What’s Screening: May 14 – 20

Godzilla wakes up Bay Area classic cinema after more than a year’s slumber. Also, Danish action, kids against guns, Melvin Van Peebles’ first film, World War II, and rodents of unusual size.


New films opening

B Riders of Justice (2020), Embarcadero Center, Shattuck, big screen, opens Friday

You know those “dad thrillers” that usually star Liam Neeson? Well, here’s the Danish version, and while it’s silly, it’s also fun. When an explosion kills several people, the authorities insist it was an accident. But Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), who lost his wife in the blast, doesn’t believe it. Neither do his new friends, all of whom are thirsting for vengeance. Markus, a professional soldier trained in all sorts of bloodshed, turns this bunch of guys into a small army. But he must also learn how to take care of a teenage girl who has just lost her mother. Read my full review.

New to the big screen

B+ Us Kids (2020), Embarcadero Center, Shattuck, big screen, opens Friday

Do you remember Florida’s Parkland high school massacre? Don’t feel bad if you don’t; there have been so many of these bloodbaths. Kim A. Snyder’s documentary follows several of the Parkland survivors, all of whom became gun control activists. What makes the film worthwhile isn’t the argument for gun control, but how the filmmakers get into the thoughts and emotions of teenagers who witnessed the massacre and were changed by that.

Another chance to see

A- Spaceship Earth (2020), New Mission, Virtual Cinema

In 1991, eight adventurers went into a large biosphere to live completely enclosed for two years, recycling their own oxygen and water while growing their own food. It didn’t work entirely as it was supposed to, and some cheating was involved. But the worst cheating, unsurprisingly, came from the money men. This interesting documentary covers the entire adventure, from long before the concept came to be up until the present.

Theatrical revivals

B+ Godzilla (1954), Balboa, Friday, 3:00

The Balboa’s first post-pandemic screening!
Made in a country with recent memories of horrific bombings and destroyed cities, the original Godzilla presents the emotions of mass terror far more vividly than any of Hollywood’s giant monster movies of the same decade. The cast includes Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura.

Virtual revivals

B+ The Story of a Three Day Pass (1968), BAMPFA, Rafael

Melvin Van Peebles, a pioneer in African-American filmmaking, started his filmmaking career with this warm, sweet, sexy romance. A Black, U.S. soldier stationed in France gets a three-day pass and meets a French girl. They have a wonderful time, until things go wrong. And some of what goes wrong is, not surprisingly, about race. Van Peebles livens the simple story with cinematic tools; for instance, comic sound effects emphasize the awkwardness of sex with a new partner. A terrific jazz-inflected score helps considerably.

Drive-in revivals

A Dunkirk (2017), Fort Mason Flix, Tuesday, 8:30

Christopher Nolan’s version of the World War II disaster-turned-victory captures the horror of war by cutting back and forth between three stories. One is about a soldier trying desperately to get off the beach. Another follows a civilian and his two sons taking their fishing boat into dangerous waters to rescue soldiers. The third concentrates on two fighter pilots providing air cover. The stories take place over different stretches of time (a week, a day, and an hour), and yet the cross-cutting doesn’t get confusing. All three stories are suspenseful and frightening, but the sea story is by far the best.

A- The Princess Bride (1987), Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 8:40

William Goldman’s enchanting and funny fairy tale dances magically along that thin line between parody and the real thing. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, back when they were young and gorgeous, make a wonderful set of star-crossed lovers. And Mandy Patinkin has a lot of fun as a revenge-filled swashbuckler. There’s no funnier swordfight anywhere. On the other hand, some of the big-name cameos can grate on your nerves.

Frequently-revived classics