The Brainwash Movie Festival runs tonight and Saturday night. The Iranian Film Festival runs Saturday and Sunday. From Britain with Love just keeps going at the Rafael. And the Santa Rosa International opens Wednesday.
B+ Shaolin, 4-Star, opens Friday. The Buddhist monks in Benny Chan’s new period piece hate bloodshed, but they still get to beat up a lot of bad guys. The story concerns a ruthless warlord (Andy Lau) who will do anything to gain and hold power. But when he’s betrayed and overthrown, he finds himself at the mercy of the monks in the Shaolin Temple, a holy place which he recently desecrated. Luckily, the monks are good at forgiveness…and at fighting. They help the general learn to be a decent, peaceful human being. They also help him fight the new—and even worse—warlord who has taken his place. With Jackie Chan providing comic relief. Read my full review.
A+ Raiders of the Lost Ark, Castro, Sunday. Steven Spielberg directed it, and the bad guys are Nazis, but it’s as far from Schindler’s List as a great movie can get. What else can I say? If you object to mindless, escapist action flicks on principle, you won’t see it anyway. If you don’t, you probably already love it. A new digital presentation.
B+ The Man Who Fell to Earth, Lumiere, Shattuck, opens Friday. Movies were pretty weird in the ‘70s, but they didn’t get much weirder than this—at least with a major director and stars. David Bowie plays an alien who comes to Earth in search of water, but who instead discovers capitalism, TV, and alcohol. (I’m tempted to say that I also discovers sex, but he left a wife and children behind on his native world.) At least that’s what I think it’s about, but it’s not entirely clear. Nicolas Roeg directed it, so you know that the movie won’t be about story. But the images are intriguing, the central characters are puzzles that cry out to be solved, and it has some very sexy scenes in it. If for no other reason, see it to be reminded what science fiction films could be like in the years between 2001 and Star Wars.
A+ Taxi Driver, Castro, Thursday. When I think of the 1970s as a golden age of Hollywood-financed serious cinema, I think of Robert De Niro walking the dark, mean streets of New York, slowly turning into a psychopath. Writer Paul Schrader and director Martin Scorsese put together this near-perfect study of loneliness as a disease. Travis Bickle isn’t lonely because he hasn’t found the right companion, or because society has failed him, or because he doesn’t want intimacy. He’s lonely because he’s mentally incapable of relating to other human beings. This is a sad and pathetic man, with a rage that will inevitably turn violent. Columbia Pictures has recently restored Taxi Driver, and if the Blu-ray release (see my review) is any indication, a theatrical presentation should look fantastic. On a double bill with something I’ve never heard of called Blast of Silence.
A Buster Keaton Double Bill: Steamboat Bill, Jr. & The Three Ages, Stanford, Friday, 7:30. These are the last and first features Keaton made as an independent filmmaker. They’re also one of his best combined with his very worst. The A goes to Steamboat Bill, Jr. Steamboat Bill (Ernest Torrence) already has his hands full, struggling to maintain his small business in the wake of a better-financed competitor. Then his long-lost son turns up, not as the he-man the very-macho Bill imagined, but as an urbane and somewhat effete Keaton. You can look at Steamboat Bill, Jr. as a riff on masculinity or a study of small-town life as an endangered species. Or you can just sit back and laugh. Keaton’s first feature, Three Ages, tells one story three times—in caveman days, imperial Rome, and modern times—intercutting between them. There’s a lot of forced anachronistic humor, and only occasional flashes of Keaton genius. See my Blu-ray review.