What’s Screening: August 4 – 10

Skeletons, mummies, heroic pirates, lost loves, rock ‘n’ roll, and James Cagney doing Shakespeare light up Bay Area screens this week.

Also three new movies and two festivals.


New films opening

A An Inconvenient Sequel: Truths to Power, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Embarcadero, Piedmont, Shattuck, opens Friday

The original Inconvenient Truth was about the horrible things coming our way. An Inconvenient Sequel focuses on fixing the problem. Yes, it shows places ravaged by flood and draught. Al Gore comes onstage and lectures an audience only occasionally in this movie, but when he does, he’s providing solutions and offering talking points. The movie makes you want to get up and do something. Read my full review.

A- Brigsby Bear, AMC Kabuki, Century San Francisco Centre 9, opens Friday

If you’re looking for a laugh-a-minute comedy, Brigsby Bear shouldn’t be your first choice. But if you want a good (if not entirely believable) story about parenting and the nature of art – along with a few giggles along the way – you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this charmer. One man uses his considerable talent to raise a child in a beautiful, fictitious, alternative universe, only to create a young adult unable to function in the real world. That young man will eventually find himself, and his community, in his own art. Read my full review.

C Person to Person, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

This multi-story drama, set on one day in New York City, ranges from pretty good to pointless. Tavi Gevinson carries the best of four stories as a sexually ambivalent teenager. Other stories involve a neophyte reporter, a man who learned too late that he shouldn’t post nude photos of his ex, and – in the worst of the four – a vinyl collector who got ripped off. There’s no discernable theme throughout the film, and little connection between the stories. Read my full review.

Special screening

A- Whose Streets?, New Parkway, Wednesday, 6:30, free!

The police murder of Michael Brown rocked the town of Ferguson, Missouri – and the nation. This incendiary documentary does more than tell you the story. It puts you on the ground – thanks largely to smartphones and social media – with the people that marched, protested, and rioted as their city became a symbol of all that’s wrong with America.

Promising events

Roots of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Roxie, Friday, 7:00

Rare films from Barry Siegal’s private collection, from the Rhythm and Blues of the 1940s through the British Invasion of the 1960s. Among the performers: Little Richard, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, James Brown, and the Beatles performing live in London in 1964. In 16mm!

Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 7:00

I’ve yet to see Sergei Paradjanov’s medieval tale of love lost and magical consequences. But it has a reputation for its unique use of color and for going against the Soviet Union’s Socialist-Realist style, as it tells what is basically a beautiful, pagan fairy tale.

The King of Comedy, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Monday, 7:00

I haven’t seen Martin Scorsese’s meditation on celebrity and its wannabes for a long time, so I’m reluctant to give it a grade. But if I gave it one, it would probably be an A. Robert De Niro plays a frustrated, delusional, and hopelessly-inexperienced comic who kidnaps a popular TV talk show host (Jerry Lewis), hoping that it will bring him his big chance. Sandra Bernhard gives a wonderful turn as his accomplice. Part of the series Tales of the Obsessed.

Recommended revivals

A Jason and the Argonauts, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

No other movie so successfully turns Greek mythology (or at least a family-friendly version of it) into swashbuckling adventure, while remaining true to the original spirit of the tales. As the gods bicker and gamble on the fates of mortals, Jason and his crew fight magical monsters and scheming human villains. Todd Armstrong and Nancy Kovack are unbearably stiff in the lead roles, but Nigel Green shines as cinema’s most articulate Hercules. But the real star, of course, is Ray Harryhausen’s hand-made special effects. A Balboa Popcorn Palace matinee.

A Julieta, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:15

Middle-aged Julieta (Emma Suárez) starts writing a long letter to the daughter that cut her off ages ago. That letter, and the film, will reveal the deep, dark secrets of her past in Pedro Almodovar’s sad yet sexy tale of love, lust, and loss; of having what you want and losing what you care about most. Read my full review. Part of the series Women’s Troubles: The Films of Pedro Almodóvar.

B+ The Sea Hawk, Stanford, Thursday and Friday

If only British history was really like this! Errol Flynn buckles his swash as a Francis Drake-like privateer who saves Elizabethan England from evil Spaniards bent on world domination (an obvious 1940 metaphor for the Nazis). The story bears no resemblance to the Rafael Sabatini novel on which it’s allegedly based, but that doesn’t mar the fun. Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s lush and romantic score provides ambiance. On a double bill with The Sea Wolf, which I saw and liked ages ago. Part of the Stanford’s long and amazing Warner Brothers series.

B+ The Mummy
(1999 version), New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

No, this is not the recent, critically-panned Tom Cruise disaster. Nor is it the 1932 classic starring Boris Karloff. This is the 1999 comedy/adventure starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. The plot sticks somewhat to the 1932 version, but in spirit, it’s more of an Indiana Jones rip-off than a remake of the original. Played largely for laughs, it’s a lot of fun.

B A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stanford, Saturday through Monday

The Warner Brothers adapted a Max Reinhardt stage production of Shakespeare’s romantic fantasy, and created one of the weirdest movies to come out of studio-era Hollywood. Oddly, Reinhardt’s spectacular visuals are its weakest point. They amaze the eye at first, but eventually just slow down the story. And yet the many big-name movie stars, including Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Joe E. Brown, James Cagney, and best of all, Mickey Rooney, prove to be proficient in Shakespeare. On a double bill with Yankee Doodle Dandy. Another part of the Stanford’s long and amazing Warner Brothers series.

Continuing Revivals

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)