What’s Screening: June 24 – 30

One of the Bay Area’s most unusual and exciting movie theaters reopen this weekend, after two years and more. All around the Bay, there are films by such well-loved auteurs as Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Ernst Lubitsch, Sidney Lumet, Mike Nichols, Charlie Chaplin, and the MGM motion picture assembly line.

Festivals & Series

Theater openings

Charlie Chaplin Days, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday & Sunday

After more than two years, the Niles theater finally opens with its annual celebration of Charlie Chaplin – this time, in the flesh. Among the events:

  • Walking tour of Niles, Saturday, 11:00am
  • Early Chaplin films made in the Bay Area, Saturday, 1:00pm
  • Chaplin Trivia Contest, Saturday, 3:00pm
  • The Gold Rush, Saturday, 7:30pm. Piano accompaniment by Frederick Hodges. You can read more about this classic.
  • All About the Chaplin Studio, Sunday, 11:00am
  • Hollywood Story, Sunday, 11:30am
  • Lookalike Contest, Sunday, 2:45pm

New films opening streaming

B- End of the Line (2022), Amazon and other streaming services

The New York transit system is a horrible mess, and things aren’t getting better. Or at least that’s the situation in this hour-long documentary. The movie suggests a happy ending when British transit expert Andy Byford comes to the rescue. He’s not only a brilliant transportation wonk, but also a decent human being. But politicians argue, meaning that nothing happens, and our hero can’t save the day. Things get worse near the end when COVID hits. The film feels like a TV news special…which is probably what it was made to be.

Promising events

? Forbidden Paradise (1924), BAMPFA, Saturday, 7:00pm

I have yet to see Ernst Lubitsch’s fourth American film. It appears to be a sex comedy set in Russia’s aristocracy, possibly during the revolution. The cast includes Adolphe Menjou and Pola Negri. This silent film will be accompanied by Judith Rosenberg on piano. Part of the series Film Preservation: Celebrating The Film Foundation.

? Movie-Oke Presents: The Wizard of Oz (1939…sort of), New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30pm

I assume this is the sing-along version. Do I really have to tell you about this one?

Theatrical revivals

A Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30

Here’s a touching, tragic, and very funny movie, and it’s based on a true story. Two incompetent robbers (Al Pacino and John Cazale – both fresh from Godfather II) try to hold up a bank and find themselves in a hostage situation. Pacino’s character, the so-called brains behind the plot, is a nice guy who wants to help everyone. That’s a real problem when you’re threatening to kill innocent bystanders. He only wants the money to pay for his boyfriend’s sex change operation. Cazale’s character is slow, dumb, and potentially violent.

A Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982), Balboa, 9:30

Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Blade Runner remains surprisingly thoughtful for ’80’s sci-fi – especially of the big budget variety. It ponders questions about the nature of humanity and our ability to objectify people when it suits our needs. The art direction and the music alone would make it a masterpiece. Read my longer essay.

B+ The Birdcase (1996), Lark, Saturday, 6:30pm

The American movie version of La Cage Aux Folles is warm and loving entertainment. And when it’s appropriate, it’s side-splittingly hilarious. A middle-aged, very gay couple must pretend at they’re not only straight but culturally conservative (Robin Williams and Nathan Lane). Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest play the conservatives they must trick. Directed by Mike Nichols, from a screenplay by the amazing Elaine May.

B+ The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Balboa, 11:00pm

With the Bawdy Caste Live Shadow Cast! This is in no way, shape, or form a great movie. It’s cheaply shot. The songs, while catchy, are hardly great rock. The characters are broad clichés, and the plot is almost non-existent. But it’s a crazy, funny, absurd celebration of everything sexual, with Tim Curry carrying the movie as a cross-dressing mad scientist. Also starring a very young Susan Sarandon. Read my report.

B The Fifth Element (1997), Sunday & Wednesday, click to find theaters and times

This big, fun, special effects-laden science-fantasy adventure refuses to take itself seriously. It never manages to be particularly exciting, but it succeeds in being rousing and intentionally funny eye candy. It’s also one of the few futuristic movies that’s neither utopian nor dystopian, making it feel–for all the silliness of the plot–relatively realistic.

Films of historical interest

? Reservoir Dogs (1992), Balboa, Thursday, 7:30pm

It’s been too long since I’ve seen Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut, so I won’t give it a grade. I remember being shocked, grossed out, and disgusted, as well as thoroughly entertained.

Frequently-revived classics