Now playing in San Francisco

From massive blockbusters to modest indies, The City consistently offers a wide array of cinematic options.

If you’re overwhelmed with movie choices, here are a few new film picks to get you going.

Nightcrawler: From the first frame until the last, Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut unfurls with manic energy.

It’s a hypnotic confluence of action, comedy and hysteria that is at once unnerving, exhilarating and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Our entry point into this Michael Mann-like vision of Los Angeles is Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a persistent and determined individual eager to break into the world of crime journalism.

Under Bloom’s candor and fine manners is a man who, for all intents and purposes, may be a psychopath.

Seemingly apathetic to all others, Bloom is fearless in his pursuit of staking out a place in nightcrawling, the field of work in which videographers film crimes as they unfold and sell their footage to television stations that are desperate to please their sadistic viewers.

Shot on film during the day and on digital at night, Gilroy transplants us into his sickly depiction of Los Angeles with an impressive amount of panache and bravado.

Whether the movie will hold up as an action picture or searing satire of cable news is yet to be determined.

But for those interested in what happens when Drive meets Network meets Ace in the Hole, Nightcrawler is worth your time and energy.

 


 

Fury: There’s no shortage of quality, substantive films detailing the triumphs and defeats World War II.

In fact, there’s been so many pictures on the topic that you’d likely be able to locate a “WWII” category on Netflix this weekend (note: please don’t).

That’s why if one is to make a film about the second world war, it should ideally contribute something new and enlightening to the conversation. And Fury, the latest film from writer/director David Ayer about a group of soldiers stuck fighting in a battle nearing completion, does just that.

There’s just one problem: its angle, while initially intriguing, is executed with banality.

We begin with a battalion, spearheaded by Brad Pitt, that’s entrenched in German warfare without a paddle or backup to fend off the incoming enemy.

What’s made clear is these people are not heroes. These are not the soldiers saving America from the wrath of Nazism. No, these are the unfortunate men who got left at the party while everyone packed up and went home for the night.

When not working through cluttered, cliched dialogue about how much they “love” this job, Pitt and his crew (including Shia LaBeouf and Michael Pena) fight the Nazis in a few competently constructed action sequences.

Unfortunately nothing in Ayer’s overlong, 134-minute screenplay pops with any urgency, passion, or fire.

 


 

Dear White People: Dear People of San Francisco who may be reluctant to pay $10 to see Justin Simien’s masterful directorial debut — don’t be.

While I generally try to stay clear of hyperbole, Dear White People is arguably the most vital film to come out of Hollywood in 2014.

It won’t break box office records or garner Oscar attention come January (though it should on both accounts).

In fact, it’s likely that in six months time, the American populace will forget this movie even came out. Which is a shame considering Dear White People should be taught in schools alongside Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.

Chronicling the lives of four black students at a predominately white Ivy league college, Simien has created the ultimate college movie — a film in which intelligent young adults wade through the social and political complexities of school, while attempting to figure who they are and what they believe.

On the outset Sam White (Tessa Thompson) seems to know who she is: a whip-smart anarchist who hosts “Dear White People,” a radio program that examines the archaic racism still embedded into her campus.

Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) also seems to understand his place: a clandestinely gay 20-something who likes Robert Altman movies, Mumford and Sons, and can’t seem to fit in anywhere.

Slowly Simien reveals everyone at this university is putting on a well-constructed front — assuming the character they aspire to be, or believe they want to be.

This depiction of personal and emotional fragility is something most will be able to identify with. Reviews deconstructing the films’s grammar and politics are also worth of your attention.

However, all you need to know about Dear White People is that it’s not only cleverly written, stylish composed and terrifyingly modern, it directly draws from recent events.

Racism still exists in our every day lives, and it’s movies like this — veering clear of a didactic PSA — that help us move forward.

 


 

If none of these tickle your fancy, other viable options in theaters include Birdman, Laggies and Listen Up Philip.