July 17, 2019

Back to the Jungle: What to Watch This Week

Movie Dope

CRAWL: I think we're gonna need a bigger dehumidifier.

Disney just could not wait to be king of the summer box office again, so here comes a revamped version of The Lion King. The new version, directed by The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau, supposedly hews very closely to the original, but hakuna matata with a voice cast this tremendous. Donald Glover voices Simba and is joined by Beyonce, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver and James Earl Jones, reprising his role as Mufasa. 

With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood only one week away, Ciné closes out its celebratory Tarantino Fest with his pulpy 2009 WWII flick, Inglourious Basterds. If young love and local music, not killing Nazis, is your thing, Ciné also has Summer Night, which was filmed in Newnan, starting July 17. On July 23, Bad Movie Night returns with Stickfighter, starring Full Contact Stick Fighting world champion Kely McClung.

The award-winning documentary Chasing Coral returns to the Georgia Museum of Art on July 18 as part of the Deep Blue Sea Film Series. Pachinko Pop Cinema presents one of Takashi Miike’s more fascinating oddities, a horror musical called The Happiness of the Katakuris, on July 18 at Flicker. On July 22 at Flicker, Ghastly Horror Society Trivia is followed by Electric Dragon 80.000 V, where an electrical guitar player faces off against a half-wizard, half-Buddha. Later in the evening, experience the cult classic The Holy Mountain, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 follow-up to the midnight movie phenomenon El Topo

The ACC Library screens Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey on July 18 before celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a program featuring the new documentary Apollo 11 on July 20. This milestone anniversary can be marked at the Oglethorpe County Library with the 2018 Academy Award winner First Man, also on July 20.

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (R) For some reason, I thought The Last Black Man in San Francisco was a documentary. It turns out that the feature debut from Joe Talbot is merely a semi-autobiographical drama based on the life of lead Jimmie Fails. Jimmie, dressed like a transplant from early-’90s Seattle, and his odd, theatrical best friend, Mont (Jonathan Majors), spend many a day caring for a multimillion-dollar Victorian home in the Fillmore District. Jimmie refreshes the paint and tends to the garden, much to the chagrin of the home’s owner. 

Why does Jimmie work on a home against the owner’s wishes? Proudly, he proclaims his grandfather, known as the first black man in San Francisco, built the home, and he wants to reclaim it if possible. Talbot’s elegiac film is an ode to the oddity of San Francisco. Jimmie skateboards around the city by the bay, running into friends and family members, both significant and not, ready to tell the story of his lost home. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco stands tall in a year lacking in high-quality films. Talbot maintains a uniquely overcast film that never seems gloomy. Even at their most desperate, Jimmie and Mont always find something to smile about. The father-son dynamic between Mont and his blind, movie-loving father (Danny Glover) is one of the sweetest in recent cinematic memory. 

That these characters are all African-American men only increases the film’s exceptionality. It tells an inner-city story of poverty and homelessness without any of the typical tropes or stereotypes. Traditionally, juicy indie roles like this one go to white box-office stars, typically comedians, so they can generate headlines and claim dramatic accolades. The Last Black Man in San Francisco has no artificial star power to bolster the quality of its artistry, and it does not need it if A24 and super-producer Brad Pitt can amplify the buzz like ’90s-era Miramax. If people hear about it, packed theatrical houses will be surprised and pleased by this quiet, sincere, cinematic hymn.

CRAWL (R) The amount of ways to screw up a man-versus-beast flick like Crawl are way more plentiful than the ways to do it right—see any number of Syfy Originals if you want to suffer through the proof. A college swimmer (Kaya Scodelario) and her divorced contractor dad (a gruff-as-expected Barry Pepper) are trapped in their old home during a Category 5 hurricane. As if the weather were not bad enough, a bunch of alligators show up to munch and gnaw on any limbs unwittingly stuck in the murky water. 

Director Alexandre Aja does his best work since The Hills Have Eyes, thanks to a better-than-average script by the Rasmussen brothers, who wrote John Carpenter’s last flick, The Ward. Crawl’s jump scares are genuine, and its CGI is just good enough to rise above the depths of this easily mocked horror subgenre.