Monday, June 28, 2021

IFFBoston 2021.08: Marvelous and the Black Hole

The good news about taking forever to do write-ups: Sometimes you see a movie about kids, get a chance to see your nieces who are roughly the same age, and it kind of erases any doubts one might have about how well the filmmakers get tweens. Not that I had many watching this movie - it rings pretty true - but kids are tricky, especially with adults who have seen so many movies about them wanting to put self-referential words in the mouths of people who might be smart enough for it but don't necessarily think along those lines yet.

A little time rolling it over made me inclined to boost it a quarter-star up to the full three. It's kind of lightweight in a few ways, but it's not overextended and probably plays very well to kids the same age as its characters. Even during an in-person film festival, you don't really get a sense of how a young audience reacts to a movie like this, and it's something I'd be curious to see.

Marvelous and the Black Hole

* * * (out of four)
Seen 13 May 2021 in Jay's Living Room (Independent Film Festival Boston Fall Focus, AgileTicketing via Roku)

I wonder if a movie like Marvelous and the Black Hole goes a little further now than it did five or ten years ago, with all manner of streaming services out there looking for material in bulk and not needing to be particularly concerned about balancing demographics in a limited number of slots (to be a bit euphemistic). Now, it's got a chance to be seen outside the festival circuit, and even if it's the sort of movie which, ten years later, is described as either good experience or an accomplishment that can't be taken away from someone, it's at least got a bit of a chance to find the person for whom it will hit just right.

Someone like Sammy Ko (Miya Cech), perhaps, a tween who is not doing very well at all with either the loss of her mother or the speed with which things are progressing between father Angus (Leonardo Nam) and his perfectly nice girlfriend Marianne (Paulina Lule). Acting out and verging on self-harm, she's forced to take a class at the community center, but ditches that as well, only to stumble on Margot Sullah (Rhea Perlman), a children's magician who could use an assistant for an hour, something which sparks Sammy's interest a bit more that she thought it would.

The film needs Margo to give Sammy something to do away from her family so that she eventually can see them a bit differently, but writer/director Kate Tsang makes a good choice in never straying too far from the Kos; not only is it just about impossible for a kid Sammy's age to actually be apart from her family for any particular length of time, but Sammy, older sister Patrician (Kannon), and Angus are an entertainingly imperfect group: As much as Sammy is the lead and someone that the audience can sympathize with, she's also kind of exhausting, and the way she and her sister reflexively cover for and snipe at each other certainly rings true, as does Leonardo Nam as the awkward, easy-to-like dad who is self-aware in ways that are funny but also show that he knows just how far in he is over his head. They're well-enough realized that the film can afford a sequence of the three out for an afternoon at the arcade that feels a bit like an unrelated detour before being revealed as Angus trying to make something go down easier and have it blow up because neither he nor Sammy can make the other move forward at their pace.

So where's Margot fit in? There are times when she kind of doesn't but it's not a particular problem because Rhea Perlman makes her eccentricity charming - there are aspects to Margot that would have read as "initially mean old spinster" just a couple decades back but which are shaded more sympathetically today - even if it takes a while to see how her somewhat broader performance plays into the character. Eventually, though, her parallels with Sammy become a bit more clear and sobering, and her purpose as a teacher becomes an intriguing inversion of magician and trickster tropes - she is teaching Sammy to deceive, yes, but also storytelling and how to recreate herself so that she can move forward even while that still hurts.

It's not always something Tsang and company are quite able to hit the right note on - kids Sammy's age are tricky in that even though they are emotionally complex, subtlety is not a big part of how they express themselves or necessarily the best way to deal with them, while Margot winds up in an odd spot that's neither quite central nor on the edges. Still, the often very funny details make up for a lot, especially when it involves the Kos' Chinese-American heritage, whether it be a way Sammy cuts down a cliche Angus spouts or how her initial interest in an old magic books section on "Oriental Magic" turns to annoyed disdain when it's just weird old racism. That does make it a little more clever when Sammy's imaginings of the stories her mother told her play out like the Shanghai-shot Chinese movies of the same era.

Those ways it all fits make the film come together a bit better than may initially seem to be the case, and I suspect that some folks will see themselves quite clearly in it. That won't be everyone, and the rest may just see a rough-but-earnest first feature, but given the age of the characters, that's not exactly a negative.

Also at eFilmCritic

Friday, June 25, 2021

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 25 June 2021 - 1 July 2021


Wow, is this the year's halfway point already? Time has just flown, movie-wise, although it kind of feels like summer movie season is just starting this weekend.
  • The big opening this weekend is F9: The Fast Saga, and I've got to admit, I'm disappointed that this is the best title they could manage between The Fate of the Furious and the inevitable Fasten Your Seatbelts. Anyway, the gang's all back (minus Jason Statham and the Rock), including those whose presence is kind of difficult to explain, with John Cena as Dom's long-lost brother who is now a rogue secret agent, and even more ludicrous automotive mayhem. It's at The Capitol, Apple Fresh Pond, Kendall Square, Boston Common (including Imax, Dolby Cinema, and some shows subtitled in Mandarin), Fenway, South Bay (including Imax & Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax & Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    Boston Common has also booked Witnesses, which chronicles the forming of the Mormon religion.

    Fenway, South Bay, and Arsenal Yards have 25th Anniversary screenings of The Birdcage on Sunday/Monday/Wednesday. Fenway also has their first post-pandemic Russian feature, with Cursed Official - in which a corrupt deputy is cursed to be unable to take bribes - on Thursday evening.
  • Over at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, they open Werewolves Within this weekend, a horror-comedy-mystery where the whole town winds up snowed in at an inn, only to have someone (or something!) knocking them off. It's also at Kendall Square. Note that it's only playing on the bigger screens at the Coolidge through Tuesday afternoon, as Zola grabs screen 1, with Taylour Paige as the title character who originally tweeted out her wild tale of a road trip from Detroit to Tampa gone very wrong indeed. That also plays Kendall Square, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay.

    There's also one show per day (all except Monday at 4pm) of La Piscine, in which Alain Delon and Romy Schneider play a couple staying in a friend's villa only to find it get much more uncomfortable when said friend shows up. They also restart midnights this weekend, with Army of Darkness on 35mm Friday night and Cats at 11:59pm Saturday. There's also a "masked matinee" of In the Heights on Sunday morning.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square also picks up A Crime on the Bayou, a documentary on the arrest and trial of Gary Duncan, a black teenager arrested on trumped up charges in 1966, and attorney Richard Sobol, who would defend him and become a lifelong friend.
  • The Brattle Theatre is a week from reopening for regular-ish business with everything you might expect, and some special members-only screenings over the next week may still have tickets available. They're also continuing their virtual cinema shows for now, though, with two new additions. Sweet Thing is a locally-shot-on-16mm drama in which two kids who had preferred to stay with their father are forced to live with their mother and her dangerous boyfriend, at least until things get more dangerous and they run. The American Sector, meanwhile, has its filmmakers Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez visiting the over 70 locations where a portion of the Berlin Wall is on display in America, examining the people and places around them. Also continuing are Take Me Somewhere Nice, Slow Machine, "Who Will Start Another Fire", The Power of Kangwon Province, and Two Lottery Tickets.
  • The Roxbury International Film Festival runs through Saturday with the closing night featuring two films at the MFA: Executive Order (also available online) is set in a near-future Rio de Janeiro where people of African descent have been commanded to return to their "countries of origin"; documentary Ailey will only be playing in-person, though the Q&A is pre-recorded. ArtsEmerson and The Boston Asian-American Film Festival have A Tale of Three Chinatowns through Sunday, while A Reckoning in Boston is at ArtsEmerson through Saturday.
  • The Regent Theatre screens Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm on Friday, Saturday, and Wednesday; it's a documentary about a small music studio built out of barn in Wales where some fairly notable albums were recorded.
  • Vietnam's Bo Gia (Dad, I'm Sorry) hangs on in South Bay; Japan's Demon Slayer does the same at Boston Common.
  • The West Newton Cinema has In the Heights, Cruella, Shiva Baby, and Nomadland playing all weekend (at various times), Tom & Jerry Friday afternoon, and Raya and the Last Dragon for matinees Saturday and Sunday.
  • Cinema Salem (open Friday-Monday) has documentary Kenny Schraf: When Worlds Collide, a look at a member of the art scene that included Haring and Basquiat who lived. It's alongside In the Heights and F9.
  • It's looking like The Somerville Theatre may be quite a different place when it reopens, with the two upstairs cinemas converted to a music venue, more 70mm screenings in the big room, and perhaps some D-Box seats. That's still a few weeks off. Theater rentals are available at the Brattle, Kendall Square, West Newton, the Capitol, The Lexington Venue, and many of the multiplexes.
  • Hey, there's an entry for a free outdoor screening on the Joe's Free Films sheet, with Raya and the Last Dragon playing a drive-in show at Tufts (registration required)!
Not sure how much I'll hit the movies this week - Friday and Sunday are spoken for with a lucky Red Sox ticket and a trip to Maine to see family I haven't seen in a long while (including a nephew who I haven't met yet), but days off Monday and Tuesday because I had to use what was left over from last year by the end of the month. So probably F9, In the Heights, Werewolves Within, and maybe The Sparks Brothers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Imports: Illang: The Wolf Brigade and The Curse of the Demon Cat

You know what's kind of nuts? Illang: The Wolf Brigade was produced by Warner Brothers South Korea - it even has a custom studio logo clip - but they basically offloaded it to Netflix for the rest of the world. I talk a lot about how big companies like Warner under AT&T would much rather make a lot of money a few things than a little money each on a lot of things, and this is a kind of fascinating example of it; Illang is a big thing to that part of the company, but not to the larger entity, which doesn't see this thing it owns as worth any effort, even though people do know who Kim Jee-Woon is around the world.

Instead, it gets sold to Netflix, and is probably just two of twenty hours or so of content that got released without fanfare at 3am some morning, and I consider myself very lucky that Warner finally released a nifty English-friendly disc in South Korea three years later. The timeframe for movies showing up on KimchiDVD can seem kind of random, so this could very well be how long a release takes or Netflix could have just insisted on a window. I've got a closer-to-complete collection, at least.

I'm a fan of Kim Jee-Woon, but not so much Chen Kaige; I don't believe I've ever seen his big art-house hits, but the fact that they exist sort of looms over The Curse of the Demon Cat and Monk Comes Down the Mountain. He's done great things, but he's either told the stories that were close to his heart or the industry doesn't really have a place for the sort of productions he made his name on (China chose Wolf Warrior II as their Oscar submission a few years back, for crying out loud!), and now he's doing these lush productions that have some ambition but which can't quite be elevated to greatness. He's had something of a parallel career to Zhang Yimou, but that half-step he was behind has his new movies less globally anticipated than Zhang's.

The funny thing about it is that Chen's art-house history has seemed to put his movies on a different track - instead of getting day-and-date releases in North America, the producing studio angles for a deal where the American distributor will have to have a bigger hit than you can just get in Chinatowns, and when they realize that they don't quite have Hero on their hands, they languish until the price drops. This was a Christmas 2017 release in China that finally hit US screens in 2019, but didn't play Boston because the main audience for it in Chinatown had probably already seen it via bootlegs and imports.

Gorgeous disc, though. I loaded up on the 3D and 4K discs on my last Hong Kong order because I figured that they might have relatively limited runs and sell out, and physical media is precarious. I saved a few bucks getting the 4K-only version, which I don't think I've seen studios doing in the USA. It will make the movie tough to lend, I suppose, but it's not like I've been doing a whole lot of that lately. I'd enjoy lending this one out, though - there's a lot of fine detail and bright color in this movie (and the occasional deep black), and the Ultra-HD really brings them out. I noticed a couple months ago how you see a lot of fiddly detail in a lot of newer mainstream movies akin to the texturing on the uniforms in the J.J. Abrahms Star Trek movies that you didn't see in the original, and the higher-resolution disc makes it work.

It's a bit frustrating that I had to order Illang from South Korea - international shipping is no joke these days, and I probably would have waited a bit longer to get more items in the order and a better per-disc shipping rate if if I hadn't seen one of the movies I'd intended to be part of the order sell out. I'm glad I've got both of them, even if they're not quite their makers' best, as you never know where or if a movie will be available next month.

Inrang (Illang: The Wolf Brigade)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 June 2021 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Korean Blu-ray)

I remember being disappointed with Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade when it got a bigger release than was typical for Japanese animation at the time - the boring sort, where nothing actually sticks in one's mind - so was curious when the Korean remake was announced, especially with Kim Jee-Woon in the director's chair. The end result can't quite shake the original's issues, in that the world-building and the drama work at cross-purposes, but Kim is still one of the best genre filmmakers in the world and delivers some great thrills before the movie runs out of steam.

In the near future, aggressive moves by Japan and China push North and South Korea toward reunification, an unpopular move in the South, with a anti-unification group called "The Sect" frequently crossing the line into terrorism. Five years ago, after a disastrous raid that left a dozen middle-schoolers dead, the Special Unit took to wearing faceless helmets; now, another failed operation that was supposed to end The Sect has failed in a public way, leading to suspended Special Unit operations while Public Security investigates. The SU operative involved, Lim Joong-Kyung (Gang Dong-won), was part of the previous mission and would make an ideal scapegoat, but it's politically dicey. PS investigator Han Sang-Woo (Kim Mu-Yeol) is ex-SU and a friend of Lim's, and has Lim return the effects of a dead Sect member to sister Lee Yun-Hee (Han Hyo-Joo). The pair seem to connect, but everyone soon finds themselves involved in an interagency turf war, with Han's PS bosses particularly interested in targeting SU's secretive "Wolf Brigade".

Part of why the original anime version fell short was that its alternate-history hook tended to frame its cautionary tale as a threat averted rather than one that could happen, muting its urgency, while Kim's near-contemporary take is able to reflect both a current international wave of authoritarianism and events in South Korea's own recent history. The early information dump and updated Special Unit designs (a lot of the original WWII inspiration remains despite being tweaked to be sleeker and use more modern materials) get the audience more plugged into the story. The story itself also highlights just how many different sorts of genre movie Kim does well; the moment when the film pivots from into a more complex spy movie is delicious, and there are a couple of moments when he's able to introduce some randomness into his well-oiled machine and have it benefit the movie, like the real test for a conspiracy is not just seeing five moves ahead but being able to react to something unexpected.

As much fun as those twists are, and how a lot of them represent just how paranoid and Machiavellian the various organizations can be, they wind up being piled on in so many layers that they wind up blending into a sort of homogeneous cynicism. There's a line between no person or organization being perfect and nobody being concerned for anything beyond their own hide or power, and Kim's film is often on the wrong side of it, to the point where the finale is numbing even beyond making a point about that sort of pragmatic ruthlessness. The amount of reversals and revelations means that even though there's a very nice cast giving what are generally entertaining performances, only Gang Dong-Won and Han Hyo-joo are able to bring out interesting cores for Lee Yoon-Hee and Lim Joong-Kyung, and that's often figuratively and literally obscured for the sense of darkness and distrust.

On the other hand, Kim can run one hell of an action scene, and unlike a lot of action technicians, he's never just putting together something big and elaborate which will look good enough in a trailer to sell tickets, but serving a storytelling purpose: The opening piece is built to show the humanity of both the SU and the Sect, with the bright red raincoat worn by a teenage courier focusing attention in a way that makes one nervous and morally uncertain about the whole mess, as well as setting up later Red Riding Hood metaphors. Even that wearing end is built to make action fans a little uncomfortable in terms of enjoying over-the-top violence. And then there's the centerpiece which makes this thing only playing theaters in South Korea a crying shame, as Lim walks into a trap and all the precise spy material that the filmmakers have been playing with for the previous half hour erupts into violence and the fact that Gang Dong-Won is able to shift Lim into another super-capable gear doesn't quite make a viewer stop wondering just how he gets out of this really well-constructed box. And then it rolls right into another bit which is a nifty blend of clear and chaotic mayhem.

Kim is so good at so many facets of genre filmmaking - he's made action, horror, thriller, black comedy, and western movies that many would aspire to equal - that the film doesn't grind to a halt as its story gets mired in the specific infighting of imaginary fascists rather than the larger forces that shape them. Illang doesn't end up nearly as thrilling and intriguing as it started, but that level is high enough that the movie can fall short and still come out mostly ahead.

Also at eFilmCritic

Yao Mao Zhuan (Legend of the Demon Cat aka Kukai)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 June 2021 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Hong Kong 4K Blu-ray)

In terms of figuring out how to recommend the would-be Chinese blockbuster Legend of the Demon Cat, it's probably somewhere closer to fantasy than horror, but if so, it's more the sort of movie that falls into empty space between genres than straddling the border. Maybe that's a matter of the Mainland market being a tricky needle to thread - Chinese filmmakers can do fantasy adventure/romance or thrillers but mixing the two is dicey - but they knew that going in, and sometimes have a little trouble figuring what else to do with this story if they can't do that.

The film opens with the cat in question appearing to Chunqin (Kitty Zhang Yu-Qi), wife of the head of the palace guards, telepathically saying that there's a fortune buried on the grounds, and he'll say where for some melon. Creeped out but greedy, she assents, and soon she and husband Chen Yunqiao (Eric Qin Hao) are living the high life. In the palace, Japanese monk Kukai (Shota Sometani) has been called to perform an exorcism on the palace, with the Emperor passing just as Kukai gets started and discovers a trail of paw-prints leading away from the chamber. Scribe Bai Leitian (Huang Xuan) is told to record that the emperor died from "illness" but still wants to record the truth for his own records. Bai and Kukai eventually discover a link to events of 30 years earlier, when the much-beloved concubine Yang Gufei (Sandrine Pinna) of Emperor Li (Edward Zhang Lu-Yi) - a romance chronicled by Bai's poetic idol Li Bo (Xin Bai-Qing) - was buried with her beloved cat. But there's got to be more than that.

It's more than a bit of an outdated cliché these days to say that China is still playing catch-up in some areas but is unmatched when they can throw sheer manpower at a problem, and that's often the feel here: There are bits of effects work that sometimes look not-quite-right - there's not much more frustrating than something described by characters as "an illusion" that is obvious CGI - but the production design is gloriously elaborate, a city full of colorful multi-level sets that the camera moves through easily. It's a bright, gorgeous film that is as lush as any historical epic, and when co-writer/director Chen Kaige gets a mind to, he'll present something unnerving about the elaborate symmetry on display or show how what looks vibrant in one context is tacky in another. There aren't a lot of shadows here, which makes the spot where Bai and Kukai find actual darkness a bit chillier.

That said, it's worth noting that for all some of the digital effects aren't quite there, the Demon Cat himself is actually very impressive and smartly used. The black fur makes the shadows and lighting a little easier, and the choice to not bother with the lips moving as he speaks is a step back from the uncanny valley, even as the big eyes and slightly exaggerated body language makes him a bit more expressive. Hayao Miyazaki did something similar in Kiki's Delivery Service and it still works. This is a demon that could just be ridiculous, and scores some points on the absurdity of this extremely pettable kitty being so dangerous, but he hits a nice sweet spot between human, animal, and demon.

And yet, oddly, Kaige takes a long time to find something to drive the movie. It's one thing to play up Bai and Kukai as mismatched partners who quickly fall in with each other, and why not - Huang Xuan and Japanese star Shota Sometani are fun together - but they seem to spend more time playing off each other rather than having a sense of urgency, curious but not motivated. By the time they get to the point where they've learned enough to know what's going on, the direct connection is gone. Sandrinne Pinna does good work in making Yang the sort of woman who could make men motivated if not crazy, even if there's nobody around her quite so compelling. Hiroshi Abe shows up in flashbacks to try and sell that, although it sometimes comes across more like the Japanese co-producers wanting a little more that they could sell to their audience.

There's no rule that says a horror movie can't be pretty or kind of silly - and this has a lot of the same DNA as a certain sort of Hong Kong horror even if it doesn't spend a lot of time actively trying to scare - but Demon Cat winds up a little too detached. It's a joy to look at (the 4K disc from Hong Kong is gorgeous), but could use a little more melodrama to match its production values.

Also at eFilmCritic

Saturday, June 19, 2021


I predicted that Censor would wind up in theater #9, but I was one off and it got a second week to boot. It's kind of a pandemic booking, as Kendall Square stopped booking Magnet's genre movies regularly early on in the label's existence, even when they were part of the same corporate structure as the label's parent company Magnolia because the crowd just didn't go for that to the extent they did the classier stuff, although that focus narrowed to. Kendall Square wasn't quite boring by the time they closed down last year, but it felt choked by documentaries about aging or deceased artists and charming British stories. The current period has been weird, as they have veered into more mainstream territory but also picked up genre pictures more often, and I wonder to what extent it's what's available and to what extent they're following the audience, if the upper-middle-age/seniors who went for their previous fare are being cautious and students haven't returned for in-person classes yet.

So you get stuff like Censor, which is not great - I was kind of bored at times - but benefits from its big screen release even if it often seems very cognizant that, like the video nasties of its period and most smaller genre films today, it's going to spend at least 99% of its life on laptops, phones, and televisions. A lot of independent movies that play cinemas these days look like blown-up television, and this one does too, but it's got some awareness of that built in which helps. There's still something kind of inherently odd and maybe misguided about movies like this being framed for widescreen even though they will be watched on 1.78:1 screens almost exclusively, which clicked into place a bit as I watched the 4K disc of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly recently, in that widescreen is now as much a signal that something is meant to be grand and cinematic as something that makes it actually play that way. TGTBATU, even watched at home, is clearly intended to be seen on a massive wall and shot to take advantage of that, but something like this can just mostly adopt the language, and it works better when it's a contrast to video-grade material.


* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 13 June 2021 in Landmark Kendall Square #8 (first-run, DCP)

Censor exists right on the border between clever and putting that cleverness to interesting use, and if you've got the same fondness for this material as filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond, there's likely enough overlap to make the film worth the effort of tracking it down or a delightful discovery. That enthusiasm for the 1980s video nasty era unfortunately doesn't entirely translate into a great film about that time, like she's come to know it too well to reduce it to the plot of a horror movie.

Back in the 1980s, there was a moral panic in the UK about so-called "video nasties", as the then newly-popular VHS tapes made it easy for people to get their hands on any sort of filmed material without the gatekeeping of broadcasters or a cinema box office, and the sheer volume of cheap, garish films being produced has the censors at the British Board of Film Classification like Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) working overtime. Enid draws a hard line but approaches the job with professionalism, which is why the reports of a murder seemingly inspuired by a film she passed has her shaken even before her parents inform her that they have filed the paperwork to have the sister who disappeared while they were playing as children twenty years ago declared legally dead. She has never given up, and when an older film resubmitted by producer Doug Smart (Michael Smiley) seems to echo Nina's disappearance to an uncanny degree, she starts searching for anything that could tie the director to that day.

The relationship between folks who make movies of any stripe, let alone horror, and their country's censor boards are fraught as a baseline and generally adversarial, and that Bailey-Bond generally errs on the side of presenting them as professional people who feel they're doing a necessary job and argue earnestly but not heatedly, a contrast to how filmmakers and audiences usually approach this group. The film quietly gives a sense of the vicious circle involved in this work, where each individual case seems kind of absurd but the weight of every gory nasty piled up can seem hard to deny. The way Niamh Algar plays that is often interesting to watch, as there's this underlying layer of Enid certain that things fit together which isn't quite religious but which isn't far off. They also do the thing where Enid takes her glasses off and the audience and other characters realize she's attractive early, and her lack of interest is interesting - is she aro-ace or just too focused on another sort of connection to make those kinds?

For all that this is interesting material and a good foundation, Bailey-Bond and co-writer Anthony Fletcher don't use it for a whole lot. A video nasties-inspired film like this could probably benefit from having either their straightforward plotting to support a little gore or a genuine mystery plot, but Censor doesn't have much of either, ambling atmospherically from point to point but not building anything, and also not using its unique perspective as a way to explore the human desires to experience vicarious sex and violence and to control that. It's a horror movie where the filmmakers are only clever to a point; they get the genre but want to linger on details rather than dig into it.

Still, they know the 1980s milieu and how to reference a style without simply aping it, and it's often a delight to see them work with it. Bailey-Bond and cinematographer Annika Summerson shoot on 35mm film but with a likely awareness that their movie will mostly be seen on smaller screens even beyond how using digital tools influences that. There are impressively portentous scenes where Nina will follow an instinct into an enveloping black tunnel, and a really impressive ability to use the visual language of seventies/eighties British horror without appropriating the cheapness of this specific period until it's time to cross-cut and show how much Enid is, at this point, getting her understanding of these situations from that lurid exploitation.

There's never any doubt that the filmmakers know and adore the brands of horror they're referencing cold; it's a tremendously fun movie in which to spot references and technique. The next level under that surface is seldom quite so fleshed out, and while it's seldom boring, Censor never manages the sort of irony or unnerving ending that the filmmakers are clearly going for.

Also at eFilmCritic

Friday, June 18, 2021

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 18 June 2021 - 24 June 2021

Want to hear some good news after a year of being frightened the pandemic would destroy movie theaters? Because we got hit with a pretty nice surprise on that count!
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre just announced plans to expand into the empty space behind the building, with two new screens, more room in the lobby, an educational space, and more. Ground breaks as soon as next month It comes at the same time they're closing their virtual room and announcing that Private Movie Parties end at the end of June, a big shift from the past year.

    In the meantime, they're one of the places opening Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, which looks pretty much like what it says on the label, a look at the actress across her long life and career. It's also at Kendall Square and Boston Common.

    They've got their first outdoor screenings this weekend, with Shutter Island at Medfield State Hospital on Friday & Saturday (though both shows are marked sold out on the site). They also have a "Masked Matinee" show of In the Heights on Sunday the 20th, for those who are not yet ready to be in theaters above 25% capacity with people taking their masks off for snacks.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square is one of the places that opens a couple with crossover potential. The Sparks Brothers is an IFFBoston centerpiece and Edgar Wright's first documentary, covering the band Sparks, a seminal but little-known pop band that looks tremendously eccentric, with Wright likely delivering a film stylish enough to match. It's also at Boston Common and Assembly Row.

    There's also 12 Mighty Orphans, with Luke Wilson as a teacher and football coach who has to innovate to compete with the better-funded schools. If nothing else, it has a fantastic supporting cast, with Vinessa Shaw, Treat Williams, Wayne Knight (looking awful Stephen Root-ish), Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall. It also plays The Capitol, Fresh Pond, and Boston Common.

    Landmark is one of the chains participating in "Cinema Week", an industry-wide event encouraging people to return to theaters from Tuesday the 22nd through Sunday the 27th. There are drawings for prizes all weeks and discount tickets and snacks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard opened Wednesday and plays The Capitol, Fresh Pond, Boston Common (including Imax and Dolby Cinema), Fenway, South Bay (including Imax and Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    Boston Common also opens Our Ladies, which follows a group of Catholic schoolgirls from small-town Scotland looking to get into trouble on a trip to Edinburgh.

    "Fast Forward" finishes up with The Fate of the Furious on Friday night at Boston Common, Fenway (for reward program members), and Arsenal Yards, ahead of #9 coming out next week. There's also a Cinema Week Quiet Place double feature on Wednesday at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill. Jerry Maguire has 25th Anniversary shows on Sunday and Wednesday at Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards. Polish Holocaust documentary Of Animals and Men plays Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards on Tuesday.

    AMC Boston Common has Juneteenth-related screenings of Harriet (Friday/Wednesday), Do the Right Thing (Friday), Moonlight (Saturday/Thursday), Fences (Saturday/Monday), Love & Basketball (Sunday/Tuesday), Barbershop: The Next Cut (Sunday). At Fenway, the offerings Friday to Wednesday are Miss Juneteenth (no show Sunday) and Moonlight.
  • The Brattle Theatre is reopening soon with a re-launched website, although in the meantime members should check their emails for another couple weeks of free member screenings and presales for the summer of "everything we would have shown in 2020". To what extent they will keep up their virtual cinema after that is unknown, but in the meantime, they add Take Me Somewhere Nice to their offerings, which has a Netherlands-raised young woman visiting her hospitalized father in Bosnia and finding all sorts of trouble while perhaps learning more about herself. It's offered alongside Slow Machine, "Who Will Start Another Fire", The Power of Kangwon Province, Two Lottery Tickets, and The Paper Tigers, though maybe not for long, as the Coolidge shut their online offerings down with little notice.
  • Belmont World Film wraps their virtual World Refugee Month program with A Fish Tale available through Monday; director Emmanuelle Mayer taking part in a Q&A on Monday evening.
  • The Roxbury International Film Festival is still in hybrid form this year, with rolling online offerings, free outdoor screenings of Summer of Soul (Saturday) and Jingle Jangle (Thursday) at the MFA. They partner with ArtsEmerson to present Q&As for A Tale of Three Chinatowns (Wednesday with The Boston Asian-American Film Festival) and IFFBoston alum A Reckoning in Boston (Thursday), among many other events.
  • Vietnam's Bo Gia (Dad, I'm Sorry) hangs on in South Bay; Japan's Demon Slayer does the same at Boston Common.
  • The West Newton Cinema is back to mixing and matching, with In the Heights, Cruella, and Nomadland playing all weekend, while Shiva Baby, Together Together, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Tom & Jerry only play Saturday and Sunday.
  • Cinema Salem (open Friday-Monday) has Les nôtres ("Our Own"), a French thriller about teenagers caught up in their town's secrets. It's alongside In the Heights and A Quiet Place Part II.
  • The marquee at The Somerville Theatre says they will be closed until "later this summer", so still a ways off.
  • Theater rentals are available at the Coolidge, the Brattle, Kendall Square, West Newton, the Capitol, The Lexington Venue, and many of the multiplexes. The Coolidge has slots available to reserve the screening room and the GoldScreen online through the end of June, including private shows of the films they have playing in the larger screens.
Still looking at In the Heights, Slow Machine, and Kangwon Province (I have a good Korean disc to play as a potentially sarcastic double feature), and some of the others are tempting. Oh, and Luca on Disney+, if only as a complement to last week's Children of the Sea.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train

A partial list of movies released during the pandemic that have done less at the American box office than Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train ($47.7M and counting):
  • Wonder Woman 1984 ($46.5M)
  • Tom and Jerry ($46M)
  • Mortal Kombat ($42.1M)
  • Nobody ($26.1M)
  • Spiral: From the Book of Saw ($25.4M)
  • The New Mutants ($23.9M)
  • Monster Hunter ($15.2M)
Now, a lot of these numbers are lower than they might have been if they weren't released on HBOmax at the same time, and depending on the month movies were released, theaters either weren't open in certain areas or people were sensibly waiting on vaccination to return to theaters. But it's telling that Demon Slayer opened the same weekend as Mortal Kombat and not only outlasted that movie around here, but actually bumped MK off the Imax screen in their second weekend. It has done legitimately well.

But while I don't consume the same sort of pop-culture/movie news diet as I used to, I'm still mildly surprised that what I do see hasn't talked much about Demon Slayer at all. It feels like genre film fans talked about Nobody non-stop for about a month, and there was a vocal contingent for Monster Hunter, and I'd argue that not only did neither of them grab audiences the same way that this did, they've arguably got the same issues keeping them from being great.

So why is that? Part of it is probably experience - manga and anime have seemed on the verge of bursting into the mainstream a couple of times since I was first exposed in college a little less than thirty years ago, to the point where the manga section in chain bookstores would be bigger than the American comics section, but it never quite took the next step, both because Japanese media companies often seem to be very wary about how they approach the American market and because the guys covering comics, movies, etc., didn't want to budget extra people for it as a beat. The margins in entertainment reporting are thin, maybe just thin enough that you don't add headcount for something you're not sure is going to break through.

On top of that, there seems to be a little generational resistance. The Back to the Future question is something I think about on occasion - 1955 was a different world when that was released in 1985, but if you go back 30 years from now, the fashions aren't that different and the technology is about to catch up. Today's pop culture is a constant recycling of decades past (a Mortal Kombat movie came out while I was working in movie theaters during college), and there are a lot of people comfortable reporting on the things they loved as kids. Which Demon Slayer ain't, and that's before getting into how many of the people setting the agendas were overweight bearded white guys, excited to write about the things that marked them as geeks being popular, while manga and anime seem to be a thing more casually mentioned in the Black community. Manga and anime aren't new, but there's enough turnover and historic sidelining there that it's got an extra bit of work breaking through.

(And, yes, I'd probably be part of that group of middle-aged overweight bearded white guys if I grew the beard, which is probably why it took me until the movie was almost at the end of its run to get to and write about it. That and the tendency to find anime/manga fans among the worst theatrical audiences because they're so used to consuming the stuff in their living dens or online, maybe IMing back and forth, and many bring that attitude to the theater with them. The two folks behind me talked through the movie non-stop, for instance, although it wasn't like they were ignoring it.)

I know I don't have the voice that can get people to pay more attention to this sort of thing, although I'd love it if it were impossible for me to miss new Naoki Urasawa manga and more Japanese pop-culture hit screens without seeming like they'd lucked into a release date. I just find it strange, and maybe telling, that none of the people I know who love genre movies are really talking about something that's been a big box-office success, and that the inertia involved is a part of why today's pop culture seems even less daring than it is.

Kimetsu no Yaiba: Mugen Ressha-Hen (Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 6 June 2021 2021 in AMC Boston Common #7 (first-run, DCP)

Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train is not the biggest pandemic hit at the American box office, but it has sold a lot more tickets than movies that have had a lot more play in the media, even those sites dedicated to the "geek beat". That's understandable - even if an outlet wants to talk about it, there's a lot of catching up to do, a lot of work for something that may be a flash in the pan - but maybe short-sighted. This is a big deal, even if the movie itself may feel like a two-part episode of an animated series stretched way out to feature length to those of us jumping in for the first time.

After a brief prologue, young demon-slayers Tanjiro Kamado (voice of Natsuki Hanae), Zenitsu Agatsuma (voice of Hiro Shimono), and Inosuke Hashibara (voice of Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) race to jump aboard the train from Tokyo to Mugen, where they are to meet veteran "Hashira" Kyojuro Rengoku (voice of Satoshi Hino). Initially under the impression that their target is in Mugen, Rengoku tells them that the threat is actually onboard the vehicle - 40 people have been killed in recent months, and over 200 people are on the train now. They appear to beat the demons preying on the train back easily, but all is not as it seems.

There's a bit more to it, including Tanjiro's sister Nezuko who has become a demon but apparently not evil, and needs to stay in a box during daylight hours, kind of a lot if this is your first encounter with this sort of thing, though the broad strokes are clear enough to those who have followed serial manga/anime before. Mugen Train feels like a feature-sized case of the week, and while I don't blame the filmmakers for not giving me a little more exposition even as they let the villain run his mouth about nothing, there's not much to this other than "scary villain is cool and powerful guest star is also cool". It never feels bigger than that, and with so much of the early going taking place in dream worlds, it not only limits the amount of time the characters are playing off each other, but also tests the rule of thumb that any movie can get a boost by being set on a train.

There's bits that work, though - the brought colors and bold lines that suggest Promare is part of a broader evolution in anime style rather than a simple one-off, for instance; a leaning-into what digital production does well while staying true to its analog roots. There's a heart-on-its-sleeve earnestness even as stories get grim and gruesome, to an extent that will make some in the audience snicker (these powerful warriors can cry like nobody's business), but in most cases, it's a reminder of the characters' youth and what they've gone through, even though they've triumphed in enough battles for a TV series. The main trio are a bunch of fun - I don't know what the deal with the board-headed Inosuke is, but he's a ton of fun. The soundtrack rocks a bit, and doesn't let up as the film becomes wall-to-wall action. That action is fast and impressive, even when filled with ever-more-powerful energy attacks, with diretor Haruo Sotozaki staging acrobatic and impossible motion and dramatic pauses in a way that keeps it going without exhausting the audience.

At least the action itself doesn't wear the audience out, but there's this whole extra drawn-out fight after the apparent climax that's seemingly got nothing to do with the rest of the story; a completely new villain shows up with his eye on Rengoku, who as far as I can tell wasn't a regular part of the series, making it feel like the movie is going off on a long tangent when the main business is done. It's big and almost as well-done as the main train fight, but so disconnected from the main characters, and repetitive as heck, putting the movie firmly into "just friggin end already" territory.

At least for me. The guys behind me who were interested in the minutia seemed into how powerful everybody was. I'm glad they enjoyed it, and based on the stealthily healthy box office (and friends' anecdotes about how much anime and manga kids and twenty-somethings have consumed during the pandemic), they're far from alone. I can't say this movie has done much to interest me in Demon Slayer lore, but it's good enough and a big enough deal that folks should probably be paying more attention to the medium in general.

Also at eFilmCritic

Friday, June 11, 2021

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 11 June 2021 - 17 June 2021

I went to a Red Sox game this week where full capacity was allowed, and it was kind of weird - like, yeah, Massachusetts has a great vaccination rate, but we jumped from 25% to 100% awful fast. Haven't been to a movie indoors like that yet, but it's probably only days away.
  • The week's big opening is In the Heights, John Chu's adaptation of the musical co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, with a cast of up-and-coming young actors. It's getting great reviews and plays at The Coolidge Corner Theatre (now open all week!), the Capitol, Fresh Pond, West Newton, Kendall Square, Boston Common (including Imax through Tuesday & Dolby Cinema), Fenway, South Bay (including Imax through Monday and Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax and Dolby Cinema through Monday), Arsenal Yards (including CWX through Monday), Chestnut Hill, and HBOmax if you aren't ready to go out yet.

    (If that's the case; the Coolidge has a "Masked Matinee" show on Sunday the 20th; order ahead because capacity will obviously be lower, and it's an option for Private Movie Parties. They'll also be restarting outdoor showings next weekend, with Shutter Island at Medfield State Hospital on Friday the 18th & Saturday the 19th.)

    The Virtual Coolidge continues to offer Ahead of the Curve, Us Kids, Duty Free, About Endlessness, and In Silico.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square opens three other new releases this weekend, and will be open all week. All Light, Everywhere is a documentary about how the histories of cameras and policing in America are intertwined, and how surveillance has not yet translated into accountability. There's also Sublet, the new film from Eytan Fox, which follows a New York travel writer who comes to Tel Aviv and connects to the city when he has never given much thought to his Jewish identity.

    And, down the hall (almost certainly on screen #9) is Censor, an Irish horror film with Niamh Algar as a member of the film review board who finds something frighteningly familiar in the movie she is reviewing. Here's hoping that the Kendall still has some room for genre film when things get back to normal!
  • If you've been to theaters, you've probably seen posters saying "In Theaters - FINALLY" for Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway; you know things were bad when the bunny movie missed two Easters. It's out, though, which means there's no need to see the trailer again. It's at The Capitol, Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    Also opening is The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2, in which Mike Epps's character moves his family again (a mere five years later!), only this time the family winds up in the middle of Fright Night rather than The Purge, which is an interesting way to do spoof movies in a time when YouTube has probably hit every possible joke within a week of something's release. It's at Boston Common and South Bay.

    "Fast Forward" is up to Furious 7 on Friday night at Boston Common, Fenway (for reward program members), and Arsenal Yards. Fenway has Pride matinee screenings of Milk through Thursday and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmarr through Tuesday. Fenway, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards have the new transfer of My Fair Lady on Sunday; Fenway and Arsenal Yards also have it Tuesday.

    There are also early shows for The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (adding Salma Hayek to Ryan Reynolds & Samuel L. Jackson, because why not) on Friday and Saturday at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, and Assembly Row before opening Wednesday-but-really-Tuesday-evening at Fresh Pond, Boston Common (including Imax), Fenway, South Bay (including Imax), Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    And, yes, it looks like Fresh Pond is open, although their website is down and not all of the ticketing sites list them, but according to this, they've got Godzilla vs Kong, A Quiet Place Part II, Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, The Conjuring 3, and Spiral: From the Book of Saw, although clicking a link on that site redirects to Fandango, which chokes. Get it together, guys!
  • If you're a member of The Brattle Theatre, you've probably received an email about their first two 35mm member screenings this week, and are probably eager to get back. They're still very much in hybrid mode, though, adding three new selections to the Brattleite virtual theater, offering three different sorts of selections: New-release feature Slow Machine is a shot-on-16mm thriller in which an actress must flee upstate from New York City after a relationship goes sour. "Who Will Start Another Fire", on the other hand, is a collection of short films by new filmmakers in underseen corners of the country and world. The new restoration is of Hong Sang-Soo's The Power of Kangwon Province, which has two exes vacationing in the same place and threatening to repeat old mistakes whether or not they cross paths. Those three join Two Lottery Tickets, The Paper Tigers, and Punk the Capital.
  • Vietnam's Bo Gia (Dad, I'm Sorry) continues in South Bay; Japan's Demon Slayer continues at Boston Common. For more all-age-friendly anime, Ayumu Watanabe's Children of the Sea plays Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, and Assembly Row on Sunday (dubbed?), and at Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row and Arsenal Yards on Tuesday (subtitled)
  • The West Newton Cinema is back to mixing and matching, with In the Heights and Cruella playing all weekend, Shiva Baby on Friday and Sunday, Together Together on Sunday, and Nomadland on Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Belmont World Film virtual World Refugee Month program has The Jump through Monday, when they will host a discussion including director Giedre Zickyte (and some of the local subjects). The last leg starts on Tuesday, with A Fish Tale following a couple who moved from Africa to Israel (and the children they left behind); director Emmanuelle Mayer will do a Q&A on Monday the 21st.
  • ArtsEmerson and The Boston Asian-American Film Festival continue the run of Suk Suk (Twilight's Kiss) through Monday evening; it includes a pre-recorded Q&A with director Raymond Yeung.
  • The Roxbury International Film Festival is still in hybrid form this year, and kicks off Thursday with How It Feels to Be Free and Memoirs of a Black Girl coming on-line that morning for a couple of days and limited in-person seating at the Museum of Fine Arts. More events will roll out through the 26th.
  • Hey, Cinema Salem is back, under new management/ownership! They've got In the Heights and The Conjuring 3 like you'd expect, but also play Gunda on one of their smaller screens.
  • The marquee at The Somerville Theatre says they will be close until "later this summer", so apparently renovations are kind of extensive.
  • Theater rentals are available at the Coolidge, the Brattle, Kendall Square, West Newton, the Capitol, The Lexington Venue, and many of the multiplexes. The Coolidge has slots available to reserve the screening room and the GoldScreen online through the end of June, including private shows of the films they have playing in the larger screens.
I've got a baseball ticket for Monday, and I'll probably try for In the Heights, Censor, and Children of the Sea, and Thursday's show at the Brattle. Maybe go for Slow Machine, Kangwon Province, and The Jump virtually, but it's looking like a busy week!

Saturday, June 05, 2021

IFFBoston 2021.07: Strawberry Mansion

I was going to have a blank spot on IFFBoston's Wednesday slot because the only scheduled premiere was The Sparks Brothers, and I figured I'd catch it during a theatrical run, but they opted to move this one up a couple days (and make it available through the rest of the fest rather than just for 48 hours), so it worked out. Under normal circumstances, Sparks would probably be a Tuesday-at-the-Coolidge selection, and this wasn't quite how I've often wished the fest had encores at Somerville or the Brattle that night, but it's close enough.

The movie itself feels like the 9:30pm show at the Brattle co-presented by BUFF, reminding me of that festival's Dave Made a Maze in a lot of the best ways: Both have a home-made aesthetic, touch on how people sometimes wrestle with their creative impulses, and manage to keep going despite a thin-seeming premise. I feel like I've seen more for Audley and Birney, but it looks like I maybe fell asleep during Sylvio if anything. Might be worth circling back, given how much I enjoyed their brand of absurdity here.

Strawberry Mansion

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 May 2021 in Jay's Living Room (Independent Film Festival Boston Fall Focus, AgileTicketing via Roku)

If Strawberry Mansion is not specifically what the average movie with deadpan surrealism and kitchen-table production design is going for, it is nevertheless one of the best recent examples of such things. It's lo-fi sci-fi that takes its silliness seriously, having fun with its clever story but seldom feeling like the filmmakers are amusing themselves at the expense of the audience.

It's the mid-2030s, and dreams are routinely recorded so that they can be taxed. James Preble (Kentucker Audley) is one of the people who audits those dreams, and his latest assignment is Arabella Isadora (Penny Fuller), an elderly artist who lives in a remote red house, and it turns out she's the sort of eccentric who never completed the mandatory upgrade to Airstick, leaving Preble with two thousand VHS tapes to go through. It could be worse; Bella's dreams are generally pleasant and whimsical, and her self-image in them (Grace Glowicki) is young and cute. It's initially a welcome distraction from Preble's feelings that something is off about his own dreams, but soon he's finding peculiar overlaps.

Filmmakers Kentucker Audler and Albert Birney drop their viewers into their weird future right away, starting off in Preble's dreams which more than hint about some of where the story will go. Many filmmakers playing with dreams will attempt to start with a fake-out, but Audley & Birney are not actually interested in fooling their audience or sending them down blind alleys. There will be a point when things get strange and they maybe lose track of the world they've created - the finale owes a bit to Inception's multiple time-scales and stretches them right to the breaking point, showing that for however much Nolan's precision may be a bit cold, it can be useful - but it doesn't become a puzzle first and foremost, even if the audience is given the chance to figure out what certain symbols and memories may mean.

Instead, it's a fascinating love story. A romance between Preble and Bella is not entirely impossible, although the age difference would certainly be a major obstacle, but a viewer may wonder if Preble can imagine love as something else. There's just enough in common between Penny Fuller's performance and that of Grace Glowicki that one can see how Preble connects them, and Audley does good work in making Preble a legitimately starchy civil servant who can nevertheless come to appreciate Bella's creative and eccentric bent rather than just someone who has been repressing a true self. What's more fascinating is the way the filmmakers show Preble falling in love with a combination of Bellas - who she is now, who she remembers being, her own fantasies, and his own - and lets them run together rather than carefully pulling them apart. Much of the "Bella" in the film's latter half is in Preble's dreams (though it's easy to fall into the trap of only treating it as a psychic or spiritual connection), and chasing that can be destructive, but even with our dreams laid bare for others to see, we can't not do that. It's how our brains work.

Much of this happens in dreams, although it's not like Preble's real world is any less surreal. As mentioned, it's a world constructed out of chunky analog tech, and in some ways it can't help but be kind of ostentatiously cheap-looking, but the filmmakers are determined not to wink at the audience; characters sell things as weird and inconvenient in the way that real life is. The real world is an effortless sort of hodgepodge of low-tech and grotesque, and while the dreams are flights of fancy, they're seldom more elaborate than real life; Preble's interior life just isn't as rich as it could be until he meets Bella, and Bella's feel like her crowded house, indicating few regrets.

Birney and Audley come close to overstaying their welcome as the film moves through its final stretch, but this is the sort of movie that usually reaches that point once it gets past short length. It's a nifty fantasy whose obvious satire works because of how warmly unconventional the underlying relationship is.

Also at eFilmCritic

Friday, June 04, 2021

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 4 June 2021 - 10 June 2021

Took my mask off in a movie theater the other day, which felt nice, although it still feels sort of impolite to do so until the lights are down. The staff still has to, and it would be rude to lord it over them, you know?
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square is back to being closed Monday and Tuesday after the holiday weekend with the big openers, but the new release, Undine, is one I remember being sort of neat from when it played the IFFBoston Fall Focus online last November. It's a thriller with Paula Beer as a historian who meets a nice diver but is still dangerously obsessed with her previous boyfriend. A giant catfish is involved.
  • At the multiplexes, it's sequel time, with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It offering another case from the files of paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren, this one a murder case where people claim demonic possession was involved. It's at The Capitol, Boston Common (including Dolby Cinema), Fenway, South Bay (including Imax), Assembly Row (including Imax), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill, as well as on HBOmax.

    For the younger set, there's Spirit Untamed, which is apparently an adaptation of the CGI sequel TV series to Dreamworks's traditionally-animated girl-and-her-horse movie from almost twenty years ago. It plays The Capitol (which also opens Dream Horse for an obvious double feature), Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    The F9 count-up is up to Fast & Furious 6 on Friday night at Boston Common (also Monday), Fenway (for reward program members), and Arsenal Yards. Boston Common, Fenwayk, and South Bay have Raiders of the Lost Ark shows for $5 (mostly matinees); Bridesmaids has 10th anniversary shows at Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards on Sunday/Wednesday/Thursday.
  • Top-grossing Vietnamese film Bo Gia (Dad, I'm Sorry) continues in South Bay; top-grossing Japanese film Demon Slayer continues at Boston Common and Assembly Row.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre has one last weekend of Big Screen Classics, with In the Mood for Love and Blue Velvet on Friday, Batman '89 and Prince: Sign o' the Times (on 35mm) on Saturday, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Y tu mamá también on Sunday, and a finale with Akira on Monday. As of Thursday, they're back to full capacity and masks-optional with In the Heights, also getting early-for-Thursday shows at the Kendall, South Bay, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    The Virtual Coolidge picks up Ahead of the Curve, a documentary about Franco Stevens and the lesbian-focused magazine she founded with money from a good run betting on horses. It joins Us Kids, Duty Free, About Endlessness, and In Silico.
  • Nature is healing - The West Newton Cinema is still only open Friday to Sunday, but they give a full screen to Shiva Baby even after it's closed elsewhere, because they serve the local Jewish community well. It joins Cruella, Together Together, Raya and the Last Dragon, Nomadland, Tom & Jerry, and Godzilla vs Kong.
  • The Belmont World Film virtual World Refugee Month program has Antigone through Monday, with a discussion that evening. The entry that starts Tuesday has local interest, as The Jump tells the story of a Lithuanian sailor who literally lept from a Soviet vessel to an American one near Martha's Vineyard in 1970, only to be returned and sent to Siberia. It will have a discussion including director Giedre Zickyte on Monday the 14th.
  • ArtsEmerson and The Boston Asian-American Film Festival partner to return Suk Suk (Twilight's Kiss) to local virtual screens starting Wednesday. It's a Hong Kong Film Award-winning story of two closeted gay seniors who meet and ponder a future together, and includes a pre-recorded Q&A with director Raymond Yeung.
  • I could have sworn The Brattle Theatre had a new virtual presentation this weekend, but apparently not, paring their offerings down to Two Lottery Tickets, The Paper Tigers, RK/RKAY, Punk the Capital, and The Story of a Three Day Pass.
  • Construction is still going on at The Somerville Theatre, and since I may have to go to Fresh Pond to hit Staples over the weekend, I may as well scope that out to see if Apple Cinemas is still in business.
  • Theater rentals are available at the Coolidge, the Brattle, Kendall Square, West Newton, the Capitol, The Lexington Venue, and many of the multiplexes. The Coolidge has slots available to reserve the screening room and the GoldScreen online through the end of June, including private shows of the films they have playing in the larger screens.
I'm shocked by how little I remember of Undine, so I may catch back up with that, as well as catch Demon Hunter before it leaves. Maybe Raiders, because when you can watch that on the big screen, you do it.