Wednesday, July 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. It runs Friday to Friday as of this edition, a change from the previous Sunday-to-Sunday approach.


Local focus

New restorations lead the way at The Brattle Theatre this week with the 25th anniversary run (Friday to Monday) of Cauleen Smith’s DIY passion project “Drylongso” (1998) – a perfect Juneteenth statement, as it chronicles a young woman taking a photography class who begins taking pictures of Black men because she fears they will soon become extinct. Friday through Tuesday is Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s 1990s indie hit “Party Girl” (1995), about an impetuous New York City social circuit regular (Parker Posey, so good recently in Ari Aster’s “Beau is Afraid”) who winds up in jail and tries to find redemption as a librarian. Also released in 1995 and playing the same dates is Gregg Araki’s gloriously gonzo “Doom Generation,” about three young folks (James Duval, Johnathon Schaech and #MeToo firebrand Rose McGowan) who meet up, form an uneasy love triangle and fall into skirmishes as they crisscross the country, something of a Gen-X, junior varsity version of “Bonnie and Clyde” boasting a second Clyde. The film followed edgy, envelope-pushing LGBTQ-centered flicks such as “The Living End” (1992) and “Totally F**cked Up” (1993) and features such diverse, recognizable names as Posey, comedian Margaret Cho, rocker Perry Farrell, notorious madam Heidi Fleiss and gay porn star Zak Spears in cameos. 

For Father’s Day, The Brattle cues up Stanley Kubrick’s classic isolationist creepshow “The Shining” (1980) – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – on Saturday and Sunday; for the summer solstice, Wednesday brings Aster’s trippy – and bloody – “Wicker Man”-esque sojourn into horror, “Midsommar” (2019); and for all you pedal people, on Thursday, MassBike, Shimano and the Bicycle Film Festival bring the documentary “The Engine Inside,” with extraordinary stories about people around the globe who have used the bicycle to transform lives. Ticket sales support the filmmakers, Anthill Films and MassBike. 


For the “Harrison Ford’s … Other Films!” Retro Replay Tuesday at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema it’s “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 genre-shaping futurescape “Blade Runner.” Ford plays his Decker, now finally retired, in a supporting role opposite Ryan Gosling’s K, a replicant who works for the LAPD. Villeneuve (“Arrival”) puts his own visual stamp on the bleak world of tomorrow, and the supporting cast includes Ana de Armas as K’s virtual lover and companion; Robin Wright as K’s higher-up; Dave Bautista (“Glass Onion”); and Oscar-winner Jared Leto, bringing sinister quirk to the part of a master creator. Sylvia Hoeks is phenomenal as Luv, Leto’s loyal and lethal bagwoman. The cinema warms up for the coming of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” this summer with a monthlong Wednesday director focus, beginning with a screening of his imaginative, reality-bending mindblower “Inception” (2010), with an all-star cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Elliot Page (as Ellen Page), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), Ken Watanabe, Lukas Haas (“Witness”), Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard (“La Vie En Rose”) and Cillian Murphy, who will star as titular nuclear scientist of Nolan’s coming-soon biopic.


This week’s 70mm and WideScreen Fest at the Somerville Theatre spins Paul Thomas Anderson’s adroitly taut “The Phantom Thread” (2017) on Friday with masterful performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville as well-regarded dressmaker and controlling, possessive sister. On Saturday, it’s the lovely and exquisite Audrey Hepburn with Rex Harrison in the classic musical “My Fair Lady” (1964), and Gregory Peck joins Jean Simmons on Sunday in William Wyler’s “The Big Country” (1958). There’s more Christopher Nolan love going on with a screening of his time-bending spy thriller “Tenet” (2020) on Monday.

For this week’s “Fuck the Nazis” slap in the fascist face it’s Brad Pitt and a special-ops tribe of hard-hitting Jewish GIs rewriting history in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) on Wednesday. The film makes for an apt lead-in for the Two-for-Thursdays double feature: thrillers directed by John Flynn that include one of QT’s personal faves, the hard-to-find “Rolling Thunder” (1977) starring William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones as hero war vets out for revenge (a theme in Tarantino’s canon). It has a script co-written by Paul Schrader, just coming off “Taxi Driver” (1976). With it is Flynn’s “The Outfit” (1973), starring Robert Duvall as an ex-con out to get a little payback from the mob. The outstanding cast includes Robert Ryan (“The Wild Bunch”), Karen Black and Joe Don Baker of “Walking Tall.” Saturday’s midnight show brings Pride colors to Davis Square with a screening of the 1995 rock-doc and cultural exposé, “Wigstock: The Movie.”

Finding reentry at the Somerville Theater on Friday is the latest curio dug up for you by the good folk at Channel Zero, with a screening of “Down Laredo Way” (1952) starring Rex Allen and Slim Pickens as singing cowboys before there was “Paint Your Wagon” (1969).

Another special event is Tuesday: a screening of Jason Berry’s documentary on all things New Orleans with “City of a Million Dreams” (2021). The writer, journalist and filmmaker will attend. 

And for all you prom queens and sock hoppers, there’s a new “Off the Reel … Onto the Dance Floor” program that almost literally kicks off Saturday – the iconic punk band The Ramones in high school rock-comedy “Rock ’n’ Roll High School” (1979) followed by something of a dance party (mosh pit experience might come in handy) at the theater’s Crystal Ballroom, with live music by Warthog, a Ramones tribute band.  


“Ozu 120: the Complete Ozu Yasujiro” continues this week at the Harvard Film Archive with an encore showing of the Japanese auteur’s magnum opus “Tokyo Story” (1953) on Sunday; for Friday and the rest of the week, it’s Ozu’s earlier, silent works, beginning with the 1933 “Passing Fancy” about two male co-workers at a brewery who discover a destitute woman and debate ways to help. On Monday there’s “Days of Youth” (1929), which also features two men and a woman, but is a lighthearted comedy by comparison. Also on Sunday is “A Story of Floating Weeds” (1934), the tale of a traveling kabuki acting troupe head arriving in the town of a former mistress who’s hatched a vengeful plot that involves their son. And on Saturday it’s “Dragnet Girl” (1933), Ozu’s noirish love triangle involving a small time-gangster, his secretary girlfriend and an innocent student who comes between them. (Tom Meek)


In theaters and streaming

‘The Blackening’ (2022)

During an informal college reunion on Juneteenth weekend, a group of friends convene at an Airbnb-style cabin in the woods to play spades, party it up and roast each other. The festivities cease once they discover the titular board game, which is decorated with an automated Sambo figure. Playing comes with lethal side effects when a TV flashes on and reveals a black-faced masked killer who forces them to answer trivia questions to prove their “blackness” or else. Co-writers Tracy Oliver (of the pleasing summer flicks “Girls Trip” and “Little”) and Dewayne Perkins, who also co-stars, prove an unstoppable tandem; the film’s an expansion of a 3Peat comedy troupe television sketch in which Perkins was a writer-performer. The project’s imbued with the kind of meta-awareness that made the “Scream” franchise good, reconstructive fun without becoming a pure horror pic and weaves in cheeky humor without veering into spoof territory like the “Scary Movie” franchise. “The Blackening” does begin to drag as it approaches the denouement to reveal the killer’s identity. Cue director Tim Story, who helmed the early 2000s “Fantastic Four” flicks, to pick up the slack with some deviously orchestrated kills and deft, unexpected action scenes. This comedy-horror is best viewed in a crowded theater where viewers can feel free to clap and howl as part of the ghoulish choir. (Sarah G. Vincent) 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.