Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Max Goldberg, Dennis Harvey, and Lynn Rapoport. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock. For complete film listings, see www.sfbg.com.
Beasts of the Southern Wild See "Delta Delight." (1:31) Embarcadero.
Katy Perry: Part of Me The candy-colored pop star makes the logical leap to big-screen 3D. (1:57) Metreon.
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present Matthew Akers' sleek and telling doc explores the career and motivations of the legendary Serbian-born, New York-based performance artist on the occasion of 2010's major retrospective and new work at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Abramovic, self-styled the "grandmother of performance art" at an eye-catching 63, steels herself with rare energy and a determination to gain equal status for performance in the world of fine art for an incredibly demanding new piece, The Artist Is Present, a quasi-mystical encounter between herself and individual museum patrons that takes the form of a three-month marathon of silent one-on-one gazing. Meanwhile, 30 young artists re-perform pieces from her influential career. Akers gains intimate access throughout, including Abramovic's touching reunion with longtime love and artistic collaborator Ulay, while providing a steady pulse of suspense as the half-grueling, half-ecstatic performance gets underway. A natural charmer, Abramovic's charismatic presence at MoMA is no act but rather a focused state in which audiences are drawn into and in turn shape powerful rhythms of consciousness and desire. (1:45) SF Film Society Cinema. (Robert Avila)
Nobody Else But You The Marilyn Monroe pop-culture resurgence continues with director and co-writer Gérald Hustache-Mathieu's appealingly low-key mystery, which pays homage to the iconic blonde while borrowing liberally from a pair of noir Lauras: Vera Caspary's back-from-the-dead heroine, and Twin Peaks' unfortunate Ms. Palmer. Fortunately, Nobody Else But You is original enough to remain both suspenseful and highly entertaining. David (Jean-Paul Rouve), a detective novelist with writer's block, travels from Paris to a small village where a Monroe-esque local beauty named Candice (Sophie Quinton) has just been found dead in a snowdrift. The official word is suicide, but David suspects something more sinister. With the help of a local cop (Guillaume Gouix), the newly inspired author investigates, urged onward by Candice's evocative diary entries. Though it tries a little hard at times (drinking game: keep track of how many times the number five appears onscreen), Nobody Else But You is well worth seeking out; it layers European flair (translation: lots of casual nudity) over a plot that wouldn't be out of place in an American indie but relocated, memorably, to "the coldest town in France." (1:42) Lumiere, Shattuck. (Eddy)
Savages Weed dudes (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) break bad, bro, by taking on a Mexican cartel in Oliver Stone's latest. (1:57) Four Star, Marina.
Take this Waltz See "Sad Romance." (1:56) Embarcadero, Shattuck, Smith Rafael.
The Amazing Spider-Man A mere five years after Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man 3 forgettable on its own, sure, but 2002's Spider-Man and especially 2004's Spider-Man 2 still hold up Marvel's angsty web-slinger returns to the big screen, hoping to make its box-office mark before The Dark Knight Rises opens in a few weeks. Director Marc Webb (2009's 500 Days of Summer) and likable stars Andrew Garfield (as the skateboard-toting hero) and Emma Stone (as his high-school squeeze) offer a competent reboot, but there's no shaking the feeling that we've seen this movie before, with its familiar origin story and with-great-power themes. A little creativity, and I don't mean in the special effects department, might've gone a long way to make moviegoers forget this Spidey do-over is, essentially, little more than a soulless cash grab. Not helping matters: the villain (Rhys Ifans as the Lizard) is a snooze. (2:18) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio. (Eddy)
The Connection The first re-release in a project to restore all of quintessential 1960s American independent director Shirley Clarke's features, this 1961 vérité-style drama was adapted from a controversial off-Broadway play by Jack Gelber. Set exclusively in a dingy Greenwich Village crash pad, it captures a little time in the lives of several junkies there many off-duty jazz musicians listlessly waiting for the return of their dealer, Cowboy. To mimic the stage version's breaking of the fourth wall between actors and spectators, Clarke added the device of two fictive filmmakers who are trying to record this "shocking" junkie scene, yet grow frustrated at their subjects' levels of cooperation and resistance. With actors often speaking directly to the camera, and all polished stage language and acting preserved, The Connection offers a curious, artificial realm that is nonetheless finally quite effective and striking. A prize-winner at Cannes, it nonetheless had a very hard time getting around the censors and into theaters back home. Hard-won achievement followed by frustration would be a frequent occurrence for the late Clarke, who would only complete one more feature (a documentary about Ornette Coleman) after 1964's Cool World and 1967's Portrait of Jason, before her 1997 demise. She was a pioneering female indie director and her difficulty finding projects unfortunately
also set a mold for many talented women to come. (1:50) Roxie. (Harvey)
Magic Mike Director Steven Soderbergh pays homage to the 1970s with the opening shot of his male stripper opus: the boxy old Warner Bros. logo, which evokes the gritty, sexualized days of Burt Reynolds and Joe Namath posing in pantyhose. Was that really the last time women, en masse, were welcome to ogle to their heart's content? That might be the case considering the outburst of applause when a nude Channing Tatum rises after a hard night in a threesome in Magic Mike's first five minutes. Ever the savvy film historian, Soderbergh toys with the conventions of the era, from the grimy quasi-redneck realism of vintage Reynolds movies to the hidebound framework of the period's gay porn, almost for his own amusement, though the viewer might be initially confused about exactly what year they're in. Veteran star stripper Mike (Tatum) is working construction, stripping to the approval of many raucous ladies and their stuffable dollar bills. He decides to take college-dropout blank-slate hottie Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and ropes him into the strip club, owned by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, whose formidable abs look waxily preserved) and show him the ropes of stripping and having a good time, much to the disapproval of Adam's more straight-laced sister Brooke (Cody Horn). Really, though, all Mike wants to do is become a furniture designer. Boasting Foreigner's "Feels like the First Time" as its theme of sorts and spot-on, hot choreography by Alison Faulk (who's worked with Madonna and Britney Spears), Magic Mike takes off and can't help but please the crowd when it turns to the stage. Unfortunately the chemistry-free budding romance between Mike and Brooke sucks the air out of the proceedings every time it comes into view, which is way too often. (1:50) 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, SF Center. (Chun)
Ted Ah, boys and their toys and the imaginary friends that mirror back a forever-after land of perpetual Peter Pans. That's the crux of the surprisingly smart, hilarious Ted, aimed at an audience comprising a wide range of classes, races, and cultures with its mix of South Park go-there yuks and rom-commie coming-of-age sentiment. Look at Ted as a pop-culture-obsessed nerd tweak on dream critter-spirit animal buddy efforts from Harvey (1950) to Donnie Darko (2001) to TV's Wilfred. Of course, we all know that the really untamable creature here wobbles around on two legs, laden with big-time baggage about growing up and moving on from childhood loves. Young John doesn't have many friends but he is fortunate enough to have his Christmas wish come true: his beloved new teddy bear, Ted (voice by director-writer Seth MacFarlane), begins to talk back and comes to life. With that miracle, too, comes Ted's marginal existence as a D-list celebrity curiosity still, he's the loyal "Thunder Buddy" that's always there for the now-grown John (Mark Wahlberg), ready with a bong and a broheim-y breed of empathy that involves too much TV, an obsession with bad B-movies, and mock fisticuffs, just the thing when storms move in and mundane reality rolls through. With his tendency to spew whatever profanity-laced thought comes into his head and his talents are a ladies' bear, Ted is the id of a best friend that enables all of John's most memorable, un-PC, Hangover-style shenanigans. Alas, John's cool girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) threatens that tidy fantasy setup with her perfectly reasonable relationship demands. Juggling scary emotions and material that seems so specific that it can't help but charm you've got to love a shot-by-shot re-creation of a key Flash Gordon scene MacFarlane sails over any resistance you, Lori, or your superego might harbor about this scenario with the ease of a man fully in touch with his inner Ted. (1:46) California, Four Star, Marina, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki. (Chun)
To Rome with Love Woody Allen's film legacy is not like anybody else's. At present, however, he suffers from a sense that he's been too prolific for too long. It's been nearly two decades since a new Woody Allen was any kind of "event," and the 19 features since Bullets Over Broadway (1994) have been hit and-miss. Still, there's the hope that Allen is still capable of really surprising us or that his audience might, as they did by somewhat inexplicably going nuts for 2011's Midnight in Paris. It was Allen's most popular film in eons, if not ever, probably helped by the fact that he wasn't in it. Unfortunately, he's up there again in the new To Rome With Love, familiar mannerisms not hiding the fact that Woody Allen the Nebbish has become just another Grumpy Old Man. There's a doddering quality that isn't intended, and is no longer within his control. But then To Rome With Love is a doddering picture a postcard-pretty set of pictures with little more than "Have a nice day" scribbled on the back in script terms. Viewers expecting more of the travelogue pleasantness of Midnight in Paris may be forgiving, especially since it looks like a vacation, with Darius Khondji's photography laying on the golden Italian light and making all the other colors confectionary as well. But if Paris at least had the kernel of a good idea, Rome has only several inexplicably bad ones; it's a quartet of interwoven stories that have no substance, point, credibility, or even endearing wackiness. The shiny package can only distract so much from the fact that there's absolutely nothing inside. (1:52) Albany, Balboa, Embarcadero, Sundance Kabuki. (Harvey)