With Tenet's release (finally) being pushed back indefinitely, it seems this weekend is the one where the film industry realized going inside a movie theater is probably not a thing that'll be happening again in 2020. But that doesn't mean we're about to suffer any appreciable lack of filmed entertainment to enjoy. On the contrary, between the drive-in making a comeback, new blu-rays hitting shelves (emphasis on hitting), and lots of great new titles on streaming, there's a plethora of Things to Watch this weekend!
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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Raiders of the Lost Ark
Drive-ins are probably the only way to get any sort of big-screen action back in your life without, you know, trapping yourself inside a dark box with other people while no vaccine exists and air conditioning is just circulating everyone's coughs, sneezes, and spittle into as many rooms as possible. Instead, you can pull up in your car, turn up your speakers, and let 99w fill your windshield their latest throwback double-feature, a one-two-punch of early '80s pop genius, starting with the one Star Trek movie that all the others are measured against, The Wrath of Khan, and closing out with arguably the best action movie ever made, and a movie perfectly suited to a late night at the drive in, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Samwise Gamgee and Thanos ask Short Round, a chubby exhibitionist, and a bad Michael Jackson impersonator to join them on a treasure hunt on the Oregon coast, where Joey Pants and the FBI dickhead from Die Hard are illegally detaining an ex-football player with encephalitis. Will this motley gang of misfits find Captain Dick Joke’s secret stash of gold coins? Will everyone speak solely in perforated shrieks and yelps? Will you start to wish you were just playing the old NES game again instead of sitting through your 50th viewing of this tired nostalgia exercise that constitutes roughly 17 percent of Astoria’s economy? Hah! C’mon. Goonies never say die, right? It’s our time down here!
The Lego Movie
The story seems obvious: A hapless chosen one—an ordinary minifigure named Emmet (Chris Pratt)—is called by destiny to save creation from the villainous, fastidious President Business (Will Ferrell) and his chaos-ending Krazy Glue. Of course Emmet prevails—after a wild ramble, all full of gags and nerd references, that pokes fun at Lego's crossover-laden past. But instead of plodding through like one more cynical big-screen commercial (hi, Transformers!), The Lego Movie manages to weave an enlivening magic spell of nostalgia that's equal parts hysterical, subversive, beautiful, and sweet. DENIS C. THERIAULT
Gremlins: A Puppet Story
Legendary effects specialist (or special effects legend? Either/or) Chris Walas leads this behind-the-scenes journey made especially for Hollywood Theatre viewers, walking the audience through how Gremlins got made, and featuring very rare photos and video from his own personal archive.
John Lewis: Good Trouble
The late civil rights activist and Georgia congressman John Lewis fought for voting rights, gun control, healthcare reform, and immigration over the course of his long career. Using archival footage and interviews from his late years, Dawn Porter's documentary explores Lewis's childhood, his 1957 meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and his lasting legacy on the social justice movements of the present.
Alex Cox Double Feature
A special program put together in partnership with the Texas Theatre, streaming a pair of lesser-seen (even by Alex Cox standards) cult-classics, Highway Patrolman and Straight to Hell, followed by a 20-minute interview with Mr. Cox, hosted by the Texas Theatre's Barak Epstein.
In this crime caper set in New York's Chinatown, a recently widowed 80-year-old woman follows a fortune teller's advice and heads to the nearest casino to win some big bucks. But things don't go so great, as they often don't at casinos. When two gambling gangsters show up at her door and start demanding money, she and her newly acquired bodyguard do what must be done: kick ass for the duration of the film.
Clinton Street Theater
2020 Sundance Film Festival Shorts Tour
Sundance presents this virtual tour highlighting six short films accepted to the fest for 2020. Previous years featured new shorts from up-and-coming talents like Wes Anderson, Spike Lee, Lake Bell, Todd Haynes, and Taika Waititi. What household name will be discovered this year?
Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits
The Criterion Collection is a name that film fans recognize instantly as a badge of quality. Even when there's absolute dreck in their catalog, you know it's the best dreck, and presented as purely, and lovingly, as possible. Luckily, we don't have to concern ourselves too much with thoughts of sub-par filmmaking because their latest big blowout box-set collects the best of Bruce Lee's filmography, and presents it as beautifully as it's ever been seen at home. Two different cuts of Enter the Dragon, new restorations of Fist of Fury and The Big Boss, hours upon hours of extras, including commentaries, documentaries, and even a fold-out poster inside the case.
In 2005, Noah Baumbach wrote and directed The Squid and the Whale, a movie that dug deep into what it feels like to be a kid in a family that's pulled itself past its breaking point. Baumbach captured the emotions that riot at the core of a divorce so accurately, so sharply, that it was impossible not to feel like the movie was a punch to the gut. Almost 15 years later, Baumbach's written and directed Marriage Story, a movie that digs deep into what it feels like to be a husband and a wife in a family that's pulling itself past its breaking point. It's brutal and sharp, but it's also funny and sweet, and captures something that's impossible to put into words: The feeling of life as it changes, and the feeling of stories as they come to an end. Yes, this movie is on Netflix, streamable but once again: If you care about owning films and not streaming them, the Criterion treatment means something, and aside from getting to see the film without all that compression and glitching the internet sometimes introduces, there are new interviews with the cast and crew, and a making-of documentary.
A special 30th anniversary release of the unlikely smash hit romantic-supernatural-drama-comedy-thing from one of the guys who made Airplane!. Among its remarkable achievements, it put "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers back on the pop charts in 1990 after about 25 years away, it sparked a fashion trend based on Demi Moore's close-cropped hairstyle, and it got Whoopi Goldberg the acting Oscar she should have gotten five years prior for The Color Purple. RIP, Patrick Swayze, who should still be here anchoring films like this and To Wong Foo with the grace and gravitas he lent to every role he took.
HUMP! Greatest Hits - Volume 1
Have you just watched your first HUMP! and are now in a post-coital glow, wondering just what the hell the past festivals must have looked like? Well GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE: After getting permission from filmmakers to bring their films online, we're bringing you several volumes of our (and audience) favorites from 2005-2018. Get ready for HUMP! Greatest Hits! You will see films that shock you, that make you laugh, that turn you on, and ou will also be touched by the sincerity and vulnerability with which these films are lovingly made. HUMP!'s main mission is to change the way America sees-and makes and shares-porn.
Dave Franco (the better Franco) makes his directorial debut with this new-to-VOD horror flick, co-written with Joe Swanberg, about a pair of couples vacationing at an AirBNB on the Oregon Coast. The couples are not modeling the healthiest of relationships, and whatever fractures there were are going to be forced wide open once the film's resident homicidal stalker gets thrown into the mix.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Cast Table Read
Ten years ago, Edgar Wright adapted a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley called Scott Pilgrim, about a 20-something dickhead who gains a teensy-bit of self-awareness through a series of video-game-inspired fights with the evil exes of (one of his) current girlfriend (s). It flopped. Which is weird, because the film is frankly amazing, is still ahead of its time even 10 years later, and that cast? Imagine getting Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Pill, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, Ellen Wong, (and those other two, Egg and the weird kid from Arrested Development) for the song Universal paid to get this movie made. Speaking of that cast: Now you can watch (most of) them reunite over Zoom, along with Edgar Wright, for a table read of the script to benefit the Water for People organization.
The Last Dance
The 10-part documentary/hagiography of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls during their two-part reign over the 1990s was instrumental in many people maintaining some semblance of sanity in the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic. And now the whole thing is available on Netflix in one big bingeable gulp, so if you didn't see it (or steal it) then, you can finally catch up now. Maybe it'll play a little differently all in one go, without the Greek chorus of social media literally meme-ing every aspect of it as it aired. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Either way, it's a great opportunity to get some of the best basketball ever played back on a screen in 2020.
The Ip Man Quadrilogy
Another binge-watch option for appreciators of pure athleticism is Donnie Yen's increasingly-ridiculous Ip Man series, which started as a respectful and stirring action-drama about the life of the man who trained Bruce Lee, and very quickly became a whirling hurricane of pain and propaganda on a scale that makes Looney Tunes seem subtle. But who needs subtle when you've got about 10 hours of Donnie Yen just dealing unfathomable amounts of human carnage out like a Vegas dealer with a shoe full of blackjacks? With the addition of Ip Man 4 earlier this month, the series is now complete on Netflix.
Natalie Erika James's directorial debut stars Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns, The Bookshop) as a divorcée who returns to her childhood home—which happens to be in the middle of some very creepy woods—with her daughter (Bella Heathcote) to visit her mother, who suffers from dementia. When they arrive, she's nowhere to be found. When she does return, you quickly learn that something spooky is going on that's darker than a memory loss condition.
Kitty Green's The Assistant works quietly in its condemnation of abusive men in power. There's no passionate monologue about how a system enables a predator like Harvey Weinstein to comfortably exploit women, nor any cathartic scenes of abusers getting their comeuppance. Rather, the film focuses on the minutiae of office operations and existence, centering the person least in power—a female assistant—as a means of exploring exactly how abusers are enabled by everyone around them. While The Assistant is pretty self-contained, it’s perhaps one of the first films in this #MeToo-era to grapple with the people (men and women alike) and corporate structures that allow for abusers to flourish. They didn't arrive into their respective scenes that way, rather, a misogynistic culture that mandated we "look the other way" helped to normalize their behavior. Green did well to focus on the small actions of an assistant like Jane—the devil is in the details, after all. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Netflix isn't satisfied with how their big-budget fantasy epic The Witcher captured eyeballs and imaginations. Now they've got another one, this time pulled from the mind of comics legend Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil, 300) whose Cursed reinterprets the Arthur myth to focus instead on the Lady in the Lake. Starring Katherine Langford as Nimue (the aforementioned Lady), and Gustaf Skarsgard (jeez there's a lot of those Skarsgard kids running around!) as Merlin.
We Are Freestyle Love Supreme
A whole lot of people watched (and have been continuing to watch) Hamilton since its Disney+ debut on Fourth of July weekend, and it's caused many of those people to go digging deeper into the larger Lin-Manuel Mirandaverse. If ever there was an origin story for such a thing, it's this Hulu original documentary about his time in a slightly-corny, very-loveable, and often-impressive freestyle hip-hop improv theater group. Some familiar faces from Hamilton show up and stick around, but the story is best when it focuses on the group's less-famous members, and stresses just how important the art of off-the-dome wordslinging is to who they are as people.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
With the recent rumor that Disney+ is going to be giving Donald Glover his own Lando Calrissian series, now is a good time to (re-)visit the Star War that put him in that role. Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second-lowest grossing Star War ever, isn't particularly great at anything, but is much better than its box-office and weirdly weaponized word-of-mouth would suggest. If you love The Mandalorian, Solo is the Star War that feels the most like it.
Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d'Arcy James play the Boston Globe's "spotlight" team of investigative journalists who were tasked with looking into child molestation charges leveled at Boston's beloved Catholic Archdiocese. Translating a highly detailed true story to film could sound like a staged reading of a Wikipedia page, or worse, trivialize the victims' experiences—and Spotlight walks dangerously close to this precipice. However, other than a few hammy moments, this film somehow manages to pull it off.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Not sure if the HBO Max thing is going the way anyone really wants it to: It's still not on Roku or Amazon devices, a lot of the devices it is on won't stream things in great quality (or even in multichannel surround), and content you'd think would be a lock on their platform isn't even there. For example: arguably the best two Batman movies ever made aren't on Max right now: The Dark Knight, the pseudo-remake of Heat with Heath Ledger as Waingro, is on Hulu; and this animated masterpiece, about Batman trying to catch a new murderous vigilante in Gotham while reuniting with an old flame, is on Netflix. It's that last bit that has him really wrestling with why he wears a bat costume and beats up criminals as a hobby. Usually with a Batman movie you have to settle for a good Batman but a subpar Bruce Wayne, or vice-versa, but not here. There's never been a movie Batman as good as the one in Mask of the Phantasm. Ever.
Aside from the assistance that the formerly enslaved Harriet Tubman got from the Underground Railroad, it’s hard to imagine exactly how she pulled off all her heroics. With Harriet, audiences are given a live-action reimagining of Harriet Tubman’s journey to self-liberation: changing her name, hiding in bales of hay, being chased by dogs, and getting cornered by armed men on a bridge before jumping into the river. Harriet shows how Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) got help from a secret network of safe houses and trusted free Blacks (Leslie Odom Jr. and Janelle Monáe) who stuck their necks out to help her cause. Harriet doesn’t subject the sensitive viewer to excessive gore or violence (though there is one particularly unsettling scene), because for once, this is a story in the “slave movie” genre about tremendous triumph, leadership, and Tubman’s unwavering faith, both in God and herself. JENNI MOORE
Usually the streaming vs. physical media argument stresses how there are movies you just can't get on any of the platforms you're subscribed to. But this David Fincher thriller is a rare example of that going the other way: Panic Room hasn't been available on-disc since the DVD days, but you can stream it in full HD on Amazon Prime through the rest of July, and this slick little pop confection is way past due for a reappraisal. It's the closest thing to blatant homage Fincher's ever done (this is a Hitchcock movie through and through) and it's probably the one title of his that can be kinda described as "fun." Granted, that "fun" includes grievous bodily harm being dealt to Jared Leto, batshit-psycho-Dwight Yoakam, and Forest Whitaker pulling from the Daffy Duck catalog of slow-burns every five minutes—but still! Jodie Foster! Baby Kristen Stewart! Grievously-injured Jared Leto! Fun!
Amazon Prime Video