Summer Movie Preview: The Blockbusters and Arthouse Films that Love on San Francisco and/or Smash It

Still from Fruitvale Station

Summer's the time for the big and the loud and the expensive, movie-wise. Our tolerance (or need) for such things must rise during the hot months, for reasons as yet unknown to science. Some of the movies are spectacles, some of them are crap, and in a few of them, San Francisco plays a supporting role, as in Star Trek Into Darkness, in which the city plays "Future San Francisco," and Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, in which it plays a small neurotic city in love with an improbably beautiful city. Or Pacific Rim, in which it indulges its latent BDSM impulses and once again submits to destruction. But we're not just covering the big 'n' louds; we've also got the line on the summer's best arthouse flicks and film festivals. Plus our critics' thoughts on the various kinds of disaster inflicted upon our fair city, including the dangerous lack of movie screens. All coming just in time, too; we can feel your hormone levels changing and that terrible need growing somewhere inside you — probably next to that extra stomach you've grown for the popcorn.

Summer Film Festivals

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine romances The City.
Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine romances The City.
In the future S.F. of Star Trek Into Darkness, the Transamerica Building proves its perennial design appeal, and the bridge indicates we’re still driving in dumb old cars.
In the future S.F. of Star Trek Into Darkness, the Transamerica Building proves its perennial design appeal, and the bridge indicates we’re still driving in dumb old cars.

May 30-June 5

SF Green Film Fest
Thriving in its third year, this environmentally focused fest harvests a fresh (organic) crop of docs on such topics as fracking, honeybees, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, itty-bitty anti-McMansions, and dancing garbage trucks — plus new work from the true poet of the enviro-doc form, filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer.

June 6-20

SF Docfest
Now in its 12th year of telling it like it is (or at least the way documentarians see it), SF DocFest is spread out among five theaters, including the Balboa and the Roxie. This year's must-see is Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer, about the controversial Russian band.

June 13 - 16

San Francisco Black Film Festival
Now entering its 15th year, the San Francisco Black Film Festival offers a globe-spanning selection of movies either by filmmakers of African descent, or which feature actors or subjects representing the African diaspora. Highlights this year include the short documentary T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920’s.

June 14-16

The Hitchcock 9
Putting those recent iffy Hitchcock biopics behind us, let's return to the master's roots, shall we? Here begins a national tour of Hitch's nine earliest surviving (and newly restored) works: sly silents including his first movie ever, a little 1925 number known as The Pleasure Garden — in which, rest assured, not all is bliss.

June 20-30

Frameline 37
The best of worldwide queer cinema returns to the Castro Theatre with plenty of local flavor, including the already-infamous James Franco-produced documentary Kink, the 18-director omnibus film of Michelle Tea's Valencia, and Joy! Portrait of a Nun, about the original Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

July 18-21

SF Silent Film Festival
From the people who brought you the Hitchcock 9, here's more reliably vital stuff from cinema's early days, freshly adorned with live music. This year, as usual, they've got so many great names that saying them aloud seems like casting some magic cinema spell: Ozu, Vidor, Pabst! Keaton, Chaplin, Garbo, Brooks!

July 25-Aug. 12

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Referred to by some audiences as "the Bay Area's Favorite Jewish Holiday" (suck it, Purim!), the 2013 Festival lineup had not been announced by press time — but if past years are any indication, the wide range of films will likely appeal to every film lover, Jewish or not.


May 31

After Earth
Will and Jaden Smith crash-land on a future Earth, but they don't find Wall-E, super-intelligent apes, or Tom Cruise, so it's totally original.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Or: How Julian Assange spurred America's biggest security breach ever, with help from freelance document declassifier (and not-quite SF Pride grand marshal) Bradley Manning. Oscar-lauded documentarian Alex Gibney directs.

June 7

The Internship
Wedding Crashers' Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite as obsolete salesmen resorting to the "mental Hunger Games" of entry-level jobs at Google. Beats Bing.

Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon uses his Avengers cred to direct his pals doing Shakespeare's comedy. But it's still Whedon, so he might kill your favorite character anyway.

June 14

Man of Steel
"It's like, enough already. I get Superman." — Watchmen director Zak Snyder expressing his boredom with classical superheroes, long before he got this gig.

Dirty Wars
In this notably Superman-free documentary, an investigative journalist examines the foul implications of "hundreds of covert operations on multiple continents." Not that clean war was ever a thing.

June 21

Monsters University
We're not saying that Pixar is getting lazy, but we don't have to, either. The existence of a Monsters, Inc. prequel says it for us.

A Hijacking
So, not a romantic comedy, safe to say? Indeed not; rather, a nail-biting Danish thriller, about a cargo ship taken over by Somali pirates.

June 28

White House Down
In this accidental also-ran to spring's Olympus Has Fallen, dullard-catastrophist Roland Emmerich reminds us that he really has it in for that pesky White House (see also Independence Day, 1996).

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My Voice Nation Help

Summer Film Festivals in San Francisco and you do not mention the San Francisco Black Film Festival (SFBFF)! wtf? Fifteen years in the city and you want to tell me you at the paper do not know its' here? You have written about it... they have advertised with you and you just give no credit. Oh I get it... put a black face on the cover and do not mention the SFBFF... you need to right this wrong!


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