BIG NIGHT Big Night received bigger publicity than any other independent film in 1996. Partly it's because it's the anti-Tarantino indie--nobody's hip, slick, criminal, or wisecracking in this tale of two Italian immigrant brothers trying to make a go of the restaurant business on the Jersey shore in the early '50s. With strong performances from Tony Shalhoub as Primo, the temperamental brother of Secondo (Stanley Tucci); Minnie Driver as a long-suffering girlfriend; and, most of all, Ian Holm as the rascally Pascal, owner of a successful, competing restaurant; Big Night really is the kind of movie they don't make anymore--realistic, sad, funny, wise, and utterly original. (Jack Purdy) At the intersection of High and Stiles streets July 23 at 9 p.m.
FIVE EASY PIECES Exhibit A in the argument that from 1969-'72, writer/director/producer Bob Rafelson looked like the contender to be a major New Hollywood player in the 1970s. Jack Nicholson stars as the classical piano prodigy son of an affluent Washington state family who prefers working the oil rigs in California, and who learns you can never go home again when he tries to do just that after he finds out his father is ill. Funny, sad, ribald, profane, and tragically human--and its coda remains one of the best endings in all of cinema. At the Charles Theatre at noon July 24 and 7 p.m . July 26.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE John Cusack plays the straight man in a quartet of unhappy hetero-male losers--Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke--who find themselves sent back in time to do what we've always wanted people to do when they go back in time: fuck shit up, man. Yes, it's disgusting and regrettable and totally fucking hilarious. (Joe MacLeod) At Fells Point's Broadway Pier July 28 at 8:45 p.m.
THE HURT LOCKER This insistently soldier's eye-view of the Iraq War adamantly avoids conventional war storytelling. Informed by Boal's embedded reportage, Locker's narrative counts down the days left in its three-man Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit's active-duty rotation, just as a bomb's timer ticks toward its entire reason to be. During these days, the unit goes about its business--one of the most insanely dangerous and stressful jobs in the military. And Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is ridiculously good at it. (BM) At Fells Point's Broadway Pier July 21 at 8:45 p.m .
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Indie auteur Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) helms this comedy about a couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) whose teenage daughter (Mia Wasikowska) brings her sperm-donating biological father (Mark Ruffalo) into the family circle. Opens July 23.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Director John Sturges translates Akira Kurosawa's immortal 1954 Seven Samurai to the American West with this 1960 epic in which Mexican villagers turn to some hired guns--Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Horst Buchholz, James Coburn, Brad Dexter, Robert Vaughn, and motherfucking Steve McQueen--to protect them from proper bandit Eli Wallach. Sure, it's no Samurai, but with an Elmer Bernstein score, Charles Lang's stellar wide-screen cinematography, and Brynner as the dressed-in-black badass, if you have any soft spot for movies in which a team gets cobbled together to try to pull something off, Seven more than delivers. At the Enoch Pratt Free Library's southeast anchor branch July 24 at 1 p.m.
RADIO DAYS Woody Allen's 1987 comedy about the 1940s golden days of radio as experienced by one young Brooklyn boy (Seth Green). At the American Visionary Arts Museum July 22 at 9 p.m.
SALT Yes, female Russian spies are in the air as Angelina Jolie stars as an ostensible CIA op accused of double dipping for the enemy in this spy-game actioner from director Phillip Noyce. Opens July 23.
STAR TREK Six different television series and 10 different movies into its existence, Star Trek fandom has good reason to be concerned about producer/director J.J. Abrams revamp: Can this Star Trek revitalize the series, bringing in new fans and reminding old ones about what was so magical about it in the first place? Yes. Abrams nails it, crafting a Star Trek that essentially prequels the original series--how the USS Enterprise crew came to be--and reboots the series by crafting an action flick that both stands on its own while being respectful to what has come before. (Vincent Williams) At the JHU Homewood campus' lower quad July 23 at 8 p.m.
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