Film listings

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

OPENING

Chloe See "Moore and Less." (1:36) Elmwood, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki.

Greenberg Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is 40, and you might think he's going through a midlife crisis — if he hadn't been in pretty much this same crisis for 15 years or more. Still very edgy and fragile after a nervous breakdown-sparked institutional stay, he's holing up at the comfortable Hollywood home of a big-deal brother while the latter and family are on vacation in Vietnam. (The implication being that Roger is most welcome here when no one else actually has to endure his prickly, high maintenance company.) While in residence he reconnects with old friends including the ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) he dumped yet never quite got over -- though clearly she did — and the ex-bandmate (Rhys Ifans) he burned by wrecking their one shot at a major-label deal. He also gets involved, kinda-sorta, with big bro's personal assistant Florence (mumblecore regular Greta Gerwig), whose passivity and low self-esteem make her the rare person who might consider a relationship with someone this impossible. Like all Noah Baumbach films, especially the slightly overrated Squid and the Whale (2005) and vastly underrated Margot at the Wedding (2007), his latest pivots around a pathologically self-absorbed and insensitive protagonist who exasperates anyone unlucky or blind enough to fall into his or her orbit. Working from a story co-conceived by spouse Leigh, Baumbach's script sports his usual sharp dialogue, penetrating individual scenes, and narrative surprises. But it also gets stuck in dislikable Roger's rut, finding conflict easily but stubbornly resisting even the smallest useful change. For all its amusing and uncomfortable moments, Greenberg emerges a dual character slice with no real point. Neither Roger or Beth reward long scrutiny (least of all as a hapless potential couple), while the few screen minutes Ifans and Leigh get make you wish their roles had hijacked the focus instead. (1:40) Piedmont, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Hot Tub Time Machine At last, Crispin Glover returns to his time-travel movie roots! (1:55) California.

How to Train Your Dragon Yet another 3D cartoon for the kiddies. At least this one is about Vikings. (1:38)

*The Sun It may have taken five years for Alexander Sokurov's The Sun (2005) to reach local theaters, but then the Russian master's contemplation of Emperor Hirohito's last days as Godhead is decidedly out of time. Painterly and slow like all Sokurov's work, the film specifically follows his estranged reconstructions of Hitler's retreat with Eva Braun (1999's Moloch) and Lenin's demise (2000's Taurus). In August 1945, Hirohito broke with tradition by making a direct appeal to the Japanese people to end military operations; soon thereafter he renounced his divine rights. The Sun's elliptical narration intuits the emperor's paled existence, and Issey Ogata's lead performance, centering on a fish-out-of-water puckering of the lips, amply conveys the shuttered hours of a man who, in experience if not in fact, is not quite human. The muted use of available light and a disquieting sound design (faraway air-raid sirens yield to the barest brush of a finger) eschew historiography's harsh glare, instead returning primal scenes of power to a dreamlike state of unknowing. Sokurov's most hallucinatory effects are reserved for ashen views of firebombed Tokyo which float free from perspective or clear boundary; a brief fantasy in which fish-like warplanes spew apocalyptic destruction suggests the emperor's childlike imagination and set the stage for his historical date with General MacArthur, realized by Sokurov less as a diplomatic breakthrough than a leaden twilight. (1:50) Shattuck. (Goldberg)

Waking Sleeping Beauty Hollywood history is full of epic rivalries, juicy scandals, multi-million-dollar mistakes, and triumphant comebacks. Sometimes, all of the above and more can be contained within a single studio, or even a single studio division, or even a single studio division during a finite number of years, as illustrated by this insidery peek at Disney's animation division. The doc gives a bit of background, but focuses its attentions on 1984-1994, a ten-year span that saw the floundering department struggle through post-Walt, identity-crisis blues before blossoming into a rejuvenated powerhouse. Waking Sleeping Beauty director Don Hahn was a producer on the Oscar-nominated Beauty and the Beast (1991), so he's uniquely positioned to tell the story as it unfolded, using home movies and countless interviews. High points include a glimpse of late composer Howard Ashman introducing his demo for the iconic Little Mermaid (1989) tune "Under the Sea" (it was Ashman's idea to give the crab character a Jamaican accent), and plenty of dish on the legendary Jeffrey Katzenberg-Michael Eisner feud. (1:26) Embarcadero. (Eddy)

ONGOING

Ajami You may recognize the title of Yaron Shoni and Scandar Copti's debut collaboration as one of five films nominated for a 2010 Academy Award in the Foreign Category. Though it didn't bring home the grand prize, Ajami remains a complex and affecting story about desperation and its consequences in a religiously-mixed town in Israel. As we follow the lives of four of Ajami's residents the narrative shifts perspective almost maddeningly, switching characters seemingly at the height of each story's action. But once all of the stories fully intersect, the final product has the distinction of feeling both meticulously calculated and completely natural. I was most impressed to learn that Shani and Copti prepared their actors with improvised role-playing rather than scripts. By withholding what was going to happen in a scene before shooting, we are treated to looks of surprise and emotion on actor's faces that never feel unnatural. Attaining such a level of realism may be Ajami's crowning achievement; it can't have been easy to make a foreign world feel so familiar. (2:00) Shattuck. (Galvin)

Alice in Wonderland Tim Burton's take on the classic children's tale met my mediocre expectations exactly, given its months of pre-release hype (in the film world, fashion magazines, and even Sephora, for the love of brightly-colored eyeshadows). Most folks over a certain age will already know the story, and much of the dialogue, before the lights go down and the 3-D glasses go on; it's up to Burton and his all-star cast (including numerous big-name actors providing voices for animated characters) to make the tale seem newly enthralling. The visuals are nearly as striking as the CG, with Helena Bonham Carter's big-headed Red Queen a particularly marvelous human-computer creation. But Wonderland suffers from the style-over-substance dilemma that's plagued Burton before; all that spooky-pretty whimsy can't disguise the film's fairly tepid script. Teenage Alice (Mia Wasikowska) displaying girl-power tendencies is a nice, if not surprising, touch, but Johnny Depp's grating take on the Mad Hatter will please only those who were able to stomach his interpretation of Willy Wonka. (1:48) Castro, Empire, 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

*The Art of the Steal How do you put a price on something that's literally priceless? The Art of the Steal takes an absorbing look at the Barnes Collection, a privately-amassed array of Post-Impressionist paintings (including 181 Renoirs) worth billions — and the many people and corporate interests who schemed to control it. Founder Albert C. Barnes was an singular character who took pride in his outsider status; he housed his art in a specially-constructed gallery far from downtown Philadelphia's museum scene, and he emphasized education and art appreciation first and foremost. But he had no heirs, and after his death in 1951, opportunists began circling his massive collection; the slippery political and legal dealings that have unfolded since then are nearly as jaw-dropping as Barnes' prize paintings. Philly documentarian Don Argott has a doozy of a subject here, and his skillful, even suspenseful film does it justice. (1:41) Smith Rafael. (Eddy)

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) Oaks. (Daniel Alvarez)

Brooklyn's Finest "Really? I mean, really?" asked the moviegoer beside me as the final freeze-frame of Brooklyn's Finest slapped our eyeballs. Yes, that's the sound of letdown, despite the fact that Brooklyn's Finest initially resembled a promisingly gritty juggling act in the mode of The Wire and Cop Land (1997), Taxi Driver (1976) and Training Day (2001). Bitter irony flows from the title — and from the lives, loves, bad habits, pressure-cooker stress, and unavoidable moral dilemmas of three would-be everyday cops, all occupying several different rungs on a food chain where right and wrong have an unpleasant way of switching sides. Eddie (Richard Gere) is the veteran officer just biding his time till he gets his pension, all while comforting himself with the meager sensuous attentions of hooker Chantel (Shannon Kane). Sal (Ethan Hawke) is the bad detective, stealing from the dealers to fund a dream home for his growing family with Angela (Lili Taylor). Tango (Don Cheadle) is the undercover detective who has cultivated friendships with dealers like Caz (Wesley Snipes) and sacrificed his marriage for a long-promised promotion from his lieutenant (Will Patton) and his superior (Ellen Barkin, in likely the most misogynist portrayal of a lady with a badge to date). You spend most of Brooklyn's Finest waiting for these cops to collide in the most unfortunate, messiest way possible, but instead the denouement leaves will leave one wondering about unresolved threads and feeling vaguely unsatisfied. In any case, director Antoine Fuqua and company seem to pride themselves on their tough-minded if at times cartoonish take on law enforcement, with Hawke in particular turning in a memorably OTT and anguished performance. (2:13) 1000 Van Ness. (Chun)

The Bounty Hunter There's a real feeling of impotence in reviewing a movie whose ad was pasted on the side of the bus you took to the screening. This thing is determined to be seen, and that's a true shame. Those who heed the call of the ubiquitous marketing campaign will have to sit through a dull parade of contrivances concerning a bounty hunter (Gerard Butler) whose latest catch is his court-skipping ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston). She's a hotshot city journalist who's forced to continue her investigation of a police cover-up while handcuffed to a car door and bickering with her old flame. The trajectory of the plot is obvious enough, but there's so little chemistry between the two actors that the inevitable reconciliation practically constitutes a twist ending. Aniston saw fit not to whine her way through this role, which is something, but nothing nearly as complimentary can be said about Butler. He emotes in lurches, with the presence of a guy who's not sure acting is the right direction for his life but still really wants to give it a go. If "This. Is. Sparta!" weren't burned into my brain I would swear the man had never been in front of a camera before. (1:50) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Jason Shamai)

The Crazies Disease and anti-government paranoia dovetail in this competent yet overwhelmingly non-essential remake of one of George A. Romero's second-tier spook shows. In a small Iowa hamlet overseen by a benevolent sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) and his pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell), who's also the town doctor, a few odd incidents snowball into all-out chaos when a mysterious, unmarked plane crashes into the local water supply. Before long, the few residents who aren't acting like homicidal maniacs are rounded up by an uber-aggressive military invasion. Though our heroes convey frantic panic as they try to figure out what the hell is going on, The Crazies never achieves full terror mode. It's certainly watchable, and even enjoyable at times. But memorable? Not in the slightest. (1:41) 1000 Van Ness. (Eddy)

Crazy Heart "Oh, I love Jeff Bridges!" is the usual response when his name comes up every few years for Best Actor consideration, usually via some underdog movie no one saw, and the realization occurs that he's never won an Oscar. The oversight is painful because it could be argued that no leading American actor has been more versatile, consistently good, and true to that elusive concept "artistic integrity" than Bridges over the last 40 years. It's rumored Crazy Heart was slotted for cable or DVD premiere, then thrust into late-year theater release in hopes of attracting Best Actor momentum within a crowded field. Lucky for us, this performance shouldn't be overlooked. Bridges plays "Bad" Blake, a veteran country star reduced to playing bars with local pickup bands. His slide from grace hasn't been helped by lingering tastes for smoke and drink, let alone five defunct marriages. He meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), freelance journalist, fan, and single mother. They spark; though burnt by prior relationships, she's reluctant to take seriously a famous drunk twice her age. Can Bad handle even this much responsibility? Meanwhile, he gets his "comeback" break in the semi-humiliating form of opening for Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) — a contemporary country superstar who was once Bad's backup boy. Tommy offers a belated shot at commercial redemption; Jean offers redemption of the strictly personal kind. There's nothing too surprising about the ways in which Crazy Heart both follows and finesses formula. You've seen this preordained road from wreckage to redemption before. But actor turned first-time director Scott Cooper's screenplay honors the flies in the windshield inherited from Thomas Cobb's novel — as does Bridges, needless to say. (1:51) Piedmont, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki. (Harvey)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Spoiler alert: nothing happens in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That was OK when it was just a book—author Jeff Kinney's illustrated novel works due in large part to his whimsical drawings and tongue-in-cheek humor. It's a kids' book, but it's fun for adults, too. The same can't be said for the film adaptation: Diary of a Wimpy Kid sticks close to its source material without the creativity necessary to make it work on the big screen. As in the book, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) navigates the treacherous terrain of middle school, struggling to cope with an awkward best friend, a brutal older brother, and parents who just don't understand. All the actors turn in solid performances — Gordon is a particularly good find. But there's so little here to work with. The best that can be said about Diary of a Wimpy Kid is that it's cute and mostly harmless: a pleasant diversion for young'uns, and a tolerable bore for the parents they drag along. (2:00) 1000 Van Ness. (Peitzman)

*An Education The pursuit of knowledge — both carnal and cultural — are at the tender core of this end-of-innocence valentine by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig (who first made her well-tempered voice heard with her 2000 Dogme entry, Italian for Beginners), based on journalist Lynn Barber's memoir. Screenwriter Nick Hornby breaks further with his Peter Pan protagonists with this adaptation: no man-boy mopers or misfits here. Rather, 16-year-old schoolgirl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a good girl and ace student. It's 1961, and England is only starting to stir from its somber, all-too-sober post-war slumber. The carefully cloistered Jenny is on track for Oxford, though swinging London and its high-style freedoms beckon just around the corner. Ushering in those freedoms — a new, more class-free world disorder — is the charming David (Peter Sarsgaard), stopping to give Jenny and her cello a ride in the rain and soon proffering concerts and late-night suppers in the city. He's a sweet-faced, feline outsider: cultured, Jewish, and given to playing fast and loose in the margins of society. David can see Jenny for the gem she is and appreciate her innocence with the knowing pleasure of a decadent playing all the angles. The stakes are believably high, thanks to An Education's careful attention to time and place and its gently glamored performances. Scherfig revels in the smart, easy-on-eye curb appeal of David and his friends while giving a nod to the college-educated empowerment Jenny risks by skipping class to jet to Paris. And Mulligan lends it all credence by letting all those seduced, abandoned, conflicted, rebellious feelings flicker unbridled across her face. (1:35) Oaks, Smith Rafael. (Chun)

*The Ghost Writer Roman Polanski's never-ending legal woes have inspired endless debates on the interwebs and elsewhere; they also can't help but add subtext to the 76-year-old's new film, which is chock full o' anti-American vibes anyway. It's also a pretty nifty political thriller about a disgraced former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) who's hanging out in his Martha's Vineyard mansion with his whip-smart, bitter wife (Olivia Williams) and Joan Holloway-as-ice-queen assistant (Kim Cattrall), plus an eager young biographer (Ewan McGregor) recently hired to ghost-write his memoirs. But as the writer quickly discovers, the politician's past contains the kinds of secrets that cause strange cars with tinted windows to appear in one's rearview mirror when driving along deserted country roads. Polanski's long been an expert when it comes to escalating tension onscreen; he's also so good at adding offbeat moments that only seem tossed-off (as when the PM's groundskeeper attempts to rake leaves amid relentless sea breezes) and making the utmost of his top-notch actors (Tom Wilkinson and Eli Wallach have small, memorable roles). Though I found The Ghost Writer's ZOMG! third-act revelation to be a bit corny, I still didn't think it detracted from the finely crafted film that led up to it. (1:49) California, Piedmont, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

*The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo By the time the first of Stieg Larsson's so-called "Millennium" books had been published anywhere, the series already had an unhappy ending: he died (in 2004). The following year, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became a Swedish, then eventually international sensation, its sequels following suit. The books are addicting, to say the least; despite their essential crime-mystery-thriller nature, they don't require putting your ear for writing of some literary value on sleep mode. Now the first of three adaptive features shot back-to-back has reached U.S. screens. (Sorry to say, yes, a Hollywood remake is already in the works — but let's hope that's years away.) Even at two-and-a-half hours, this Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by necessity must do some major truncating to pack in the essentials of a very long, very plotty novel. Still, all but the nitpickingest fans will be fairly satisfied, while virgins will have the benefit of not knowing what's going to happen and getting scared accordingly. Soon facing jail after losing a libel suit brought against him by a shady corporate tycoon, leftie journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) gets a curious private offer to probe the disappearance 40 years earlier of a teenage girl. This entangles him with an eccentric wealthy family and their many closet skeletons (including Nazi sympathies) — as well as dragon-tattooed Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), androgynous loner, 24-year-old court ward, investigative researcher, and skillful hacker. Director Niels Arden Oplev and his scenarists do a workmanlike job — one more organizational than interpretive, a faithful transcription without much style or personality all its own. Nonetheless, Larsson's narrative engine kicks in early and hauls you right along to the depot. (2:32) Albany. (Harvey)

Green Zone Titled for the heavily-guarded headquarters of international occupation in Baghdad, Green Zone reunites director Paul "Shaky-Cam" Greengrass with star Matt Damon, the two having previously collaborated on the last two Bourne films. Instead of a super-soldier, this time around Damon just plays a supremely insubordinate one as he attempts to uncover the reason why his military unit can't find any of Saddam's WMDs. With the aid of the CIA, a Wall Street Journal reporter and a friendly Iraqi, Damon goes rogue in order to suss out the source of the misinformation. The Iraq War action is decent if scarce, but an overindulgence in (you guessed it) shaky-cam and political jargon cannot hide the fact that Green Zone's plot is simplistic and probably light on actual facts. Damon makes a fine cowboy-cum-hero, but the effectiveness of the mix of patriotism and Pentagon paranoia will vary based on your penchant for such things. Still, Green Zone moves fast enough that it remains worth a matinee for conspiracy thriller aficionados. (1:55) Empire, 1000 Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki. (Galvin)

The Hurt Locker When the leader of a close-knit U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad is killed in action, his subordinates have barely recovered from the shock when they're introduced to his replacement. In contrast to his predecessor, Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner) is no standard-procedure-following team player, but a cocky adrenaline junkie who puts himself and others at risk making gonzo gut-instinct decisions in the face of live bombs and insurgent gunfire. This is particularly galling to next-in-command Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). An apolitical war-in-Iraq movie that's won considerable praise for accuracy so far from vets (scenarist Mark Boal was "embedded" with an EOD unit there for several 2004 weeks), Kathryn Bigelow's film is arguably you-are-there purist to a fault. While we eventually get to know in the principals, The Hurt Locker is so dominated by its seven lengthy squad-mission setpieces that there's almost no time or attention left for building character development or a narrative arc. The result is often viscerally intense, yet less impactful than it would have been if we were more emotionally invested. Assured as her technique remains, don't expect familiar stylistic dazzle from action cult figure Bigelow (1987's Near Dark, 1989's Blue Steel, 1991's Point Break) — this vidcam-era war movie very much hews to the favored current genre approach of pseudo-documentary grainy handheld shaky-cam imagery. (2:11) Shattuck. (Harvey)

*The Last Station Most of the buzz around The Last Station has focused on Helen Mirren, who takes the lead as the Countess Sofya, wife of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer). Mirren is indeed impressive — when is she not? — but there's more to the film than Sofya's Oscar-worthy outbursts. The Last Station follows Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), hired as Tolstoy's personal secretary at the end of the writer's life. Valentin struggles to reconcile his faith in the anarchist Christian Tolstoyan movement with his sympathy for Sofya and his budding feelings for fellow Tolstoyan Masha (Kerry Condon). For the first hour, The Last Station is charming and very funny. Once Tolstoy and Sofya's relationship reaches its most volatile, however, the tone shifts toward the serious — a trend that continues as Tolstoy falls ill. After all the lighthearted levity, it's a bit jarring, but the solid script and accomplished cast pull The Last Station together. Paul Giamatti is especially good as Vladimir Chertkov, who battles against Sofya for control of Tolstoy's will. You'll never feel guiltier for putting off War and Peace. (1:52) Albany. (Peitzman)

*The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers For many, Daniel Ellsberg is a hero — a savior of American First Amendment rights and one of the most outspoken opponents of the Vietnam war. But as this documentary (recently nominated for an Academy Award) shows, it's never an an easy decision to take on the U.S. government. Ellsberg himself narrates the film and details his sleepless nights leading up to the leak of the Pentagon Papers — the top secret government study on the Vietnam war — to the public. Though there are few new developments in understanding the particulars of the war or the impact the release of the Papers had on ending the conflict, the film allows audiences to experience the famous case from Ellsberg's point of view, adding a fresh and poignantly human element to the events; it's a political documentary that plays more like a character drama. Whether you were there when it happened or new to the story, there is something to be appreciated from this tale of a man who fell out of love with his country and decided to do something about it. (1:34) Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Galvin)

*Mother You can guarantee that a movie titled Mother is not gonna be a love fest, ever. And through the lens of The Host (2006) director-writer Bong Joon-ho, motherly love becomes downright monstrous — though altogether human. Much credit goes to the wonderful lead actress Kim Hye-ja as the titular materfamilias, who's frantically self-sacrificing, insanely tenacious, quaintly charming, wolfishly fearsome, and wildly guilt-ridden, by turns. On the surface, she's a sweetly innocuous herbalist and closet acupuncturist — happily, and a wee bit too tightly, tethered to her beloved son Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin). He's a slow-witted, forgetful, and easily confused mop-top who flies into deadly rages when taunted or called a "'tard." When Do-joon is quickly arrested and charged with the murder of schoolgirl Moon Ah-jung (Mun-hee Na), Mom snaps into action with a panic-stricken, primal ferocity and goes in search of the killer to free her boy. But there's more to Do-joon, his studly pal Jin-tae (Ku Jin), and Moon Ah-jung than meets the eye, and Mother discovers just how much she's defined, and twisted, herself in relation to her son. Bong gives this potentially flat and cliched noirish material genuine lyricism, embedding his anti-heroine in a rural South Korean landscape like a penitent wandering in an existential desert, gently echoing filmmakers such as Ingmar Bergman and Abbas Kiarostami and beautifully transcending genre. (2:09) Shattuck. (Chun)

Our Family Wedding America Ferrera and Lance Gross play a couple of lovebirds who must jump through some serious family hoops before they get married in the mostly serviceable Our Family Wedding. What begins as a dual Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, with the differences in each family's traditions forcing complications and compromises, soon loses sight of its matrimonial plot as the focus steers towards a childish rivalry between the fathers. While it's being marketed as a goofy comedy, the final product seeks a relatively sentimental tone, which makes the few slapstick moments — like a goat trying to rape Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker — seem pretty inappropriate. Still, for some audiences the well-tread plot will act as comfort food: they fight, they make up, and it all ends in a big wedding where we watch the characters dance for damn near ten minutes. (1:41) 1000 Van Ness. (Galvin)

*A Prophet Filmmaker Jacques Audiard has described his new film, A Prophet, as "the anti-Scarface." Yet much like Scarface (1983), A Prophet bottles the heady euphoria that chases the empowerment of the powerless and the rise of the long-shot loner on the margins. In its almost-Dickensian attention to detail, devotion to its own narrative complexity, and passion for cinematic poetry, A Prophet rises above the ordinary and, through the prism of genre, finds its own power. The supremely opportunistic, pragmatically Machiavellian intellectual and spiritual education of a felon is the chief concern of here. Played by Tahar Rahim with guileless, open-faced charisma, Malik is half-Arab and half-Corsican — and distrusted or despised by both camps in the pen. When he lands in jail for his six-year sentence, he's 19, illiterate, friendless, and vulnerable. His deal with the devil — and means of survival — arrives with Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), temporarily locked up before his testifies against the mob. Corsican boss Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup) wants him dead, and Malik is tagged to penetrate Reyeb's cell with a blade hidden in mouth. After Malik's gory rebirth, it turns out that the teenager's a seer in more ways than one. From his low-dog position, he can eyeball the connections linking the drugs entering the prison to those circulating outside, as well as the machinations intertwining the Arab and Corsican syndicates. It's no shock that when Cesar finds his power eroding and arranges prison leaves for his multilingual crossover star that Malik serves not only his Corsican master, but also his own interests, and begins to build a drug empire rivaling his teacher's. Throughout his pupil's progress, Audiard demonstrates a way with Henri Cartier-Bresson's decisive moment, and when Malik finally breaks with his Falstaffian patriarch, it makes your heart skip a beat in a move akin to the title of the director's last film. This Eurozone/Obama-age prophet is all about the profit — but he's imbued with grace, even while gaming for ill-gotten gain. (2:29) Shattuck, Smith Rafael. (Chun)

Remember Me Ominously set in New York City during the summer of 2001, Remember Me, starring Robert Pattinson (of the Twilight series) and Emilie de Ravin (of TV's Lost), pretty much answers the question of whether it's still too soon to make the events of September 11 the subject of a date movie. Or rather, not the subject so much as the specter waiting just off-camera for its walk-on while brooding 21-year-old Tyler Hawkins (Pattinson) quotes Gandhi, gets into brawls, gets drunk, writes letters to his dead brother, and otherwise channels despondency and rage into various salubrious outlets. One of these is romancing (under circumstances severely testing the viewer's credulity) de Ravin's Ally Craig, grappling somewhat more constructively with her own familial tragedy. Ally is the sort of self-possessed, strong-willed young woman whose instincts, shortly after she's been backhanded by her drunk father (Chris Cooper), tell her to placate and have sex with her drunk boyfriend when he comes home enraged after battling his own father (Pierce Brosnan). She is there to teach Tyler, through quirky habits like eating dessert first, what director Allen Coulter (2006's Hollywoodland) wishes to teach us: that time is short and one must fill one's life with meaningful actions -- like throwing a fire extinguisher through a window to convince a classroom of tweens to stop bullying one's little sister. The film is seeded with allusions to an impending catastrophe that feels less integrated than exploited. And it's uncomfortable seeing the fall of the towers used to make the ground shake under a sweet, fairly depthless depiction of love and grief. (2:08) Empire, 1000 Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki. (Rapoport)

Repo Men If you are considering going to see Repo Men you'll need to go ahead and turn off your brain first — the guy who wrote it sure did. The script is jam-packed with contrivances and tonal inconsistencies, which is a shame because the plot had potential. In a near future when mechanical replacement organs are a reality, Jude Law plays Remy, an ex-soldier hired by the Union to find recipients that cannot afford their bills and repossess their artificial organs to return to the manufacturer. After a freak accident, Remy needs a replacement organ himself and when he can't pay, the Union sends his childhood friend and ex-partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) to retrieve it. Repo Men is at its best when it embraces its cartoonishness, when the film is so stupid that it transcends the hodge-podge story and glows with goofy grotesque action. If you can, stick around 'til the climax that includes an Old Boy (2003) homage (rip-off) and one of the more laugh-out-loud ridiculous endings I've seen in a long time. But high-art, this ain't. (1:53) 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki. (Galvin)

The Runaways In Floria Sigismondi's tale of the rise and fall of a 1970s all-girl band, LA producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) proclaims that the Runaways are going to save rock and roll. It's hard to gauge the sincerity of this pronouncement, but you can certainly hear, in songs like "Cherry Bomb" and "Queens of Noise," how the band must have brightened a landscape overrun by kings of prog rock. Unfortunately, a handful of teenagers micromanaged by a sleazy, abusive nutcase proved not quite up to the task, though the band did launch the careers of metal guitarist Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) and, more famously, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart). Sigismondi's film entertainingly sketches the Runaways' beginnings in glam rock fandom and gradual attainment of their own rabid fan base. We get Currie lip-synching Bowie to catcalls at the high school assembly, Jett composing "Cherry Bomb" with Fowley, glamtastic hair-and-wardrobe eye candy, pills-and-Stooges-fueled intra-band fooling around, and five teenage girls sent off sans chaperone on an international tour with substantial quantities of hard drugs in their carry-on luggage. What follows is less pretty: a capsule version of the band's disintegration after the departure of bottoming-out 16-year-old lead singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). In a film darkened by Currie's trajectory, Jett's subsequent success is a feel-good coda, but it's awkwardly attached and emblematizes one of The Runaways' main problems. When the band begins to fall apart, the film doesn't know which way to turn and ends up telling no one's story well. (1:42) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center. (Rapoport)

She's Out of My League From the co-writers of the abysmal Sex Drive (2008), She's Out of My League could be another 90-minute assemblage of gross-out humor, dick jokes, and unabashed homophobia. As it turns out, the latest offering from Sean Anders and John Morris is legitimately funny — far better than the trailer (and that half-assed title) would have you believe. The adorkable Jay Baruchel stars as Kirk, a hapless loser who finds himself dating bonafide hottie Molly (Alice Eve). Once you get past the film's silly conceit — Kirk's only "movie ugly," and personality goes a long way — you're left with a surprisingly charming comedy. The characters are amusing and the wit is sharp. Not to mention the fact that She's Out of My League offers a downright heartfelt message. There's a sincerity here that feels genuine instead of just tacked-on: yeah, yeah, it's about what's inside that counts, but there's more to it than that. Ignore the dreadful "jizz in my pants" scene, and the movie's almost an old-fashioned romcom. (1:44) 1000 Van Ness, SF Center. (Peitzman)

Shutter Island Director Martin Scorsese and muse du jour Leonardo DiCaprio draw from oft-filmed novelist Dennis Lehane (2003's Mystic River, 2007's Gone Baby Gone) for this B-movie thriller that, sadly, offers few thrills. DiCaprio's a 1950s U.S. marshal summoned to a misty island that houses a hospital for the criminally insane, overseen by a doctor (Ben Kingsley) who believes in humane, if experimental, therapy techniques. From the get-go we suspect something's not right with the G-man's own mind; as he investigates the case of a missing patient, he experiences frequent flashbacks to his World War II service (during which he helped liberate a concentration camp), and has recurring visions of his spooky dead wife (Michelle Williams). Whether or not you fall for Shutter Island's twisty game depends on the gullibility of your own mind. Despite high-quality performances and an effective, if overwrought, tone of certain doom, Shutter Island stumbles into a third act that exposes its inherently flawed and frustrating storytelling structure. If only David Lynch had directed Shutter Island — it could've been a classic of mindfuckery run amok. Instead, Scorsese's psychological drama is sapped of any mystery whatsoever by its stubbornly literal conclusion. (2:18) California, 1000 Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)