Sonic the Hedgehog is yet another attempt to resuscitate a pop culture icon from the recent past — in this case the late ’90s. The popular Sega video game series has survived the decades in various forms, and the blue spiny mammal with tremendous energy is at least as cute as the Smurfs, so why not? In this live action spinoff from Paramount, Sonic is pursued by Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey, who still harbors vast reserves of energy of his own. James Marsden plays his human ally, and everybody screams a lot. Jeff Fowler directed a script by Pat Casey and Josh Miller.
Issa Rae’s luminescent smile and Lakeith Stanfield’s limpid eyes are unleashed in The Photograph, a love story in which a young woman falls for the reporter writing a piece on her estranged mother, a famous photographer. Stella Meghie wrote and directed this romantic drama with an authentic feel for how men and women look, talk, flirt and fall in love. Chelsea Peretti, Lil Rel Howery and Courtney B. Vance also star.
Fantasy Island, the newest low-budget, high-concept thriller from Blumhouse, builds a powerful sense of foreboding as it explores the repercussions of self-absorbed wish fulfillment. Based very loosely on the 1970s cult TV series, the film follows a group of pleasure seekers on a remote island resort run by the mysterious Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña). Director Jeff Wadlow indulges in some broad social satire before settling into a grim and gory horror show as the guests begin to flee for their lives.
Kantemir Balagov, a 28-year-old Russian filmmaker, expands upon the promise he showed in his debut feature with Beanpole, a period drama of strange, unpredictable power. Two women, Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), who fought side by side during WWII, struggle to reassert themselves in a devastated postwar Leningrad. Their bond proves unusually strong and begins to make fierce demands on their relationship, which takes a devastating turn and tests the limits of their unusual friendship. Haunting and confidently made, the film is also a brilliant showcase for its two female leads. Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Sawtelle; Fri., Feb. 14, various showtimes; $9-$12. (310) 473-8530, landmarktheatres.com
In Olympic Dreams, a long-distance athlete and a volunteer dentist meet during the Olympic games and pursue a relationship despite initial reservations. Shot inside the Olympic Village where athletes train for the world’s most famous sporting events, Jeremy Teicher’s romantic comedy has an offhand sweetness that works subtly on the viewer. Nick Kroll and Alexi Pappas (a 2016 Olympian) are touchingly vulnerable and awkward as two introverts who find each other only after they’ve fulfilled their professional aspirations. Monica Film Center (also playing at the Laemmle Playhouse), 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica, Fri., Feb. 14, various showtimes; $9-$12. (310) 478-3836. laemmle.com/theater/monica-film-center
The Blood of a Poet is a key work of the French avant-garde and the first installment in what would become Jean Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy, all of which will screen at the Norton Simon this month. Poet, painter, playwright, novelist and filmmaker, Cocteau was a true renaissance man whose interest in the relationship between dreams and art made him a central figure to a generation of great film artists. Norton Simon Museum, 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Fri., Feb. 14, 6 p.m.; free with museum admission. (626) 449-6480, nortonsimon.org.
UCLA Film & Television Archive continues its John Sayles retrospective with the celebrated independent filmmaker in attendance. Monday evening’s double feature begins with the newly restored Matewan, his powerful drama about a coal miner strike in 1920s West Virginia. Finishing the program is City of Hope, Sayles’ ambitious ensemble drama about various lives that intersect, sometimes violently, in modern–day New Jersey. Sayles will take the stage between films for a discussion. He will also sign copies of his new book, Yellow Earth, in the lobby beginning at 6:30 p.m. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Mon., Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinematheque
African-American icon Sidney Poitier departed from his work in front of the camera to direct Stir Crazy, a raucous 1980 comedy that pairs Gene Wilder and peak Richard Pryor as adventurers wrongfully framed and imprisoned. The American Cinematheque is screening a 35mm print as part of their Black Voices series in honor of Black History Month. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Tue., Feb. 18, 1 p.m.; $8. (323) 466-3456, americancinematheque
ALSO OPENING THIS WEEK:
After Midnight; Buffaloed; Downhill; I Was Home, But; The Kindness of Strangers; Ordinary Love; The Rest of Us ; Spy Intervention; The Times of Bill Cunningham ; VFW; You Go to My Head.