Film Listings

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Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Dennis Harvey, and Lynn Rapoport. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock.

3RD I

The San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival runs Sept. 19-30 at various Bay Area venues. Tickets and schedule at thirdi.org/festival. For commentary, see "Cinetology."

OPENING

About Cherry See "Sex Things We Love." (1:42) Castro.

Dredd 3D See "Cinetology." (1:38)

End of Watch See "Cinetology." (1:49) Marina.

Hello I Must Be Going Blindsided by her recent divorce, 35-year-old Amy (Melanie Lynskey) flees New York City for quaint Westport, Conn., where she nurses her wounds, mostly by sleeping and watching Marx Brothers movies. Amy's protracted moping rankles her perfectionist mother (Blythe Danner, bringing nuance to what could have been a clichéd character) and concerns her workaholic father (John Rubenstein). Dad's trying to land a big client so he can "make back some of the money we lost in the market" — a subtle aside in Sarah Koskoff's script that suggests Amy's parents aren't as well-heeled as they used to be, despite the ongoing renovations to their swanky home, catered dinners, and expensive art purchases. Money woes are just one of Amy's many concerns, though, and when a distraction presents itself in the form of 19-year-old Jeremy (Girls' Christopher Abbott), she finds herself sneaking out at night, making out in her mom's car, smoking weed, and basically behaving like a teenager herself. As directed by indie actor turned director Todd Louiso (2002's Love Liza), Hello I Must Be Going is a nicely contained, relatable (self-loathing: we've all been there) character study — and props for casting the endearing Lynskey, so often seen in supporting roles, as the film's messy, complex lead. (1:35) SF Center. (Eddy)

House At the End of the Street Oh, Jennifer Lawrence, don't you know better than to poke around in that creepy house where all those murders happened? (1:43)

How to Survive a Plague David France's documentary chronicles the unprecedented impact political activism had on the course of AIDS in the U.S. — drastically curtailing its death toll within a few years despite considerable institutional indifference and downright hostility. As the epidemic here first surfaced in, and decimated, the gay male community, much of Reagan America (particularly in religious quarters) figured the death sentence was deserved. The President himself infamously refrained from even saying the word "AIDS" publicly until his final year of office, after thousands had died. Both terrified and outraged, the gay community took it upon themselves to demand treatment, education, and research. Most of this urgent 1980s overview is concerned with the rise of ACT-UP, whose angry young men successfully lobbied and shamed corporate, academic, medical, and pharmaceutical bodies into action, with the result that by the mid-90s new drugs existed that made this dreaded diagnosis no longer a necessarily terminal one. France is a journalist who's been covering AIDS practically since day one, and his first feature (made with the help of numerous first-rate collaborators) is authoritative and engrossing. Just don't expect much (or really any) attention paid to the contributions made by S.F. or other activist hotspots — like many a gay documentary, this one hardly notices there's a world (or gay community) outside Manhattan. (1:49) Embarcadero. (Harvey)

The Master See "Cinetology." (2:17) Embarcadero, Presidio.

Somewhere Between Five years ago, when filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton adopted a baby girl from China, she was inspired to make Somewhere Between, a doc about the experiences of other Chinese adoptees. The film profiles four teenage girls, including Berkeley resident Fang "Jenni" Lee, whose American lives couldn't be more different (one girl has two moms and attends a fancy prep school; another, raised by devout Christians, dreams of playing her violin at the Grand Ole Opry) but who share similar feelings about their respective adoptions. The film follows the girls on trips to London (as part of an organized meeting of fellow adoptees), Spain (to chat with people interested in adopting Chinese babies, and where the question "What does it feel like to be abandoned?" is handled with astonishing composure), and China (including one teen's determined quest to track down her birth family). Highly emotional at times, Somewhere Between benefits from its remarkably mature and articulate subjects, all of whom have much to say about identity and personal history. Lee and filmmaker Goldstein Knowlton will appear in person at select opening shows; visit www.landmarktheatres.com for more information. (1:28) Opera Plaza. (Eddy)

10 Years Channing Tatum and Rosario Dawson star in this high-school reunion comedy. Which one of them invented Post-its, again? (1:50)

Trouble with the Curve Baseball scout Gus (Clint Eastwood) relies on his senses to sign players to the Atlanta Braves, and his roster of greats is highly regarded by everyone — save a sniveling climber named Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who insists his score-keeping software can replace any scout. Gus' skill in his field are preternatural, but with his senses dwindling, his longtime-friend Pete (a brilliant John Goodman) begs Gus' daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to go with him — to see how bad the situation is and maybe drive him around. Ultimately, the film's about the rift between career woman Mickey, and distant dad Gus, with some small intrusions from Justin Timberlake as Mickey's romantic interest. Trouble with the Curve is a phrase used to describe batters who can't hit a breaking ball and it's a nuance — if an incontrovertible one — unobservable to the untrained eye. While Mickey and Gus stumble messily toward a better relationship (with a reasonable amount of compromise), Curve begins to look a bit like The Blind Side (2009), trading the church and charity for therapy and baggage. But what it offers is sweet and worthwhile, if you're tolerant of the sanitized psychology and personality-free aesthetics. But it's a movie about love and compromise — and if you love baseball you won't have trouble forgiving some triteness, especially when Timberlake, the erstwhile Boo-Boo, gets to make a Yogi Berra joke. (1:51) Four Star, Marina. (Sara Vizcarrondo)

ONGOING

Arbitrage As Arbitrage opens, its slick protagonist, Robert Miller (Richard Gere), is trying to close the sale of his life, on his 60th birthday: the purchase of his company by a banking goliath. The trick is completing the deal before his fraud, involving hundreds of millions of dollars, is uncovered, though the whip-smart daughter who works for him (Brit Marling) might soon be onto him. Meanwhile, Miller's gaming his personal affairs as well, juggling time between a model wife (Susan Sarandon) and a Gallic gallerist mistress (Laetitia Casta), when sudden-death circumstances threaten to destroy everything, and the power broker's livelihood — and very existence — ends up in the hands of a young man (Nate Parker) with ambitions of his own. It's a realm that filmmaker Nicholas Jarecki is all too familiar with. Though like brothers Andrew (2003's Capturing the Friedmans) and Eugene (2005's Why We Fight), Jarecki's first love is documentaries (his first film, 2006's The Outsider, covered auteur James Toback), his family is steeped in the business world. Both his parents were commodities traders, and Jarecki once owned his own web development firm and internet access provider, among other ventures. When he started writing Arbitrage's script in 2008, he drew some inspiration from Bernard Madoff — but ultimately, the film is about a good man who became corrupted along the way, to the point of believing in his own invincibility. (1:40) Metreon, Smith Rafael, Sundance Kabuki. (Chun)

Bachelorette A movie called Bachelorette is inevitably going to be accused of riding Bridesmaids' coattails, even if — as it happens — Bachelorette's source-material play was written years before the 2011 comedy hit theaters. (That said, there are inevitable similarities, what with the shared wedding themes and all.) Playwright turned scriptwriter-director Leslye Headland does a good job of portraying women who are repulsive in realistic ways: a decade ago, Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan), Katie (Isla Fisher) were the popular "B-Faces" at their high school and haven't matured much since. Competitive Regan is a Type A blonde; Gena's the queen of one-night stands; and Katie's a self-destructive party girl. All of them are pushing 30, and though Regan's the most functional among them, she's the hardest-hit when she learns that Becky (Bridesmaids' Rebel Wilson), always treated as a second-tier B-Face by virtue of being plus-sized, is engaged. "I was supposed to be first," Regan wails via three-way cell call to Gena and Katie, who're sympathetic to this sense of entitlement. The wedding is a fancy New York City affair, so the B-Faces reunite for what they think will be a bachelorette party for the ages. Most of the film takes place during that single night, a madcap, coke-fueled, mean-spirited spiral into chaos. It's raunchy and funny, but every character is utterly unlikable, which becomes more of a problem and less of an amusement as the movie trundles onward toward the expected happy ending. Bachelorette would've been better served by sticking with its rallying cry — "Fuck everyone!" — to the bitter end. (1:34) 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

Beasts of the Southern Wild Six months after winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance (and a Cannes Camera d'Or), Beasts of the Southern Wild proves capable of enduring a second or third viewing with its originality and strangeness fully intact. Magical realism is a primarily literary device that isn't attempted very often in U.S. cinema, and succeeds very rarely. But this intersection between Faulkner and fairy tale, a fable about — improbably — Hurricane Katrina, is mysterious and unruly and enchanting. Benh Zeitlin's film is wildly cinematic from the outset, as voiceover narration from six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) offers simple commentary on her rather fantastical life. She abides in the Bathtub, an imaginary chunk of bayou country south of New Orleans whose residents live closer to nature, amid the detritus of civilization. Seemingly everything is some alchemical combination of scrap heap, flesh, and soil. But not all is well: when "the storm" floods the land, the holdouts are forced at federal gunpoint to evacuate. With its elements of magic, mythological exodus, and evolutionary biology, Beasts goes way out on a conceptual limb; you could argue it achieves many (if not more) of the same goals Terrence Malick's 2011 The Tree of Life did at a fraction of that film's cost and length. (1:31) Four Star, Lumiere, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

Beauty is Embarrassing You may not recognize the name Wayne White offhand, but you will know his work: he designed and operated many of the puppets on Pee-Wee's Playhouse, including Randy (the blockheaded bully) and Dirty Dog (the canine jazzbo). Neil Berkeley's Beauty Is Embarrassing — named for a mural White painted on the side of a Miami building for Art Basel 2009 — charts the life of an artist whose motto is both "I want to try everything I can!" and "Fuck you!" The Southern-born oddball, who came of age in the early-1980s East Village scene, is currently styling himself as a visual artist (his métier: painting non-sequitur phrases into landscapes bought from thrift stores), but Beauty offers a complex portrait of creativity balanced between the need to be subversive and the desire to entertain. (1:27) Roxie. (Eddy)

The Bourne Legacy Settle down, Matt Damon fans — the original Bourne appears in The Bourne Legacy only in dialogue ("Jason Bourne is in New York!") and photograph form. Stepping in as lead badass is Jeremy Renner, whose twin powers of strength and intelligence come courtesy of an experimental-drug program overseen by sinister government types (including Edward Norton in an utterly generic role) and administered by lab workers doing it "for the science!," according to Dr. Rachel Weisz. Legacy's timeline roughly matches up with the last Damon film, The Bourne Ultimatum, which came out five years ago and is referenced here like we're supposed to be on a first-name basis with its long-forgotten plot twists. Anyway, thanks to ol' Jason and a few other factors involving Albert Finney and YouTube, the drug program is shut down, and all guinea-pig agents and high-security-clearance doctors are offed. Except guess which two, who manage to flee across the globe to get more WMDs for Renner's DNA. Essentially one long chase scene, The Bourne Legacy spends way too much of its time either in Norton's "crisis suite," watching characters bark orders and stare at computer screens, or trying to explain the genetic tinkering that's made Renner a super-duper-superspy. Remember when Damon killed that guy with a rolled-up magazine in 2004's The Bourne Supremacy? Absolutely nothing so rad in this imagination-free enterprise. (2:15) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

Branded (1:46) SF Center.

The Bullet Vanishes Veteran Hong Kong actor Lau Ching-wan stars as a Sherlock Holmes type in 1930s Shanghai, bumped up from prison-guard detail to homicide detective by top brass impressed with his talent, if not his unusual methods. Good timing, since there's been a series of killings at the local munitions factory, an operation run by a Scooby Doo-ish villain — in cahoots with corrupt cops — who's prone to snappy hats and checkered overcoats. Adding to the mystery: a tragic back story involving Russian roulette and blood-written graffiti promising "The phantom bullets will kill you all!" Helping solve the crimes is Nicholas Tse as "the fastest gun in Tiancheng," no slouch of an investigator himself; together, the sleuths compile evidence and recreate scenes of murders, including one that seemingly transpired in a locked room with only one exit. The Bullet Vanishes contains more plot twists, slightly fewer steampunk flourishes, and way less slo-mo fist action than Guy Ritchie's recent attempts at Holmes; though it's no masterpiece, it's a fun enough whodunit, with a reliably great and quirky performance from Lau. (2:00) Metreon. (Eddy)

The Campaign (1:25) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center.

Cane Toads: The Conquest They're baaack — and in 3D. Director Mark Lewis returns to the subject that made him famous, or notorious, in Cane Toads: The Conquest. Lewis' 1988 short doc Cane Toads: An Unnatural History — about the warty critters' population explosion after being imported to Australia as part of an unsuccessful pest-control experiment, after which they became pests themselves — is by now a cult hit, thanks to its droll tone, quirky interview subjects, and toad's-eye-view P.O.V. shots. These days, Australia's toad situation has, predictably, gotten worse — and weirder, thanks in part to the popularity of the first film, as Lewis chats up a mix of scientists, government officials, and everyday folk on the subject. High points: a man whose "traveling toad show" includes dioramas of costumed, taxidermied toads (there's a wrestling match, a nightclub scene, a highway accident, and an Aussie rules football game); advanced production values, which render our bulging-eyed buddies in lush detail; and fun 3D flourishes, as when a squeezed poison gland splatters the lens. (1:25) Smith Rafael. (Eddy)

Celeste and Jesse Forever Married your best friend, realized you love but can't be in love with each other, and don't want to let all those great in-jokes wither away? Such is the premise of Celeste and Jesse Forever, the latest in what a recent wave of meaty, girl-centric comedies penned by actresses — here Rashida Jones working with real-life ex Will McCormack; there, Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks), Zoe Lister Jones (Lola Versus), and Lena Dunham (Girls) — who have gone the DIY route and whipped up their own juicy roles. There's no mistaking theirs for your average big-screen rom-com: they dare to wallow harder, skew smarter, and in the case of Celeste, tackle the thorny, tough-to-resolve relationship dilemma that stubbornly refuses to conform to your copy-and-paste story arc. Nor do their female protagonists come off as uniformly likable: in this case, Celeste (Jones) is a bit of an aspiring LA powerbitch. Her Achilles heel is artist Jesse (Andy Samberg), the slacker high school sweetheart she wed and separated from because he doesn't share her goals (e.g., he doesn't have a car or a job). Yet the two continue to spend all their waking hours together and share an undeniable rapport, extending from Jesse's encampment in her backyard apartment to their jokey simulated coitus featuring phallic-shaped lip balm. Throwing a wrench in the works: the fact that they're still kind of in love with each other, which all their pals, like Jesse's pot-dealer bud Skillz (McCormack), can clearly see. It's an shaggy, everyday breakup yarn, writ glamorous by its appealing leads, that we too rarely witness, and barring the at-times nausea-inducing shaky-cam under the direction of Lee Toland Krieger, it's rendered compelling and at times very funny — there's no neat and tidy way to say good-bye, and Jones and McCormack do their best to capture but not encapsulate the severance and inevitable healing process. It also helps that the chemistry practically vibrates between the boyish if somewhat one-note Samberg and the soulful Jones, who fully, intelligently rises to the occasion, bringing on the heartbreak. (1:31) Presidio, Sundance Kabuki. (Chun)

Chicken With Plums Steeped in whimsy — and a longing for love, beauty, and home — this latest effort from brilliant Persian-French cartoonist-filmmaker Marjane Satrapi and director Vincent Paronnaud flaunts the odd contours of its eccentric narrative, enchants with its imaginative tangents, sprawls like an unincapsulated life, and then takes off on aching, campy romantic reverie—a magical realistic vision of one Iranian artist's doomed trajectory. Master violinist Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric) is seeking the ineffable — a replacement for his destroyed instrument — and otherwise he's determined to die. We trace the mystery of his passing, backward, with wanders through the life of his family and loved one along the way in this playful, bittersweet feast. Despite Amalric's glazed-eyed mugging, which almost spoils the dish, Satrapi's wonderfully arch yet lyrical visual sensibility and resonant characters — embodied by Maria de Medeiros, Jamel Debbouze, Golshifteh Farahani, and Isabella Rossellini, among others — satisfy, serving up so much more than chicken with plums. (1:31) (Chun)

The Cold Light of Day (1:33) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center.

Compliance No film at this year's Sundance Film Festival encountered as much controversy as Craig Zobel's Compliance. At the first public screening, an all-out shouting match erupted, with an audience member yelling "Sundance can do better!" You can't buy that kind of publicity. Every screening that followed was jam-packed with people hoping to experience the most shocking film at Sundance, and the film did not disappoint. (Beware: every review I have happened upon has unnecessarily spoiled major plots in the film, which is based on true events.) What is so impressive about Zobel's film is how it builds up a sense of ever-impending terror. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the film steps into Psycho (1960) terrain, as it boldly aims to confront a society filled with people who are trained to follow rules without questioning them. Magnolia Pictures, which previously collaborated with Zobel on his debut film Great World of Sound (which premiered at Sundance in 2007), picked up the film for theatrical release; if you dare to check it out, prepare to be traumatized as well as intellectualized. You'll be screaming about one of the most audacious movies of 2012 — and that's exactly why the film is so brilliant. For an interview with Zobel, visit www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision. (1:30) (Jesse Hawthorne Ficks)

Cosmopolis With end times nigh and the 99 percent battering the gates of the establishment, it's little wonder David Cronenberg's rendition of the Don DeLillo novel might rotate, with the stately rhythm of a royal funeral and deliciously tongue-in-cheek humor, around one of the most famed vampire heartthrobs at the cineplex. Sadly, a recent paparazzi scandal threatens to eclipse this latest, enjoyably blighted installment in the NYC urban nightmare genre. Robert Pattinson's billionaire asset manager Eric Packer takes meetings with his new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon) and staffers like his monetary theorist Vija (Samantha Morton) in his moving office: a white, leather-bound stretch limo that materializes like a sleek, imposing extension of his pale frame. Seriously disassociated from reality on multiple levels, Eric is a 28-year-old boy in a bubble, speaking of himself in third person and willing to spend all day making his way across town to get a haircut at his father's old barbershop, even though his head of security (Kevin Durand) warns him that at least one "credible threat" has designs on his life. The passing of his favorite Sufi rapper (K'Naan), a possible Rothko for sale, a mad pie-thrower, and an asymmetrical prostate all threaten to capsize those, as it turns out, not-so-humble plans. Warning: the brainier members of Team Edward might plan on finding their minds blown by this thoughtful and mordantly humorous meditation on this country's cult of money, while Cronenberg watchers will be gratified to pluck out his recurring themes, here dealt with a lighter hand than usual. At this date, rather than telegraphing how one might feel about a scene by way of, say, music, the director is increasingly comfortable with the ambiguity — and the uneasy, pleasing mix of sneaking repulsion and gimlet-eyed humor, of these scenes and their language. Thus the autoerotic-car fetishism of Crash (1996) and hallucinatory culture grazing of Naked Lunch (1991) — and that fascination with how a body intersects sexually or otherwise with a machine or "other" — seems completely natural here. Or perhaps it's a measure of how much Cronenberg's preoccupations and cinematic language have made themselves at home in the vernacular. (1:49) (Chun)

The Dark Knight Rises Early reviews that called out The Dark Knight Rises' flaws were greeted with the kind of vicious rage that only anonymous internet commentators can dish out. And maybe this is yet another critic-proof movie, albeit not one based on a best-selling YA book series. Of course, it is based on a comic book, though Christopher Nolan's sophisticated filmmaking and Christian Bale's tortured lead performance tend to make that easy to forget. In this third and "final" installment in Nolan's trilogy, Bruce Wayne has gone into seclusion, skulking around his mansion and bemoaning his broken body and shattered reputation. He's lured back into the Batcave after a series of unfortunate events, during which The Dark Knight Rises takes some jabs at contemporary class warfare (with problematic mixed results), introduces a villain with pecs of steel and an at-times distractingly muffled voice (Tom Hardy), and unveils a potentially dangerous device that produces sustainable energy (paging Tony Stark). Make no mistake: this is an exciting, appropriately moody conclusion to a superior superhero series, with some nice turns by supporting players Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But in trying to cram in so many characters and plot threads and themes (so many prisons in this thing, literal and figural), The Dark Knight Rises is ultimately done in by its sprawl. Without a focal point — like Heath Ledger's menacing, iconic Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight — the stakes aren't as high, and the end result feels more like a superior summer blockbuster than one for the ages. (2:44) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

The Expendables 2 (1:43) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Farewell, My Queen (Benoît Jacquot, France, 2012) Opening early on the morning of July 14, 1789, Farewell, My Queen depicts four days at the Palace of Versailles on the eve of the French Revolution, as witnessed by a young woman named Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) who serves as reader to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger). Sidonie displays a singular and romantic devotion to the queen, while the latter's loyalties are split between a heedless amour propre and her grand passion for the Duchess de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen). These domestic matters and other regal whims loom large in the tiny galaxy of the queen's retinue, so that while elsewhere in the palace, in shadowy, candle-lit corridors, courtiers and their servants mingle to exchange news, rumor, panicky theories, and evacuation plans, in the queen's quarters the task of embroidering a dahlia for a projected gown at times overshadows the storming of the Bastille and the much larger catastrophe on the horizon. (1:39) Opera Plaza. (Rapoport)

Finding Nemo 3D (1:40) 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki.

For a Good Time, Call&ldots; Suffering the modern-day dilemmas of elapsed rent control and boyfriend douchebaggery, sworn enemies Katie (Ari Graynor) and Lauren (Lauren Miller) find themselves shacking up in Katie's highly covetable Manhattan apartment, brought together on a stale cloud of resentment by mutual bestie Jesse (Justin Long, gamely delivering a believable version of your standard-issue young hipster NYC gay boy). The domestic glacier begins to melt somewhere around the time that Lauren discovers Katie is working a phone-sex hotline from her bedroom; equipped with a good head for business, she offers to help her go freelance for a cut of the proceeds. Major profitability ensues, as does a friendship evoking the pair bonding at the center of your garden-variety romantic comedy, as Katie trains Lauren to be a phone-sex operator and the two share everything from pinkie swears and matching pink touch-tone phones to intimate secrets and the occasional hotline threesome. Directed by Jamie Travis and adapted from a screenplay by Miller and Katie Anne Naylon, the film is a welcome response to the bromance genre, and with any luck it may also introduce linguistic felicities like "phone-banging" and "let's get this fuckshow started" into the larger culture. The raunchy telephonic interludes include cameos by Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen (Miller's husband) as customers calling from such unfurtive locations as a public bathroom stall and the front seat of a taxicab. But the two roomies supply plenty of dirty as Katie, an abashed wearer of velour and denim pantsuits, helps the more restrained Lauren discover the joys of setting free her inner potty mouth. (1:25) SF Center. (Rapoport)

Girl Model Everyone wants to be special — though of course that only works if other people aren't. The disturbingly instructive new documentary Girl Model makes a good case for not encouraging such desires in your child, because the likelihood is that someone will come along to exploit that desire, convincingly promise them fame, then leave them worse off than before. "The first secret to a successful modeling career is to start modeling at five or ten years old," says an emcee at a cattle-call showcase early on in David Redmond and Ashley Sabin's film. It's Russia, where the relatively new capitalism trickles down even less than here, so the families are even more eager to turn little Svetlana into a moneymaker. But that way lies madness, or at least deceit and disappointment. Plucked from a couple hundred pretty, rail-thin girls, 13-year-old wide-eyed blonde Nadya Vall is yanked from her rural Siberian village and mother and sent to Japan, where she fits a general type sought there. The younger the better, as talent scout Ashley Arbaugh tells us, qualifying that it's not her taste, but she's learned to see through the clients' eyes. An ex-model herself, Ashley gives off disillusioned, compromised vibes. (It takes a while for us to realize that she's a user and a hypocrite — not a buffer between the girls and harsh reality but a key part of the problem herself.) Needless to say, Nadya ends up owing rather than making money. Meanwhile Ashley lounges around the immaculate, expansive, coldly all-white house her job as middleman has earned; at the end of the film, she's telling a new group of parents "Every model has success in Japan, unlike other markets where they might go into debt. They never do in Japan." For a longer version of this review, visit sfbg.com/pixel_vision. (1:17) (Harvey)

The Imposter A family tragedy, an international thriller, a Southern-fried mystery, and a true story: The Imposter is all of these things. This unique documentary reveals the tale of Frédéric Bourdin, dubbed "the Chameleon" for his epic false-identity habit. His ballsiest accomplishment was also his most heinous con: in 1997, he claimed to be Nicholas Barclay, a San Antonio teen missing since 1994. Amazingly, the impersonation worked for a time, though Bourdin (early 20s, brown-eyed, speaks English with a French accent) hardly resembled Nicholas (who would have been 16, and had blue eyes). Using interviews — with Nicholas' shell-shocked family, government types who unwittingly aided the charade, and Bourdin himself — and ingenious re-enactments that borrow more from crime dramas than America's Most Wanted, director Bart Layton weaves a multi-layered chronicle of one man's unbelievable deception. (1:39) (Eddy)

The Inbetweeners The bro-bacchanal never stops being funny in some circles, and those acolytes might want to attempt to penetrate the thick, juicy UK accents in this writ-large version of the English sitcom of the same name. The deliciously awkward teenage boy gang's all here — with an added dose of ultragross-out humor that one-ups the American Pie gang. Brainy Will (Simon Bird), aggressively gelled Simon (Joe Thomas), super-horndog Jay (James Buckley), and lanky oddity Neil (Blake Harrison) are off on summer break before "uni" on a booze- and sex-swathed Greek isle. The goal: to get soundly laid and eradicate Simon's heartbreak over recently departed girlfriend Carli (Emily Head). As luck would have it, the bunch even stumble over some nubile, nice cuties — including doll-faced blonde Allison (Laura Haddock) and far-too-accommodating brunette Lucy (Tamla Kari) — in their quest for "fit" slatterns. In between them and a very certain happy ending, in more ways than one, are plenty of excess, barf, poo, blackouts on ant hills — what's not to love, provided you can overlook the very un-PC rumblings from this dude-a-rama? A self-fellatio interlude even takes on the Jackass posse on their own physically challenging turf. (1:37) Metreon. (Chun)

The Intouchables Cries of "racism" seem a bit out of hand when it comes to this likable albeit far-from-challenging French comedy loosely based on a real-life relationship between a wealthy white quadriplegic and his caretaker of color. The term "cliché" is more accurate. And where were these critics when 1989's Driving Miss Daisy and 2011's The Help — movies that seem designed to make nostalgic honkies feel good about those fraught relationships skewed to their advantage—were coming down the pike? (It also might be more interesting to look at how these films about race always hinge on economies in which whites must pay blacks to interact with/educate/enlighten them.) In any case, Omar Sy, portraying Senegalese immigrant Driss, threatens to upset all those pundits' apple carts with his sheer life force, even when he's shaking solo on the dance floor to sounds as effortlessly unprovocative, and old-school, as Earth, Wind, and Fire. In fact, everything about The Intouchables is as old school as 1982's 48 Hrs., spinning off the still laugh-grabbing humor that comes with juxtaposing a hipper, more streetwise black guy with a hapless, moneyed chalky. The wheelchair-bound Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is more vulnerable than most, and he has a hard time getting along with any of his nurses, until he meets Driss, who only wants his signature for his social services papers. It's not long before the cultured, classical music-loving Philippe's defenses are broken down by Driss' flip, somewhat honest take on the follies and pretensions of high culture — a bigger deal in France than in the new world, no doubt. Director-writer Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano aren't trying to innovate —they seem more set on crafting an effervescent blockbuster that out-blockbusters Hollywood — and the biggest compliment might be that the stateside remake is already rumored to be in the works. (1:52) Lumiere. (Chun)

Keep The Lights On In Ira Sachs' intensely discomfiting Keep the Lights On, Erik (Thure Lindhardt) is a Danish documentarian in late-1990s New York City, prodding his career along, spending time with friends, having casual sex with strangers. One of the latter is Paul (Zachary Booth), a publishing-house lawyer who first tells him "I have a girlfriend, so don't get your hopes up." Yet some time later they've become a tentative couple, then a live-in one. Erik is patient and easygoing, but Paul has secrets and problems all the more difficult to deal with because he denies, hides, or lies about them. He disappears for days at a time, then turns up wrecked. Crack is just the addiction we see; there are evidently others. Erik tries everything — group interventions, rehab, endless attempts at frank conversation that invariably turn into Paul accusing him of being unreasonable — but nothing sticks. It takes Erik a decade to come to terms with, and extricate himself from, a relationship in which all his best efforts only bring torment, grief, and exasperation. Keep the Lights On is the kind of excellent movie a lot of people don't like: it's not just depressing in the sense of having downbeat, difficult subject matter, it actually sets out to be unpleasant and succeeds. There is a point to that. Leaping forward a couple years at a time, leaving us to figure out how things have shifted in the interim, Sachs' script (co-written with Mauricio Zacharias) induces in the viewer the disoriented helplessness of dealing with a loved one who can't or won't tell the full truth — it's his best defense. (1:42) Lumiere. (Harvey)

Kumaré Just as there was a certain bullying pride of snark that made Bill Maher and Larry Charles' Religulous (2008) more mean-spirited than necessary, Kumaré leaves a sour, smug aftertaste. Raised in New Jersey by a first-generation immigrant family of Hindus, Vikram Gandhi proclaims himself a skeptic who started out wanting to make a documentary about the opportunistic charlatans one can find passing as spiritually enlightened gurus in both India and around the booming US yoga industry. "I wanted to prove to others looking for answers that no one is more spiritual than anyone, that spiritual leaders are just illusions," he tells us. A noble impulse. Yet somehow this took the form of growing his hair and beard out, wearing saffron robes, and posing as Sri Kumaré, a fresh-off-the-boat guru who arrives in Phoenix, Ariz. to open up shop as a one-stop spiritual guide for the gullible. He asks "Could people find the same peace in a made-up religion that they would in a real one?" But too often the real question here seems to be "How silly can I make these chumps look while starring in my very own nonfiction version of The Love Guru?" The comedy Kumaré has been primarily compared to is 2006's Borat, another Larry Charles joint. As unhappy as their portraiture in Borat made its duped participants, it was hard to feel sorry for them — given enough rope they gladly hung themselves expressing racism, homophobia, sexism, and sheer Ugly Americanism. But those who fall under Kumaré's farcical spell don't deserve to be exposed and ridiculed; they're just people with real-world issues — financial struggles, low self-esteem, empty-nest loneliness, etc. — looking for somebody to tell them what to do. (1:24) Roxie. (Harvey)

Lawless Lawless has got to be the most pretentiously humorless movie ever made about moonshiners — a criminal subset whose adventures onscreen have almost always been rambunctious and breezy, even when violent. Not here, bub. Adapting Matt Bondurant's fact-inspired novel The Wettest County in the World about his family's very colorful times a couple generations back, director John Hillcoat and scenarist (as well as, natch, composer) Nick Cave have made one of those films in which the characters are presented to you as if already immortalized on Mount Rushmore — monumental, legendary, a bit stony. They've got a crackling story about war between hillbilly booze suppliers and corrupt lawmen during Prohibition, and while the results aren't dull (they're too bloody for that, anyway), they'd be a whole lot better if the entire enterprise didn't take itself so gosh darned seriously. The Bondurant brothers of Franklin County, Va. are considered "legends" when we meet them in 1931, having defied all and sundry as well as survived a few bullets: mack-truck-built Forrest (Tom Hardy); eldest Howard (Jason Clarke), who tipples and smiles a lot; and "runt of the litter" Jack (Shia LeBeouf), who has a chip on his shoulder. The local law looks the other way so long as their palms are greased, but the Feds send sneering Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), it's an eye for an eye for an eye, etc. The revenge-laden action in Lawless is engaging, but the filmmakers are trying so hard to make it all resonant and folkloric and meta-cinematic, any fun you have is in spite of their efforts. (1:55) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Harvey)

Little White Lies In the wake of a serious accident that puts magnetic Ludo (Jean Dujardin, just briefly seen) in the hospital, his circle of closest friends go without him on their annual vacation at a beachfront summer home, courtesy of well-off restaurateur Max (Francois Cluzet) and wife Vero (Valerie Bonneton). But this year they've all got a lot of drama going on. Marie (Marion Cotillard) is suffering the uncomfortable consequences of all the lovers (male and female) she's run out on when "commitment" reared its head. Similarly, the roving eye of actor Eric (Gilles Lellouche) threatens the stable relationship he's finally sorta settled on. Hapless boy-man Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) obsesses over the longtime girlfriend who's dumping him. And Vincent (Benoit Magimel) endangers his marriage to Isabelle (Pascale Arbillot) by privately proclaiming more-than-platonic love for best friend Max — whose discomfort manifests itself in hostile behaviors that threaten to ruin everyone's stay. Actor Guillaume Canet's third film as writer-director (following the 2006 hit thriller Tell No One) has been compared, even by himself, to 1983's The Big Chill. But while that slick, somewhat glib seriocomedy's characters had 1960s activist pasts and faded ideals to square with encroaching midlife, this slicker, glibber ensemble piece is about people who've never shared much more than good times and mutual self-absorption. Though Canet has worked with most of these actors before, and developed Lies in collaboration with them, the thinly amusing, often contrived results hardly tax anyone's resources. (Nor are they equal-opportunity: star attraction Cotillard aside, he barely seems interested in the women here.) It takes two and a half hours for this overblown fluff to arrive at a group-hug freeze frame (ugh), aiming for emotional heft it still hasn't earned. (2:34) (Harvey)

Moonrise Kingdom Does Wes Anderson's new film mark a live-action return to form after 2007's disappointingly wan Darjeeling Limited? More or less. Does it tick all the Andersonian style and content boxes? Indubitably. In the most obvious deviation Anderson has taken with Moonrise, he gives us his first period piece, a romance set in 1965 on a fictional island off the New England coast. After a chance encounter at a church play, pre-teen Khaki Scout Sam (newcomer Jared Gilman) instantly falls for the raven-suited, sable-haired Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward, ditto). The two become pen pals, and quickly bond over the shared misery of being misunderstood by both authority figures and fellow kids. The bespectacled Sam is an orphan, ostracized by his foster parents and scout troop (much to the dismay of its straight-arrow leader Edward Norton). Suzy despises her clueless attorney parents, played with gusto by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand in some of the film's funniest and best scenes. When the two kids run off together, the whole thing begins to resemble a kind of tween version of Godard's 1965 lovers-on the-lam fantasia Pierrot le Fou. But like most of Anderson's stuff, it has a gauzy sentimentality more akin to Truffaut than Godard. Imagine if the sequence in 2001's The Royal Tenenbaums where Margot and Richie run away to the Museum of Natural History had been given the feature treatment: it's a simple yet inspired idea, and it becomes a charming little tale of the perils of growing up and selling out the fantasy. But it doesn't feel remotely risky. It's simply too damn tame. (1:37) Four Star, Sundance Kabuki. (Michelle Devereaux)

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2:05) SF Center.

ParaNorman (1:32) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

The Possession (1:31) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Premium Rush "Fixed gear. Steel frame. No brakes. Can't stop ... don't want to." Thus goes the gear breakdown and personal philosophy of New York City bike messenger Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an aggro rider who uses his law school-refined brain to make split-second decisions regarding which way to dart through Midtown traffic. Though bike messengers had a pop culture moment in the 1990s, Premium Rush is set in the present day, with one of Wilee's numerous voice-overs explaining the job's continued importance even in the digital era. One such example: a certain envelope he's tasked with ferrying across the city, given to him by the troubled roommate (Jamie Chung) of the pretty fellow messenger (Dania Ramirez) he's romantically pursuing. The contents of the envelope, and the teeth-gnashingly evil-cop-with-a-gambling-problem (Michael Shannon, adding some weird flair to what's essentially a stock villain) who would dearly love to get his mitts on it, are less crucial to Premium Rush than the film's many, many chase scenes featuring Wilee outwitting all comers with his two-wheeled Frogger moves. Silly fun from director David Koepp (2008's Ghost Town), but not essential unless you're a fixie fanatic or a JGL completist. (1:31) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

The Queen of Versailles Lauren Greenfield's obscenely entertaining The Queen of Versailles takes a long, turbulent look at the lifestyles lived by David and Jackie Siegel. He is the 70-something undisputed king of timeshares; she is his 40-something (third) wife, a former beauty queen with the requisite blonde locks and major rack, both probably not entirely Mother Nature-made. He's so compulsive that he's never saved, instead plowing every buck back into the business. When the recession hits, that means this billionaire is — in ready-cash as opposed to paper terms — suddenly sorta kinda broke, just as an enormous Las Vegas project is opening and the family's stupefyingly large new "home" (yep, modeled after Versailles) is mid-construction. Plugs must be pulled, corners cut. Never having had to, the Siegels discover (once most of the servants have been let go) they have no idea how to run a household. Worse, they discover that in adversity they have a very hard time pulling together — in particular, David is revealed as a remote, cold, obsessively all-business person who has no use for getting or giving "emotional support;" not even for being a husband or father, much. What ultimately makes Queen poignantly more than a reality-TV style peek at the garishly wealthy is that Jackie, despite her incredibly vulgar veneer (she's like a Jennifer Coolidge character, forever squeezed into loud animal prints), is at heart just a nice girl from hicksville who really, really wants to make this family work. (1:40) Opera Plaza. (Harvey)

Red Hook Summer It seems like lifetimes ago that Michelle and Barack found each other beneath the flicker of filmmaker Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989), so the director-cowriter's cameo in his now-graying, still-pizza-delivering Mookie guise, in this hot, bothered return to Brooklyn, reverberates with meaning. Less polemical and now complicated by an acute, confused love and loathing for certain places and faces, Red Hook Summer takes a different tact — the Red Hook projects rather than the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant — and narrows its focus on Flik Royale (Jules Brown), the reluctant young visitor to the humble home of his grandfather, Da Good Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters from Treme and The Wire). A true child of his time and place, the introverted, rebellious Atlanta kid would rather hide behind his favorite screen, a.k.a. the iPad that he's using to document his world, than engage with reality, even when it's raging in his face by way of his grandfather's fiery sermons or threats from the glowering rapper Box (Nate Parker). Only a charismatic girl his age, Chazz Morningstar (Toni Lysaith), seems to get through, despite the Bishop's passionate efforts to bond with the boy. Alas, Lee himself doesn't seem to quite get his youthful protagonist — one who's predisposed to turn inward rather than turn a politicized lens outward — and instead casts about restlessly to the detriment of this supposed coming-of-age narrative. No shock that somehow Red Hook Summer gets caught in the undertow of the magnetic Peters, who will turn heads with his take on a tormented believer, eager to forgive and equally hopeful for forgiveness. (2:01) Roxie. (Chun)

Resident Evil: Retribution (1:35) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Robot and Frank Imagine the all-too-placid deadpan of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) coming out of a home-healthcare worker, and you get just part of the appeal of this very likable comedy debut with a nonrobotic pulse directed by Jake Schreier. Sometime in the indeterminate near future, former jewel thief and second-story man Frank (Frank Langella) can be found quietly deteriorating in his isolated home, increasingly forgettable and unable to care for himself and assemble a decent bowl of Cap'n Crunch (though he can still steal fancy soaps from the village boutique). In an effort to cover his own busy rear, Frank's distracted son (James Marsden) buys him a highly efficient robotic stand-in (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard), much to his father's grim resistance ("That thing is going to murder me in my sleep") and the dismay of crunchy sibling Madison (Liv Tyler). The robot, however, is smarter than it looks, as it bargains with Frank to eat better, get healthier, and generally reanimate: it's willing to learn to pick locks, participate in a robbery, and even plan a jewel heist, provided, say, Frank agrees to a low-sodium diet. Frank flourishes, like the garden the robot nurtures in a vain attempt to interest his human charge, and even goes on a date with his librarian crush (Susan Sarandon), though can the self-indulgent idyll last forever? A tale about aging as much as it is about rediscovery, Robot tells an old story, but one that's wise beyond its years and willing to dress itself up in some of the smooth, sleek surfaces of an iGeneration. (1:30) Opera Plaza, Sundance Kabuki. (Chun)

Samsara Samsara is the latest sumptuous, wordless offering from director Ron Fricke, who helped develop this style of dialogue- and context-free travelogue with Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and Baraka (1992). Spanning five years and shooting on 70mm film to capture glimmers of life in 25 countries on five continents, Samsara, which spins off the Sanskrit word for the "ever-turning wheel of life," is nothing if not good-looking, aspiring to be a kind of visual symphony boosted by music by the Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard and composers Michael Stearns and Marcello De Francisci. Images of natural beauty, baptisms, and an African woman and her babe give way to the madness of modern civilization — from jam-packed subways to the horrors of mechanized factory farming to a bizarre montage of go-go dancers, sex dolls, trash, toxic discarded technology, guns, and at least one gun-shaped coffin. After such dread, the opening and closing scenes of Buddhist spirituality seem almost like afterthoughts. The unmistakable overriding message is: humanity, you dazzle in all your glorious and inglorious dimensions — even at your most inhumane. Sullying this hand wringing, selective meditation is Fricke's reliance on easy stereotypes: the predictable connections the filmmaker makes between Africa and an innocent, earthy naturalism, and Asia and a vaguely threatening, mechanistic efficiency, come off as facile and naive, while his sonic overlay of robot sounds over, for instance, an Asian woman blinking her eyes comes off as simply offensive. At such points, Fricke's global leap-frogging begins to eclipse the beauty of his images and foregrounds his own biases. (1:39) Embarcadero. (Chun)

Searching for Sugar Man The tale of the lost, and increasingly found, artist known as Rodriguez seems to have it all: the mystery and drama of myth, beginning with the singer-songwriter's stunning 1970 debut, Cold Fact, a neglected folk rock-psychedelic masterwork. (The record never sold in the states, but somehow became a beloved, canonical LP in South Africa.) The story goes on to parse the cold, hard facts of vanished hopes and unpaid royalties, all too familiar in pop tragedies. In Searching for Sugar Man, Swedish documentarian Malik Bendjelloul lays out the ballad of Rodriguez as a rock'n'roll detective story, with two South African music lovers in hot pursuit of the elusive musician — long-rumored to have died onstage by either self-immolation or gunshot, and whose music spoke to a generation of white activists struggling to overturn apartheid. By the time Rodriguez himself enters the narrative, the film has taken on a fairy-tale trajectory; the end result speaks volumes about the power and longevity of great songwriting. (1:25) Clay. (Chun)

Sleepwalk with Me Every year lots of movies get made by actors and comedians who want to showcase themselves, usually writing and often directing in addition to starring. Most of these are pretty bad, and after a couple of festival appearances disappear, unremembered by anyone save the credit card companies that vastly benefited from its creation. Mike Birbiglia's first feature is an exception — maybe not an entirely surprising one (since it's based on his highly praised Off-Broadway solo show and best-seller), but still odds-bucking. Particularly as it's an autobiographical feeling story about an aspiring stand-up comic (Mike as Matt) who unfortunately doesn't seem to have much natural talent in that direction, but nonetheless obsessively perseveres. This pursuit of seemingly fore destined failure might be causing his sleep disorder, or it might be a means of avoiding taking the martial next step with long-term girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose, making something special out of a conventional reactive role) everyone else agrees is the best thing in his life. Yep, it's another commitment-phobic man-boy/funny guy who regularly talks to the camera, trying to find himself while quirky friends and family stand around like trampoline spotters watching a determined clod. If all of these sounds derivative and indulgent, well, it ought to. But Sleepwalk turns a host of familiar, hardly foolproof ideas into astute, deftly performed, consistently amusing comedy with just enough seriousness for ballast. Additional points for "I zinged him" being the unlikely most gut-busting line here. (1:30) Embarcadero. (Harvey)

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) Metreon. (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) (Harvey)

Total Recall Already the source material for Paul Verhoeven's campy, quotable 1990 film (starring the campy, quotable Arnold Schwarzenegger), Philip K. Dick's short story gets a Hollywood do-over, with meh results. The story, anyway, is a fine nugget of sci-fi paranoia: to escape his unsatisfying life, Quaid (Colin Farrell) visits a company capable of implanting exciting memories into his brain. When he chooses the "secret agent" option, it's soon revealed he actually does have secret agent-type memories, suppressed via brain-fuckery by sinister government forces (led by Bryan Cranston) keeping him in the dark about his true identity. Shit immediately gets crazy, with high-flying chases and secret codes and fight scenes all over the place. The woman Quaid thinks is his wife (Kate Beckinsale) is actually a slithery killer; the woman he's been seeing in his dreams (Jessica Biel) turns out to be his comrade in a secret rebel movement. Len Wiseman (writer and sometimes director of the Underworld films) lenses futuristic urban grime with a certain sleek panache, and Farrell is appealing enough to make highly generic hero Quaid someone worth rooting for — until the movie ends, and the entire enterprise (save perhaps the tri-boobed hooker, a holdover from the original) becomes instantly forgettable, no amnesia trickery required. (1:58) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

2 Days in New York Messy, attention-hungry, random, sweet, pathetic, and even adorable — such is the latest dispatch from Julie Delpy, here with her follow-up to 2007's 2 Days in Paris. It's also further proof that the rom-com as a genre can yet be saved by women who start with the autobiographical and spin off from there. Now separated from 2 Days in Paris's Jake and raising their son, artist Marion is happily cohabiting with boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock), a radio host and sometime colleague at the Village Voice, and his daughter, while juggling her big, bouncing bundle of neuroses. Exacerbating her issues: a visit by her father Jeannot (Delpy's real father Albert Delpy), who eschews baths and tries to smuggle an unseemly selection of sausages and cheeses into the country; her provocative sister Rose (Alexia Landeau), who's given to nipple slips in yoga class and Marion and Mingus' apartment; and Rose's boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who's trouble all around. The gang's in NYC for Marion's one-woman show, in which she hopes to auction off her soul to the highest, and hopefully most benevolent, bidder. Rock, of course, brings the wisecracks to this charming, shambolic urban chamber comedy, as well as, surprisingly, a dose of gravitas, as Marion's aggrieved squeeze — he's uncertain whether these home invaders are intentionally racist, cultural clueless, or simply bonkers but he's far too polite to blurt out those familiar Rock truths. The key, however, is Delpy — part Woody Allen, if the Woodman were a maturing, ever-metamorphosing French beauty — and part unique creature of her own making, given to questioning her identity, ideas of life and death, and the existence of the soul. 2 Days in New York is just a sliver of life, but buoyed by Delpy's thoughtful, lightly madcap spirit. You're drawn in, wanting to see what happens next after the days are done. (1:31) Bridge, Smith Rafael. (Chun)

The Words We meet novelist Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) as he's making his way from a posh building to a cab in the rain; it's important the shot obscures his generally shiny exterior, because we're meant to believe this guy's a sincere and struggling novelist. Jeremy Irons, aged with flappy eye makeup, watches him vengefully. Seems Rory fell upon the unpublished novel Irons' character wrote in sadness and loss — and feeling himself incapable of penning such prose, transcribed the whole thing. When his lady friend (Zoe Saldana) encourages him to sell it, he becomes the next great American writer. He's living the dream on another man's sweat. But that's not the tragedy, exactly, because The Words isn't so concerned with the work of being a writer — it's concerned with the look and insecurity of it. Bradley and Irons aren't "real," they're characters in a story read by Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) while the opportunistic, suggestive Daniella (Olivia Wilde) comes onto him. She can tell you everything about Clay, yet she hasn't read the book that's made him the toast of the town — The Words, which is all about a young plagiarist and the elderly writer he steals from. "I don't know how things happen!", the slimy, cowering writers each exclaim. So, how do you sell a book? Publish a book? Make a living from a book? How much wine does it take to bed Olivia Wilde? Sure, they don't know how things happen; they only know what it looks like to finish reading Hemingway at a café or watch the sun rise over a typewriter. Rarely has a movie done such a trite job of depicting the process of what it's like to be a writer — though if you found nothing suspect about, say, Owen Wilson casually re-editing his 400-page book in one afternoon in last year's Midnight in Paris, perhaps you won't be so offended by The Words, either. (1:36) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Vizcarrondo)