An odd week of new releases, this: three disposible genre flicks (ensemble comedy Movie 43; Jason Statham ass-whupper Parker; and Jeremy-Renner-what-is-going-on-with-your-career-dude? puzzler Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) — plus old-folks comedy Quartet (read Dennis Harvey's take here, probably the only Quartet review on the planet to compare it to 1979's Roller Boogie).
Your best bets are the two films reviewed after the jump (music doc Beware of Mr. Baker and South Korean import In Another Country), or buying a sheaf of tickets to the always-quality Noir City (now in its 11th year; runs through Feb.3 at the Castro).
Beware of Mr. Baker This mesmerizing bio-doc about volatile, wildly talented drummer Ginger Baker (Cream, Blind Faith) begins with the 70-something musician clocking director Jay Bulger in the face. After this opening, Bulger — who also wrote a deeply compelling article about Baker for Rolling Stone last year — wisely pulls himself out of the narrative, instead turning to a wealth of new interviews (with Baker, his trademark red locks faded to gray, and many of his musical and personal partners, including Eric Clapton and multiple ex-Mrs. Bakers), vintage performance footage, and artful animation to weave his tale. Baker's colorfully-lived, improbably long life has been literally all over the map; he overcame a hardscrabble British childhood to find jazz and rock stardom, and along the way jammed with Fela Kuti in Nigeria (where he picked up his fierce love of polo), broke many hearts (his own kids' among them) and lost multiple fortunes, spent a stint in the US, and eventually landed at his current farm in South Africa. Two constants: his musical genius, and his frustratingly jerky behavior — the consequence of a naturally prickly personality exacerbated by copious drug use and bitterness. A must-see for musicians and those who love them. (1:30) Roxie. (Cheryl Eddy)
In Another Country This latest bit of gamesmanship from South Korea's Hong Sang-soo (2000's Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors) has Isabelle Huppert playing three Frenchwomen named Anne visiting the same Korean beachside community under different circumstances in three separate but wryly overlapping stories. In the first, she's a film director whose presence induces inapt overtures from both her married colleague-host and a strapping young lifeguard. In the more farcical second, she's a horny spouse herself, married to an absent Korean man; in the third, a woman whose husband has run away with a Korean woman. The same actors as well as variations on the same characters and situations appear in each section, their rejiggered intersections poking fun at Koreans' attitudes toward foreigners, among other topics. Airy and amusing, In Another Country is a playful divertissement that's shiny as a bubble, and leaves about as much of a permanent impression. (1:39) (Dennis Harvey)
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