April 24, 2002


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film

Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Robert Avila, Meryl Cohen, David Fear, Dina Gachman, Susan Gerhard, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Patrick Macias, and Chuck Stephens. Film intern is Summers Henderson. See Rep Clock, page 82, and Movie Clock, page 83, for theater information.

San Francisco International Film Festival

The 45th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 18-May 2. Venues are the Kabuki 8 Theatres, 1881 Post, SF; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; New PFA Theater, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; and Park Theatre, 1275 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Tickets may be purchased at www.sffs.org or by calling (925) 275-9490. For commentary see "Picture This," page 34, or last week's Bay Guardian. All times are pm unless otherwise noted.

Wed/24

Kabuki News from a Personal War 1. Streeters 1:30. The Inner Tour 4. The Wild Bees 4. Musa the Warrior 4:15. 25 Watts 6:30. Good Husband, Dear Son 7. "Kevin Spacey: Peter J. Owens Award": Swimming with Sharks 7. Daughter from Danang 7:15. Last Marriage 9:15. Decasia 9:30. Bulworth 9:45. Vivante 10.

New PFA Theater The Trespasser 7. I Love Beijing 9:15.

Thurs/25

Kabuki The Inner Tour 10a. The Waterboys 1. Oporto of My Childhood 2. Late Marriage 3. Karmen Geï 4. Cet amour-là 4:15. Vivante 5. Stalin: Red God 5:15. Go for Broke 6:30. The Safety of Objects 6:45. Secret Ballot 7:15. "They Came from the Bay" (shorts program) 7:15. Fatma 9:15. Hope along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay and Thoth 9:30. A House with a View of the Sea 9:45. Far Away 10.

New PFA Theater Brief Crossing 7. Nights of Constantinople 9:15.

Fri/26

Kabuki "It's a Small World After All" (shorts program) 10a. Musa the Warrior 1. "By the Light of the Silvery Toon" (shorts program) 1:15. 25 Watts 2. On the Edge of Time: Male Domains in the Caucasus 4. Ichi the Killer 4:15. I'm Going Home 4:30. Cherish 6:45. "Warren Beatty: Akira Kurosawa Award": Reds 7. July Rhapsody 7:15. War and Peace 7:30. Warm Water under a Red Bridge 9:30. Smokers Only 10. The Princess Blade midnight.

New PFA Theater Daddy and Papa 4:30. In Praise of Love 7. The Ruination of Men 9:15.

Sat/27

Kabuki "It's a Small World After All" (shorts program) 11a. "Filmmaking in a Hostile World" (seminar) 11a. War and Peace 11:30a. Asoka noon. Warm Water under a Red Bridge 1. Fulltime Killer 2. What These Ashes Wanted 3:30. Smokers Only 4. Tribute 4:15. All about Lily Chou-Chou 6. Happy Times 6. Me Without You 6:45. Uncle Frank 7. CQ 9. Derrida 9:30. My Brother the Vampire (a.k.a. Getting My Brother Laid) 9:45. Van Van, Let's Party 9:45. Dogtown and Z-Boys midnight.

New PFA Theater Good Husband, Dear Son 2:30. Truly Human 4:45. L'Afrance 7. 25 Watts 9:15.

Sun/28

Kabuki What These Ashes Wanted 11a. CQ noon. Fatma 12:15. Happy Times 12:15. Rivers and Tides 1:30. "Fernando Birri: Persistence of Vision Award": Los inundados 3. All about Lily Chou-Chou 3:15. The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky 3:30. Derrida 4:30. Failan 6:15. Dance of a Dream 6:30. May 7. Hell House 7:15. In Praise of Love 9:15. Fulltime Killer 9:30. The Ruination of Men 9:30. Stalin: Red God 9:45.

New PFA Theater War and Peace 2:30. The Price of Forgiveness 7. Ravi Shankar: Between Two Worlds 9:15.

Park Go for Broke 1:15. Pier Paolo Pasolini 3:45. Cet amour-là 6:30. Read My Lips 8:45.

Mon/29

Kabuki Van Van, Let's Party 10a. Photos to Send 12:30. China 21 1. Rain 1:30. Brief Crossing 3:30. July Rhapsody 3:45. L'Afrance 4. A Chronicle of Corpses 4:30. Asoka 6. The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky 6:30. The Pinochet Case 6:45. La Spagnola 7. "Shorts in a Feature Length World" (shorts program) 9:15. Failan 9:30. Somewhere on Earth 9:30. Truly Human 9:45.

New PFA Theater Face 7. My Brother the Vampire (a.k.a. Getting My Brother Laid) 9:15.

Park The Milk of Human Kindness 7. The Princess Blade 9:15.

Tues/30

Kabuki L'Afrance 10a. Hell House 1. Daughter from Danang 1:30. Me Without You 3:45. Photos to Send 4. Bastards in Paradise 4:15. Van Van, Let's Party 4:15. The Pinochet Case 6:30. Brief Crossing 6:45. China 21 6:45. The Price of Forgiveness 7. A Chronicle of Corpses 9:15. Go 9:30. One Take Only 9:45. Tribute 9:45.

New PFA Theater "Memory Arcade" (shorts program) 7. Karmen Geï 9:45.

Park The Ruination of Men 7. Teknolust 9:15.

Wed/1

Castro "David Francis: Mel Novikoff Award": Where Are My Children? 6:30. Delbaran 9:15.

Kabuki Face 10a. Dogtown and Z-Boys 1. China 21 3:45. The Milk of Human Kindness 4. Dance of a Dream 4:15. Cherish 4:30. On the Edge of Time: Male Domains in the Caucasus 6:15. Bastards in Paradise 6:45. My Wife Is an Actress 7. "Memory Arcade" (shorts program) 9:15. Rain 9:30. Dogtown and Z-Boys 9:45. Hell House 10.

New PFA Theater I'm Going Home 7. The Pinochet Case 9:15.

Park Truly Human 7. La spagnola 9:15.

Thurs/2

Castro Hollywood Ending 7.

Kabuki "Youth or Consequences" (shorts program) 1. Somewhere on Earth 4:45. Uncle Frank 5. One Take Only 7. The Milk of Human Kindness 7:15. My Wife Is an Actress 7:15. Rivers and Tides 7.

New PFA Theater Delbaran 7. Go 9:15.

Opening

The Cherry Orchard Chekhov has never translated easily to the screen, and Zorba the Greek director Michael Cacoyannis's handsome but turgid and off-key attempt does nothing to raise that bar. Brought back to turn-of-the-century Russia after a long stint in Paris grieving over a drowned child, Lyubov Ranevskaya (Charlotte Rampling) arrives just in time to find her aristocratic clan's once-vast fortune gasp its last. Neither she nor equally tradition-bound, commonsense-deprived brother Gaev (Alan Bates) are capable of making decisions that might save the beloved family estate from being sold. Adapting the original text into English himself, Cacoyannis only makes the language seem more dated and cumbersome, and despite a potentially strong cast (also including Katrin Carlidge, Michael Gough, and Frances de la Tour), his control over performances and scene rhythms seems arbitrary at best. The result is a dreary Classics Illustrated endeavor that does Chekhov no favors. (2:17) Lumiere, Rafael. (Harvey)

*The Cat's Meow See "The Next Picture Show," page 31. (1:47) Albany, Bridge, Piedmont.

Circuit The trailer offered a dim hope that this movie just might be the male equivalent of Showgirls, but director Dirk Shafer is no Paul Verhoeven, and there's no Elizabeth Berkley-like energy and enthusiasm among the half dozen vain and veiny 'roid ravers Shafer has assembled ("introducing Paul Lekakis," the credits proclaim, when Lekakis was pumping out hi-NRG songs in the '80s) to dance through the plot. A movie about circuit parties can't avoid cliché, but it could dig beneath clonelike surfaces to reveal some insight or idiosyncrasy. Shafer opts for formulaic moralism. The characters: a Midwestern cop blinded by L.A. lights, an HIV-positive stripper who has a new lease on life, a stoner making a documentary, and a dark hustler who only has sex for money. Take a guess who dies. If you haven't fallen into a k-hole or GHB slumber, keep an eye out for Nancy Allen (great, as always) and William Katt (totally unrecognizable), united for the first time since Carrie. (2:00) Castro. (Huston)

*Domestic Violence See "Unhappy Endings," page 33. (3:16) Roxie.

Jason X Welcome back, Voorhees! (1:33) Colma, Emery Bay, Galaxy, Jack London, UA Berkeley.

Life or Something Like It See "Wig Out," page 33. (1:39) Colma, Emery Bay, Jack London, Metro, Orinda, Stonestown, UA Berkeley.

*Nine Queens See Movie Clock, page 83. (1:54) Act I and II, Embarcadero.

The Salton Sea This overly dark and brooding thriller seeks to revise the drugs-and-crime genre but instead falls flat on its face. Val Kilmer plays Danny Parker, a tattoo-covered crystal meth addict living in the seediest of worlds. But wait – actually, he's Tom Van Allen, accomplished trumpet player, whose beautiful wife was murdered by masked gunmen. The story drags out some suspense over why Tom has become Danny, but it winds up being the most predictable exercise in masculine heroism. Director D.J. Caruso shows flashes of Guy Ritchie-inspired visual tricks, but these are incongruous with the otherwise lame material. The screenplay is littered with offensive racial stereotypes and even worse Hollywood narrative clichés, and while Vincent D'Onofrio is frighteningly unrecognizable as a crazed meth dealer, he contributes nothing to the film's search for a deeper theme about identity and trauma. The only insight of lasting interest in the film is the peek into the criminal world of crystal addicts, but does the world really need an exploitative film about tweakers and crankheads? (1:43) Century Plaza, Grand Lake, Shattuck. (Henderson)

World Traveler A distinct improvement over Bart Freundlich's pretentious debut feature, The Myth of Fingerprints, this road-tripping drama has a lot of striking individual elements – wide-screen imagery, surprise plot twists, and strong performance moments – even if it ultimately doesn't seem to have a destination in mind. Billy Crudup plays Cal, a successful architect, husband, and father who suddenly panics and leaves all that behind on the brink of his son's third birthday. This delayed but severe attack of commitment phobia sends Cal hither and yon, picking up stray jobs and transient relationships while his conscience slowly burns a hole through his brain. There are some very well written and played sequences in which Cal haplessly draws out the darkest impulses in those who cross his path, including characters played by Cleavant Derricks, Julianne Moore, James LeGros, and David Keith – his own near-sociopathic irresponsibility and charm act as a lightning rod for other people's secret impulses. But like many such anecdotal soul-searching tales, World Traveler is better at looking than finding. Cal's final turnabout falls into that trap where magic realism is deployed to fuzz over a catharsis more convenient than psychologically justified. Still, this is a notably ambitious and offbeat indie flick whose roadside attractions are arresting enough to excuse an unsatisfying endpoint. (1:46) Lumiere. (Harvey)

Ongoing

*Amadeus, the Director's Cut (3:08) Grand Lake, Opera Plaza.

Amélie (1:55) Clay, Piedmont, Shattuck.

A Beautiful Mind (2:09) Metreon, Shattuck.

Beauty and the Beast: The Large Format Cinema Special Edition (1:30) Metreon Imax.

Behind the Sun Filmmaker Walter Salles (Central Station) presents a tale of blood feuds in 1910 Brazil, loosely inspired by Ismail Kandaré's novel. This impressive drama tells the story of Tonio, a young man who avenges the death of his older brother, all the while knowing he is next in line to die. When Tonio's younger brother Pacu convinces him to go see the traveling circus, both become enamored of Clara, a fire-breathing acrobat. Featuring stunning vistas of the Brazilian badlands and multiple candlelit scenes, Behind the Sun is an exquisite visual experience. Though the film sticks fairly close to a familiar formula of love, desire, death, and sacrifice, it's also an intriguing imagination of Brazilian history, with a little bit of the circus arts thrown in for fun. (1:34) Opera Plaza. (Henderson)

Big Trouble (1:25) 1000 Van Ness.

*Blade 2 (1:48) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Changing Lanes British director Roger Michell has a way of exceeding expectations. As he proved with 1999's Notting Hill, clever writing and innovative editing can raise even the most clichéd story to the level of something original. So imagine what he does with an edgy and compelling script, a cowritten effort by first-timer Chap Taylor and veteran Michael Tolkin (The Player) that digs unmercifully into the moral fabric of a corporate-driven America. With the help of unconventional D.P. Salvatore Totino (Any Given Sunday), Michell deftly weaves two polar stories – those of high-powered lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and recovering alcoholic Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson) – into an unforgiving and eye-opening whole. Though the film avoids predictability, its true Hollywood nature does eventually rear its ugly head as too many loose strings tie themselves into a neat little bow just in time for the closing credits. (1:35) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Empire, Jack London, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Cohen)

Clockstoppers (1:33) Metreon.

Death to Smoochy (1:49) Balboa, Oaks.

*E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (2:00) 1000 Van Ness.

*Frailty This thriller touches on some controversial areas (religious extremism and children committing violence) and achieves moments of genuine creepiness in its story of a small-town Texas father (Bill Paxton, making his feature directing debut) who believes he has received a life-changing vision from God. He is given a list of seemingly innocent victims, and he ropes his two young sons into the task of killing these "demons." The movie begins with a contemporary frame story in which one of the sons (Matthew McConaughey) confesses to an FBI agent that his brother is an infamous serial killer. In explanation, he narrates an extended flashback to 1979, when the two brothers have conflicting responses to the religious mania of their otherwise kind father. The young actors carry the film, with Matthew O'Leary as Fenton, who is dazed by his father's gruesome task, and Jeremy Sumpter as his younger brother, Adam, who believes in the Christian righteousness of it all. The plot gets weighed down a bit by the heavy-handed baroque imagery, and there are several predictable developments, but the story ends with a satisfying surprise twist. (1:40) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Henderson)*Gosford Park (2:17) Balboa, 1000 Van Ness.

High Crimes Director Carl Franklin shepherds the re-team of Kiss the Girls co-stars Ashley Judd (as a high-powered San Francisco lawyer) and Morgan Freeman (as a motorcyclin', sometimes on-the-wagon lawyer). The dynamic duo join forces to defend Judd's hubby (Jim Caviezel) when he's accused of a war crime he says he didn't commit. Cue standard-issue popcorn thriller tropes (threatening intruders! high-up cover-ups! people who aren't what they seem!) But even numerous plot holes, an ending that won't surprise anyone, and a distracting, annoying performance by Amanda Peet (as Judd's "hippie" sister) can't overshadow the appeal of the leads: Freeman is great as always, and Judd, to her credit, lets a little vulnerability into her ass-kicking, Double Jeopardy-honed personal. (1:55) Colma, Galaxy, Jack London, Metreon, Presidio, UA Berkeley. (Eddy)

*Human Nature Noted Björk video director Michel Gondry makes his feature debut with Human Nature, a film starring Patricia Arquette as Lila Jute, a woman whose hormones cause her to sprout hair where hair is usually not there. Human Nature's comedic quest for embarrassment is effectively painful when love forces Lila to shave off her full-body locks, pluck and paint her face, and bury herself beneath a wig. Human Nature's screenplay is by Charlie Kaufman, and traces of Being John Malkovich have spilled from that film's portal into Kaufman's follow-up. Much like Malkovich, Human Nature is a roundelay of misfired desires in which the least cunning identity thieves can't get no satisfaction. Kaufman doesn't provide blazing insights, or even pick sides, in the battle between nature and culture. Instead he uses the conflict to expose neurotic fault lines and compose a mini-encyclopedia of insecurities. Kaufman on an off day out-I.Q.s his comic screenwriting contemporaries, and while Gondry doesn't extend the technical innovation of his videos, he still has a signature style of picture-making and motion. (1:36) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Huston)

Ice Age (1:24) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Jack London, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.

In the Bedroom (2:26) Four Star.

The Independent A veteran minimogul exploiter of social trends and bikini-waxed talent, Monty Fineman (Jerry Stiller) is the subject of this fictive salute to such real-world schlockmeisters as Roger Corman and Dave Friedman. After five decades or more, Fineman's career has hit a seeming debt-riddled endpoint, yet he can't stop hustling new projects and prospective financiers. By far the most inspired material in Stephen Kessler's mockumentary are the brief "excerpts" from such past Morty triumphs as The Foxy Cheerleader Robot and Cheerleader Camp Massacre. The majority of the film is good-natured but just mildly funny, however, especially as it increasingly leans on the "dysfunctional family" rift betwixt the lead character and his long-suffering daughter (Janeane Garofalo). The Independent will amuse psychronic movie fans – albeit not half so well as its own hilarious web site (www.finemanfilms.com), which offers the full filmography of Fineman titles, including Tantric or Treat, Laughing til I Hurt You, Heil Titler!, LSD-Day, Esperanto Girls, and Fistula. (1:25) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)

*Iris The late novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch was regarded as one of the most brilliant women of her generation, and so it was especially tragic when Alzheimer's disease stole her capacity for expression. Richard Eyre's film seeks to depict the uncommon love between Iris and her husband, John Bayley, but it succeeds more in exposing the devastating effects of her disease. The actors who portray Iris, the enchanting Kate Winslet and legendary Judi Dench, deftly convey the vitality and wit that made her so widely loved in her prime. But as her condition worsens, we are subjected to continual cuts between past and present, which are intended to provide a backdrop for John's devotion but feel mostly like an eerie glimpse into Iris's own mental regression. Her deterioration is quite painful to watch, but Eyre does manage to reveal enough of Murdoch's unique philosophy to intrigue those unfamiliar with her work. (1:30) Four Star. (Cohen)

*Italian for Beginners (1:39) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.

Kissing Jessica Stein (1:47) Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck.

Lantana (2:00) Balboa, UC Berkeley.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (3:00) Grand Lake, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley.

Lucky Break This gentle British comedy doesn't pack the full emotional wallop of director Peter Cattaneo's previous effort, The Full Monty, but it mines similar territory, aiming to be infectiously upbeat despite some darker story undertones. Inept bank robber Jimmy Hands (James Nesbitt) plans to stage a prison break as the inmates perform Nelson: The Musical, a pet project of the institution's governor, Graham Mortimer (a batty Christopher Plummer). Falling in love with his musical costar, Annabel Sweep (Olivia Williams), head of the prison support unit, adds a complication to Hands's plans. The film is packed to the gills with strong support performances, notably by Lennie James, Timothy Spall, and Bill Nighy. Stick around as the titles roll for vignettes about the characters' futures as reggae star Prince Buster sings, "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think." (1:49) 1000 Van Ness. (China Martens)

*Monsoon Wedding (1:54) Albany, Embarcadero, Orinda.

*Monster's Ball (1:48) Lumiere, Shattuck.

Murder by Numbers In Barbet Schroeder's latest, the mysterious slaying of a local woman adds wrinkles to the highly controlled life of homicide cop Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock), especially when she becomes convinced the guilty are a pair of high schoolers: rich, handsome Richard (Ryan Gosling of The Believer) and rich, brilliant Justin (Michael Pitt of Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Of course, we know they did it, since we've been privy to their scheme all along – although the actual mechanics of the crime, and who did what exactly, remain cloudy until the end. Bullock is fine in this atypically dramatic turn, but Murder by Numbers belongs to Gosling and Pitt, whose scenes together have a riveting urgency that adds depth to a fairly standard crime-scene thriller. (2:01) Alexandria, Colma, Emery Bay, Galaxy, Grand Lake, Metreon, Stonestown, UA Berkeley. (Eddy)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding A shrinking wallflower raised amid over-the-top extroverts, Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) awakens from her 30-year funk after one look at lanky hunk Ian (John Corbett). She gives herself a makeover and a new career and duly snares Mr. Right. Trouble is, his family is as WASPy as they come, while hers – well, suffice it to say that parents Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan) are so ethnocentric that their suburban house is outfitted to look like the Parthenon. Wacky culture-clashing ensues. Adapting Vardalos's autobiographical stage monologue for the screen, director Joel Zwick (a TV veteran all the way back to Laverne and Shirley) doesn't do much to elevate the material above elongated-sitcom status – though if the howling response from a largely Greek American audience at a preview screening is any indication, this agreeable, predictable comedy has at least one demographic in its pocket. (2:01) Colma, Galaxy, Jack London, Shattuck. (Harvey)

National Lampoon's Van Wilder (1:35) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

*No Man's Land (1:37) Four Star.

Panic Room In this techno-thriller from Fight Club director David Fincher, recent divorcée Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart) move into a new house equipped with a secret chamber-fortress. Wouldn't you just know that on the Altmans' very first night in the town house, three variously malevolent burglars (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) break in. Panicked, mom and daughter bunker down. Unfortunately, the unwelcome guests know about the room – and what they're after is located guess where. Ever so impressively designed and shot, Panic Room gives a good ride – but there's a popcorn triviality to this material that even Fincher, a gifted filmmaker, can't overcome. (1:52) Century Plaza, Emery Bay, Jack London, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Vogue. (Harvey)

*Queen of the Damned Midnight show with audience participation and live cast. (1:41) Four Star.

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace (1:33) Rafael.

Resident Evil (1:40) Metreon.

The Rookie The Rookie tells the true story of unlikely hero Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid), a baseball pitcher who was injured before he made it to the big leagues. Coach Morris makes a deal with his small-town West Texas high school team: if they become district champs, he'll try out again. To everyone's surprise, Morris pitches better than ever and once again has the chance to get called up. This heartwarming drama is just the sort of story G.W. Bush would love, especially since it associates professional baseball with all that's right with America. Still, it's hard to dislike this film, in which the earnest Quaid comes across as a genuinely decent family man who's finally pursuing his dream. Incredibly, The Rookie gets around the usual fault of movies like this by not indulging in sappiness. At its best it gives the feel of real life in contemporary America. At worst, it's a pleasant fantasy that avoids exposing our most embarrassing faults. (2:09) Alexandria, Century Plaza, Jack London, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness. (Henderson)

*The Royal Tenenbaums (2:25) Balboa.

The Scorpion King It's hard not to like a movie in which a fabulously campy Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson fights fire ants with his teeth and rides a camel he refers to as "smart." As the future Scorpion King, Johnson muscles his way through a world filled with cartoonish villains like Memnon (Steven Brand), ruler of Gomorrah, and his mostly naked sorceress sidekick, Cassandra (Kelly Hu). Scorp is a superspecially trained mercenary hired by a coalition of local tribal leaders to kill Cassandra and bring down Memnon's empire. Of course, he soon learns that conscience rules over cash, and he decides to fight for "the people" against Memnon's ruthless armies. Writer Jonathan Hales has penned several "young Indiana Jones" straight-to-vids (as well as doing a little work on upcoming Star Wars flicks), and it shows. The Scorpion King has enough fire, arrows, swords, and armor to rouse – and please – the adolescent boy who lurks deep within us all. Chuck Russell (Eraser) knows how to direct action, and there are several genuinely great, body-hurled-through-window fight scenes in this flick. Maybe Johnson won't be the next Jackie Chan, but I hope this wacky Samoan will steal moviegoers' affections away from tired old Arnie the Aryan. (1:32) Century Plaza, Coronet, Emery Bay, Empire, Grand Lake, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley. (Annalee Newitz)

Space Station 3D This occasionally thrilling spectacle with stupendous, up-close views of the International Space Station is presented by those paragons of the art of cinema, Lockheed Martin. OK, so it's really a blatant attempt to convince taxpayers to support government contracts with defense technology corporations. Of course, the focus here is not on combat missiles but the humanitarian space mission: narrator Tom Cruise promises us that the astronauts' experiments will someday help cure unnamed diseases or benefit the environment. Cruise overarticulates his words, almost spitting them out, as he tells us about this incredible undertaking. The international crew of astronauts are convincingly portrayed as real-life heroes, though the filmmakers' attempts to manufacture drama over a particularly tough mission or personal trials of separation from family are largely futile. What's really impressive is the depiction of life in zero-g, including a simple shot of a cosmonaut eating a globule of H2O. The 3-D gimmick is not convincingly realistic, but it gives a cartoonish vitality to some incredible images. (run time not available) Metreon Imax. (Henderson)

*Son of the Bride Oscar nominee Son of the Bride is a midlife crisis movie that's somehow anti-Kevin Costner where it counts. The main wellspring is Ricardo Darín, who plays a character who's all about soul – realizing he's misplaced it, finding it, expanding it to benefit those who've suffered its lack. His Rafael Belvedere is a high-end restaurateur consumed by the daily staying-afloat of an Italian eatery his father, Nino (Héctor Alterio), opened decades ago with wife Norma (Norma Aleandro). Rafael's workaholism eventually cost him his marriage to a visibly bitter ex (Claudia Fontán) and isn't doing him any favors with the young daughter (Gimena Nóbile) or perfect, younger live-in girlfriend (Natalia Verbeke) he can barely make time for. The wake-up-and-smell crisis arrives via a heart attack just serious enough to prompt a requisite cosmic "whoa." Not much "happens" in Son of the Bride, but director-cowriter (with Fernando Castets) Juan José Campanella makes sure the pileup of small corrective incidents feels important enough. Darín's restraint feels so completely thought through that nothing else here needs to matter. He's a contained actor who excels at the hardest thing: making stillness and reflection seem vivid. (2:04) Shattuck. (Harvey)

The Sweetest Thing From the pen of South Park vet Nancy M. Pimental comes this chick-powered flick (directed by a guy, though: Cruel Intentions helmer Roger Kumble) that lands someplace between Sex and the City and Girls Gone Wild. After sassy man magnet Christina (Cameron Diaz, working her best hair since The Mask) briefly meets – and lets escape from her clutches – a guy (Thomas Jane) who just might be the One, best pals Courtney (Christina Applegate) and Jane (Selma Blair, the target of more than her share of the film's gross-out jokes) convince her to track him down. The story is featherlight, the tasteless humor so 1999, but this breakneck-paced flick manages to get by on Diaz's famous grin, the inside jokesy rapport between Diaz and Applegate, and Applegate herself, a scene-stealing second banana who gets many of the film's biggest laughs. (1:27) Colma, Emery Bay, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, UA Berkeley. (Eddy)

*Y tu mamá también Alfonso Cuarón, the latest director to owe a stylistic debt to Godard, is less concerned with praising love per se than its physical manifestation, be it in onanistic, coupled, or ménage à trois variations. Handheld camera work shakes and snakes around corners à la Raoul Coutard. Sound drops out occasionally so a narrator can digress into characters' past, present, and future. People sprout manifestos full of dogmatic statements like "Truth is cool but unattainable" and "Pop beats poetry." Of course, one of those statements is "Whacking off rules!," which I can't remember ever hearing in any of Godard's films. Welcome to someone else's glorious masterpiece. Tenoch (Diego Luna) and his best friend, Julio (Amores perros's Gael García Bernal) have the bond of being raging hormone collections trapped in the form of teenage boys on the hunt. Spotting a beautiful Spanish woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú) at a lavish wedding reception, the two would-be Lotharios invite her on a road trip to the beach. The trio hits the road in search of paradise. What they get instead is a series of sexual rocket blasts, some painful doses of maturity, and Mexico in all its permutations. (1:45) Act I and II, Century Plaza, Embarcadero, Empire, Orinda, Piedmont. (Fear)

Rep picks

*'Kung Fu Kult Classics and Saturday Midnites for Maniacs' This week's Kult Klassics double feature is Tsui Hark's 1990 action classic Once upon a Time in China, starring Jet Li, and the only-at-the-Four-Star Junk Film (see Tiger on Beat). Maniacs won't want to miss Jean-Claude Van Damme rip Hong Kong's black market fashion trade wide open in Tsui Hark's 1996 Knock Off. Four Star.*Lola (1:30) Opera Plaza.

*Promises This profoundly moving and important documentary by American filmmakers B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro, and Carlos Bolado explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of children in the midst of it. We see the texture of daily life, in which Israeli kids ride the bus to school, on the lookout for possible bombers, while Palestinian kids are surrounded by armed Israeli soldiers. The children speak directly in personally revealing interviews, showing themselves to be smart, funny, and precocious, but also deeply convinced of the righteousness of their side and strongly affected by their culture's beliefs. We are given the time to get to know these young people and see them being shaped by their social roles, even as the filmmakers provide them with an opportunity to tentatively reach out and communicate with one another. For those seeking to learn more about the motives of the currently raging war, this documentary does attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of the entire conflict, though its primary footage, from 1997 to 2000, stops short of the most recent events. Ultimately it's up to the viewer to decide whether this is an optimistic account of the possibility of reconciliation or a document of the deep and abiding chasm that separates one side from the other. Seen in today's light, the positions of both sides seem intractable, and the current conflict inevitable. (1:23) Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (Henderson)