Robert Zemeckis finally ascends out of the creepy valley of stop-motion animation films (Polar Express, Beowulf) he’s been residing in for the past decade with Flight, his first movie to feature flesh-and-blood actors since 2000’s Castaway. Denzel Washington stars as an airline pilot who manages to avert a massive tragedy in an emergency situation, getting the plane down with minimal loss of life. However, the subsequent investigation into the incident reveals that he’s got alcohol in his system from a night of partying before the flight. The discovery puts his career at risk, and gives Washington the chance to dig into a character study of the power of addiction over this man even as he faces losing everything.
The latest film from director Julia Loktev has had a very quiet, very limited release, owing perhaps to the pacing, which has been a little too relaxed for some reviewers. But for those critics with whom the movie’s struck a chord, it’s connected extremely well, making this one of my most anticipated films of the fall movie season. DC audiences will only get a small window of opportunity to see it, though, as it opens for just one week at E Street starting tomorrow. Based on a short story by Tom Bissell, Loktev’s movie features an engaged couple who set out on a backpacking trip with a guide through the picturesque Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. There’s a sharp plot twist partway through the film that changes the nature of that relationship in an instant, and the inner workings of this relationship are the real focus of the film for Loktev.
This collection of seven films over seven days showcases some of the best works from Spain released during the past year. It kicks off tonight with Sleep Tight, a new thriller from director Jaume Balagueró (best known for starting the Spanish REC franchise) about a doorman who becomes fixated on introducing some chaos into the charmed life of one of his building’s residents. Balagueró will be on hand for tonight’s screening. The showcase continues with dramas, comedies, and biopics you won’t have a chance to see anywhere else anytime in the near future, so check the schedule to see if there’s anything for you.
Now in its second year, the Washington West Film Festival returns with a slate of new narrative features, documentaries, and shorts screening over the course of the next four days. It’ll be bringing some Hollywood star power into Reston as well, with an appearance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who stars in husband Brad Hall’s short Picture Paris, which will screen on Saturday afternoon. Director Tom Shadyac, best known for his comedy work in films like Ace Ventura and The Nutty Professor, will also be on hand to host a presentation of his latest film, the documentary I Am, in which he interviews academics and spiritual leaders about a variety of problems facing the world and potential solutions. There are plenty more options on tap at the festival, so check the complete list of films for what’s coming up over the next few days.
Tonight through Sunday at a number of venues in Reston
and Fairfax. Check the
for complete listings.
Journeyman director Barry Levinson makes a rather unexpected detour into low-budget found-footage horror with his latest. The film, set locally on the Eastern Shore, concerns a massive loss of life in the bayside community, which was covered up—until a reporter manages to find first-person footage from the locals that puts together exactly what happened. At this point in the found-footage horror movement, things are so stale that I tend to be skeptical at yet another entry in the genre, but advance reviews seem to indicate that by using multiple “sources” to construct the movie, Levinson takes the genre in an imaginative new direction, making for a taut and thrilling film.
Opens tomorrow at West End Cinema.
From its humble beginnings in low-budget ’70s sci-fi, Alien has become a giant of a franchise, culminating in this summer’s gorgeous though empty-headed quasi-prequel, Prometheus, which returned original director Ridley Scott to the fold. What makes the Alien series so fascinating is the wide variety of tones among the different films, owing to the large breaks between movies, and different directors and creative teams behind each one. As a whole, it’s fascinating to see the stamps of different directors on these films, especially considering that each Alien director would go on to even greater success. Many of their individual stylistic signatures are evident in each of their entries, making the whole thing an odd exercise in fitting auteurist sensibilities into a corporate film franchise. That doesn’t always work: witness the messes that clashes between director and studio made out of David Fincher’s Alien 3 and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection. But even the worst of the series makes for interesting viewing, and the AFI is giving audiences a chance to see the whole series on the big screen over the next week.
View the trailer for the original Alien, which still ranks among the best trailers ever made.
Blu-ray/DVD Pick of the Week: Rosemary’s Baby
To coincide with Halloween yesterday, Criterion this week released a definitive new home video version of perhaps the greatest horror film of all time, Roman Polanski’s 1968 masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby. The director’s first foray into Hollywood filmmaking was a perfect storm of coincidence and circumstance, as he was hired by producer Robert Evans to direct the film when Evans felt the material needed a more European arthouse touch than would be delivered by William Castle, the schlock horror director who brought the project to Evans in the first place. That decision turned this from what would have likely been a forgettable cult horror flick into the meticulously constructed blend of psychological suspense, occult horror, and subtle social commentary that it would become, attracting a pitch-perfect cast that included director John Cassavetes, scene-stealer Ruth Gordon, and Mia Farrow in her breakthrough role as Rosemary.
Special Features: A new documentary about the film, which includes interviews with Polanski, Farrow, and producer Evans; a 1997 interview with Ira Levin, author of the original novel; a feature-length documentary about Krzystof Komeda, the jazz musician who wrote the film’s score; and a booklet with an essay on the film, along with Levin’s own background materials for the novel.