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Misa Shikuma

Reviews: ‘Amour’

In refreshing contrast with some of the more ambitious, high concept or just plain abstract films playing in competition at Cannes, Michael Haneke proves that less is more with “Amour,” a simple yet emotionally rich story of how a sudden stroke affects an aging couple and their daughter.

Reviews: ‘The Paperboy’

“The Paperboy,” Lee Daniels’ dreamy 1960s drama about a pair of reporters determined to revoke a prison inmate’s death sentence in small-town Florida is more style than substance, foregoing a rich historical and cultural context for a messy adaptation of Pete Braxton’s novel that not even a brave performance by veteran actress Nicole Kidman can save.

Reviews: ‘Cosmopolis’

Following in the dense intellectual style of last year’s “A Dangerous Method,” David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” is heavily dialogue- and theory-driven, only this time the psychoanalysis has been replaced with economic and financial jargon in an eerily dystopian retelling of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Adapted from Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name, this riveting commentary on capitalism could not have come at a more appropriate time.

‘Lawless’ Cast talks dynamics

Based on Matt Bondurant’s historical novel “The Wettest County in the World,” the latest collaboration between director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave brings to life the story of a bootlegging family during the final years of the Prohibition era. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke as the Bondurant brothers, “Lawless” is an action-packed yet character-driven tale of gangsters, corruption and survival in the backcountry of Virginia.

An American Stanford student in Cannes

For the average cinephile or celebrity gawker, the word “Cannes” probably conjures up images of svelte actors and gowned actresses posing on the red carpet silhouetted against a blue sea, speckled with fancy yachts, and the occasional renegade director.

Reviews: ‘Rust and Bone

One of the hottest In Competition films so far is Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” a dynamic relationship drama centering on a whale trainer and a struggling single father who moonlights as a small-time boxer. Starring Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts as the leads, this atypical love story is set to make waves once it reaches overseas.

Review: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

Part coming-of-age story and part comedy of manners, Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” chronicles the adventurous romance of two young lovers on a fictional island off the coast of New England. Newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman lead a star-studded supporting cast including Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton.

Review: ‘Lawless’

As anyone who ever had to endure AP U.S. History knows, Prohibition was a brief period in post-WWI America when the sale, manufacture and transport of alcohol were illegal. What the textbooks probably didn’t elaborate on was how, well, badass the bootleggers who defied the law were. Enter “Lawless,” an adrenaline rush of a film inspired by the real-life Bondurant brothers, who made a killing in the illicit whiskey trade during the Great Depression.

Reviews: ‘On the Road’

Under the guidance of director Walter Salles, Jack Kerouac’s monumental beatnik novel “On the Road” finally comes to the screen after spending decades in development. Capturing the transience of youth and search for meaning that defined a generation of Americans coming of age in the mid-20th century, the film takes its time struggling to straddle the line between nostalgic period piece and refreshing meditation on growing up.

Director Tanya Wexler on ‘Hysteria’

You’ve probably heard this story before: An uptight but well-meaning professional slowly but surely falls in love with his boss’ sharp-tongued, fiercely independent daughter. Such is the premise of Tanya Wexler’s newest film, “Hysteria,” starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the reluctant lovers. The catch? Set in Victorian England, Wexler’s uproarious film boasts an unlikely historical backbone that most romantic comedies lack: the invention of the vibrator by Dancy’s character, Dr. Mortimer Granville.

Review: ‘Sound of My Voice’

Zal Batmanglij’s provocative debut feature and Sundance hit “Sound of My Voice” follows a young pair of documentarians seeking to infiltrate an underground cult. Starring indie “it-girl” Brit Marling as the cult’s enigmatic leader, the film’s exploration of the boundaries between knowledge, faith and trust prove that it doesn’t take a big budget to drive a high-concept story.

SFIFF: Author to Auteur

I’m seated across from acclaimed graphic novelist and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi in a smoky (thanks to her) suite in San Francisco’s ritzy Fairmont Hotel. The author of the autobiographical “Persepolis” is every bit an extension of the outspoken, headstrong young heroine portrayed in the books, so I suppose it should be no surprise that our conversation, which began with her latest film “Chicken with Plums,” has gradually migrated into uncharted territory, encompassing death, creativity and, at the moment, the American Dream. Satrapi, as I quickly discover, has an opinion on everything.

Reviews: SFIFF Top Picks

We’ve been buzzing over the San Francisco International Film Festival and here are a few more of our top picks from the fest, which continues until May 3. No time to make the trek up to the city? Not to worry, these films will all be making their way to a theater near you in the next few months.

Review: ‘The Five-Year Engagement’

Feeling more grown-up than their first collaboration, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s newest film “The Five-Year Engagement,” about a near-perfect couple that can’t quite seem to tie the knot, still maintains that delicious mix of awkward realism, raunchy jokes and sentimentality sans cheesiness that made 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” such a hit.

Joss Whedon on ‘The Avengers’

Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind cult hits like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly,” kick-starts post-Oscar blockbuster season this weekend with the long-awaited Marvel spectacle “The Avengers.”

SFIFF Preview

Beginning April 19, the San Francisco International Film Festival will once again bring an eclectic mix of both world cinema’s rising stars and veteran filmmakers to the Bay Area. With 200 films in 41 languages, panels, master classes and more, the 55th edition has something for true cinephiles and casual filmgoers alike. So straight from the programmers themselves, here is your guide to the films and events not to be missed.

Review: ‘Mirror, Mirror’

“Mirror Mirror,” the first of two Snow White adaptations slated to hit theaters this year, is a sumptuous visual feast featuring all of the typical style of director Tarsem Singh, but little of the substance that made his previous films (“The Fall,” “The Cell”) tick. Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer and Lily Collins star in this lackluster yet occasionally humorous retelling of the classic fairy tale.

Review: ‘The Kid with a Bike’

In “The Kid with a Bike,” directing duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne present a vivid snapshot of lower-class urban life in their native Belgium through the eyes of the precocious young protagonist. True to the brothers’ naturalistic, documentary style, the film’s simple yet poignant story manages to pack a powerful emotional punch while still leaving many questions unanswered.

Review: ’21 Jump Street’

Clever, hysterical and surprisingly full of heart, “21 Jump Street” proves that reboots don’t necessarily equal triteness. Inspired by the ‘80s television drama that made Johnny Depp a household name, the movie stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as fledgling cops sent undercover to a local high school in order to bust a deadly new drug operation.

Will Ferrell talks man-child characters and cowboys

. “Casa de mi Padre,” however, casts him in an entirely different light: as a naïve Mexican cowboy who gets caught in the crossfire between two rival drug lords. Although the film pushes boundaries for its genre, the greatest departure for Ferrell fans will be seeing the comedian act entirely in Spanish.

Review: ‘Casa de mi Padre’

Will Ferrell portrays a simple-minded Mexican cattle rancher in the Spanish-language “Casa de mi Padre,” a kitschy telenovela-meets-Spaghetti Western written and directed by fellow “Saturday Night Live” alumni Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont.

Review: ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’

“The Secret World of Arrietty,” the long-awaited adaptation of Mary Norton’s popular children’s story “The Borrowers” from Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” “Ponyo”), finally received its North American release. Directed by newcomer Hiromasa Yonebayashi from a screenplay by legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, the film is a beautifully hand-drawn and touchingly crafted coming-of-age story.

Review: ‘The Woman in Black’

In his first big screen, post-“Harry Potter” role, Daniel Radcliffe trades wizard robes for Victorian coattails in director James Watkins’ “The Woman in Black.” Adapted from Susan Hill’s gothic novel of the same name, the lackluster thriller thrives on cheap scares, but never quite manages to tap into the pathos of the story about a family’s dark secret.
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