Thursday, April 21, 2011

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 22 April 2011 - 28 April 2011

I just finished writing up reviews from the Boston Underground Film Festival, so what's that mean?

Independent Film Festival Boston 2011, obviously. That doesn't start until Wednesday, though, and in the meantime, it's a bit of a calm before the storm as studios hold off the big blockbusters this week, giving audiences a bit of time to catch up or rest up before the festival (or, for those outside Boston or not big on the documentaries, before Fast Five claims to kick the summer off two months early next week). Or to see the special programs and such that will be filling local theaters this week.

  • With not a lot to be super-excited for at the plexes, we might as well start out locally, with the Brattle Theatre's Schlock Around the Clock weekend. Rather than doing an overnight marathon as in past years, they're programming the weekend with guilty pleasures: a Bela Lugosi double feature Friday evening (before Battlefield Earth, a Japanese monster double feature Saturday afternoon, a double feature of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Howard the Duck Saturday evening, and an old-school red/blue 3-D1 double feature of It Came from Outer Space and The Creature from the Black Lagoon Sunday afternoon. There's an argument to be made that many of these films are not schlock, but let's be honest - the real crap is actually crap.

    Definitely not schlock is Tuesday's DocYard presentation, 12th & Delaware, a documentary about about the battle between pro-life and pro-choice activists that plays out every day at a Fort Pierce, Florida, intersection. And in a late edition to the schedule, the Brattle will be paying tribute to its recently deceased co-founder Cyrus Harvey Jr. with a number of the films that he played during his time at the theater, starting with a double feature of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal, and picking up again next week after IFFBoston.

  • Also not schlock, but clearly done as a tribute to movies that sometimes were, is Big Trouble in Little China, the latest entry in the Coolidge Corner Theatre's midnight tribute to the 1980s. John Carpenter directs Kurt Russell as an American lunkhead caught in the middle of a crazy Hong Kong horror movie. It's a blast, and plays midnights Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd. Also not schlock is the month's Science on Screen selection, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds; it plays Monday (the 25th) at 7pm and will feature Dr. Theodore Stankowich, a visiting scientist at Harvard, discussing animals with "mobbing" behavior.

    Other special events include a kids' movie screening of The NeverEnding Story on Saturday morning, which will be introduced by folks from the Brookline Puppet Theater. And on Monday through Wednesday (the 27th), they will be running the second half of a series of six documentaries on environmental issues - Planeat on Monday, Bag It on Tuesday, and Urban Roots on Wednesday.

    Also opening at the Coolidge is The Greatest Movie Ever Sold2. In it, Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock shows how inescapable advertising in the form of "product placement" has saturated our entertainment - and demonstrates, by financing his movie entirely through product placement.

  • The Greatest Movie Ever Sold also opens at Kendall Square, alongside Henry's Crime, featuring Keanu Reeves as a man who, after serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit, opts to actually go through with it - a plan that he hatches with former cellmate James Caan. And the one-week warning goes for Circo, a documentary about a family circus in rural Mexico stressed by an economic downturn and family conflicts. Director Aaron Schock will be there in person on Friday and Saturday, introducing the evening shows and doing Q&As after the 7pm screenings.

  • Sticking with the circus, one of the mainstream openings is Water for Elephants, in which Robert Pattinson plays a mourning veterinary student who takes a job with a circus, apparently finding romance with Reese Witherspoon. For those who would rather see animals in their natural habitat than under the big top, DisneyNature's annual Earth Day documentary this year is African Cats, which is what it sounds like - two family groups of big cats in Africa. This is a thing that Disney used to be great at, and I gather these docs generally at least look spectacular.

    The biggest opening, though, is Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family, in which his Aunt Madea character reveals yet another set of relatives, this group of which gathers around when the mother (Loretta Devine) has health problems. I've got nothing to say about this, because despite Perry cranking movies out at a ferocious pace, I've yet to see one, and haven't even seen a preview for this. Mr. Perry and I just don't cross paths.

  • A new Chinese flick also opens at Boston Common: The Warring States is a period adventure about rival military strategists during the Warring States period who shared a mentor and would wind up facing each other on the battlefield. It looks like a lot of fun, but may not stick around, as it's already opened in China, and Chinese pirates are fast.

  • If India is more your speed than China, you may want to check out Zokkomon, a superhero movie produced by Disney's Indian division about a kid who trains himself to be a superhero. From the showtimes, it looks like it's relatively short for a Hindi movie (probably only 100 minutes or so) and could be a lot of fun. I'm going to have to see it this weekend just because the name sounds fun to say. "Zokkomon. ZOKKOMON! ZOKKOMON!"

  • ArtsEmerson serves up Curling on Friday and Saturday. It's the latest by Québecois filmmaker Denis Côté, who is apparently a bit of a rising start north of the border. In it, a real-life father and daughter have the same relationship on-screen, with the father being extremely protective. Sunday night's movie is also from Québec, a repeat of last week's The Far Side of the Moon. And, for the rest of the weekend, it's also in French, as Godard's Une Femme Est Une Femme alternate with Curling, followed by an episode of Godard's Historire(s) du cinema.

  • Friday night, the Harvard Film Archive preesnts Foreign Parts by Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki, two filmmakers who actually met as part of a Harvard program. It's a documenary about the New York City neighborhood of Willet's Point, and area just outside the Mets' CitiField with a truly astonishing amount of automobile junkyards and chop shops (indie film fans will likely remember it from a film named "Chop Shop").

    A series of documentaries rounds out the weekend, the "Middletown" series centered on Muncie, Indiana, in the late 1970s. which run Saturday to Monday (with one more screening next Sunday). Producer Peter Davis is expected to be present each night, and director E.J. Vaughn is scheduled to appear on Saturday (the 23rd).

  • The MFA continues their "Animation Celebration" this week, and im kicking myself that I've already missed one of the things I really wanted to see. Still, there's a lot of nifty looking stuff playing as part of the series. There are also a couple of other events: Tuesday afternoon (the 26th), jazz composer and sax player Wayne Shorter will present a screening of The Fountainhead and discuss its influence on his work, and Wednesday evening (the 27th), there is a preview of Queen to Play, with Kevin Kline in his first primarily Francophone role as the tutor for a chambermaid who has just discovered her talent for chess.

  • The Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 starts at the Somerville Theatre on Wednesday the 27th, and my first impression from looking at the schedule it's going to be a lot of fun for those that like documentaries, especially ones featuring performers. The Opening Night selection is Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, a look at Kevin Clash, the Jim Henson mentee who has performed the character of Elmo on Sesame Street (among others) for twenty-odd years. Clash, director Constance Marks, and Elmo will all be there for the screening. Thursday the 28th, the festival takes over three more of the Somerville's screens, with a wide variety of docs, shorts, and a fiction feature that night.

  • The Arlington Capitol shoulders the bulk of the second-run shuffle this week, picking up Soul Surfer and Hanna. The Stuart Street Playhouse drops The King's Speech but picks up My Perestroika (which also continues playing at Coolidge Corner), with Poetry continuing to play one show a day at 5:30pm

My plans? Well, it's going to be a tight week - I'm committed to IFFBoston (you don't ask for a press pass and then not use it!), so I'll have to get everything in before then. I'll probably check out The Warring States on Friday, maybe Zokkomon over the weekend, and the Monster Zero/Destroy All Monsters Creature Double Feature at the Brattle. Maybe get Curling in there somewhere. Maybe fit Big Trouble in Little China, Rio and/or Scream 4 in there if the late night Sox games don't leave me exhausted.

1I'm compelled to make the usual comment about how, actually, these movies were originally presented with polarized glasses very similar to the ones in use now, with red/blue used only for lesser cinemas and re-releases when platter systems became more prevalent. So this would be more "middle-school" than "old-school". Back

2Fine, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Just because Morgan Spurlock is going for irony here doesn't mean I have to put a sponsor's name in big, bold letters. Especially since pomegranete juice tastes pretty gross. Back

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