What’s Screening: December 2 – 8

As we enter the holiday season, local movie theaters celebrate zombies, killer robots, and violence at a concert. On the other hand, there’s Buster Keaton, Quentin Tarantino, Bogart in bandages, and Dolly Parton’s best song. And yes, there’s a free Christmas movie, too.

Festivals & Series

Promising events

Bright Ideas Film Festival, Orinda Theatre, Friday, 7:00pm
What do upcoming filmmakers want? Other people watching their movies on the big screen – and then talking about them. At this showcase of short films, hopeful auteurs will get a chance to show their talent and discuss work.

A? Night of the Living Dead with Premiere Live Score By Sleepbomb, Roxie, Friday, 7:30pm

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, yet 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. I have no idea if the new music will make it better or worse. Part of Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.

Theatrical revivals

A Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Balboa, Friday, 9:30pm

In James Cameron’s sequel to the movie that put him on the map, another killer robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) returns from the future. But this time, he’s here to help the good guys, stop a worse killer robot, and prevent nuclear war. Linda Hamilton returns as the original’s intended victim, now a hard-as-nails and probably insane heroine. A wonderful mix of action, special effects, and character development.

A- A Christmas Story (1983)
֍ Free! Cerrito, Elmwood, & Sebastopol, Saturday & Sunday, 11:00am
֍ Not free! New Parkway, 9:30pm

Sweet, sentimental Christmas movies – at least those not authored by Charles Dickens or Frank Capra – generally make me want to leave the room. But writer Jean Shepherd’s look back at the Indiana Christmases of his youth comes with enough laughs and cynicism to make the nostalgia go down easy. A holiday gem for people who love, or hate, holidays.

A- Gimme Shelter (1970), Vogue, Tuesday, 7:30pm

The Maysles brothers set out to record a Rolling Stones tour, and instead they captured the dark side of the hippie era. Violence kept breaking out in the audience and even on stage. Unlike other rock documentaries, this one shows bits of how a free concert comes together, and then falls apart. The Maysles filmed themself (and the Stones) editing the movie. By the way, the best musical performance in the film is not by the Stones but Tina Turner.

B+ Sherlock Jr. (1924), BAMPFA, Sunday, 5:00pm

Buster Keaton used special effects to comment on the nature of film itself in his third feature film, where he plays a projectionist who dreams he’s a great detective. The sequence where he enters the movie screen and finds the scenes changing around him would be impressive if it were made today; in 1924, it’s mind-boggling. Since it’s Keaton, Sherlock Jr. is also filled with impressive stunts and very funny gags. This is an extremely short “feature,” but the Archive will also screen two Keaton shorts: The Frozen North and The Playhouse. Pianist Wayne Barker will provide the musical accompaniment. Part of the series Camera Man: Buster Keaton.

B+ The Hateful Eight (2015), Balboa, Thursday, 7:30pm

35mm! Quentin Tarantino’s roadshow western is surprisingly small and intimate, while reveling in the majesty of a long-unused large-film format. Two bounty hunters (Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell), along with an arrested killer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find themselves stuck in a store in the middle of nowhere, waiting out a blizzard, along with five other disreputable people. The film occasionally reminded me of Stagecoach, but this is Tarantino, not Ford, so you can expect a lot of talking and bloody violence. I’ve written more on this one.

C+ Dark Passage (1947), Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm

Not all Bogart/Becall movies are masterpieces. Consider this one: First, you don’t see Bogart’s face in the first 37 minutes, and it’s more than an hour before we see all of it. He’s been wrongfully convicted for murdering his wife, and Bogie changes his face through plastic surgery. But the movie has so many plot holes that it becomes ridiculous. On the good side, the film was largely shot in a San Francisco that no longer exists.

D 9 to 5 (1980), Lark, Sunday, 7:30pm; Monday, 11:00am

At least this badly-made comedy – a satire on office sexism – has its heart in the right place. Unfortunately, neither Lily Tomlin nor Jane Fonda are as funny as we know they can be. Singer Dolly Parton, in her first acting role, isn’t much better. The plot is outrageously ridiculous, which could have worked but didn’t, thanks to Colin Higgins’ off-timing direction. Fonda does a weak slapstick routine with a Xerox machine that only reminds you of how much we’ve lost in the art of physical comedy. At least Parton gave us a terrific title song.

Frequently-revived classics