Movie Tickets: “The Avengers,” “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Restless City”
Our picks for the best in film over the next seven days.
This is it, kids—the moment you’ve been waiting for. You’ve endured two Iron Man movies (one great, one not so), one middling Thor flick, a pretty entertaining Captain America, and two forgettable Hulk outings, all to get to the whiz-bang superhero spectacular Marvel Comics has been promising you for years. There were plenty of fears going in: Could geek guru Joss Whedon successfully make the leap from TV and one cult sci-fi flick to a mega-million-dollar summer tentpole? Could personalities this big exist in one movie without stomping all over one another? Could the merely talented but not super-powered Hawkeye and Black Widow merit their inclusion in the gang? Could ANYONE finally get the Hulk right?
The answers are yes, yes (though not without stomping, but the verbal and physical infighting of the heroes is one of the movie’s great pleasures), most definitely, and absolutely, emphatically yes. Whedon delivers a thoroughly entertaining compilation of the best of these heroes while never hiding either his giddy love for the characters or the wry wit that has formed the bedrock of his career. There are minor quibbles to be had, but overall, this is exactly the Avengers that hardcore comic fans and casual viewers should have hoped for. And once you see Mark Ruffalo’s nuanced take on Bruce Banner and the Hulk, you may even find yourself looking forward to someone making another inevitable attempt at a Hulk movie that actually works. One programming note: If you see the movie in 3D, go for the IMAX version, but really, the 3D adds nothing, and you’ll be perfectly fine opting for a 2D screening.
For a less pyrotechnic option—at least, I’m assuming Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith won’t develop super powers and blow up the titular hotel by the end of the movie—there’s this light British comedy about a group of retirees heading to India to live out their days in what promises to be a less expensive, more exotic locale than Britain can offer. Of course, advertisements can be misleading, and the group arrives at an Exotic Marigold Hotel that is perhaps undeserving of the “best” modifier. Gentle hilarity, it is assumed, ensues. Helmed by Shakespeare in Love director John Madden, the feel-good film has already had an excellent showing overseas, and has received praise from critics.
Andrew Dosunmu’s debut feature tells the story of an African immigrant getting by, but just barely, in his new home of New York City. The film premiered at Sundance last year, where it took some knocks for a predictable storyline: Boy with big dreams comes to the big city, gets involved with the wrong element, and falls in love with the wrong girl; personal turmoil follows. But those who did praise it generally felt the film’s weaknesses were far outweighed by its stunning and poetic visual beauty, as well as by its attempt to show the rarely addressed experience of African immigrants in America.
Yilmaz Güney was one of the biggest stars of Turkish cinema in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and he used that fame to build a career as a writer and director, with a little novel writing on the side. However, that phase of his career was short-lived, as he ended up spending most of the last decade of his life in prison, for radical political action (sometimes violent) that also found its way into his films. The Freer and the Goethe-Institut are partnering for this eight-film retrospective of Güney’s work, which starts on Sunday with a double feature of The Hungry Wolves (about a grizzled bandit attempting to elude capture and protect his family) and The Poor (a film about convicts that reflected his own experiences in prison) at the Freer, and continues on Wednesday at Goethe-Institut with The Herd (about a Kurdish family that must drive their flock of sheep in order to survive).
With a career that was often overshadowed by his better-known, but not dissimilar, contemporary George Méliès, Segundo de Chomón was among the most imaginative filmmakers of the early silent era, also making films concerned with using special effects and illusions to make the impossible possible onscreen. The Spanish director and innovator made more than 300 shorts himself, and helped provide special effects for some of the most enduring silent features, such as Cabiria and Abel Gance’s landmark 1927 Napoleon. The films in the collection at the National Gallery, accompanied by a live orchestra, are tied together by a “once upon a time” folk-tale theme.
Blu-ray Pick of the Week: Jeremiah Johnson
This film represents the convergence of three massive talents, with a leading man in Robert Redford who was already a superstar in 1972, and two men behind the scenes who were on the verge of becoming Hollywood giants—director Sydney Pollack, fresh off his breakthrough with They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, and legendary tough-guy screenwriter John Milius (writer of Apocalypse Now, a number of Dirty Harry movies, and the indelible “Indianapolis” monologue from Jaws). Loosely based on the story of a real mountain man who lived in the Montana territory in the mid-19th century, the film stars Redford as the title character, a rugged loner and trapper surviving on his own in the punishing terrain of the northern Rockies. A big hit at the time, it seems to get remembered slightly less regularly than many of Redford’s other big films during this period, but this release, the first time the film has appeared on Blu-ray, should serve as an excellent introduction for audiences who may never have seen it.
Special Features: Commentary with Pollack, Redford, and Milius, and an 11-minute featurette.