Sunday, July 14, 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. 


Local focus

The “Warner Brothers in the ’80s: Enter the Blockbuster” program rolls on at The Brattle Theatre with some piquant pairings, beginning with two from the Purple One, Prince: For “Under the Cherry Moon” the pop star, wanting to take more authorship of his film projects, also directs. The black-and-white 1930s-romantic somewhat-comedy co-starring Kristin Scott Thomas laid an egg at the time of its release. You can catch the 1986 curio with the film that gave Prince the reins to the camera, “Purple Rain” (1984), on Friday.

“Superman II” (1980) and Tim Burton’s game-changing “Batman” (1989) are Saturday power-ups, solo films from long before the DC heroes would square off in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016). Burton stays in the show with his comedic romp about a fastidious man-boy and his bike, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985), which is paired with the equally idiosyncratic “True Stories” (1986), about the quirky goings-on in a small Texas town. The latter was directed by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, making his directorial debut. The two play New Year’s Day. And speaking of the Heads, there’s an encore presentation of the 40th anniversary restoration of their Jonathan Demme-directed concert film “Stop Making Sense” on Sunday and Monday – a cherry that’s not part of the Warners’ program.

On Tuesday it’s Joel Schumacher’s big-haired, bully boy vamps (Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric) in “The Lost Boys” (1987) paired with the film that turned Tom Cruise into Tom Cruise, “Risky Business” (1983). It features the killer Talking Heads tune “Swamp” and a riveting, driving techno score by Tangerine Dream. Not enough can be said about Rebecca De Mornay as the temptation that pulls Cruise’s meandering high school boy Joel from his coddled and dull suburban cocoon.

Ramón Menéndez’s tough-love calculus lesson “Stand and Deliver” (1988) is Wednesday, with Edward James Olmos becoming Oscar nominated for his portrayal of real-life Los Angeles high school teacher Jaime Escalante. Playing the late show Wednesday is my favorite “Road Warrior” entry, eponymously labeled and also known as “Mad Max 2” (1981), in which Mel Gibson’s laconic Max tangles with The Humungous and his marauding minions over a tanker of gas in the dessert with the likes of the Feral Kid, Gyro Captain and Warrior Woman to aid him in his post-apocalyptic quest. From there The Brattle goes in on Marty, with the Martin Scorsese double bill of “After Hours” (1985) about a nerd (Griffin Dunne) caught up in late-night madness who can’t get home to safety and comfort – not too far off from “Risky Biz” – and his most celebrated mob classic, “GoodFellas.” It was released in 1990, technically not in the ’80s, but who’s going to complain? If you do, you better watch those kneecaps.

Also on New Year’s Day, The Brattle unleashes its Marx brothers marathon with Harpo, Groucho and Chico delivering comedic mayhem in such comedy classics as “Duck Soup” (1933), “Horse Feathers” (1932), “The Cocoanuts” (1929) and “Monkey Business” (1931). (Tom Meek)


In theaters and streaming

‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ (2023)

It’s the end of the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) as we know it! The 15th and final movie (DC-inspired films, including more Superman, will live on in the DC Cinematic Universe, if you care) ends on a fun note, albeit a deeply derivative one. The metahuman, half-Atlantean and half-human Aquaman (Jason Momoa, who gets a story credit) prefers playing house with his family, which includes wife Mera (Amber Heard) and baby Junior, but is bored with the bureaucracy of being king of the secret underwater kingdom known as Atlantis. He jumps at the chance to use his muscles to team up with former king and half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson) to stop Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who wields the Black Trident, a metaweapon that bestows the villain with ancient knowledge and magnifies his strength. During the first underwater battle, the CGI is dreadful, but this installment improves upon the first because all the characters have chemistry. Odd couple Aquaman and Orm are a more satisfying pairing than Aquaman and Mera were in “Aquaman” (2018). Wilson makes a perfect straight man to Momoa’s himbo vibe, and his redemption arc drives the narrative forward right up to the single post-credit scene. Also the eternally affable Randall Park, who plays a scientist with a conscience in Black Manta’s employ – is a perfect audience surrogate, reacting like any ordinary person would in such unusual circumstances and providing comedic relief. Abdul-Mateen’s Black Manta makes for a credible threat too because of the personal nature of his vendetta against Atlantis and Aquaman. (Sarah G. Vincent) 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.  


‘Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire’ (2023)

Zach Snyder, the action visionary behind early creative jabs such as “Watchmen” (2009) and “300” (2006), has slid toward self-indulgence with turgid fare that only occasionally flashes cinematic flair. Take “Army of the Dead” (2021) or “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”; both are defined by big names, big budgets and pedantic narratives. Same thing here, a fusion of “John Carter” (2012) and “Jupiter Ascending” (2015) that rips whole pages from the Star Wars sagas. Still, the problem isn’t so much that there’s zero semblance of originality, but that the execution is so banal. Like with the dutifully dour Luke Skywalker, we begin on a remote planet where all is peaceful for Kora (Sofia Boutella, so mysterious and game in “Atomic Blonde,” but under a yoke here) and those in her Amish-esque farming village. Then comes a visit from the imperial forces of the tyrannical Motherworld (inspired naming, right?) looking for food and taking what they want by force. Kora, it turn out, is a former Mommyland guard; she unleashes a local uprising that boots the baddies but will surely bring more. So what’s a warrior among the sheep to do? If you’re still scratching your head, gander at the inventively illuminating title. Along her star-hopping quest to assemble that “rebel” force she encounters a griffin-breaking hunk (Staz Nair), whom I think we’re supposed to take as a displaced indigenous person, a somber swordswoman (Doona Bae, “Cloud Atlas”), the nimble, fast-talking thief (Charlie Hunnam) and gruff former rebel general (Djimon Hounsou). On their tail the whole way is the Nazi-attired (yup, pulling from the top of the stock shelf) Admiral Atticus Noble (Ed Skrein, relishing the rote role with reptilian glee), tasked by the fascist Mommyland to squash the rebels. The ever-affable Sir Anthony Hopkins joins the mix as the voice of a C-3PO knockoff imaginatively named Jimmy, and there’s even the requisite bar scene at some seedy, far-flung outpost where a motley crew of crass and ready-to-rumble aliens size up strangers as they walk through the door – a scene you’ve probably never seen before (100 times). The action sequences and fight choreography do have appeal, but constantly overdo the silly slo-mo, elongate-the-moment flex. There’s also the eternal (and infernal) grunting. It drones on, and there’s a part two to come. (Tom Meek) On Netflix.


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.