What’s Screening: May 3 – 9

This week in Bay Area movie screens: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Dr. Ruth, Tom Hanks, Barry Jenkins, Stanley Kubrick, Marlon Brando, and film festivals silent, Asian, and truthful.


New films opening

A- Knock Down the House, Embarcadero Center, opened last Wednesday (sorry about that)

Rachel Lears’ documentary celebrates left-leaning women running in Democratic primaries against entrenched white male politicians. And the word celebrate fits; the audience I saw it with were clapping and cheering. The star, of course, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s funny, charismatic, and open. Unfortunately, she’s the only winner of the four. Cori Bush, Amy Vilela, and Paula Jean Swearengin all lost their primaries. Too bad Ilhan Omar isn’t in the movie. This documentary is also streaming on Netflix.

B+ Ask Dr. Ruth, Clay, Albany Twin, opens Friday; Rafael, opens Monday

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is such a unique personality that it’s surprising it took so long for someone to make a documentary about her. There’s the drama of her Holocaust childhood, her warmth and humor, and she’s all about sex. Ryan White made a very good but conventional biodoc, using animation to illustrate her pre-fame life. Since she’s still alive and lucid (at 90), she mostly narrates her own story. If nothing else, the film is entertaining. Read my full review.

Promising events

Big, Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00

The late 1980s saw a lot of bad comedies about kids magically being turned into adults and vise versa. And yet, one of those comedies came out well: Penny Marhsall’s Big, thanks largely to Tom Hanks’ performance as a boy in a man’s body. I haven’t seen it since it was relatively new, but I remember it fondly. (It also got great reviews.)

Another chance to see

A MoonlightNew Mission, Saturday, noon

Barry Jenkins’ second feature follows a resident of the inner city from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, examining three stages of his life. Three different actors play Chiron, a young man unsure of his sexuality who must learn to at least appear macho to survive in the tough streets. Mahershala Ali carries the first act as a drug-dealer who is also a gentle and kind father figure. Read my full review. Q&A with producer Andrew Hevia.

Recommended revivals

A+ Dr. Strangelove, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30pm

A deeply dark, hilarious comedy about the end of the world. General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders his men to bomb the USSR and start World War III. But have no fear! The men responsible for avoiding Armageddon (three of them played by Peter Sellers) are almost as competent as the Three Stooges. Stanley Kubrick’s “nightmare comedy” reminds you just how scary things were back in the ’60s. Read my Blu-ray review.

A- March of the Penguins, BAMPFA, Saturday, 3:00

Yes, emperor penguins are very cute and extremely funny. Luc Jacquet offers plenty of footage to make you laugh and sigh, but he goes beyond that, showing the tremendous hardships these birds endure to raise their young. No living creatures are as adorable as penguin chicks, which is a good thing considering what their parents go through for them. And Morgan Freeman is the best celebrity narrator since Orson Welles. Part of the ongoing series Movie Matinees for All Ages.

A- A Streetcar Named Desire, Castro, Wednesday

You can see why this film made Marlon Brando a star. His Stanley Kowalski is strong, impulsive, violent, and scary – and you can’t take your eyes off him. You can easily see why his wife Stella (Kim Hunter in another brilliant performance) keeps coming back to him despite the horrible way he treats her (and everyone else). Unfortunately, I can’t give much praise for Vivien Leigh, who goes way over the top with her Blanche DuBois. Read my report. On a double bill with Clash By Night, which I haven’t seen.

B+ Mad Max: Fury Road, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30

You have to understand three things about this movie: 1) It’s basically two long motor vehicle chases broken up with short dialog scenes. 2) It’s surprisingly feminist for this sort of movie; the plot involves a woman warrior rescuing a tyrant’s enslaved harem. 3) The title character is basically a sidekick, although we see the story through his eyes. The movie is filled with crashes, weapons, hand-to-hand combat, acts of courage, close calls, and fatal errors. It’s fast, brutal, and for the most part very well-choreographed.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics