B+ Last Call at the Oasis, Embarcadero, Shattuck, opens Friday. Water covers most of Earth’s surface, yet the human race is rapidly running out of safe drinking water. Jessica Yu’s surprisingly polished documentary shows us how as more water is tapped upriver, communities downriver are doomed, how industrial pollution makes the water we have unsuitable for consumption, and how global warming worsens these problem. Hollywood-quality flashy graphics and occasional humor help make this doc watchable, but no less frightening. Read my full review.
D+ Darling Companion, Embarcadero, Aquarius, opens Friday. I hate watching good actors struggle through a bad script. This particular bad script concerns a long-married couple (Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline) and several relatives searching for a missing dog. It’s supposed to turn into a search for self-discovery, but the people are too shallow and contrived to be worth discovering. The result is a character-driven comedy almost entirely lacking in believable characters or laughs. If it were not for the inspired cast, which also includes Dianne Wiest and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, the movie would be an entire loss. Read my full review.
Spanish-Language Laurel & Hardy, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum (although these are not silent films), Sunday, 4:00. In the early days of talkies, studios often made multiple versions the same movies, in different languages and with different casts. But since no one else could replace Laurel & Hardy, they appeared in all versions, reading their dialog phonetically. Click here for more on these pictures.
A Howard Hawks Double Feature: His Girl Friday & Ball of Fire, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. His Girl Friday wins the A. Hawks turned The Front Page into a love triangle by making ace reporter Hildy Johnson a woman (Rosalind Russell), and scheming editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) her ex-husband. And thus was born one of the funniest screwball comedies of them all–with a bit of serious drama thrown in about an impending execution. It’s been too many years since I’ve seen Ball of Fire for me to grade it. From what I remember, it’s not one of Hawks’ best works, but it’s still a worthy entertainment. Billy Wilder worked on the screenplay. Film historian David Thomson will introduce Saturday’s 7:30 screening.
A- Double feature: The Social Network & Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, Castro, Tuesday, 7:30. The A- goes to The Social Network, clearly the biopic of our times. I don’t know about the real Mark Zuckerberg, but the movie version makes for great drama. A young man with a serious social disorder, he betrays partners, has sex with groupies, and almost inadvertently becomes extremely wealthy. The Steve Jobs movie is for real. Jobs was a brilliant, charismatic figure who drastically changed the world we live in. But this 16-year-old, 70-minute, videotaped interview consisting of a single close-up is only watchable up to a point. Read my full review.
Yellow Submarine, Elmwood, Saturday at noon, and Wednesday at 8:00 (and the two following Saturdays). The Beatles’ one animated feature–which to my knowledge hasn’t played the Bay Area in years–has been restored, and will receive special theatrical presentations. It’s been too long since I’ve seen this whimsical fantasy for me to issue a grade. If memory serves, Yellow Submarine is a wonderful movie for taking drugs, and equally wonderful for taking your kids. Just don’t take both.
A The Artist, Opera Plaza, Shattuck , return engagement opens Friday. Michel Hazanavicius just made a silent movie about the death of silent movies. Even more amazing than that, he pulls it off, creating a warm, funny, heartfelt, and occasionally sad story of a Hollywood star’s fall from grace as talkies ruin his career. Meanwhile, a struggling actress who loves him becomes a star in the new medium of talkies. Hazanavicius fills the picture with funny bits that illuminate the characters, the setting, and the medium. A black-and-white, narrow-screen, silent film is a hard sell in today’s market, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see The Artist find an audience. Read my full review.
F Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Camera 3, Thursday (and next Saturday). Oh, how Terry Gilliam has fallen! Monty Python’s token Yank made three of the best movies of the 1980’s, then his career collapsed and took his talent with it. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas reeks; a confused, ugly, and meaningless exercise–which would be forgivable, if it also wasn’t boring and witless.