What’s Screening: August 25 – 31

Cats, dogs, Humphrey Bogart, stoned teenagers, and cinema’s most famous archeologist light up Bay Area movie screens this week.

Festivals

New films opening

B+ Unleashed, Roxie, opens Friday

In this predicable but very funny comedy, a dog and a cat run away from the young woman who owns them, get struck by magic, and become hot, gorgeous, sexy men. But inside, they’re still a dog and a cat. The former cat schemes and climbs on things, while the ex-dog wants to hug everybody. And both of them shower affection on their former owner. She likes the attention from these gorgeous men, but it bothers her that they don’t seem to understand the concept of sex. Read my full review. Writer/director Finn Taylor will do Q&A after the Saturday and Sunday evening screenings.

B- After Love, 4-Star, opens Friday

This French divorce drama feels very true to life. It reminded me of actual marriages I’ve seen fall apart. It captures the arguments, the money problems, and the parenting issues to the letter. But it’s a very difficult film to watch. You can’t really enjoy the spectacle of a wife who hates her husband and a husband who fruitlessly hopes to patch things up. There are no lessons and little catharsis. It’s a very gloomy story. Read my full review.

D+ Gook, Shattuck, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, starts Friday

Gook tries to tell you that it’s an important film. It deals with racial conflict between African- and Korean-Americans. It’s set in a poor, dangerous Los Angeles neighborhood, on the day of the Rodney King riots. It’s even shot in black and white. But it provides very little insight into the Korean community and none whatsoever into the African-American one. The characters are never well defined, and the Rodney King connection is only a gimmick. Read my full review.

Promising events

The 48 Hour Film Project, Roxie, Monday and Tuesday

How fast can you make a movie? Last weekend, local filmmakers were given a genre, a line of dialogue, a character and a prop…and two days to make a short film. Each of the three screenings will include a different set of movies, which will be judged by local industry professionals as well as the audience.

High Sierra, Stanford, Saturday through Monday

Humphrey Bogart took a major step in his climb from character actor to star by playing an ex-con who wants to go straight, but can’t. Ida Lupino plays his hard-as-rock love interest, while Lone Pine and Mt. Whitney play themselves as the beautiful but unforgiving backdrop. I’m not giving it a grade because I haven’t seen it in ages. Co-written by John Huston and directed by Raoul Walsh. On a double bill with They Drive By Night.

Recommended revivals

A+ Indiana Jones triple bill: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, & Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Castro, Sunday

The A+ goes to the third and best movie in the franchise, Last Crusade. By adding more humor, less racism, a smidgen of character development, and a wonderful Sean Connery as the hero’s bookworm father, Crusade outdoes even the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. Which isn’t to say that the original is chopped celluloid; I give it an A-. The one that comes in between, Temple of Doom, tries to be dark and atmospheric, but only succeeds in being unpleasant. I give it an F. You can read my articles on Raiders
and Last Crusade.

A Tangerine, Roxie, Thursday, 9:15

Sometimes a new movie blows apart every concept you had about what a motion picture can be. Sean Baker’s tale of a transgender prostitute out for justice creates just that sort of magic. Fast, frenetic, funny, and sad, Tangerine looks like no other movie I’ve ever seen, in part because it was shot entirely on iPhones. And yes, that works, allowing the filmmakers to capture the tarnished glamour of today’s Hollywood (the neighborhood, not the industry). The most exciting and original new film I’ve seen this year. Did I tell you it’s a Christmas movie? Read my full review.

A Airplane!, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00pm

They’re flying on instruments, blowing the autopilot, and translating English into Jive. So, win one for the Zipper, but whatever you do, don’t call him Shirley. Airplane! throws jokes like confetti–carelessly tossing them in all directions in hopes that some might hit their target. Surprisingly enough, most of them do. There’s no logical reason a movie this silly can be so satisfying, but then logic never was part of the Airplane! formula. I’d be hard-pressed to name another post-silent feature-length comedy with such a high laugh-to-minute ratio. A Balboa Beer Movie.

A- The Master, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

This is no more a critique of Scientology than Citizen Kane is an attack on Hearst newspapers. An alcoholic drifter (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in the circle of a charismatic cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing a character inspired by L. Ron Hubbard). Neither man is trustworthy; one steals from his hosts, the other runs what he may or may not consciously realize is a scam. Amy Adams gives The Master’s third great performance, as the “great” man’s wife–sweet on the outside but inwardly hard as nails. The film suffers from a weak third act. See my report on the film in 70mm.

A- Dazed and Confused, Castro, Wednesday

Think American Graffiti set in the stoned ’70s. As the school year ends in a small Texas town, students and recent alumni head out looking for pot, parties, and sex. Some of them find it. But Richard Linklater isn’t George Lucas (thank God), so Dazed and Confused finds greater depths in the many characters. The young, largely-unknown cast includes such future stars as Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and Matthew McConaughey. On a Richard Linklater double bill with Everybody Wants Some!!

B+ Hulot’s Holiday, Lark, Tuesday and Wednesday

Jacques Tati’s second feature, and his first as the hapless Mr. Hulot, is odd, plotless, nearly dialog-free, and in its own quiet and reserved way, pretty damn funny. The pipe-smoking Hulot takes a vacation at a seaside resort, and while anarchy doesn’t exactly break out, it pops up a bit from just below the surface.

B Humoresque, Stanford, Thursday and next Friday

Talent isn’t enough to make you a great musician. You need to work hard, devote yourself to your art, and sleep with Joan Crawford. John Garfield plays a brilliant but poor violinist who finds success through special performances for a wealthy, alcoholic matron of the arts (Crawford). In addition to two charismatic stars, Humoresque offers Oscar Levant providing wisecracks, and music performed off-camera by Isaac Stern. Read my Noir City report.

B Lost in Translation, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Tuesday, 7:00

Sophia Coppola introduced us to Scarlett Johansson and gave Bill Murray his best performance since Groundhog Day in this film in which nothing of note actually happens. Murray plays an American movie star in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey commercial. Johansson plays the bored wife of a photographer. They sense a bond, but what you expect to happen never does. But that’s okay because it probably wouldn’t happen in real life, either. Coppola allows us to enjoy these people’s company, and their reaction to a foreign culture, for 104 minutes.

Continuing Revivals

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

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