This Week’s Films

What have I got for you this week?I started off on Friday with a newsflash of the Elmwood changing hands. Then, on Sunday, I gave you my thoughts on the American Film Institute’s new, updated list of the 100 greatest American films of all time. On Tuesday, I posted microreviews of five films that will screen at the Jewish Film Festival. Finally, I gave you some news about the Brainwash Drive-In/Bike-In/Walk-In Movie Festival and more on the Elmwood.

I also posted a microreview of Spiderman 3.

Hippie Temptation, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday. I saw this already aging CBS news special in a club not too far from the current location of the Red Vic, probably about 1977. At the time, I thought it was hilarious (unintentionally, of course). I have no idea how I would react to it today.

The Big Lebowski, Cerrito, weekdays through Thursday. Critics originally panned this Coen Brothers gem as a disappointing follow-up to the Coen’s previous endeavor, Fargo. Well, it isn’t as good as Fargo, but it’s still one hell of a funny movie. A Cerrito Flashback.

Hot Fuzz, Elmwood, opening Friday. Director/co-writer Edgar Wright fills every frame of Hot Fuzz with his love for mindless action movies. More precisely, he fills the splices between the frames, cutting even the scenes of quiet village life in the frantic style of Hollywood violence–accompanied by overloud sound effects, of course. (And yes, he’s smart enough not to overdo it.) This technique, along with a funny story, clever dialog, and charming performances, help make this genre parody the funniest film in years, with the longest sustained laugh I’ve experienced since I first discovered Buster Keaton. If Hot Fuzz doesn’t make my Top Ten list as the funniest film of the year, 2007 will be the best year for comedies in a very long time. Also continuing at the Parkway.

Casablanca, Union Square, Saturday, 8:30. What can I say? You’ve either already seen it or know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece; it was just another movie coming off the Warner assembly line. But somehow, just this once, everything came together perfectly. Presented, like all Film Night in the Park shows, off DVD.

Over the Hedge, Albert Park, San Rafael, Friday, 8:30. Like any good, child-oriented, computer-animated feature, Over the Hedge keeps you laughing at the jokes and dazzled at the visuals. It even makes you care a bit about the characters. But it goes beyond those commercial requirements, saying something real and important about the damage that our consumer-oriented culture does both to us and to the natural world on the outskirts of our civilization. Besides, you’ve got to love a kids’ movie that undercuts the obligatory “families stick together” speech. Yet another Film Night in the Park presentation.

Shrek the Third, Parkway, opening Friday. The second sequel to the original, wonderful computer-animated Shrek isn’t a complete loss. It has enough truly funny jokes to fill a seven-minute Road Runner cartoon. But since the picture runs 92 minutes, there’s a lot of waiting between the laughs. While the first Shrek blew the lid off fairy tale traditions to teach children that conventional good looks were not a requirement for living happily ever after, and the still pretty good Shrek 2 suggested that even fairy godmothers may charge a price that’s too high, what does Shrek the Third have to teach our children? You guessed it: Believe in yourself. Like the theme, the third Shrek outing is guaranteed originality-free.