‘How to Rob,’ ‘Veronique’ screen in repertory, and we review ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ and ‘M3gan’

Film Ahead is a weekly column highlighting special events and repertory programming for the discerning Camberville filmgoer. It also includes capsule reviews of films that are not feature reviewed.

Local focus

The “Refreshed, Renewed, Restored” program continues at The Brattle Theatre with a double tap from Japanese auteur Masashi Yamamoto on Monday with “Robinson’s Garden” (1987) and “What’s Up Connection” (1990). Yamamoto films have been described as Jarmusch-like in texture; this pair revolves around a family of counterfeiters and a slacker, hipster drug dealer. Also on this week’s slate are Guy Maddin’s “Tales from the Gimli Hospital” (1988) and Krzysztof Kieślowski’s sublime tale of surreal double reality “The Double Life of Veronique” (1991), both Tuesday, and an extended run of the “Kingdom” trilogy from provocateur Lars Von Trier (“Breaking the Waves,” “Dancer in the Dark”). Now if The Brattle were to also show Kieślowski’s riveting Dekalog series…

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The Belmont World Film Festival‘s 20th Family Film Festival sets up next week at The Brattle (more on that next week), but the kickoff event – ​​featuring this guy and longtime local TV entertainment reporter Kulhawik – is a Junior Film Critics Workshop taking place Saturday and Jan. 15, one day in person at the new Newton Art Center in Newtonville and the next in a Zoom session. The film we’ll watch and critique is Steven Spielberg’s 1977 sci-fi adventure “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” (Tom Meek)

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This week’s Kubrick Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema is the sci-fi classic “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), which – like “Alien” (1979) and “Blade Runner” (1982) – remains infectiously rewatchable and credibly realistic despite advances in our technologies that have surpassed those onscreen and the leaps in computer-generated special FX that have become the blockbuster standard. It’s impossible not to be impressed by the seamless chapter-esque transitions (such as the classic crosscut from a bone tossed in the air to a spaceship cruising through space), insistent use of classical music (Strauss’ “The Blue Danube”) starkly against scene texture (done to even greater effect in “Eyes Wide Shut” and “A Clockwork Orange”) and natch, the AI ​​invention of Hal, who has ulterior objectives and sings a sleepy version of “Daisy Bell.” The use of models, then-cutting-edge special effects and imaginatively detailed sets remain benchmarks decades later.

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Off its three-week run of the bawdy stage production “The Slutcracker,” the Somerville Theatre is back in full repertory glory with a one-night screening of Peter Horgan’s lo-fi crime story “How to Rob,” which played last year at the Independent Film Festival Boston. The film, about two crooks (David Pridemore and Chinaza Uche) who rob other crooks, takes place in Boston and Cape Cod, where Horgan grew up. The film marks Horgan’s first feature. The Emerson grad, who now teaches filmmaking at his alma mater, says of the low-budget filmmaking experience that most of the wardrobe for his heavies came out of his closet and was in a duffel bag he dragged to the set each day. The film plays Thursday with the director in attendance, after which the theater shifts gears for “(Some of) The Biggest & Best of 2022,” co-presented with The Brattle. The series starts with “Top Gun: Maverick,” the reconstitution of the blockbuster by Mr. Blockbuster himself, Tom Cruise, and the cheeky Indian anti-colonial actioner (with stunt work that’s Cruise-worthy) “RRR,” which pretty much streamed only on Netflix but, because of a critical hailing (it made the Day’s Top 10 of 2022 ) is garnering more and more watch demand. It is three hours, but hey, so is “Babylon” and “Avatar: Way of Water.” The films play Friday and Saturday, respectively. (Tom Meek)

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In theaters and streaming

‘The Pale Blue Eye’ (2022)

Scott Cooper, known around these parts for “Black Mass” (2015), his semi-controversial portrait of mobster Whitey Bulger, jumps into historical fiction with this look at a series of murders at West Point circa 1830. The CSI wonk of the moment is Augustus Landor (Christian Bale, who previously partnered with Cooper on “Hostiles” and “Out of the Furnace”), boozy and broken over a dead wife and missing daughter. The murders initially look like suicides or accidents, but as Landor digs deeper they veer towards occult ritual. The best scene comes when one young cadet on the scene where a victim has had their heart removed, informs Lando that the perpetrator was clearly a poet. Landor asks how he knows and the cadet responds, “Because I am a poet.” The cadet’s name? Edgar Allan Poe (played perfectly by Harry Melling). Hey, if we had “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” why not “Edgar Allan Poe: CSI sleuth”? Poe really did attend West Point but was expelled and used his severance to underwrite his literature. (Tom Meek) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St. and on Netflix.

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M3gan’ (2022)

A digital ad for a “Funki PurrPetual Petz” is the starter here, promising parents and kids that they won’t have to deal with the loss of a beloved animal companion if they spend big bucks on a high-tech toy that resembles a wise -cracking gremlin. The ‘bot pet’s not the film’s focus, though, as Gemma (Allison Williams of “Get Out”), Funki scientist in charge, decides to next build the AI ​​doll of the title to test on her recently orphaned niece, 9-year-old old Cady (Violet McGraw). Gemma has never watched the “Terminator” franchise. Still, as bodies stack up mysteriously, even she begins to suspect that M3gan (Amie Donald as the body and Jenna Davis as the voice) is going to extremes to follow her command to protect Cady from all physical and emotional harm. M3gan is savvier than her human family about dealing with threats and addressing her existential crisis (do droids dream of existential crisis?), and “Housebound” (2014) director Gerard Johnstone and “Malignant” (2021) writers Akela Cooper and James Wan deliver a funny sci fi horror flick about the deleterious effect of technology on human connection and the anti-natalist ethics of AI creation. Even though the film’s viral marketing campaign gives up the best scenes and the violence is chastely restrained to cling to a PG-13 rating, the film gets by on satire and execution. Viewers will leave the theater with guilty-pleasure glee from drinking in M3gan’s witty escalating killing skills and choice of victims. The film’s worth the price of admission just to see the can-do doll’s rubbery smooth facial reactions. (Sarah Vincent) At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St.; Apple Cinemas Cambridge, 168 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands near Alewife and Fresh Pond; Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square; and AMC Assembly Row 12, 395 Artisan WayAssembly Square, Somerville.


Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.

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