Movies for the Week of April 6, 2007

Click here for descriptionBabe, Cerrito, Saturday, noon and 3:00; Sunday, 2:00. Few live-action children’s films retain this level of fairy-tale charm–especially without ever growing sappy. A technical marvel in 1995 (and still impressive today), Chris Noonan’s fable is funny, endearing, occasionally dark, and an effective 89-minute commercial for vegetarianism. If you’ve had the misfortune of seeing the sequel, try to put it out of your mind so you can enjoy the original. Presented by (and I’m not making this up) The Poop.

Click here for descriptionBlades of Glory, Balboa, already playing; Presidio, opens Friday. It’s no wonder Will Ferrell does such a great George W. Bush imitation; no one plays the self-confident fool like Ferrell. His macho figure skater and a handful of very funny gags make this by-the-numbers Hollywood gross-out comedy (or as gross-out as PG-13 can get) reasonably entertaining. Don’t look for any insightful satire of competitive figure skating; Blades of Glory is just a low-brow comedy taking obvious potshots. What’s important is that a reasonable number of the jokes hit home.

Click here for descriptionPlagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, Red Vic, Tuesday and Wednesday. Created by an irrigation accident in the early 20th century, the Salton Sea is California’s largest lake and was once a major tourist destination (I camped there one childhood winter). Now, it’s a shrinking, rotting mess, and home to a small community of eccentrics, nostalgia buffs, and people who can’t afford to live anywhere else. Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer caught the whole weird and wonderful history and spirit of the place in this entertaining documentary on the death of the American dream. Narrated by John Waters–an oddly appropriate choice.

Click here for descriptionThe Lost Boys, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. A clever and funny, and even occasionally scary teenage vampire movie shot in Santa Cruz. What do you do when peer pressure tells you to become an immortal bloodsucker? Hey, all the cool kids are doing it.A Flashback Feature.

Click here for descriptionPan’s Labyrinth, Cerrito, opens Friday; Red Vic, Thursday through the following Saturday. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) lives in fascist Spain with a cruel and powerful stepfather–a very dangerous and scary place to live. But so is the fantasy realm into which she frequently escapes. But at least the fantasy world, which may or may not be a figment of her imagination, holds out the possibility of hope. Guillermo del Toro fashioned a nightmare inside of a nightmare, filled with dark, gruesome, and often gory imagery, a child’s fantasy that’s appropriate only for adults, and an unforgettable experience.

Click here for descriptionThe Queen, Parkway, opens Friday. The Queen works best as a study of a totally bizarre one-family lifestyle. Helen Mirren is perfect, brittle yet human, as the monarch Bette Midler once called “the whitest woman in the world.” Concentrating on the week after Princess Di’s death, the film focuses on Elizabeth’s failure to react to or understand her subjects’ affection for her son’s estranged ex-wife. But there’s a coldness to The Queen, as if the film, like its central character, is keeping everyone at arm’s length.

Click here for descriptionLittle Children, Good films don’t have to tell you what a character is thinking or feeling; you sense it from the dialog and the performances. But Todd Field and Tom Perrotta didn’t trust their characters or their actors (which is too bad because the cast couldn’t have been better) and filled Little Children with detailed and annoying narration. Every time the story and performances build dramatic tension, Will Lyman’s omnipotent voice destroys it by telling you what everyone is thinking and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Things improve after the halfway mark–there’s less narration, giving you a chance to truly appreciate the good performances–but there’s still the overabundance of subplots and some unbelievably idiotic character behavior.