Between the San Francisco International Film Festival (kicks off Thu/19! Our coverage starts here) and the Castro Theatre's weekend schedule of more James Bond classics than you can shake a martini at (or a Heinekin ... gaah!), why bother even considering a first-run movie?
Yeah, all right. You make a good point there. But. BUT. Nicholas Sparks fiends aside, there are a few good reasons to hit up the ol' megaplex (or at least the ol' multi-screen arthouse). The first is a documentary perfectly suited for its 4/20 release...
Marley Oscar-winning documentarian Kevin Macdonald (1999's One Day in September; he also directed Best Actor Forest Whitaker in 2006's The Last King of Scotland) takes on the iconic Bob Marley, using extensive interviews — both contemporary (with Marley friends and family) and archival (with the musician himself) — and performance and off-the-cuff footage. The end result is a compelling (even if you're not a fan) portrait of a man who became a global sensation despite being born into extreme poverty, and making music in a style that most people had never heard outside of Jamaica. The film dips into Marley's Rastafari beliefs (no shocker this movie is being released on 4/20), his personal life (11 children from seven different mothers), his impact on Jamaica's volatile politics, his struggles with racism, and, most importantly, his remarkable career — achieved via a combination of talent and boldness, and cut short by his untimely death at age 36. (2:25) California, Embarcadero. (Cheryl Eddy)
(Note: it'll have English subtitles in the theater, obvi.)
Next up, probably the most intense South Korean-made war epic you've ever seen (unless you've seen Taegukgi)...
My Way South Korean director Kang Je-gyu (2004 Korean War epic Taegukgi) returns to the battlefield for another bombastic action flick with a very complicated bro-down at its center. This time, it's World War II, and the head-butting protagonists are not actually brothers, but lifelong frenemies: Japanese Tatsuo (mega-idol Joe Odagiri) and South Korean Joon-sik (Taegukgi star Jang Dong-gun). They meet in occupied South Korea, where class and country lines amp up their frequent confrontations as competitive long-distance runners. When WW2 breaks out, Joon-sik is forced to join the Japanese army, with guess who ordering him around; during My Way's meaty war-is-hell section, the men's relationship endures a Soviet labor camp, knife (and fist) fights, blizzards, gunshot wounds, deafness, countless explosions (including lots of exploding bodies), sprints on the beach, bellowing arguments, runaway tanks, grenades, Nazis, D-Day, and moments of heroism, cowardice, insanity, weepy emotion, and dumb luck. Somehow, Kang keeps the pace between "frenetic" and "superfly TNT" for a solid two hours — the man may not care much for subtlety, but My Way is nothing if not insanely entertaining. (1:59) SF Center. (Eddy)
And a thought-provoking documentary about change...
Surviving Progress The very definition of a movie that most needs to be seen by the people least likely to see it — i.e. most folk the right of the political dial — this excellent documentary manages to interweave virtually all the leading planet threatening woes of our era in a succinct and entertaining fashion. Its thesis is author Ronald Wright's notion that "We're at the end of a failed experiment." It's been around a while, so you've doubtless heard of it: the Industrial Revolution. That shift from small-scale, self-sustaining agrarian communities to much larger ones dependent on mass production and import-export created pockets of enormous First World wealth and comfort. But the populations that benefitted used up resources wildly out of proportion to their number; now countries like China and India want their share of the industrialized pie, just as we've realized those resources might actually run out. Cue summaries of the harm global warming, overpopulation, consumption, soil depletion, "market fundamentalism," etc. have done and will do, as duly noted here by a roster of A-list experts including Stephen Hawking and Jane Goodall. (The latter vividly contextualizes just how out of whack humanity has gone by opining that ours is the only species capable of terminating its future by destroying its own habitat.) While this may sound like a bitter pill to swallow, not to mention one you've swallowed many times before, Surviving Progress colorfully weaves together a vast assortment of audiovisual materials as well as information, to highly watchable results. Do the earth a favor: see this movie, and drag a skeptic you know along. (1:26) Lumiere, Shattuck. (Dennis Harvey)
BONUS ROUND: speaking of Jane Goodall: Disney nature doc Chimpanzee opens 4/20, too, but with a different holiday in mind: Earth Day. Just the thing if last year's depress-o-Chimp trend is still giving you the sads.
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