Castro Theatre sees in the new year
by David Lamble
The Castro Theatre kicks off 2017 with its patented blend of film classics, both venerable and in-the-making.
Alien (1979) In director Ridley Scott's scary space trip, a monstrous creature turns on the crew of an American spacecraft. With John Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton and Veronica Cartwright.
Lifeforce (1985) Tobe Hooper directs space-vampire horror tale that wanders crazily from genre to genre. With Peter Firth and Patrick Stewart. (both 1/6)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) Mid-70s gem directed by Nicolas Roeg features 29-year-old androgynous Bowie as an alien who visits our wet planet in hopes of finding water for his very dry one. The Bowie film template: an otherworldly creature inspires perilous mix of lust, envy, S/M control issues, sci-fi warnings of doom for our species. Good adaptation of Walter Tevis' novel.
Descending on earth like a comet, Bowie's alien quickly discovers a group of curious humans and makes them an offer they won't refuse: financial rewards from nine basic patents that outstrip human technology. The movie benefits enormously from the charisma of two character actors, Rip Torn as an avuncular quasi-mad scientist, and veteran screenwriter Buck Henry. In a witty subplot, Henry's character is married to another man who's extremely nearsighted. Henry reportedly wondered out loud why his character was gay.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) English-language debut feature from Japanese master Nagisa Oshima plays as a hipster remake of David Lean's POW-camp classic The Bridge on the River Kwai. Essentially a battle of cultures and wills between a stiff-necked Japanese camp commander and a steadfast British major (Bowie). Supporting player Tom Conti steals some dramatic thunder as a bilingual prisoner. Bowie shows how good he could be if he were cast for his acting abilities rather than celebrity freak status. (both 1/8)
The Handmaiden (2016) Japanese remake not for every taste. (1/10)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Classic from author Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick was first popular with the late-60s drug generation, and continues to fascinate as an artifact from the first era of space exploration. (1/11-12)
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (2016) Ron Howard's entertaining look at when four lads from Liverpool created pop-music shock therapy for millions of rock fans across the country. New chats with surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
Gimme Danger (2016) Iconic shirtless hard rocker Iggy Pop is the hero of this unique biopic. (both 1/13)
Loving (2016) Moving account of unlikely heroes in America's racial wars. The Lovings' attempt to live as an interracial couple brings them considerable grief in racially polarized midcentury America. Plays with Wattstax. (both 1/16)
Noir City 15 (1/20-29): Criss Cross (1949) An early triumph for a muscular young Burt Lancaster.
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) John Huston directed this carefully crafted crime drama with Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore and Marilyn Monroe. (both 1/20)
Kansas City Confidential (1952) Director Phil Karlson's drama about an ex-con (John Payne) who emerges from prison determined to prove his innocence in a bank robbery by finding the real culprit.
Violent Saturday (1955) Richard Fleischer directed this study of a small town affected by a brutal bank holdup.
Four Ways Out (1951) Pietro Germi directed this tale about a robbery at a soccer arena, with Gina Lollobrigida, Paul Muller and Enzo Maggio.
Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) Mario Monicelli's satire, a store robbery attempted by rank amateurs, with Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni and Toto. (all four, 1/21)
Rififi (1955) Jules Dassin's classic crime caper features a magnificent silent sequence involving a jewel heist.
Classe Tous Risques (1960) Claude Sautet directed terrific robbery heist featuring a youthful Jean-Paul Belmondo. (both 1/22)
The Killing (1956) Stanley Kubrick secured his early reputation as a promising indie-film voice with this stylish account of a racetrack robbery. With Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, and The Maltese Falcon's famous "gunsel now become a man," Elisha Cook. Plays with Japanese noir Cruel Gun Story (1964). (both 1/23)
The Ladykillers (1955) Alec Guinness steals Alexander MacKendrick-helmed noir/black comedy gem. Band of crooks is tripped up by a little old lady. With Katie Johnson, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd and Jack Warner.
The League of Gentlemen (1960) Director Basil Dearden orchestrates bank-robbery plot whose twist is a blackmail scheme to bring about the cooperation of former British Army officers. With Jack Hawkins, Nigel Patrick, Richard Attenborough, Robert Coote and Bryan Forbes, who also scripted. (both 1/24)
Once a Thief (1965) Ralph Nelson-directed drama about a young ex-con whose attempts to reform are thwarted as he is dragged into still another crime. American-French co-production.
The Sicilian Clan (1969) Henri Verneuil helmed elaborate crime caper with top-notch French cast including veteran Jean Gabin and sexy newcomer Alain Delon. (both 1/25)
The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974) First and best take on an outlandish caper, a plot to hijack a New York City subway train. The gang led by Robert Shaw must overcome a dogged transit cop (Walter Matthau). A transit employee (James Broderick, Matthew's dad) gets the best quip: "What do they want for the fucking 35 cents, to fucking live forever?"
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (USA/1974) Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges team up in crime drama, directorial debut of Michael Cimino. (both 1/26)
Blue Collar (1978) Paul Schrader's directorial debut, tale of three union autoworkers (Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto) who discover their union is not their friend. An American unraveling-of-success story with extra heft in this Trump moment.
Straight Time (1978) Edward Bunker's novel No Beast So Fierce brought to the screen by Ulu Grosbard, aided by a dazzling cast: Dustin Hoffman, Hary Dean Stanton, Gary Busey, M. Emmet Walsh, Sandy Baron and Kathy Bates. (both 1/27)
Charley Varrick (1973) Rag-tag gang led by Walter Matthau robs a Mafia-run bank, triggering a terrifying showdown in a small New Mexican town. Directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) based on John H. Reese's novel The Looters.
The Brink's Job (1973) William Friedkin spins a nifty tale, the 1950 robbery of a Brink's armored car. Peter Falk is the mastermind, with Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, Warren Oates, Paul Sorvino, Sheldon Leonard and Gena Rowlands.
Sexy Beast (2000) Nasty noir from British director Jonathan Glazer centers on a retired gangster pushed into doing one more job by a vicious former colleague. Brilliant ensemble includes Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley and James Fox.
El Aura (2005) Late Argentine director Fabian Bielinsky (Nine Queens) concocts taut noirish drama focused on a fatal hunting trip, with Ricardo Darin and Nahuel Perez Biscayart, youthful star of gay feature Glue. (all four, 1/28)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet's last film feels like the work of a much younger man. Two brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke) stage a robbery of their elderly parents' jewelry store for the insurance money. Everything that can go wrong does. Gem of a caper film with astute take on the dark side of family. On same bill with the 2015 German noir Victoria. (both 1/29)