- If my nieces lived here instead of in Portland and their parents were the type to brave Friday-after-Thanksgiving crowds to do their Christmas shopping, I would totall be introducing them to the concept of the double feature, because, really, it's one of the best "take your kid to the movies" weekends in memory. Not only is Happy Feet Two still kicking around (and while not quite up to the level of its predecessor, still pretty delightful), there are three other family films open with pretty darn good pedigrees:
The Muppets likely need no introduciton; it's the first theatrical release to feature these much-beloved characters in over a decade, it's brought to us by the Muppet fanatics who made Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and the level of praise it has been getting is incredible. The human parts look to be perfectly cast with Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and Chris Cooper, I'm assured that there are plenty of cameos, and... Look, I'm an easy sell here, but come on, this looks fantastic.
Hugo seems to be opening on relatively fewer screens, in part because theaters likely don't have any idea of how to handle a Martin Scorcese movie for the family audience. And in 3D to boot! Still, this movie about an orphan stealing bits in an early-1900s Paris Metro station to finish his amazing robot looks fantastic, with even many 3D skeptics saying that Scorcese has found good use for the technology.
Then there's Arthur Christmas, a 3D/CGI movie from the generally very reliable Aardman Animations which features James McAvoy as the title character, the younger son of Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent!) trying to deliver an overlooked toy with the help of retired Grandsanta Bill Nighy. Hugh Laurie is his older brother and heir apparent. The rest of the cast is as ridiculously packed with great Brit actors as the average Harry Potter movie. Looks much more kiddie-oriented than the others (which are sure to have plenty for the adults in the audience), but Aardman is good at that.
- Not really family-oriented, but also packed with a spiffy cast and getting a few pretty good reviews on its own is My Week with Marilyn, in which Kenneth Branagh finally gets to actually be Sir Laurence Olivier after trying so hard for his entire career. The Marilyn of the question is Marilyn Monroe, played by Michelle Williams, and the narrator is Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), the guy responsible for squiring her around while she shoots a movie. Also in the cast: Julia Ormond (as Vivien Leigh), Emma Watson, Michael Kitchen, Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, Derek Jacobi, and more. It opens at AMC Boston Common, the Coolidge Corner Theatre, and Kendall Square.
Also opening at the Kendall - albeit on Friday the 25th, rather than Wednesday - is Passione: A Musical Adventure, in which John Turturro sets out to make a documentary about Neapolitan music and winds up filming something much more quirky. I've got to admit, I wasn't that fond of his last directorial and musical outing, Romance & Cigarettes, but this sounds fun and it's reassuring to know that those Transformers movies are maybe paying for something worthwhile. It's only scheduled for a one-week booking, though, so see it while you can.
Amazingly, there are almost no special screenings at the Coolidge this week - not even midnights! The only thing on the schedule other than the regular bookings is a "National Theater Live" simulcast of Collaborators next Thursday (1 December). It's a play written by John Hodge and directed by Nicholas Hynter, with Alex Jennings as a playwright tasked with creating a biography of Stalin (Simon Russell Beale) for his 60th birthday.
- The Brattle continues its run of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey through next Thursday, with special 9:30pm shows of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Wednesday and Labyrinth on Thursday (both feature Being Elmo subject Kevin Clash). Starting on Friday, it switches to matinees only (3pm all week with a 1pm show Friday - Sunday).
So what takes the evening? Well, Friday and Saturday (the 25th & 26th) are Be Thankful for Bogie, a double feature of The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Having just finished a book of Dashiel Hammett short stories and having a bunch of Chandler on my shelf (I'm now down to the stuff that has been adapted for film), I am even more excited for this program than usual - and trust me, I am always down for these two movies.
Sunday through next Thursday, they switch from iconic gumshoes to an iconic documentarian with the series Seeing Is Believing: The Non-Fictions of Errol Morris. Morris is one of the most acclaimed an influential documentarians of our time, and the Brattle has lined up some of his greatest hits: The Thin Blue Line on Sunday the 27th; The Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure on Monday the 28th; a late show of Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. on Tuesday the 29th; his latest movie Tabloid on Wednesday the 30th; and a dobule feature of Gates of Heaven and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control on Thursday December 1st. Morris will be there in person on Wednesday to discuss his new book Believing Is Seeing as part of the Harvard Bookstore's author series.
A different guest will be there on Tuesday as part of the Balagan series - Bruce Baillie is co-founder of Canyon Cinema, and will be there to present a program of his 16mm films from the 1960s.
- ArtsEmerson is taking the holiday weekend off, but the Harvard Film Archive is only closed for two more days than usual. On Saturday, they begin another retrospective film series, The Complete Henri-Georges Clouzot, which will present all eleven of Clouzot's features over the course of the next month. Saturday and Monday at 7pm, they start things off with The Wages of Fear, in which Yves Montand plays one of four men hired to carry highly volatile nitroglycerine through a perilous jungle. William Friedkin later remade it as Sorcerer but this is the original, in a new and restored 35mm print. Sunday is The Assassin Lives at Number 21, a black comedy made in 1942 with a detective trying to figure out which resident of a boarding house killed another.
There's also a Wednesday night VES screening of Blade Runner; those screenings are free, but are mainly for film students, and are often run on video (which of the approximately 27 cuts of the movie will be shown is not specified online).
- French Film is also on the menu at the MFA, which concludes their The Films of Catherine Deneuve series Friday through Sunday with screenings of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Indochine, The Hunger, and The Young Girls of Rochefort.
Next Thursday, they start their December calendar with two films from the same area: Göbeklitepe: The World’s First Temple is the first entry in The Boston Turkish Festival's Documentary & Short Film Competition, while Attenberg, Greece's 2011 Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film, kicks off their Festival of Films from Greece.
- Over at Fresh Pond, Desi Boyz is the Bollywood film opening on Wednesday the 23rd, although times beyond Thursday are not yet posted. It appears to be a buddy comedy with Ashkay Kumar and John Abraham falling on hard times but still romancing Deepika Padukone and Chitrangda Singh (so things can't be that bad).
- There's also more film than usual at the Regent Theatre in Arlington. There's their regular Thanksgiving offering of Sing-Along Mary Poppins from Friday to Sunday, a Saturday night presentation of Jimmy Tingle's American Dream which combines film and live performance, and on Thursday the 1st, there's a shorts program calling itself the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival which includes six shorts and a preview, with at least one set of filmmakers on hand for Q&A.
My plans? All three of the family movies, in order of priority above. Probably My Week With Marilyn, maybe get around to seeing J. Edgar despite the bad buzz it's been getting. And, yeah, I'm down for the Bogie double feature and Wages of Fear. Of course, first I'll be heading up to Maine to break in my mother's new kitchen for Thanksgiving dinner and visit my cute nieces. Priorities!