We all know summer in the city can feel more like a Dickensian winter than the warm breezes and clear skies we’re entitled to enjoy. That’s why San Francisco has always offered a diverse array of cinematic distractions to take us away from the fog. 2016 is no different, and while those seeking the empty (but enjoyable) calories of blockbuster sequels and superhero capers are probably well aware of what’s on tap, it seemed prudent to gather together an alternate list of film opportunities for those who may wish for something a little different. Highlighted here are the theaters like the Castro and the Roxie, local movie palaces that won’t necessarily be showing the latest from Marvel or Pixar but are still here to offer you a temporary escape and a damn fine bag of popcorn.
Escape from New York (1981) & Escape from L.A. (1996) [Double Feature]
Friday, July 1, Roxie Theater, First film at 7 p.m., roxie.com
Jesse Hawthorne Ficks is a gift to San Francisco cinema. His “Midnites for Maniacs” series continues to highlight unfairly maligned films, and hearing Ficks argue on behalf of the movies he loves is a treat to behold. For his latest offering, Ficks has united the Kurt Russell-led dystopian duo of Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., two prime examples of what Ficks calls “the revisionist Western,” and two of legendary director John Carpenter’s finest offerings.
When We Were Kings (1996) & The Greatest (1977) [Double Feature]
Thursday, July 6, Castro Theatre, Time TBD, castrotheatre.com
The loss of boxing legend and social hero Muhammad Ali is still quite fresh for all of us and will likely still feel like it for a while, but the programmers at the Castro Theatre have put together a fitting tribute to one of the 20th century’s most revered figures. We Were Kings is the Academy Award-winning documentary about the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” match between Ali and George Foreman (with music by Lauryn Hill!), while The Greatest is a dramatized version of Ali’s life starring Ali in the title role.
The Infiltrator (2016)
Opens Wednesday, July 13, Various Theaters
Bryan Cranston. Those two words alone should be enough to get you in the theater. After all, Cranston is in the midst of an acting renaissance, primary thanks to his astounding performance as Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Beyond that, he’s been stellar in supporting roles in films like Drive and Argo, and turned in a brilliant (and underrated) starring turn as Dalton Trumbo in last year’s Trumbo. Now in The Infiltrator, he plays a customs agent going toe-to-toe with cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar in a true story that will surely further Cranston’s legacy as one of the more compelling and versatile actors working today.
Microbe and Gasoline (2016)
July 15 – 22, Opera Plaza Cinema, landmarktheatres.com/san-francisco
Few directors so readily reinvent themselves as auteur Michel Gondry. His films, which include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, are notable for their lack of CGI effects and surreal narratives that ultimately manage to transform the bizarre into the universal. With Microbe and Gasoline, Gondry takes on the subject of male friendships, telling the story of two teenagers who embark on a road trip in a house atop wheels that runs off a lawnmower motor. With a supporting turn from Audrey Tautou (Amélie), it promises to be another sweet but profound entry in his remarkable career.
The Sting (1973)
Thursday, July 21, Balboa Theater, 7:30 pm, cinemasf.com/balboa
Most folks will know the intimidating acting tandem of Robert Redford and Paul Newman from their beloved turn as outlaw robbers Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Yet there is another movie that rivals Butch Cassidy in performance, pace, and plot, also starring Newman and Redford. The Sting is about that most delicious of subjects: Con men. Newman and Redford team up to trick a crooked banker as revenge for a slain partner. The Sting won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Picture and is a reminder that you don’t need lasers or skimpy dresses to make an indelible con film.
Ms. Sharon Jones (2016)
August 12 – 19, Landmark Theaters*
Beloved performer Sharon Jones is the subject of this documentary from two-time Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple. After countless years working odd jobs and being rejected by the music industry, Jones finally broke through when she banded together with The Dap-Kings, the Brooklyn-based Daptone Records band steeped in funk, soul, and rhythm. This captivating film follows Jones through a life-threatening illness that struck just as her 2013 album, Give the People What They Want, was set to be released, and is a testament to perseverance and the power of music.
Benson Movie Interruption:
The Rock (1996) Saturday, August 13, Castro Theatre, 4:30 pm
Advance tickets: $20, castrotheatre.com
Escape from New York – Courtesy of Embassy Pictures