What’s Screening: May 31 – June 6

The Green Film Festival continues through Wednesday. Charlie Chaplin Days takes over not just the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum but the whole neighborhood of Niles. DocFest opens Thursday.

And here’s something heartening. The CineMark Classic Series has been so successful that they’re expanding it, adding a Sunday matinee to the existing Wednesday afternoon and evening shows. This month, they’re doing Spielberg.

A Before Midnight, Embarcadero, Shattuck, Guild, opens Friday. In this threequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) imagehave been living together for nine years, and they might as well be married. They have twins, a life together, and bodies transitioning into middle age. Like the previous films, this one takes place in a single day, but this time, they’re vacationing in Greece, and they drive, share a talkative dinner with six other people, and spend considerable time in a hotel room. And they fight. Hard. They still love ach other, but you’re not sure if the relationship will last. The result is both sad and sexy. Read my full review.

B+ Charlie Chaplin Shorts, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. This collection of four Chaplin shorts contain some of his best and some of his not-so-best. “Shoulder Arms,” imagewhich at four reels was nearly a feature in 1918, is delightfully silly, despite its serious subject matter–a war that was still going on when the film was shot. “Making a Living” was his first movie, and therefore historically significant, but it’s not really very good. “A Night at the Show,” where he plays two characters, was a huge hit in 1915, but I never cared for it. “Easy Street,” on the other hand, is one of his best shorts. Bruce Loeb will provide the piano accompaniment. Part of the Charlie Chaplin Days weekend.

A Shrek, New Parkway, Friday, 4:00; Saturday, 12:30. Enough bad sequels can make us forget how much we loved the original, and in the case of Shrek, the original was imagevery lovable indeed. This story of an ogre on a reluctant quest to save a princess turns both traditional fairy tales and their Disneyfied adaptations inside out. The evil prince’s castle looks like Disneyland, familiar characters make odd cameos, and that old song “Have You Seen the Muffin Man” gets turned into something like Guantanamo Bay. But it isn’t all just for laughs. In the third act, it rips apart one of the worst lessons that children can pick from these old stories, providing a happy ending that neither Grimm nor Disney could have imagined. The computer animation–ahead of the curve in 2001–still impresses today.

A- Blancanieves, New Parkway, opens Friday. Could The Artist have started a trend in new silent films–all in narrow screen and black and white? But while The Artist looked to Hollywood silents for its inspiration, Blancanieves–a loose and very imageSpanish adaptation of Snow White–follows the more expressionistic silent film of Europe. The result is a story that could not possibly have worked as well with sound and color. Dark and atmospheric, Blancanieves holds you as it finds new twists in the old story. Major kudos for Maribel Verdú, who plays the evil stepmother with a relish that’s a joy to watch. The story is familiar, but writer/director Pablo Berger provides plenty of surprises. In the end, he stands the whole Prince Charming thing on its head. See my full review.

A+ Singin’ in the Rain, Stanford, Saturday and Sunday. In 1952, the late twenties singininrainseemed like a fond memory of an innocent time, and nostalgia was a large part of Singin’ in the Rain’s original appeal. The nostalgia is gone now, so we can clearly see this movie for what it is: the greatest musical ever filmed, and perhaps the best work of pure escapist entertainment to ever come out of Hollywood. Take out the songs, and you still have one of the best comedies of the 1950′s, and the funniest movie Hollywood ever made about itself. But take out the songs, and you take out the best part. On a double bill with Brigadoon–one of the first Cinemascope musicals; which I saw long ago and didn’t care for it.

A+ Jaws, various CineMark multiplexes, Sunday, 2:00; Wednesday, 2:00 & 7:00. People associate Jaws with three men in a boat, but the picture is more than half over before the shark chase really starts. For that first half, it’s a suspenseful, jaws2witty variation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, An Enemy of the People, but with a central character more conflicted and less noble (Roy Scheider). Then the three men board the boat and the picture turns into a more exciting version of Moby Dick. Jaws‘ phenomenal success helped create the summer blockbuster, yet by today’s standards, it’s practically an art film–albeit one that could scare the living eyeballs out of you. For more on Jaws, see my Blu-ray review and Book vs. Movie article.

B Something in the Air, Roxie, Saturday and Sunday, 2:30. Youthful innocence takes strange forms. For Gilles, a French high school student in 1971, those imageforms are radical activism and artistic ambitions. Sometimes those drives support each other in Olivier Assayas’ loose tale, and at other times they conflict. Something in the Air doesn’t grab you like a great film; you often have to force yourself to stay involved. But the effort is worthwhile. As Gilles grows beyond his radical idealism–even if he never quite renounces it–you’ll find yourself appreciating how we all mature and find ourselves. And yes, the esoteric Marxist arguments are intended to sound ridiculous. Read my full review.

B The Big Lebowski, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30. Critics originally panned this Coen Brothers big_lebowski[1]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.