Saturday, May 18, 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

After the Independent Film Festival Boston wraps up its excellent 20th-year run, The Brattle Theatre shifts gears for May 4 with a “May the Fourth be With You” screening of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) Wednesday and Thursday; then there’s a pair of premiere runs starting Friday: “Godland,” about a 19th century Danish priest on a mission to Iceland, and “I’m Sick of Myself,” the Norwegian cult film that played the Boston Underground Film Fest, about a teen who reinvents themselves as a quirky new persona.

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This week’s Tuesday Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Theatre kicks of “May’d Men: Scorsese & De Niro” with the 1976 vigilante classic “Taxi Driver,” scripted by Paul Schrader (“Cat People,” “The Card Counter”), with a hypnotic score by Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho,” “Carrie”) and gorgeous rain-slicked cinematography by Michael Chapman. The film, co-starring Jodie Foster, Scorsese regular Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepard and Albert Brooks, would come to define the partnership between director and alter ego while commenting on a politically tumultuous period in American history. Other De Niro and Scorsese pairings throughout the month include De Niro’s Oscar-winning turn in “Raging Bull” (1980), “Casino” (1995), “Cape Fear” (1991) and “Goodfellas” (1990).

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Also coming off another great IFFB run, the Somerville Theatre gets back to its “Attack of the B-Movies” double features retrospective with screenings of “The Brainiac” (1962), about a vengeful baron who returns as a monster to eat the brains of Holy Inquisition descendants and “The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy” (1958). The B-flicks play Saturday and beyond. Also, there’s a Buster Keaton “Silents” double bill on Sunday with “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” (1928) and the essential “The General” (1926) with a live, improvised score by area accompanist Jeff Rapsis. For those of you who like to wade in the water and ferret out fickle trout, the “Fly Fishing Film Tour” sets up Thursday.

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The love for Hong Sangsoo continues at the Harvard Film Archive this week with a retrospective that includes encore screenings of “The Novelist’s Film” (2022) and “Grass” (2018) on Friday and “In Front of Your Face” (2021) and “The Woman Who Ran” (2022) on May 7. (Tom Meek)

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In Theaters and Streaming

‘Wildflower’ (2022)

Taking a cue from 2021 Oscar winner “Coda,” Matt Smukler’s satirical coming-of-age comedy tells the story of Bea (Kiernan Shipka, “Mad Men”), a high school senior with neurodiverse/intellectually challenged parents Derek (Dash Mihok) and Sharon (autistic actress Samantha Hyde) who struggles with decisions for the next chapter in her life – can she leave mom and dad on their own? Bea’s also the poor nerdy girl at a fancy private school (grandma’s got some bucks) and often the target of the rich mean girl posse (led by Chloe Rose Robertson with an alluring snarl), though she has a bestie in Nia (an actor known simply as Kannon) and the eye of Ethan (Charlie Plummer), the hot new boy at school, who allegedly has only one testicle and whose family is rich because they own a port-a-potty empire. Yup, the goofy gags sometimes go over where they might land in similarly scoped flicks such as Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart” (2019). The plot has much of Bea’s life coming unraveled as she nears graduation, and for a good part of the narrative she’s in a coma – not a spoiler, though the how and why becomes a plot thread. The excellent cast includes Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “Animal Kingdom”) and Jean Smart (“Garden State,” “Babylon”) as Bea’s maternal and paternal nanas, who deal with their children’s challenges differently (Smart’s nipping off a flask in most every scene), and Alexandra Daddario (“Baywatch”) as Sharon’s composed, suburbanite sister (Bea’s aunt) who doesn’t quite use kid gloves in delicate situations. The ensemble has great chemistry, and Shipka projects genuine protective care and affection for her character’s parents and their vulnerabilities while maintaining a sharp edge at school. (Tom Meek) On Amazon Prime Video.

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‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ (2023)

There’s overwhelming compassion for the characters in Kelly Fremon Craig’s (“The Edge of Seventeen”) adaptation of the Judy Blume YA classic, and Craig’s take on the 1970s-set novel captures turbulent girlhood with detail and reverence. Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) is 11 and going into sixth grade after having moved, reluctantly, to a new town. “Are You There God?” refreshes the genre by focusing on the minutiae of day-to-day life for preteen girls, whose naiveté has them longing to get their period, wear bras despite their discomfort and kiss boys they’re not even sure they like. Rachel McAdams as Margaret’s mother, Barbara, is luminous in a performance tailor-made for her easy charm and empathetic disposition. Shooting with compositional care for all the bits and pieces that make up these characters’ lives, Craig delivers an honest, hilarious and heartfelt film about a girl who is beginning to see the world with greater skepticism and curiosity. The result is something quietly profound, a film that understands that the world at 11 is impossibly endless. (Ally Johnson) At 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. Allyson Johnson is editor-in-chief at The Young Folks.

This post was updated April 30 to remove a review of a movie not yet screening in Cambridge or Somerville.