Sunday, July 21, 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

A bit far out in terms of date, and a bit outside Cambridge, but your Day film crew (Allyson Johnson, Tom Meek and Sarah G. Vincent) will be at the Woods Hole Film Festival as part of the panel “The Role of Film Critics in the Age of Streaming and Artificial Intelligence” on Aug. 4.

Making its premiere run at The Brattle Theatre is “The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future,” Francisca Alegría’s tale about a young Chilean woman who reunites with her long-deceased mother as her father has a heart attack. “Cow” is a bit on the surreal side and has themes of environmental contamination, climate change and beyond. The four-day run begins Friday. And while the “father of the atomic bomb” is on first-run theater screens with Christopher Nolan’s bold American fable “Oppenheimer,” on Friday and Saturday at The Brattle you can catch the “the original Japanese atomic monster” with the 1954 version of “Godzilla” with that guy in a rubber suit stomping toy-scale Tokyo. On Sunday it’s Claire Simon’s look into Parisian gynecological practices with the area premiere of “Our Body,” which might make a good future double bill with “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” which just played The Brattle. Simon will be on hand. Then it’s back to centennial double-bill celebrations with “Jewel Robbery” (1932) and “One Way Passage” (1932) on Monday and Michael Curtiz directing Fay Wray (“King Kong”) in “Mystery of the Wax Museum” (1933) and swashbuckler Errol Flynn in “Captain Blood” (1935) on Tuesday for the 100 Years of Warner Brothers celebration. For the ongoing fete for groundbreaking female editor Dede Allen, it’s two classic crime dramas helmed by Sidney Lumet and starring Al Pacino: “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) and “Serpico” (1973) on Wednesday. And for the Thrill Ride Horror tandem on Thursday, it’s ladies providing the frights with Megan Fox as a possessed cheerleader in “Jennifer’s Body” directed by Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux,” “Girlfight”) and Alison Lohman becoming the victim of a curse in “Drag Me to Hell,” helmed by Sam Raimi (“The Evil Dead,” “Darkman”). Both films were made in 2009.

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The Tuesday Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema kicks over to all things Hitchcock (it’s the second Hitch program this year) for August with Doris Day singing “Que Sera, Sera” in “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) opposite Hitchcock everyman James Stewart. The two play naive Americans abroad in Morocco who stumble onto an assassination plot.

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At the Somerville Theatre, the Saturday midnight play is “The Outsiders,” Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 adaption of the classic S.E. Hinton novel with a loaded cast featuring Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze as the parentless teen gang of Greasers in rural Oklahoma, constantly at odds with the rival Socs (the Socials, spoiled rich boys who like to act tough) and the law. 

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Over at the Harvard Film Archive, the “Ozu 120: the Complete Ozu Yasujiro” program rolls on with encore screenings “Late Autumn” (1960) on Friday and “Early Summer” (1951) on Sunday, part of Ozu’s “seasons” series, as well as “A Hen in the Wind” (1948) on Saturday. Then there’s some of Ozu’s early comedies, “Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth?” (1932) about a young man who inherits his father’s lucrative biz and sets up a scam with friends, and “What did the Lady Forget?” (1937) about a professor and his bossy wife. The two play Monday and Sunday, respectively. On Saturday there’s a family drama about two brothers who lose their father in “A Mother Should Be Loved” (1934). (Tom Meek) 

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In theaters and streaming

‘Holistay’ (2023)

Finn (Gavin O’Fearraigh) and Branna (Erin Gavin) just get settled into a San Diego Airbnb when Tony (Steven Martini) and Gia (Gabriela Kulaif) arrive and claim that they rented the place too. Their respective agents issue a refund for double booking, but Comic-Con attendees occupy every nearby hotel room, so the couples decide to share the lodgings. The dudes split pot brownies and when they each notice a hooded figure lurking by the pool, they attribute it to a bad trip. Writer-director Mary Patel-Gallagher relies too much on Tony and Gia’s lying-to-each-other subthread to drive tension. The real horror is the banal dialogue reminiscent of strangers forced to make small talk for too long. Patel-Gallagher missed an opportunity to disguise an incisive critique of tourism, gender norms, heteronormativity and human nature in the rote pleasantries. She deserves credit for using folklore figures that seldom appear in films but waits too long to break out the supernatural shenanigans, which are about as frightening as goth kids dressing up to go trick-or-treating. Googling the title will ruin the ending, and an underdeveloped twist in the finale falls flat. The film’s first four minutes, a montage of the location with indifferent, partially obscured cleaners preparing the grounds for the next renters, demonstrates that Patel-Gallagher has the ability strike a minimalist, sinister vibe (she’s made several similarly themed shorts), but not quite at feature-length yet. (Sarah G. Vincent) On Amazon Prime Video.

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‘Talk to Me’ (2023)

In Danny and Michael Philippou’s Down Under creepshow, callous teens treat an embalmed hand with mystical powers like a party favor. Mourning her mother, a curious Mia (Sophie Wilde) decides to see if the YouTube videos showing possessed revelers are true, or fake video junk. She goes to a party, touches the hand and issues the title of the film. Startled yet undeterred after seeing a spirit, Mia beckons, “I’ll let you in.” Her friends do not see the spirit, but witness her head snap back as she chokes. Mia’s nose and mouth becomes discolored. Her eyes resemble black marbles. She talks in an unfamiliar voice. When her friends cannot separate her from the hand as others had in the video, Mia’s extended exposure leads to damning consequences for everyone close to her, including those who never touched the hand. The Philippou twins, aka YouTubers RackaRacka, make a chilling feature debut as they chart Mia’s journey from cherished friend to exiled girl alone and in grief and guilt. It’s a pleasingly unsettling sojourn, with terrifying sound effects, gory moments of self-mutilation and distorted, out-of-focus background figures to add spice to the experience. The young cast has chemistry and establish their characters and relationships early on, which makes it a struggle to see the dumb, fun-loving teens spiral toward bleak peril. (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.