What’s Screening: Nov 4 – 10

Here’s what’s happening in Bay Area movie theaters this week: Quentin Tarantino is coming to the Castro. A terrific documentary about George Washington and a controversial mural. Two very different space movies. Masterpieces starring Humphrey Bogart and Bruce Willis (no, not in the same movie). The film that made Schwarzenegger famous. And the New Mission is having staff problems…again.

Festivals & Series

Movie Theater News

San Francisco’s New Mission theater has union problems. The cinema is part of the nationwide Alamo Drafthouse chain. In the past, Alamo had sexual harassment problems with its employees. Now it’s about workplace safety. The theater may become a rare, union theater. For more information, read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Week’s Big Event

Quentin Tarantino – Cinema Speculation Book Tour, Castro, Monday, 8:00pm

Quentin Tarantino has released his new non-fiction book, Cinema Speculation. He’ll read excerpts from the book and do some Q&A with the audience.

New films opening theatrically

A Town Destroyer (2022), Roxie, Friday through Thursday, different times each day.

All screenings will be followed by Q&As. Each screening is a benefit. This local and very short documentary (55 minutes) does something rare in today’s political docs: The filmmakers look at both sides of the controversy. Remember the debate over destroying or saving Victor Arnautoff’s mural The Life of Washington, at San Francisco’s Washington High School? Is it an insult to indigenous people, or an attack on our first president? Aside from the mural, the film looks at other works of public art that no longer seem appropriate.

Promising events

? The Last Starfighter (1984), Balboa, Monday, 7:00pm

Soon after Return of the Jedi opened, this modest space opera blew fresh air over Star Wars and the then new craze of video games. A teenage boy living in a trailer park spends most of his time playing his favorite video game. Turns out that aliens planted the game to find someone with the needed skills to save the Universe. I haven’t seen it in decades, but I remember it as being a lot of fun.

Theatrical revivals

A+ 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Rafael, Sunday, 1:00pm & Monday, 7:00pm

4K restoration. Stanley Kubrick’s visualization of Arthur C. Clarke’s imagination tells you little, although it shows you a lot. Unlike any other science fiction movie (or any other big-budget blockbuster), it offers a daring story structure, striking visuals, breathtaking use of music, plus a refusal to explain what it’s all about. As prophesy, 2001 failed. As fantasy, adventure, mystery, and even theology, it’s brilliant. Read my report, or perhaps my Eat Drink Film article on how this masterpiece should best be screened.

A+ Casablanca! (1942), New Mission, Saturday, 12:30pm

With brunch! You’ve either already seen the best movie to come out of Hollywood’s studio-era sausage factory, or you know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece. They thought it was just another moderately-budgeted flick coming out of Warner’s assembly line. Yet this time, the machine turned out a masterpiece. Perhaps it’s the million monkeys on a million typewriters theory. Somehow, just this once, the sausage came out perfect. For more details, see Casablanca: The Accidental Masterpiece.

A+ Die Hard (1988), Lark Drive-In, Saturday, 7:00pm

The original Die Hard is easily one of the best action films ever made. On Christmas eve, very evil people who don’t care how many innocent bystanders die, take over a partially built skyscraper. Luckily, one man (Bruce Willis) is in the building but out of their control. Barefoot and initially armed with only a pistol, he must do what he can to stop them and save the hostages – which include his estranged wife. The movie’s power comes from its willingness to spend time on character development before the action starts, and by allowing the hero to be physically and emotionally vulnerable. Read my essay.

A The Terminator (1984), Balboa, Friday, 7:30pm

James Cameron’s first hit provides non-stop thrills that keep you on the edge of a heart attack. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the title character–a heartless machine sent back in time to murder the future mother of the man who will save humanity. Simple, straightforward, and modestly budgeted (three things you can’t say about recent Cameron pictures), The Terminator maintains an internal logic rare in time travel stories.

A- Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), various theaters, Sunday & Monday. Check for theaters and times

John Hughes mixes side-splitting slapstick comedy with sentimentality, and surprisingly, it works. Two badly matched men get thrown together as they desperately try to get from Manhattan to Chicago before Thanksgiving dinner. And, of course, everything goes wrong. Steve Martin plays the button-down executive, while John Candy plays the goofball who manages to make everything worse. Slowly, the two men warm to each other.

B+ Gojira (also known as Godzilla, 1954), New Mission, Saturday & Monday, 4:30pm

In Japanese with English subtitles; 4K Restoration! 
A monster rises from the depths to attack Japan, whose people are still suffering with PTSD from the horrific bombings of the war. Unlike the many sequels and rip-offs that followed, the original Gojira takes mass terror seriously. The cast includes Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura.

Frequently-revived classics