Monday, June 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 Film Noir Foundation sets up at The Brattle Theatre this weekend for Noir City Boston. This year’s packed slate of rare and classic hardboiled crime dramas (all from 1948) includes Jules Dassin’s “The Naked City”; Raymond Burr (“Ironsides”) and Claire Trevor in the Anthony Mann-directed “Raw Deal”; “The Big Clock,” directed by John Farrow and starring Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Sullivan and Ray Milland; Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster in “Sorry Wrong Number”; and Jimmy Stewart in “Call Northside 777.”

On Tuesday, it’s a special area premiere of the documentary “The Cramps and The Mutants: The Napa State Tapes,” chronicling the punk rock bands as they play California’s Napa State psychiatric hospital in 1978. If Folsom State Prison and Johnny Cash come to mind, you’re on the right wavelength. And on Thursday for Pride Month, The Brattle partners with the folks behind the Wicked Queer Film Fest for a screening of Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed’s documentary “All Man: The International Male Story,” a nostalgic look at the catalog that was all the gay rage in the 1980s.

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This week’s “Harrison Ford’s … Other Films!” Retro Replay Tuesday at the Landmark Kendall Square Theatre is “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s hypnotic take on Phillip K. Dick’s provocative “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Something of a commercial and critical miss when it was released in 1982, the film found second life buoyed by Dick aficionados and  revisionist accolades from the critical community. The mood-setting score by Vangelis (“Chariots of Fire”) and slick, neon-punk imagining of the overcrowded streets of Los Angeles in the near-distant future was groundbreaking in set design, staging and vision. The fantastic supporting cast includes the late Rutger Hauer as the calculating leader of a band of escaped replicants (genetically engineered superhumans manufactured for slave labor), with Daryl Hannah, Joanna Cassidy and Brion James as those in his kindred squad. Sean Young was perhaps the most perfectly cast as the très noir Rachel, a replicant who’s unaware of her origins, and adding to the mix is the unsettlingly jovial M. Emmet Walsh and James Edward Olmos as the police honchos who pull Ford’s retired blade runner back into the fold for one more job. The guy behind DNA conglomerate Tyrell Corp. is none other than Joe Turkel, who played the creepy bartended at the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining” (1980). The film, now considered a sci-fi classic, provides provocative contemplations on slavery, free will and creationism – newly relevant in an AI era.

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Lots going on at the Somerville Theatre this week: big-screen classics, Nazi ass-kicking and some cheesy 50s sci-fi fare. The quirky World War II thriller-comedy “Kelly’s Heroes” (1970) is part of the ongoing “Fuck the Nazis” program, with a cast that includes Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood, Carroll O’Connor (Archie!), Telly Savalas (Kojak himself), Gavin MacLeod of “The Love Boat,” Stuart Margolin, who played Angel on “The Rockford Files” and comedian Don Rickles. The film pairs Wednesday with the 2009 Norwegian horror film flick “Dead Snow,” in which med students on a ski trip encounter Nazi zombies. This week’s 70mm and WideScreen Fest entries include David Bowie in the Jim Henson-Frank Oz fantasy “The Dark Crystal” (1982) on Saturday and Sunday; Richard Burton and John Wayne in the D-Day epic “The Longest Day (1962), which could be part of the “Fuck the Nazis” slate, on Sunday; and “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (1964) starring Sir Alec Guinness, James Mason and Sophia Loren on Monday. Before those, on Friday, is my favorite Western and one of the best band-of-outlaw films that, with Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns, redefined the genre as something dark and more morally ambiguous: Sam Peckinpah’s brutal ballet of violence, “The Wild Bunch” (1969) with Willam Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates.

This week’s Two-for-Thursdays double-feature stars James Caan, with Michael Mann’s electric heist thriller “Thief” (1981), driven by a fantastic score by Tangerine Dream, and “Misery” (1990), the adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a novelist taken hostage and imprisoned by a rabid fan (Kathy Bates, excellent). And just for the fun of it there’s an “Attack of the B-Movies” double feature too in “Teenagers from Outer Space” (1959) and “The Beach Girls and the Monster” (1965) on Saturday and Tuesday. John Water’s ribald camp satire “Polyester” (1981) is the Saturday midnight play.

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The Harvard Film Archive comes back online this week with “Ozu 120: the Complete Ozu Yasujiro,” which promises to showcase the entire catalog of the legendary Japanese filmmaker, an observer of the human condition and human connections. The program kicks off with the maestro’s quiet meditation “Late Spring” (1949), about the social pressures a young woman (Setsuko Hara) faces to get married when she just wants to tend to her grieving, widowed father. The film, the first in the Noriko Trilogy, plays Friday and Sunday. On Saturday it’s Ozu’s widely hailed magnum opus “Tokyo Story” (1952), starring Ozu regulars Chishû Ryû and Hara, which follows the journey of an elderly couple traveling from the countryside to the titled city to visit their children and grandchildren. On Monday is Ozu’s follow-up to “Late Spring,” “Early Summer” (1951) with Hara reprising her young woman who once again is being eyed for marriage. (Tom Meek)

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In Theaters and Streaming

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ (2023)

Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson deliver a vibrant, genre-scaling triumph of a film in the sequel to “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (2018). This part-one-of-a-two-part-saga manages to thread the needle of creating a gravity-defying story that offers closure to the narrative plane it’s operating on while allowing ambiguity to set the course for the next adventure. Our Spidey, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), continues to make for an engaging  protagonist as he travels the multiverse to stop a personal catastrophe while facing alterna-spideys and other supers who look to stop him. The film is propelled by great swaths of adventure and framed by the animators with gravitas and skill. “Across the Spider-Verse” proves that animation can be a liberating, fantasy-deepening medium that live-action can’t touch. It’s one of the best summer blockbuster to hit screens in years. (Ally Johnson) 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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‘Unwelcome’ (2022)

By leaving their lower-class London estate apartment for an inherited Irish countryside home, young couple Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) seek to escape the lingering trauma of a violent home invasion. They hire a member of the disreputable Whelan clan to make repairs and spruce things up, but upon entry much in the bucolic idyll feels off.  Meanwhile Maya reluctantly upholds a family tradition: a blood offering to the little people or “far darrig,” fierce fairies of Irish folklore with teeth as sharp as the daggers they carry. Director and co-writer Jon Wright and co-writer Mark Stay create a clever little movie, and get kudos for practical effects reminiscent of Jim Henson’s cinematic puppetry and for paying homage to Stanley Kubrick’s overhead shots in “The Shining” (1980). Wright’s visual style feels less realistic, more timeless – like a Grimm fairytale – with a blood-red sky and lush, green backdrop for an  exploration of multiple themes: fragile masculinity, British colonialism’s effect on the Irish, post-traumatic stress disorder, physical abuse. Standout Colm Meaney as Daddy Whelan, the brutish patriarch, balances charm and menace and contributes to making the Whelans a compelling lot despite their expanding list of nightmarish acts. Their warped love for each other shines through in nuanced supporting performances. But carrying the film is John-Kamen, whose hesitant, terrified survivor transforms credibly into a woman willing to do anything to protect her family. (Sarah G. Vincent) On Shudder and Amazon Prime Video.


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 of the entertainment website InBetweenDrafts.