No film festivals this week. In fact, no more Bay Area film festivals this month. But we still have movies.
A Monty Python Live (Mostly), Cerrito, Tuesday, 7:00. I know this isn’t technically a movie, but it’s screening in movie theaters and that’s what counts. The five surviving members of Monty Python, along with a large dancing troupe and the ever-adorable Carol Cleveland celebrate everything Python in this recorded stage performance. We get old routines with new twists, new routines hopelessly twisted, and clips from the old TV show that often upstage the live acts (Philosopher’s Football is especially hilarious with a full audience). Everyone but the dancers have aged, but they’re just as talented and silly as they were 45 years ago.
A- Office Space, Castro, Saturday, 9:00. Archival print. Work…there’s a reason they have to pay you to show up. In this broad and funny satire by Mike Judge, three young men struggle with their jobs in a soul-killing tech company. They conspire to fool the computers and skim enough money off the top to allow for early retirement –but not enough to be noticed. Jennifer Aniston plays the waitress whose job is as soul-killing as theirs, but pays considerably less. Stephen Root steals the movie as the employee who’s soul was crushed long ago. This special SF Sketchfest presentation will include Root in person.
A Kind Hearts and Coronets, Rafael, Sunday, 4:30 & 7:00. This very dark comedy from Ealing Studios takes a hammer to the British class system with vicious glee. Dennis Price stars as a distant cousin to a wealthy and well-born aristocrat. He desperately desires to escape from his modest and humble life, but that requires killing several relatives–all played by Alec Guinness. Warning: In one scene the N-word is used in a shockingly casual way–it was apparently acceptable in 1949 England. Part of the series Alec Guinness at 100.
B+ The Fisher King, Lark, Friday, 8:45. Terry Gilliam’s first film from someone else’s screenplay, and his first shot in his native USA, isn’t up to his best work. But it’s still very good. Jeff Bridges plays a guilt-ridden former shock jock who befriends a homeless lunatic (Robin Williams in one of his best performances) in hope of redemption. But helping this tragic victim of random violence involves both playing cupid and jumping down the rabbit hole of a brilliant but deeply unhinged mind. As with all of Gilliam’s work, fantasy and reality converge. The Lark is screening The Fisher King as a tribute to Robin Williams.
Jurassic Park, Lark, Saturday, 5:00. I find it odd that the Lark would put this PG-13 rated movie in their Family Film Series, but then, I saw it in first run with my nine-year-old son, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. I remember it as a moderately entertaining fantasy thriller with what at the time were cutting-edge special effects. If I remembered it well enough to grade it, that grade would probably be a B-.Three important members of the special effects team will do Q&A after the movie.
A The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Castro, Sunday, 1:40 (double bill starts at noon). Considering the unethical behavior of the three leads, Sergio Leone’s epic Civil War western should have been called The Bad, the Worse, and the Totally Reprehensible. But morality is relative when armies are slaughtering thousands, and besides, it doesn’t really enter into Leone’s tongue-in-cheek point of view. While the war rages around them, three outlaws battle lawmen, prison guards, and each other for a fortune in stolen gold. Check your scruples at the door and enjoy the double- and triple-crosses, the black comedy, the beautiful Techniscope photography of Spain doubling as the American west, and Ennio Morricone’s legendary score. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef are fine, but Eli Wallach’s performance as the half-bright, devious Tuco steals the picture. On a double bill with The Lineup, a Don Siegel movie I haven’t seen.
B+ Bullitt, Roxie, Monday, 7:00. Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. It seems more pedestrian than it once did. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. Another marker: To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word “bullshit“ marks the first time anyone said such a word in a Hollywood movie; Bullitt was released precisely two weeks before the rating system replaced the old production code, but the new freedom was already bubbling up. Presented to Zipcar.
C+ Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Stanford,Thursday and next Friday. It’s Sherlock Holmes vs. Nazi spies (and Professor Moriarty) in the fourth Rathbone/Bruce Holmes picture and the second one made by Universal. The low budget shows, and the plot is filled with holes, but it’s still fun to watch Rathbone as the best-cast Sherlock Holmes ever. But the real mystery:Who at Universal thought that Rathbone looked good in that ridiculous hairstyle (which would be abandoned a picture of two later). On a double bill with Charlie Chan in London, which I haven’t seen. I discuss both of these series in a recent article.
D+ Mamma Mia, Castro, Friday, 7:00. What could go wrong with a musical comedy about long-passed promiscuity, starring Meryl Streep and set on a picturesque Mediterranean island? Plenty, including formless choreography, ABBA’s catchy but ultimately unmemorable music, and way too many exterior scenes obviously shot on a soundstage. But in terms of sheer embarrassing badness, nothing in Mama Mia! comes close to Pierce Brosnan’s nails-on-chalkboard singing voice. I like Brosnan a lot as an actor, but when he tries to sing, the effect is something like strangling a cat. On a double bill with Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, which I haven’t seen in many years. If memory serves, I’d give that one a low grade, too.
A Boyhood, Balboa, opens Friday. Fifty years from now, people will still watch Richard Linklater’s intimate epic. Shot off and on over a period of 12 years, Boyhood allows us to watch young Mason and his family grow up and older. It isn’t an easy childhood. His parents are divorced, neither of them have much money, Dad is immature and Mom has bad taste in men. But Boyhood avoids the sort of horrible situations that drive most narrative films, and it’s all the better for that. By using the same actors over such a long period of time, Linklater creates a far more realistic picture than could be done with aging makeup or switching from a child actor to an adult one. Read my full review.
A A Hard Day’s Night, Roxie, Saturday & Sunday. When United Artists agreed to finance a movie around a British rock group, they wanted something fast and cheap. After all, the band’s popularity was limited to England and Germany, and could likely die before the film got into theaters. We all know now that UA had nothing to worry about. The Beatles are still popular, all over the world. What’s more, Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night still burns with outrageous camerawork and editing, subversive humor, and a sense of joy in life and especially in rock and roll.
B+ The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939 version), Stanford, Friday. The best Sherlock Holmes novel gets a reasonably close and very effective adaptation in the first Holmes adventure starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Yes, the forbidding English moors are on a soundstage, but they still provide the sense of dread that the story requires. Rathbone is the perfect Holmes, and this is one of his best vehicles. On a double bill with Charlie Chan at the Olympics, which I have not seen.