In Bay Area Virtual Cinema & Drive-ins: August 7 – 13

Movies by Ron Howard, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Spike Lee, and Jordan Peele streaming this week from your favorite theaters.

Bay Area theaters with virtual cinema

Special online events

B+ Rebuilding Paradise (2020), Balboa, Cerrito, Elmwood, Rafael, Vogue
Livestream conversation via the Rafael with producer Xan Parker and film subject Michelle John, Sunday, 5:00

Remember the notorious Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, CA? This spellbinding documentary starts, as you’d expect, with news clips and home videos of people trapped while flames leap all around them. But the film asks a much more interesting question: How do you rebuild the town and community you love? Director Ron Howard avoids narration and concentrates on those willing to rebuild. Townspeople deal with FEMA, PG&E, and other bureaucratic entities. Teenagers graduate when there’s no usable school building. And yet almost everyone interviewed tells people how much they love Paradise and why they’re not leaving. Read my full review.

New films available

A Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959), opens Wednesday, BAMPFA, Rafael,

The concert documentary didn’t start with Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, or even Monterey Pop. But it just may have started with Jazz on a Summer’s Day. Shot in and around the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, and released a year later, it’s one of the best of its kind. But what else can you expect with Louis Armstrong, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, and even a little upstart named Chuck Berry. The filmmakers were smart enough to celebrate the joy in the audience as well as in the performers. My full review will go live Tuesday.

B+ River City Drumbeat, Roxie, available Friday

Yes, this is another inspiring music documentary, but that’s not a bad thing. The star of this documentary is Ed “Nardie” White – a widower and senior citizen with thin dreadlocks – and he has been running the River City Drum Corp for decades. This is more than a hobby, but a deep calling. By teaching young kids to drum as a group, he gives them the abilities to succeed in life in a society where they’re expected to fail. Read my full review.


Double Bill: A- Do the Right Thing (1989) A Get Out (2017), Solano Drive-in, Thursday

Do the Right Thing: Spike Lee’s masterpiece just may be the best film about race relations in America. By focusing on a single block of Brooklyn, Lee dramatizes and analyzes everything wrong (and a few things right) about America. Touching, funny, warm-hearted, and humane. Read my Blu-ray review.
Get Out: Jordan Peele turns Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner into a racial comic horror movie. The nice, liberal, white family has sinister designs on their daughter’s new stud, as well as every other African American that crosses their path.

A Black Panther (2018), Solano Drive-in, check with website for days, times, and double bills

Yes, it was revolutionary in the age of Trump to make a huge-budget superhero movie with an almost entirely Black cast. But Black Panther is more complex than a simple good vs. bad action flick with dark complexions. The main villain has a serious point. And the hero must face some ambiguously moral choices. But I wish the filmmakers had confronted the absurdity of monarchy. It’s also an amazingly fun action movie.

Back to the Future (1985), Corica Park, Friday, opens 8:00; movie starts at 9:00. Tickets through the Alameda

I haven’t seen this ’80s comedy since it was almost new. I found it moderately entertainment, and also moderately racist. But some people love it.

Old but recommended

The films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, New Mission (and all other Alamo Drafthouse theaters), available Saturday

Image: The Holy Mountain. Back in the early ’70s, I saw two films by the extremely unusual filmmaker, Alejandro Jodorowsky. I found them visually daring and extremely…well, extreme. I only saw two of them: El Topo and The Holy Mountain. The first was a western that made Sergio Leone look like John Ford. The Holy Mountain was some sort of religious parable, but with a lot of sex and nudity. You can stream them here.