On Screen: Judy, French Cinema Now, Monos, 70mm Film Festival, John Wick, and Takashi Miike Trio.

This week’s most recommendable new release is probably Judy (a decent biopic with a tremendous performance from Renée Zellweger). If you’re one of the few people who didn’t put on your best gown and head out to see Downton Abbey last week, it’s not too late to contribute to its already significant box office coffers. Or, if you already partook in the immaculate fan service in favor of James Gray’s gorgeous space effort, maybe give Brad in Space another chance and see Ad Astra on the big screen. But beyond the multiplex, there are a ton of great options as we dig into autumn film season.

  • Beginning tonight, and running for the next week, SIFF and TV5MONDE present French Cinema Now, an annual showcase of new francophone films. The festival includes a screening Les Misérables (Saturday, Uptown), Ladj Ly’s loose update of the Victor Hugo novel to modern day conflicts between police and poor suburban Muslim communities. It won a Jury prize in Cannes and recently secured a spot in the Best International Film Oscar race when France selected it over Portrait of a Lady On Fire which secured France’s slot (quel dommage !). Also of interest, closing night film Synonyms, a semi-autobiographical dramatization of an Israeli soldier’s attempts to shed his past and recast his identity in Paris. It won the Golden Bear in Berlin where early reviews described it as a “brilliant and maddening story.” (Thursday, Uptown)
  • Also relevant to the getting a leg-up on the Oscars, Monos — Colombia’s submission — which made a good impression on me at SIFF this spring is back for a limited run. With gorgeous cinematography, an unsettling score from Mica Levi, the film follows child soldiers high in the Andes as they goof off, do military exercises, and tend to a high profile hostage, until order collapses Lord of the Flies style. At least Piggy and Jack weren’t armed to the teeth. (SIFF Uptown, all week)
  • Cinema continues to tread water until the Joker shows up next moth to create chaos. This time, it’s with a weeklong 70mm film festival. Friday has Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and 2001: A Space Odyssey; Saturday goes big with Lawrence of Arabia, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, and a chance to re-revisit Quentin Tarantino’s modern masterpiece Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Sunday morning is for the kids with Potterverse prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Alfonso Cuaron’s should’ve-won-best-picture Roma (seriously — if you haven’t seen it on a giant screen with a perfect soundsystem, treat. your. self.), and classic musical West Side Story. The next week has a futuristic turn with Tron and 2001 encore on Monday, hover boards and starships on Tuesday via Back To The Future Part II and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The fest closes with two fairy tales on Wednesday: The Dark Crystal and an encore of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Tony recommends:

  • John Wick, Chapters 1 – 3: In case you haven’t seen ‘em already, the John Wick films represent one of the great action film series of the last decade, and The Beacon’s bringing on a Wick-a-thon. The ongoing adventures of ex-hitman John Wick boast a dense and fun mythology, Keanu Reeves coming into his own with the heft of a great character actor, and action setpieces shot with the kind of long takes and kinetic fluidity sorely missing from most empty-headed modern action flicks. (Sept. 28, The Beacon)
  • Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, Ley Lines: Genre magpie Takashi Miike is likely the most prolific film director alive, but he didn’t start living up to his promise until these three films  from 1995, 1997, and 1999 respectively. They form what’s known as Miike’s Black Society Trilogy, and they mark the official emergence of his signature directorial touches; Expect heaps of atmosphere, surprising pockets of emotional resonance, spasms of ultraviolence, and an ongoing fascination with the seething grotesquerie of crime and vice squirming just beneath the surface of mainstream society. (Sept. 28 – Oct 3, Grand Illusion Cinema)