What’s Screening: June 30 – July 6

W. C. Fields, Cab Calloway, Joe Dante, Bogart & Hepburn, tough British cops, and the Russian Revolution light up Bay Area movie screens this week.

And oddly, not a single film festival.

New films opening

A- Nowhere to Hide, Roxie, opens Friday

The experience of sitting through this documentary can best be described as harrowing, gruesome, scary, and deeply depressing. At yet, I recommend it. From 2011 through 2014, Nori Sharif – a hospital nurse living and working in Jalawla – recorded everything he could on video. Keep in mind that he’s a medical professional in a land of constant and confusing low-grade war. Things go from bad to worse, and then ISIS appears and it’s his own family that’s in danger. A must-see. Read my full review.

Promising events

Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy, Roxie, Saturday, 4:00

The director of The Howling and Gremlins put together over four hours of clips, short films, and who knows what else. This odd collection, which sounds a bit like The Clock, has been around for nearly 50 years, but every so often Dante pulls out the scissors and mixes it up a bit. Part of the weekend series Joe Dante’s Films in Films. Joe Dante in-person.

International House, Stanford, Wednesday and Thursday

Hollywood musical comedies could get very strange in the 1930s, and this is one of the strangest. A Chinese genius has invented a form of radio with pictures (yes, we now call it television), and people from all over the world go to the International Hotel to meet with him. That thin plot is just an excuse for W. C. Fields, Cab Calloway, Burns and Allen, Rudy Vallee, and a whole lot of great entertainers to show their stuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I remember enjoying it. On a Fields double bill with Man on the Flying Trapeze.

Recommended revivals

A Matinee, Roxie, Sunday, 2:00

It’s one thing to gasp when the monster leaps out on the movie screen, but when nuclear war is imminent just outside the theater, that’s fear on a whole other level. Matinee juxtaposes an early ’60s, comically bad science-fiction horror movie with the Cuban Missile Crisis, and finds something deeper about the nature of fear. Of course, things can’t get too scary when John Goodman and Cathy Moriarty steal the show as a crafty b-movie producer and his long-suffering girlfriend. One of the little-known gems of the 1990s. Another part of Joe Dante’s Films in Films.

A The African Queen, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately-attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. See my Blu-ray review. On a Hepburn double bill with Desk Set.

A- Hot Fuzz, New Parkway, Monday, 7:05

Director/co-writer Edgar Wright fills every frame of Hot Fuzz with his love for mindless action movies. More precisely, he fills the splices between the frames, cutting even the scenes of quiet village life in the frantic style of Hollywood violence–accompanied by overloud sound effects, of course. (And yes, he’s smart enough not to overdo it.) This technique, along with a funny story, clever dialog, and charming performances, help make this genre parody the funniest film in years, with the longest sustained laugh I’ve experienced since I first discovered Buster Keaton.

A- Battleship Potemkin, Vogue, Thursday, 7:30

Make no mistake: This ground-breaking movie is simplistic Communist propaganda. The workers and sailors are all good comrades working together for a better world. The officers, aristocrats, and Cossacks are vile filth who deserve to die. And yet, the story of mutiny, celebration, attack, and escape stirs your blood. And it does this primarily through editing techniques that were revolutionary in 1925 and still impressive today. More than 90 years after it was shot, the Odessa Steps massacre is still one of the greatest, if not the greatest, action sequence ever edited. Read my essay. As near as I can tell, the Vogue will not provide live musical accompaniment; you’ll probably hear the original, and excellent, Edmund Meisel score. Part of the Vogue Revolution Series.

B+ Clueless, Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30

Loosely adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma, this coming-of-age comedy follows a rich, well-meaning, but superficial teenage girl (Alicia Silverstone) as she tries to fix other people’s problems as well as her own. Sweet and funny, it looks at adolescent foibles with a sympathetic eye, rarely judging youthful behavior. With a very young Paul Rudd as the great guy she can’t recognize.

B+ Mifune: The Last Samurai, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

As the title suggests, this biography of Toshiro Mifune concentrates on his samurai films, especially those he made with Akira Kurosawa (arguably cinema’s greatest collaboration between auteur and actor). If you have any interest in Japanese films, you’re going to enjoy this movie. And you’ll probably learn a few things you didn’t know–including some fascinating facts about the earliest sword-fighting silents. Interview subjects include Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Read my full review. Part of the series Samurai Rebellion: Toshiro Mifune, Screen Icon.

Continuing Revivals

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)