What’s Screening: February 17 – 23

Ang Lee and James Schamus’ Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is playing in eight Bay Area theaters! And yet, not even one is in the East Bay. The 4-Star seems to have noticed that it’s Black History Month, with screenings of Black Panther, Fences, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. They’re also giving us masterpieces by Stanley Kubrick, Walter Murch, and Orson Welles. Also, there are two theatrical adaptations of works from August Wilson.

But no festivals this week.

New films opening streaming

B- The Other Fellow (2022), streaming

How is it like to have been named James Bond . People don’t believe you when you’re introduced. Others laugh. It’s probably worse than Lincoln Spector. This documentary investigates the name “James Bond” and how people respond to it. The original real-life James Bond was an ornithologist, and Ian Fleming picked it up when he created his famous spy. Some of the stories seem repetitive, while others, such as the young woman with a child who had to get away from a toxic relationship.

Promising events

? The Harder They Come (1972), New Mission, Monday, 9:35pm

I don’t remember much of the film that introduced reggae to North America. I do remember that it was exciting, amazing, and electrifying – especially because of the music. Today, the sound is still incredible, but I frankly couldn’t tell you if anything else holds up.

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A Black Panther (2018), 4-Star
֍ Saturday, 11:00am
֍ Saturday 2:30pm

Yes, it was revolutionary to make a huge-budget superhero movie with an almost entirely black cast, and set mostly in an fictious African country far ahead of the West in technology. But Black Panther is more complex than a simple good vs. bad action flick with dark complexions. The main villain has a serious point, and the hero must face some ambiguous moral choices. But I wish that director/writer Ryan Coogler had confronted the absurdity of absolute monarchy. It’s also an amazingly fun action movie.

B Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), 4-Star
֍ Saturday, 5:30pm
֍ Sunday, 6:00pm

Provide great dialog and excellent actors, put them in an enclosed place, and you’ll likely to get a superb stage play. But if you carelessly try to turn it into a movie, the theatrical roots show through. That’s the problem with the otherwise excellent film adaptation of August Wilson’s play, set in a 1920s recording studio. Viola Davis and the late Chadwich Boseman (in his last film) brilliantly carry the picture.

Theatrical revivals

A+ Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Lark
֍ Sunday, 10:00am
֍ Monday, 8:00pm

Here’s a deeply dark, hilarious comedy about the end of the world. General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders his men to bomb the USSR and start World War III. But have no fear! The men responsible for avoiding Armageddon (three of them played by Peter Sellers) are almost as competent as Laurel and Hardy. Stanley Kubrick’s “nightmare comedy” reminds you just how scary things were back in the ’60s. Read my Blu-ray review.

A+ Citizen Kane (1941), Rafael
֍ Sunday, 1:00pm
֍ Monday, 7:00pm

How does any movie survive an 80-year reputation as the “Greatest Film Ever Made?” One obvious reason is that it’s very, very good. But that’s not enough. True, there are films more perceptive about the human condition, pictures more dazzling in their technique, and movies more fun. But I’d be hard pressed to name any film this insightful that’s also as technically dazzling and fun to watch. As Orson Welles and his collaborators tell the life story of a newspaper tycoon through the flashback memories of those who knew him, they also turn the techniques of cinema inside out. Read my A+ appreciation.

A The Conversation (1974), Balboa, 7:30pm

Francis Coppola’s low-budget “personal” film, made between Godfathers I and II, is almost as good as the two epics that sandwich it. The Conversation concerns a professional snoop (Gene Hackman) who bugs peoples’ private conversations for a living. Remote and lonely, his emotional armor begins to crack when he suspects that his work could lead to murder. Walter Murch’s ground-breaking sound mix exposes us to layers of meaning within the titular recorded discussion as we hear it over and over again.

A- Fences (2016), 4-Star
֍ Sunday, 3:00pm
֍ Sunday, 7:30pm

Star and director Denzel Washington plays a bitter man whose life didn’t turn out the way he wanted. He prides himself on supporting his family, but he behaves surprisingly cruel to his son (Jovan Adepo). His wife, played by Viola Davis, plays his good-hearted yet long-suffering wife. The film is set in the 1950s, when African Americans had considerably less options than they do now, although still more than they had when the main characters were young. August Wilson wrote the stage play and adapted it for the film. But Wilson should have worked harder; the move feels very much like a stage play. Read my essay.

A- Bound (1996), New Parkway, Friday, 10:30pm

Before The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers created a stylish and fun crime thriller about a lesbian couple that go up against the mob. Jennifer Tilly hooks up with Gina Gershon, both sexually and in crime, to steal from her gangster husband (Joe Pantoliano). A very sexy, violent, and suspenseful thriller which adds new meaning to the phrase “money laundering.”

A- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), check theaters for times
֍ AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco
֍ AMC Metreon 16 & IMAX, San Francisco
֍ Century Regency, San Rafael
֍ AMC Saratoga 14, San Jose
֍ CinéArts Santana Row, San Jose
֍ Century 16 Downtown Pleasant Hill and XD, Pleasant Hill
֍ Redwood Downtown 20 and XD, Redwood City

Theaters Subject to Change. Ang Lee and James Schamus turn the period kung fu epic into a character study of warriors who must choose between love or duty. The action scenes are among the most amazing ever filmed – complete with the gravity-defying leaps found only in Hong Kong cinema – but with a very human story at its core.

B+ The President’s Analyst (1967), Balboa, 7:00pm

This little comedy from 1967 deserves recognition, even if it’s extremely outdated. The White House hires a psychiatrist (James Coburn) to help the president deal with his emotional burden. The trouble is that no one is allowed to help the psychiatrist. The head shrinker is on the verge of a nervous breakdown when spies from every country in the world converge to kidnap the doc (and stop other spies from kidnapping him). Although the movie shows its age in almost every way, the film’s surprise ending seems remarkably prescient. On a ’60s double bill with Wild in the Streets, which I saw long ago and didn’t like.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics