Mixed bag (gender) | Screens

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I can’t pretend there’s a cohesive theme – connectedness, really – in the films I’m going to briefly discuss here, except that they’ve all been delayed in an unusual continuation of the horror genre in course of the last month. Being a contrarian reactionary, I can deliberately not watch horror movies as everyone suggests; or at least it was. As my brain and body soften with the ravages of time, I can become more sensitive to suggestibility; That remains to be seen.

After a brief era of plenty for the mid-level scary stuff that seemed to rattle around the time the plague introduced a degree of actual horror into our lives, there was (was?) a period of fallow. It could certainly be argued that, in the big shake-up of the film industry, genres have simply been further compartmentalized – read: left the multiplex – and require a greater degree of interest and insight to find them. Which, of course, is in some ways great balm for any nerd brain lobe that never fully recovered from the loss of the video libraries. Entire streaming services are now rightful heirs to the genre shelves that some of us so respectfully haunted during those lost decades. However, the mainstream boom of the 2010s seems to have largely subsided. Barbaric might just be the notable exception, but I haven’t seen it yet. And now it’s available on a streaming service.

Either way, I spent much of October in a nostalgic haze, reveling in the ingenious, handcrafted splashes served up by our glorious benefactors at the Criterion Channel. But, as the season of the witch returns to its sepulchre, I can briefly recount a few films I’ve recently watched that aren’t from the ’80s or specifically seasonal.

DEATH FOR A DOLLAR. Walter Hill continues to make films and for that I applaud him. One of the few remaining journeyman filmmakers, a veteran of the tougher factory days of the Hollywood establishment, he is/was also a 1980s hitmaker, blurring the line between pulp/genre and mainstream with a style that has defined the decade as much as anyone. As a writer and director, he made four films in as many years that continue to be imitated: The driver (1978), The Warriors (1979), The long riders (1980) and 48 hours. (1982). During this time, he was also co-creating the Extraterrestrial mastodon. The man has credibility.

Granted, that was 40 years ago and some might say that at some point the aging creatives should step down and make way for the young. Either way, Hill continues to work. And more power to him, I say, though my feelings about his end-of-period work are mixed.

I may have missed the point Bullet in the head (2012) when I saw it, or it may be that Hill’s B-movie trends just haven’t transmuted as well as one would hope on the 21st century big screen. And Task (2016) is probably too problematic to survive scrutiny even half a decade later. But I’ll celebrate both as proof that there may still be room in the world for movies that will never make a billion dollars.

dead for a dollar is decidedly of this camp, a western almost as old-fashioned in its execution as in its setting. I say almost because the digital photography of the piece, with its boundless depth of field and disorienting clarity, creates a neural disconnect, a documentary liveliness, that belies its gender roots. Rachel Brosnahan, Christoph Waltz and Willem Dafoe star in a pre-war kidnapping/revenge melodrama that remains memorable in part for its weirdness. A. 107M. AMAZON PRIME.

PIG is the closest thing to a straight-up horror movie on this list, but while it ties into its origins, it uses the genre to explore the notion of misplaced justice and intimidation from the point of view of the victim. Written and directed by Carlota Pereda, porcine centers on Sara (Laura Galá in a quietly stunning performance), a butcher’s daughter who is cruelly teased by the cool girls but might have an unnamed avenger lurking on the fringes. Pereda chooses to take the narrative back to safe territory with the climax, which is a little disappointing after the audacity and verisimilitude that led to it. But that’s more than forgivable, given the immersive nature of the piece as a whole. (In Spanish with subtitles.) NR. 99M. AMAZON PRIME.

THE STRANGER. Written and directed by Thomas M. Wright, with Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris, the stranger is the most stylized mainstream movie I’ve seen since Blond, using music and editing with a Villenuvian culture of terror and unease. Elliptically depicting a segment of a nationwide Australian manhunt for a child abductor, it’s equal parts low-key crime drama and psychological realism. Some might call it overworked, but I’d say its artifice serves its narrative almost perfectly. TVMA. 117M. NETFLIX.

John J. Bennett (he/him) is a movie nerd who loves a good car chase.

READING IN PROGRESS

BLACK ADAM. Dwayne Johnson dresses up as a DC anti-hero. PG13. 125M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

END OF HALLOWEEN. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) takes one last ride with Michael Myers. Pick up his ass, grandma. A. 111M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

LA TRAVIATA. The Met Opera presents Michael Mayer’s production of Verdi’s tragedy with soprano Nadine Sierra, tenor Stephen Costello and baritone Luca Salsi, and conducted by Daniele Callegari. 195M. MINOR.

LYLE, LYLE, CROCODILE. Live action story / CG animation of a croc living in New York but definitely not hiding in the sewers because that’s an outdated stereotype. With Constance Wu and Javier Bardem. PG. 106M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

ONE PIECE MOVIE: RED. The anime pirate adventure continues with a storyline about a world famous singer. With subtitles. PG13. 115M. BROADWAY.

PREY FOR THE DEVIL. A nun (Jaqueline Byers) breaks through the glass ceiling and enters the Catholic Church’s secret exorcism school to encounter the demon who possessed her mother. PG13. 93M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

SMILE. A shrink with baggage starts seeing people with creepy smiles everywhere and suddenly my bitchy face doesn’t look so bad, does it, people? With Sosie Bacon. R. 115M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

TERRIFYING 2. Slasher sequel with teenagers (check) and a murderous clown (check) on Halloween (check). R. 148M R. 148M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

TICKET TO PARADISE. Anti-parent trap with Julia Roberts and George Clooney as exes trying to prevent their child’s marriage. PG. 104M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

UNTIL. Danielle Deadwyler plays Emmet Till’s (Jalyn Hall) mother following the child’s lynching. PG13. 130M. BROADWAY, MINER.

THE WOMAN KING. Viola Davis flexes on us all as a general in the 19th century all-female army of the West African kingdom of Dahomey. With Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and John Boyega. PG13. 134M. BROADWAY.

For showtimes, call: Broadway Cinema (707) 443-3456; Fortuna Theater (707) 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theater (707) 822-3456.

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