What’s Screening: March 29 – April 4

The Food and Farm Film Festival opens today and runs through Sunday.

B+ Don’t Stop Believin’, New Parkway, 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.dont_stop_believinRamona 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, Manila-based Pineda on YouTube, flew him out to California, worked with him for a few weeks, then took him on what became the most successful tour of Journey’s long history. This  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.

B+ On the Road, Rafael, opens Friday. (Yes, I know that I mistakenly listed it as opening last Friday.) Jose Rivera and Walter Salles came maddeningly close to making a great film out of Jack Kerouac’s highly-regarded, biographical  novel. The sense of time and place are letter-perfect. The characters are rich, surprising, believable, and sexy. On the Road captures the dizzy and seductive joys of a drug-soaked and sexually wild youth, as well as the less joyful results of this lifestyle. The lead performers, Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and Kristen Stewart (of Twilight fame) bring wild abandon, sexual urgency, and subtle characterization to their roles. But in trying to capture the full arc of the novel, it bogs down at times, and the picture is marred by stunt casting in the smaller roles. Read my full review.

A Ratatouille, Roxie, Saturday, 1:00. Brad Bird keeps proving himself the most talented and interesting animator since Chuck Jones. While there’s nothing really original about building a cartoon around imagesympathetic, anthropomorphic rodents (just ask Walt Disney), Bird does something totally different. He plays with the unsettling image of rats in the kitchen–he even lets our skin crawl at the spectacle–but he still gets us rooting for the varmints. And also for the hapless, human chef-in-training who intentionally sneaks a rat into a gourmet restaurant. The animation is, as you’d expect from Pixar, technically perfect, but you don’t really notice it except as an afterthought. You’re too caught up in the story to think about how it was made. Part of the Food and Farm Film Festival.

A Hitchcock Double Bill: The Birds & Psycho, Stanford, Thursday through next Sunday. That A goes to Psycho, which could result in you never wanting to take a imageshower again. In his last great movie, Alfred Hitchcock pulls the rug out from under us several times, leaving us unsure who we’re supposed to root for or what could constitute a happy ending. In roles that defined their careers, Janet Leigh stars as a secretary turned thief, and Anthony Perkins as a momma’s boy with a lot to hide. The Birds, Hitchcock’s only fantasy, has some great sequences. But the story is weak, and new-comer star Tippi Hedren sinks the film with her flat performance.

A Manhattan, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 3:10. Made two years after Annie Hall, Manhattan doesn’t quite measure up to Woody Allen’s masterpiece, but it’s still one of his best. A group of New Yorkers fall in and out of love, cheat on their significant others, and try to justify their actions–all in glorious widescreen black and white and accompanied by Gershwin tunes. Part of the series and class Film 50: History of Cinema: The Cinematic City. Read my Blu-ray review.

A+ The Godfather, Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday. Francis Coppola, taking the job simply because he needed the money, turned imageMario Puzo’s potboiler into the Great American Crime Epic. Marlon Brando may have top billing, but Al Pacino owns the film (and became a star) as Michael Corleone, the respectable youngest son inevitably and reluctantly pulled into a life of crime he doesn’t want but for which he seems exceptionally well-suited. A masterpiece of character, atmosphere, and heart-stopping violence, recently restored by the master of the craft, Robert A. Harris.

A+ Casablanca, Kabuki and various CineMark Theaters, Wednesday. What can I casablancasay? You’ve either already seen it or know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece; it was just another sausage coming off the Warner assembly line. But somehow, just this once, everything came together perfectly.  For more details, see Casablanca: The Accidental Masterpiece.

Night of the Lepus, New Parkway, Sunday, 6:00. Everything I know about this 1972 horror film comes from the Medved Brothers’ book Golden Turkey Awards, where it was nominated for "The Worst Rodent Movie of All Time" (it lost out to The Food of the Gods). The story is about giant, carnivorous, man-eating rabbits. Need I say more? A Thrillville presentation hosted by Misery Ann Mayhem.

A+ Hitchcock Double Bill: North by Northwest & Notorious, Stanford, through Sunday. Each of these films earns its own A+. In North by Northwest, Cary Grant plays an unusually suave and witty everyman in trouble with both evil nbnwforeign spies (who think he’s a crack American agent), and the police (who think he’s a murderer). And so he must escape almost certain death again and again while spending quality time with a very glamorous Eva Marie Saint (danger has its rewards). In the far more serious but still entertaining Notorious, a scandal-ridden Ingrid Bergman proves her patriotism by seducing, bedding, and marrying Claude Rains’ Nazi industrialist while true love Cary Grant grimly watches. Grant’s secret agent sends her on this deadly and humiliating mission, then reacts with blind jealousy. Sexy, romantic, thought-provoking, and scary enough to shorten your fingernails. I discuss the film more deeply in my Blu-ray Review.

B The Big Lebowski, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00. Critics originally big_lebowski[1]panned this Coen Brothers gem as a disappointing follow-up to their previous endeavor, Fargo. Well, it isn’t as good as the Coen’s masterpiece, but it’s still one hell of a funny movie. It’s also built quite a cult following;The Big Lebowski has probably played more Bay Area one-night stands in the years I’ve maintained this site than than any three other movies put together.