Bruce Lee, John Wayne, Bugs Bunny, and pregnant nuns grace this week’s Bay Area screenings.
And not only Bugs Bunny. This weekend we get two collections of Loony Tune classics, both in 35mm.
The (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series continues Friday through Sunday, as it will throughout July.
New films opening
B+ The Innocents, Clay, Albany, Rafael, opens Friday
Only months after the end of World War II, a Polish nunnery experiences a rash of new-born babies–the result of multiple rapes. A young, French doctor does what she can to help them, but she must fight with the extremely strict mother superior. The story becomes a battle between grim-faced, unbending religion and humanism–both secular and spiritual. Read my full review.
B Hunt for The Wilderpeople, Embarcadero, Guild, California, Rafael, opens Friday
This New Zealand comedy starts out wonderful, touching, and very funny, but it wears out its welcome too soon. The story concerns a troubled boy (Julian Dennison) sent to a new foster home in the very rural outback. Soon the boy and his reluctant foster father are living in the woods, and the government creates a dragnet to catch these two escapees from civilization. Read my SFIFF report.
A Salute to Chuck Jones, Castro, Sunday, 12:00
A celebration of Warner Brothers’ most talented animator. The short cartoons to be screened, all in 35mm, include such classics as What’s Opera, Doc?, One Froggy Evening, Feed the Kitty, Duck Amuck, and Rabbit of Seville. The ticket prices are high–$17 to $150–but it’s a benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum and the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity.
Popcorn for Breakfast presents: Looney Tunes in 35mm, Roxie, Saturday, 11:00am
If the above Salute to Chuck Jones is too pricey for you, here’s another Loony Tune collection that also includes many of the best short cartoons to come out of Warner Brothers (although not my favorite, Duck Amuck). And this one costs only $8; free for kids under 12.
Enter The Dragon, Great Star Theater, Saturday, 3:00 & 9:00
I haven’t seen this movie in years, and while I liked it when I saw it, I was never a big fan. This is the flick that brought the martial arts genre to America, and made Bruce Lee famous on this side of the Pacific, even if he didn’t live to enjoy the fame. Look closely to catch Jackie Chan as a nameless fighter unlucky to go up against Lee. Part of the (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series.
A+ Ran, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00
New 4K Restoration
I doubt anyone else ever made a movie as sad, as tragic, as despairing of the human condition, and yet as beautiful as Kurosawa’s reworking of King Lear. To watch Ran is to experience, in your gut, that many people are capable of unspeakable evil. And while these people inevitably pay the price for their ambitions, so do countless innocents. Unlike Shakespeare, Kurosawa considers what his king did before he became old, and it isn’t pretty. The film, on the other hand, is as visually gorgeous as movies get. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry.
B+ Iron Monkey, Great Star Theater, Saturday, 7:00
I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Hong Kong action flick that felt so much like a Hollywood swashbuckler. The evil rulers of a village are stealing everything they can while oppressing the people. Luckily for the average peasant, a masked criminal called Iron Monkey robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Meanwhile, a traveling physician and his young son, both martial arts masters, turn up to help. Funny, rousing, and thoroughly entertaining. Another (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series screening.
B+ Hitchcock/Truffaut, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00
In the early 60s, François Truffaut interviewed Alfred Hitchcock and together they created one of the great books on filmmaking. Now documentarian Kent Jones has turned that book into a film. He rightly focuses on cinematic technique as he explains the creation of the book and what it taught filmmakers. Top directors, including Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, and Martin Scorsese, talk onscreen about Hitchcock’s work–how he used camera placement, editing, and other tools of the filmmaker’s art. I enjoyed the movie very much, but I’m biased. Read my full review.
B+ Shanghai Noon, Great Star Theater, Sunday, 3:00
Jackie Chan and a not-yet-famous Owen Wilson star in this outrageous sendup on the Western. As a Chinese Imperial Guard on a mission to Nevada to rescue a princess, Chan gets to play the fish out of water. Wilson plays a would-be train robber who thinks he’s the star of a dime novel. Despite their very different comic styles, the two stars find great chemistry. The sequel, Shanghai Knights, is even better. Another part of the (Not Just) Hong Kong Action Film Series.
B The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am
There’s a cartoon-like quality to a lot of Wes Anderson’s work, so it isn’t surprising that he would eventually make a real cartoon. Based on a story by Roald Dahl, Fantastic follows the adventures of a very sophisticated but not altogether competent fox (voiced by George Clooney) as he tries to outwit a farmer and keep his marriage together. Children and adults will find different reasons to enjoy this frantically-paced comic adventure.
B The Searchers, Castro, Sunday, 6:00
A bitter and racist Civil War veteran (John Wayne) spends years searching for his niece, kidnapped by Comanches. At first he wants to save her, but as the years go by, he starts talking about killing her, because she’s now “more Comanch than white.” Talk about an anti-hero. Shot in VistaVision, the movie looks splendid, has many great moments, and contains one of Wayne’s greatest performances. The closing shot itself is unforgettable. Most John Ford fans consider The Searchers his masterpiece. I disagree. I find it marred by a rambling, occasionally absurd plot, and a very unlikable protagonist (probably Wayne’s least sympathetic character). On a double bill with the much better The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which I list below in the Lebowskies.
B Roman Holiday, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday
Gregory Peck and “introducing” Audrey Hepburn fall in love through an extremely contrived plot in this entertaining romantic comedy. She’s a runaway princess, and he’s a reporter hoping for a scoop. But the real star is Rome; shooting overseas locations was a new thing in the early 1950s. Directed by William Wyler, from a story by Dalton Trumbo. On a double bill with Midnight.
Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)
- Gone With the Wind, Stanford, Friday through next Friday. MY PIECE ON THE FILM’S RACISM
- Mystery Mystery Science Theater 3000, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30
- The Third Man, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00. MY A+ APPRECIATION
- Singin’ in the Rain, various CineMark Theaters, Sunday (matinee only) and Wednesday
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Castro, Sunday, 8:15. MY APPRECIATION On a double bill with The Searchers.
- Shanghai Express, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday. On a double bill with Morocco.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cerrito, Thursday, 9:30