Saturday, July 20, 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

In reviewing “Bones and All,” Luca Guadagnino’s grim portrait of two young cannibals on the lam, I gave a Thanksgiving warning that it’s best seen on an empty stomach, while The Brattle Theatre cues up Wes Anderson’s ensemble classic “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001) as a “post-Thanksgiving palate cleanser.” The film, inspired by J.D. Salinger’s eccentric Glass family, stars Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson. It plays Monday. Later in the week, The Brattle finishes up its tribute to Marilyn Monroe, “Marilyn Beyond Blonde,” with encore presentations of “The Seven Year Itch” (1955) and “Some Like it Hot” (1959) on a Tuesday double bill and “Niagara” (1953) and Marilyn’s last film, “The Misfits” (1961), on another double bill Wednesday and Thursday. The Brattle then moves into darker waters by launching the retrospective “Damn Fine Cinema: The Films of David Lynch.” The series kicks off with one of Lynch’s more reined-in contemplations, “The Straight Story” (1999) and packages Lynch’s seminal disorienting aural immersion “Eraserhead” (1977) with some of the auteur’s early shorts (I promise they please) and “Inland Empire” (2006), in which Laura Dern is an actor confused between reality and role. All play Saturday. There’s another double bill Sunday of two of Lynch’s more popular films, which feel reflective of each other in texture and aura: “Lost Highway” (1997) and “Mulholland Drive” (2001).

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The “Jeff Bridges Abides” Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema wraps up this week with a 4K restoration of the Coen brothers’ dark reimagining of the 1969 John Wayne western “True Grit.” The 2010 collaboration marked a reunion for Bridges with the Coens after 1998’s “The Big Lebowski” and was nominated for 10 Oscars. The eclectic ensemble surrounding Bridges’ gruff marshal includes Josh Brolin, Matt Damon and a young Hailee Steinfeld, who nearly walks off with the film; the dusty, dark cinematography is courtesy of the great Roger Deakins, Academy Award winner for “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) and “1917” (2019). (Tom Meek)

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In theaters and streaming

‘Strange World’ (2022)

Props to Disney for stepping it up and putting a mainstream face on inclusion. In this animated adventure into the unknown, not only is the family at the center interracial, but the teen son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) is gay. On the planet of Avalonia, the Clades are famous: Grandpa Jaeger (Dennis Quaid) is a legendary explorer with a statue in the village square – he’s also been missing for 25 years – and pop Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) has his own monument for discovering and harnessing a plant called pando that provides sustenance and a source of power for airships – think “Avatar” (2009). The pando supply is dying, which has something to do with a big hole that just opened up in the mountain, so Searcher reluctantly joins a military detachment to explore the phenom and hopefully save the planet. Ethan, who can’t land his crush and is bored working on the family pando farm, wants to get out and be like grandpa; even though told not to go, Ethan ends up in the mix, as does mom (Gabrielle Union), an ace pilot, and the family’s three-legged dog. In the hands of veteran animators Don Hall and Qui Nguyen, who collaborated on “Raya and the Last Dragon” (2021), “Strange World” channels such classic adventure fare as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1959) and “Fantastic Voyage” (1966). It checks all the Disney boxes, though the degree of genuine conflict, even across the generations, feels a bit subdued despite the envelop being pushed. At Apple Cinemas Cambridge, 168 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands near Alewife and Fresh Pond and AMC Assembly Row 12, 395 Artisan Way, Assembly Square, Somerville.

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‘She Said’ (2022)

In a just twist, disgraced multiple-Oscar-winning producer Harvey Weinstein becomes the central subject of a dramatization about two New York Times reporters who investigated his sexual misconduct and helped ignite the #MeToo movement. We meet can-do Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) reporting on allegations that Donald Trump assaulted multiple women (that “grab ’em” tape with Billy Bush was fresh at the time), which gets no traction; later she teams with Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) to dig into Rose McGowan’s cataclysmic accusations against Weinstein. Both are mothers with young daughters and feel the urgency to break the story; there’s also pressure from Rowan Farrow poking around over at The New Yorker. The paper chase for the truth comes mostly down to getting victims to go on the record, and that proves challenging because of airtight settlement gag orders. Big-name stars wronged by Weinstein including McGowan (heard only by phone and voiced by Keilly McQuail) and Gwyneth Paltrow stay mostly out of frame, but Ashley Judd, playing herself, steps to the fore in more ways than one. Supporting players Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher as the dutiful Times editors overseeing the effort and Jennifer Ehle and Angela Yeoh as victims add to the rich ensemble. Like Kitty Green’s astute 2020 fictional take on the evils of all things Weinstein, “The Assistant,” Harvey also remains mostly off-screen – you never see his face – but is often heard and always felt as a bellowing bull through the phone, bullying, berating and denying. Director Maria Schrader and writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz make sure the focus is on the victims who were silenced by an omnipotent megalomaniac who commanded a squad of legal wranglers to cover his crimes. They now get to have their harrowing ordeals heard. At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St.; Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square; and AMC Assembly Row 12, 395 Artisan Way, Assembly Square, Somerville.


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.