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Ty's weekend movie picks for Friday, November 14

Posted by Ty Burr  November 14, 2008 07:49 AM

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(All you teenage girls who swooned over"Twilight"? Let's see you sit through "Let the Right One In," the Swedish vampire movie opening today at the Kendall.)

Yet another weekend of interesting Boston area personal appearances by Famous Hollywood Stars. Actor Mark Ruffalo shows up at Brandeis tomorrow (Saturday) to screen and take questions about his new South Boston-set crime film (yes, it's an official genre now) "What Doesn't Kill You". After its appearance at the Toronto fest in September, this counts as the movie's Boston premiere.

The Brattle is all about Willem Dafoe this weekend: tonight the actor plays Jesus in "The Last Temptation of Christ" and Sleazus in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart". Saturday it gets better: four Dafoe movies and an appearance by Dafoe himself alongside his new film, Abel Ferrara's "Go Go Tales". It only sounds like a 60s drive-in flick. Wait, knowing Ferrara, it probably is. (Actually, it's Ferrara's first shot at screwball comedy. Color us intrigued.) Then on Sunday, there's a special gala at the Charles Hotel in which Dafoe and Boston film-critic legend Gerry Peary will be honored and we'll all be shaken down for a good cause: namely, the Brattle's continued existence.

The Boston Festival of Films from Iran continues at the MFA; tonight is Hana Makhmalbaf's "Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame," a drama that looks at life in modern-day Afghanistan through the eyes of children. (It's set in Bamyan, the site where the Taliban destroyed two huge statues of the Buddha in 2001.)

The Harvard Film Archive is giving itself over to the The Boston Irish Film Festival, or, to call it by its official rubric, the 10th Annual Magners Irish Film Festival. Lots of good films culminating next Friday with an appearance by the great John Boorman ("Deliverance," "The Emerald Forest"), which in turn will kick off the HFA's Boorman retrospective. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Boston Jewish Film Festival keeps on rolling, too: Two highlights showing this weekend are "Budapest to Gettysburg: Journey to America," about a Lincoln scholar's search to find hid own history, and "Phyllis and Harold," a personal documentary in which filmmaker Cindy Kleine gives her late parent's "disastrous 59-year marriage" an unnerving post-mortem.

Brief takes on the new releases:

"Quantum of Solace": Disappointing, especially after "Casino Royale" rebooted the franchise so nicely. Under director Marc Forster's hurry-scurry hackmanship, we're back to Bond business-as-usual, only without the pop humor that salvaged the Roger Moore through Pierce Brosnan years. Daniel Craig is fine, if broody, but the film feels like its a rung or two below a Bourne flick. Oh, and the climax set at the Amazing Exploding Ramada Inn in the desert is just ridiculous. Me depressed now.

Better you should try your luck with the truly weird and mostly wonderful "JCVD," at the Kendall Square and Coolidge Corner. It's sort of like a French Charlie Kaufman movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean-Claude Van Damme, action movie meathead at the end of the line. Worth seeing if only for the star's astonishing, self-flagellating monologue to God and the audience.

"Let the Right One In" (photo above), also at the Kendall, is probably the best single movie opening in the Boston area this weekend: an unforgettable creepy/tender Swedish vampire movie about a bullied 12-year-old boy (Kåre Hedebrant) whose new neighbor (Lina Leandersson) is a 12-year-old girl ("more or less") who only comes out at night. That's right, it's "Twilight" turned inside out, upside down, and in your face. The director is Tomas Alfredson, but this feels like it comes from the Cinema of IKEA: bone-deep dread served with meticulously designed pacing and framing. It also features the best mass cat-attack scene ever and a final image that turns darker and more frightening the more you think about it.

"Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains" is a very, very good documentary about the 16 Uruguayan rugby players who survived for 72 days after their plane went down in the Andes in 1972. Yes, they ate dead bodies to survive. The movie's about quite a bit more than that. It's at the Kendall, too -- good run of films there this week.

That includes "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," which also appears at the West Newton Cinema. This sounds like the worst kind of Holocaust kitsch -- a drama about a German boy who befriends a Jewish kid on the other side of the death camp barbed wire -- but director Mark Herman's observant, underplayed storytelling keeps it from tipping into bathos.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is's features editor.

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