Tuesday, July 16, 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

If you want “more cowbell,” The Brattle Theater’s “Walken on Sunshine: Christopher Walken in the ’80s” delivers. The program is built around the solemn, emotive actor who came to light in Michael Cimino’s Oscar-sweeping “The Deer Hunter,” which won’t be included on the slate because it came out two years too early.

What we do get is Walken as the Bond baddie in “A View to a Kill” (1985) boasting the cool titular theme song by Duran Duran and Tanya Roberts (“The Beastmaster,” “Charlie’s Angels”) just passable as the Bond girl, though there is glam and fabulous Grace Jones to make up for it as a baddie. The film, directed by John Glen, who directed more Bond films than anyone else, also marked the last 007 flick for Roger Moore. “A View to a Kill” plays Friday.

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Then Saturday and Sunday, lest you forget that Walken was in one of Robert Redford’s few directorial efforts, you can see it for your own eyes with “The Milagro Beanfield War” (1988), in which Walken plays a wealthy land developer who wants to turn a small farming community into a resort town. Also on Saturday it’s an outré Walken double bill with “Brainstorm” and “The Dead Zone.” Both films came out in 1983 and have to do with Walken’s protagonists having their mind being accessed or accessing others’. The latter, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, marked the most mainstream and commercial film by eerie ambiance master David Cronenberg. “Brainstorm” was the other feature directorial effort beside 1972’s “Silent Running” by FX specialist Douglas Trumbull, known for his work on “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “Blade Runner” (1982); it would be the last film by Natalie Wood, coming out two years after her drowning off a boat on which Walken was present. (Her death during filming caused delays.) The film also starred Louise Fletcher, Oscar winner for her sharp turn in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975).

Also on the docket (Sunday) you can catch a Cimino/Walken collaboration in “Heaven’s Gate” (1980), the then notorious box office flop that allegedly tanked United Artists with a budget of $45 million and a gross of just under $4 million. The film, about a late 1800s war between landowners and cattle ranchers, boasts an all-star cast beyond Walken that includes Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Joseph Cotten (“The Third Man”), Kris Kristofferson and Sam Waterston (“The Killing Fields”). For the late show Monday, Walken’s family man has an alien encounter in “Communion” (1989) and dances through the Great Depression with Steve Martin in “Pennies from Heaven” (1981). The program closes Wednesday with the underappreciated farm noir crime thriller “At Close Range” (1986) with Walken playing crime boss pa to Chris and Sean Penn.

Also at the Brattle this week is “City of Lost Children” (1995) a (loose) spin on “M” (1931) helmed by phantasmagoric visionary Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amélie,” “Delicatessen”) with Marc Caro starring Ron Perlman as a dystopian citizen searching for his missing little brother. The Monday screening is free as part of an Elements of Cinema series and will be followed by a discussion with Berklee faculty member Enrique Gonzalez Müller. On Wednesday, the Revolutions per Minute Festival sets up for screenings of the short experimental work of Quebec filmmaker Vincent Grenier.

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The final David Lynch Retro Replay arrives Tuesday at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, concluding “The Wonderful and Strange World of David Lynch” program with “Lost Highway,” Lynch’s 1997 surrealist neo-noir psychological thriller staring Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, and a pre-murder scandal Robert Blake (“Baretta,” “In Cold Blood”), who died this year. The film, something of a warmup for “Mulholland Drive” (2001) was co-written by Barry Gifford, whose 1990 novel was the basis for Lynch’s same-year film, “Wild at Heart.” In it, Pullman’s saxophonist is accused of murdering his wife (Arquette) while receiving strange videotapes in the mail. Next month’s Retro Replay has Halloween horrors.

Setting the stage for Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated “Killers of the Flower Moon” next month is a Filmmaker Focus on the “Taxi Driver” (1976) director and frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio, beginning Saturday through Monday with “Gangs of New York” (2002), in which Leo plays a young pre-Civil War settler seeking revenge in a Five Points neighborhood of New York City ruled by Daniel Day-Lewis’ ruthless overlord. Brendon Gleeson resonates as the voice of justice and Liam Neeson is appealing as DiCaprio’s father, while Cameron Diaz is likable as she struggles with an Irish accent as a plucky pickpocket and love interest. “Gangs” plays multiple dates, and all the repertory film programs at Landmark are now just $5.

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Over at the Somerville Theatre the focus is on Harrison Ford, with an extended run of “The Fugitive” (1993) to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie based on the 1960s TV serial about a man accused of murdering his wife and on the run to find the real killer. Tommy Lee Jones stars as the U.S. marshal on the tail of Ford’s innocent doc. On Monday and Tuesday, Ford is on the lam again as a cop who goes off the grid Luddite style, hiding out among the Amish as he tries to figure out who the bad guys are in 1985’s “Witness,” directed by Peter Weir (“The Truman Show”).

If you want to kick up your heels with some tuneage, the Somerville’s got you covered with a showing of the 1928 silent “Show People” directed by King Vidor (“The Fountainhead,” “Duel in the Sun”) with a musical accompaniment by local improv sound machine Jeff Rapsis. The film, about a young Georgia woman looking to make it in Hollywood, plays Sunday. There’s an Abba love-in the day before with a screening of “Mamma Mia!” (2008) starring Meryl Streep, Bond guy Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried (“Lovelace,” “Mank”) with a Voulez-Vous dance party afterward in the Crystal Ballroom with DJ Panda spinning Abba tunes. To cap it all off, Thursday begins the 40-year rerelease run of “Stop Making Sense” (1984), Jonathan Demme’s brilliantly intimate aural insight into the ’80s punk-pop phenom Talking Heads. The film’s one of the best five or six rock-docs of all time. 

And for the Saturday midnight show it’s Neill Blomkamp’s amazing DIY sci-fi vision of the near future “District 9” (2009), which has alien visitors known as prawns – because they look like giant bipedal crawfish – stranded here when their ships become suddenly inert and are reduced to third-class citizens living in shantytown squalor in South Africa. A biting metaphor for Apartheid, to be sure Blomkamp sadly has kept this the high of his short career to date; follow-ons “Elysium” (2013) and “Chappie” (2015) would be critical and box office disappointments. 

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The Harvard Film Archive has a Latin American lens as the “Chile Year Zero” and “Música de Câmara. The Cinema of Rita Azevedo Gomes” take center stage. For the focus on Chile it’s a twofer from Ignacio Agüero, starting Friday with the 1988 documentary “One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train,” about a weekend church program that exposes children to world film. On Saturday, it’s 2022’s “Notes for a Film” that looks at the Araucanía region of Chile in the 1880s through a pioneer’s memoirs around the implementation of a railroad. Agüero will be on hand for both. Also as part of the eye on Chile, the HFA shows Cristián Sánchez’s 1979 drama “The Chinese Shoe,” telling the tale of a cab driver who rescues a woman a brothel and shelters her in his home. 

For Gomes, a Brazilian filmmaker, it’s an encore screening of “A Woman’s Revenge” (2012) paired with the period piece “Francisca” (1981) directed by Manoel de Oliveira about real-life British socialite and writer Fanny Owen. A young Gomes did the costume design for the film, and the picture and context would serve as a great influence for “A Woman’s Revenge.” Both play Sunday. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters

‘It Lives Inside’ (2023)

Writer, director and unabashed horror fan Bishal Dutta makes his triumphant feature debut by bringing new-to-some-of-us Hindu mythology to the big screen. Out of desperation to assimilate, first-generation Indian American teen Samidha, nicknamed Sam (Megan Suri), immerses herself in pallid mainstream culture. She lashes out at anyone who tries to connect her to her heritage, including her childhood bestie Tamira (Mohana Krishnan), which unleashes a flesh-eating demon known as a pishacha. Dutta frames the demon as a cautionary tale against the American ideal of self-reliance over community. The more terrifying evil is Sam’s self-hatred and how easy it is for her to eviscerate and betray herself and loved ones. The cast does a deft job of creating often unlikable characters who still earn our empathy. Dutta pays homage to classic horror films such as “Carrie” (1976) by setting confrontations in girls’ locker rooms and “Candyman” (1992) with graffiti as visual narration. He even borrows a few chills from J-horror, with jet black hair obscuring faces and strange contorted movements of stalking specters. Reveals of creature design can be disappointing – but not this demon, a mashup of the hybrid Xenomorph from “Alien3” (1992) and Freddy Kruger’s screaming soul chest in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (1987). (Sarah G. Vincent) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Cambridge, and AMC Assembly Row 12, 395 Artisan Way, Assembly Square, Somerville.

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‘Dumb Money’ (2023)

Australian director Craig Gillespie and “Orange is the New Black” co-writers Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo trail Adam McKay and “The Big Short” (2015) but don’t blaze a new path with their garish big-screen adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s true-tale book, “The Antisocial Network.” In his spare time, Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a humble MassMutual employee in Brockton, dons a T-shirt, wraps a red tie around his head and becomes the online persona Roaring Kitty, who posts on Reddit and YouTube about stock picks – including the hailing of the ailing, undervalued GameStop. An exquisite ensemble cast (Seth Rogen, Nick Offerman, America Ferrera, Pete Davidson and Shailene Woodley, among the many) play the everyday people hanging on Gill’s every word and financial industry movers and shakers who lose big as the ordinary people figure out the guarded rules of the investment game. In January 2021, the DIY operation comes to a head when the bigwigs conspire to take back the upper hand. The film does a superb job of showing the difference between the haves and have-nots by contrasting the space, light and décor of their surroundings. Beyond that, the lack of originality from Gillespie, who made such unique flicks as “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007) and “I, Tonya” (2017), is obfuscated by frenetic pacing, myriad screen shots of online exchanges exchanging and a healthy dose of trader speak mixed with a teaspoon of quotidian financial concern and a soupçon of pandemic grief. To further convey stress, toss in multiple phone calls and screaming babies. (Sarah G. Vincent) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Cambridge.


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.

This post was updated Sept. 24, 2023, to correct “Stop Making Sense” was first released 40 years ago.