Takashi Miike Really Brings On The Fantasy Samurai Action

The new Takashi Miike film headlines a mostly quiet week of openings. Imagine Wolverine as an unkillable samurai. But the Takashi Miike difference is that his film’s setpieces seem insane…particularly a finale requiring 300 people.

For those who want something as wild as a Takashi Miike film but from real life, try a documentary about an annual Mexican fireworks festival. It’s packed with images that alternate happily between beauty and chaos.

All The Rage

The late Dr. John Sarno believed back pain was connected to repressed childhood memories. Fellow medical professionals may have considered him a crank. But Sarno’s unorthodox ideas helped such patients as Howard Stern and Senator Tom Harkin. Sarno’s biggest onscreen booster, though, happens to be film co-director Michael Galinsky.

Now at the 4-Star Theatre

Blade Of The Immortal

Takashi Miike’s 100th film adapts a supernatural samurai action manga. Master swordsman Manji effectively becomes immortal thanks to being fed bloodworms. Now, like Wolverine, his powers heal him from any battle-incurred injury. To reclaim his soul, the samurai dedicates himself to fighting evil. But Manji may regret his decision to help Rin avenge her parents’ murders. The perpetrators are a band of expert swordsmen led by ruthless androgynous warrior Anotsu.

Now at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas and the Shattuck Cinemas

Brimstone And Glory

Come travel to Tultepec, Mexico’s National Pyrotechnic Festival. This ten day celebration honors San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of fireworks makers. Over 3/4 of Tultepec’s residents work in pyrotechnics, and viewers get to see the spectacular results. Whether it’s paper bulls shooting out fireworks or spectacular sky-bound multicolored explosions, this documentary’s images will leave viewers awestruck.

Now at the Roxie Theatre and the Smith Rafael Film Center

The Departure

Buddhist monk Ittetsu Nemoto used to be a punk rocker; now he counsels people considering suicide. But Nemoto’s altruistic work has started to take its toll on both his personal health and his relationship with his family. Director Lana Wilson (After Tiller) helms this very spiritual documentary.

Now at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8


Kelly Noonan documentary feature debut takes a personal fact-finding journey into the world of alternative medicine. Everything from Ayurvedic medicine to a supposed medical medium are stops on her search for non-drug based solutions to mystery ailments. The skeptical and the reasonably rational would do well to skip this film.

Now at the Presidio Theatre

The Jade Pendant

Peony escapes an arranged marriage in China by fleeing to 19th century America. While working as a contracted “flower girl,” Peony meets and falls in love with American Born Chinese cook Tom. But happiness for Peony is not in the offing. Waiting in the historical wings is the largest mass lynching of Chinese immigrants in American history.

Now at the 4-Star Theatre

Most Beautiful Island

Luciana (writer/director Ana Asensio) is a Spanish immigrant living in New York City. Her life is a constant hustle to make money to pay her basic needs. After a particularly disastrous day, Luciana takes up a one-time offer of $2,000 to stand around and look attractive. But will having the job take place at a shady basement party make this immigrant regret her decision?

Now at the Roxie Theatre


It’s 1964, and Cathleen wants to become a “bride for Christ.” She joins a convent to undergo a year-long training to develop her religious commitment first as a postulant then as a novitiate. The convent’s Mother Superior (Melissa Leo) revels in sadistic exercises of authority. But Vatican II’s arrival threatens to undermine the Mother Superior’s hold over Cathleen and the other girls.

Now at the Clay Theatre

Paradise Club

Carolyn Cavallero wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical paean to 1968 San Francisco. Catherine works as a nude dancer at the womb-like Paradise Club. Yet she yearns to be part of her generation’s search for freedom and enlightenment. The decade’s turmoil will come crashing through the club’s protective doors, whether she and paternal club owner Earl Wild (Eric Roberts) like it or not.

Now at the 4-Star 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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