Wednesday, May 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

The Brattle Theatre wraps up its “Compleat Wes Anderson” program this week with the director of all things quirky and twee’s love letter to The New Yorker, “The French Dispatch” (2021), on Monday and Tuesday; “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007) and Bill Murray as a second-rate Jacques Cousteau in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004) Wednesday; and the gonzo “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) on Thursday. it concludes the same day with one of my favorite Wes flicks – his reimagining of “Romeo and Juliet” at a summer camp in “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012). The lineup packs double and triple doses of Murray, Edward Norton, Willem DaFoe, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, as well as one fine performance by Bruce Willis in “Kingdom.” On Friday, The Brattle queues up two long runs: the recently released eco-activist thriller “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” and the area premiere of Pierre Földes’s trippy animated sci-fi flick “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” based on works by Haruki Murakami (“Drive My Car,” “Burning”) and featuring a large talking frog.

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Speaking of Robert Mitchum, at the Somerville Theatre this week you can get double your Mitchum noir pleasure with a twofer of the iconic tough guy in “Out of the Past” (1947), co-starring Kirk Douglas and Jane Greer, and the the very creepy “Night of the Hunter” (1955), directed by actor Charles Laughton – his one credited directorial effort – with contributions from James Agee on the script. In the film, Mitchum’s hunter with the words “love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles may just top his Max Cady sociopath in the original “Cape Fear.” The pair play Tuesday. For a midnight screening on Saturday it’s the Trey Parker-directed, flesh-feasting “Cannibal! The Musical” (1993), and on Sunday, it’s Sergio Leone’s meticulously crafted apex spaghetti western “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) with Charles Bronson as the mysterious man with no name and an all-star ensemble featuring Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale, Woody Strode and Jack Elam. The idea for the films that inspired generations of filmmakers (evident in many a Tarantino flick) came from the unlikely teamed minds of Italian horror master Dario Argento (“Suspiria”) and Bernardo Bertolucci (“The Last Emperor,” “The Last Tango in Paris”), with an iconic score from Ennio Morricone.

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The Harvard Film Archive this week kicks off the second half of its Abbas Kiarostami retrospective, “Late Kiarostami,” showcasing works since 1990 by the iconic Iranian filmmaker who died in 2016. The program kicks off Monday with “Five Dedicated to Ozu” (2003), shorts that work as tribute to Japanese director Yasujirô Ozu (“Tokyo Story”). On Friday it’s the director’s defining work, “Taste of Cherry” (1997), about a man in search of someone to bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. It’s paired with the AIDs documentary “ABC Africa” (2001). On Saturday it’s “Shirin” (2008). “The Wind Will Carry Us” (1999), about a city engineer on assignment in a remote village, and “Close Up” (1990), the story of a cinephile who impersonates a director, are Sunday. (Tom Meek)

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In Theaters and Streaming

‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ (2023)

Davis Guggenheim’s doc about the “Family Ties” star who in the 1990s became afflicted with Parkinson’s disease is an intimate, unflinching look into the affable actor’s surprising past, challenges along the way and current station as a spokesperson for medical research. Fox initially tried to hide and deny his Parkinson’s, but here gives full access to Guggenheim and crew. He often appears unkempt and disheveled before the camera and allows himself to be filmed as he stomps and stumbles down the street under the guidance of a trainer, who occasionally tells Fox to stop and reset, taking back as much control as possible of his neurological system. The film’s slickly made, with plenty of reflections from Fox and movie clips perfectly layered in to serve as witty, tear-away testimonials. Guggenheim’s wife, Elizabeth Shue, co-starred in two of Fox’s big “Back to the Future” hits, but as the director of “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) said in an interview with Cambridge Day, had no real contact with Fox over the years – and Guggenheim was inspired to make the film after reading Fox’s books detailing his rise to Hollywood phenom from a rural, middle-class kid with poor grades who was often picked on due to his size. It’s hard not to like Fox, and the film only deepens that by detailing what he’s overcome, his acceptance of his current challenges and commitment to family. (Tom Meek) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St. and on Apple TV+.

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‘Hypnotic’ (2023)

Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids,” “El Mariachi”) teams with Ben Affleck (“Argo,” “Gone Girl”) for this dour sci-fi crime drama that feels like an ersatz blend of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” (2010) and David Cronenberg’s “Scanners” (1981) without either film’s inherent intrigue and creative innovations. The setup has a bank heist masterminded by the mysterious, dapper Dellrayne (William Fincher) with Affleck’s Danny Rourke as the cop on the spot to try to stop him. What’s that in the vault Dellrayne wants – a picture of Rourke’s 10-year old daughter, Minnie (Hala Finley)? As the lens gets pulled back, it turns out there are “hypnotics” who can control people’s minds and sense of reality; Minnie is the ultimate hypnotic that Dellrayne wants, for reasons that will be familiar from “Firestarter” (1984). The muted, lo-fi production values make the film feel like a B-tier hack job, and the execution, uninspired dialogue and wooden acting don’t help. Better to see Ben fresher in “Air” and queue up Rodriguez’s “Sin City” (2005) or the section of “Grindhouse” (2007) he directed. (Tom Meek) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St.; 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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The Starling Girl’ (2023)

In director Laurel Parmet’s immersive debut, Eliza Scanlen (“Little Women”) stars as Jem Starling, a 17-year-old who finds herself in an affair with a married youth pastor (Lewis Pullman, “Top Gun: Maverick”), recently returned to her nestled, Christian fundamentalist community in Kentucky. Parmet weaves together a story of gentle compassion and resilience that grapples with what it means to know your self-worth, becoming a compelling exploration of what it means to sever ties for the sake of self and rebirth. It’s a profoundly moving story of a girl finding herself outside a community that fails to recognize the individual, and Scanlen is superb. She delivers a quietly explosive performance that elevates Parmet’s impressive work. (Ally Johnson) 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. 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.