Film Listings May 9-15, 2012

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 at www.sfbg.com. Complete film listings also posted at www.sfbg.com.

OPENING

Dark Shadows Conceptually, there’s nothing wrong with attempting to turn a now semi-obscure supernaturally themed soap opera with a five-year run in the late 1960s and early ’70s into a feature film. Particularly if the film brings together the sweetly creepy triumvirate of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter and emerges during an ongoing moment for vampires, werewolves, and other things that go hump in the night. Depp plays long-enduring vampire Barnabas Collins, the undead scion of a once-powerful 18th-century New England family that by the 1970s — the groovy decade in which the bulk of the story is set — has suffered a shabby deterioration. Barnabas forms a pact with present-day Collins matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) to raise the household — currently comprising her disaffected daughter, Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), her derelict brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his mournful young son, David (Gulliver McGrath), David’s live-in lush of a psychiatrist, Dr. Hoffman (Carter), and the family’s overtaxed manservant, Willie (Jackie Earle Haley) — to its former stature, while taking down a lunatic, love-struck, and rather vindictive witch named Angelique (Eva Green). The latter, a victim of unrequited love, is the cause of all Barnabas’s woes and, by extension, the entire clan’s, but Angelique can only be blamed for so much. Beyond her hocus-pocus jurisdiction is the film’s manic pileup of plot twists, tonal shifts, and campy scenery-chewing by Depp, a startling onslaught that no lava lamp joke, no pallid reaction shot, no room-demolishing act of paranormal carnality set to Barry White, and no cameo by Alice Cooper can temper. (2:00) California, Four Star, Presidio.

Darling Companion When the carelessness of self-absorbed surgeon Joseph (Kevin Kline) results in the stray dog adopted by Beth (Diane Keaton) going missing during a forest walk, that event somehow brings all the fissures in their long marriage to a crisis point. Big Chill (1983) director Lawrence Kasdan’s first feature in a decade hews back to the more intimate, character-based focus of his best films. But this dramedy is too often shrilly pitched and overly glossy (it seems to take place in a Utah vacation-themed L.L. Bean catalog), with numerous talented actors — including Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest, Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, and Sam Shepard — playing superficially etched characters that merely add to the clutter. Most cringe-inducing among them is Ayelet Zurer’s Carmen, a woman of Roma extraction who apparently has a crystal ball in her psychic head and actually speaks lines like “My people have a saying….” (1:43) Embarcadero. (Harvey)

First Position Bess Kargman’s documentary follows a handful of exceptional young ballet dancers, ranging in age from 10 to 17, over the course of a year as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest ballet scholarship competition. Those who make it from the semifinals (in which some 5,000 dancers aged 9 to 19 perform in 15 cities around the world) to the finals (which bring some 300 contestants to New York City) compete for scholarships to prestigious ballet schools, dance-company contracts, and general notice by both the judges and the company directors in the audience. The film’s subjects come from varied backgrounds — 16-year-old Joan Sebastian lives and studies in NYC, far from his family in Colombia; 14-year-old Michaela was born in civil war-torn Sierra Leone and adopted from an orphanage by an American couple in Philadelphia; 11-year-old Aran, an American, lives in Italy with his mother while his father serves in Kuwait. The common threads in their stories are the daily sacrifices made by them as well as their families, whose energies and other resources are largely poured into these children’s single-minded pursuit. We get a vague sense of the difficult world they are driving themselves, in nearly every waking hour, to enter. But the film largely keeps its focus on the challenges of preparing for the competition, offering us many magnificent shots of the dancers pushing their bodies to mesmerizing physical extremes both on- and offstage. (1:34) Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Rapoport)

God Bless America Middle-aged office drone Frank (Joel Murray) is not having a good day-week-month-year-life. His ex-wife is about to happily remarry; his only child is a world-class brat who finds father-daughter time “boring;” his neighbors are a young couple who only get more loudly obnoxious when politely asked to keep the noise down. When that and insistent migraines keep Frank awake night after night, the parade of pundit and reality stupidities on TV only turn his insomnia into wide awake fury. Then he’s fired from his job for unjust reasons — on the same day he gets a diagnosis of brain cancer. Mad as hell, not-gonna-take-it-anymore, he impulsively decides to make a “statement” by assassinating a viral-video poster child for “entitlement.” This attracts admiring attention from extremely pushy, snarky teen Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who appoints herself Bonnie to his reluctant Clyde. They drive around the country bestowing “big dirt naps” on other exemplars of what’s wrong with America today, including religious hate mongers, rude moviegoers, and the purveyors of American Idol-type idiotainment. Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest feature as writer-director has its head in the right place, and so many good ideas, that it’s a pity this gonzo satire-rant runs out of steam so quickly. Aiming splattering paintball gun at the broadest possible targets, it covers them with disdainful goo but not as much wit as one would like. Plus, Barr’s hyper precocious smart mouth is yet another annoying Juno (2007) knockoff — never mind that she counts Diablo Cody among her (many) pet peeves. If God Bless winds up closer to Uwe Boll’s Postal (2007) than, say, Network (1976) in scattershot impact, it nonetheless almost makes it on sheer outré audacity and will alone. A movie that hates everything you hate should not be sneezed at; if only it hated them with more parodic snap, thematic depth and narrative structure. (1:44) Bridge, Shattuck. Harvey)

Here Sparks fly when a satellite-mapping expert (Ben Foster) meets a photographer (Lubna Azabal) while traveling in Armenia. (2:00) SF Film Society Cinema.

Last Call at the Oasis If you like drinking water, or eating food, or using mass-produced physical objects, and you also enjoy not being poisoned by virulent chemicals such as hexavalent chromium and atrazine, you probably want to see — but most likely won’t much enjoy — Jessica Yu’s latest documentary, about the impending global water crisis. Or rather, the crisis, the film makes clear, that has already arrived in many parts of the world and — in the sense that it’s about a shortage of safe drinking water — in many parts of the United States. The Academy Award–winning Yu, whose previous films include the 2004 Henry Darger documentary In the Realms of the Unreal, invites various experts to lay out the alarming facts for us, as we sit in the theater clutching our bottles of Dasani. Last Call’s talking heads include UC Irvine professor Jay Famiglietti, the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick (who, regardless of February’s firestorm over an ethical lapse, speaks eloquently here), journalist Alex Prud’homme, whose book The Ripple Effect the documentary is based on, and Erin Brockovich. An unexpected appearance by Jack Black in the role of potential future spokesperson for potable recycled water (one name under consideration: Porcelain Springs) adds levity to a film that is short on silver linings, as well as solutions. The title conveys the sort of gallows humor occasionally displayed by Yu’s subjects — one of whom ponders for a moment the situation he’s just described and then offers this succinct summary: “We’re screwed.” (1:45) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Rapoport)

Michael Michael follows a few months in the lives of a pedophile (Michael Fulth) and his captive (David Rauchenberger). It is no surprise that Austrian director Markus Schleinzer previously worked for Michael Haneke: the film’s cold, inanimate aesthetic is the means for psychological torture, on the part of both Michael’s prisoner, and the audience. Michael, a sociopath who works in an office by day, keeps the boy, a pensive 10-year-old named Wolfgang, in a basement behind a bolted door. He visits him nightly, and allows the boy to dine with him. As master and slave go about their mundane routine their level of comfort with one another is just as unsettling as the off-screen sex. Equally disturbing is how Michael manages to maintain such a normal life on the surface. After he tries to bring a new victim home and fails, Wolfgang starts to find ways to push his captor’s buttons. In spite of the loud subject, rarely has such formal reticence registered as this horrifying. (1:36) SF Film Society Cinema. (Ryan Lattanzio)

Otter 501 A young woman comes to the aid of an orphaned otter pup in this narrative-doc hybrid shot in the Bay Area. (1:24) Presidio.

The Perfect Family Having survived years of hardship by dint of her faith, devout Catholic Eileen Cleary (Kathleen Turner) now lets nothing stand between her and the heavy-handed pursuit of grace — including her own family’s perceived imperfections. The past, in which long-sober husband Frank (Michael McGrady) was an abusive alcoholic, is not discussed. The present — in which ne’er-do-well son Frank Jr. (Jason Ritter) is not yet divorced yet already involved with a Protestant manicurist (Kristen Dalton), while otherwise exemplary daughter Shannon (Emily Deschanel) insists on marrying and child-raising with another woman (Angelique Cabral) — is ignored when it can’t be nagged into submission. These modern aberrations from the Pope-embraced allowable lifestyles must be addressed, however, when Eileen’s endless charitable toil gets her nominated as Catholic Woman of the Year. This would be her crowning achievement, but naturally something’s gotta give: either her family’s going to at least pretend it’s “normal,” or she’s got to grow more accepting at the potential loss of her big moment in the spotlight. Directed by Anne Renton, written by Paula Goldberg and Claire V. Riley, The Perfect Family is an ensemble dramedy (also encompassing Richard Chamberlain and Elizabeth Peña) that trundles as effortfully as its stressed-out protagonist from sitcomish humor to tearjerking, leaving no melodramatic contrivance unmilked along the way. Its intentions (primarily gay-positive ones, in line with the scenarists’ prior features) are good. But the execution is like a sermon whose every calculated chuckle and insight you anticipate five minutes before you hear it. To see Turner really excel as a controlling mother, rent 1994’s Serial Mom again. (1:24) Sundance Kabuki. (Harvey)

The Road It’s rare that a film from the Philippines gets a commercial release in the US, and The Road is the first horror movie to be widely distributed here. The story is inspired by the tragic tale of the Chiong sisters, allegedly raped and murdered in 1997. The case inspired a sensational, controversial trial, explored in detail in the excellent recent doc Give Up Tomorrow (which screened at the 2012 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival). Unfortunately, the true story is better than the fictional one; though Yam Laranas’ backwoods creep show has plenty of atmosphere, its flashback-within-a-flashback structure can feel a bit incoherent. Also bummers: the identity of the villain — who comes packaged with a tidy, here’s-my-motivation back story — is patently obvious well before the final reel, and once you get used to The Road‘s silent corpse-ghosts popping up amid the foliage, they cease to wield much shock value. (1:50) Presidio. (Eddy)

ONGOING

The Artist With the charisma-oozing agility of Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckling his way past opponents and the supreme confidence of Rudolph Valentino leaning, mid-swoon, into a maiden, French director-writer Michel Hazanavicius hits a sweet spot, or beauty mark of sorts, with his radiant new film The Artist. In a feat worthy of Fairbanks or Errol Flynn, Hazanavicius juggles a marvelously layered love story between a man and a woman, tensions between the silents and the talkies, and a movie buff’s appreciation of the power of film — embodied in particular by early Hollywood’s union of European artistry and American commerce. Dashing silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin, who channels Fairbanks, Flynn, and William Powell — and won this year’s Cannes best actor prize) is at the height of his career, adorable Jack Russell by his side, until the talkies threaten to relegate him to yesterday’s news. The talent nurtured in the thick of the studio system yearns for real power, telling the newspapers, “I’m not a puppet anymore — I’m an artist,” and finances and directs his own melodrama, while his youthful protégé Peppy Miller (Bérénice Béjo) becomes a yakky flapper age’s new It Girl. Both a crowd-pleasing entertainment and a loving précis on early film history, The Artist never checks its brains at the door, remaining self-aware of its own conceit and its forebears, yet unashamed to touch the audience, without an ounce of cynicism. (1:40) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Chun)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1:42) Albany, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki.

Bully Anyone who’s ever been a kid on the wrong side of a bully — or was sensitive and observant enough not to avert his or her eyes — will be puzzling over the MPAA’s R rating of this doc, for profanity. It’s absurd when the gory violence on network and basic cable TV stops just short of cutting characters’ faces off, as one blurred-out bus bully threatens to do to the sweet, hapless Alex, dubbed “Fish Face” by the kids who ostracize him and make his life hell on the bus. It’s a jungle out there, as we all know — but it’s that real, visceral footage of the verbal (and physical) abuse bullied children deal with daily that brings it all home. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch goes above and beyond in trying to capture all dimensions of his subject: the terrorized bullied, the ineffectual school administrators, the desperate parents. There’s Kelby, the gay girl who was forced off her beloved basketball team after she came out, and Ja’Maya, who took drastic measures to fend off her tormenters — as well as the specters of those who turned to suicide as a way out. Hirsch is clearly more of an activist than a fly on the wall: he steps in at one point to help and obviously makes an uplifting effort to focus on what we can do to battle bullying. Nevertheless, at the risk of coming off like the Iowa assistant principal who’s catching criticism for telling one victim that he was just as bad as the bully that he refused to shake hands with, one feels compelled to note one prominent component that’s missing here: the bullies themselves, their stories, and the reasons why they’re so cruel — admittedly a daunting, possibly libelous task. (1:35) Metreon, Smith Rafael. (Chun)

The Cabin in the Woods If the name “Joss Whedon” doesn’t provide all the reason you need to bum-rush The Cabin in the Woods (Whedon produced and co-wrote, with director and frequent collaborator Drew Goddard), well, there’s not much more that can be revealed without ruining the entire movie. In a very, very small nutshell, it’s about a group of college kids (including Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) whose weekend jaunt to a rural cabin goes horribly awry, as such weekend jaunts tend to do in horror movies (the Texas Chainsaw and Evil Dead movies are heavily referenced). But this is no ordinary nightmare — its peculiarities are cleverly, carefully revealed, and the movie’s inside-out takedown of scary movies produces some very unexpected (and delightfully blood-gushing) twists and turns. Plus: the always-awesome Richard Jenkins, and in-jokes galore for genre fans. (1:35) Four Star, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Eddy)

Chimpanzee (2:00) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.

The Day He Arrives Korean auteur (Woman Is the Future of Man, 2004) Hong Sang-soo’s latest exercise in self-consciousness, this black-and-white, fable-like study of a frustrated filmmaker (Yu Jun-sang), returning home to Seoul to visit an old friend after spending time in the countryside teaching, adds up to a kind of formal palimpsest. Surrounded by sycophants, vindictive former leading men, and women who seem to serve a purely semiotic purpose, he participates in an endless loop of drink, smoke, and conversation in a series of dreamlike scenes that play on the theme of coincidence and endless variation. Hong’s layering of alternate scenarios at times feels like a bit of a gimmick, but the way he infuses specific urban spaces with forlorn significance in mostly static shots is affecting — even if the film’s ultimate narrative slightness has the cut-and-paste haphazardness of fridge poetry magnets. (1:19) SF Film Society Cinema. (Michelle Devereaux)

The Deep Blue Sea Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, filmmaker Terence Davies, much like his heroine, chooses a mutable, fluid sensuality, turning his source material, Terence Rattigan’s acclaimed mid-century play, into a melodrama that catches you in its tide and refuses to let go. At the opening of this sumptuous portrait of a privileged English woman who gives up everything for love, Hester (Rachel Weisz) goes through the methodical motions of ending it all: she writes a suicide note, carefully stuffs towels beneath the door, takes a dozen pills, turns on the gas, and lies down to wait for death to overtake her. Via memories drifting through her fading consciousness, Davies lets us in on scattered, salient details in her back story: her severely damped-down, staid marriage to a high court judge, Sir William (Simon Russel Beale), her attraction and erotic awakening in the hands of charming former RF pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), her separation, and her ultimate discovery that her love can never be matched, as she hazards class inequities and ironclad gender roles. “This is a tragedy,” Sir William says, at one point. But, as Hester, a model of integrity, corrects him, “Tragedy is too big a word. Sad, perhaps.” Similarly, Sea is a beautiful downer, but Davies never loses sight of a larger post-war picture, even while he pauses for his archetypal interludes of song, near-still images, and luxuriously slow tracking shots. With cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister, he does a remarkable job of washing post-war London with spots of golden light and creating claustrophobic interiors — creating an emotionally resonant space reminiscent of the work of Wong Kar-wai and Christopher Doyle. At the center, providing the necessary gravitas (much like Julianne Moore in 2002’s Far From Heaven), is Weisz, giving the viewer a reason to believe in this small but reverberant story, and offering yet another reason for attention during the next awards season. (1:38) Opera Plaza, Smith Rafael. (Chun)

The Five-Year Engagement In 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, viewers were treated to the startling, tragicomic sight of Jason Segel’s naked front side as his character got brutally dumped by the titular perky, put-together heartbreaker. In The Five-Year Engagement, which he reunited with director Nicholas Stoller to co-write, Segel once again sacrifices dignity and the right to privacy, this time in exchange for fake orgasms (his own), ghastly hand-knit sweaters, egregious facial-hair arrangements, and various other exhaustively humiliating psychological lows — all part of an earnest, undying quest to make people giggle uncomfortably. Segel plays Tom, a talented chef with a promising career ahead of him in San Francisco’s culinary scene (naturally, food carts get a cameo in the film). On the one-year anniversary of meeting his girlfriend, Violet (Emily Blunt), a psychology postgrad, he asks her to marry him in a meticulously planned, gloriously botched proposal scene coengineered by Tom’s oafish friend Alex (Chris Pratt), little realizing that this romantic gesture will soon lead to successive frozen winters in the Midwest (Violet gets offered a job at the University of Michigan), loss of professional stature, cabin fever, mead making, bow-hunting accidents, the titular nuptial postponement, and other, more gruesome events. The humor at times descends to some banally low depths as Segel and Stoller explore the terrain of the awkward, the poorly socialized, and the playfully grotesque. But Segel and Blunt present a believable, likable relationship between two warm, funny, flawed people, and, however disgusted, no one should walk out before a scene in which Violet and her sister (Alison Brie) channel Elmo and Cookie Monster to elaborate on the themes of romantic idealism and marital discontent. (2:04) Marina, 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Vogue. (Rapoport)

Footnote (1:45) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.

Friends With Kids Jennifer Westfeldt scans Hollywood’s romantic comedy landscape for signs of intelligent life and, finding it to be a barren place possibly recovering from a nuclear holocaust, writes, directs, and stars in this follow-up to 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein, which she co-wrote and starred in. Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) are upper-thirtysomething New Yorkers with two decades of friendship behind them. He calls her “doll.” They have whispered phone conversations at four in the morning while their insignificant others lie slumbering beside them on the verge of getting dumped. And after a night spent witnessing the tragic toll that procreation has taken on the marriages of their four closest friends — Bridesmaids (2011) reunion party Leslie (Maya Rudolph), Alex (Chris O’Dowd), Missy (Kristen Wiig), and Ben (Jon Hamm), the latter two, surprisingly and less surprisingly, providing some of the film’s darkest moments — Jason proposes that they raise a child together platonically, thereby giving any external romantic relationships a fighting chance of survival. In no time, they’ve worked out the kinks to their satisfaction, insulted and horrified their friends, and awkwardly made a bouncing baby boy. The arrival of significant others (Edward Burns and Megan Fox) signals the second phase of the experiment. Some viewers will be invested in latent sparks of romance between the central pair, others in the success of an alternative family arrangement; one of these demographics is destined for disappointment. Until then, however, both groups and any viewers unwilling to submit to this reductive binary will be treated to a funny, witty, well crafted depiction of two people’s attempts to preserve life as they know it while redrawing the parameters of parenthood. (1:40) Sundance Kabuki. (Rapoport)

Gerhard Richter Painting O to be a eye in the studio, simply taking in a master’s process. Anyone who’s wondered how artist Gerhard Richter makes his monumental paintings — or even just idly pondered art making in general — gets that rare chance with this fascinating, elegant portrait of a man and his method. After capturing Richter for the first time in 15 years in her 2007 short on his stained glass window at the Cologne Cathedral, filmmaker Corinna Belz was entrusted with pointing a camera at the artist as he worked a new series of abstractions and prepared for a major retrospective. Through unusual archival footage, brief discussions of his past, and glimpses of everyone from Richter’s wife to his US dealer Marian Goodman, we end up with a privileged window in the German maker’s world and utterly riveting footage of Richter in the studio — applying color to canvas; taking a squeegee to the blobs and splotches; scraping, manipulating, and morphing the hues with a mesmerizing combination of improvisation and consideration; and then stepping back to study the results, occasionally out loud. Even more than a glance into a workspace, it’s a light into the mind of the man who has recharged painting and its myriad approaches, techniques, and ideas with new relevance. (1:37) Roxie. (Chun)

Headhunters Despite being the most sought-after corporate headhunter in Oslo, Roger (Aksel Hennie) still doesn’t make enough money to placate his gorgeous wife; his raging Napoleon complex certainly doesn’t help matters. Crime is, as always, the only solution, so Roger’s been supplementing his income by stealthily relieving his rich, status-conscious clients of their most expensive artworks (with help from his slightly unhinged partner, who works for a home-security company). When Roger meets the dashing Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones) — a Danish exec with a sinister, mysterious military past, now looking to take over a top job in Norway — he’s more interested in a near-priceless painting rumored to be stashed in Greve’s apartment. The heist is on, but faster than you can say “MacGuffin,” all hell breaks loose (in startlingly gory fashion), and the very charming Roger is using his considerable wits to stay alive. Based on a best-selling “Scandi-noir” novel, Headhunters is just as clever as it is suspenseful. See this version before Hollywood swoops in for the inevitable (rumored) remake. (1:40) Clay, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Eddy)

Hit So Hard Along with Last Days Here, which screened earlier this year as part of the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, Hit So Hard is one of the most inspiring rock docs in recent memory. Patty Schemel was the drummer for Hole circa Live Through This, coolly keeping the beat amid Courtney Love’s frequent Lollapalooza-stage meltdowns after Kurt Cobain’s 1994 death. Offstage, however, she was neck-deep in substance abuse, weathering several rounds of rehab even after the fatal overdose of Hole bandmate Kristen Pfaff just months after Cobain (who appears here in Schemel’s own remarkable home video footage). P. David Ebersole’s film gathers insight from many key figures in Schemel’s life — including her mother, who has the exact voice of George Costanza’s mother on Seinfeld, and a garishly made-up, straight-talking Love — but most importantly, from Schemel herself, who is open and funny even when talking about the perils of drug addiction, of the heartbreak of being a gay teen in a small town, and the ultimate triumph of being a rock ‘n’ roll survivor. (1:43) Roxie. (Eddy)

The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a teenager living in a totalitarian state whose 12 impoverished districts, as retribution for an earlier uprising, must pay tribute to the so-called Capitol every year, sacrificing one boy and one girl each to the Hunger Games. A battle royal set in a perilous arena and broadcast live to the Capitol as gripping diversion and to the districts as sadistic propaganda, the Hunger Games are, depending on your viewpoint, a “pageant of honor, courage, and sacrifice” or a brutal, pointless bloodbath involving children as young as 12. When her little sister’s name comes up in the annual lottery, Katniss volunteers to take her place and is joined by a boy named Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), with whom she shares an old, unspoken bond. Tasked with translating to the screen the first installment of Suzanne Collins’s rabidly admired trilogy, writer-director Gary Ross (2003’s Seabiscuit, 1998’s Pleasantville) telescopes the book’s drawn-out, dread-filled tale into a manageable two-plus-hour entertainment, making great (and horrifying) use of the original work’s action, but losing a good deal of the narrative detail and emotional force. Elizabeth Banks is comic and unrecognizable as Effie Trinket, the two tributes’ chaperone; Lenny Kravitz gives a blank, flattened reading as their stylist, Cinna; and Donald Sutherland is sufficiently creepy and bloodless as the country’s leader, President Snow. More exceptionally cast are Woody Harrelson as Katniss and Peeta’s surly, alcoholic mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, and Stanley Tucci as games emcee Caesar Flickerman, flashing a bank of gleaming teeth at each contestant as he probes their dire circumstances with the oily superficiality of a talk show host. (2:22) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Rapoport)

Jeff, Who Lives at Home The failure-to-launch concept will always thrive whenever and wherever economies flail, kids crumble beneath family trauma, and the seduction of moving back home to live for free with the parental units overcomes the draw of adulthood and individuation. Nevertheless brotherly writing and directing team Jay and Mark Duplass infuse a fresh, generous-minded sweetness in this familiar narrative arc, mainly by empathetically following those surrounding, and maybe enabling, the stay-at-home. Spurred by a deep appreciation of Signs (2002) and plentiful bong hits, Jeff (Jason Segel) decides to go with the signals that the universe throws at him: a mysterious phone call for a Kevin leads him to stalk a kid wearing a jersey with that name and jump a candy delivery truck. This despite the frantic urging of his mother (Susan Sarandon), who has set the bar low and simply wants Jeff to repair a shutter for her birthday, and the bad influence of brother Pat (Ed Helms), a striving jerk who compensates for his insecurities by buying a Porsche and taking business meetings at Hooters. We never quite find out what triggered Jeff’s dormancy and Pat’s prickishness — two opposing responses to some unspecified psychic wound — yet by Jeff, Who Lives at Home‘s close, it doesn’t really matter. The Duplass brothers convince you to go along for the ride, much like Jeff’s blessed fool, and accept the ultimately feel-good, humanist message of this kind-hearted take on human failings. (1:22) Sundance Kabuki. (Chun)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi Celebrity-chef culture has surely reached some kind of zeitgeist, what with the omnipresence of Top Chef and other cooking-themed shows, and the headlines-making power of people like Paula Deen (diabetes) and Mario Batali (sued for ripping off his wait staff). Unconcerned with the trappings of fame — you’ll never see him driving a Guy Fieri-style garish sports car — is Jiro Ono, 85-year-old proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a tiny, world-renowned sushi restaurant tucked into Tokyo’s Ginza station. Jiro, a highly-disciplined perfectionist who believes in simple, yet flavorful food, has devoted his entire life to the pursuit of “deliciousness” — to the point of sushi invading his dreams, as the title of David Gelb’s reverential documentary suggests. But Jiro Dreams of Sushi goes deeper than food-prep porn (though, indeed, there’s plenty of that); it also examines the existential conflicts faced by Jiro’s two middle-aged sons. Both were strongly encouraged to enter the family business — and in the intervening years, have had to accept the soul-crushing fact that no matter how good their sushi is, it’ll never be seen as exceeding the creations of their legendary father. (1:21) Embarcadero, Shattuck. (Eddy)

The Lady Luc Besson directs Michelle Yeoh — but The Lady is about as far from flashy action heroics as humanly possible. Instead, it’s a reverent, emotion-packed biopic of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, a national hero in Burma (Myanmar) for her work against the country’s oppressive military regime. But don’t expect a year-by-year exploration of Suu’s every accomplishment; instead, the film focuses on the relationship between Suu and her British husband, Michael Aris (David Thewlis). When Michael discovers he’s dying of cancer, he’s repeatedly denied visas to visit his wife — a cruel knife-twist by a government that assures Suu that if she leaves Burma to visit him, they’ll never allow her to return. Heartbreaking stuff, elegantly channeled by Thewlis and especially Yeoh, who conveys Suu’s incredible strength despite her alarmingly frail appearance. The real Iron Lady, right here. (2:07) Lumiere. (Eddy)

Letters From the Big Man Don’t fear the yeti. Filmmaker Christopher Munch (1991’s The Hours and Times) gets back to nature — and a more benevolent look at the sasquatch — with the engrossing Letters From the Big Man. Sarah (Lily Rabe, Jill Clayburgh’s daughter, perhaps best known for her ghostly American Horror Story flapper) is a naturalist and artist determined to get off trail, immerse herself in her postfire wilderness studies in southwestern Oregon, and leave the hassles and heartbreak of the human world behind. She’s far from alone, however, as she senses she’s being tailed — even after she confronts another solo hiker, Sean (Jason Butler Harner), who seems to share her deep love and knowledge of the wild. What emerges — as Sarah lives off the grid, sketches soulful-eyed Bigfoots, and powers her laptop with her bike — is a love story that might bear a remote resemblance to Beauty and the Beast if Munch weren’t so completely straight-faced in his belief in the big guys. The question, the mystery, isn’t whether or not sasquatch exist, according to the filmmaker, who paces his tale as if it were as big and encompassing as an ancient forest — rather, whether we can hold onto a belief in nature and its unknowables and coexist. (1:44) Smith Rafael. (Chun)

A Little Bit of Heaven Kate Hudson goes without make-up (but keeps her flowing curls) to play Marley, a New Orleans advertising exec whose social life of drunken good times and booty calls is rudely interrupted by a colon cancer diagnosis. Her movie-perfect friends (Lucy Punch as the artsy one; Rosemarie DeWitt as the pregnant one; Romany Malco as the gay one) and worried parents (Kathy Bates, Treat Williams) gather ’round as Marley undergoes various treatments and works on her personality flaws. Once Gael García Bernal shows up to play her doctor (and yes, that’s some icky boundary-crossing, but come on — it’s GGB!), a romance conveniently enters the mix as well. This is the kind of Hollywood-disease flick where God appears in the wisecracking, champagne-sipping guise of Whoopi Goldberg — and the talented Peter Dinklage (also of Game of Thrones) appears in one scene as an escort whose sole purpose is reveal his nickname, thereby giving the movie its title. (1:46) Metreon. (Eddy)

The Lucky One Iraq War veteran Logan (Zac Efron) beats PTSD by walking with his German shepherd from Colorado to the Louisiana bayou, in search of a golden-haired angel in cutoff blue jean short shorts (Taylor Schilling). His stated (in soporific voice-over) aim is to meet and thank the angel, who he believes repeatedly saved his life in the combat zone after he plucked her photograph from the rubble of a bombed-out building. The snapshot offers little in the way of biographical information, but luckily, there are only 300 million people in the United States, and he manages to find her after walking around for a bit. The angel, or Beth, as her friends call her, runs a dog kennel with her grandmother (Blythe Danner) while raising her noxiously Hollywood-precocious eight-year-old son (Riley Thomas Stewart) and fending off the regressive advances of her semi-villainous ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson). Logan’s task seems simple enough, and he’s certainly walked a fair distance to complete it, but rather than expressing his gratitude, he becomes tongue-tied in the face of Beth’s backlit blondness and instead fills out a job application and proceeds to soulfully but manfully burrow his way into her affections and short shorts. Being an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, The Lucky One requires some forceful yanking on the heartstrings, but director Scott Hicks (1999’s Snow Falling on Cedars, 1996’s Shine) is hobbled in this task by, among other things, Efron’s wooden, uninvolved delivery of queasy speeches about traveling through darkness to find the light and how many times a day a given woman should be kissed. (1:41) SF Center. (Rapoport)

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, Smith Rafael. (Eddy)

Marvel’s The Avengers The conflict — a mystical blue cube containing earth-shattering (literally) powers is stolen, with evil intent — isn’t the reason to see this long-hyped culmination of numerous prequels spotlighting its heroic characters. Nay, the joy here is the whole “getting’ the band back together!” vibe; director and co-writer Joss Whedon knows you’re just dying to see Captain America (Chris Evans) bicker with Iron Man (a scene-stealing Robert Downey Jr.); Thor (Chris Hemsworth) clash with bad-boy brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston); and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) get angry as often as possible. (Also part of the crew, but kinda mostly just there to look good in their tight outfits: Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.) Then, of course, there’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) running the whole Marvel-ous show, with one good eye and almost as many wry quips as Downey’s Tony Stark. Basically, The Avengers gives you everything you want (characters delivering trademark lines and traits), everything you expect (shit blowing up, humanity being saved, etc.), and even makes room for a few surprises. It doesn’t transcend the comic-book genre (like 2008’s The Dark Knight did), but honestly, it ain’t trying to. The Avengers wants only to entertain, and entertain it does. (2:23) Balboa, Marina, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

Mirror Mirror In this glittery, moderately girl-powery adaptation of the Snow White tale (a comic foil of sorts to this summer’s gloomier-looking Snow White and the Huntsman), Julia Roberts takes her turn as stepmom, to an earnest little ingenue (Lily Collins) whose kingly father (Sean Bean) is presumed dead and whose rather-teeny-looking kingdom is collapsing under the weight of fiscal ruin and a thick stratum of snow. Into this sorry realm rides a chiseled beefcake named Prince Alcott (Arnie Hammer), who hails from prosperous Valencia, falls for Snow White, and draws the attentions of the Queen (Roberts) from both a strategic and a libidinal standpoint. Soon enough, Snow White (Snow to her friends) is narrowly avoiding execution at the hands of the Queen’s sycophantic courtier-henchman (Nathan Lane), rustling up breakfast for a thieving band of stilt-walking dwarves, and engaging in sylvan hijinks preparatory to deposing her stepmother and bringing light and warmth and birdsong and perennials back into fashion. Director Tarsem Singh (2000’s The Cell, 2011’s Immortals) stages the film’s royal pageantry with a bright artistry, and Roberts holds court with vicious, amoral relish as she senses her powers of persuasion slipping relentlessly from her grasp. Carefully catering to tween-and-under tastes as well as those of their chaperones, the comedy comes in various breadths, and there’s meta-humor in the sight of Roberts passing the pretty woman torch, though Collins seems blandly unprepared to wield her power wisely or interestingly. Consider vacating your seats before the extraneous Bollywood-style song-and-dance number that accompanies the closing credits. (1:46) Metreon. (Rapoport)

Monsieur Lazhar When their beloved but troubled teacher hangs herself in the classroom — not a thoughtful choice of location, but then we never really discover her motives — traumatized Montreal sixth-graders get Bachir Lazhar (Fellag), a middle-aged Algerian émigré whose contrastingly rather strict, old-fashioned methods prove surprisingly useful at helping them past their trauma. He quickly becomes the crush object of studious Alice (Sophie Nelisse), whose single mother is a pilot too often away, while troublemaker Simon (Emilien Neron) acts out his own domestic and other issues at school. Lazhar has his own secrets as well — for one thing, we see that he’s still petitioning for permanent asylum in Canada, contradicting what he told the principal upon being hired — and while his emotions are more tightly wrapped, circumstances will eventually force all truths out. This very likable drama about adults and children from Quebec writer-director Philippe Falardeau doesn’t quite have the heft and resonance to rate among the truly great narrative films about education (like Laurent Cantet’s recent French The Class). But it comes close enough, gracefully touching on numerous other issues while effectively keeping focus on how a good teacher can shape young lives in ways as incalculable as they are important. (1:34) Lumiere, Piedmont, Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits Aardman Animations, home studio of the Wallace and Gromit series as well as 2000’s Chicken Run, are masters of tiny details and background jokes. In nearly every scene of this swashbuckling comedy, there’s a sight gag, double entendre, or tossed-off reference (the Elephant Man!?) that suggests The Pirates! creators are far more clever than the movie as a whole would suggest. Oh, it’s a cute, enjoyable story about a kind-hearted Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) who dreams of winning the coveted Pirate of the Year award (despite the fact that he gets more excited about ham than gold) — and the misadventures he gets into with his amiable crew, a young Charles Darwin, and a comically evil Queen Victoria. But despite its toy-like, 3D-and-CG-enhanced claymation, The Pirates! never matches the depth (or laugh-out-loud hilarity) of other Aardman productions. Yo ho-hum. (1:27) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center. (Eddy)

The Raven How did Edgar Allan Poe, dipsomaniac, lover of 13-year-old child brides, and teller of tales designed to make the flesh creep and crawl, wind up, at age 40, nearly dying in the gutter and spending his last days in a Baltimore hospital, muttering incoherent imprecations about a mysterious fellow named Reynolds? In The Raven, director James McTeigue (2006’s V for Vendetta) makes the case for a crafty, sociopathic serial killer having played a role in the famous yet impoverished writer’s sad, derelict demise. Recently returned to the dark, thickly fog-machined streets of Baltimore, Poe, vehemently embodied by John Cusack, is chagrined to learn from one Detective Fields (Luke Evans) that someone has begun using his macabre stories (“The Pit and the Pendulum” to particularly gory effect) to enact a series of murders. When the killer successfully gains Poe’s full attention by seizing his ladylove, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), the pileup of bodies inspires a few last outbursts of genius. The trail of literary clues feels a bit forced, and Cusack’s Poe possesses an admirable quantity of energy, passion, and general zest for life for one so roundly indicted — by everyone from his editor to his barkeep to his sweetheart’s roundly repellent father (Brendan Gleeson) — as a useless, used-up slave to opiates and alcohol. But the script is smart enough and the action absorbing enough to keep us engaged as Poe attempts to rescue Emily and the film attempts to rescue Poe’s reputation through imagined heroics of both the pen and the sword. (1:50) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center. (Rapoport)

Safe The poster would be slightly more on-point if its suave thug of a star, Jason Statham, were hiding behind the scrunched-faced Catherine Chan rather than the other way around — because at times it’s tough to see this alternately enjoyable and credibility-taxing action flick as more than some kind of naked play for the Chinese filmgoer. Jamming the screen with a frantic kineticism, director-writer Boaz Yakin seems to be smoothing over the problems in his vaguely stereotype-flaunting, patchy puzzle of a narrative with a high body count: the cadavers pile like those in an old martial arts flick — made in Asia, it’s implied, where life is cheap and spectacle is paramount. Picking up in the middle, with flashbacks stacked like firewood, Safe opens on young math prodigy Mei (Chan) on the run from the Russian mafia. A pawn and virtual slave of the Chinese mob, she holds a number in her head that all sorts of ruthless crime factions want. To her rescue is mystery man Luke Wright (Statham), who has had his own deadly tussle with the same Russian baddies and is now on the street and on the verge of suicide, believe it or not. It’s tough to wrap your head around the fact that any of Statham’s rock-hard tough guys could possibly crumble — or even have a sense of humor. You’ll need one to accept the ludicrous storyline as well as the notion that a jillion bullets could be fired and never hit his superhuman street-fighting man. (1:35) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Chun)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen In Lasse Hallström’s latest film, a sheikh named Muhammed (Amr Waked) with a large castle in Scotland, an ardent love of fly-fishing, and unlimited funds envisions turning a dry riverbed in the Yemeni desert into an aquifer-fed salmon-run site and the surrounding lands into an agricultural cornucopia. Tasked with realizing this dream are London marketing consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) and government fisheries scientist Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), a reluctant participant who refers to the project as “doolally” and signs on under professional duress. Despite numerous feasibility issues (habitat discrepancies, the necessity for a mass exodus of British salmon, two million irate British anglers), Muhammed’s vision is borne forward on a rising swell of cynicism generated within the office of the British prime minister’s press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose lackeys have been scouring the wires for a shred of U.K.-related good news out of the Middle East. Ecology-minded killjoys may question whether this qualifies. But putting aside, if one can, the possible inadvisability of relocating 10,000 nonnative salmon to a wadi in Yemen — which is to say, putting aside the basic premise — it’s easy and pleasant enough to go with the flow of the film, infected by Jones’s growing enthusiasm for both the project and Ms. Chetwode-Talbot. Adapted from Paul Torday’s novel by Simon Beaufoy (2009’s Slumdog Millionaire), Salmon Fishing is a sweet and funny movie, and while it suffers from the familiar flurried third-act knotting together of loose ends, its storytelling stratagems are entertaining and its characters compellingly textured, and the cast makes the most of the well-polished material. (1:52) Opera Plaza, Piedmont, Shattuck. (Rapoport)

A Separation Iran’s first movie to win Berlin’s Golden Bear (as well as all its acting awards), this domestic drama reflecting a larger socio-political backdrop is subtly well-crafted on all levels, but most of all demonstrates the unbeatable virtue of having an intricately balanced, reality-grounded screenplay — director Asghar Farhadi’s own — as bedrock. A sort of confrontational impartiality is introduced immediately, as our protagonists Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) face the camera — or rather the court magistrate — to plead their separate cases in her filing for divorce, which he opposes. We gradually learn that their 14-year wedlock isn’t really irreparable, the feelings between them not entirely hostile. The roadblock is that Simin has finally gotten permission to move abroad, a chance she thinks she must seize for the sake of their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). But Nader doesn’t want to leave the country, and is not about to let his only child go without him. Farhadi worked in theater before moving into films a decade ago. His close attention to character and performance (developed over several weeks’ pre-production rehearsal) has the acuity sported by contemporary playwrights like Kenneth Lonergan and Theresa Rebeck, fitted to a distinctly cinematic urgency of pace and image. There are moments that risk pushing plot mechanizations too far, by A Separation pulls off something very intricate with deceptive simplicity, offering a sort of integrated Rashomon (1950) in which every participant’s viewpoint as the wronged party is right — yet in conflict with every other. (2:03) Four Star, Opera Plaza. (Harvey)

Sound of My Voice Gripped with the need to do something important before they shrivel up and turn 30, Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) pretend to join a mysterious cult with the aim of making a documentary exposé. Their target: an alluring woman named Maggie (co-writer Brit Marling) — all golden hair and new-age wisdom — who lives in a basement and claims to be from the future. What Maggie is preparing her followers for is never quite explained, with their secret handshakes and all-white attire, but director and co-writer Zal Batmanglij builds up plenty of subtle dread: there’s a visit to a shooting range (shades of last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene), Maggie’s whispery references to an impending civil war, and Peter’s diminishing ability to resist his faux-guru’s prove-your-faith demands. Just when you think you have Maggie figured out (as when she’s put on the spot to sing a song “from the future”), Batmanglij and Marling add another layer of ambiguity. An intriguing presence, Marling also wrote herself a juicy role in 2011’s Another Earth; it’ll be interesting to see if she can hold her own in a movie that doesn’t paint her character as the center of the universe. (1:25) Lumiere. (Eddy)

Think Like a Man (2:02) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki.

The Three Stooges: The Movie (1:32) Metreon.

Titanic 3D (3:14) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

21 Jump Street One of the more pleasant surprises on the mainstream comedy landscape has to be this, ugh, “reboot” of the late-’80s TV franchise. I wasn’t a fan of the show — or its dark-eyed, bad-boy star, Johnny Depp — back in the day, but I am of this unexpectedly funny rework overseen by apparent enthusiast, star, co-writer, and co-executive producer Jonah Hill, with a screenplay by Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) co-writer Michael Bacall. There’s more than a smidge of Bacall’s other high school fantasy, Project X, in the buddy comedy premise of nerd (Hill’s Schmidt) meets blowhard (Channing Tatum’s Jenko), but 21 Jump Street thankfully leapfrogs the former with its meta-savvy, irreverent script and har-dee-har cameo turns by actors like Ice Cube as Captain Dickson (as well as a few key uncredited players who shall remain under deep cover). High school continues to haunt former classmates Schmidt and Jenko, who have just graduated from the lowly police bike corps to a high school undercover operation — don’t get it twisted, though, Dickson hollers at them; they got this gig solely because they look young. Still, the whole drug-bust enchilada is put in jeopardy when the once-socially toxic Schmidt finds his brand of geekiness in favor with the cool kids and so-called dumb-jock Jenko discovers the pleasures of the mind with the chem lab set. Fortunately for everyone, this crew doesn’t take themselves, or the source material, too seriously. (1:49) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki. (Chun)

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale The head count — as in decapitated noggins — of this epic thrashathon almost rivals that of 2010’s 13 Assassins (hell, maybe even 1976’s Master of the Flying Guillotine), so, er, does that make this high-minded endeavor by Wei Te-Sheng (2008’s Cape No. 7) any more or less worth squirming through? The feeling is mixed — part disgust, part fascination — when it comes to this little-known part of Taiwan’s indigenous history. Moura Rudo (first-time aborigine actor Lin Ching-tai, he of the superheroically muscular calves) is the leader of the once-fierce, now-barely contained Seediq tribe — here depicted as the almost supernaturally gifted hunters of Taiwan’s mountainous jungles. As a young man he waged a valiant guerrilla war of resistance, armed with only shotguns and machetes and the like, against the Japanese colonizers, who took over the island from 1895 to 1945. But the indignities and humiliations his tribesmen suffer at the hands of the police finally spur them to action. Embarking on what would become known as the Wushe Incident Rebellion, the men form a coalition with other aboriginal tribes to undertake a clearly suicidal mission, standing up for their identity and becoming “Seediq Bale,” or true men, capable of crossing a rainbow bridge to meet their ancestors in the next world. All of which sounds noble — and the filmmaker interjects moments of grace, as when Mouna intones a folk ballad alongside his dead father, and foregrounds the intriguing cultural similarities between the Seediq and Japanese warrior codes of honor. Yet as compelling Warrior‘s concept is — and as heartfelt as it seems — it fails to rise above its treatment of violence, at the unnerving center of everything: the cheesily bug-eyed gore, overwrought sentimentality, and sheer bloody body count come off as closer to classic drive-in exploitation than that of a lost, vital history that needs to be remembered. (2:30) Metreon. (Chun)

Wrath of the Titans Playing fast and loose with Greek myths but not agile enough to kick out a black metal jam during a flaming underworld power-grab, Wrath of Titans is, as expected, a bit of a CGI-crammed mess. Still, the sword-and-sandals franchise has attracted scads of international actorly talent — the cast is enriched this time by Édgar Ramírez (2010’s Carlos), Bill Nighy, and Rosamund Pike — and you do get at least one cool monster and paltry explication (Cerberus, which bolts from earth for no discernible reason except that maybe all hell is breaking loose). Just because action flicks like Cloverfield (2008) have long dispensed with narrative handlebars doesn’t mean that age-old stories like the Greek myths should get completely random with their titanic tale-spinning. Wrath opens on the twilight of the gods: Zeus (Liam Neeson) is practically groveling before Perseus (Sam Worthington) — now determined to go small, raise his son, and work on his fishing skills — and trying to persuade him to step up and help the Olympians hold onto power. Fellow Zeus spawn Ares (Ramírez) is along for the ride, so demigod up, Perseus. In some weird, last-ditch attempt to ream his bro Zeus, the oily, mulleted Hades (Ralph Fiennes) has struck a deal with their entrapped, chaotic, castrating fireball of a dad Cronus to let them keep their immortality, on the condition that Zeus is sapped of his power. Picking up Queen Andromeda (Pike) along the way, Perseus gets the scoop on how to get to Hell from Hephaestus (Nighy playing the demented Vulcan like a ’60s acid casualty, given to chatting with mechanical owl Bubo, a wink to 1981 precursor Clash of the Titans, which set the bar low for the remake). Though there are some distracting action scenes (full of speedy, choppy edits that confuse disorientation for excitement) and a few intriguing monsters (just how did the Minotaur make it to this labyrinth?), there’s no money line like “Release the Kraken!” this time around, and there’s way too much nattering on about fatherly responsibility and forgiveness —making these feel-good divinities sound oddly, mawkishly Christian and softheaded rather than mythically pagan and brattily otherworldly. Wasn’t the appeal of the gods linked to the fact that they always acted more like outta-hand adolescents than holier-than-thou deities? I guess that’s why no one’s praying to them anymore. (1:39) Metreon. (Chun) *