After last week’s wealth of great new wide releases, this week offers up only the
Tyler Perry-starring action thriller
Alex Cross and the fourth
Paranormal Activity film. The Rotten Tomatoes scores of those two combined doesn’t even reach 50 percent,
so it’s probably a good week to look to smaller releases.
Of those, one should definitely hold some appeal for those out there lamenting the
Aaron Paul-less months between the two halves of the final season of
Breaking Bad. Paul co-stars in
Smashed, a drama with comedic touches from director
James Ponsoldt about an alcoholic couple in a booze-fueled tailspin that only one of them wants
to pull out of. The one trying to get sober here—and the main focus of the movie—is
Kate, played by
Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a performance that’s widely being hailed as the most honest and affecting she’s
given. Husband-and-wife sitcom stars
Megan Mullaly and
Nick Offerman also turn up in supporting roles, she as the principal of the school where Kate teaches
(and where, in her lower moments, she’s also drunk while with the kids), and he as
a colleague who gets her to go to AA. But the film focuses on the friction that occurs
in the marriage of Winstead and Paul’s characters, when one partner decides to go
dry while the other is still gleefully getting blitzed every night.
Given that weak slate of new wide releases, now’s also a good time of year to catch
up on old horror flicks, and as it does every year, the AFI has a great selection
of scary movies running from now until Halloween. That includes the standard annual
Nosferatu with live musical accompaniment, as well as
Shaun of the Dead, which has become a regular at this time of year, as well. There are also well-known
titles such as
Carrie and the trashy Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature
Grindhouse, which also coincides with Silver Spring’s annual Zombie Night on Saturday the 27th.
But there are also some lesser-seen titles: the Bob Hope comedy-with-scares of
The Ghost Breakers, and Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani (who won Best Actress at Cannes for her performance)
in the full cut of Andrzej Zulawski’s notorious 1981
Possession. Leading things off last night and continuing
with screenings throughout the festival in a brand new 35-millimeter print is
Wake in Fright, an Australian classic from 1971 about a British
teacher terrorized by the locals in a small outback town.
This weekend the National Building Museum hosts a unique event that allows you to
see not only the work of amateur filmmakers from around the area, but also, potentially,
your own. Started in 2002, Home Movie Day occurs around the world and offers the chance
for people with home movies to bring their films—which they may lack the ability to
play at home these days—to a public event to see them screened. So if you have 8-millimeter,
Super 8, or 16-millimeter films at home, you can bring them out, and they’ll thread
them through the projectors and let you see them on the big screen. Or just show up
to see what everyone has brought. The event’s website
also offers advice on how you can get those films transferred to digital formats,
and how to preserve them so that they aren’t lost to time.
Saturday from 11 AM to 2 PM at the National Building Museum.
Composer Dmitri Shostakovich was a giant of Russian classical music in the 20th century,
and his compositions weren’t limited to the concert hall. His rise coincided with
the state-sponsored interest in cinema in the Soviet Union, and he did a great deal
of work in the movies, as well. The National Gallery will be screening a number of
films that he provided scores for over the next three weekends. This weekend gets
underway with two classic Soviet takes on Shakespeare, both by Grigori Kozintsev:
King Lear, adapted from his own pre-WWII stage adaptation
of the play, and his 1964 adaptation of
Hamlet, which takes an unusually visual approach that
excises even some of the most famous dialogue, and which Laurence Olivier declared
his favorite adaptation—despite his own 1948 version often having been cited as the
At last, an in-depth look at an artist most people are familiar with, even if they
don’t know his name:
Wayne White. White’s work first came to a mass audience in the ’80s on
Pee-wee’s Playhouse and
Shining Time Station, among others, as well as in music videos from Peter Gabriel’s seminal “Big Time”
to the Méliès homage in the set design of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight.”
Neil Berkeley chronicles the life of this artist in a film that’s managed to gain wide acclaim by
rising above biographical documentary convention. Berkeley includes a great deal of
White’s work interspersed with the interview segments, uses White as his own narrator,
and incorporates parts of a one-man biographical show that is White’s latest project.
That gives the film a highly personal perspective, and the interviews allow for engaging
discussions on the nature of art, particularly for an artist who straddles the line
between commercial, pop culture work for hire, and more traditional notions of what
an artist is.
One of the AFI’s best annual series is this collection of film noir, programmed and
presented in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation.
It includes a great mix of standard titles everyone’s already seen alongside lesser-known
films from the genre’s heyday, sometimes titles that aren’t available for home viewing.
This year includes classics such as John Huston’s
Key Largo, Orson Welles’s
The Lady from Shanghai, and Jules Dassin’s
The Naked City, all from 1948. There are also two other features from Dassin: the 1947 prison drama
Brute Force starring Burt Lancaster, and 1949’s
Thieves’ Highway, also with Lancaster and Lee J. Cobb. There’s also an 85th anniversary presentation
of Josef von Sternberg’s 1927 silent film,
Underworld, with live musical accompaniment from the Ally Orchestra. Things get underway on
Saturday with Richard Brooks’s 1952 journalism drama,
Deadline—U.S.A., which stars Humphrey Bogart as the
editor of a New York newspaper that’s about to go under (timely, no?) and his efforts
to take down a criminal in the paper’s final issue.
Two coming-of-age stories are out on DVD this week, and together they’d make a fantastic
double feature probably just bordering on the edge of too much quirk and twee—but
always staying on the good side of that divide. One is Wes Anderson’s popular hit
from this summer,
Moonrise Kingdom, about two kids on a New England island community in the 1960s who run off together,
prompting a manhunt from their oddball collection of parents, scout leader, and local
Turn Me On, Dammit!, meanwhile, is a Norwegian film about a teen girl just coming into her own sexually,
prone to inopportune masturbation and wild flights of fancy, in a film that takes
a sweet, frank at the awkwardness of discovering one’s body.
Moonrise includes two making-of featurettes, and
Turn Me On has some deleted scenes and interviews with the director, editor, and cinematographer.