What’s Screening: Dec 2 – 8

This week we have Elf and Die Hard and Elf and Die Hard and Elf. Also The Front Page, The Life of Brian, and a rare, wonderful, largely forgotten comedy from the 1960s.

Also a full day of silent movies.


We’ve got two one-day festivals this weekend. And unless I’ve missed something, these are the last two festival of 2016.

  • A Day of Silents takes over the Castro Saturday with Chaplin shorts and five features–all with live accompaniment.
  • On Sunday, the Roxie celebrates programmer Elliot Lavine (he’s moving to Portland) with Lavine On The Lam.

Promising events

Howard Hughes pre-Code talkies restored, Rafael, Friday and Saturday

The Motion Picture Academy recently restored two comedies, both produced by Howard Hughes, and the Rafael will screen them. On Friday at 7:15, they’re show the first film version of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s classic stage play, The Front Page. I saw this long ago and liked it, although I didn’t like it anywhere near as much as the second film version–Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday. On Saturday, at 2:00, they’re screening Cock of the Air. I’ve never even heard of that one.

Las Vegas gangster double bill: Bugsy & Casino, Castro, Sunday, 5:30

I haven’t seen either of these films in quite a while. I remember liking Barry Levinson’s Bugsy, starring Warren Beatty as the gangster who invented Las Vegas. I also remember liking Martin Scorsese’s Casino, even though part of me felt that he was trying (unsuccessfully) to regain some of the Goodfellas
magic. It is, I believe, the last film he made with Robert De Niro.

Recommended revivals

A Life of Brian, Castro, Friday

Not quite as funny as Holy Grail (but still hilarious), the Pythons’ second (and last) narrative feature digs a little deeper than its predecessor. Its story of a hapless citizen of Roman-occupied Judea, mistaken for the messiah, satirizes faith, fanaticism (both religious and political), and the human tendency to blindly follow leaders. The religious right attacked it viciously when it came out, which is kind of funny since the movie’s strongest satire is aimed at left-wing radicals. On a double bill with History of the World, Part I.

A- Ixcanul, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:30; Sunday, 2:00

Cinema can take you into cultures you would otherwise never experience. This Guatemalan film brings us into the world of Maria, a teenage Mayan living with her family near an active volcano. Poisonous snakes threaten their farmland. The big bosses couldn’t care little. And, as teenage girls often do, she falls for a handsome jerk and must suffer the consequences.

B+ The President’s Analyst, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

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. Soon spies from every country on Earth converge to kidnap the unfortunate doctor (and stop other spies from kidnapping him). Although the movie shows its age in almost every possible way, the film’s surprise ending seems remarkably prescient. Introduced by graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. Archival print.

B+ The Golden Coach, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 4:00

Jean Renoir’s 1952 Technicolor comedy deals with arrogant aristocrats, starving artists, and, yes, a horse-drawn coach gilded with gold. Anna Magnani stars as a member of a commedia dell’arte troupe, stranded in a remote outpost of 17th-century South America, where she juggles a dashing soldier, a famous and egotistical matador, and the aristocratic viceroy of the colony. Her life soon reflects her art. A very fun and funny movie. The final screening in the series Anna Magnani: Eternal Soul of Italian Cinema.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: Nov 25 – Dec 1

Warren Beatty, Eddie Murphy, the Marx Brothers, and some great musicians (but no film festivals) in this week’s Bay Area screenings.

New films opening

B+ Rules Don’t Apply, Shattuck, opened Wednesday

Warren Beatty returns to the director’s chair for the first time this century, wringing laughs out of billionaire recluse Howard Hughes. Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins play the young couple with a bumpy path to love. Well-made entertainment, set in the Hollywood of the 1950s and early 60s, and managing to poke some fun with puritan ethics and the extremes of capitalism. Read my full review.

Promising events

Roxie Mixtape #3, Roxie, Thursday, 7:00

Not all films are feature length. These short comedies, dramas, documentaries, and visual poems–all from Bay Area filmmakers–look at garbage, nature, love, technology, crime, and dogs.

Trading Places, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

it’s been a third of a century since I’ve seen John Landis’ comedy about race and class. Two filthy-rich and utterly evil brothers, on a bet, ruin the life of an up-and-coming executive (Dan Aykroyd) and replace him with a homeless huckster (Eddie Murphy). I remember liking it when I saw it. The opening show of the Balboa’s Christmas-themed December Classics series.

Recommended revivals

A+ The Last Waltz, New Mission, Thursday, 7:00

The Band played their final concert on Thanksgiving night, 1976. Among their performing guests were Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and Joni Mitchell. Martin Scorsese brought a crew of talented filmmakers to record the show, and created the greatest rock concert movie ever made. Scorsese and company ignored the audience and focused on the musicians, creating an intimate look at great artists who understood that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Read my A+ appreciation.

A Fruitvale Station, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

The experience of seeing this independent feature is very much like waiting for a time bomb. You watch Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) go through the last day of 2008, knowing that he will be fatally shot by a BART cop in the early hours of the new year. Writer/director Ryan Coogler wisely avoids turning Grant into a saint, but makes us care very much for him. The last moments of the film–not including some documentary footage and the closing credits–will break your heart. Read my longer report. The closing screening for the series Three Lives: Classics of Contemporary African American Cinema.

A Diary of a Teenage Girl, New Mission, Tuesday, 7:30

Minnie (Bel Powley in an amazing breakthrough performance) isn’t just any teenage girl. She’s an aspiring cartoonist with an irresponsible hippie mother in 1977 San Francisco–and she’s just lost her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend. The movie bursts with conflict, absurdities, and underground-comic-style animation as it captures San Francisco in the late 70s flawlessly (I know; i was there). But even better, it captures the rocky emotions of a young woman overwhelmed with hormones and not sure what to do with them.

Double bill: Horse Feathers & Follow the Fleet, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

The A goes
to Horse Feathers, where the Marx Brothers go to college and major in puns, pranks, and chasing Thelma Todd. Each brother gets to perform their own version of the same romantic song–each sillier than the last. See my Blu-ray review. Follow the Fleet gives us Fred Astaire as sailor on shore leave teaming up with Ginger Rogers. The Irving Berlin songs include “We Saw the Sea,” “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket,” and the transcendent “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” I give it a B+.

B+ The Red Shoes, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:00

This 1948 Technicolor fable about sacrificing oneself for art makes a slight story. Luckily, the characters, all fanatically devoted to their work, and all very British, make up for it—at least in the first half. Unfortunately, the final hour weighs down with more melodrama than even a well-acted film can bear. On the other hand—and this is why The Red Shoes holds on to its classic status—the 20-minute ballet sequence is a masterpiece of filmed dance and a great example of three-strip Technicolor at its best. I’ve discussed The Red Shoes in more detail. Part of the series Arrows of Desire: the Films of Powell & Pressburger.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: Nov 18 – 24

Sex, comedy, Harlem, and John Wayne–along with three film festivals–light up this week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

B- Elle, Embarcadero, opens Friday

As you’d expect from Paul Verhoeven, Elle is silly, tasteless, and unbelievable, and yet it somehow succeeds as entertainment. Isabelle Huppert gives a strong, gutsy, courageous performance as a strangely matter-of-fact rape victim. Perhaps she likes it? But then, her father was a mass murderer, her mother is addicted to botox, and her son can’t possibly be her grandchild’s biological parent. Like I said, silly, tasteless, and unbelievable. But fun. Read my full review.

Promising events

Sheetlejuice, Castro, Saturday
A live, all-drag parody of Beetlejuice, followed by a 35mm screening of the original movie, which I have never seen.

Riffer’s Delight: MYSTERY MOVIE, New Mission, Wednesday, 8:00

In the tradition of Mystery Science Theater 3000, local comedians Nato Green, Natasha Muse, and Kaseem Bentley will provide irreverent commentary to an as-yet-unnamed bad movie. Think of it as pulling apart a turkey the day before Thanksgiving.

The Cool World, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00

I haven’t seen this 1963 drama—shot to look like a cinema verité documentary–about Harlem youth, gangs, and Jazz. The PFA is promising a restored 35mm print, and a discussion with assistant director/editor Madeline Anderson and Orlando Bagwell, Director of the documentary program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Part of the series Afterimage: Madeline Anderson.

Those Good Old Matinees, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Sunday, 4:00

This talkie (as opposed to silent) matinee includes a screening of The Hurricane Express, a 12-chapter serial starring John Wayne, cut down to feature length. Serial expert Larry Telles will host and provide additional short films.

Recommended revivals

A The World of Apu, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 4:00; Sunday, 1:30

In the final chapter of Satyajit Ray’s great trilogy, the adult Apu leaves college, but seems reluctant to grow up. Like his father, he’s a dreamer, and assumes that good things will come his way. His best friend from college does much better, but then, he came from a rich family. One good thing does come his way: He marries, almost by accident, and finds happiness and true love. But tragedy is never far away in Apu’s world. See my discussion of the entire trilogy. Part of the series World Trilogies: Ray’s Apu Trilogy.

A- Comedy Short Subjects Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

Buster Keaton’s Neighbors and the Max Davidson vehicle Pass the Gravy stand out among the funniest two-reelers of the 1920s–although Neighbors has some unfortunately racist humor. Charlie Chaplin’s Work isn’t one of his best, but it’s still quite funny. I haven’t seen the early Laurel and Hardy Duck Soup (not to be confused with the Marx Brothers movie of the same name), but since it was released in 1926, I assume it was made before their personas solidified. Greg Pane accompanies the shorts on piano.

B Black Narcissus, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:00

Not much more than a well-done but silly melodrama, Black Narcissus is nevertheless a must if you love old-fashioned three-strip Technicolor. No one could work emotional magic with that clumsy but beautiful system like cinematographer Jack Cardiff, and this just might be his best work. The PFA will screen an imported print.

B Donnie Darko, Castro, Friday, 7:00

How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but 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. On a double bill with Prisoners.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: November 11 – 17

Francis Coppola, Louise Brooks, crack cocaine, and Laurel & Hardy all grace this week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

B- The Eagle Huntress, Clay, Aquarius, Shattuck, Rafael, opens Friday

Otto Bell’s documentary about a Mongolian girl who proves she’s better than any man tells an interesting and inspiring story. Thirteen-year-old Aisholpan wants to be an eagle hunter, just like her father. That’s fine with him, and the rest of her family, despite traditions that insist that only men can hunt with eagles. But much about the film feels staged, leaving me wondering if it should be considered a documentary, at all. Read my full review.

Promising events

Francis Ford Coppola: The Program You Can’t Refuse, Castro, Tuesday, 7:00

Adam Savage interviews the long-retired director of The Godfather films and Apocalypse Now. He’s got a new book to sell–The Godfather Notebook–and he’ll be signing copies after the talk.

Laurel & Hardy Double Bill: Way Out West & The Flying Deuces, Castro, Sunday (matinee, only)

Laurel and Hardy were almost always better in shorts than in features, and if my memory serves, these two late features prove the point. Many consider Way Out West one of their best features, and it contains an amazing dance sequence, but the plot sinks too many of the laughs. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen The Flying Deuces, but I didn’t care for that one much, either. Both movies have been digitally restored.

New Jack City, New Mission, Monday, 10:15

I saw Mario Van Peebles’ crooks and cops thriller on Laserdisc soon after its 1991 theatrical release. I remember being very impressed with it. Part of the New Mission at 100 celebration.

Recommended revivals

A The Conversation, Castro, Wednesday

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 people’s 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- Aparajito, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 4:00; Sunday, 1:30

In the second chapter of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, the title character grows from late childhood into late adolescence, and his view of India and the world widens considerably. In many ways, it’s a more optimistic film than its predecessor; this kid just might go places. But there’s a heavy price to pay for advancement out of his class. The weakest film of the three, but still excellent. Read my article on the whole trilogy. Part of the series World Trilogies: Ray’s Apu Trilogy.

A- Elia Kazan double bill: On the Waterfront & A Face in the Crowd, Castro, Sunday, 6:00

The A- goes to On the Waterfront. A thug-run union and conflicted loyalties drive this revered drama, shot on location in New York. Marlon Brando stands out amongst a brilliant cast as a half-bright dock worker struggling between family loyalty and human decency. Yet some plot twists are just too convenient, and the film arguably justifies the blacklist (Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg both named names). A Face in the Crowd isn’t at the same level, but Andy Griffith gives a strong dramatic performance as a hobo turned into a media sensation. I give it a B+.

A- Vampyr, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s part talkie
belongs on any list of great horror films. This is a movie where you’re not always sure just who is a vampire; even the vampires aren’t sure if they’re vampires. The story isn’t much, but individual sequences will stick in your memory, including the young woman who seems to look just a bit too hungry, and the funeral procession and burial, viewed from the point of view of the corpse. Introduced by Robert Beavers. Part of the series Cinema Mon Amour: Robert Beavers.

B+ Diary of a Lost Girl,
New Mission
, Saturday, 7:00

Good as it is, G.W. Pabst’s second and last collaboration with star Louise Brooks doesn’t quite reach the level of their first film together, Pandora’s Box. Brooks as a victim and reluctant prostitute just doesn’t have the emotional impact of Brooks as a femme fatale. But the wonderful Pabst imagery is still there, as is Brooks’ unparalleled sensuality. With musical accompaniment by the Musical Art Quintet. Another part of New Mission at 100.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: November 4 – 10

James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Spike Lee, and the silent version of Mad Max at this week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

13th, Vogue, Friday, 8:30

The 13th amendment freed the slaves. Or did it? In the 150 years since emancipation, state and local governments have turned prisons into slave labor camps filled primarily by the decedents of those freed in 1865. And in our time of mass incarceration, it’s only getting worse. Ava DuVernay’s powerful documentary (which is also available on Netflix) gets not only to the heart of the problem but also to its bowels. This isn’t an easy movie to sit through, but every American should see it. Part of Doc Stories.

Promising events

Mad Max: Silent Fury Black & White, New People Cinema, Monday, 9:00

I’ve already suggested that Mad Max: Fury Road should be seen in 3D. Well, here’s another way to see it: in black and white, silent, and with live musical accompaniment by the Firmaments. I suspect it will still be a fun ride. For the record, I gave the color/sound/3D version a B+. Part of Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.

Do the Right Thing, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:00

It’s been far too long since I’ve seen Spike Lee’s masterpiece about racial tensions on a hot day in Brooklyn. I suspect I would give it an A or even an A+ if I were to see it again. The first film in the series Three Lives: Classics of Contemporary African American Cinema.

James Bond-a-thon opening, Vogue, Thursday, 4:30

The Vogue’s four-day, five-film, 15-screening marathon of 007 launches Thursday night. The opening movie: Goldfinger, which I give only a B-. That’s followed by Dr. No and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, neither of which I’ve seen in a very long time.

Recommended revivals

A Pather Panchali, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 4:00; Sunday, 1:30

In the first chapter of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, we meet the central character as a curious and mischievous child. Upbeat in nature, Apu delights in the world around him despite his family’s desperate poverty. He and his older sister play and fight and avoid their responsibilities while their father dreams and their mother worries. There’s a great deal of joy in this film, but a greater deal of tragedy. Read my essay on the full trilogy, all of which will be screened at the PFA over the coming weeks. 4K restoration.

A Killer of Sheep, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

Shot in 16mm in 1977, Charles Burnett’s neorealistic non-story examines the day-to-day life of an African-American slaughterhouse employee struggling with poverty, family problems, and his own depression. Hauntingly made with a mostly amateur cast, Killer of Sheep takes us into a world most of us know about but have never actually experienced.

A- Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes double bill: The Hound of the Baskervilles & The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Balboa, Wednesday, 7:00

The great detective was never filmed better than in the first two movies starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Set in the Victorian England of the original stories (the cheap B pictures that followed were updated), they provide the right setting and tone, and with Rathbone, the best Holmes. I discuss Adventures–the better of the two–at length in this article.

B+ Best in Show, Cerrito, Thursday, 9:30

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.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: October 28 – November 3

Silent horror, women-created horror, hole-in-the-head horror, Spanish horror, and even Rocky Horror in this Halloween week’s Bay Area screenings.


New films opening

A Moonlight, Embarcadero, New Mission, opens Friday

Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to 2008’s Medicine for Melancholy follows a resident of the inner city from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, examining three stages of his life. Three different actors play Chiron, a young man unsure of his sexuality who must learn to at least appear macho to survive in the tough streets. Mahershala Ali from Game of Thrones carries the first act as drug-dealer who is also a gentle and kind father figure. Read my full review. Director Barry Jenkins in person Friday at the Embarcadero.

B- The Handmaiden, Embarcadero, California (Berkeley), New Mission, opens Friday

This atmospheric Korean thriller boils over with lies, double crosses, larceny, surprise plot twists, and a lot of sex–much of it quite kinky. At 90 minutes, it would be a great entertainment, but at its actual length of 144, it often drags. The handmaiden of the title works for a young Japanese lady she plans to rob. Things get messy. Overall, the good scenes in The Handmaiden are worth wading through the bad ones. Read my full review.

Promising events

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Castro, Thursday, 7:00

A documentary on one of the two strangest mother/daughter teams of movie stars in Hollywood history (Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli being the other). The Doc Stories opening night show.

Rocky Horror Picture Show, UC Theatre, Monday, 8:00

I usually list Rocky Horror in the Lebowskies at the bottom of this newsletter. But this is different. It’s playing the UC Theatre, where for decades it screened every Saturday at midnight. I saw it there at least three times. The UC is now a music venue, but they’re screening Rocky Horror on Halloween (much earlier than midnight); their first movie screening since the theater reopened. I plan to be there.

Recommended revivals

A+ The Last Picture Show, Castro, Wednesday

Peter Bogdanovich’s masterpiece just may be the bleakest coming-of-age movie ever made. The two young men at its center, inherently nice guys, have no prospects and no real ambitions. They live in a depopulated town that looks like it will blow away with the next windstorm. College isn’t an option. Even sex is a confusing and often embarrassing experience. Made in 1971 and set about two decades earlier, the film refuses to make the 1950s nostalgic. Read my A+ appreciation. On a double bill with Hell or High Water.

A Nosferatu, New Parkway, Sunday, 3:00

You best forget about sexy vampires before you go see the first film version of Dracula (an unauthorized rip-off that got the filmmakers into legal trouble). Max Schreck plays Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it’s probably the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. The New Parkway promises live accompaniment “like you’ve never heard before,” but isn’t saying by who.

A Persepolis, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

Can one call a 95-minute, low-budget, animated film an epic? I think this one qualifies. It may also qualify as a masterpiece. Iranian/French cartoonist Marjane Satrapi based Persepolis on her own autobiographical graphic novels (Vincent Paronnaud shares screenwriting and directing credits). Through the eyes of the young Marjane, we see Iran go through oppression, revolution, hope, worse oppression, war, and even worse oppression. Read my full review.

A- Pan’s Labyrinth, New People Cinema, Wednesday, 9:00

Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) lives in fascist Spain with a cruel and powerful stepfather–a very dangerous and scary place to live. But so is the fantasy realm into which she frequently escapes. At least the fantasy world, which may or may not be a figment of her imagination, contains the possibility of hope. Guillermo del Toro fashioned a nightmare inside of a nightmare, filled with dark, gruesome, and often gory imagery, a child’s fantasy that’s appropriate only for adults. Part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.

B Kill Bill Parts 1 & 2, New Mission, Sunday, 1:30

Quentin Tarantino creates a whole new universe for his two-part martial arts epic about revenge. In a sense, it’s the ultimate Tarantino flick, since this time around, even Tarantino himself knows that it’s set in an alternate universe. Part 1 drags a bit with fight after fight, even though some of them are beautifully choreographed. And there are a great many clever and funny moments throughout. But Tarantino’s shallow ultraviolence doesn’t quite hold up for a three-hour story.

B The Day the Earth Stood Still, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

They made a lot of science fiction movies in the 1950s, but few as good as this left-leaning, anti-McCarthyite Christian parable. An alien (Michael Rennie in his first major American role) comes to Earth with a message of peace, finds a populace unwilling to listen, and then becomes the target of a manhunt. A fine film, despite some overly-done symbolism. Not to be confused with the 2008 remake.

B Oh, Rosalinda!!, Stanford, Saturday and Sunday

It’s hard not to enjoy Pressburger and Powell’s light-as-a-feather musical comedy about adultery and mistaken identity. The sets and costumes intentionally look false–often cartoonish. The story is about as believable as an Astaire/Rogers musical–although it’s far more risqué. But the film’s absolute refusal to take anything seriously, along with the lack of Astaire and Rogers’ charisma, eventually alienates the audience. The filmmakers clearly enjoyed working with the new, wide Cinemascope screen. On a double bill with La Ronde, which I have yet to see.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

What’s Screening: October 21 – 27

Harry Potter, Nightmare on Elm Street, My Fair Lady, and six film festivals in this week’s Bay Area screenings.


Promising events

The Battle of Algiers, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

I haven’t seen Gillo Pontecorvo’s powerful story of oppression and resistance–a narrative feature designed to look like a documentary–in decades, so I’m not going to give it a grade. But if memory serves, I’d probably give it an A. The film has just received a 4K restoration, so it should look better than ever. But I don’t understand why Rialto Pictures, which is distributing the rerelease, is advertising the film with a still that makes it look like West Side Story.

Carnival of Souls, Friday, 8:30, Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA

I haven’t yet seen this low-budget horror film from 1962. It’s acquired quite a reputation. Unfortunately, I have other plans for Friday night. Part of Modern Cinema‘s Haunted Cinema.

All Eight Harry Potter Movies, New Mission, Friday through Sunday

The eight Harry Potter movies don’t quite come up to the quality of the books. How could they? The books’ success pretty much forced the filmmakers to stay as close to the originals as possible, which is never a good way to adapt a novel. But they’re still a lot of fun. But be warned: You must buy a separate ticket for each film.

Nightmare on Elm Street Marathon, New Mission, Sunday, noon

Believe it or not, I’ve never seen any of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I was never that big on slasher flicks. Anyway, if you don’t share my opinion, you can see all seven of them in one long day and night. Unlike the Potter films above, one $35 ticket buys you entrance to the whole marathon.

Recommended revivals

A Shadow of a Doubt, Stanford, Thursday and next Friday

In Alfred Hitchcock’s first great American film, a small-town girl begins to suspect that her beloved, newly-arrived Uncle Charlie is a notorious serial killer (Joseph Cotton at his most charming). Then he begins to suspect that she suspects. Cotton’s performance makes the movie; most of the time he’s warm, friendly, and relaxed, but he can quickly turn dark and say something frightening. Written in part by Our Town playwright Thorton Wilder. The locations were shot in Santa Rosa. On a double bill with Waltzes from Vienna, which Hitchcock considered amongst his worst.

B+ Halloween, Clay, Friday and Saturday, 11:55 PM (just before midnight)

John Carpenter made a very good low-budget thriller that started a very bad genre: the slasher movie–also known as the dead teenager flick. In the original Halloween, an escaped psycho racks up a number of victims on the scariest night of the year. Yes, the story is absurd–the guy seems capable of getting into any place and sneaking up on anyone–but Carpenter and co-screenwriter Debra Hill take the time to let us know these particular teenagers, and that makes all the difference. By the time he goes after the mature, responsible one (Jamie Lee Curtis), you’re really scared.

B+ My Fair Lady, Vogue, Sunday, 7:00

George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion brilliantly examined issues of class, culture, and gender roles in an intimate story deftly balanced between drama and comedy. The musical version adds spectacle, which is completely unnecessary but doesn’t really hurt the story. Rex Harrison makes a wonderful Henry Higgins–tyrannical, cruel, and yet slowly falling in love and not understanding why. Audrey Hepburn is miscast. Stanley Holloway steals the movie as Eliza’s happily slothful father; his two songs are the movie’s musical highlights. Read my essay. Part of the Vogue’s Audrey Hepburn Weekend.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)