Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Dennis Harvey, Lynn Rapoport, and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock. For complete film listings, visit www.sfbg.com.
The Act of Killing See “The Killer Inside Me.” (1:55) Opera Plaza, Shattuck.
The Attack After an explosion in Tel Aviv kills 17, respected surgeon Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman of 2005’s Paradise Now) — an Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, who deflects moments like a bleeding man on his operating table gasping, “I want another doctor!” with a certain amount of practiced detachment — is called to ID a body nestled in the morgue of his hospital. It’s his wife, Siham (Reymonde Amsellem, seen in flashbacks) — the apparent suicide bomber. Amin can’t believe it, but Israeli officers sure do, and the doctor is interrogated for hours about his wife’s alleged terrorist leanings and her suspicious behavior in the days leading up to the attack. When Siham’s involvement in the bombing is confirmed, Amin visits family in the West Bank, intent on discovering more about her secret fundamentalism and answering one simple question: “Why?” Emotions and tension run high as he digs into a world that’s been carefully constructed to keep unsympathetic parties from obtaining access. Lebanese-born director Ziad Doueiri, directing from a script he co-wrote from the 2008 novel by Yasmina Khadra (former Algerian army major Mohammed Moulessehoul, who wrote under his wife’s name to evade military censorship), delivers a suspenseful tale that offers new perspective on the Palestine-Israel divide. (1:42) Shattuck. (Eddy)
The Canyons See “Catch a Falling Star.” (1:40) Roxie.
Elysium By the year 2154, the one percent will all have left Earth’s polluted surface for Elysium, a luxurious space station where everyone has access to high-tech machines that can heal any wound or illness in a matter of seconds. Among the grimy masses in burned-out Los Angeles, where everyone speaks a mixture of Spanish and English, factory worker Max (Matt Damon) is trying to put his car-thief past behind him — and maybe pursue something with the childhood sweetheart (Alice Braga) he’s recently reconnected with. Meanwhile, up on Elysium, icy Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster, speaking in French and Old Hollywood-accented English) rages against immigration, even planning a government takeover to prevent any more “illegals” from slipping aboard. Naturally, the fates of Max and Delacourt will soon intertwine, with “brain to brain data transfers,” bionic exo-skeletons, futuristic guns, life-or-death needs for Elysium’s medical miracles, and some colorful interference by a sword-wielding creeper of a sleeper agent (Sharlto Copley) along the way. In his first feature since 2009’s apartheid-themed District 9, South African writer-director Neill Blomkamp once again turns to obvious allegory to guide his plot. If Elysium‘s message is a bit heavy-handed, it’s well-intentioned, and doesn’t take away from impressive visuals (mercifully rendered in 2D) or Damon’s committed performance. (2:00) Balboa, Marina. (Eddy)
Kid-Thing At last year’s Sundance Festival, Beasts of the Southern Wild rode its deserved attention all the way to the Oscars. Yet another, in some ways eerily similar Southern-wild-child tale — this latest by the Zellner Brothers, two things that are actually good about today’s Texas — was almost completely ignored. A pity, because it, too, is rather bizarre and inspired. Ten-year-old Annie (Sydney Aguirre) is a little terror running amok in the backwoods with scant-to-zero supervision by an airhead father (Nathan Zellner) much more interested in hanging with his equally dim sometime-demolition-derby-driver pal Caleb (David Zellner). Furious at a neglect she probably can’t even pinpoint as such, Annie acts out in all kinds of ways — from minor vandalism and crank calls to scaring local kids who don’t want to play with her anyway. Her clashing desire for company and resistance toward any authority reach a crisis when one day she hears a voice crying for help in the woods — an elderly woman (voiced by Susan Tyrell) has apparently fallen in a deep hole can’t get herself out of. The latter’s increasingly desperate pleas that Annie get outside assistance trigger mixed emotions in a child who’s at once sympathetic yet suspicious, because nothing in her own experience has taught her to trust adults making demands. This could have been played for grim tragic realism, but the Zellners still inject a large strain of absurdist humor even as they make Annie’s troubled psychology disturbingly vivid — greatly assisted by one helluva performance from wee Miss Aguirre (who could no doubt bring the wrath of God if circumstances necessitated). Though no one seems to be paying attention in commercial terms, these filmmakers are true originals who keep growing artistically in intriguing ways. Kid-Thing‘s belated week-long booking is one of those times when you just have to thank Zoroaster for a venue like the Roxie that’s willing to go out on a limb because a movie is just so damn interesting without necessarily being pleasant. (1:22) Roxie. (Harvey)
Lovelace We first meet Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) in 1970 as a slightly prudish 21-year-old living under the thumb of her strict Catholic parents (Robert Patrick, Sharon Stone) in suburban Florida. Then she meets Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), a titty-bar owner and all-around swinging dude who turns her on to all kinds of stuff —including the how-not-to-gag-while-giving-a-b.j. trick that would rocket her to fame two years later. The vehicle for that was Deep Throat, a crudely made XXX feature that arrived at just the right time to ignite the “porn chic” vogue and break down censorship laws. (It grossed as much as $600 million, all of which disappeared into the pockets of mob financiers.) Halfway through Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film, “Linda Lovelace” is basking in the glow of celebrity at a private screening orchestrated by Hugh Hefner (James Franco). At that point, however, the movie rewinds to present the dark underside of the Traynors’ marriage, in which (according to Linda several years later) she was regularly beaten, pimped, and kept a virtual prisoner. This second narrative feature from the Oscar-winning local documentarians is a much more straightforward biopic than 2010’s Howl. Andy Bellin’s script pretty much hews to the version of events put forward by the subject’s 1980 book Ordeal — an account still disputed in parts by some former associates. After a first section that’s a savvy, lively recreation of the Me Decade’s dawn (with particular attention to the era’s garish fashions and décor), film’s latter half turns into a somewhat one-note, familiar saga of domestic abuse, escape and recovery, albeit with a few very powerful scenes. The directors have assembled a great cast, with Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Hank Azaria, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, and Chloe Sevigny all turning up (sometimes unrecognizably) in supporting roles. For a different, fully contextualized take on a watershed moment in American cultural (and sexual) history, check out Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s excellent 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat. (1:32) Elmwood. (Harvey)
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters In this sequel to 2010’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the titular teen son of Poseidon (Logan Lerman) searches for the legendary Golden Fleece. (1:46) Elmwood.
Planes Yet more animated, anthropomorphized modes of transport for the kiddies; this one’s from Disney (it’s a Cars series spin-off) and features the lead vocals of dubious comedian Dane Cook. (1:32) Shattuck.
Prince Avalanche It has been somewhat hard to connect the dots between David Gordon Green the abstract-narrative indie poet (2000’s George Washington, 2003’s All the Real Girls) and DGG the mainstream Hollywood comedy director (2008’s Pineapple Express, yay; 2011’s Your Highness and The Sitter, nay nay nay). But here he brings those seemingly irreconcilable personas together, and they make very sweet music indeed. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play two men — one a fussy, married grown-up, another a short-attention-spanned manchild — spending the summer in near-total isolation, painting yellow divider lines on recently fire-damaged Texas roads. Their very different personalities clash, and at first the tone seems more conventionally broad than that of the 2011 Icelandic minimalist-comedy (Either Way) this revamp is derived from. But Green has a great deal up his sleeve — gorgeous widescreen imagery, some inspired wordless montages, and a well-earned eventual warmth — that makes the very rare US remake that improves upon its European predecessor. (1:34) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)
The Spectacular Now The title suggests a dreamy, fireworks-inflected celebration of life lived in the present tense, but in this depiction of a stalled-out high school senior’s last months of school, director James Ponsoldt (2012’s Smashed) opts for a more guarded, uneasy treatment. Charming, likable, underachieving, and bright enough to frustrate the adults in his corner, Sutter (Miles Teller, 2012’s Project X) has long since managed to turn aimlessness into a philosophical practice, having chosen the path of least resistance and alcohol-fueled unaccountability. His mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh), raising him solo since the departure of a father (Kyle Chandler) whose memories have acquired — for Sutter, at least — a blurry halo effect, describes him as full of both love and possible greatness, but he settles for the blessings of social fluidity and being an adept at the acquisition of beer for fellow underage drinkers. When he meets and becomes romantically involved with Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a sweet, unpolished classmate at the far reaches of his school’s social spectrum, it’s unclear whether the impact of their relationship will push him, or her, or both into a new trajectory, and the film tracks their progress with a watchful, solicitous eye. Adapted for the screen by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (2009’s 500 Days of Summer) from a novel by Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now gives the quirky pop cuteness of Summer a wide berth, steering straight into the heart of awkward adolescent striving and mishap. (1:35) (Rapoport)
We’re the Millers After weekly doses on the flat-screen of Family Guy, Modern Family, and the like, it’s about time movieland’s family comedies got a little shot of subversion — the aim, it seems, of We’re the Millers. Scruffy dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) is shambling along — just a little wistful that he didn’t grow up and climb into the Suburban with the wife, two kids, and the steady 9-to-5 because he’s a bit lonely, much like the latchkey nerd Kenny (Will Poulter) who lives in his apartment building, and neighboring stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), who bites his head off at the mailbox. When David tries to be upstanding and help out crust punk runaway Casey (Emma Roberts), who’s getting roughed up for her iPhone, he instead falls prey to the robbers and sinks into a world of deep doo-doo with former college bud, and supplier of bud, Brad (Ed Helms). The only solution: play drug mule and transport a “smidge and a half” of weed across the Mexican-US border. David’s supposed cover: do the smuggling in an RV with a hired crew of randoms: Kenny, Casey, and Rose&sdquo; all posing as an ordinary family unit, the Millers. Yes, it’s that much of a stretch, but the smart-ass script is good for a few chortles, and the cast is game to go there with the incest, blow job, and wife-swapping jokes. Of course, no one ever states the obvious fact, all too apparent for Bay Area denizens, undermining the premise of We’re the Millers: who says dealers and strippers can’t be parents, decent or otherwise? We may not be the Millers, but we all know families aren’t what they used to be, if they ever really managed to hit those Leave It to Beaver standards. Fingers crossed for the cineplex — maybe movies are finally catching on. (1:49) California, Four Star, Presidio. (Chun) *