The movie of the week is The Avengers.Â In a minute, I’m going to drop some slightly-less-hyped (understatement of the millennium) movie suggestions on you, but I know the score: you’ll be seeing The Avengers no matter what.Â That’s not a criticism â€“ I’ll be seeing The Avengers, too.Â I’m reminded of the story Paul Thomas Anderson tells about New Line Cinema’s preliminary release plans for Boogie Nights.Â New Line saw Anderson’s director’s cut and was (understandably) blown away, so much so that they wanted to open the film on Memorial Day weekend of 1997, just opposite The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2.Â New Line thought Boogie Nights would make for effective adult counter-programming against the Steven Spielberg juggernaut.Â Anderson’s response?
â€œGive me a break.Â Everyone is going to see Jurassic Park that weekend.Â I’m going to see Jurassic Park that weekend.â€
(Note: New Line eventually changed its mind and moved Boogie Nights‘ premiere to a Jurassic Park-free weekend in Fall 1997.)
What I’m saying is, I forgive you for ignoring all that follows; it’s human nature to prefer watching costumed heroes beating the tar out of one another over intimate character studies.
Still, maybe you’ll crave something else after your fourth Avengers screening, so may I suggest Kevin Macdonald’s documentary Marley at the AFI Silver?Â Macdonald won an Academy Award for his gut-wrenching One Day in September feature, and Marley promises to be an equally powerful study of its subject, the late, great reggae icon Bob Marley.
After that, go mainstream (again) with a special AFI screening of Buster Keaton’s The General.Â Anyone reticent of silent cinema should start here; Keaton’s action-comedy about a hapless locomotive engineer during the Civil War is one of the two or three best pure chase films ever made (other candidates: Raiders of the Lost Ark, John Frankenheimer’s underrated Ronin).Â The General helped usher in the blockbuster genre, and so many movies (including The Avengers) owe it a profound debt of gratitude.
Click HERE for more AFI Silver information.
Over at the West End Cinema, the Sundance Film Festival favorite Restless City starts Friday.Â The setup is indie-generic â€“ a young hustler tries to make it on the mean streets of New York City â€“ but Sundance is the people’s film festival, and if the people like it, then that’s got to count for something (like, Brooklyn-based hipsters love to watch themselves on-screen).
Better yet, go see Margaret, which is still playing at the West End.Â I covered this picture in-depth last week, so head on HERE if you’d like to know more, but suffice to say, this and The Avengers are the D.C. pics to beat this week.
West End aficionados: go HERE and gather screening details.
We end at the Landmark Cinemas, and I have one recommendation and one warning.Â The recommendation: Free Men, a thriller starring A Prophet‘s Tahar Rahim as an Algerian black marketeer who becomes an Allied freedom fighter during WWII.Â Rahim earned my loyalty with his brilliant work in that earlier drama; I’ll follow anything he does.
Now, the warning: John Madden’s unbearably irritating-looking The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, playing at both the E Street and Bethesda Row theaters.Â Do not let the brilliant cast â€“ Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy, among others â€“ hoodwink you into a viewing; Madden’s presence alone should be a huge red flag.Â He’s a long way from his 1998 triumph Shakespeare in Love, with duds like Killshot and The Debt his new normal.Â Avoid.
Proceed with caution to THIS LINK.
And now, Avengers assemble!Â Or maybe it’s, â€œAvengers gather!â€Â Either one works.