What’s Screening: April 7 – 13

Several film festivals will be popping up next week and next month. And that also means a lot of documentaries and serious drama. Now is the time to enjoy vintage movies on the big screen.

Festivals & Series

Promising events

Sing-Along Grease (1978), Roxie, Friday, 6:30pm

I haven’t seen Grease in more than 40 years. It was fun, but also ridiculous. I suspect that the Sing-Along version may be better than the original.

Theatrical revivals

A Dog Day Afternoon (1975), New Mission
֍ Friday, 2:40pm
֍ Tuesday, 6:15pm
֍ Wednesday, 2:50pm

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 Spirited Away (2001), Roxie
֍ Wednesday, 6:45pm
֍ Thursday, 9:15pm

Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece is a beautiful, complex, and occasionally scary tale of a young girl cast into a strange and magical world. The intriguing and imaginative creatures, not to mention the moral dilemmas, are beyond anything that Dorothy ever had to deal with in Oz. A truly amazing work of animation.

A Pulp Fiction (1994), Saturday, 4-Star
֍ Saturday, 6:00pm
֍ Saturday, 9:30pm
֍ Sunday, 7:30pm

Quentin Tarantino achieved cult status by writing and directing this witty mesh of interrelated stories involving talkative killers, a crooked boxer, romantic armed robbers, and a former POW who hid a watch in a very uncomfortable place. Tarantino entertainingly plays with dialog, story-telling techniques, non-linear time, and any sense the audience may have of right and wrong.

A- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30pm

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.

A- Titanic (1997), Lark, Friday & Saturday, 7:00pm

Forget the out-of-control budget and the teenage crushes. On its own, Titanic is big, broad, rousing entertainment told on an epic scale, and worth every minute of its long runtime. Writer/director James Cameron skillfully balances the intimate melodrama of a doomed love with the big adventure of a doomed ship, giving us romance, class warfare, history, tragedy, suspense, sex, and plenty of special effects.

B+ Best In Show (2000), New Parkway, Sunday, 3:30pm

Christopher Guest’s dog-show mockumentary has more than its share of hilarious moments. The rest of it is pretty funny, too. Second City veterans Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara steal the show as a dog-obsessed couple.

B+ Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Balboa
֍ Sunday, 11:00am (dubbed)
֍ Monday, 7:30m (subtitled)

I don’t know when Studio Ghibli started making animated movies particularly for the American and European market. This one, based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones (certainly not a Japanese name), seems set at a fantasized Europe in the early 20th century. The story deals with a useless war, a handsome wizard with a very bad yellow streak, a courageous girl turned into an old woman, and, of course, the moving castle of the story. The design and hand-drawn animation are exceptional.

B The Rules of The Game (1939), Lark
֍ Sunday, 10:00am
֍ Sunday, 5:00pm
֍ Monday, 8:00pm

I’ve seen Jean Renoir’s dramatic comedy (or comedic drama) at least three times, but I still don’t know why so many people consider it a masterpiece. It’s not bad, but it’s not exceptional. A wealthy couple brings their friends to a big party. Guests and servants have their own romantic and often adulterous twists. The physical comedy isn’t bad, but it isn’t exceptional. The serious end doesn’t fit the overall light tone. Perhaps the time it was released – just before World War II broke out – gives it a weight that it doesn’t really deserve.

B Easy Rider (1969), Thursday, Balboa, 7:30pm

16mm! This iconic film changed Hollywood for the better…at least temporarily. Weird, low-budget, and breaking every rule, it nevertheless became a big hit, opening studio doors to young directors and serious art. The two anti-heroes (played by producer Peter Fonda and director Dennis Hopper) seem totally counterculture on the outside, yet they’re irredeemably materialistic to their cores. Easy Rider hasn’t aged well, but it’s still worth seeing as a bug in amber from a lost age

B Donnie Darko (2001), Balboa, 7:30pm

35mm! How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay – there’s Back to the Future and its sequels. Add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers must deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics