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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The best of worldwide queer cinema returns to the Castro Theatre with plenty of local flavor, including the already-infamous James Franco-produced Kink.com 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
I'm So Excited
Not the Pointer Sisters biopic the name might suggest, though the song makes a memorable appearance in Pedro Almodovar's comedy about a doomed airliner.
The Lone Ranger
Johnny Depp elevates Tonto to first billing against Armie Hammer's Ranger in Gore Verbinski's "Pirates of the Wild West." Looking for a good Depp western involving American Indians and face paint, but without any minstrelsy? Check out director Jim Jarmusch's 1995 Dead Man.
The Way, Way Back
Regrettably neither a hybrid of Emilio Estevez's The Way and Peter Weir's The Way Back, nor an art stunt from Chinese dissident Ai Wei Wei, but instead a coming-of-age comedy by the writers of The Descendants.
If anyone's gonna make a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, it might as well be Guillermo del Toro. But that's a giant "if."
This year's Sundance award-sponge is one of our own, celebrating the life and lamenting the awful death of Oscar Grant on a BART platform in the fateful first moments of 2009.
In the trailer for this retiree-secret agent sequel, the words "Academy Award Winner Anthony Hopkins" are followed almost immediately by an image of brown geysers shooting up from toilets. Message received!
In this drug-addled dramedy, Michael Cera stars as an entitled young American jackass on a peyote pilgrimage in the Chilean desert. Join him.
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) almost directed this latest X-Men spinoff — in which immortal-ass Logan fights ninjas — but he was replaced by James Mangold (Knight and Day). Things were likely to go wrong either way.
Andrew Bujalski's black-and-white homage to the early days of personal-computer nerdery, set at a computer chess tournament in 1980, is by turns touching and bizarre.
The Smurfs 2
Sony has already scheduled The Smurfs 3 to come out July 2015. Of course, if nobody goes to see this one (hint hint hint!)...
Woody Allen's third San Francisco movie outing in 44 years features Cate Blanchett, Louis C.K., and Andrew Dice Clay. It may or may not be a comedy.
District 9's Neil Blomkamp returns to sci-fi social injustice issues with a story about the rich living in space stations while the rest of us scrape around here on crappy old Earth.
The Act of Killing
A documentary in which former Indonesian death squad leaders revisit their gory days of 1965, reenacting crimes against humanity like scenes from movies they've loved. Seriously.
Kick Ass 2
Hit Girl actress Chloë Grace Moretz was born in 1997, you pervs. Please wait until the third installment of this ultra-violent superhero black comedy before you start getting any ideas.
In which Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch spend a summer painting traffic lines on a secluded country highway, and writer-director David Gordon Green gets Your Highness out of his system (well, it takes a while).
For this tale of flirty brewery co-workers, indie DIY king Joe Swanberg stepped up his game and scored some familiar Hollywood faces, including Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick.
The World's End
The conclusion of Edgar Wright's "Blood and Ice Cream" trilogy, after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it's once again about friends and drinking in a pub, and once again, the fate of humankind somehow hangs in the balance.