Film Ahead is a weekly column designed to highlight special events and repertoire programming for the discerning Camberville cinephile.
Three romantic films for Valentine’s Day
As you indulge in the Hallmark vacation with your partner today, here are three very different movies to cuddle with:
“Isn’t that romantic” (2019)
Rebel Wilson stars as an unlikely romantic target of a muscular real estate developer (Liam Hemsworth). Wilson’s bubbly effervescence carries the film, as do the fun and wacky musical dance numbers; Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra (“The White Tiger”) and Betty Gilpin (“The Hunt”) co-star. Available on demand.
Jumping on a period piece of staid emotions and taboo relationships, “Ammonite” portrays the slow desire between two women – paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and a depressed bride in her care (Saoirse Ronan). The chemistry between the two protagonists richly denotes held feelings with subtlety and effect, and Gemma Jones is a force as Mary’s cantankerous and disapproving mother. (Read our full review from November 13.) Available on demand.
And finally, the classic pairing of Bogie and Bergman, “Casablanca” plays as part of the Brattle Theater virtual offers. Here’s who’s watching you.
Local and virtual
The DocYard virtually kicks off its 2021 season with “The American Sector,” a humorous roadside documentary that focuses on the slabs of the Berlin Wall that, over the past 30 years, have sort of headed for America. Directors Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez will attend a live virtual Q&A with DocYard curator Abby Sun at 7 p.m. Monday. For tickets and information, click on here.
New entrances to the Brattle Theater virtual screening room include “Lapse” Noah Hutton’s psychological sci-fi teaser about a lovable schlep (Dean Imperial, very much like James Gandolfini), a daytime delivery driver who takes extra work to lay the cable of a sinister “quantum system” to pay a visit to the clinic for her brother, who suffers from something called omnia – think hi-tech triggered mono. Then there’s a restoration of Tom Noonan’s dark talking movie from 1994, “What happened was …” The film, an adaptation of Noonan’s play, takes place over a leisurely dinner between two socially awkward colleagues played by Noonan, the tall bald actor (think John Malkovich on Xanax, with elevators) best known for his sharp little roles as a serial killer in “Manhunter” (1986) and a member of a heist in “Heat” (1995) and Karen Sillas (“Female Perversions”). The two form a palpable and uncomfortable chemistry that rises and falls over the course of a long meal where each line of dialogue stings with quirk and purpose. I remember being mesmerized by the internalized, ironic texture of the film upon release – it’s a very esoteric cinematic gem to grab hold of, not widely available. Also for the hungry but cautious theater, the Brattle continues to offer screening slots for you and your bubble to rent the house and watch a movie of your choice.
In cinema and streaming
Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical account tells the story of a Korean family who transplanted from Los Angeles to a rural Arkansas farm in the 1980s. It’s a quiet story of American idealism as Jacob (Steven Yeun, of “The Walking Dead” and “Burning”) finds 50 acres to grow Korean vegetables, as well as racism. The set here, while not the flashiest – recently it would be “My Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “One Night in Miami” – is empathetic and identifiable (real character vs icon copies tend to do this) with Alan Kim as Chung’s youngest 7-year-old David; the mother, Monica (a fiery Yeri Han), very unhappy with the move; Will Patton as a farmer without overly religious work who joins Jacob; and Youn Yuh-jung as a grandmother whose one of the children says “smells of Korea”. The film was among the 10 best Cambridge Day films of 2020. Play virtually until February 25 in a partnership between Boston Independent Film Festival and The Brattle Theater (slots are running out) and at the Kendall Square cinema.
‘The act of reading ‘(2019)
Director Mark Blumberg, who failed his high school report on “Moby-Dick,” doubles the bet by reaching out to his former teacher and signs up for a “Moby-Dick” book marathon in person. The film makes hopscotches around New England (New Bedford is where Melville sailed and landlocked Pittsfield where he wrote the book) and hits some interesting notes – the homoerotic “maybe” relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne, that would have helped Melville shape his classic book, as well as some neurological evidence around dyslexia and the act of reading. Where the film doesn’t quite hold up is Blumberg’s meandering quest for redemption and overly sharing a conflicted relationship with his girlfriend.
“Happy Cleaners” (2021)
Julian Kim and Pete S. Lee’s film is an excellent bookend for “Minari”, as it also deals with the plight of Korean Americans facing subtle and not-so-subtle acts of racism in modern America, as well as to intergenerational conflicts. The Choices run a long-standing cleaning service in Flushing, New York; her son Kevin (Yun Jeong) wants to go to school in LA to get away from the monotony and Korean way of life; It’s telling that when he and his sister Hyunny (Yeena Sung, the subtle star of the film) talk to their parents (Charles Ryu and Hyang-hwa Lim), they speak in English, while the parents speak in Korean. Fun / revealing scenes include a take-out order for Hyunny, whose name is mispronounced in six ways until Sunday, and Kevin’s reaction; meet the not-quite-stupid millennial who has just taken over the building where the Choises have been located for nearly 20 years, with a future lease renewal; and grandmother Choi (Jaehee Wilder) forced to return to work. I’d love to see a road movie with her and Youn Yuh-jung’s grandmother from “Minari” – it makes me smile just typing it. Streaming on Amazon Prime and other platforms.
Robin Wright stars and makes her directorial debut with this escape stint from the company “Into the Wild”. This 2007 film about an idealist’s trip to Alaska gone awry was directed by his ex, Sean Penn; here, Wright plays Edee, a woman who came to the Wyoming Highlands of the Wilderness to get away from it all. What she flees remains enigmatic for a long time, and she is ill-prepared when she arrives, to which Mother Nature gives her a good beating. But there are also good Samaritans in the mountains. The film becomes an internal odyssey as Edee strengthens herself and learns a new way of life; the panoramas are captivating, the human drama could have been more. Play at the Landmark Kendall Square cinema.
“The Perfect Little Things Card” (2021)
Kind of like a teenage version of “Groundhog Day” (1993) but not as crisp or witty, and due to the rom-com aspect, maybe “Palm Springs” (2020) is a better fit. This previous Bill Murray hit gets multiple references as Mark (Kyle Allen, also in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming “West Side Story” remake) goes through a day rewound over and over again until Margot (Kathryn Newton, ” Big Little Lies “) falls out of her routine. He is immediately drawn to her; she is distant. But they’re starting to carve out a new adventure for themselves in their 24/7 auto-repeating universe. The two have pretty strong chemistry, although Mark feels too much like a generic stepbrother. Things get more serious, but in the end, it’s underdeveloped plush – fun, but still plush. Streaming on Amazon Prime.
‘The Mauritanian’ (2020)
Other outrages promulgated by the US government in response to 9/11 documented on film, this one taking place in the infamous military complex of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (targeted for closure again by President Joe Biden). Based on Mohamedou Ould Salahi’s book “Journal de Guantánamo”, the film tells of the 14 years of imprisonment, bureaucracy and torture in Gitmo suffered by Salahi (played by French actor Tahar Rahim) and Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) , the human rights lawyer who takes her case. His crime? He received a phone call from a relative who may have links to al-Qaida. The film, directed by Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”), is best when Hollander navigates the litany of drafted documents and the Kafka-esque process that the military puts in its way. Super impressive, Benedict Cumberbatch makes a sweet Southern accent as the Navy prosecutor across the aisle. It’s not so much where it’s going, but how it’s going and the shortcuts the country has taken, employing torture and human rights violations in the name of security. Foster and Rahim picked the Golden Globes for their turn here, and rightly so. At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema and streaming in March.
Thomas Keith’s documentary focuses on the effects of bullying and hothead culture, particularly among teens and those targeted by race and / or for not being cisgender or straight. Keith captures disturbing graphic footage and chronicles several tragic suicides before targeting Trump and the culture of intimidation inspired by his presidency. “Trump expresses an aggressive stance that is affiliated with success in business,” said Talking Head (a Boston College professor). The film is a mishmash of essays around its central theme. It might not be a seamless documentary, but it’s moving and enlightening about an evil that seems too often celebrated when it should be sterilized. Free streaming on TubiTV.
“Clay’s Redemption” (2020)
Carlos Boellinger’s stylish flick is fun late at night, even if it feels like there are three films in a fight to get out. At first we are told a lot of gibberish about gods and immortals; then we stumble into what appears to be a beautifully shot lo-fi underground noir with Clay (Akie Kotabe) bidding managers to bring in a trump card (Nuuxs as Maya, wearing the kind of clear plastic costume Joanna Cassidy wore in “Blade Runner “). Apparently, he plays like “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950) through “Alphaville” (1965). The rain-soaked neon landscape (shot late at night, guerrilla style, in London) and the purposely thrilling score goes a long way, but copious amounts of over-action and talk about gods and realms detract from what might have been. make a smooth thriller. Streaming on Amazon Prime.