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Bruce Lee Is Nobody’s Second Banana

A consumer warning for this weekend: a supposed Bruce Lee biopic is anything but. Instead, a fictional white guy takes center stage while Bruce Lee becomes a supporting player. Wait for Shannon Lee to come out with her film about her father Bruce Lee.

Fortunately, a couple of well-received films from Sundance make their S.F. theatrical debuts. In one, the 1992 Los Angeles riots provides a backdrop for a story of black-Korean tensions. In the other, a very unlikely New Jersey woman faces huge obstacles in fulfilling her dreams of being a rap star.

Finally, of local interest is a new San Francisco-set fantasy comedy-drama about furry companions turned human.

After Love

Despite deciding to separate, Polish handyman Boris (Cedric Kahn) and Marie (Berenice Bejo) still live together with their two daughters in a Brussels flat. The mounting tensions between the two former lovers threaten to undermine what passes for domestic harmony. Boris claims he can’t afford his own apartment thanks to his irregular income. Yet does he really want half of the flat? Or is he still determined to remain part of Marie’s life?

Opens August 25 at the 4-Star Theatre

Birth Of The Dragon

Aspiring actor Steve Mc Kee is a student of arrogant rising martial artist Bruce Lee (Philip Ng). One day, Mc Kee befriends visiting Shaolin master Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia). The sifu has come to 1965 San Francisco seeking personal redemption. Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee become rivals and need a match to settle their differences. Meanwhile, Mc Kee needs both martial artists’ aid to free his girlfriend from the clutches of Chinese mob-controlled sex slavery. Very loosely based on the actual Bruce Lee vs. Wong Jack Man match.

Opens August 25 at the AMC Bay Street 16, the AMC Metreon 16, the AMC Van Ness 14, the California Theatre, the Century 12 San Mateo, the Century 20 Daly City, the Century at Tanforan, the Redwood Downtown 20, and the Regal Jack London Stadium 9

Carl Jackson’s The Jesus Freak

A youth pastor, his wife, and three friends take a cross-country trip to Las Vegas to win souls for Jesus. Among the group is Kristen, the titular Jesus Freak. She’s honest, loyal, can quote Scripture backwards and forwards and says no to pre-marital sex. But the temptations of Sin City may be too overwhelming for these evangelicals.

Opens August 25 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas

The Fencer

It’s 1953 and the Soviet Union has now occupied Estonia. Endel Nellis is an Estonian fencing master who leaves Leningrad to escape the Soviet secret police. He hides out as the sports master of a small Estonian town’s elementary school. Teaching fencing becomes Nellis’ means of raising the spirits of his listless young charges, many of whom are war orphans. Despite the principal’s hostility and a lack of proper equipment, the children under Nellis’ tutoring embrace the sport. News of a national fencing tournament in Leningrad puts Nellis in a dilemma: the children want to participate, but Nellis knows returning to Leningrad means possible arrest. Based on a true story.

Opens August 25 at the Opera Plaza Cinemas, the Shattuck Cinemas, and the Smith Rafael Film Center

A Gentleman: Sundar, Susheel, Risky

Unit X is a secret spy and assassin group which kills anyone threatening the group’s existence. Handsome Malhtora plays a Unit X member who just wants to leave the spy world for a crime-free suburban life with a nine-to-five job and a beautiful house. Kavya (Jacqueline Fernandez) plays the Malhtora character’s sexy if ditzy girlfriend. But (surprise, surprise) it’s not as easy to leave a violent past behind as one may think.

Open August 25 at the AMC Metreon 16 and the Century 12 San Mateo

Gook

Eli is a Korean-American who struggles to keep his late father’s Los Angeles shoe store alive with some help from aspiring rapper brother Daniel. Yet simmering hostility from the area’s black residents make their lives difficult. The only exception is 11-year-old Kamilla, who feels like Eli and Daniel treat her more like family. But the trio’s tenuous friendship might not survive outside events. For the year is 1992, and Los Angeles’ black community is waiting with bated breath for the verdict in the trial of the cops who beat Rodney King.

Opens August 25 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

Kita Kita

Lea is a Filipino tour guide working in Sapporo. On learning her Japanese boyfriend has been cheating on her, the tour guide temporarily goes blind. Tonyo takes an interest in Lea and woos her with days of home-cooked meals. The two connect and eventually develop a romantic relationship. Lead performances from two actors who normally don’t play romantic leads liven this familiar story.

Opens August 25 at Century at Tanforan and the Century San Francisco Centre 9

Leap!

In 1880s France, orphans Felicie (Elle Fanning) and Victor (Nat Wolff) run away to Paris to pursue their dreams. She wants to be a ballerina with a prestigious ballet school. He wants to be an inventor. Pretending to be from a rich family allows Felicie to get into Paris’ Opera Ballet School. But the girl’s lack of formal dance training leaves her vulnerable to other students’ machinations. Could the mentoring of custodian Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) and Victor’s support help Felicie reach for the stars?

Now at the AMC Bay Street 16, the AMC Metreon 16, the AMC Van Ness 14, the Century 12 San Mateo, the Century 20 Daly City, the Century at Tanforan, the Redwood Downtown 20, the Regal Jack London Stadium 9, and the UA Berkeley 7

Patti Cake$

The acclaimed Sundance underdog story arrives in the Bay Area. Patricia “Dumbo” Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald, making her debut) lives a dingy and hopeless existence in a ratty part of New Jersey with her mother Barb and her grandmother (Cathy Moriarty). Patti may work as a bartender. But she burns with lyrics and rhymes that she yearns to publicly spit out. Yet even with the help of friend Hareesh, it seems Patti can’t get anyone to take her dreams seriously. Help comes via Basterd the Antichrist and his literally underground recording studio. But can she and her crew beat the high odds against success?

Opens August 25 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, the AMC Van Ness 14, and the Embarcadero Center Cinemas

Unleashed

Brilliant but socially awkward app designer Emma (Kate Micucci) has moved to San Francisco to get over her boyfriend’s betrayal. Accompanying the heartbroken designer are her beloved cat Ajax and her energetic mutt Summit. On the night of a Supermoon, Emma’s wish upon a star turn Ajax and Summit into two hot men (Justin Chatwin and Steve Howey). While the humanized Ajax and Summit try to woo their way back to their human’s couch, Emma starts learning to trust real people again.

Opens August 26 at the Roxie Theatre. Director Finn Taylor appears in person for post-film Q&A after the 8/26 and 8/27 evening shows.

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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