Movie screenings for the week of August 30

Read Time11 Minutes, 39 Seconds

All Creatures Here Below A desperate young couple at the end of their financial rope flee across country after the wife abducts an infant. Collin Schiffi directed. 91 min. Showing as part of the Midwest Independent Film Festival’s monthly event. Preceded by a reception and a panel at 6 PM. Tue 9/3, 7:30 PM. Landmark’s Century Centre

 NAquarela A breathtaking and offensive documentary in the vein of Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness (1992), Victor Kossakovsky’s film about floods, melting ice caps, and extreme weather also continues a recent trend of nonfiction features (Behemoth, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch) that find visual beauty in environmental crisis. Kossakovsky presents scenes of scientific crews working on the tenuous frozen surface of Russia’s Lake Baikal, arctic ice mountains breaking apart, and Hurricane Irma ravaging Miami, forgoing narration or talking heads that might explain these phenomena. The movie is essentially an art-house spectacle, with handsome big-screen imagery and a heavy-metal score (by Eicca Toppinen of the band Apocalyptica) that makes a considerable visceral impact. Yet apart from some vague ideas about the power of nature, Kossakovsky doesn’t communicate anything one can really think about—he seems to be inviting viewers to sit back and enjoy the devastation of our planet. In English and subtitled Russian and Spanish. —Ben Sachs PG, 89 min. Fri 8/30-Thu 9/5, 1:30, 3:3o, 5:30, 7:30, and 9:30 PM. Music Box

Back to School Rodney Dangerfield as an amiably crass, nouveau riche businessman (he owns a chain of “tall and fat” shops) who joins his son (Keith Gordon) at a midwestern university to get the college degree he never had time for (1986). It’s a good character for Dangerfield, one that veers him away from the “I don’t get no respect” pathos that comes too easily to him, and enough attention is paid to the minimal plot to integrate Dangerfield’s classically constructed one-liners into something like a dramatic situation. This is what they mean by “a good vehicle.” With Sally Kellerman (as Dangerfield’s improbable love interest, she’s more human than she’s seemed in years), Adrienne Barbeau (who seems to have turned into Agnes Moorehead when no one was looking), Burt Young, Ned Beatty, and Robert Downey Jr. —Dave Kehr PG-13, 96 min. Tue 9/3-Thu 9/5, 10:30 PM. Logan

click to enlarge Brittany Runs a Marathon

  • Brittany Runs a Marathon

 NBrittany Runs a Marathon This Audience Award winner at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival centers on a rudderless, nearly 30-year-old New Yorker (Jillian Bell) who, after a disappointing doctor’s appointment, decides to ditch her unhealthy habits and run the New York City Marathon. Turns out, shedding 40 pounds and getting fit are the easier legs of her journey, while fixing what’s inside—distrust of others and dislike of herself, primarily—takes time. Writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo based the titular character on his roommate, and I imagine this Brittany is a lovely, inspiring person. Movie Brittany, however, is frequently rude and dismissive, sometimes cruel, and even the knowledge that her attitude stems from her insecurity and other personal issues doesn’t make rooting for her any easier. Many of the side characters, including a slacker love interest (Utkarsh Ambudkar), also register as more irritating than funny or endearing. Brittany’s brother-in-law (Lil Rel Howery) and neighbor-turned-running buddy (Michaela Watkins) generate some warmth in their constructive interactions with the protagonist, but overall the film does not feel good to watch. Judging by the smattering of strained ha’s in my theater at laugh lines, it appears that viewers want to like these characters because the story suggests they should, and they feel they’re supposed to, yet they have to push themselves to get there. I too admire Colaizzo’s effort, but in the end found myself ruminating on why I was expected to cheer at the finish line. —Leah Pickett R, 103 min. Fri 8/30-Mon 9/2, 1:45, 4:30, 7:10, and 9:50 PM; Tue 9/3-Thu 9/4, 2, 4:30, 7:10, and 9:50 PM. River East 21

click to enlarge The Case of Hana and Alice

  • The Case of Hana and Alice

 NThe Case of Hana & Alice Celebrated Japanese director Shunji Iwai (Love Letter, New York, I Love You) turns to animation in this lilting, piquant 2015 prequel to his 2004 live-action high school rom-com Hana and Alice, opting for rotoscoping rather than the ubiquitous anime style of wide-eyed waifs that derives from manga. The mode not only enhances his closely observed psychological portraits of two overly imaginative middle-school misfits who become best friends, it also allows for the stars of his original, Anne Suzuki and Yû Aoi, to plausibly reprise their roles. Alice (Yû), the only child of divorced parents, moves with her author mom to a remote small town where she fears terminal boredom until school bullies become allies and rope her into a mystery surrounding the rumored murder of a missing former classmate. Soon Alice’s shut-in neighbor, school dropout Hana (Suzuki), takes an active interest in the case. Chief among the many lyrical sequences are those in which Alice befriends an elderly company man; their poignant exchange on a park swing set recalls the great Takashi Shimura in Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru. In Japanese with subtitles. —Andrea Gronvall 99 min. Fri 8/30, 4 and 8 PM; Sat 8/31, 2 PM; Sun 9/1, 4 PM; Mon 9/2, 5 PM; Tue 9/3, 6 PM; Wed 9/4, 7:45 PM; and Thu 9/5, 6 PM. Gene Siskel Film Center

 NChicagoland Shorts Vol. 5 An annual curated selection of local films. Represented filmmakers in this fifth edition include Jennifer Boles, Jiayi Chen and Cameron Worden, Lonnie Edwards, Meredith Leich, Sebastián Pinzón Silva, Ashley Thompson, and Marisa Tolomeo. 78 min. Wed 9/4, 7:30 PM. Beverly Arts Center

RCounsellor at Law John Barrymore plays a Jewish lawyer with an unfaithful wife and a faithful mistress in Elmer Rice’s 1933 adaptation of his own play. It’s one of Barrymore’s best performances, and William Wyler’s direction of this brisk comedy-drama is exemplary. With Bebe Daniels, Doris Kenyon, and Melvyn Douglas. —Jonathan Rosenbaum 82 min. 35 mm. Wed 9/4, 7:30 PM. Northeastern Illinois University

RDark Victory This 1939 drama is exactly what people mean when they refer to a “Bette Davis movie.” She stars as a spoiled Long Island socialite who, having discovered she’s dying of a brain tumor, takes her stableman’s advice and packs a lifetime into one glorious summer. Humphrey Bogart is the stableman, and George Brent is her surgeon husband. This is the definitive Davis display, not to be missed. Edmund Goulding directed. —Don Druker 106 min. 35 mm. Sat 8/31-Mon 9/2, 11:30 AM. Music Box

click to enlarge Don't Let Go

  • Don’t Let Go

 NDon’t Let Go Writer and director Jacob Estes (The Details) is back with Don’t Let Go, a new film that’s part thriller and part mystery and follows Los Angeles detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) as he investigates the murder of his brother, sister-in-law, and beloved niece, Ashley (brilliantly played by Storm Reid). Things intensify when he starts receiving phone calls from Ashley, who says she’s calling several days before the murder. This sends Jack off on a mission to not only solve the case but attempt to prevent the murder from happening in Ashley’s time line. The film effectively builds on the suspense from the mysterious phone calls and alternate time lines, but it fails to bring nuance and depth to any of the other scenes or revelations in the film, like the identity of the murderer or the strained relationship between Jack and his brother, a drug dealer. Nonetheless, for genre fans not yet burnt out by time-travel spectacles, Don’t Let Go might be worth the watch. —Marissa De La Cerda R, 103 min. ArcLight, Block 37, Chatham 14, Showplace ICON

 NGags the Clown Adam Krause directed this comedy-horror film about a mysterious clown who starts roaming the streets of Green Bay, Wisconsin. 89 min. Krause attends the Friday and Tuesday screenings. Fri 8/30-Sat 8/31, midnight; and Tue 9/3, 8 PM. Music Box

The Goonies More puberty blues from producer Steven Spielberg in a children’s adventure film (1985) so overloaded with Freudian imagery that the good doctor himself might feel embarrassed. A bunch of 13-year-old boys penetrate a secret “cave” in search of hidden “treasure,” and when they aren’t squeezing through tight places or being doused with water, they’re castrating statues or kicking villains in the crotch. References to Mark Twain, the Warner Brothers swashbucklers, and the Our Gang comedies hover in the background, but despite these honorable sources, it’s a charmless exercise: director Richard Donner turns the kids into shrieking ferrets, and his jumpy cutting seems to lag behind the action deliberately in a curious attempt to make the film seem more chaotic and cluttered. The usual Spielberg rhetoric about the sanctity of childhood and the beauty of dreams seems wholly factitious in this crass context, which even includes a commercial—in the form of a rock video—for the tie-in merchandise. With Ke Huy-quan and John Matuszak. —Dave Kehr PG, 114 min. Fri 8/30-Mon 9/2, 11 PM. Logan

click to enlarge Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love

  • Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love

RMarianne & Leonard: Words of Love Nick Broomfield is a daring, edgy British filmmaker with a reputation for bluntness, but in this, his latest documentary, he reveals a warmer personal side because he intimately knew one of his subjects, Norwegian single mom Marianne Ihlen, who became Canadian poet and author Leonard Cohen’s lover and muse in 1960. By 1968, amid the spreading counterculture mores of free love and the practice of then yet-to-be-labeled open marriage, their affair was waning; when a 20-year-old Broomfield visited the Greek island of Hydra, he fell under its spell and that of Marianne, who was part of a circle of expat artists and writers. It’s almost a given that the director would be sympathetic toward Marianne; what’s surprising is how nonjudgmental he is of Leonard, who became increasingly neglectful, mercurial, and drug dependent as his new career as a composer and singer took off. This is an insider’s fascinating meditation on the nature of genius and stardom and the toll they take on the naively optimistic. —Andrea Gronvall 102 min. Fri 8/30, 2 and 6 PM; Sat 8/31, 7:30 PM; Sun 9/1, 2 and 8 PM; Mon 9/2, 5:15 PM; Wed 9/4, 6 PM; and Thu 9/5, 8:15 PM. Gene Siskel Film Center

RParis Is Burning Jennie Livingston’s exuberant and loving 1990 documentary about “voguing” and the drag balls of Harlem is both a celebration and a canny commentary. Delving into the dance poses and acrobatic moves of black and Latino gay men, she enters this highly ritualized subculture with a genuine sense of curiosity and discovery, and is wise enough to let the participants themselves do most of the explaining. One emerges from this film not only with a new vocabulary and a fresh way of viewing the straight world but with a bracing object lesson in understanding what society “role models” are all about. —Jonathan Rosenbaum 78 min. Fri 8/30, 8 PM; Sat 8/31, 4 and 7:45 PM; Sun 9/1, 6 PM; and Wed 9/4, 8 PM. Gene Siskel Film Center

click to enlarge The Queen

The Queen Frank Simon’s 1968 cinema-verite documentary chronicling the Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant held in New York City in February 1967 is more interesting in some ways for its period flavor—as a zoom-happy, all-over-the-place 60s document—than for its depiction of the drag event, though both aspects have some value. —Jonathan Rosenbaum 68 min. Fri 8/30, 5:45 PM; Sat 8/31-Mon 9/2, 11:30 AM; Tue 9/3, 7:30 PM; Wed 9/4-Thu 9/5, 3:30 PM. Music Box

The Return of Martin Guerre Set in 16th-century France, Daniel Vigne’s film is about a peasant (Gerard Depardieu) who returns to his wife (Nathalie Baye) and family after nine years at war. Initially, everyone is happy to see how the experience has changed him—he’s stronger and more mature—but when he demands a bigger share of the family land, his relatives decide that Martin isn’t Martin at all, but an impostor. Vigne is one of several contemporary French filmmakers who have returned to the long-despised “Tradition of Quality,” and his film is about as good as this kind of thing can be—an intriguing story, excellent performances, fine period detail, lovely cinematography—without really having the personal force of a work of art. —Dave Kehr 122 min. The 113-minute director’s cut is screening. Sun 9/1, 5:45 PM; Mon 9/2, 3 PM; and Thu 9/5, 6 PM. Gene Siskel Film Center

RShadow of a Doubt Alfred Hitchcock’s first indisputable masterpiece (1943). Joseph Cotten is Uncle Charlie, aka the Merry Widow Murderer, who returns to his hometown to visit his niece and namesake, played by Teresa Wright. Hitchcock’s discovery of darkness within the heart of small-town America remains one of his most harrowing films, a peek behind the facade of security that reveals loneliness, despair, and death. Thornton Wilder collaborated on the script; it’s Our Town turned inside out. —Dave Kehr PG, 108 min. 35 mm. Film critic and artist Fred Camper lectures at the Tuesday screening. Fri 8/30, 4 PM, and Tue 9/3, 6 PM. Gene Siskel Film Center

Squadron 303 Denis Delić directed this Polish-UK film about a squadron of Polish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain during World War II. In English and subtitled Polish. 104 min. Fri 9/30, 7:30 PM; Sat 8/31, 5 and 7:30 PM; Sun 9/1, 2:30 and 5 PM; Mon 9/2-Thu 9/5, 7:30 PM. Facets Cinematheque

Two Irenes Fabio Meira directed this 2017 Brazilian drama about a teen who discovers that her father has a second secret family, including a daughter her own age that shares her name. In Portuguese with subtitles. 89 min. Wed 9/4, 6:30 PM. Chicago Cultural Center  F

RWar and Peace Sergei Bondarchuk’s kitschy, epic 1967 adaptation of the Tolstoy novel is the most expensive movie ever made, and though it can be bombastic and mind-numbing, it’s often lively and eye filling. The balls and battle scenes are monumental, and Bondarchuk (who plays the bumbling Pierre, as Orson Welles would have in the 40s if he’d realized his own version with Alexander Korda) moves his camera a lot, incorporating some expressive 60s-style flourishes. Even at 415 minutes (over an hour shorter than the Soviet release) this rarely suggests the vision behind the set pieces or populist polemics; Tolstoy’s feeling for incidental detail is more evident in non-Tolstoyan films like The Leopard and The Magnificent Ambersons. This is a landmark in the history of commerce and post-Stalinist Russia, but not cinema. If you’d like to merely sample it, try parts one and three. With Lyudmila Savelyeva (graceful as Natasha), Vyacheslav Tikhonov (suitably morose as Andrei), and more than 100,000 extras. In Russian and French with subtitles. —Jonathan Rosenbaum 434 min. Showing in four parts. Part I: Sat 8/31, 2 PM; Part II: Sat 8/31, 4:45 PM; Part III: Sun 9/1, 2 PM; and Part IV: Sun 9/1, 4 PM. Gene Siskel Film Center

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