What’s Screening: November 13 – 19

A few hardtop theaters are opening up, but despite all the precautions they’re taking, I’m still not ready to visit one. But a lot of fine films are playing in makeshift drive-ins.


New films opening

B The Climb, in real movie theaters, Embarcadero Center, Rafael, Shattuck, opens Friday

This autobiographical buddy movie rambles a bit, jumping months and years and leaving us to figure out what happened in between. And through the rambling, you get to know Kyle and Mike, two life-long best friends. It’s hard to imagine why Kyle would want to spend a lot of time with Mike, who’s one of those people who repeatedly messes up, hurting Kyle and other people on the way. And yet, Kyle keeps close to him. Read my full review.

Promising theatrical events

Flash Gordon (1980), Richmond Hilltop 16Walnut Creek 14Pleasant Hill Downtown 16; Sunday, 4:00; Monday & Wednesday, 7:00

I saw this campy remake of the 1930’s serial maybe two years after its original release. I remember it being a lot of silly fun, and just sexy enough to avoid an R rating at a time when there was no PG-13. Definitely turn-off-the-brain fare.

Drive-in movies

A+ Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Lark Drive-In, Thursday, 7:00

In 1952, the late twenties seemed like a fond memory of an innocent time, and nostalgia was a large part of Singin’ in the Rain‘s original appeal. The nostalgia is long gone, so we can clearly see this movie for what it is: the greatest musical ever filmed, and perhaps the best work of pure escapist entertainment to ever come out of Hollywood. Take out the songs, which are easily the best part of the movie, and you still have one of the best comedies of the 1950′s, and the funniest movie Hollywood ever made about itself. Read my A+ appreciation.

A+ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Lark Drive-In, Saturday, 9:00

By adding more humor, less racism, a smidgen of character development, and some of the best action scenes in the series, the third Indiana Jones flick outdoes even the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. Add to that a wonderful Sean Connery as the hero’s bookworm father, and a prologue with River Phoenix as the teenage Indy, and it gets even better. The plot, which is simply an excuse to insert jokes and action sequences, has the Joneses trying to find the Holy Grail before the Nazis get it. You can read my A+ appreciation.

A Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), Tuesday, 9:00

This just may be the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy. The characters are fully fleshed out (by Star Wars standards, at least), the humor works, and the action scenes are exciting and suspenseful. There’s even a resort planet for the filthy rich that feels like a comment on Trumpland. Our heroes in The Resistance fight for their lives against the evil First Order, while young Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to get Jedi lessons from an aged, bitter, reclusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, of course). Excellent entertainment.

B+ Hairspray (2007), Lark Drive-In, Friday, 9:00

The Hollywood version of the Broadway musical, based upon John Water’s independent film, celebrates the spirit of the early ’60s civil rights movement by turning it into a big, happy dance contest on local daytime TV. The result is charming, upbeat, and very funny, with pleasant musical numbers, joyous dancing, and political themes that suddenly seem relevant again. And how can you not love John Travolta in a fat suit and a dress?

B+ Knives Out (2019), Fort Mason Flix, Thursday, 9:00

This old-fashioned murder mystery, set mostly in a big mansion, feels like Agatha Christie with giggles. Not over-the-top comedy, but with enough laughs to lighten the story and remind us not to take it too seriously. Daniel Craig plays the brilliant detective (well, occasionally brilliant), speaking in a not-quite believable southern accent. The cast includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, and Frank Oz, but the lesser-known Ana de Armas carries the film.

B Lost in Translation (2003), Fort Mason Flix, Sunday, 9:00

Sophia Coppola introduced us to Scarlett Johansson and gave Bill Murray his best performance since Groundhog Day in this strange meditation where almost nothing happens. Murray plays an American movie star in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey commercial. Johansson plays the bored wife of a photographer. They sense a bond, but what you expect to happen never does. That’s okay because it probably wouldn’t happen in real life, either. Coppola allows us to enjoy these people’s company, and their reaction to a foreign culture, for 104 minutes.

Continuing engagements