I discuss two new movies this week in Bay Area cinema. And no, In the Heights isn’t one of them (I haven’t got to it, yet), but one of them is about a Puerto Rican dancer. If you like to go to the drive-in, I can recommend five excellent films you can watch from your car. And there are, of course, two film festivals.
For personal reasons, I wrote this newsletter earlier than usual. Errors are more likely.
- SF DocFest closes Sunday
- Frameline continues through the week
- The SF Black Film Festival opened last Thursday (sorry about that), and closes Sunday
New films opening
A- Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It (2021), Elmwood, Rafael, opens Friday
Rita Moreno has been an exceptional performer since the 1940s, and she’s still going at it. Along with wonderful film clips, this documentary shows the struggles that a talented and beautiful Latina had to go through in mid-century Hollywood. She was stuck for years playing “exotics,” and even after she won an Oscar for West Side Story, no one wanted to cast her. Yet she comes off in the new interviews as very upbeat. Read my full review.
C+ 12 Mighty Orphans, opens Friday, perhaps at the Shattuck, AMC Metreon 16, and other theaters
This is one of those sports movies intended to inspire everyone to root for the underdog. And since it’s based on a true story, you might assume that most of it happened. But if you believe that is a re-creation of history, I have a football team I’d like to sell you. On a simple level, the movie works. You care about the characters. How can you not care about teenagers who have been abandoned years ago by their parents and have landed in a hell of an orphanage. Read my full review.
A+ Do the Right Thing (1989), Fort Mason Flix, Friday, 9:00
Spike Lee’s masterpiece just may be the best film ever about race relations in America. For a 30-plus-year-old film, it feels very much like the here and now. By focusing on a single block of Brooklyn over the course of one very hot day, Lee dramatizes and analyzes everything wrong (and a few things right) about race relationships in America. And yet this beautifully made film is touching, funny, warm-hearted, and humane. Read my Blu-ray review.
A Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Lark Drive-in, Friday, 9:00
This animated superhero feature brings laughs and joy. True, Peter Parker dies in the first act, but there’s another Peter Parker, older and with a pot belly. There are several other Spider people from different dimensions as well. But the main Spider-Man here is Miles, a black kid from Brooklyn who must learn how to use his new powers. He’s awkward, funny, and just entering adolescence. And the last thing he wants to do is fight supervillains.
A Galaxy Quest (1999), Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 9:00
There’s no better way to parody a well-known genre than to write characters who know the genre and find themselves living in what they thought was their favorite fiction. Few movies do this better than Galaxy Quest. In this spoof of all things Star Trek, the cast of a long-cancelled sci-fi TV show find themselves on a real space adventure with good and bad aliens. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman star.
A- What’s Up, Doc? (1972), Fort Mason Flix, Thursday, 6:00
How did I miss this laugh fest in 1972? I remember it being in theaters. Maybe I was too caught up in “serious cinema” to notice that Peter Bogdanovich had made one of the funniest movies in years. It’s like a Howard Hawks screwball comedy with physical slapstick reminiscent of Buster Keaton (but with stunt doubles). The plot isn’t likely: Four people go to the same hotel, on the same day, with identical bags. Two of these bags contain things that powerful and ruthless people want. Barbra Streisand plays the crazy dame to perfection, while Madeline Kahn is hilarious as the luckless fiancée. Even Ryan O’Neal is funny.
A- Tremors (1990), Fort Mason Flix, Friday, 6:00
Few horror movies depend so much on wit, and so little on gore. The very small population of a tiny desert town starts shrinking when giant predators come up from the ground and drag their meals under the sand. Meanwhile, the townspeople – who include good ol’ boys, eccentric gun nuts, an annoying kid, and, of course, a beautiful woman and a visiting scientist. Only this time, the beautiful woman is also the visiting scientist. The movie has its gruesome moments (it is a horror film), but it mostly balances on that fine line between comedy and suspense. I love the fact that the monsters are never explained.