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 the local premiere run of the Anton Corbijn (“Control,” “A Most Wanted Man”) helmed rock(ish) doc “Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis)” about the studio behind all-time classic iconic album covers such as Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” Zepp’s “Houses of the Holy” and Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles “Band on the Run.” It plays Friday through Sunday.

Also during that run is the 50th-year celebration of the greatest Boston movie ever made, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973), with a weary, boozy Robert Mitchum as a small-time hood in over his head. The scene where he laments about Bobby Orr and “old-time hockey” with a carload of heavies who may or may not be friends is iconic and heart-heavy. The film’s also a great historical comparison of industrial 1970s Boston with the techie, tall, shiny glass buildings of today, especially the run-down bar at the corner of Newbury and Massachusetts Avenue where Peter Boyle (The Monster in “Young Frankenstein”) holds court as a dive bar operator and issuer of mob hits to supplement his pay – the place would become a Tower Records and is now a T.J. Maxx.

Carrying on with a 100 years of Warner Brothers celebration, it’s Barbara Stanwyck and John Wayne in “Baby Face” (1933) paired with Stanwyck and Clark Gable in “Night Nurse” (1931) on Monday, and “42nd Street” (1933) on Tuesday. Also, the 100-year celebration of Dede Allen rolls on with a Wednesday paring of the film editor’s classic crime dramas “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as true-life lovers robbing their way across America and Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando in “The Missouri Breaks” (1976).

Then, on Thursday, The Brattle kicks off its “Thrill Ride Horror” program with camcorder POV of alien rampage in “Cloverfield” (2008) and snaky chills in “Slither” (2006) directed by James Gunn, the man behind the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, “The Suicide Squad” (2021) and television’s “Peacemaker.”

Also on Tuesday, the Independent Film Festival Boston slides in for a free sneak peek of the upcoming film “Problemista” starring Julio Torres (who also directs), Isabella Rossellini, James Scully, RZA and Tilda Swinton, who seems to be in every art house curio these days.

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At the Somerville Theatre this week it’s near-death experiences with Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland in Joel Schumacher’s tale of med students gone too far, “Flatliners” (1990), as the Saturday midnight play.

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If you can’t get enough of box office Tom Cruise running and jumping like a madman in the current “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” this Tuesday’s Blockbuster Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema is the flick that cemented him as an ace cinematic draw, “Top Gun” (1986). The film about a bunch of waving dicks, er, Navy pilots competing to make an elite squad is a postcard from the big 1980s propelled by hyperbolic machismo and that dreamy song by Berlin (“Take My Breath Away”). It’s the perfect preflight check-in if you’re thinking of dialing up last year’s long delayed follow-up “Top Gun: Maverick” (which accounts wisely for the 2020 shifting political landscape) streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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The plays this week at Harvard Film Archive as part of the “Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro” program are a diverse lot, with many having an eye on family, beginning with “Tokyo Twilight” (1957) on Friday and Sunday about two sisters (Ineko Arima and Ozu regular Setsuko Hara) reunited with a mother who left them as children. The film marks Ozu’s last black-and-white film, after which he’d only make six color films. Also on the familial theme is “Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family” (1941), Saturday, about the celebration of a patriarch’s 69th birthday who suffers a heart attack and dies after the photo session. On Sunday and Monday, it’s a pair of Ozu comedic silents starring Tatsuo Saito with “The Lady and the Beard,” (1931) about a young man with unusual facial hirsuteness (Sunday), and “I Flunked But …” (1930), revolving around a cadre of enterprising, though failing, college students who come up with a cheating scheme. The Sunday night “Flunked” screening is preceded by Ozu’s concept originator “I Graduated But …” (1929). (Tom Meek) 

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In theaters and streaming

‘Stephen Curry: Underrated’ (2023)

Peter Nicks’s documentary takes a while to get its game on, despite being about the titled, four-time NBA championship winner and the best sharpshooter the game has ever seen, including all the accolades and accomplishments, a state-of-the-art manse to die for and the fact he came from NBA royalty – dad Dell was an above-the-bar NBA player in his time. There’s a vanity aspect, as Curry’s media company, is partly behind the project, but Curry comes off as one of the nicest, most committed family men you’ve ever seen, almost demanding his own sitcom – “At Home with Steph and the Fam.” He’s humble and self-deprecating in interviews, in shocking, stark contrast to his cutthroat baby-faced assassin on the court, and he’s put in the work and amply credits others around him who helped him get to where he is, not only mom and dad, or college coach Bob McKillop, who fits Curry’s developmental needs like a perfectly pumped Air Jordan, but teammates at all stages of his career and teachers. The film doesn’t so much focus on Curry’s NBA success but the knock against him getting there – at 6-foot-2 and 170-ish pounds, he was deemed too small, too weak. The main thread is his 2008 junior-year season at small Division 1 college Davidson, where under McKillop’s humanistic approach the Wildcats go shockingly deep in the NCAA tourney. The other great aspect of the film is Curry’s commitment to getting his college degree, a 12-year struggle after he left Davidson a year early for NBA gold, to represent for his children and wife who won’t let him off the hook and because it mattered to him personally. The arc is reminiscent of the 2008 LeBron James documentary “More Than a Game,” which focused on James and his teammate’s high-school championship run in Ohio. The small stage and universal challenges are the buzzer beater here; you can get the highlight reels on SportsCenter, but not the heart. (Tom Meek) On Apple TV+. 

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‘Earth Mama’ (2023)

“The Heart Still Hums” (2021), a short documentary Savanah Leaf co-wrote and co-directed with “Bones and All” (2022) actor Taylor Russell, served as the inspiration for Leaf’s feature directorial debut. Set in Oakland, California, in 2010, we see former college basketball hopeful and now pregnant mall photographer assistant Gia (Tia Nomore) jump through bureaucratic hoops so social workers don’t take her unborn baby for the past drug use that resulted in her losing her older children. Group therapy counselor Miss Carmen (Erika Alexander) helps Gia consider her options. As Gia’s due date approaches, money runs low and responsibilities increase. Gia cannot handle the stress, and her only choice appears to be putting the kid up for adoption. By creating an ideal prospective family and casting the affable Alexander as the intermediary, this feels like pro-adoption propaganda – it is significant that Leaf’s younger sister, Corinna, is an adoptee – but her visual choices are beyond reproach, leveraging nature themes through Gia’s watching of nature docs to evoke the idea of a fallen world where people are in exile from Eden. At work, Gia is blissful and supportive, without any sense of struggle or trace of resentment, as she helps customers commemorate milestones by choosing chintzy backgrounds. Through them, she dreams of the love and community she does not have. (Sarah G. Vincent) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Kendall Square.


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.