Monday, July 22, 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

Gearing up for the end-of-year holidays, The Brattle Theatre launches a three-day run on Friday of Frank Capra’s timeless and wildly astute classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), in which themes of classism, greed, isolationism and depression are powerful undercurrents to a crisis of conscience suffered by Jimmy Stewart’s everyman.

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The Brattle shifts gears ever so slightly with its “Holiday Adjacent” program, with the 1974 version of of the horror flick “Black Christmas” – it was remade in 2006 – starring an A-list cast: John Saxon, Keir Dullea (Dave in “2001: A Space Odyssey”), Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey. Directed by Bob Clark, who would would go on to make the more family-oriented “A Christmas Story” a decade later, the film is essentially a sorority slasher flick, but an early, defining genre entry that paved the way for Jason and Freddie soon thereafter. The film plays Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, comes one of my favorite “adjacents”: Bruce Willis leaping from the small box to the big screen as New York cop John McClane in John McTiernan’s 1988 thriller “Die Hard” – yippee-ki-yay.

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This week’s “Holiday Fun” Tuesday Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema is a 30th anniversary screening of “Batman Returns” (1992) with Tim Burton back for a second rendition of his dark superhero fairy tale. It stars Michael Keaton as the caped crusader, Danny DeVito as The Penguin and a purr-fectly cast Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters and streaming

‘White Noise’ (2022)

Noah Baumbach bravely attempts to adapt Don DeLillo’s surrealistic three-act novel, which many have described as “unfilmable,” and comes up with mixed results. At a fictional college in the 1980s, professor Jack Gladney (Adam Driver, looking like Steve Coogan with a dad bod) is an academic rock star who loves his blended family of five, including his fourth wife, the permed, forgetful and furtive Babette (Greta Gerwig). Their normal life in synthetic, consumerist suburbs gets punctured with a horror sequence that explores Jack’s latent fear of death and subconscious intuiting that his wife feels like a stranger. The film turns when a cataclysmic airborne environmental disaster forces them to flee their home, becoming frenzied sheep among the masses begging for reassurance. (Look for Baumbach paying homage to Cecil B. DeMille’s Angel of Death/Passover scene from the 1956 “The Ten Commandments.”) After that, the film ebbs. In the semblance of what was before, Jack finally decides to confront his quotidian fears and existential dread, but it plays out like a sordid, Lynchian film noir sequence. Baumbach, loyal to the source material, shows a widening range and more expertise behind the camera, and he deserves accolades for trying to explore today’s demagoguery and ongoing sense of crisis with a sardonic sense of humor. Fans unfamiliar with the novel may be disappointed that the film does not feel like a Baumbach film – without credits, it could be mistaken for Wes Anderson – and find the story pulls punches in the end when it feel like more oomph is needed. (Sarah Vincent) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St.


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.