Friday, May 24, 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

The Wicked Queer Film Fest continues its takeover of The Brattle Theatre this week, with films about all things wicked and queer that include spotlight feature “Heels Over Wheels,” about a family of drag queens (April 9), Santiago León Cuéllar’s tale of teen sexual awakening “The Good Manners” (Wednesday), Kolja Malik’s love life on the lam “Las Vegas” (Friday), a peek at gay millennial hipster culture in Scout Durwood’s “Youtopia” (Thursday), Aino Suni’s “Heartbeast” (Thursday), Georgia Oakley’s spotlight feature “Blue Jean” about living gay under Thatcher’s sexually oppressive regime and Corin Sherman’s encore presentation, “Big Boys,” a queer coming-of-age comedy (April 9) and well as Latinx, African and Midwestern shorts packages.

Week two of the Belmont World Film Festival cues up Monday at the Apple Cinema at Fresh Pond with “Luxembourg, Luxembourg” by Ukrainian director Antonio Lukich and the French film “The Worst Ones” co-directed by Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret. The latter, the Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes Film Festival, revolves around a clique of neighborhood kids who get cast in a summer film feature and boasts a meta blend of real life and fiction. The former, which follows the journey of twin brothers to the city of the title to search for their long-absent father, who has been involved in the criminal underworld and is dying, is screening in part to benefit the nonprofit group Mriya – organized by Ukrainian students in Boston – to help with relief efforts back home. The ensuing conversation will be led by Boston University lecturer Tatyana Bronstein, a Ukrainian-born independent director and producer.

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The Tuesday Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Theatre changes over to “Perfect Pairs” for April, featuring classic on-screen couples from Hollywood’s golden era. As you can guess there will Astaire and Rogers, Bogart and Bacall and Hepburn and Tracy, but first up it’s Myrna Loy and William Powell in the husband-and-wife detective rom-noir, “The Thin Man” (1934).

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Playing off of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and Michelle Yeoh’s triumphant Oscar wins, the Somerville Theatre is loading up her early “Heroic Trio” action flicks (the 1993 original and its follow-up, “Executioners”) in which she co-starred with Maggie Cheung (“Irma Vep,” “In the Mood for Love”) and Anita Mui (“Rumble in the Bronx”) as a can-do avengers. The films play Friday through April 9. Also on April 9, there’s a classic B-monster movie pairing starring a mutant turtle in “Gammera the Invincible” and “Gamera vs Barugon.” Despite the different spellings, both were made in 1966, keeping that guy in the rubber suit well employed as he endlessly trashed mini models of Tokyo.

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Monday night brings a conversation with Rwandan filmmaker and McMillan-Stewart fellow Kivu Ruhorahoza at the Harvard Film Archive after a screening of his 2011 film “Grey Matter,” about life after genocide. Ruhorahoza will also be on hand Friday for the screening of “Europa: Based on a True Story” (2019), about a Nigerian man who returns to London to make amends with his ex-lover and her former husband; and “Things of the Aimless Wanderer” (2015), following a white 19th-century explorer lost in the East African jungle. In that line, Sunday marks an encore screening of Med Hondo’s “Sarraounia” (1986), the “The Woman King” before there was “The Woman King.” As part of the ongoing “Remapping Latin America Cinema: Chilean Film/Video 1963-2013” program, there are a pair of documentaries from Valeria Sarmiento, “A Man, When He’s a Man” (1982) and “Planet of the Children” (1992) on April 9. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters and streaming

‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ (2023)

We catch up with besties and partners-in-crime Edgin (Chris Pine, aka reboot Captain Kirk), a bard and the brains of the outfit, a widower and dad turned thief, and exiled barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez, “Girlfight”), the brawn of the operation, as they break out of prison. On the lam, Edgin tries to reunite with his daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman). During the pals’ incarceration, Kira’s caretaker, a past accomplice named Forge (Hugh Grant), became lord of Neverwinter with the aid of Sofina (Daisy Head), an undercover red wizard with a secret agenda and the best clothes – in short, the plot’s almost as complicated as the board game that inspired it. Forge refuses to return Kira, so Edgin and Holga recruit former colleague Simon (Justice Smith, of the “Jurassic World” franchise), an insecure sorcerer, and shapeshifting resistance fighter Doric (Sophia Lillis, “It” and “Gretel & Hansel”), a druid. Along the buildup to the showdown to depose Forge and get Kira back, the posse encounters the noble knight Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page, “Bridgerton”), providing the final ingredient for their mission. Like “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), each team member has a personal foible to overcome – Edgin’s scheming, Holga’s homesickness, Simon’s insecurity and Doric’s distrust – that bolsters their collective goal. Writer and director duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and cowriter Michael Gilio execute well-worn tropes and platitudes in a lighthearted, heartwarming, satisfying way. Without the cast’s chemistry and charm, the commercial formula could have fallen flat. If it piques your curiosity, you should roll the dice. (Sarah Vincent) At Apple Cinemas Cambridge, 168 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands near Alewife and Fresh Pond; Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Kendall Square; and AMC Assembly Row 12, 395 Artisan Way, Assembly Square, Somerville.

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‘Mind Leech’ (2023)

Following Elisabeth Bank’s boffo box-office success for her gory B-list horror-comedy “Cocaine Bear,” Chris Cheeseman and Paul Krysinski deliver a lo-fi DIY film similar in tone but with a very different beast at the center of the mayhem: a giant mutant leech that attaches to a victim’s head and turns them into a homicidal maniac. It’s goofier than “Bear,” veering into the camp territory of “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988) among other lovably bloody cheesefests. Like Bong Joon Ho’s “The Host” (2006), the source of the scourge is negligent dumping practices by a corporate entity that pollutes the local waterways. The film takes place in the snowy Ontario wilds, where an ice fisher is the first to be leeched and the authorities, not far from Frances McDormand’s pregnant sheriff in “Fargo” (1996), get on the trail. Steff Ivory Conover runs off with the film as a can-do – but in a constant state of shock – deputy sheriff. Entrails get loose and it’s a bold sight to see the leech hanging from the victim’s head like Bill Murray’s combover in “Kingpin” (1996). Cheeseman also acts in the film as, according to the film’s credit, the Asshole Polluter, not to be confused with his co-conspirator, the Idiot Polluter played by Hugh Goodden. Yup, it’s that kind of go-for-broke film. (Tom Meek) At mindleech.com.

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‘Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon’ (2022)

Lo-fi action film producer Andre Relis steps behind the lens (his other directorial credit, also a rock doc, is 2016’s “NWA & Eazy-E: Kings of Compton”) for this portrait of Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhodes, who died in a wild plane crash in 1982. Rhoads grew up in Santa Monica, California, raised by a single mother after his dad walked out. He was drawn to the guitar as a youngster, and as a teen fell in with the collection of lads who would form Quiet Riot. Relis follows Rhoads and Riot in a matter-of-fact, A-to-B fashion, with many mates commenting on Rhoads’ talent and the struggles of the band to find a foothold between new wave and burgeoning big hair metal. Besides the bizarre crash and the strange circumstances that led to it, “Guitar Icon, ” narrated by L.A. Guns metal man Tracii Guns, doesn’t have much conflict, save for a bit of guitar envy fired back and forth between him and Eddie Van Halen; many say their sounds and style were alike. For whatever reason, Rhoads’ iconic riff in Ozzy’s solo career signature “Crazy Train” never finds its way into the film. Most likely a licensing thing, and Ozzy appears only in interview footage from the era. There’s also not much concert footage of Rhoads showing the licks he was famous for. (Tom Meek) On Amazon Prime Video.

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‘A Good Person’ (2023)

Allison (Florence Pugh), a vibrant young woman, falls apart after a car accident. After an encounter at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, retired cop Daniel (Morgan Freeman) tries to help her pick up the pieces while fumbling in his efforts to raise his granddaughter, Ryan (Celeste O’Connor), in a tight-knit Orange, New Jersey, community. Despite being “Scrubs” actor Zach Braff’s fourth time directing a feature, “Good People” is not as visually strong as his hailed debut, “Garden State” (2004). Braff does elicit some colorful frisson of character – there’s one perfect scene in which two people lock eyes in a crowded room – but as a writer, Braff is over-reliant on prose dumps to bring the audience up to speed about off-camera plot developments. The opening narration becomes extraneous after a later, more dynamic interaction. Braff’s real talent here is leveraging connections for casting: Pugh (“Midsommar,” “Black Widow”), one of the best actors of her generation, is his amicable ex, and Freeman worked with Braff on “Going in Style” (2017). The entire cast elevates the heavy-handed, predictable and contrived melodrama, though there are magic human moments that land because of the performers’ skills. When Allison meets Ryan, it toggles from an explosive, emotionally fueled encounter to an awkward politeness, and a serendipitous high school reunion at a dive bar hits every emotion on the spectrum as barflies Mark (Alex Wolff, “Hereditary”) and Diego (Brian Rojas) catch up with the popular girl. (Sarah Vincent) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Kendall Square; 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.