Sunday, May 26, 2024

Film Ahead is a weekly column highlighting special events and repertory programming for the discerning Camberville filmgoer. It also includes capsule reviews of films that are not feature reviewed. 

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Local focus

Lots going on at The Brattle Theatre this week. For fans of flawed protagonists, unreliable POVs, molls and dark shadows, Noirvember arrives Friday with Anthony Mann’s “T-Men” and Saturday with “Framed” and “Born to Kill” from director Robert Wise, who would go to direct “West Side Story” (1961). On Sunday it’s a Bogie double play with “Dark Passage” and “Dead Reckoning.” All the films on the Noirvember slate are celebrating their 75th anniversary – 1947 being a very fruitful year for noir.

Wrapping up the theater’s “Sequel-itis: Terrific Twos” program is an eclectic trio: “Aliens,” James Cameron’s rewarding 1986 follow-up to Ridley Scott’s impeccable 1979 deep-space triller, “Alien,” with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley going in to bad-ass momma-bear mode (Monday); a young Michelle Pfeiffer in 1982’s “Grease 2” (Thursday); and “Sanjuro” (also Thursday), Akira Kurosawa’s 1962 pseudo-sequel to “Yojimbo” (1961) with the iconic Toshirô Mifune back as a nameless, morally ambiguous samurai warrior caught between ruthless overlords and those that they harass, harm and forcibly indenture. Mifune’s character is not the same sanjuro, but the context is the same – and part of the foundation for the well-regarded “Man With No Name” trilogy by Sergio Leone starring a young Clint Eastwood.

Also beginning Friday is a four-day run (and area premiere) of Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace’s “Meet Me In The Bathroom,” an immersive archival journey through the New York music scene of the early 2000s. Inspired by Lizzy Goodman’s bestselling book, it captures bands on tape that include The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and The Moldy Peaches.

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Actor Brooke Adams will be at the Harvard Film Archive as part of “Brooke Adams, Radience in Plain Sight” program for Q&A and commentary at screenings of “Gas, Food, Lodging” (1992), Alison Anders’ groundbreaking feminist anthem, and for “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978), Philip Kaufman’s deft updating of the 1956 sci-fi classic directed by Don Siegel (“Dirty Harry”) and based on the Jack Finney novel. The pair play on Saturday.

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The Somerville Theatre screens Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” with Claudio Simonetti’s band, Goblin, performing the iconic score live. The screening notches the cult classic’s 45th anniversary. The film, about an American (Jessica Harper) in Germany to attend a prestigious ballet school that’s really a front for a coven of witches was remade in 2019 by Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me by Your Name”) and was the first installment of Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy, followed by “Inferno” (1980) and “The Mother of Tears” (2007), which starred Argento’s daughter, Asia. The “Suspiria” special plays Tuesday. Ski junkies can get their downhill thrill fix Wednesday and Thursday with “Daymaker,” the latest from Warren Miller productions. (The ski slope filmmaker died in 2018.)

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This week’s “Jeff Bridges Abides” Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema is “Starman” (1984), with Bridges playing an alien who takes the form of a woman’s dead husband. Bridges plays the ET with perfect childish wonderment, while Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) imbues her widow with grief, shock and can-do resolve. John Carpenter (“Halloween,” “They Live”) directs.

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On a personal note, this Thursday at the Coolidge Corner Theatre I will introduce a screening of Christopher Nolan’s career-launching film, “Memento” (2000), as part of an annual tribute to Jay Carr, longtime Boston Globe film critic and founding member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. (I and fellow Day writer Ally Johnson are members.) The screening is open to the public; Carr family members will be in attendance. Nolan’s film is a wild and deft spin on nonlinear storytelling and unreliable narration.

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In theaters and streaming

‘Causeway’ (2022)

Jennifer Lawrence steps away from “X-Men” and “Hunger Game” franchises and gives a career-reclaiming turn as an Afghanistan War vet returned home with PTSD and lingering physical trauma from a roadside explosion. Her Lynsey is on about every human opioid/tranq/anxiety drug you can imagine, yet she’s strangely calm while clearly not at peace. Back in the Big Easy, she lives with mom and cleans pools; while driving the pool-cleaning truck she’s shaky like Seymour Glass in Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” Also, much like Jeremy Renner’s brash bomb disposal ace in “The Hurt Locker (2008), she wants to get back to the action, but can’t get a doc’s seal of approval. She encounters another broken soul, James (Brian Tyree Henry, “If Beale Street Could Talk”), an auto mechanic who lost a leg, and his love – not in the way you’d think – in a car crash on a “causeway.” The two bond, and there is a vibe of romantic tension, but the film, directed confidently by Lila Neugebauer (TV’s “Maid,” starring Margaret Qualley) is a deeply internal affair with a reflective script by authors Ottessa Moshfegh (“Homesick for Another World”) and husband Luke Goebel. The film soars, however, because of Lawrence and Henry, who wholly convey the turmoil of their troubled characters while holding a faint, flickering light of hope, healing and redemption. At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., and on Apple TV+.

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‘Good Night Oppy’ (2022)

Back in 2003, NASA planned to drop two rovers on Mars to survey the planet for signs the planet had or could support life – assuming the bots made it through a six-month journey and survived a parachute drop in a cocoon of big, bouncy beach balls. They did. Expected to last only 90 days, Spirit ran until 2011 and Opportunity, or Oppy, until 2018, sending back valuable scientific data, photos and video. The bond between scientists and engineers and their creation is at the core of Ryan White’s affecting documentary, which weaves mission footage and well-done reenactments that “WALL-E”-ize the droids. Some of the highlights include a stuck rover and Earth teams working to re-create the Mars sand trap situation on Earth with a sister bot to help work out a solution and the selection of “wake up” music used to get a droid response after going offline for too long. The choices are emblematic of eras and cultures: the B-52s’ “Roam,” Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine,” ABBA’s “S.O.S.,” the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” It’s a pat but fond remembrance and a testimony to the resolve of the NASA team as well as the droids who had autonomous programming built in and made some of their own life-and-death decisions. At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., and streaming on Amazon Prime Video at Thanksgiving.


Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.