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.
Friday, January 24
The Turning began life as Haunted before its producers reinvented it and finalized the title, which hints at its source material, Henry James’ classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw. You’ve heard the story before: A nanny (Mackenzie Davis) is appointed to look after two isolated and oddly behaving orphans (Brooklynn Prince and Finn Wolfhard) on a vast New England estate, soon to discover that they are under the influence of some malignant spirits. Steven Spielberg serves as one of the executive producers and oversaw the troubled production, which resulted in the original director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, being fired shortly before production began. Floria Sigismondi took over the reins, directing a screenplay by The Conjuring scribes Chad and Cary W. Hayes.
The Last Full Measure follows a promising Pentagon staffer (Sebastien Stan) as he investigates an unusual Medal of Honor request. The proposed recipient is a Vietnam soldier who perished 32 years prior after saving over 60 fellow soldiers. As he seeks the testimony of several witnesses, he uncovers a conspiracy the unearthing of which could put his career in jeopardy. A strong supporting cast — Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson and the late Peter Fonda, among others — fill out this independently produced war drama directed by Todd Robinson.
The Gentlemen marks Guy Ritchie’s return to the mockney cinema he defined with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Arrogantly violent and profane, the movie follows an American expat Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) looking to sell his vast marijuana empire and get out of the game. A Byzantine series of snags and double-crosses perpetuated by a cast of criminals inevitably complicates the transaction. Familiar faces include Charlie Hunnam as Mickey’s right-hand man, Henry Golding as a Chinese gangster, Michelle Dockery as Mickey’s wife and business partner, Jeremy Strong as a Jewish billionaire entrepreneur, Eddie Marsan as a crooked newspaper editor, Colin Farrell as a “coach” who manages a band of thieves/rappers/YouTube influencers, and Hugh Grant, amusingly lecherous as a gravel-voiced blackmailer. The attitudes are decidedly retrograde, but this will surprise no viewer aware of Ritchie’s reputation as the British Tarantino. Back after a decade of rebooting the Sherlock Holmes and Aladdin franchises, he’s as mean and clever as he ever was, and perhaps a shade more cynical, if that’s possible.
Richard Stanley returns! Two decades after his pet project, The Island of Dr. Moreau, collapsed under the weight of the studio system, the South African-born cult horror director returns to the big screen with Color Out of Space, a free adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s chilling short story about a meteorite that lands on a New England farm and corrupts every living thing within reach. Stanley ratchets up the body horror element, detailing the horrific mutations — physical, psychological — of a nuclear family led by an eccentric farmer (Nicolas Cage), his cancer-survivor wife (Joely Richardson), their Wiccan teenage daughter (Madeleine Arthur) and stoner teenage son (Brendan Meyer). Thanks to the special effects team, we now know what the “color out of space” looks like: a bewitching shade of fuchsia. The utter hopelessness and sense of man’s insignificance in a vast, unfeeling, evil cosmos is faithfully transcribed from page the screen. The film had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest last September and should find an audience among midnight movie fans.
Friday, January 24
The American Cinematheque presents two films by Hungarian director István Szabó, each restored in 4K by Kino Lorber. Szabó won the 1981 Best Foreign Language Oscar for Mephisto, an intensely visual drama about a German actor (Klaus Maria Brandauer) who stays behind in Nazi Germany and achieves fame at a terrible price. Confidence, made the year before, is another WWII period piece that deals with two members of the Hungarian resistance who pose as husband and wife and must contend with the attraction that develops between them. These polished, politically-charged dramas catapulted Szabó to the top rank of European directors. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
Saturday, January 25
The American Cinematheque continues to plumb the forgotten corners of film history with Joe Dante’s 16mm Spotlight, an ongoing series that highlights 16mm prints fetched from the collection of Dante and Jon Davison at the Academy Film Archive. This week features the 1972 political satire Richard, which tells the untrue story of a Nixon-like politician’s unscrupulous rise to prominence. Director Harry Hurwitz blends in archival footage to enhance the verisimilitude and, by extension, the humor. Dante will appear to introduce the program, which begins with a vintage animated short, Playing Politics featuring Scrappy, the round-headed cartoon character. Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Sat., Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m.; $10. (323) 466-3456, lafilmforum.org.
Monday, January 27
Even in this age of rampant celebrity gossip, Sunset Boulevard proves irresistibly entertaining. Billy Wilder’s noir classic blends trashy melodrama with high-class production values, headlined by a startling Gloria Swanson playing a once famous silent movie star who ensnares a struggling writer (William Holden) in her web. For its 70th anniversary, the TCL Chinese Theatre will host a one-time screening featuring a Q&A with Nancy Olson, the film’s last surviving star. She received an Oscar-nomination for playing Betty, the young aspiring screenwriter who becomes Holden’s love interest. TCL Chinese Theatre, 6925 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Mon., Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m.; $12.50. (323) 461-3331, tclchinesetheatres.com.