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Ty's movie picks for Friday, July 9

Posted by Ty Burr  July 9, 2010 09:30 AM

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biggerthanlife.jpgPick hit: "Bigger Than Life" at the Harvard Film Archive, tonight (Friday) at 7 p.m., introduced by Susan Ray, daughter of director Nicholas Ray. The film kicks off the Archive's Ray series -- a tribute to a filmmaker of unparalleled visual and textual emotion -- and is a rarely seen blat of brilliant 50s neurosis in which James Mason (in photo above) plays a stressed-out small town schoolteacher who veers into mania as a result of cortisone treatments. If you've seen "Rebel Without a Cause" in a movie theater, you know that Ray used color and widescreen cinematography with more agonized flair than almost any other director (except maybe his devoted acolyte Jean-Luc Godard). Another of his odes to outsiders, "Bigger Than Life" is an almost hallucinatory dismantling of the certainties of Eisenhower America. Highly recommended, as is Saturday's screening of 1949's "They Live By Night," a primal influence on Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" and remade by Altman as 1974's "Thieves Like Us." The unheralded Cathy O'Donnell gives one of the most touching performances in all of American cinema as a backwoods nobody made incandescent by her love for a naive young criminal (Farley Granger). (Here's the scene where the two meet.)

As far as multiplex fare goes, I've been predicting for years now that director Nimrod Antal might turn out to be the great genre-movie hope of his generation, much as John Carpenter was in the 1970s and James Cameron was in the 1980s. Films like "Kontroll, " "Vacancy," and "Armored" may be cheap but they're lean, smart, and effective -- unapologetic B-movies turned out with skillful panache. I'm such a fan, in fact, that an acquaintance just sent me an e-mail asking how the heck I let Wesley review "Predators," the movie that in theory may finally vault Antal into the A-list. Luck of the draw, I guess, but Wes has seen the light and so should you. Yes, it's a sequel. So was "Aliens."

From the expertly ridiculous to the Gallic sublime: The annual Boston French Film Festival hits the Museum of Fine Arts for a two-week trawl through the country's latest cinematic highlights (it's to be hoped). Here's an idea: Go catch the restored print of "Breathless" at the Coolidge or Kendall this weekend, then touch down at the MFA next Friday for "Two in the Wave," a documentary about the friendship of Nouvelle Vague titans Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.

What? You've never seen "Breathless"?! Here's your chance, then. Just understand that if much about the film seems familiar, it's because movies (and TV and commercials) have been absorbing its lessons for 50 years. The original still captures that beautiful mayfly moment when the cinema seemed new again.

"Despicable Me" is fine for the kiddies and just sly enough to keep mom and dad from nodding into their popcorn. At heart it's as mediocre as the Times' A.O. Scott says, but the details fizz nicely. A good start for newcomer Illumination Entertainment. Meanwhile, the local arthouses are abuzz with the arrival of "The Girl Who Played with Fire," the second installment in the Swedish film adaptations of Stieg Larsson's best-selling crime series. The movie boils water but it's not all that special; of course, I haven't read the books, so I can't port my literary memories over to the screen. Noomi Rapace is terrific as the title heroine -- man, I'd like to see her take on Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt; he'd be a smudge on the pavement -- but the filmmaking is essentially a stodgy, made-for-TV item with spurts of gore and ooh-la-la lesbianism. I don't normally say this, but the upcoming Hollywood version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig (no takers for the role of Lisbeth yet) is likely to be an improvement.

Want further guidance? Check out Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and David Gross's Movie Review Intelligence.

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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.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for

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