Ken Loach Rips The UK’s Welfare System A Very Big One

Ken Loach won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for the opening of the week. In it, the proud lefty director dramatizes the cruelties of his country’s welfare system. Despite meticulous research, Ken Loach has been attacked by an English film critic for his fictional critique.

The rest of the weekend’s art and foreign film openings lack the punch of the Ken Loach film. The only other opening with some promise is a historical action film pitting Chinese soldiers versus Japanese pirates. That film is helmed by the veteran Hong Kong action film director behind the classic The Final Option.

3 Idiotas

In this Mexican remake of the Indian film 3 Idiots, two nerdy friends and their college arch rival go on a trip together. They’re searching for a college roommate and long lost buddy who disappeared on graduation day. Along the way, they might even grow up a little…we hope.

Opens June 2 at the AMC Bay Street 16, the Century 20 Daly City, the Century at Tanforan, the Century San Francisco Centre 9, and the Redwood Downtown 20

A Beautiful Accident

A fatal car accident lands a hard-bitten attorney in the afterlife. But a heavenly bureaucratic snafu returns her to Earth. However, the attorney’s reincarnated for a week as a mother who has to make amends for hurting her family. Getting to know a husband and children who are literal strangers to her is just one problem. The bigger challenge comes when this former attorney starts liking taking on another woman’s life.

Opens June 2 at the 4-Star Theatre and the AMC Metreon 16


Brian Cox plays famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in this World War II-set drama. Churchill is wrung out by depression and the years of war. Now U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery have a plan to win the war for the Allies via June 1944 landings in Normandy. But Churchill’s still lingering guilt over his responsibility for the disastrous World War I Battle of Gallipoli hobble his support for the plan. Can the support and shrewdness of wife Clementine Churchill (Miranda Richardson) give the Prime Minister the boost he needs to pull out of his funk?

Opens June 2 at the Clay Theatre, the Guild Theatre, the Redwood Downtown 20, the Shattuck Cinemas, and the UA Stonestown Twin

The David Dance

In this adaptation of Don Scime’s stage play, gay talk show host David (Scime) is a risk taker on the radio. But out of the studio, he’s a shy man child. That immaturity makes him a failed father figure to his sister Kate’s adopted child. It also means David’s reluctant to reciprocate handsome new technical assistant Chris’ crush on him.

Opens June 2 at the Presidio Theatre. Film critic Kevin Thomas will appear in person with a special guest for post-film Q&As on June 2 and 3 screenings.


Comedian Demitri Martin writes, directs, and stars in this tale of two men coming to terms with a common grief in different ways. Unable to deal with his mother’s death, illustrator Dean (Martin) leaves his New York hometown to apply for a Los Angeles ad agency job. Meanwhile, Dean’s retired engineer father (Academy Award-winner Kevin Kline) methodically tries to put his wife’s affairs in order. Despite their different responses, both men will find their plans thrown into disarray.

Opens June 2 at the Embarcadero Center Cinema

Didi’s Dreams

At night, aspiring actress Didi Shangguan dreams of owning and being chief cook at an outer space noodle restaurant whose soup flavor changes with the owner’s moods. By day, she lives in the shadow of her superstar older sister Lingling. The sisterly rivalry turns into trouble after both sisters wind up being cast in the same movie.

Opens June 2 at the Century 20 Daly City and the Century San Francisco Centre 9

God Of War

Veteran Hong Kong director Gordon Chan helms this historic actioner which has nothing to do with the video game of the same name. In 16th century China, a band of Japanese pirates have been successfully pillaging the coastal Chinese province of Zhejiang. Now General Qi Jiguang (Vincent Zhao) hopes to stomp out the pirate threat with an army he’s whipped into shape. Legendary action star Sammo Hung makes an appearance as General Qi’s former superior.

Now at the AMC Van Ness 14

I, Daniel Blake

Director Ken Loach won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme D’Or for this scathing look at the cruelties and casual inhumanity now baked into the UK’s current social welfare system. After widower and 59-year-old woodworker Daniel Blake suffers a heart attack, his doctor orders him to not work. But to receive the government stipend that assures his survival, Blake is ordered by welfare bureaucrats to look for a job and continually prove he’s disabled. In his tangles with this cruel system, the ex-woodworker meets desperate young single mother Katie. Daniel and Katie try helping each other negotiate the system. But this is a welfare system which cares little for its clients’ desperation. Quite a few of the problems dramatized by Ken Loach unfortunately exist in the actual day-to-day practice of the UK welfare system.

Opens June 2 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas, the Shattuck Cinemas, and the Smith Rafael Film Center

The Last Shaman

Depressed James Freeman heads deep into the Amazonian jungle to search for salvation from his mental health issues. Hope comes from Shipibo community shamans who use ritual and the hallucinogenic ayahuasca plant to cleanse the body and heal the soul. But are the shamans he encounters more interested in spiritual healing or making a profit off their skills?

Opens June 2 at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. James Freeman will hold a Skype Q&A after the 7:15 PM show on June 2.

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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