What’s Screening: October 28 – November 3

Silent horror, women-created horror, hole-in-the-head horror, Spanish horror, and even Rocky Horror in this Halloween week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

A Moonlight, Embarcadero, New Mission, opens Friday

Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to 2008’s Medicine for Melancholy follows a resident of the inner city from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, examining three stages of his life. Three different actors play Chiron, a young man unsure of his sexuality who must learn to at least appear macho to survive in the tough streets. Mahershala Ali from Game of Thrones carries the first act as drug-dealer who is also a gentle and kind father figure. Read my full review. Director Barry Jenkins in person Friday at the Embarcadero.

B- The Handmaiden, Embarcadero, California (Berkeley), New Mission, opens Friday

This atmospheric Korean thriller boils over with lies, double crosses, larceny, surprise plot twists, and a lot of sex–much of it quite kinky. At 90 minutes, it would be a great entertainment, but at its actual length of 144, it often drags. The handmaiden of the title works for a young Japanese lady she plans to rob. Things get messy. Overall, the good scenes in The Handmaiden are worth wading through the bad ones. Read my full review.

Promising events

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Castro, Thursday, 7:00

A documentary on one of the two strangest mother/daughter teams of movie stars in Hollywood history (Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli being the other). The Doc Stories opening night show.

Rocky Horror Picture Show, UC Theatre, Monday, 8:00

I usually list Rocky Horror in the Lebowskies at the bottom of this newsletter. But this is different. It’s playing the UC Theatre, where for decades it screened every Saturday at midnight. I saw it there at least three times. The UC is now a music venue, but they’re screening Rocky Horror on Halloween (much earlier than midnight); their first movie screening since the theater reopened. I plan to be there.

Recommended revivals

A+ The Last Picture Show, Castro, Wednesday

Peter Bogdanovich’s masterpiece just may be the bleakest coming-of-age movie ever made. The two young men at its center, inherently nice guys, have no prospects and no real ambitions. They live in a depopulated town that looks like it will blow away with the next windstorm. College isn’t an option. Even sex is a confusing and often embarrassing experience. Made in 1971 and set about two decades earlier, the film refuses to make the 1950s nostalgic. Read my A+ appreciation. On a double bill with Hell or High Water.

A Nosferatu, New Parkway, Sunday, 3:00

You best forget about sexy vampires before you go see the first film version of Dracula (an unauthorized rip-off that got the filmmakers into legal trouble). Max Schreck plays Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it’s probably the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. The New Parkway promises live accompaniment “like you’ve never heard before,” but isn’t saying by who.

A Persepolis, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

Can one call a 95-minute, low-budget, animated film an epic? I think this one qualifies. It may also qualify as a masterpiece. Iranian/French cartoonist Marjane Satrapi based Persepolis on her own autobiographical graphic novels (Vincent Paronnaud shares screenwriting and directing credits). Through the eyes of the young Marjane, we see Iran go through oppression, revolution, hope, worse oppression, war, and even worse oppression. Read my full review.

A- Pan’s Labyrinth, New People Cinema, Wednesday, 9:00

Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) lives in fascist Spain with a cruel and powerful stepfather–a very dangerous and scary place to live. But so is the fantasy realm into which she frequently escapes. At least the fantasy world, which may or may not be a figment of her imagination, contains the possibility of hope. Guillermo del Toro fashioned a nightmare inside of a nightmare, filled with dark, gruesome, and often gory imagery, a child’s fantasy that’s appropriate only for adults. Part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.

B Kill Bill Parts 1 & 2, New Mission, Sunday, 1:30

Quentin Tarantino creates a whole new universe for his two-part martial arts epic about revenge. In a sense, it’s the ultimate Tarantino flick, since this time around, even Tarantino himself knows that it’s set in an alternate universe. Part 1 drags a bit with fight after fight, even though some of them are beautifully choreographed. And there are a great many clever and funny moments throughout. But Tarantino’s shallow ultraviolence doesn’t quite hold up for a three-hour story.

B The Day the Earth Stood Still, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

They made a lot of science fiction movies in the 1950s, but few as good as this left-leaning, anti-McCarthyite Christian parable. An alien (Michael Rennie in his first major American role) comes to Earth with a message of peace, finds a populace unwilling to listen, and then becomes the target of a manhunt. A fine film, despite some overly-done symbolism. Not to be confused with the 2008 remake.

B Oh, Rosalinda!!, Stanford, Saturday and Sunday

It’s hard not to enjoy Pressburger and Powell’s light-as-a-feather musical comedy about adultery and mistaken identity. The sets and costumes intentionally look false–often cartoonish. The story is about as believable as an Astaire/Rogers musical–although it’s far more risqué. But the film’s absolute refusal to take anything seriously, along with the lack of Astaire and Rogers’ charisma, eventually alienates the audience. The filmmakers clearly enjoyed working with the new, wide Cinemascope screen. On a double bill with La Ronde, which I have yet to see.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)