What’s Screening: May 21 – 27

Finally, after 14 months, we’re getting plenty of old movies running in hardtop movie theaters. The Roxie is screening Cinema Paradiso and The Story of a Three Day Pass. The Balboa will screen several music films along with a classic horror. And best of all, the Cerrito is having a week-long celebration of classic cinema.


Theaters opening

The Cerrito opens today with screenings of Shadow of a Doubt and Grease. Other classics screening over this week include Jaws, Stop Making Sense, Rear Window, The Big Lebowski, Vertigo and more.

The Week’s Big Event

Cinema Paradiso, Roxie, Friday & Sunday Sold out!

Several weeks ago, the good folks running The Roxie asked what movie should reopen the theater after the pandemic. I didn’t vote for Cinema Paradiso, but it was a good choice (being that it’s about a movie theater). I saw the film ages ago and liked it very much back then. But I don’t remember enough about the film to give it a review or a grade.

Special online events

Masterclass: Utsav Lal and Donald Sosin, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Sunday, May 23, noon

Two masters of silent film, Utsav Lal and Donald Sosin, will discuss the art of adding live music to silent films.

New films opening

B+ The Dry (2021), Embarcadero Center, Rafael, Shattuck, opens Friday

Kiewarra is an ugly, angry, thirsty town, and it’s about to get uglier and angrier – just the right location for a murder mystery. Eric Bana plays a former townsman, now a big-city police detective. He hates Kiewarra, and most of the people there hate him back. He only returned for a funeral. It appears that a man shot and killed his own family and then committed suicide. But if you know anything about murder mysteries, you know that this diagnosis just can’t possibly be right. Read my full review.

C+ Dream Horse (2020), Alameda, Embarcadero Center, Shattuck, Friday through Tuesday

Another example of that particular British genre that I call Another Full Monty. Set in an economically depressed village, a group of funny and unique characters come together to do something amazing. In this particular movie, they set out to obtain and race a racehorse – It’s the peasants entering the sport of kings. If you’ve seen any movie of this kind, almost nothing will surprise you. And yet, it’s reasonably enjoyable. It’s based on a true story…if you care about such things. It’s also worth watching the closing credits.

Theatrical revivals

A Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959), Balboa, Sunday, 4:00

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. Read my full review.

A Night of the Living Dead (1968), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30

This is fear without compromise. The slow, nearly unstoppable ghouls were shockingly gruesome in 1968 (sequels and imitations renamed them zombies). Decades later, the shock is gone, but the dread and fear remain, made less spectacular but more emotionally gripping by the black and white photography. Night of the Living Dead is scary, effective, occasionally funny, and at times quite gross. It can be viewed as a satire of capitalism, a commentary on American racial issues, or simply one of the scariest horror films ever made. Read my essay.

A- Monterey Pop (1968), Balboa, Sunday, 6:30

In 1967, promoter Lou Adler, along with John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, put together a popular music response to the annual Monterey Jazz Festival, and music history was made. Over the course of a June weekend, The Who and Jimi Hendrix cracked the American market, and Janis Joplin became a star. Documentarian D. A. Pennebaker got it all on 16mm film and created one of the first memorable concert documentaries. A moment frozen in time, and a lot of great rock and roll.

B+ The Story of A Three Day Pass (1968), Roxie, Saturday, 6:00. Also streaming via virtual cinema at the BAMPFA and the Rafael

Melvin Van Peebles, a pioneer in African-American filmmaking, started his 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 such as comic sound effects emphasizing the awkwardness of sex with a new partner. A terrific jazz-inflected score helps considerably.

Drive-in revivals

A- Dazed and Confused (1993), Fort Mason Flix, Saturday, 9:00

Think American Graffiti set in the stoned ’70s. As the school year ends in a small Texas town, students and recent alumni head out looking for pot, parties, and sex. Some of them find it. But Richard Linklater isn’t George Lucas (thank God), so Dazed and Confused finds greater depths in the many characters. The young, largely-unknown cast includes such future stars as Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and Matthew McConaughey.

B+ American Graffiti (1973), Fort Mason Flix, Friday, 5:30

A long time ago, in a Bay Area that feels very far away, George Lucas made an entertaining (and extremely profitable) comedy without a body count, a big budget, or special effects. Talk about nostalgia. You can also talk about old-time rock ‘n’ roll. American Graffiti makes great use of early 60s music in one of the most effective and creative sound mixes of the ’70s.

Frequently-revived classics