What’s Screening: November 2 – 8

Doc Fest opens Thursday. And the Italian Film Festival continues on Saturday nights.

A- The Other Son, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, Aquarius, Rafael, opens Friday. Two families–one Israeli, the other Palestinian–discover that their 18-year-old sons were switched at birth. This could have been played for laughs (in fact it has been, in The Infidel), but director/co-writer Lorraine Levy wisely chose drama as she observes how the shock effects the two families. The Palestinian-born Israeli son, Joseph (Jules Sitruk) can’t join the military, and is told by his rabbi that he isn’t Jewish. The Israeli-born Palestinian son, Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), loses the respect of his political activist older brother Bilal (Mahmud Shalaby of Free Men). Both are terrified of the consequences of their friends and neighbors finding out. Mostly through the work of the two mothers, the families slowly grow together, despite the cultural, political, and very physical walls that separate them. Read my full review.

B The Phantom of the Opera (1925 version), Stanford, Friday, 7:30. I haven’t seen the musical, but the original, silent Phantom is a tough one to beat (despite some pedestrian passages). Lon Chaney makes the perfect phantom–tragic, frightening, and yet strangely romantic. The demasking scene will stick in your memory for life. The newly-restored print (which I assume the Stanford is showing) recreates the original tints, 2-color Technicolor, and painted stencil colors. With Dennis James accompanying on the organ.

The 2012 Great Nickelodeon Show, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Sunday, 2:00. Early 20th Century nickelodeons showed more than just movies. In this recreation of a lost entertainment, the Museum will present vaudeville acts, illustrated songs, hand-colored slides, lectures, and early, one-reel flickers–including works by D.W. Griffith and George Melies.

A Double Bill: Terminator 2: Judgment Day & Inception, Castro, Friday. Actually, it’s a triple bill, but I haven’t seen Halloween III: Season of the Witch, so I won’t tell you about it. James Cameron’s Terminator 2 earns this evening’s A grade. This time around, a replica of the first movie’s killer robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) returns from the future to help the good guys, stop a worse killer robot, and prevent a nuclear war. Linda Hamilton returns as the original’s intended victim, now a hard-as-nails and possibly insane heroine. The action scenes and special effects are outstanding, with a small-scale story, effective story of people surviving in extreme conditions. But I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea that a robot can make a better father than a flesh-and-blood man. Made by Christopher Nolan between the two Dark Knight films, Inception is little more than an enjoyable science-fantasy caper about brilliant crooks altering a man’s dreams for the betterment of everyone. Entertaining, but unexceptional.

C+ Buck Privates, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday. If you’re not already a fan of Abbott & Costello, their first movie won’t make you one. And if you are a fan, Buck Privates may cause you to question that allegiance. But it will make you a fan of the Andrews Sisters, who blow Bud and Lou out of the picture with their singing and dancing, and their fun personalities. On a double-bill with Hold That Ghost, another early Abbott & Costello vehicle.

B+ The Wizard of Oz, Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday. I don’t really have to tell you about this one, do I? Well, perhaps I have to explain why I’m only giving it a B+. Despite its clever songs, lush Technicolor photography, and one great performance (Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion), The Wizard of Oz never struck me as the masterpiece that everyone else sees. It’s a good, fun movie, but not quite fun enough to earn an A.