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

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Local focus

This week at The Brattle Theatre it’s all hail Lynch and Dorothy with the area premiere of Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary “Lynch/Oz,” which looks at all thing Lynchian (David, that is) through a yellow-brick-road lens. Filmmakers chiming in include Rodney Ascher (“Room 237”), Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux,” “Girlfight”) and David Lowery (“The Green Knight”), and the film gets a four-day run beginning Friday. Pairing up perfectly on Friday and Saturday, it’s Nic Cage and Laura Dern in Lynch’s retooling of “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), “Wild at Heart” (1990). On Sunday and Monday, it’s what many consider to be Lynch’s magnum opus, “Mulholland Drive” (2001), about a well-to-do amnesiac (Laura Harring) who tries to come to terms with her identity and enigmatic past with the help of a kind passerby (Naomi Watts). Strange and surreal happenings ensue.

And to make sure those ruby shoes and Judy Garland get their due, “The Wizard of Oz,” replete with the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and Toto in tow, gets a three-day play Saturday through Monday. Things switch gears with swashbuckler icon Errol Flynn in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) on Tuesday, a special International Film Festival Boston screening of Savanah Leaf’s new “Earth Mama” on Wednesday and The Brattle classic – 20th edition! – “Trailer Treats,” those snippets you’ve seen at the theater that you can re-enjoy, screening Thursday.

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This month’s Tuesday Retro Replays at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema are blockbusters, beginning with the one that started it all and made millions of filmgoers wary of going in the water: “Jaws” (1975), the classic Steven Spielberg adaptation of a novel by Peter Benchley, who co-wrote the script too. Continuing the warmup for Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” at the Wednesday Filmmaker Focus is Nolan’s saving of the dismal, dirt-choked future of humankind in “Interstellar” (2014), with Matthew McConaughey as a NASA astronaut turned dust farmer turned wormhole warrior trying to figure out how to get the last of us somewhere habitable. Nolan plays adroitly with interdimensionality, varying timelines and family ties.

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At the Somerville Theatre this week, nobody puts baby in a corner with a Thursday screening of the summer camp classic “Dirty Dancing” (1987), starring Jennifer Grey and the late, great Patrick Swayze. The film’s part of the new “Off the Reel … onto the Dance Floor” programming in which DJ Panda spins tunes upstairs in the Crystal Ballroom for some hip-shaking after the film. Then there’s an extended run of Jean-Luc Godard’s deconstructive look into the subversive world of filmmaking, “Contempt” (1963), starring the ironic Brigitte Bardot as the wife of a writer (Michel Piccoli) brought in by a maverick American producer (Jack Palance) to rescue a flagging film version of the “Odyssey” directed by Fritz Lang, who, like Cecil B. DeMille in “Sunset Blvd.” (1950), plays himself. Meta references and marital malcontent all get mixed into Godard’s absurd, near-surrealist cinematic spin. The new 4K restoration marks the film’s 60th anniversary. Also, at the Somerville this Sunday, you can hear the sound of silents with improvisational accompanist Jeff Rapsis providing tunes for two films celebrating Canada Day: “Mantrap” (1926), directed by Victor Fleming (“The Wizard of Oz”) ands starring Clara Bow in an adaptation of a Sinclair Lewis novel set in the woods of Canada. Bow was the basis for Margot Robbie’s uber-confident (and hard-partying) Hollywood upstart in Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” last year. “Mantrap” pairs with “The Canadian” (1926), about a pioneering couple enduring harsh weather in Alberta.

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There’s more Ozu as part of the “Ozu 120: the Complete Ozu Yasujiro” at the Harvard Film Archive, beginning with “Floating Weeds” (1959) – Ozu’s remake of his 1934 silent, “A Story of Floating Weeds” – about the leader of an acting troupe who returns to a town of a former mistress who has revenge afoot involving their illegitimate son. It plays Friday. “Good Morning,” also made in 1959 and also a remake of an earlier Ozu silent, the 1934 comedy “I Was Born, But …” is Saturday, along with an encore presentation of “Record of a Tenement Gentleman” (1947), Ozu’s first postwar film. It follows the difficulties of those living in a bombed-out district. On Sunday it’s another cross pollination of HFA programs with Kinuyo Tanaka (who was featured in “Kinuyo Tanaka – Actress, Director, Pioneer” at the HFA this year) starring in Ozu’s “Equinox Flower” (1958), which plays with the director’s 1930 silent “The Night’s Wife.”

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In theaters and streaming

‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ (2023)

Yeah, folks will poke at de-aging Harrison Ford the way they did with Robert De Niro, who went down 25 years in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” (2019), but the tech is clearly improving and it’s great to see Indy back in World War II Nazi Germany kicking fascist ass. (One of the places it’s playing is the Somerville Theatre, which has an ongoing “Fuck the Nazis” program.) This, the fifth and last Indiana Jones flick in a 40-plus-year run, is the lone installment not directed by creator Steven Spielberg; instead it’s helmed by quiet veteran James Mangold (“Girl Interrupted,” “Ford v Ferrari”). The setup is simple: After a 1940s tangle with Nazis stealing art via train – a nod to the great Burt Lancaster and John Frankenheimer art heist film “The Train” (1964), which played as part of that Somerville lead-up program – Indy is back in the the present of 1960s-1970s New York City, where he’s about to retire as a professor; he gets back into the action when a former Nazi scientist who helped design the rockets that put humans on the moon (Mads Mikkelsen, so good in the drolly evil part) wants the Dial of Archimedes nabbed by Indy off that train. Why? The device can change time and trigger different world-shaping outcomes – in this case, from 1937 onward. A nice, zesty add-on is Phoebe Waller-Bridge of “Fleabag” as Indy’s goddaughter, who wants the dial for her own purposes and from time to time allies with Indy, other times tosses him under the bus – literally – to suit her interests. The era renderings, especially of New York, are stunning, as are the high-octane action sequences, and the elder Indy still has his irrepressible resolve and dry sense of humor in the face of imminent peril, even if he doesn’t move quite as fast or leap quite as far. Great in small parts are Toby Jones as Waller-Bridge’s mercurial fly-in-the-ointment father in the earlier episodes and Antonio Banderas as a cagey salvage dive operator. This last Indy plays its nostalgia perfectly, checking all the boxes and ending the series aptly. This is what summer viewing used to be and should be. (Tom Meek) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St.; Apple Cinemas Cambridge, 168 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands near Alewife and Fresh Pond; Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square; and AMC Assembly Row 12, 395 Artisan Way, Assembly Square, Somerville.

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‘Joy Ride’ (2023)

Asian adoptee Audrey (Ashley Park), looking to notch a big deal as a corporate lawyer, brings her childhood bestie Lolo (Sherry Cola) as an interpreter on a business trip to China, since Audrey’s parents are white and she speaks only English. Lolo’s cousin Deadeye (stand-up comedian Sabrina Wu, making a scene-stealing film debut) tags along. Upon arrival, they visit Audrey’s old college friend, Kat (Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu, from “Everything Everywhere All at Once”), now a famous actor in Chinese historical dramas. When sealing the deal looks to be more than an ink-and-go process, Lolo encourages Audrey to take the time to look for her birth mother. This is where the road trip of the title comes in, a bawdy, raunchy sideshow that transforms eventually into a journey of sisterhood and self-discovery. Adele Lim, co-writer of “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018), notches her directorial debut as well as collaborating on the story with Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao.With Asian hate crimes up and the ongoing fetishization of Asian women, the film does a deft job of deflecting stereotypes while embracing them, taking irreverent risks that mostly land with comedic verve. Sex too gets its due along the way; virgins and those with a scrolling CV of conquests and daring acts of extreme erotica are among our posse and again, the trio of writers do well playing against tropes in favor of female empowerment and positivity, allowing the friends to be who they are. “Joy Ride” foremost is about friendship. (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.