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Ty's weekend picks for Friday, 5/6/11

Posted by Ty Burr  May 6, 2011 09:11 AM

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Thumbnail image for Beaver Poster.jpgA weird weekend at the movies, and not a bad one. The big dog, of course, is "Thor," the latest appetizer for the "Avengers" movie that will finally roll around next year at this time. It's okay. Chris Hemsworth is likable enough, I guess, and we're used to seeing Anthony Hopkins slumming it for the money, but what's Natalie Portman doing here in the thankless role of the plucky astrophysicist who goes gaga when Thor takes off his shirt? Asgard looks like "Tron" with better lighting, and the 3D is negligible, but the movie will please most of the fan-boys and little boys and their moms, and that's enough to make the Marvel bean-counters happy.

On the other hand, what's the demographic for The Beaver"? Psychiatrists? Jodie Foster completists? Mel Gibson apologists? Neither the train wreck that some are surely hoping for nor a very good movie -- despite all its director's noble intentions -- this dank drama about one man's depression and the hand-puppet that (sort of) cures it feels more than anything else like "American Beauty" with a very special appearance by Fozzie Bear. Gibson gives a real performance, frighteningly bleak at times and manic at others, and how closely the role and the movie skirt his own demons is anyone's guess, if anyone still cares at this point. For all that, this movie needs to be crazier if it's to work at all, which means that Gibson probably should have directed it himself.

The weekend's two best movies couldn't be more different: The troubled, meditative pioneer journey of Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff" and the smart, muscular slash-and-burn of the old-school samurai epic "13 Assassins." I recommend them both, but understand that "Meek's" unfolds at a pace appropriate to its time period and has an open-ended finale that seems to drive some people bonkers. Worked for me -- I'm still chewing it over.

Oh, and Werner Herzog's back in town with his latest dourly comic post-ironic documentary, in this case about the prehistoric art of the Chauvet Cave in southern France. "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" also represents the first attempt by a "serious" art-house director to take a crack at 3D, an event I've been predicting for a while now. It's only a matter of time before Tarantino or the Coen brothers step up to the plate.

Elsewhere the Boston LGBT Film Festival unspools at the MFA, the Brattle, and Machine. The Harvard Film Archive hosts the films of rising Mexican filmmaker Nicolas Pereda, with appearances by the director at all showings. The Coolidge takes a breather between co-presenting the IFFBoston and next week's Coolidge Awards, dedicated to the film preservation community, but there's a pretty dandy documentary about Warhol Factory regular Candy Darling that opens today.

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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 Boston.com's features editor.

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

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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