Still no film festivals. We’ll get some in September.
B+ To Be Takei, Kabuki, opens Friday; Rafael, Thursday, 7:00 (one screening, only). Who would have guessed that, almost 50 years after Star Trek first premiered, George Takei would be the most beloved member of the original cast. And why not? A childhood in a World War II relocation camp for Japanese Americans, a part in the iconic sci-fi TV series, and coming out as gay at age 67 all make for a great story. Jennifer M. Kroot has created an ordinary documentary about this extraordinary person, filled with interviews, video of Takei and husband Brad Altman going about their daily business, and old movie and TV clips. It’s the story, not the story-telling, that makes this film worth seeing. Read my full review. Director Kroot in person Friday at the Kabuki and Thursday at the Rafeal.
A All Quiet on the Western Front, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 7:00. The first great talkie war movie delivers a powerful anti-war message. When The Great War (AKA World War I) breaks out, a young, naïve German student patriotically and enthusiastically volunteers for the grand adventure he had been taught to expect. What he finds instead is a non-stop hellhole with no good guys or bad guys…just losers no matter what side they’re on. A rare Hollywood film that looks at war from the enemy’s side; I doubt it could have been made if it had shown our authority figures pushing our boys to the slaughterhouse. Part of the series Over the Top and into the Wire: WWI on Film.
A- Knocked Up, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:00. Writer/Director Judd Apatow tops his The 40 Year Old Virgin in another raunchy-yet-sweet comedy about the complexities and problems of romance. This time around, a rising television personality (the stunningly gorgeous Katherine Heigl) shares a drunken one-night stand with a slacker stoner (the stunningly dumpy Seth Rogen), then discovers she’s pregnant. As the two leads, their friends, and their families react to this life-changing accident, Apatow explores romantic entanglements and the effects of expectant parenthood–all while providing plenty of laughs. Read my full review. Part of the series Rude Awakening: American Comedy, 1990–2010.
A The Leopard, Castro, Sunday. 4K digital projection. For a three-hour film where almost nothing happens, Luchino Visconti’s 1963 epic is remarkably spell-binding. The sumptuous Technirama photography helps. Aristocrats led by patriarch Burt Lancaster live through a revolution that changes Italy’s government, but leaves their lives hardly effected. Visconti was an aristocrat by birth but a Marxist by inclination, and his film shows considerable nostalgia for the days of fancy balls and peasants who knew their place, but also understands why this society had to die. The Leopard is a big, bold film about people barely touched by momentous events. It’s graceful in design and shows great sympathy for its flawed characters. I enjoyed it immensely. Read my longer report.
A+ Paths of Glory, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00. It’s not enough to show that war is hell. A great war movie should also show that poor men go through that hell for the benefit of richer, more powerful men. Perhaps that’s why World War I, so obviously pointless, has inspired more great films than any other war. Stanley Kubrick’s addition to the cannon is one of the best. When an impossible mission inevitably fails, the officers who planned it arrange for three enlisted men to be tried for cowardice, convicted, and executed–it’s easier than admitting their mistake. Kirk Douglas–in the first performance by a major star in a Kubrick film–plays the honorable officer who tilts at the windmills of corrupted military justice. Another part of the series Over the Top and into the Wire: WWI on Film.
A- The Lavender Hill Mob, Rafael, Sunday. New digital restoration. In one of the best Ealing comedies, Alec Guinness plays a meek, low-level bank clerk who decides he’s going to become very wealthy very quickly–by stealing a large amount of gold and smuggling it out of the country. He has no experience in crime, but he gathers together a more experienced gang to help him in this endeavor. The result is one of the funniest heist films ever made. Part of the series Alec Guinness at 100.
A Before Midnight, Castro, Thursday. In this threequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have 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 each other, but you’re not sure if the relationship will last. The result is both sad and sexy. Read my full review. On a double bill with The Lovers on the Bridge.
A Monty Python Live (Mostly), Cerrito, Monday, Thursday, 7:00; Elmwood, Wednesday, 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.
C+ Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Stanford,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.