A The King’s Speech, Embarcadero, opens Friday. King George VI (the Duke of York through much of the film, and Bertie to his family) doesn’t want to live in the limelight. But fate forces that job onto the shy, reluctant man with a very bad stammer. Terrified, he turns to Australian immigrant Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush at his most impish) for help with his speech impediment. The relationship doesn’t start well. Logue begins with asking him personal questions, telling him not to smoke, and insists they be on a first-name basis. For a man raised to believe in the importance of formal ceremonies meant to elevate his family above everyone else, this commoner’s disregard for tradition and class structure is shocking and confusing. Read my full review.
Noir City Xmas, Castro, Wednesday. The folks that bring you the Noir City festival every year have a holiday treat for you: A double-bill of little-known noirs from the dark side of Santa Clause. I have seen neither Remember the Night nor Mr. Soft Touch, but I suspect they’ll bring, if not a bit of holiday cheer, than at least some enjoyable depression. Remember the Night was written by Preston Sturges shortly before he became a director, and stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, the doomed lovers of Double Indemnity.
B+ The Triplets of Belleville, Red Vic, Tuesday and Wednesday. A modern, low-budget,dialog-free animated film for adults (and teenagers; it’s rated PG-13). The story involves a French champion bicyclist who’s kidnapped by mobsters and brought to America to…Never mind, it’s just too weird to explain. But who cares? The jokes are funny, the visuals are clever and original, and the music swings (the triplets of the title are an aging big band trio).
B Cabaret, Castro, Saturday. Back in the spring of 1973, I was angry (but not surprised) when the obviously commercial Godfather beat Bob Fosse’s Weimar-era musical for the Best Picture Oscar. Time proved me wrong, and while I wouldn’t today put Cabaret in the same class as The Godfather, it’s still a dazzling piece of style. On a double bill with Xanadu.
B Donnie Darko, Cerrito, Friday and Saturday, midnight. How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers have to deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun.