What’s Screening: August 20 – 26

Everyone seems to be fighting this week in Bay Area cinema. King Kong vs. Godzilla. Chaplin vs. Keaton. People vs. mythological creatures. Mothers vs. teachers. And rich people against other rich people.

Festivals & Series

Special online events

My Comedian Can Beat Up Your Comedian, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 3:00 (Zoom link available after noon.

Do you love Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, or maybe less famous comics like Langdon and Chase? But is it worth fighting for? Either way, it’s bound to be enjoyable. Film historians including Richard Roberts, Scott Eyman, Frank Thompson, and Hooman Mehran will have their say, although I suspect they love all of them. Other videos available over the weekend include 1912 Frontier Days, and other old footage.

D+ Thrillville Movie Club: Sin City (2005)

The Movie: Graphic artist Frank Miller and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez collaborated on this visually stunning, technically cutting edge, but ultimately empty mishmash of a movie. In Miller’s world (the film is based on his graphic novel), every man is a killer, and every woman a stripper or a whore. Not that Sin City completely lacks heroes, it’s just that those heroes are violent vigilantes who don’t hesitate to torture people they don’t like. The result is grim, joyless, humorless, sexless (despite all the scantily-clad beauties), and totally disconnected from even the worst of the real world. But the mixture of black and white and color is striking.
The event: First, you should watch the movie before Saturday afternoon. Then, at 3:00, join in the Zoom discussion.

New films opening

A- Cryptozoo (2021), Embarcadero Center and Shattuck opens Friday

This beautiful, animated feature about people trying to save mythological creatures is absolutely not for children. Set in 1960s, poachers hunt for these rare and sometimes magical animals. Meanwhile, the Pentagon wants them for war. A handful of heroes attempt to bring them to a special zoo, where they might be saved…but also imprisoned. The hand-drawn animation is not Disney-standard but strikingly dramatic. The film contains sex and some very grisly violence. Read my full review

B Confetti (2021), AMC Metreon & AMC Mercado, opens Friday

Here’s a movie to warm the cockles of your heart. Lan, a school janitor in China, discovers that her daughter Meimei is dyslexic. There’s no help in her native country, so Lan takes her daughter to America, where she struggles to get Meimei into the right school while working in an illegal sweatshop. It is, quite simply, the story of a mother who will do everything to make her daughter “normal.” You can easily see what’s coming a mile away, and it’s almost always good for our protagonists. Read my full review.

C The Lost Leonardo (2021), Embarcadero Center, Rafael, opens Friday

Was the Salvator Mundi painted by Leonardo da Vinci? Or one of his students? Or was the artist someone who’s name is lost to history? But the possibility that da Vinci may have painted it has turned the picture into the most expensive painting in history, being sold at more than $450 million dollars in 2017. Inevitably, The Lost Leonardo becomes a documentary about the filthy rich. They buy and sell art as investments. Read my full review.

Theatrical revivals

A King Kong (1933), Balboa, Friday, 7:00

The first effects-laden adventure film of the sound era still holds up. It’s not just Willis O’Brien’s breathtaking special effects–technically crude by today’s standards, but still awe-inspiring. It’s the intelligent script by Ruth Rose, the evocative score by Max Steiner, and the wonderful cast headed by Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. But most of all, it’s the title character. Kong is the stuff of nightmares, utterly terrifying as he grinds people into the ground or bites them to death, but also confused, loving, majestic, and ultimately doomed. Pretty good for an 18-inch model covered with rabbit fur. Sure, the story is silly, but so are dreams. Part of King Kong Crashes Godzilla.

A- The Princess Bride, Roxie, Saturday, 7:00; Sunday, 1:35

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