Only one festival going on this week: CAAMFest, formerly known as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. It’s already going, and continues through the week and beyond.
B+ Don’t Stop Beleivin’, Kabuki, opens Friday. I’m not a Journey fan, but this music documentary made me a fan of the band’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda. He’s charismatic, energetic, down-to-earth, and funny. He also has a great set of pipes. Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary tells the story of how he became a part of Journey. Band members, desperate for a new singer, found the poverty-stricken, Manilla-based Pineda on Youtube, flew him out to California, worked with him for a few weeks, then took him on the most successful tour of Journey’s long history. This is a true-life fairy tale lacks conflict–the worst thing that happens to Arnel is a head cold–but Pineda has such a magnetic personality you don’t really care.
C+ 20 Million Miles to Earth, New Parkway, Sunday, 6:30. Much as I love Ray Harryhausen, I have to admit that most of his films are barely mediocre. Yes, his character-driven special effects still astound, decades after they have become technically obsolete. But with few exceptions, the movies wrapped around those effects were flat and cheap. Alas, 20 Million Miles to Earth is not an exception. A spaceship returning from Venus brings home an egg that soon grows into a very large monster. The creature is expertly realized and your heart goes out to it, but that may be in part because the human characters are so badly drawn that you’re left with no one else the care about. The New Parkway will screen the colorized version, which doesn’t improve anything. This is a Thrillville presentation, which would probably make the event a lot more fun than the movie. It’s good to have Will (the Thrill) Viharo back where he belongs with this sort of thing. For more on Thrillville, see My First ThrillVille Experience and ThrillVille Report, Part II.
A+ City Lights, Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday. In Charlie Chaplin’s most perfect comedy, the little tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl and befriends a suicidal, alcoholic millionaire, but neither of them know the real Charlie. The result is funny and touching, with one of cinema’s greatest endings. Sound came to movies as Chaplin was shooting City Lights, resulting in an essentially silent film with a recorded musical score composed by Chaplin himself. Cinema has rarely achieved such perfection.
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., New Parkway, Friday, 4:00; Saturday, 12:30 and 10:30 (the adult version?). The only Dr. Seuss feature film made during his lifetime, and as creative, visually daring, and funny as any kid’s fantasy ever to come out of Hollywood. At least that’s how I remember it, many years after my last screening. Even the sets, photographed in three-strip Technicolor, look as if Seuss had painted them himself.
A+ Lawrence of Arabia, Kabuki and various CineMark Theaters, Wednesday. One of the greatest films ever made. Stunning to look at and terrific as pure spectacle, Lawrence is also an intelligent study of a fascinatingly complex and enigmatic war hero. T. E. Lawrence—at least in this film—both loved and hated violence, wanted desperately to become something he could never be, and told himself that he was liberating Arabia while knowing deep down that he was turning it over to the British. This masterpiece requires a very large screen and either 70mm film or 4K DCP digital projection for its full effect. I know that it will be screened in 4K XD at the Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD; I’m not sure of the other locations.
F Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:15. 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.
Note: This article was altered a few hours after it went live. I added the Don’t Stop Believin’ capsule.