Film Ahead is a weekly column designed to highlight special events and repertoire programming for discerning cinephiles in Camberville.
With the Covid-19 outbreak and social distancing restrictions still in place, movie theaters have slowly started to reopen. As a result, “Film Ahead” will focus on new films on streaming platforms and virtual screening rooms of local theaters, virtual local film festivals and films related to our full reviews and current events.
‘Identification of characteristics’ (2020)
An arcane narrative that feels told by the president of a seasoned author. Still, it’s Fernanda Valadez’s feature debut that wraps her arms around the challenges and dangers facing frontier Latinxes, who don’t always succeed. And then what about those who send them, love them or expect them? The eternity of not knowing is the burn; as we integrate with one of these haunted souls – a mother (Mercedes Hernández) seeking news of her son – tales of gangs, drug lords and corrupt agents take shape. The hazy shards of grim reality, cut to the bone, are brilliantly echoed by Valadez in weird and laconic teases. Part of the Brattle Virtual Screening Room.
‘MLK / FBI’ (2020)
Sam Pollard’s paper delves into declassified files detailing U.S. government surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. The film, in a flat and straightforward manner, details the culmination of the Civil Rights Era and the cautious relationship but critical between King and the Kennedy brothers on the way. One of the main reasons King was put under the lens was his affiliation with activist Stanley Levison, who advised King and helped write his speeches but had long been on the FBI watch list. Of course, J. Edgar Hoover takes into account. The film isn’t so much King’s champion as it examines the challenges he had to overcome to spark a movement. Available on demand.
‘6 Underground’ (2019)
Michael Bay, the man of excess who directed “Armageddon” (1998), the “Bad Boys” films and the astounding “Transformer” series, has also made a few films based on real life and worthy of a watch. – “Pain & Gain” (2013) and “13 heures” (2016) to name just two. This mysterious billionaire (Ryan Reynolds) with a special ops team off the grid and with the goal of doing good for the world (like the overthrow of despots the CIA won’t touch) is getting closer to Bay’s roots. The action sequences – wild car races in old-world Europe and parkour in skyscrapers – impress. The choreography and orchestration is brilliant when you step back, and a grueling adrenaline rush when you take it. “Widows” and “The Magnificent Seven”), race car driver (Dave Franco) and a former army sniper (Corey Hawkins, who played Dr. Dre in “Straight Outta Compton”) . Streaming on Netflix.
“ An Imperfect Murder ” (2017)
Last week, I recently praised Tanya Roberts for her well-played little role in James Toback’s crime thriller “Fingers” (1978). Aside from this film, Toback is best known for his screenplays of “Bugsy” (1991) and “The Gambler” (1974) and a recent wave of #MeToo accusations as for the cast of his mediocrity filmed locally in 2001, ” Harvard Man. This weirdly silly psychological thriller is the last movie Toback worked on before the wave of allegations killed just about every future project. In the skillfully framed film, he sits down as a friend or mentor of Sienna Miller, an actress who may or may not have committed a murder, and asks her questions about her art and her personal life a so thoroughly that if you read the testimonials from Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams about those casting calls, it’s even scarier to consider (if you’re that far from it). Toback’s role in the film, which is not small, is conveniently uncredited. Alec Baldwin lends his mug as the detective on the case, and the cat and mouse between him and Miller is almost worth it. Corporate raider Carl Icahn, who we can imagine having funded the role, arrives as a friend of the family visiting Miller. Streaming on Netflix.
‘The Rhythm Section’ (2020)
Blake Lively (“A Simple Favor”, “The Town”, “The Shallows”) does better than Jessica Chastain in last year’s Lukewarm (and Boston) “Ava”, but doesn’t quite measure up by Jennifer Lawrence (“Red Sparrow”) or Charlize Theron (“Atomic Blonde”) in this dark and dynamic assassin thriller. Lively plays a kind of burnout, drug and free life, not far from the deadly gothic ingenuous Bridget Fonda in “Point of No Return” (1993), whose family died in a mysterious plane crash which was probably the work of terrorists. With the help of Jude Law’s agent, she cleans herself up, fits in, and begins tracking factions and agencies that might be responsible. Nothing you’ve never seen before, and plot manipulation takes a lot, but Lively, with her steadfast, steadfast resolve, holds up. Streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Agnieszka Holland, a revolutionary female voice in cinema – but largely unknown as such – with works heralded as “The Secret Garden” (1993), “Olivier, Olivier” (1992) and “Europa Europa” (1990), co-directs this curiosity (with Kasia Adamik) about a series of mysterious deaths in a Polish village that may or may not be the work of wild animals, a human companion, or something more insidious. Jolanta Dylewska and Rafal Paradowski’s cinematography captures snow-covered forests in aesthetically composed and contrasting frames. Themes of man versus nature and biting nature echo Larry Fessenden’s “Cloverfield” (2008) to “Wendigo” (2001). Part of Brattle’s virtual screening room.
‘Enter the dragon’ (1971)
So happy to see this on Netflix! Bruce Lee is charismatic at his best in this spy thriller wrapped in a martial arts tournament hosted by an evil lord. It’s a movie that I could see maybe every two weeks. And while I still marvel at Lee’s athleticism and confident command, as well as John Saxon’s game player, there is a lot of intriguing social material to drink that relates to today. Take the imperial poverty unleashed by the masses of Hong Kong before the handover; police target a black man (Jim Kelly) for just being on the street; or the sexual slavery of women. I find something new about my home every time and always love the cinematic renderings of the port of Hong Kong. As far as the action goes, simply top notch.
“ No Man’s Land ” (2021)
The title refers to the long stretch along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. In this walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes paradigm, a baseball hopeful pro (Jake Allyn) protecting his family’s land shoots a Mexican who crosses the border and seeks refuge from the investigation in Mexico – where paintings of who is “the other” And who’s afraid are returned. The film is highlighted by moving performances, particularly by George Lopez as a Latin American ranger on the case who cannot speak Spanish , although most both sides of the border assume for better or for worse that they can.The broad themes of immigration, racism and eminent domain emerge, relevant and thoughtful but also cliché and manipulative. Not yet streaming.
Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories, and articles have appeared in WBUR ARTery, Boston Phoenix, Boston Globe, Rumpus, Charleston City Paper, and the literary journal SLAB. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.
This post was updated on January 18, 2021 to correct the fact that “Cool Hand Luke” airs on Netflix; another service was named incorrectly.