Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 27 November - 5 December 2013

A Short post last week means longish one this week - both because it's got a couple more days (unless otherwise indicated, runs start on Wednesday the 27th) and because a lot of stuff is opening.

  • With kids having the weekend off from school, Disney releases their latest animated feature, Frozen. It's a loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, renamed (as Tangled was) because Disney is apparently terrified of people thinking its fairy-tale stories with female protagonists are fairy-tale princess movies. Like Tangled, it's getting some great reviews and has a cartoony CGI look; it also has a Mickey Mouse short attached to the beginning that starts from something Walt Disney himself worked on but didn't finish and goes in crazy directions from there. It's playing in both 2D and 3D at the Capitol Theatre, Studio Cinema Belmont (2D only), Apple, Fenway, and Boston Common.

    It's a musical, and so is Black Nativity, in which a kid from a rough area of Baltimore is sent to live with conservative relatives in Brooklyn for the holidays. Generally-interesting director Kasi Lemmons directs and adapts Langston Hughes's play, with Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitager, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, and Tyrese Gibson in the cast. It's at Boston Common, Fenway, and Apple.

    Another interesting director, Spike Lee, has taken on the unenviable task of making an American Oldboy with Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, and Elizabeth Olsen. Good luck measuring up to Park Chan-wook's original. That's at Boston Common and Fenway. Those two theaters (plus Apple) also get Homefront, which stars Jason Statham, has a script by Sylvester Stallone, and features James Franco and Winona Ryder as villains. If it just winds up being a boring action programmer, I'll be terribly disappointed.
  • The broadest spread of theaters goes to Philomena, which in addition to playing at the Coolidge also opens at Kendall Square, Fenway, Boston Common, and the SuperLux. It stars Judi Dench as the title character, a woman who gave up her son for adoption decades ago and decides to seek him out with the aid of a BBC reporter played by Steve Coogan. Stephen Frears directs. They (along with Kendall Square) also open the new one by Alexander Payne, Nebraska, a black-and-white road movie with Bruce Dern as an old man traveling halfway across the country to claim a sweepstakes prize with his son.

    There are no midnight movies this week, but there is the opposite - a Sunday-morning kid's show of An American Tail, the animated movie produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Don Bluth about the trials and tribulations of an immigrant mouse. There's also a preview of Mandela: Long walk to Freedom, with Idris Elba in the title role, on Thursday night. And while it's a little way out, the Science on Screen show on Monday the 9th is a 35mm print of Who Framed Roger Rabbit with a lecture on cartoon physics from Harvard University Physics Chair Melissa Franklin. I can't see how that doesn't sell out, so pre-order your tickets like I have.
  • In addition to Philomena and Nebraska on Wednesday, Kendall Square opens The Great Beauty on Friday for a seven-day run. It's a much-acclaimed new film from Palo Sorrentino, and features Toni Servillo as a writer who has been living the high life in Rome for decades only to find it upended on his 65th birthday
  • Print/DCP availability and other issues has cause The Brattle Theatre to rearrange their schedule a bit from what was printed. The first day of their Centennial Celebrations series isn't affected - Wednesday (the 27th) still has two films noir with Alan Ladd, both co-starring Veronica Lake, both in 35mm, with The Blue Dahlia written by Raymond Chandler and The Glass Key based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett. Thanksgiving Day now has White Christmas as the other half of a Danny Kaye double feature with A Song Is Born (the latter in 35mm). Friday now features a tribute to Stanley Kramer with It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which also plays Saturday as scheduled. Sunday's and Tuesday's honoree is cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, and the film is Raiders of the Lost Ark in 35mm. So cancel other plans.

    Another change to the schedule is the addition of late-ish-night screenings of The Visitor at 10:30pm on Friday and Saturday; evidently enough people got more of a kick out of it than me to hold it over. On Monday, Balagan & The DocYard team up to present The Punk Syndrome, a documentary about a Finnish band made up of "four mentally disabled guys" (so, not to be confused with The Punk Singer, which opens there on the 6th); there will be a Q&A (conducted via Skype) afterward. Wednesday night at 9pm they show Valhalla, the latest winter-sports film from Sweetgrass Productions; it promises a stronger story than usual to go along with great cinematography.
  • All the new American films are pushing the Bollywood stuff out of Fenway for now, but iMovieCafe/Apple Theaters is opening Bullet Raja on Friday the 28th. It features Saif Ali Khan as a man who rises to the top of a gang but is perhaps more charismatic outlaw than cruel thug; Sonakshi Sinha plays the woman who, presumably, brings something better out of him.
  • Thanksgiving weekend means that The Regent Theatre busts out the Sing-Along Mary Poppins prints with lyrics on screen. Costumes and kids are encouraged for this event, which has matinee screenings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Also, take note that this week's Gathr Preview Series screening is at 9pm on Tuesday (the theater is booked for other events earlier in the day). The movie is Night Train to Lisbon, featuring Jeremy Irons as a professor who embarks on a quest to learn more about the author of a Portuguese book who also served in that country's resistance. Nifty international cast, including Charlotte Rampling, Lena Olin, Tom Courtenay, Bruno Ganz, Jack Huston, Christopher Lee, and Mélanie Laurent. Bille August directs.
  • The Harvard Film Archive spends much of the weekend (and the coming month) on The Bodies and Souls of Robert Rossen, an overlooked director who wound up villified by both sides during and after the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1940s and 50s. This week's films include The Hustler (Friday 7pm), Marked Woman (Friday 9:30pm), Body and Soul (Saturday 7pm), and Johnny O'Clock (Saturday 9:15pm); all of this week's screenings from the series are in 35mm.

    Sunday and Monday wrap up Lhomme with a Movie Camera, with Lhomme there in person for Le Joli Mai on Sunday and Army of Shadows on Monday. The cinematographer worked with heavyweight directors on both: Mai is also part of the Chris Marker series (presented digitally in part, I think, because that's how the new restoration that opens at Kendall Square next week is available); Army incorporates Jean-Pierre Melville's own WWII experiences into his adaptation of Joseph Kessel's novel.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts concludes their run of the 2013 UCLA Festival of Preservation with Double Door (Saturday), Supernatural (Saturday), International House (Sunday), and The Chase (Sunday). After that, they start their December calendar with Frederick Wiseman's new documentary At Berkeley (be warned: his look at his the University of California campus is about four hours long and includes a brief intermission). On Thursday the 5th, a retrospective of The Films of François Truffaut kicks off with The 400 Blows (preceded by short film "The Brats") and Shoot the Piano Player; this series will make up the bulk of the month's schedule.
  • No "regular" programming at ArtsEmerson's Paramount Theatre this weekend, so maybe we should just consider the Bright Lights series the regular programming and the rest special presentations from now on. Tuesday night's program, "PASSION: An Evening with Academy Award-Nominated Producer Sarah Green doesn't appear to include a film screening, although the Emerson alumnus will discuss the pictures she has produced for David Mamet, John Sales, and Terrence Malick. There will be a movie on Thursday the 5th - documentary A Life Without Words presents a brother and sister in rural Nicaragua who were born deaf and never learned to communicate with formal language as a result.
  • The UMass Boston Film Series comes to a conclusion on Thursday the 5th with Mistaken for Strangers. Director Tom Berninger will be on hand after the free screening to talk about his movie, a documentary in which the would-be horror filmmaker accompanied his older brother Matt on his band's tour, despite not being a particular fan of The National's kind of music. I seem to recall good buzz about this one at Fantasia.
  • The ICA has two film presentations this week: "The British Arrows" on Sunday is a compilation of award-winning commercials from the UK; it will have a few more screenings later in the month. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer plays as part of the "Art Over Politics" series on Thursday the 5th; this documentary on the Russian protest group will have director Maxim Pozdorovkin there for an introduction and Q&A moderated by Harvard Professor (and artist and writer in her own right) Svetlana Boym.

My plans? Dropping everything for Raiders (obviously), plus the Alan Ladd double feature and maybe It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Frozen is the top priority among new releases, and I may try and fit Homefront, Black Nativity, Philomena, and Nebraska in before doing something kind of overkill-ish for Oldboy.

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