What’s Screening: January 6 – 12

If you love Indiana Jones movies, this is a great week for you. The 4-Star will screen the first three pictures, and you can watch them on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. But if you prefer more serious cinema, there’s a great film about climate change that is neither a documentary nor science fiction. There are also works by Akira Kurosawa, Steven Soderbergh, Billy Wilder, Brad Bird, David Lean, Ang Lee, David Lynch, and Chantal Akerman – the director of the new, official “greatest film ever.”

Festivals & Series

New films opening theatrically

A Living (2023), several theaters
Here’s a remake that contains almost everything in the original. But that original is Akira Kurosawa’s  masterpiece, Ikura. An aging bureaucrat, emotionally dead and cut-off emotionally from both his job and his family, discovers that he has only months to live. He has scarce time to make his empty life meaningful. He tries wine, women, and song, and that doesn’t help. This new English-speaking film closely follows the original Japanese film, and yet, it feels very British. After all, this is the country of the stiff upper lip. The view changes to the story all seem to be the right ones. For instance, Kurasawa’s narration is replaced by dialogue. Warning: You may come out with tears. Note: I posted this review later than I should have.

New films opening streaming

A Utama, streaming through KinoNow

Here’s a film about climate change, yet it never mentions the world-wide catastrophe. An old couple raises llamas and have apparently been doing so for a very long time. But they’re getting old, and there’s little or no water anymore. The ground is just hard dirt. Their grandson arrives and tries to help, and suggests moving them to the city, but the grandfather will have none of that. Barbara Alvarez’s cinematography creates beautiful yet forbidden landscapes. More than any other film I’ve seen, Utama makes global warming personal.

Promising events

? Jurassic Park (1993), Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

I remember 1993’s biggest hit as a moderately entertaining fantasy thriller with what at the time were cutting-edge special effects. Beyond being a major step in CGI, I don’t remember anything exceptional about this movie. If I remembered it well enough to grade it, that grade would probably be a B-.

Theatrical revivals

A+ Seven Samurai (1954), 4-Star
֍ Saturday, 7:30pm
֍ Sunday, 6:30pm

If you think all action movies are mindless escapism, you need to set aside 3½ hours for Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece. The basic story – a poor village hires warriors to defend them against bandits – has been retold many times since, although Kurosawa told it first and told it best. This action film contains almost no action in the first two hours, but when the fighting arrives, you’re ready for it. You know every detail of the people involved, the terrain that will be fought over, and the class differences between the peasants and their hired swords. One of the greatest movies ever made. Read my essay.

A Jeanne Dielman 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Roxie
֍ Sunday, 4:00pm
֍ Wednesday, 7:00pm

It’s hard to describe Chantal Akerman’s film – now considered Sight & Sound Magazine‘s new official greatest film – without making it sound boring. The film follows three days in the life of the title character, a widow played brilliantly by Delphine Seyrig. The static camera shows her cooking whole dinners from start to finish. She cleans her small, one bedroom apartment. She shops, then she talks with her teenage son. She also turns tricks to make enough money to get by. But her repetitive and demeaning life is wearing her down, creating accidents and mistakes. The film runs more than three hours and 20 minutes. And yet, it’s fascinating all throughout. Read my essay.

A The Incredibles (2004), 4-Star
֍ Saturday, 1:00pm
֍ Sunday, 11:00am

Brad Bird’s first film for Pixar was one of the best of all the superhero flicks. Not based on an actual comic book series (although you can’t ignore similarities to The Fantastic Four), it follows a married couple of retired superheroes. But circumstances force them to pull out the spandex and save the world once again. And this time, with their kids. A rousing and utterly enjoyable entertainment, The Incredibles also brings up issues of conformity, adolescence, and the dangers of wearing a cape.

A Sunset Boulevard (1950), New Mission, Sunday, noon

Billy Wilder’s meditation on Hollywood’s seedy underbelly feels like the flip side of Singin’ in the Rain (now that would make a great double bill). Norma Desmond can easily be Lena Lamont after a generation of denial and depression. And in the role of Norma, Gloria Swanson gives one of the great over-the-top performances in Hollywood history.

A- Brief Encounter (1945), Lark
֍ Sunday, 10:00am
֍ Monday, 6:30pm

Love, romance, and marriage may make the world go around, but it often goes in the wrong direction. This pre-epic David Lean drama follows the story of two people who fall deeply in love in a train station. The problem is that they’re both already happily married. There is no solution that won’t hurt several very nice people. To make it worse, they’re all British, and they try to keep their upper lip stiff. The film is told through the eyes of the woman who loves her husband, even though she has much hotter feelings for another man. By the way, one scene in the film inspired Billy Wilder to make The Apartment.

B+ Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), 4-Star, Thursday, 7:30pm

Ang Lee’s third feature and second art house hit examines how a loving family turns into an empty nest as the children spread their wings. The widowed family patriarch, a master chef, expresses his love for his three daughters by cooking elaborate and delicious meals. But his daughters have their own careers and romantic entanglements, and they’re slowly pulling away from their father. A poignant, funny, and loving look at one family.

B+ Mulholland Drive (2001), New Mission, Monday, 9:30pm

The plot is both extremely conventional and almost non-existent, and I’m not even going to try to explain it. And yet almost every individual scene seems to feel like a masterpiece. As you expect from writer/director David Lynch, it’s heavy on atmosphere, complexity, and erotica. You can almost reach out and touch the weirdness. Naomi Watts is just amazing. Even Ann Miller of the old MGM musicals plays a part.

B+ Bullitt (1968), New Mission, Tuesday, 6:00pm

Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. It has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word bullshit marks the first time that word was heard in a Hollywood movie.

C Ocean’s Eleven (2001 version), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30pm

A flashy, slightly entertaining remake of a much older, also slightly entertaining movie. Like the original, it’s mainly about star power, and yes, the cast shines – even if it’s not enough to make the movie special. Like the original, it’s a heist movie with little sense of suspense and occasional touches of comedy. Fun, but not all that much fun.

C But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30pm

This very broad satire of homophobia and gay conversion therapy has its heart in the right place. That’s not enough. Jamie Babbit’s heavy-handed direction ensures that most jokes miss the funny bone. Even the usually hilarious Cathy Moriarty can only seldom provoke laughter. And when the heroine finally gets a chance to save the day with her cheerleading skills, it’s obvious that star Natasha Lyonne didn’t train enough for the part.

Indiana Jones at the 4-Star

A- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), 4-Star
֍ Monday, 2:30pm
֍ Tuesday, 2:30pm
֍ Wednesday, 4:40

The first Indiana Jones movie doesn’t have much of a story. The plot is just an excuse to take us from one action sequence to another. But these action sequences are amongst the best filmed. They’re brilliantly choreographed, exciting, and despite the fast cutting, completely clear. A river of comedy runs through it all, reminding the audience not to take the story seriously. Warning: There’s a thin vein of unthinking racism. Also known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Read my full essay.

F Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), 4-Star
֍ Monday, 5:00pm
֍ Tuesday, 5:00pm
֍ Wednesday, 5:00pm

This is by far the worst Indiana Jones movie yet. The other Indiana Jones pictures played tongue-and-cheek; but this one takes itself seriously, and Indiana Jones doesn’t work when serious. And it’s so racist that it could have been directed by D.W. Griffith.

A+ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), 4-Star
֍ Monday, 7:30pm
֍ Tuesday, 7:30pm
֍ Wednesday, 7:30pm

By adding more humor, less racism, a smidgen of character development, and some of the best action scenes in the series, the third Indiana Jones flick outdoes even the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. Much of that comes from Sean Connery as the hero’s bookworm father, and a prologue with River Phoenix as the teenage Indy. The plot, which is simply an excuse to insert jokes and action sequences, has the Joneses trying to find the Holy Grail before the Nazis get it. You can read my A+ appreciation.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics