Coming Attractions in Film: August 2011

Summer movie season continues—all month, everywhere not located under a rock.

ARMY OF DARKNESS — a chance this month to see one of the horror(-comedy) genre’s most celebrated cult classics on the big screen.

By Taylor Adams.

Well, it certainly looks like the thème du mois in pop cinema will be adapted pop lit. One Day (August 19), Sarah’s Key (August 5), and The Help (August 10) all attempt to turn best-selling page-turners into similarly arresting (or at least profitable) films, tackling romance-friendship, the Holocaust, and class/race relations, respectively. The name of the atavistic game in summer blockbuster territory, however, will be an explosive battle for the box office fought between apes (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, August 5) and barbarians (Conan the Barbarian, August 19). “C’est la guerre,” as they say. . .

Bernard Hermann Centennial. At the Brattle Theatre, all month.

Even cinema buffs who don’t know Bernard Hermann’s name—and there can’t be many—would be familiar with his compositions. From Welles’s Citizen Kane to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, many an American classic would not be the same if not for his legendary work on their scores. The Brattle this month continues their Hermann Centennial tribute series, with screenings of Citizen Kane, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Cape Fear, several Hitchcock films, and more. Visit their website for a full schedule.

The Future. Directed and Written by Miranda July. At Kendall Square Cinema and other selected theaters throughout New England, opening August 5.

“Miranda July is totally not kidding,” claimed the headline of an engrossing New York Times profile of the enigmatic filmmaker earlier this month. And it’s good to know, because otherwise one might have a hard time discerning the intentions behind July’s latest, The Future, a film that offers up the strange relationship of a couple of bohemian types (one played by July herself) narrated by a talking cat and featuring an ambulatory-yellow-t-shirt-as-the-soul metaphor. Of course, you might still not be so sure what she’s up to, and that’s probably just the way she wants things to be. Love her or hate her (people tend to fall in one camp or the other), it’s tough not to admit there probably won’t be another film quite like The Future released anytime soon. Fans of offbeat cinema and July’s debut Me and You and Everyone We Know take notice.

THE FUTURE: a scene from Miranda July's latest film

All Roads Lead to Nowhere: The Films of Monte Hellman. At the Harvard Film Archive, August 5–15.

The HFA this month commences a retrospective of the films of veteran American auteur Monte Hellman. Noted for trademarking his signature, minimalist appropriation of genre styles with films like The Shooting (1966) and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Hellman has—with some interruptions—kept prodding and poking the tropes of such tired idioms as horror, the western, and the road movie until the present, with 2010’s neo-noir Road to Nowhere. Hellman will be present for a screening of that film on August 6, and also for Aug 7’s screening of The Shooting.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. with live accompaniment. At the Somerville Theatre, August 7.

STEAMBOAT BILL JR. — one of Buster Keaton's greatest comedies

Watching Buster Keaton bumble through saving a cyclone-stricken town in 1928’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. is always good fun, but the Somerville Theatre is hosting an event August 7 that—beyond Keaton fans—might appeal to those who’ve sometimes found classic silent cinema to be a little too . . . silent. Local musician Jeff Rapsis will be improvising a live accompaniment to the film, using digital synthesisers to mimic the texture, tone, and effect of traditional film scores. The night will also include similar accompanied screenings of two short Keaton comedies, The High Sign and Cops.

Editor’s note: I have expressed my love of Steamboat Bill Jr. on several occasions—it is my personal favorite of Keaton’s films, an indelible combination of sentiment, slapstick, and surrealism, with an amazing storm scene at the end. I last wrote about the film when it was screened at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with a new score by guitarist Peter Blancette.

Army of Darkness. At the Coolidge Corner Theatre, August 11–12.

“Groovy.” Fans of schlock cinema will be excited to hear that the Coolidge’s @fter midnight series is pulling out and dusting off one of the midnight horror(-comedy) genre’s most celebrated cult classics this month, Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness. When discount-store housewares clerk Ash is transported back in time to the dark ages and accidentally summons an undead army commanded by his evil alter-ego, a plethora of devilishly catchy one-liners and multiple scenes of preposterous carnage ensue. Can Ash recover the Necronomicon, defeat his skeletal foes, and return to the present? Does it all even make sense? Does it matter?

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