Not much going on in Bay Area movie theaters this week. But we do have two new films, a curious double bill, an early western, and three film festivals.
- The East Bay Jewish Film Festival continues through this week and beyond. Read my preview.
- The Dynamation Celebration honors animation wizard Ray Harryhausen. It starts today and runs through the weekend. Here’s what I have to say about this one.
- The one-day San Francisco Irish Film DOCFEST plays Sunday
- Cinequest opens Tuesday. I have a preview of that one, too.
New films opening
B To Dust, Elmwood, opens Friday
When this film sticks to dark humor, it works – wonderfully. But it flounders when attempting drama. A Hassidic cantor (Géza Röhrig) wants to know how long his recently-deceased wife’s dead body will take to decompose. He convinces a biology professor (Matthew Broderick) to help him in bizarre and illegal experiments (including asphyxiating a pig). It’s hard to sympathize with these characters. The cantor’s morbid obsession deeply hurts his young boys, who seem to be losing their father as well as their mother. And the professor has no believable motivation for helping him. But it is intermediately very funny.
C+ Saint Judy, Opera Plaza, Albany Twin, opens Friday
This film about a heroic immigration lawyer (Michelle Monaghan) starts by telling us that “This is a true story.” Not “based on” or “inspired by,” but actual truth. Highly unlikely. The movie is just too precious, too clever, and do predictable for its own good. While Judy’s story is warm and fuzzy, her client’s story almost saves the movie. Asefa Ashwari (Leem Lubany), a courageous young Afghan woman, angered the Taliban by creating a school for girls. Sending her back to Afghanistan, which the US government wants to do, is a death sentence. Screenwriter Dmitry Portnoy and director Sean Hanish made a film about the wrong woman.
Curious double bill
A BlacKkKlansman & B+ Green Book, Castro, Wednesday and Thursday
What a strange double bill. Both films deal with extreme forms of racism and the African-American experience, set in or soon after the civil rights era. Both are entertaining and funny but are at heart serious. Both star two men, one black and one white. Both are based on true stories but don’t even try to stay close to the facts (a problem for some people but not me). One won Best Picture; the other was much, much better.
B- Hell’s Hinges, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30
William S. Hart, the first cowboy star to break into features, had a formula: A bad man turned good by the love of a beautiful woman. He carries that formula into the realms of dark vengeance and Christian proselytizing in this highly-regarded 1916 western. His character, Blaze Tracy, is among the roughest men in a very rough, ungodly town. The inept preacher who comes from the east to reform the west proves exceedingly weak. But the preacher’s sister brings Blaze to the Good Book. Just don’t expect the feel-good happy ending that would become the norm in later westerns. With the shorts Wished on Mabel and A Woman in Grey: Chapter XII, Circumstantial Evidence. Judy Rosenberg will accompany the movies on piano.
Monday. On a double bill with IP Man.