What’s Screening: October 4 – 10

What’s on Bay Area movie screens this week? Middle Easterners trapped and in flight, a eulogy for San Francisco, lesbians vs. the mob, the economic truth, reality TV, a classic monster, and the making of another classic monster. Also three film festivals.


New films opening

A Midnight Traveler, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

This documentary works as a heart-stopping thriller. Hassan and Nargis Fazili, along with their children, must leave Afghanistan; Hassan’s name is on the Taliban’s death list. But getting out of the fanatics’ reach is only the beginning. They must travel, often illegally, from country to country. The mother and father are both filmmakers, and they shot this film on their smartphones as they traveled. While the parents struggle, their adorable daughters treat the ordeal like a grand adventure. An amazing film.

Preview screenings of upcoming movies

A The Cave, Sequoia, Friday, 5:15

This fly-on-the-wall documentary about the Syrian war left me shaken and disturbed. That’s appropriate. You can’t watch screaming, terrified children, cared for by too busy and exhausted adults, and not be changed – and it’s all real. In the besieged Syrian city of Eastern Al Ghouta, Dr. Amani Ballour does everything she can in an underground hospital while bombs and poison gas rain down from above. If this film has a flaw, it’s that it is just too much to bear. Part of the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Promising events

Memory: The Origins of Alien, Roxie, Friday, 9:00; Saturday, 7:00; Sunday, 1:50 & 8:30; Wednesday, 9:30

This essay film, which I haven’t seen, discusses the film Alien. “A contemplation on the symbiotic collaborative process of moviemaking, the power of myth, and the collective unconscious…” Could be interesting.

Another chance to see

A- The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Castro, Saturday through Monday

A sad eulogy for San Francisco, which will never be what it once was. Two young men, a carpenter and a playwright, fix up an empty house that once belonged to the family, even though they know they can’t possibly live in a home on sale for $4 million. Cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra shoots The City in a way that looks nothing like any other San Francisco movie; It’s still magical, but no longer beautiful. The musical choices remind us of the long-gone Summer of Love.

Recommended revivals

A- Bound, Roxie, Saturday, 9:15

Before The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers created a stylish and fun crime thriller about a lesbian couple that go up against the mob. Jennifer Tilly hooks up with Gina Gershon, both sexually and in crime, to steal from her gangster husband (Joe Pantoliano). A very sexy, violent, and suspenseful thriller which adds new meaning to the phrase “money laundering.”

B+ Inequality for All, BAMPFA, Thursday, 7:00

Free Outdoor Screening! I suppose I should be raving about this wonderful documentary, if only because it speaks truth about one of the most important issues of our time. Well, it does speak truth, and I agree with just about everything said by its subject, economist Robert Reich. But the simple fact that it confirms my existing beliefs doesn’t make it great art. Reich is an engaging person – funny and self-effacing, and very intelligent – resulting in an entertaining movie. Part of the series Berkeley Film Foundation: Celebrating Ten Years of Local Filmmaking.

B+ The Truman Show, New Parkway, Sunday, 9:15

Before reality television reared its mediocre head, writer Andrew Niccol and director Peter Weir foresaw it in this comic fable about a man raised unknowingly in a giant television studio. Although prophetic in many ways, The Truman Show takes the concept way beyond plausibility, suggesting a television show that would be economically and legally impossible. Best to consider it as a myth.

B+ The Host, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

A barely-functional family fights an uncaring government and a giant mutant predator, and it’s hard to say which is the scarier threat. I didn’t find this quite the masterpiece others saw–the political points are obvious, the third act gets confusing, and the big finale fails to satisfy. But director/co-writer Joon-ho Bong succeeds where it counts: He makes you care about the characters and scares you out of your seat.

Frequently-revived classics