Every Wednesday, we find you five movies to watch over the coming weekend, from new theater releases to weird screenings to timely classics you can watch on your couch. Did we miss something? Let readers know in the comments.
Seeing all the Best Picture nominees before Oscar night is usually easy enough to do. It can be much harder to catch the nominees for Best Animated Short Film and Best Live Action Short FIlm, but not after this weekend.
How to Survive a Plague Q Cinema, Thursday night, 6:30 p.m.
Another Oscar nominee will get a special local screening this week, this one a documentary. Thursday night at 6:30 pm, Q Cinema hosts a free showing of David France's critically acclaimed How to Survive a Plague at Fort Worth's Four Day Weekend Theatre. The film looks closely at the early days of the AIDS epidemic and how the work of two groups, ACT UP and Treatment Action Group, made a positive impact.
White Zombie and Warm Bodies DVD/Blu-Ray (Zombies) and in several theaters (Bodies)
This week sees the release of two films that mix love and zombies. On the one hand, you have Kino Lorber's DVD and Blu-Ray release of White Zombie, a 1932 pre-code horror film starring Bela Lugosi and Madge Bellamy. On the other, you have Summit Entertainment's Warm Bodies, based on a 2010 novel by Isaac Marion. Though reviews are still coming in on the latter, it promises to do something at least a little different with a genre that, like a horde of the undead, just keeps on going. White Zombie, while not exactly an essential classic, at least offers a different kind of monster-a man who makes zombies of the living by controlling their minds. Yes, it's dated, but as an artifact of film history it's invaluable.
Groundhog Day DVD/Netflix streaming
There's something about Bill Murray's appearance and personality that makes him perfect for the frustrated and jaded roles that have populated the latter half of his career. Maybe it's the way his eyes seem to slant downwards, as if he's always sad abou something, or his blank expression, which can draw a laugh as easily as it can inspire a more somber emotion. Whatever it is, Groundhog Day, whose namesake holiday is this Sunday, wouldn't be the same without him. As the conceited weatherman, Phil, he puts all of those physical qualities to work, turning a character we shouldn't like into one we love.
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You also have to give director Harold Ramis and his co-writer, Danny Rubin, a lot of credit for granting so much intelligence to an idea that could've easily become gimmicky and didactic. Instead of telling us why Phil must live the same day over and over, they show us, creating a more meaningful experience that actually says something profound about how we ought to live. But I'm over-intellectualizing here. Just watch it and have a laugh.
Has Scorsese made a great film since Goodfellas? He's made good ones, yes, but nothing you could put next to Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, the way people do with this 1990 crime saga, which screens at the Texas Theatre January 31 through February 2. Starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci, Goodfellas has a freewheeling sense of urgency and combativeness that makes it feel alive and vibrant in a way his most recent films don't.
We feel here that we're in the hands of a director who knows the rules of good filmmaking but also knows when to bend them, if for no other reason than to make watching a movie a more visceral experience. Just pay attention to the way he uses music, the way he freezes the frame at key moments, and the way he uses voice over. It all seems entirely intuitive, though no one else could've made it the same way. As a result, you come away from Goodfellas feeling that you haven't just seen a great film, you've had a brush with its creator.