What’s Screening: May 19 – 25

Do people go to the movies – if they still go to the movies – to see the stars? If so, there’s a lot of stargazing this week in Bay Area cinema. There’s Al Pacino, Sigourney Weaver, Russell Crowe (is he still a star?), Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Robert Redford, and Jane Fonda.

Festivals & Series

New films opening theatrically

C+ Master Gardener (2023), opened yesterday, New Mission, Albany Twin, Aquarius, Sebastopol, New Mission

This film starts out well, but as it goes along, it becomes less and less believable. Joel Edgerton plays a brilliant gardener with a dark background. His tattoos tell us that he is or was a violent racist (another key…he has an Adolf Hitler haircut). Sigourney Weaver plays the woman who runs these beautiful gardens. She too has an evil family background, but she’s rich enough to hide it. Then he falls in love with a mixed-race woman, and things get unbelievable.

Promising events

The Times of Harvey Milk & The Ruth Brinker Story, Castro, Sunday, 1:00pm

Free! Here are two documentaries about recent Castro district history. I saw The Times of Harvey Milk when it was new in 1984 – I remember liking it. The film runs 90 minutes. The Ruth Brinker Story follows a food-service worker who helped those who needed it the most during the AIDS epidemic. I’ve never seen it. It runs 23 minutes. I have never seen this film.

Master and Commander, Rafael, Sunday, 1:00pm

I liked Master and Commander when it was new, but I never read any of Patrick O’Brian’s books. This is not just a movie screening. According to The Rafael, “There will be a pre-show presentation and post-film conversation with Dr. Matthew James, Ph. D. author of Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin. A fellow of the California Academy of Scientists, James is a retired professor of Geology and Paleontology at Sonoma State University. He has been studying the Galapagos Islands for over 30 years.”

Theatrical revivals

A- Serpico
(1973), 4-Star
֍ Wednesday, 5:00pm
֍ Thursday, 8:00pm

Gritty New York crime stories were frequent in the early ’70s. Most were based on real events. This is one of the best. Al Pacino brilliantly played the title character – a NYC undercover policeman who, unlike all the other cops, refuses to take graft. Slowly, it becomes impossible to work with his partners, all of whom are on the take. How could this film not be good, considering that it was written by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler, and directed by Sidney Lumet. Based on actual events.

A- Titanic (1997), Balboa
֍ Saturday, 2:00pm
֍ Saturday, 7:30pm

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+ Ugetsu (1953), Balboa, Wednesday, 7:30pm

Kenji Mizoguchi shows us the cruelty of medieval Japan, only this time with ghosts. War brings profits and hope to two ambitious peasants…until the war comes to their doorsteps and scatters them and their families. If only they had listened to their level-headed wives, who told them to be happy with their lot. But for one husband, hoping to become a great potter, it becomes difficult to tell the living from the dead. There has always been something ghostly about Mizoguchi’s images; this film makes no bones about it.

B+ Fight Club (1999), 4-Star
֍ Wednesday, 8:00pm
֍ Thursday, 5:00pm

This is one strange and disturbing flick. Edward Norton wants to be Brad Pitt. Who wouldn’t? Pitt’s a free-spirited kind of guy and a real man. Besides, he’s shagging Helena Bonham Carter. On the other hand, he just might be a fascist. Or maybe…better not give away the strangest plot twist this side of Psycho and Bambi, even if it strains more credibility than a Fox News commentary. And Bonham Carter gets to say the most shocking and hilariously obscene line in Hollywood history.

B Barefoot In the Park (1967), Lark
֍ Sunday, 10:00am
֍ Sunday, 4:00pm
֍ Monday, 6:00pm

As you’d expect from Neil Simon, the one-liners are often funny but rarely believable. And yes, it’s fun to watch Jane Fonda and Robert Redford when they were both young and gorgeous – and already good actors. They play a newly married couple who find that the first few days after the honeymoon turn rocky. They have a lousy apartment. She just wants to make a home out of their lousy apartment and have constant sex, but he’s much more practical. (I suspect this is the most sexist film Fonda ever made – yes, more than Barbarella.) Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick play an older couple falling in love.

B- Blow-Up (1966), Friday, Balboa, 7:30pm

In 1966, Londoners had to contend with rowdy, uncontrollable gangs of mimes – or at least in this movie. It was Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English-language film, and his biggest hit. Why? It was set in “swinging London,” where everyone wanted to be. Also, there were short flashes of female nudity—something that was pretty much unheard of in a Hollywood movie at the time. David Hemmings stars as a photographer who seems alienated from everything and everyone. You never really get to know him or have any reason to. Read my full article.

Frequently-revived classics

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