What’s Screening: April 19 – 25

This week in Bay Area movie theaters: Jackie Chan and Orson Welles, plus Mike Nichols directing Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock directing Doris Day, and Martin Scorsese directing The Rolling Stones. Also soldiers, bowlers, showgirls, and two film festivals closing.


New films opening

B Little Woods, Clay, Shattuck, opens Friday

This intense drama follows desperately poor people in bad situations. Former drug dealer Ollie (Tessa Thompson) is in her last days of parole, without a good job, and suddenly needing a lot of money to save her home and help her pregnant sister (Lily James). My stomach turned at every bad choice she makes (and she’s supposed to be the smart sister). The film is suspenseful, but it often seems to be asking more for pity than empathy.

Promising events

Double bill: Police Story & Police Story 2, Castro, Tuesday, 7:00

Believe it or not, I don’t think I ever saw either of these classic Jackie Chan action comedies. And if I did, they were probably dubbed, renamed, cut, or at best badly subtitled. Chan is the closest thing to Buster Keaton in my generation, and these 1980s action comedies are considered among his best.

Showgirls, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

Another one I haven’t seen in years. I would probably give it an F if I had seen it recently enough to grade, but it would be a fun F. This NC-17-rated mess is offensive, stupid, sexist, and fails utterly as drama, social commentary, or erotica. On the other hand, it has one of the funniest sex scenes ever shot, although I don’t think it was intended to be funny.

Another chance to see

A They Shall Not Grow Old, Castro, Monday

In 3D! I generally disapprove of colorizing and other technologies that make old movies look new, but this is different. The British cameramen who, more than 100 years ago, shot what would become Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary were recording reality, not creating art. Jackson’s team took jerky, flat, black-and-white, and badly-worn newsreels, and turned them into smooth, colorful, 3D records of a long-lost past. It’s not always perfect; occasionally the faces look painted, but for the most part, it put me in the trenches to a degree I never experienced before. On a double bill with Gallipoli, which I recall liking ages ago.

Recommended revivals

A Citizen Kane, Vogue, Thursday, 7:30

How does any movie survive a 70-year reputation as the Greatest Film Ever Made? By being really, really good. True, there are films more insightful about the human condition, pictures more dazzling in their technique, and movies more fun. But I’d be hard pressed to name any this insightful that is also as dazzling and entertaining. As Orson Welles and his collaborators tell the life story of a newspaper tycoon through the flashback memories of those who knew him, they also turn the techniques of cinema inside out. Read my A+ appreciation.

A Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Castro, Wednesday, 7:00

There’s so much historical importance bound up in this marital drama that you can easily overlook how good it is. Told in almost real time, the picture examines a dysfunctional marriage in crisis, held together by mutual denial. This was the first big-screen adaptation of an Edward Albee play, director Mike Nichols’ first film (his second would be The Graduate), the only really good film to come out of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s marriage, and the first Hollywood film released with an age restriction. On a double bill with Boom!, another Taylor/Burton vehicle.

A- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version), Friday through Sunday

Alfred Hitchcock’s only remake (of his own 1934 breakthrough thriller) throws an ordinary American couple (James Stewart and Doris Day) into the middle of international espionage—a favorite Hitchcock plot device. They witness the wrong murder, so evil foreign spies kidnap their son to force their silence. Shot partly on location in England and Morocco. Thrilling and fun in that Hitchcock-patented way. On a double bill with Young at Heart, which I haven’t seen; the opening double bill of the Stanford’s new Doris Day series.

B Shine a Light, Lark, Wednesday, 7:30

Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert film bombs horribly in the first half, but rights itself in the span of one song and sails on to a glorious but too-soon finish. If the first half had been as good as the second, Shine a Light might sit next to Scorsese’s The Last Waltz among the great rock movies. And considering the age and apparent health of Mick, Keith, and the gang, it’s also one hell of an endorsement for the rock and roll lifestyle. See my full review. The last screening of the Rockin’ at the Lark series.

Frequently-revived classics