The only local film festival this week is CAMMFest, which closes on Sunday.
C+ Le Week-End, Albany, Embarcadero, Guild, Kabuki, Rafael, opens Friday. On their 30th anniversary, a very unhappy English couple go to Paris for a weekend. Whether they even hope it will rekindle something seems unlikely.This dark and depressing drama about a marriage in horrible decline has several very good scenes (even some funny ones) and one fully-realized, interesting, and sympathetic lead character. But it suffers from an overly manipulated story and another lead character so despicable as to be unbelievable. The result provides sadness without insight. A lot of talent went into Le Week-End. Very little of it shows. Read my full review.
King of Comedy, Castro, Tuesday. I haven’t seen Martin Scorsese’s meditation on celebrity and its wannabes for a long time, so I’m reluctant to give it a grade. But if I gave it one, it would probably be an A. Robert De Niro plays a frustrated, delusional, and hopelessly-inexperienced comic who kidnaps a popular TV talk show host (Jerry Lewis), hoping that it will bring him his big chance. Sandra Bernhard gives a wonderful turn as his accomplice. On a double bill with Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut, Play Misty for Me.
A One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 5:30. Ken Kesey’s novel offered a perfect opportunity for Milos Forman to explore his favorite topics: totalitarianism and rebellion. What’s Nurse Rachet’s insane asylum ward but a dictatorship in miniature? While the movie belongs to Jack Nicholson (one of many Oscar winners), the entire cast is letter perfect. In fact, supporting players like Danny De Vito and Christopher Lloyd hardly seem the unknowns they were in 1975. Part of the series More Than Fantasy: In Memoriam, Saul Zaentz (1921–2014).
B- Muppets Take Manhattan, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am. By the mid-80s, Jim Henson’s Muppet franchise was beginning to fray around the edges–a victim of its own seemingly unstoppable success. The basic formula–felt puppets interacting with movie stars and other real people–was beginning to get a bit tiresome. But enough of the jokes land properly to make it a worthwhile way to spend an hour and a half, especially with kids. It also contains a ridiculously obvious plug for Henson’s then-upcoming kiddie TV show, Muppet Babies.
B+ The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Rafael, Monday, 12:00 noon, free. A well-made documentary about a great subject, The Trials of Muhammad Ali looks at a man who is arguably the most important athlete of the last 50 years. At the age of 22, with very little experience, Cassius Clay became the heavyweight champion of the world. A devout member of the Nation of Islam, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, took on controversy, and risked both jail and a destroyed career for resisting the draft ("No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger"). Eventually, he would return to the ring and more triumphs. Director Bill Siegel has made a competent and conventional documentary, but Ali’s story and charisma makes it a very moving and exciting tale.
A+ North by Northwest, Castro, Sunday. Alfred Hitchcock’s light masterpiece, not as thoughtful as Rear Window or Notorious, but more entertaining than both of them combined. Cary Grant plays an unusually suave and witty everyman in trouble with evil foreign spies (who think he’s a crack American agent), and by the police (who think he’s a murderer). And so he must escape almost certain death again and again while chased from New York to Mount Rushmore. On the bright side , he gets to spend some quality time with a very glamorous Eva Marie Saint (danger has its rewards). On a double bill with Silver Streak, which I haven’t seen in a very long time.
C The Sound of Music, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00. Many people love it, but I find the biggest money maker of the 1960s lumbering, slow, and dull. Not funny or romantic enough for light entertainment, yet lacking the substance necessary for anything else. And most of the songs give the impression that, by their last collaboration, Roger and Hammerstein had run out of steam. On the other hand, the Todd-AO photography of Alpine landscapes makes this one of the most visually beautiful of Hollywood movies–in a picture-postcard sort of way. It’s also a very long movie to start at 9:00 on a weeknight.
A Dallas Buyers Club, Kabuki, opens Friday. Matthew McConaughey gives the performance of his career (so far) as the real-life Ron Woodroof, a Texas good-old-boy diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. He was supposed to die in 30 days, but he did some research, started smuggling pharmaceuticals not approved by the FDA, and kept himself and a whole lot of other people alive for a long time. Yes, this is very much a feel-good movie, but one that acknowledges an inevitable, early death. In the supporting cast, Jared Leto stands out as a dying transvestite.