Century 20 Daly City

Midsummer In Newtown

In 2014, arts organization NewArts decided to mount the community theatre production of the Shakespeare musical adaptation A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream. The play would be performed in Newtown, Connecticut, and feature many of the children who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting. Director Lloyd Kramer’s documentary captures both the play’s production process and the feelings of the survivors’ parents.

Opens February 3 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Raees

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan plays Raees, a con man who winds up becoming his town’s top bootlegger in 1980s and 1990s Gujarat, India. Using ahead of the curve thinking and revolutionary management techniques, the bootlegger develops a cult of admirers. However, when tough on crime type ACP Majmudar gets posted to Gujarat, the two men are destined to clash.

Opens February 3 at the Century 12 San Mateo

The Salesman

Academy Award-winning director Asghar Farhadi (The Past) returns with one of this year’s Academy Awards nominees. Young couple Emad and Rana perform together in an amateur production of Death Of A Salesman. When an earthquake hits Tehran and damages their flat, they’re forced to move quickly into a new apartment. However, the apartment’s previous tenant had a reputation as a “loose” woman with “clients.” After Rana gets assaulted, a wedge is slowly driven between the couple.

Opens February 3 at the Albany Twin, the Embarcadero Center Cinema, and the Smith Rafael Film Centerhe his

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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