Must-See February Films

Feb 1: Midnight In Paris (Castro Theatre)

Midnight in Paris might be Woody Allen‘s first great comedy in decades, but it was worth the wait. The film follows an author (Owen Wilson) on an unexpected journey through different eras in Paris’ history. As he travels through the years and meets some of histories most eccentric and hilarious characters, he tries to find validation of his book and meaning in his life.  Midnight in Paris is a surreal, intelligent comedy that’s as entertaining as it is meaningful.

Feb 1 – 2: Drive (Roxie Theatre)

The whole feel of Drive is as if Stanley Kubrick rose from the grave to direct the screen adaption of popular video game Grand Theft Auto. Drive is a poem composed of love, graphic violence, fast cars, and an awesome jacket. Director Nicolas Winding Refn brings the beauty of an “art house” film into the action/suspense genre and by doing so he has created one of the best films of the year. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan with brilliant support from Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman.

Feb 2: Groundhog Day/Caddyshack (Castro Theatre)

Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day, it’s a no-brainer really.  This movie easily falls into my top 10 comedies of all time.  Yeah, it’s that good!  Bill (Motha fuckin’!) Murray is at his best as the cynical, grumpy weatherman forced to repeat the same day over and over again for what is the equivalent of years.  Everything that makes Bill Murray great is on display here, from his acute reactive comedic timing to his dry wit.

As for Caddyshack, I can never understand why this movie is so popular.  The last time I saw it (about 10 years ago) I was dumbfounded as to why I was the only one in a full theatre to not utter a single chuckle.  But since The Castro offers a two-for-one deal on all Double-Features, I think I’ll try and give it another chance.

Feb 3: The French Connection/Year of The Dragon (Castro Theatre)

To this day I have still not seen a chase scene as awe inspiring as the great subway versus car scene in The French Connection.  With the exception of maybe Kurosawa‘s High and Low and Fincher‘s Zodiac, The French Connection stands tall as one of the best police procedurals ever.  Now that I have a chance to revisit this from the front row of the Castro, I will not be missing this one.

What can I say about Year of The Dragon?  Not much, considering I have never seen it before.  I do know it stars Mickey Rourke as an Asian hating cop and was directed by the same guy who directed Deerhunter, Michael Cimino.  I’m going to The Castro to see The French Connection, but the promise of seeing a 1980s Rourke performance is too intriguing to miss.

The Inkeepers (Major)

I instantly became a fan of director Ti West after watching his 2009 movie, House Of The Devil.  That film was a brilliant slow drawling throwback to the 1980s slasher films.  He really nailed the esthetics of that era, and gave this horror fan a visceral experience and unease not felt since the first time I saw Kubrick‘s The Shining.  I have no reason to think that The Innkeepers won’t be as great of a ghost film as House Of The Dead is a slasher film.

Feb 9: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts)

Most of the cinephiles I talk to have told me that this is John Cassavetes‘ best film.  Being that I have still never seen any of his films, I figure this would be a good one to start with.  Here’s what the IMDB synopsis reads: “A proud strip club owner is forced to come to terms with himself as a man, when his gambling addiction gets him in hot water with the mob, who offer him only one alternative.” Hmm, I wonder what the “alternative” could be?  Perhaps the mob will force him to play a game of twister with their rival gang.  Can’t wait to find out.

Feb 10: Oscar Nominated Short Films (Opera Plaza & Lumiere Theatre)

You know how every year when the Oscars announce the winner for best animated short, or live action short, you never seem to give a damn because you’ve never heard of any of the movies?  Don’t let that happen this year.  Be a good scout and get yourself prepared for this year’s Oscars, whether you hate them or not, which, by the way, I happen to loathe.  And even if you don’t care who wins the stupid trophy, at least you have a chance to see some potentially great short films.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (4-Star Theatre)

This is the 5th film by acclaimed Brazilian director, José Padilha, whose average rating on IMDB is at 7.8.  I’ve only seen one of his films before, the 150 minute intense documentary of a bus jacking, Bus 174.  And if this guy’s fiction is as good and intense as his non-fiction, then I think I’m in for a real treat.

Elite Squad: Enemy Within has something to do with a prison breakout and tough-ass cops who knows how to throw down.  I can’t say anymore about this film because I’m trying to avoid any information I can on this movie, including trailers.  I want to be fully surprised at every turn for this one.  If you want to know more about this movie, click here.

Feb 12: Do The Right Thing/Malcolm X (Castro Theatre)

I don’t think I can articulate just how fantastic this day-in-the-life film is without repeating previous sentiments from the countless praise this important and timeless piece of cinema on race relations and how society views race as a whole has already received.  This is easily Spike Lee‘s masterpiece.  I think Roger Ebert said it best when he said, “Anyone walking into this film expecting answers is either a dreamer or a fool.  But anyone who leaves the movie with more intolerance than they walked in with wasn’t paying attention.”

Fact: the title Do The Right Thing comes from a Malcolm X quote, “You’ve got to do the right thing.”  How’s that for a segue?  The last time I saw Spike Lee’s biopic Malcolm X was when it first came out in theaters back in 1992, I was 15.  I think it’s time for a re-watch, and what better time than during black history month?

Feb 15: The Skin I Live In (Castro Theatre)

It’s Pedro Almodovar reuniting with Antonio Banderas in a film many diehard and longtime fans have raved as being this director’s masterpiece.  I think I’m the only member of Filmbalaya who has still not seen this yet.  What the fuck am I waiting for?  I love mad scientists and I love Almodovar.  I’ll be at the Castro on the 15th, you can bet on it.

Feb 18: The Princess Bride (Presido Public Library – FREE!)

Before director Rob Reiner started churning out a slew of uninspired duds, this list of films could easily fill up a trash bucket.  Before The Story of Us, Alex & Emma, and many more that don’t need mentioning, he was exploring the many different genres of cinema and more importantly, conquering them.  Horror – Misery, Comedy – Spinal Tap, Coming-of-age – Stand By Me, Romantic comedy – When Harry Met Sally, Courtroom drama – A Few Good Men, and perhaps his best, the timeless family action adventure fantasy – The Princess Bride.  Everyone has their favorite scene or quote from this film, mine is any scene with the late Andre The Giant in it. “Have fun storming the castle.”  Did I mention this screening is FREE?!

Feb 22: Paths of Glory/Ace In The Hole (Castro Theatre)

Paths Of Glory is Stanley Kubrick pre-2001: Space Odyssey, pre-Dr. Strangelove, and even pre-Lolita.  But don’t let the release date timeline scare you into not thinking that this WWI drama isn’t a force to be reckon with.  Kubrick’s uncanny eye for detail are on full display here as is evident in his use of the panning camera to capture some incredible symmetrical framed shots.  Ooh, I love me some symmetry.  The film stars Kirk Douglas, and should not be missed, especially by those who have only seen post 2001 Space Odyssey Kubrick films.

If you still haven’t had your fill of Douglas Sr. than stay for Billy Wilder‘s noir-tastical Ace In The Hole.  Here Douglas plays a down-on-his-luck journalist who finds himself entangled in a media circus while taking a writing gig in a small Mexican town.  I recently picked this film up on Criterion, but I much rather watch it as a first time viewing on the big screen.

Feb 23: Melancholia (Castro Theatre)

An extremely depressed newlywed, Kirsten Dunst, becomes a burden on her sister’s family as a planet approaches on a collision course with earth in Lars von Trier‘s anything but happy film Melancholia. However depressing the film may be, it’s also refreshing to see this subject tackled in an artistic manner as opposed the Hollywood version where an elite team of specialist would somehow manage to save the planet. Melancholia instead looks at what a normal family might be going through while the future of the human race is jeopardized by forces it can’t control.

Feb 24: In Darkness

Anyone else curious to see why this film is nominated for a Best Foreign Picture Oscar this year?  Who knows, depending on when you read this, it could have already won.  No matter, the film is a dramatization about one man who rescued Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov.  As much as I loathe the Oscars, I’m still always curious about the movies in the Best Foreign Picture category.  My only skepticism has to do with the fact that this is the same director who did Europa Europa, another Nazi-era movie, and one that I hated.  Still, I’ll go into this one with an open mind.

Feb 24 – 26: Fantasia (Castro Theatre)

Best Disney movie of all time!  Scratch that, more like Best Animated Film ever!  A bold statement, I know, but one that I firmly stick by.  Presented on a 35mm print, it is doubtful that I won’t be at the Castro for at least one of these screenings.  Hippo ballet! Hippo ballet!

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Categories: Monthly Movies

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