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A Life, As Summarized By The New York Times

The New York Times is connected in various ways to the weekend’s stronger openings. The operations of the Obituaries section of the New York Times lead to compelling ruminations on timelessness. A documentary about an influential but little-known record producer gets described by the New York Times as filled with behind-the-scenes stories of the music industry. And a tragic true-life tale of mental illness and death is a New York Times Critic’s Pick.

3 Generations

Teenage Ray (Elle Fanning) is determined to start transitioning to a male body. However, Ray’s single mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) must track down the teen’s biological father for his consent to the transition. Meanwhile, Ray’s lesbian grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon) is having difficulty accepting Ray’s going to become her grandson. All three characters confront issues of identity and personal change.

Opens May 12 at the Grand Lake Theatre, the Presidio Theatre, and the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood

Bang! The Bert Berns Story

Love Twist And Shout, Brown Eyed Girl, and Piece Of My Heart? Then you need to thank 1960s songwriter and record producer Bert Berns. Besides those songs, he produced other well-known soul music hits and launched the career of Neil Diamond. Brett Berns’ cinematic tribute to his late father features narration by Steven Van Zandt and interviews with Ben E. King, Keith Richards, and Paul Mc Cartney among others. The New York Times review notes that the film packs plenty of music industry dish.

Opens May 12 at the Roxie Theatre and the Smith Rafael Film Center

Chuck

In the 1970s, New Jersey liquor salesman Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) has a modest prize-fighting career. But when Muhammad Ali picks Wepner as his opponent for a highly publicized title fight, Chuck’s fortunes begin to take off. The fight inspires an actor named Sylvester Stallone to create the character of Rocky Balboa. But while Stallone’s star would rise, Wepner would have to deal with his sudden fame quickly sputtering out.

Opens May 12 at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8, the Embarcadero Center Cinema, the Piedmont Theatre, and the Shattuck Cinemas

Dead Awake

Kate Bowman’s twin sister dies mysteriously in her sleep. It seems crazy that an evil hag killed the twin sister when she was sleep paralyzed. But then more people start dying in precisely the same way. You can pretty much guess Kate’s next steps.

Opens May 12 at the 4-Star Theatre

Folk Hero And Funny Guy

After a disastrous stand-up comedy gig, aspiring comedian Paul (Alex Karpovsky, Girls) encounters childhood friend Jason (Wyatt Russell). Paul’s old friend is a successful folk rock star and hippie image sex magnet. A set of impromptu gigs apparently spurs Jason to talk Paul into becoming his opening act. But Jason’s gigs turn out to be in low-rent venues. And there’s an ulterior motive behind Jason’s apparently generous invitation. Add to the tour mix aspiring talented singer Bryn and things get really complicated.

Opens May 12 at the Roxie Theatre

God Knows Where I Am

In 2008, the body of Linda Bishop was found in an abandoned New England farmhouse. Bishop had inhabited the house during a particularly brutal winter until her death, subsisting on apples found in an orchard and rainwater. How did this single mother with bipolar disorder and psychosis wind up in the house? Directors Jedd and Todd Wider’s documentary expands on Rachel Aviv’s article recounting Bishop’s tragic story. The film is sprinkled with actress Lori Singer’s readings from the journals Bishop kept during her farmhouse stay. Rated a Critic’s Pick by the New York Times.

Opens May 12 at the Roxie Theatre

Hounds Of Love

Ben Young’s debut film is partly inspired by David and Catherine Birnie’s real-life Moorhouse Murders serial killing spree. It’s Christmastime 1987 in the Australian town of Perth. Evelyn and John White regular kidnap teenage girls, chain them in the guest room, brutalize their victims, and then murder them. Teenage Vicki Maloney becomes the Whites’ latest kidnap victim after disobediently sneaking away to a party. While terrified by her ordeal, the teenager soon realizes that her only chance for survival is to convince Evelyn that John ultimately doesn’t have his wife’s best interests at heart.

Opens May 12 at the Roxie Theatre

The Lovers

Michael (Tracy Letts) and Mary (Debra Winger) are a middle-aged married couple whose relationship seems to be on its last legs. They’ve lost interest in each other, are carrying on extra-marital affairs, and are each planning to get divorced. But problems erupt when Michael and Mary suddenly rediscover their marital spark and now have second thoughts about breaking up. Directed by Azazel Jacobs (Terri).

Now at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8 and the Embarcadero Center Cinemas

Lowriders

Danny Alvarez lives with his recovering alcoholic father Miguel in East L.A. While both father and son are steeped in Mexican-American lowrider tradition, the two have different concepts of artistry. Miguel finds artistry in working on cars; Danny’s artistry comes from his graffiti murals. After the cops catch Danny tagging, father-son tensions increase. Things worsen when Danny’s older brother Ghost gets released from prison with a huge grudge against Miguel.

Now at the AMC Bay Street 16, the AMC Metreon 16, the Century 20 Daly City, the Century at Tanforan, and the Redwood Downtown 20

Obit.

Vanessa Gould’s documentary takes viewers behind the scenes of the obituary section of the New York Times. The paper’s reporters face deadline pressures as they write heavily researched pieces capturing the lives of the recently deceased. Yet the process of scrutinizing and summarizing lives that these New York Times reporters write about raises timeless philosophical questions. What’s worth remembering about a person’s life? What is timeless in life?

Opens May 12 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

One Week And A Day

Eyal and Vicky have finished the traditional week of shiva for their dead son Ronnie. Yet returning to their daily routines is not as easy as Vicky thinks. There’s a substitute teacher whose presence blocks Vicky’s efforts to resume her teaching job. Meanwhile, Eyal ignores Vicky’s advice and proceeds to get high with Ronnie’s medical marijuana stash. Ronnie’s still-grieving parents in short separately seek new reasons to live.

Opens May 12 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

Tracktown

Aspiring Olympic runner Plumb Marigold (director/star/real-life runner Alexi Pappas) devotes nearly every minute of her life to her sport. But after Plumb over-exerts herself in a preliminary race, the doctor orders her to take a day off from running. Instead of reveling in her free time, the aspiring runner has no idea what she should do. Will she muster the nerve to finally act on her long-time crush for “bakery boy” Sawyer?

Opens May 12 at the Marina Theatre

Two Women

The newest adaptation of the Turgenev play A Month In The Country features Ralph Fiennes (The Hotel Grand Budapest) and Sylvie Testud in supporting roles. The titular women are Natalya and her adopted daughter Vera. Natalya, a landowner’s wife, approaches middle-age with worries about her ability to still stir male desire. The far younger Vera is a blooming beauty who’s both Natalya’s ward and rival. When both women fall for Alexei, the tutor of Natalya’s son, the stage is set for sexual power plays.

Opens May 12 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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