Film Listings

Pub date December 1, 2009
SectionFilm Reviews

Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Michelle Devereaux, Max Goldberg, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Louis Peitzman, Lynn Rapoport, Ben Richardson, Matt Sussman, and Laura Swanbeck. The film intern is Fernando F. Croce. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock. For first-run showtimes, see Movie Guide at For complete film listings, see


Armored Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, and Jean Reno star in this action flick about a group of armored-truck workers who plot to steal $42 million. (1:28) Shattuck.
Brothers One’s a decorated Marine (Tobey Maguire) and one’s a fuckup (Jake Gyllenhaal) in this remake of a 2004 Danish film. (1:50) Embarcadero, Presidio, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki.
*Collapse Michael Ruppert is a onetime LAPD narcotics detective and Republican whose radicalization started with the discovery (and exposure) of CIA drug trafficking operations in the late 70s. More recently he’s been known as an author agitator focusing on political cover-ups of many types, his ideas getting him branded as a factually unreliable conspiracy theorist by some (including some left voices like Norman Solomon) and a prophet by others (particularly himself). This documentary by Chris Smith (American Movie) gives him 82 minutes to weave together various concepts — about peak oil, bailouts, the stock market, archaic governmental systems, the end of local food-production sustainability, et al. — toward a frightening vision of near-future apocalypse. It’s “the greatest preventable holocaust in the history of planet Earth, our own suicide,” as tapped-out resources and fragile national infrastructures trigger a collapse in global industrialized civilization. This will force “the greatest age in human evolution that’s ever taken place,” necessitating entirely new (or perhaps very old, pre-industrial) community models for our species’ survival. Ruppert is passionate, earnest and rather brilliant. He also comes off at times as sad, angry, and eccentric, bridling whenever Smith raises questions about his methodologies. Essentially a lecture with some clever illustrative materials inserted (notably vintage educational cartoons), Collapse is, as alarmist screeds go, pretty dang alarming. It’s certainly food for thought, and would make a great viewing addendum to concurrent post-apocalyptic fiction The Road. (1:22) Lumiere, Shattuck. (Harvey)
La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet Famed documentarian Frederick Wiseman turns his camera on the storied ballet company. (2:38) Elmwood, Smith Rafael.
The End of Poverty? Martin Sheen narrates this doc about the root causes of poverty. (1:46) Four Star.
Everybody’s Fine Robert De Niro works somewhere between serious De Niro and funny De Niro in this portrait of a family in muffled crisis, a remake of the 1991 Italian film Stanno Tutti Bene. The American version tracks the comings and goings of Frank (De Niro), a recently widowed retiree who fills his solitary hours working in the garden and talking to strangers about his children, who’ve flung themselves across the country in pursuit of various dreams and now send home overpolished reports of their achievements. Disappointed by his offspring’s collective failure to show up for a family get-together, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey to connect with each in turn. Writer-director Kirk Jones (1998’s Waking Ned Devine) effectively underscores Frank’s loneliness with shots of him steering his cart through empty grocery stores, interacting only with the occasional stock clerk, and De Niro projects a sense of drifting disconnection with poignant restraint. But Jones also litters the film with a string of uninspired, autopilot comic moments, and manifold shots of telephone wires as Frank’s children (Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore, and Sam Rockwell) whisper across the miles behind their father’s back — his former vocation, manufacturing the telephone wires’ plastic coating, funded his kids’ more-ambitious aims — feel like glancing blows to the head. A vaguely miraculous third-act exposition of everything they’ve been withholding to protect both him and themselves is handled with equal subtlety and the help of gratingly precocious child actors. (1:35) Presidio. (Rapoport)
*Everything Strange and New See “Triumph of the Underdog.” (1:24) Roxie.
Serious Moonlight From a screenplay by the late actor, writer, and director Adrienne Shelly, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines constructs a few scenes from a marriage in various kinds of jeopardy. The caddish-seeming Ian (Timothy Hutton) is on the verge of leaving his powerhouse-lawyer wife of 13 years, Louise (Meg Ryan), for a considerably younger and somewhat dimmer woman (Kristen Bell) when Louise throws a wrench in his plans with the help of a well-aimed flower pot and a roll of duct tape (are there any household problems this miracle material can’t solve?) What follows, with the unpredictable assistance of a gardener (Justin Long) who wanders onto the scene, is a sort of marathon couple’s-counseling session under duress that largely takes place within the confines of their bathroom — a roomy space, but rather smaller than your average therapist’s office. It’s not always easy to be in such close quarters with the pair as they rehash their relationship — a lot of decibels bounce off the walls as Ian yells and Louise endeavors to force him to recall, and feel, what he once felt. And while the circumstances, and the camera, give Ryan and Hutton the opportunity to leisurely express their characters’ conversational and interrelational habits, the larger issues are too much to work through all at once. The faint overlying tone of darker comedy and a scattering of physical gags restrain us from much emotional involvement, the backstory of the marriage gets pieced together in large, unlikely sections, and the film feels like an exercise or a sketch, rather than a deeply considered undertaking. (1:35) Opera Plaza. (Rapoport)
Transylmania Holy Vlad, another vampire movie? At least this one’s a spoof. (1:32).
Up in the Air After all the soldiers’ stories and the cannibalism canards of late, Up in the Air’s focus on a corporate ax-man — an everyday everyman sniper in full-throttle downsizing mode — is more than timely; it’s downright eerie. But George Clooney does his best to inject likeable, if not quite soulful, humanity into Ryan Bingham, an all-pro mileage collector who prides himself in laying off employees en masse with as few tears, tantrums, and murder-suicide rages as possible. This terminator’s smooth ride from airport terminal to terminal is interrupted not only by a possible soul mate, fellow smoothie and corporate traveler Alex (Vera Farmiga), but a young tech-savvy upstart, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who threatens to take the process to new reductionist lows (layoff via Web cam) and downsize Ryan along the way. With Up in the Air, director Jason Reitman, who oversaw Thank You for Smoking (2005) as well as Juno (2007), is threatening to become the bard of office parks, Casual Fridays, khaki-clad happy hours, and fly-over zones. But Up in the Air is no Death of a Salesman, and despite some memorable moments that capture the pain of downsizing and the flatness of real life, instances of snappily screwball dialogue, and some more than solid performances by all (and in particular, Kendrick), he never manages to quite sell us on the existence of Ryan’s soul. (1:49) (Chun)


Art and Copy (1:30) Roxie.
*Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2:01) Lumiere, Shattuck, Smith Rafael, Sundance Kabuki.
The Blind Side When the New York Times Magazine published Michael Lewis’ article “The Ballad of Big Mike” — which he expanded into the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game —nobody could have predicated the cultural windfall it would spawn. Lewis told the incredible story of Michael Oher — a 6’4, 350-pound 16-year-old, who grew up functionally parentless, splitting time between friends’ couches and the streets of one of Memphis’ poorest neighborhoods. As a Sophomore with a 0.4 GPA, Oher serendipitously hitched a ride with a friend’s father to a ritzy private school across town and embarked on an unbelievable journey that led him into a upper-class, white family; the Dean’s List at Ole Miss; and, finally, the NFL. The film itself effectively focuses on Oher’s indomitable spirit and big heart, and the fearless devotion of Leigh Anne Tuohy, the matriarch of the family who adopted him (masterfully played by Sandra Bullock). While the movie will delight and touch moviegoers, its greatest success is that it will likely spur its viewers on to read Lewis’ brilliant book. (2:06) Cerrito, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, Sundance Kabuki. (Daniel Alvarez)
*Capitalism: A Love Story (2:07) Red Vic, Roxie.
Christmas with Walt Disney (:59) Walt Disney Family Museum.
Coco Before Chanel (1:50) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.
Defamation (1:33) Roxie.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol (1:36) 1000 Van Ness.
*An Education (1:35) Albany, Embarcadero, Piedmont.
*Fantastic Mr. Fox A lot of people have been busting filmmaker Wes Anderson’s proverbial chops lately, lambasting him for recent cinematic self-indulgences hewing dangerously close to self-parody (and in the case of 2007’s Darjeeling Limited, I’m one of them). Maybe he’s been listening. Either way, his new animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, should keep the naysayer wolves at bay for a while — it’s nothing short of a rollicking, deadpan-hilarious case study in artistic renewal. A kind of man-imal inversion of Anderson’s other heist movie, his debut feature Bottle Rocket(1996), his latest revels in ramshackle spontaneity and childlike charm without sacrificing his adult preoccupations. Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved 1970 book, Mr. Foxcaptures the essence of the source material but is still full of Anderson trademarks: meticulously staged mise en scène, bisected dollhouse-like sets, eccentric dysfunctional families coming to grips with their talent and success (or lack thereof).(1:27) Elmwood, Empire, Four Star, Marina, 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Devereaux)
*Good Hair (1:35) Opera Plaza.
The Maid (1:35) Clay, Shattuck.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (1:28) 1000 Van Ness, Roxie, Shattuck.
*The Messenger (1:45) Albany, Opera Plaza, Smith Rafael.
*Michael Jackson’s This Is It (1:52) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center.
New York, I Love You (1:43) Lumiere.
Ninja Assassin (1:33) 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck.
Old Dogs (1:28) Elmwood, Oaks, 1000 Van Ness.
Pirate Radio (2:00) Elmwood, 1000 Van Ness, Piedmont, Presidio, Sundance Kabuki.
Planet 51 (1:31) Oaks, 1000 Van Ness.
*Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire (1:49) SF Center, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki.
Red Cliff (2:28) Embarcadero, Shattuck, Smith Rafael.
The Road (1:53) Embarcadero, California, Piedmont.
*A Serious Man (1:45) California, Embarcadero, Piedmont.
2012 (2:40) California, Empire, 1000 Van Ness.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2:10) Cerrito, Empire, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki.
(Untitled) (1:30) Bridge, Shattuck.
*William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (1:30) Shattuck.


The Cardinal In 1963 Otto Preminger was an old-guard titan of prestige Hollywood projects as yet unaware he’d just passed his peak. That this three-hour epic of priestly life got six Oscar nominations –- winning none, including what was only Preminger’s second go at Best Director –- testifies more to its scale and expense than to any great enthusiasm from press or public. Soon the famously tyrannical director would be considered by many a dinosaur in need of extinction so that new, less lumbering species could invigorate the medium. He did go away, too, or at least became irrelevant, via a painful late-career stretch of movies. Still, as a next-to-last effort (preceding 1965 John Wayne war spectacular In Harm’s Way) from his “superproduction” period, the seldom-revived Cardinal is not without interest. Based on a 1950 novel by Henry Morton Robinson, it charts the steady rise of idealistic but occasionally self-doubting Boston priest Stephen Fermoyle (Tom Tryon). Taking him from humble beginnings to Vatican insiderdom, the episodic narrative features Carol Lynley as a sister who becomes (for forbidden love of a Jew) a fallen woman; John Huston, Burgess Meredith, Raf Vallone, and Josef Meinrad as mentoring fellow men of the cloth; Ossie Davis as a black Georgia priest whose agitation against racism attracts KKK violence; and Romy Schneider as the Viennese girl who nearly lures Stephen from his vocation, then encounters him years later as a married woman threatened by the Gestapo. There’s also a completely unnecessary musical sequence with “Bobby (Morse) and His Adora-Belles,” a Passion of the Christ-like whipping scene, and other sporadic incongruities. For the most part, however, The Cardinal is all too steady of pulse, its 175 minutes consistently interesting yet without cumulative power. That’s long been blamed on Tryon, a tall, handsome, placid actor who fails to communicate a difficult role’s inner turmoil. But it’s also the producer-director’s fault. He hews to the cinematic era’s disinterest in real period atmosphere, renders gritty episodes corny, and demonstrates no stage-management flair for big setpieces like a late Nazi riot. Nonetheless, the film’s seriousness about church politics –- especially conflicting personal ethics and institutional necessity –- remains potent. This Film on Film Foundation screening features a very rare surviving 35mm widescreen Technicolor print, and is shown as a sidebar to but not an official part of the PFA’s current Preminger retrospective. (2:55) Pacific Film Archive. (Harvey)

*“Four by Hungarian Master Miklós Janksó” See “They Were Expendable.”