It's finally here! And nope, I don't mean The Amazing Spider-Meh Man, though you can check my unenthused review below the jump. (Seriously, it's not a bad movie if you can get past the obligatory product placement, but it ain't amazing, either. New countdown: two weeks 'til The Dark Knight Rises!) Nay, the hotly-anticipated title I'm referring to is Sundance hit with mainstream (and Oscars?) potential, Beasts of the Southern Wild; read Dennis Harvey's admiring review here.
Tonight, it's your civic duty to pack all seats at the Roxie's kung fu double feature. Seriously, you will have a killer time (what with all the high kicks, insane weaponry, spraying gore, krayzee wigs, and horrific dubbing), and the Roxie will be all, "Hey, kung fu is what the kids want!" and dedicate one of their screens to nightly screenings in Shawscope. DO IT. (But if kung fu isn't your thing, Midnites for Maniacs is screening a triple-feature of 1995's Clueless, 2004's Mean Girls, and my personal favorite, 1994's Heavenly Creatures, at the Castro. Not a bad alternate.)
And the rest of the n00bs: Spidey (out since Tuesday), two docs about artists, a French neo-noir sleeper with Twin Peaks-esque quirks, and Oliver Stone's new weed caper.
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) (Cheryl Eddy)
Marina Abramović: 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. Abramović, 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 Abramović’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, Abramović’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)
Neil Young Journeys Interested in going back further with Neil Young, back beyond 1969's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere? With Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) and Neil Young Trunk Show (2009) under his belt, Jonathan Demme has clearly earned the trust of the singer-songwriter, who occasionally likes to flex his multi-hyphenate creative muscles as a director himself, working under the name Bernard Shakey. The music-loving filmmaker tails Young as he drives through his hometown of Omemee, Ontario, shares glimpses of his school, named after his newspaper-man father, his small-town streets, and his home, and then takes it back to the stage and performs at Toronto’s Massey Hall. The stories and sights will interest mostly Young fans — you definitely get a feel for Young’s roots, but the place and its tales won’t jump out dramatically; they merely visualize factoids one can cull from sources like James McDonough’s bio Shakey — but performance dominates this concert film. Playing solo on guitar, harmonica, and in at least one memorable instance, pipe organ (for a hammered-home “After the Gold Rush”), the songs range from the still-moving, sprawling “Ohio” to “Love and War” off 2010’s Le Noise. It’s all love here for the Young diehard, though for an insightful, passionate tour doc, one might look to Shakey’s own CSNY/Déjà Vu (2008) or, for the performer’s finest cinematic performances, to Rust Never Sleeps (1979) and The Last Waltz (1978). (1:27) (Kimberly Chun)
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) (Cheryl Eddy)
Savages If it’s true, as some say, that Oliver Stone had lost his way after 9/11 — when seemingly many of his worst fears (and conspiracy theories) came to pass — then perhaps this toothy noir marks his return: it definitely reads as his most emotionally present exercise in years. Not quite as nihilistic as 1994's Natural Born Killers, yet much juicier than 2010's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, this pulpy effort turns on a cultural clash between pleasure-seeking, honky Cali hedonists, who appear to believe in whatever feels good, and double-dealing Mexican mafia muscle, whose apparently ironclad moral code is also shifting like drifting SoCal sands. All are draped in the Stone’s favored vernacular of manly war games with a light veneer of Buddhistic higher-mindedness and, natch, at least one notable wig. Happy pot-growing nouveau-hippies Ben (Aaron Johnson), Chon (Taylor Kitsch), and O (Blake Lively) are living the good life beachside, cultivating plants coaxed from seeds hand-imported by seething Afghanistan war vet Chon and refined by botanist and business major Ben. Pretty, privileged sex toy O sleeps with both — she’s the key prize targeted by Baja drug mogul Elena (Salma Hayek) and her minions, the scary Lado (Benicio Del Toro) and the more well-heeled Alex (Demian Bichir), who want to get a piece of Ben and Chon’s high-THC product. Folks lose their heads — in classic Mexican drug cartel style — and even zen-goon do-gooder Ben becomes complicit when Chon brings the war home to a decidedly lawless Southland. The twists and turnarounds obviously tickle Stone, though don’t look much deeper than Savages' saturated, sun-swathed façade — the script based on Don Winslow’s novel shares the take-no-prisoners hardboiled bent of Jim Thompson while sidestepping the brainy, postmodernish light-hearted detachment of Quentin Tarantino’s “extreme” ‘90s shenanigans. Our only glimpse at weird, wild depths lie in the fathomless eyes of Hayek’s soulful, castrating matriarch and the quotable interludes (“Gimme my money, gimme my money!”) bounding from Del Toro’s psycho-mulleted, striving maniac. (1:57) (Kimberly Chun)