- Let's start out with the two movies from China opening at AMC Boston Common: The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate opens on the Imax-branded screen in 3D after a brief bit of concern that it might get lost in the release date shuffle, even after Indomina made such an effort to find it a window. In stars Jet Li, who reunites with his Once Upon a Time in China director Tsui Hark in a great big special-effects/action extravaganza that word out of China says is one of the best uses of 3D in an action film. Should be a treat. A few screens over, The Bullet Vanishes opens just a couple weeks behind China; it features Nicolas Tse and Lau Ching-wan as mismatched detectives in the Holmes/Watson mode investigating a murder at an ammunition factory in the 19th century.
And even if you don't see those movies, remember that they are taking up screens that could have gone to The Oogieloves, which doesn't open in Boston despite the big standees that have been perplexing audiences for weeks. Mainstream theaters do open The Possession, a horror movie formerly known as "The Dybbuk Box", that has interesting people involved: Sam Raimi as a producer, Ole Bornedal directing, Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Dean Morgan on-screen. As the titles suggest, it's about a girl possessed by a nasty piece of Jewish folklore, and is hopefully better than the sneak-into-theaters release date would suggest (Fresh Pond, Fenway, and Boston Common are the theaters snuck into). Lawless opened on Wednesday at Somerville, Fresh Pond, Boston Common, and Fenway; it's got a pretty nice cast for its story of the Bondurant Brothers, West Virginia gangsters during Prohibition.
- Coolidge Corner, Kendall Square, and Boston Common all open For a Good Time, Call..., featuring Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor as girls who hated each other in high school, become roommates through chance, and start a phone sex business together. Miller co-writes and apparently helps bring in a nifty supporting cast (Justin Long, Seth Rogen, Mimi Rogers, Ken Marino, Kevin Smith, and more have at least cameo parts). That's an oddly wide opening for a movie that seemed way under the radar a month ago.
The midnight movie at the Coolidge is American Psycho; Mary Harron's cult favorite adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's novel is on the big screen Friday and Saturday. Also playing the big screen: Jaws, Monday at 7pm, as a "special screening" as opposed to being part of "Big Screen Classics" (which probably means members pay). Also, make sure you check what screen something is playing on this week; Robot & Frank bounces between film and video while the main screen is used for a Sunn O))) concert at 10pm on Tuesday and an "NT Live" broadcast of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at 7pm on Tuesday.
- It's even a quiet week at the Kendall, which shuffles some screens around to fit in For A Good Time, Call... and Sleepwalk with Me while only closing 2 Days in New York. Sleepwalk, at least, isn't bad, a fairly funny semi-autographical movie from writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia as a would-be stand-up comedian who starts to sleepwalk as the possibility of marriage to long-time girlfriend Lauren Ambrose looms. It opened IFFBoston back in April and was pretty good.
- Over at the Brattle, Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata, and the Masters of Studio Ghibli makes a welcome return - it played the MFA earlier this year - for a two week run. Princess Mononoke plays Friday (with an additional show on Monday); Saturday and Sunday are a double feature of Kiki's Delivery Service & My Neighbor Totoro; Monday features the relatively rarely-seen The Ocean Waves & Only Yesterday (also a twin bill); Wednesday has Whisper of the Heart and its sequel The Cat Returns; and Thursday is the most recent film in the series, Ponyo. Purists and parents should take note that some screenings will be in subtitled Japanese, while others will be dubbed into English; check the Brattle's website if this is important to you.
You'll note Tuesday is missing from that list; that evening is the final night of the summer "Balagan Presents" series, and they close out with three recent short documentary films from Russia in celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio.
- The MFA continues its rotation of documentaries Side by Side, Sushi: The Global Catch, and Better Than Something as well as Oslo, August 31st through the weekend. Note that while Sunday is the last day for Oslo at the MFA, it also opens at the Somerville Theatre on the date of its title for a one-week run. Better Than Something has one last show on Wednesday the 5th, at which point a new rotation, mostly films about conceptual artists starts: Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, Kumaré, and Free Radicals: A History of Independent Film.
- The Harvard Film Archive continues to showcase how many great movies Paramount made in the past century: Friday night has A Place in the Sun (7pm) and The Big Clock (9:30pm); Saturday has Hud (7pm) and an eight-plus hour marathon of six pre-code movies at 9:15pm; Sunday features Desert Fury at 5pm and In Harm's Way at 7pm; and the whole thing ends with a 35mm print of Robert Altman's Popeye on Monday, because of course it does.
- There's an unusual amount of second-run activity going on this weekend, too. Some of it is straightforward - 2 Days in New York moves from Kendall Square to one of the Coolidge Corner screening rooms, while The Expendables 2 slides from Somerville to the Arlington Capitol. Some of it is "about time", as the New England Aquarium picks up The Dark Knight Rises for evening shows on a real IMAX screen now that Boston Common is putting stuff on their Imax-branded screen. And Marvel/Disney try to goose the box office of The Avengers by opening it back up at Fenway and Boston Common.
Choose your times carefully at Fenway - they'll be running The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Hunger Games, and The Dark Knight Rises on their RPX screen for $6 ($5 if you've got a rewards card), even with the first two in 3D, so for The Avengers and Batman, the price of a ticket on the big screen with the comfy chairs and excellent sound will be roughly half of seeing it on the other screens, even when they're playing at the same time!
My plans? Tons of Hong Kong action, Miyazaki, The Possession, maybe the pre-code Paramounts (if I can trust my DVR to record Doctor Who), and likely more. The only hitch I foresee is that I've got jury duty starting Tuesday, and who knows what that will do to my week.