What’s Screening: August 23 – 29

This week on Bay Area movie screens: Indiana Jones searches for the Holy Grail, rich people can’t leave the room, tempers get hot in Brooklyn, a band says goodbye, and a vampire haunts Tehran. And only one film festival.


The Week’s Big Event

A+ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Alameda, Wednesday, 7:00

This may sound like sacrilege, but the third Indiana Jones movie is the best of the four, thanks to a better story, considerably less racism, a light touch, and the wonderful addition of Sean Connery as Indiana’s bookworm father. Like all Jones movies, Last Crusade strings jokes and action along a plot that it doesn’t even try to be believable. As usual, swashbuckling archeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) leaves his university job to find some relic that may have magic powers. But Nazis are after the relic, and Indy must save the world. My A+ appreciation. Screened in the Historic Theatre.

New films opening

A/A- Aquarela, AMC Metreon 16, opens Friday

This visual treat earns an A only if seen in a theater with a really big screen and up-to-date equipment. Otherwise, I give it an A-. Aquarela is about water in its more extreme conditions. We see dangerously thin ice, glaciers calving, and the strikingly beautiful underside of an iceberg. In warmer climates, we see flooding in rural and urban settings. Is the film about climate change? But as much as anything else, Aquarela is a celebration of modern cinema technology, from the fast framerate, to the Imax-like resolution, to the all-embracing Dolby Atmos sound mix. Read my full review.

Promising events

The Exterminating Angel, Roxie, Saturday, 7:00

Luis Buñuel took down the upper classes with a sharpness that the Marx Brothers might have envied in this surreal satire. The hosts and guests at a formal dinner find that they can’t leave. The door can open, but for some unexplained reason, no one can step through it. Trapped for days, they run out of food, water, and civilization. It’s been years since I’ve seen The Exterminating Angel, but I recall it being funny and well pointed. Part of A Bundle of Buñuel.

Recommended revivals

A+ Do the Right Thing, New Parkway, Saturday, 2:45

Spike Lee’s masterpiece just may be the best film about race relations in America. For a 30-year-old film, it feels very much like the here and now. By focusing on a single block of Brooklyn over the course of one very hot day, Lee dramatizes and analyzes everything wrong (and a few things right) about race relationships in America. And yet this beautifully made film is touching, funny, warm-hearted, and humane. Read my Blu-ray review.

A+ The Last Waltz, BAMPFA, Saturday, 8:15

The Band played their final concert on Thanksgiving night, 1976. Their guest performers included Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and Joni Mitchell. Martin Scorsese brought a crew of talented filmmakers to record the show and created the greatest rock documentary ever made. Scorsese and company ignored the audience and focused on the musicians, creating an intimate look at great artists who understood that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Read my A+ appreciation. Part of the series It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.

A Touch of Evil, New Mission, Sunday, noon

Orson Welles’ film noir classic, and his last Hollywood studio feature. He lacked the freedom he found in Europe, but the bigger budget–and perhaps even the studio oversight–resulted in one of his best works. As a corrupt border-town sheriff, Welles makes a bloated, scary, yet strangely sympathetic villain. Janet Leigh is a lovely and effective damsel in distress. As the hero, a brilliant Mexican detective, Charlton Heston is…well, he’s miscast, but not as badly as some people say. Part of the series THE CUT: Six Restored Director’s Cuts.

B+ Irma Vep, BAMPFA, Sunday, 7:00

Maggie Cheung basically plays herself in this light French comedy about making a movie. The director, played by the great Jean-Pierre Léaud, appears to be crazy. There are language problems, sexual misunderstandings, an absurdly aggressive interviewer, financial issues, and a suspicion that they’re making a very bad movie. Part of series Jean-Pierre Léaud at 75.

B+ A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

A vampire haunts Tehran. But she’s a nice vampire, and rarely attacks people who don’t deserve it. She travels on foot – or sometimes on a skateboard. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature, filmed in black and white, has an atmosphere all its own. Strange cinematic and musical riffs, along with a very loose story, makes for a unique but entertaining experience. And no, this isn’t really an Iranian movie; it was made in California.

B+ Bullitt, Castro, Thursday

Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word bullshit marks the first time that word was heard in a Hollywood movie. On a double bill with Dirty Harry.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics