Tag Archives: movie review

Inspiration & Injustice: Midtown Cinema kicks off its classic film series with “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

There are some films that stick in the minds of moviegoers everywhere, even decades after they’ve left the silver screen. Midtown Cinema has created a series devoted to the appreciation of those films—the ones we find ourselves going back to over and over, the ones that make us think, make us feel, that keep the allure of the cinema alive.

And what better way to start off this series than with the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” An adaptation of Harper Lee’s beloved book of the same name, Robert Mulligan’s film gives us a glimpse into the South in the time of the Great Depression and delves into racism and injustice in the judicial system in a way that remains relevant today.

The film follows two main threads, each predominantly seen from the perspective of 6-year-old Scout (Mary Badham). Scout is the avid tagalong in the antics of her older brother, Jem (Phillip Alford), who is a bit obsessed with Boo Radley, the purportedly mad son of a man who lives down the street. And though their father (Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck) tells them to leave the family alone, the children can’t help but pry.

But the most important thread in the film is Atticus’ story. Atticus Finch is a lawyer and happens to be presiding over a very difficult case—he is defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. As Atticus fights the injustice of the man’s plight, he strives to raise his children to see that injustice. Scout’s 6-year-old perspective—still absorbing her surroundings and crafting her worldview—makes for a very interesting window through which to see the case.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” remains a powerful story, speaking not only to the racism and prejudice of its time but to what remains under the surface (or not-so-under the surface) of today’s society. While the book will always be this reviewer’s choice—the movie adheres pretty closely to the book, but for length’s purposes has to leave a lot of nuance out—the film does give us fantastic performances by Peck, Badham and Alford.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” plays Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com. 

 

AUGUST EVENTS

3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“The Toxic Avenger” (1986)
Friday, Aug. 16, 9:30 p.m.

“A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969)
Sunday, Aug. 18, 2 p.m.

Down in Front! Presents
“Jaws: The Revenge” (1987)
Friday, Aug. 23, 9:30 p.m.

Film Appreciation Series
“To Kill A Mockingbird” (1962)
Sunday, Aug. 25, 2 p.m. (with post-screening discussion)
Monday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.

Outdoor Films
“Coco” (2017)
Friday, Aug. 9

“Paddington 2” (2017)
Friday, Aug. 30

All outdoor films start at dusk.

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The Glass Sailing: “Maiden” recounts the first all-female crew for the legendary World Yacht Race.

It was 33,000 miles. It was a great source of patriotic pride and a chance to prove your weight in the sailing world.

Back then, it was called the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. Now, it is simply the Ocean Race, and it took its competitors on a journey very reflective of its title, submitting them to arduous, dangerous conditions.

In 1989, 23 crews set out from Southampton, England, for the nine-month haul. One of those teams was Tracy Edwards’ crew, sailing Maiden (or, with a wink and a nudge, “Maiden Great Britain”), the titular focus of director Alex Holmes’ new documentary.

Edwards, enamored by life at sea since she worked as a stewardess on a yacht, submitted the first all-female challenge. She was laughed at when she first proposed the idea in 1986—sailing was seen as a “men’s sport.” The film catches us up to speed, quickly relaying the three years it took for Edwards to build her crew, raise funding for the challenge, and, at age 27, bring that dream to fruition.

Holmes recreates Maiden’s journey, combining found footage from Tracy’s childhood, TV footage from the event itself, and interviews from each of the crew members years later, reflecting on the race.

Apart from the ocean itself, there were plenty of obstacles throughout their journey. No one believed that they could even pull off such a feat. They were, after all, women, and it was a men’s competition. Edwards had to convince the women she gathered to crew the ship that it was a battle worth fighting, herself taking the role of skipper—though by the end of the trip, she had picked up more responsibilities.

Not only does the film pull the nostalgia card, capturing the emotions of the crewmembers as they look back on that legendary trip, but the TV footage places you right in the midst of the action. We get to see Edwards hunched over the nautical map, drafting the route. We get to see the intensity of the waves, the crewmembers hoisting the sails and scaling the ropes to do their jobs. It is an incredible combination of mid- and post-experiential reflection.

Also included in the film’s narrative is the retrospect of Maiden’s competition, and various media outlets, such as Bob Fisher from The Guardian. It is fascinating to see the men discussing the sexist predispositions they’d had in 1989 and perhaps glimpse the lasting effects of those ruffled feathers. Despite Edwards stating in old footage that she hated the word “feminist,” we see Maiden’s valiant attempt to shake the societal structures set in place—to remind the world that, “Anything you can do, we can do.”

“Maiden” will play in July at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com.

 

JULY EVENTS
at Midtown Cinema

Central PA Open Screen
Thursday, July 11, 7 p.m.

National Theatre Live
“Julie”
Monday, July 15, 7 p.m.

3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“Wrath of Khan”
Friday, July 19, 9:30 p.m.

Moviate presents
“The Juniper Tree” (4K restoration)
Sunday, July 21, 7 p.m.

Down in Front! presents
“Ben & Arthur” (Pride edition)
Sunday, July 28, 7 p.m.

Outdoor Films
“Labyrinth,” July 12
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990), July 26
“Coco,” Aug. 9
“Paddington 2,” Aug. 30

All outdoor films begin at dusk.

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Heartbreaking, Relatable: “Working Woman” is a must-see in the annual HBG Jewish Film Festival.

Writing reviews requires consistency.

People expect the type of review they’ve always seen when they flip through the pages of TheBurg. They’ve grown accustomed to the specific voice in which I write these reviews. It’s a voice that is willing to give a critique, but still remain impartial—words from a critic, not a fan.

Even when I connect with a film, I remember that my personal connection is not the same connection that everyone else might make with a film. I try to write my film reviews as an unbiased reflection on an artistic work—still relaying the emotions, themes and message that the film presents, but doing so in a trusted, professional way.

This time, though, it was very challenging.

Michal Aviad’s “Working Woman” is an Israeli film about a woman who finds herself in a difficult position because of sexual harassment. While I can’t say that I’ve faced harassment to this extent in the workplace, I can pinpoint “lesser” examples, and many more from my social life, that allowed me to connect to this story at a visceral level. And so can most women.

The film is part of the lineup for the Edward S. Finkelstein Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival, and though it portrays an Israeli perspective on the world, the film transcends its demographic. This is a film that hits home for a lot of people, no matter their walk of life. This is a fairly common trait for the films that are chosen for the JFF—they speak to everyone. This one, in particular, had a lot to say.

Orna (Liron Ben-Shlush) has accepted a position as the assistant to a successful real estate developer, Benny (Menashe Noy).

“Is this the right time to learn a new profession?” her husband (Oshri Cohen) asks, having just opened a new restaurant a few months prior.

He is nervous about their family of four making a change so soon after the uncertain financial move they have made with his budding business. But, confident and quietly resolved, Orna is excited about the opportunity.

Soon, as the restaurant takes longer than expected to find its legs, Orna becomes the breadwinner in the family, throwing herself into the position and playing a major role in selling a sea-view high rise to several French customers. But providing financially for her family seems to come at a price. Her boss seems to have more than a working relationship in mind. Though she blocks his advances, Benny seems determined, making comments and acting inappropriately. Orna brushes off the sexual harassment and tries to focus on doing her job, but things keep getting worse.

Aviad fiercely portrays every woman’s nightmare in this Israeli drama. Women (and not just women, but in this scenario, it’s applicable) know something of Orna’s story. Maybe some haven’t been targeted by sexual harassment to this extreme—maybe they’ve only heard comments or had assumptions made by them that translated to work difficulties. Maybe some have had worse. But we all know what it’s like to be the recipient of unwanted behavior.

And that’s what makes “Working Woman” cut so deep.

Orna never specifies why she lets things continue without saying anything. Perhaps she believes her husband will not let her continue the job if he finds out. Or perhaps she sees this as commonplace—a part of the working environment. An interesting note (though unfortunately not surprising) is that Orna never considers filing a report or going to the authorities. Perhaps it is because she feels like it won’t accomplish anything. Every option that Orna has seems to point to her losing a position in a career she loves.

It also unequivocally points to Orna having to come to grips with the fact that the harassment is happening. We’d all like to believe that the human race is growing and learning, that discrimination is fading into the background. We’d all like to believe that we will never have to deal with something of this nature. And that desire sometimes leads to pretending—if we pretend nothing is happening then we can believe that we really are in a better world. Maybe the problem will solve itself, without us having to voice it or confront it.

Aviad offers an in-depth case study of the concept of freezing—the moment in which, during a fight-or-flight scenario, the body instead becomes immobilized. Since Orna probably has not done research into the psychological effects of sexual harassment, her moments of freezing affect her even more severely, especially in context with the conversations she has with her husband late in the film. We see this struggle in Ben-Shlush’s performance. Her pinnacle scene comes as she sits at her computer, typing up her own recommendation letter, trying to fix her problem while still deeply entrenched in it. It is a heartbreaking yet familiar scene in which she attacks herself instead of helping herself.

There are so many moments I can point to in order to recommend this film, but suffice it to say, “Working Woman” will simultaneously compel and upset. It is a story worth reflecting upon and a film that needs to be seen.

“Working Woman” appears this month at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com and www.hbgjff.com.

 

MAY EVENTS
At Midtown Cinema

Down in Front! presents
“Time Chasers” (1994)
Friday, May 10, 9:30 p.m.

3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“Dark Crystal” (1982)
Friday, May 17, 9:30 p.m.

Edward S. Finkelstein Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival
May 11 to 16
Lineup can be seen at www.hbgjff.com.

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Five Finger Family: Stealing gets complicated in “Shoplifters.”

Writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda popped onto my radar in 2013 when “Like Father, Like Son” premiered.

The film was beautiful and heart wrenching and really brought its audiences to struggle with societal norms in a way that was unique and refreshing. Now, six years later, after a few other films have been added to Kore-eda’s repertoire, “Shoplifters” graces the screen in an equally riveting, simultaneously upsetting way.

No one in the Shibata family is actually related. They are a piecemeal family, coming from different walks of life, drawn together by love and a need to get by. Osamu (Lily Franky) and Lin (Sakura Andô) claim the roles of mother and father, while Aki (May Matsuoka) and Shota (Joy Kairi) assume the roles of children and Hatsue (Kirin Kiki) as grandmother. The Shibata family works together to survive, cobbling their rent together with various jobs that the adults can manage, while covering the other essentials by shoplifting—a secret family trade that is passed on to the children, allowing even them to have a hand in the survival of the family.

The Shibata family is brought even closer together when they introduce another child into the mix. Yuri (Miya Sasaki) is the neighbors’ severely neglected little girl. Her parents constantly leave her on her own for hours on end and treat her horribly when they are home. When Osamu and Lin bring Yuri home one night for dinner, she never goes back. “It’s not kidnapping,” Lin insists, noting that there’s no ransom.

“Shoplifters” is a beautifully executed struggle with life and ideals, denouncing the idea of black-and-white morality and making the conflict as shaded and complicated as possible. As we get to know the Shibata family, it becomes harder and harder to see them from a societal perspective. Instead, we see from their worldview, feeling the love that they have for one another and the reasoning behind why they do what they do. “Shoplifters” is a story about need and want and the alluring nature of the family unit, but it is also a story grappling with the question of what is right.

Each actor in this ensemble will win your heart over with their personal journeys, though specifically Franky and Andô make the film. And from the film’s cast to its slowly unfolding, captivating story, it is no wonder that “Shoplifters” was nominated for an Oscar.

Kore-da has made another masterpiece, and it can only be hoped that he continues to helm films that make us think.

“Shoplifters” plays this month at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com.

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A Contrast in Comedy: “Stan & Ollie” pays tribute to the dream team of early cinema.

Comedy in media has changed so drastically throughout the years.

These days, we seek TV and Netflix specials for comedy, and the popular genres have shifted from screwball and slapstick in the early 20th century to absurdist and shock factor in the early 21st century. There is a huge distinction between today’s comedians and those of early cinema, such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers—and, of course, Laurel and Hardy.

Not only were Stan Laurel and Ollie “Babe” Hardy praised for their physical comedy from the 1920s to the ‘40s, but they found their fame in the nature of their duo. They balanced each other out with the characters they presented—Laurel with his childlike, clumsy nature, and Hardy with his brash, in-charge presence.

From the direction of John S. Baird comes a love letter to this comedy duo, “Stan & Ollie,” starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the respective title characters.

“Stan & Ollie” is not your typical tribute film. While Reilly and Coogan perform many of the duo’s bits, the film is not a showcase of their work, focusing more on the behind-the-scenes relationship between the pair.

This focus is established early on. In the first scene, the partners are seen meandering through a Hollywood soundstage, a location that emphasizes the larger than life (and at times even cartoonish) atmosphere of that era’s production scene. But their conversation is so mundane—about friends, the women they’ve been dating, and a number of other average topics that you would not expect in the midst of such a “Hollywood” scene.

That close familiarity is broken by a 16-year jump, in which we find ourselves in London, on Stan and Ollie’s last tour. Their hope is to pick up enough fanfare (a difficult task, since many of their fans think they’ve retired) and impress a studio exec who has promised financing for a film. But the two are not as close as they used to be, and rifts from their past resurface as they try to make the best of their old partnership, while their agent (played by Rufus Jones) beats around the bush.

Reilly and Coogan are a delight to watch, not only in the slow-boiling tension between the two old pals, but in the realization of the duo’s gimmicks. It quickly becomes clear that Stan is the creative brain. He tirelessly proposes scene ideas for both the film they’re preparing for and for the bits that will get them through the tour.

Ironically, it is the comedy gold that appears apart from their brainstorming, simply in the mundaneness of their actions, which will captivate your attention. There’s something to be said about the way a comedian can try a bit this way and that but not feel confident with it, and then turn around and stumble through a real-life scenario that translates beautifully to audiences. We see this often throughout the film, as the two attempt to hone bits that may never see the light of day, but then, for example, drop a heavy suitcase down a flight of stairs.

Another joy of the film is watching Mrs. Hardy and Mrs. Laurel in their antagonistic friendship. For Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda), “butting heads” is a kind term, but the two stick it out for their significant others. The story touches on loyalty in many forms, and the way these four characters revolve around each other is fascinating.

The film cultivates a significant air of nostalgia, at times even matching the spirit of Laurel and Hardy films with its meandering pace and situational humor. But there is a deeper vein to “Stan & Ollie,” one that explores the entanglement of friendship and artistic fulfillment, and the study of the meaning behind a partnership. While “Stan & Ollie” won’t wow you with extraordinary tricks, it will tug at your heartstrings.

“Stan & Ollie” arrives this month at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com.

 

MIDTOWN CINEMA
FEBRUARY SPECIAL EVENTS

Down in Front! presents
“Time Chasers” (1994)
Friday, Feb. 8, 9:30 p.m.

3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
Friday, Feb. 15, 9:30 p.m.

National Theatre Live presents
“I’m Not Running”
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m.

A Red Carpet Evening
Sunday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m.

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Supremely Satisfying: Standout performances elevate “On the Basis of Sex.”

“Changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change.”

So says Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones, in director Mimi Leder’s latest film, “On The Basis Of Sex,” based on the 1972 case, Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which was vital to overturning more than 100 years of gender discrimination.

To set the stage, Leder thrusts us into 1950s America, where women are allowed to study law at Harvard—but not without some residual resistance and with little-to-no luck finding a firm to welcome them after they receive their degree.

Bader Ginsburg rises to the top of her class, even taking on the workload of two students while her husband, Martin (Armie Hammer), battles cancer (the two of them are raising a child, to boot) and then steps out into the real world—to become a professor. Firm after firm denies her a position because she is a woman.

Fast forward to the 1970s. Now, with two children, the family carries on. Bader Ginsburg is still a professor, embittered by society’s mishandling of gender discrimination and teaching that very subject to young minds. Meanwhile, her daughter (Cailee Spaeny) has also blossomed into a feminist, even challenging Bader Ginsburg about her role in society.

And then a case appears that could change everything.

It centers around tax law, which is more Martin Ginsburg’s field, but he points the case out to Bader Ginsburg because it involves a man who is unable to receive tax deductions as a caretaker for his invalid mother. Here, we see gender discrimination from another perspective. Normally, the cases involve discrimination against women due to gender norms, but this one wrestles with the opposite, something that the Ginsburgs believe may interest the Supreme Court and help them win their case.

And so continues Bader Ginsburg’s fight for civil liberties and equality for men and women alike, a fight that even the ACLU at first is not on board with. Justin Theroux plays a friend in the ACLU who is unable to look past ingrained prejudice to risk standing by the defendant in such an uncertain case.

Jones brings a shrewd, confident energy to the role as Bader Ginsburg, and Hammer complements her perfectly. We see excellent supporting performances from Theroux (though he plays a friend, he is, at times, the emotional foe in the story) and Spaeny, who ignites the screen in her scenes with Jones. There’s even a fun walk-on from Kathy Bates as Dorothy Kenyon, a famous lawyer in support of civil liberties.

Leder has given us a fantastic depiction of society’s slow-but-steady cultural shift through this case. And while there is still so far to go, we can feel the effects of the work that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had with this victory and with her work on the Supreme Court.

“On the Basis of Sex” plays this month at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com.

 

Midtown Cinema
January Events

National Theatre Live presents
“Antony & Cleopatra”
Monday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m.

3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“Clue” (1985)
Friday, Jan. 18 at 9:30 p.m.

Down in Front!
Comedy improv riffs on
“Future War”
Friday, Jan. 25 at 9:30ish

Moviate presents
“The Public Image is Rotten”
Documentary event
Sunday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.

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Stories & Identities: “Colette” explores the fascinating life of the famous French novelist.

“My name is Claudine. I live in Montaigne. I was born there in 1884. I shall probably not die there.”

So pens Colette (Kiera Knightley), the young woman from the late 1800s/early 1900s for whom director Wash Westmoreland’s “Colette” is named after. Colette has found herself married to Willy, a man whose claim to fame is his writing—though it is not, in fact, his.

Moving to Paris from the country to marry Willy (Dominic West), Colette is thrown into a world that takes a while to grow on her. While Willy loves riches, flirting and fame, Colette is content with the silence of the countryside and is not impressed with Willy’s friends, who flaunt their “personality with a capital P” (their airs are perfectly symbolized by a bedazzled turtle that Colette sees at a party Willy takes her to).

So, when Willy announces that their finances are low and asks Colette to write a novel about her school days so that he can publish it under his name, she jumps at the opportunity to do something worthwhile.

Ironically, Colette’s writing sells volumes more than any of Willy’s works ever did, and Willy begs her (and at times, forces her) to keep writing “Claudine’s” story. As Willy continues to squander away the profits of the book sales and stir more and more discontent in Colette’s life, she begins to explore her surroundings, and—more importantly—herself, in the context of queer identity and pushing gender norms.

Written by Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, the story follows the true story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who continued on to write many books after the “Claudine” series, under her own name. The dialogue is bright and biting at times, with rich performances from both Knightley and West, their onscreen chemistry relaying their strange, adverse relationship. Supporting performances by Eleanor Tomlinson and Denise Gough as Colette’s love interests bring the film even more life, and though the cinematography is nothing more than straightforward, the story more than makes up for that.

“Colette” is coming soon to Midtown Cinema. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this fascinating tale.

 

Midtown Cinema
October Events

National Theatre Live
“Julie”
Monday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m.

“King Lear”
Monday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m.

“Frankenstein”
Sunday, Oct. 28, 7 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.


“Halloween” (1978)
Friday, Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26, 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m.


Moviate
“Mike Kuchar: Filmmaker In-Person”
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 7 p.m.

“The Hungan” (1991)
Sunday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m.


Down in Front!
“Werewolf” (1995)
Friday, Oct. 12, 9:30 p.m.


Vidjam of Horror
Sunday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m.


3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)
Friday, Oct. 19, 9:30 p.m.


“Rocky Horror Picture Show”
Saturday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.

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So Awkward: “Eighth Grade” captures the anxiety, discomfort of middle school, like, really well.

Everyone has been through middle school.

No one particularly looks upon it fondly. In fact, most people reflect back on it with a certain degree of agony. “Eighth Grade,” comedian Bo Burnham’s first feature in the writer/director’s chair, perfectly captures that preteen angst.

Following Kayla (Elsie Fisher), an acne-riddled, phone-absorbed girl who has just won the yearbook superlative “most quiet,” the film gives a play-by-play of every little detail that has ever made us squirm about our past selves. It’s a story that really hits home with its accuracy. Boys make farting noises with their mouths, girls freak out about what they’re wearing to the mall, etc. Kayla finds herself growing up in an uncomfortably familiar world of heightened emotions, naively accelerated sex standards and social media saturation. She is beginning to make really deep connections with her surroundings, but still has no idea what she’s doing.

Kayla’s father (Josh Hamilton) is constantly begging her to talk to and make friends with her school peers, and she wishes she could be cool enough to fit in. Instead, she just wrecks her confidence by giving social advice on her YouTube channel—and then not taking it.

Taking place entirely in the last week of Kayla’s eighth-grade experience, her tumultuous journey navigating boys and friendship and anxiety comes to its peak. Whether it’s her forced attendance at a popular girl’s pool party or trying to befriend high school seniors, each moment of “Eighth Grade” has a delightfully embarrassing reminiscence to it, and Burnham’s choices throughout the film orchestrate that wonderful awkwardness. From the dramatic music that pairs with Kayla’s emotions to the symbolic choices in the mise en scene of each interaction, every inch of this film screams adolescent nostalgia.

The fact alone that Burnham decided to tell this story through the perspective of a girl instead of telling his own story makes the film interesting enough. But the casting choices really make this a great film. Fisher, who has just graduated middle school herself, absolutely nails the role, her anxiety so thinly veiled behind an air of preteen indifference. It is a joy to watch the intricacies of her performance as she desperately tries to keep her emotions in check. And Hamilton wins our hearts as the goofy, earnest father who tries to watch his daughter grow up without interfering.

Though Burnham has cultivated a name for himself in the comedy realm, the film boasts more than just a handful of jokes. Be prepared to be taken back—and feel a little more than you expect—in this gem of a film. “Eighth Grade” starts at Midtown Cinema in early August.

August
Special Events

National Theatre Live
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
Monday, Aug. 13, 7 p.m.


Outdoor Films
“Toy Story” (1995)
Friday, Aug. 24
Film starts at dusk. Rain date on Aug. 25.

Anime Film Festival
Aug. 25-30

Bring the Baby
“My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997)
Sunday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.

Down in Front! Presents
“The Time Travelers” (1964)
Friday, Aug. 31, 9:30 p.m.

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Mega Mordor: Spend an entire day in Middle Earth.

I will admit it: I had my doubts about “The Lord of the Rings.”

I was a kid. I saw the trailer for the first film in theaters and rolled my eyes. I had never read the books. I had never even heard of J.R.R. Tolkien.

But my opinion changed very quickly when my family rented the first film to watch right before we saw “The Two Towers” in theaters (that’s right—I didn’t even see the first film in theaters). Very suddenly, Middle Earth was a place that I loved and wanted to be a part of.

I wanted to take that journey with Frodo and meet elves in Rivendell and talk with Ents in Fangorn Forest. I read the books shortly after that. And then I read “The Hobbit,” the story that spawned the quest to return the One Ring to the fires of Mordor, and then those movies came out, and the cycle continued…

The point is—it’s not difficult to get lost in Middle Earth. There is so much to get wrapped up in, whether the quaint hobbit holes of the Shire, the Misty Mountains, Rivendell or Mordor itself.

The universe that Tolkien created is rich and epic and captures the hearts of more than just fantasy lovers—because it’s more than just a fantasy world. It’s an opportunity to grapple with evil and fight for good, and it’s a journey into lands foreign even to ardent travelers. It’s a glimpse into a world that struggles to remain close to nature and maintain its innocence in a war-torn, chaotic era, a theme that rings true today.

That’s the beauty of Middle Earth. Even though we focus on the hobbits and wizards and orcs and other mythical things that we don’t get to see in our own world, at the end of the day, there are still humans abiding in the midst of this magic. We can still plant ourselves in Middle Earth’s tales and feel like we belong.

No wonder the Tolkien universe is so beloved. And no wonder there are movie marathons held in his honor.

This month, Midtown Cinema will host its first “Middle Earth Marathon”—more than 20 hours that fit neatly into a single day. It won’t be the first time this task has been attempted, and it won’t be the last. Marathons go ever on, and this day celebrating Tolkien will join the ranks of marathons that have crossed Midtown Cinema’s threshold, including a Harry Potter marathon and slasher film lock-in. There is nothing more effective than a movie marathon in getting a group of like-minded people together and excited about revisiting their favorite stories.

In the end, it’s only a passing thing—every movie marathon must pass, and a new day will come. But there’s something about Tolkien’s stories that stay with you. They mean something. The commitment is arduous, but the result is getting that ring to Mordor.

“The Middle Earth Marathon” takes place Nov. 18, beginning at midnight, at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. Arrival starts Nov. 17 at 10:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.midtowncinema.com.

 

MIDTOWN CINEMA
NOVEMBER EVENTS
www.midtowncinema.com

Hola Mexico Festival
Oct. 27-Nov. 2

Down in Front! Presents:
TBA
Friday, Nov. 10, 9:30 p.m.

Middle Earth Marathon
Saturday, Nov. 18, 12 a.m.
(Arrival starts at 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 17)

Moviate Presents
Stephen Broomer’s “Potamkin” on 16mm
Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.

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Mystery and Fear: “Beach Rats” tells a complex tale of self-acceptance.

We may be the only ones who really know Frankie.

His friends know one shade of him, and his family another. Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is who they need him to be—the teenage hooligan who runs around, stealing and smoking with the boys, or the son who spends time with his sick, dying father. But only the men he meets from Brooklyn Boys, an online site for gay men, know any shade further.

In Eliza Hittman’s “Beach Rats,” we come to know Frankie as a soft-spoken, hard-boiled egg, reliant on mystery to win over his acquaintances. It is what draws Simone (Madeline Weinstein), his new girlfriend, to him. But perhaps he is still figuring out his own mystery. Refusing to label himself (or, more importantly, see himself) as gay, Frankie struggles to keep his head in the game with Simone and to hide that part of himself at all costs, a struggle that grows more serious as the story continues. The film makes use of quiet, visual storytelling to unravel this compelling tale of societal fear.

This is not a coming out story; this is a case study of the difficulty of coming out. We like everything to be black and white. We will name someone as homophobic or a hooligan or any sort of label that tells others what we assume about a person. But Frankie is a puzzle that is slowly put together over two hours, in such a way that you can see the black and white converging to become an uncomfortable gray.

Dickinson does a phenomenal job wrestling with his character. You would do well to catch this gem of a film.

“Beach Rats” starts on Sept. 15 at Midtown Cinema, 250 Reily St., Harrisburg.

Author: Sammi Leigh Melville

 

MIDTOWN CINEMA

SPECIAL EVENTS

www.midtowncinema.com

 

Down in Front!

“Star Crystal” (1986)

Friday, Sept. 8, 9:30 p.m.

 

3rd in the Burg $3 Movie

“The Sandlot” (1993)

Friday, Sept. 15, 9:30 p.m.

 

Digital Theatre

“Falsettos”

Sunday, Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.
“Peter Pan”

Sunday, Sept. 24, 2:15 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m.

 

Harrisburg-Hershey Film Festival

Sept. 15-18

 

Middle Earth Marathon

Saturday, Sept. 23

 

Stanley Kubrick Collection

“The Shining”

Thursday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.
“2001: A Space Odyssey”

Friday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m.
“A Clockwork Orange”

Saturday, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m.

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