L.A. Weekly’s Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films in Los Angeles theaters this week — from indie art house gems and classics to popcorn-perfect blockbusters and new movies garnering buzz. Check here every week before you make your big screen plans.
The Way Back is not a remake of Peter Weir’s excellent WWII drama of the same name, but rather a sports movie of the most formulaic — and therefore the most crowd-satisfying — kind. Ben Affleck stars as an alcoholic construction worker who accepts the job of head coach to his alma mater’s basketball team. Affleck is convincingly scraggly, depressed and full of repressed anger as the down-and-out teacher, and Gavin O’Connor’s direction is calibrated to deliver those big moments you hope for in an underdog story. Brad Ingelsby wrote the screenplay.
Onward is Pixar’s newest CGI extravaganza, a fantasy about two teenage elves on a quest to restore their dead father’s upper body after a botched spell brings him back as legs only. The magical world of wizards and sub-Tolkien creatures is set in a recognizable urban context (restaurants, cops, etc.) which deflates the sense of magic as well as the sense of fun. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt lend their voices to the two leads, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer pump up the levity. Dan Scanlon directed a screenplay by himself, Jason Headley and Keith Bunin.
Hope Gap is an intelligent — verbally and emotionally — drama about a woman (Annette Bening) whose husband (Bill Nighy) leaves her after 29 years of marriage. The film explores the effect of the decision on her mind and emotions, and the collateral damage it inflicts on her grown son (Josh O’Connor). William Nicholson writes and directs with a solid understanding of how grownups might behave in such a situation, and he takes a particular pictorial interest in the coastal town of Seaford, where most of the action takes place. The Landmark, 10850 Pico Blvd., Rancho Park; Fri., March 6, various showtimes; $12-$15; (310) 470-0492, landmarktheatres.com.
In 1979, political prisoner Tim Jenkin and two fellow inmates broke out of Pretoria Central Prison by fashioning a series of wooden keys which would fit the locks of the jail’s doors. Escape from Pretoria, based on a 1987 book, tells the story of the prison break, and baby-faced Daniel Radcliffe sports a beard and spectacles that make him look a few years older. Director Francis Annan takes a pragmatic interest in process, which helps scoot the familiar story along. Daniel Webber, Ian Hart, Mark Leonard Winter and Nathan Page pitch in with important supporting roles. Los Feliz Theater, 1822 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Fri., March 6, various showtimes; $6.50-$9.50. (323) 664-2169, vintagecinemas.com.
Young Ahmed unravels the seething drama of a fatherless Muslim teenager (newcomer Idir Ben Addi) living in Belgium who has been radicalized by his religious teacher (Myriem Akheddiou). His anguished mother (Claire Bodson) cannot reach him and decides to take matters into her own hands. All the ingredients for a timely thriller are in place, but because the film is directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the young protagonist’s situation is related in spiritual rather than political terms. Radical compassion converges with urgent storytelling resulting in one of the year’s first great films. Laemmle Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., Fri., March 6, 7:30 p.m.; $13. (310) 478-3836, laemmle.com.
Saint Frances, Alex Thompson’s slice-of-life dramedy about nanny (Kelly O’Sullivan) who gets pregnant by her boyfriend and must contend with the emotional fallout of her subsequently fraught circumstances, strikes a tender balance between humor and anguish in a way few films have dared to. Anchored by an authentically witty lead performance (O’Sullivan also wrote the screenplay), the film addresses several hot button social issues with frankness and candor on its way to an unexpected conclusion. ArcLight, 6360 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Fri. March 6, various showtimes; $16-$18; (323) 615-2550, arclightcinemas.com.
Also opening this week: Bacurau; The Banker; The Booksellers; The Burnt Orange Heresy; Extra Ordinary; Final Kill; First Cow; Only; Run This Town; Swallow; The Wild Goose Lake.
Friday, March 6
Noir City: Hollywood returns to the Egyptian for 10 consecutive evenings of crime-filled fun. Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation will be in attendance Friday night to kick off the 22nd annual series, which includes a selection of rare foreign titles as well as Hollywood favorites and obscurities. Opening night begins with a restored 35mm screening of La bestia debe morir (The Beast Must Die), an Argentine noir from 1952 directed by Román Viñoly Barreto. Based on Nicholas Blake’s suspenseful novel, the film concerns a mystery writer bent on finding the hit-and-run driver who murdered his son. The second feature is Gilda, the classic melodrama that boosted Rita Hayworth to the top rank of movie stars of the 1940s. There will be an opening night reception on the patio between films. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., March 6, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinematheque
A new 2K restoration of Elem Klimov’s Come and See, the greatest anti-war film of the 1980s — and conceivably of all time — wi ll be released at the Monica Film Center. Klimov presents the horrors of WWII through the eyes of a teenage boy (the unforgettable Aleksei Kravchenko). Soviet authorities took eight years to approve of the script, and the result is a nearly overwhelming plunge into the slaughter and savagery of war. The restoration was performed by Mosfilm Cinema under the direction of Karen Shakhnazarov. Monica Film Center, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica; Fri., March 6, various showtimes; $9-$12. (310) 478-3836.