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Joe Dante invites you to an orgy

The veteran fantasy filmmaker hits town for screenings of The Hole, Gremlins 2, and his 1968 pop-culture epic The Movie Orgy


Hollywood veteran Joe Dante got his start directing movies for low-budget legend Roger Corman (Piranha, The Howling), graduated to the big-time in the 80s (Gremlins), and has since created a number of provocative entertainments (Matinee, Small Soldiers). He comes to Chicago on Friday and Saturday to introduce screenings of three films. J.R. Jones

Gremlins 2: The New Batch Dante's 1990 sequel relocates the hero and heroine of Gremlins (Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates) to New York, where they're both working for a vain tycoon named Daniel Clamp (John Glover)—an obvious conflation of Donald Trump and Ted Turner—in a midtown skyscraper, where the gremlins manage to run loose and cause all sorts of mischief. Solid, agreeable entertainment, this basically consists of plentiful gags and lighthearted satire spiked with Dante's compulsive taste for movie references, humorously scripted by Charlie Haas but without the darker thematic undertones and the more tableaulike construction of the original. You may want to see it more than once in order to catch all the peripheral details, but there aren't any depths to explore, just a lot of bright, free-floating comic invention. With Robert Prosky, Robert Picardo, Christopher Lee, Kathleen Freeman, and many cameos (included are Daffy Duck and Leonard Maltin). —Jonathan Rosenbaum PG-13, 106 min. Fri 8/10, midnight, Music Box

The Hole An unhappy teen (Chris Massoglia) and his adventuresome brother (Nathan Gamble) move into a new home with their single mom (Teri Polo) and discover a trap door in the basement; when they pry it open, they uncover a bottomless hole, and horrible stuff begins to crawl out. "Depth isn't a slapped-on gimmick in The Hole, but a metaphor central to its plot," critic Dave Kehr wrote after a jury on which he served awarded Dante's 2009 horror thriller a special prize for best 3-D feature at the Venice film festival. Indeed, the sense of a roiling subconscious beneath the basement floor is so potent that even the stock scares on tap—a murderous clown doll, a little girl in ghostly white dress—are creepily effective. Long shelved in the U.S. (where modestly produced 3-D movies have a hard time winning distribution), this is scheduled to play select cities in the fall, but it screens this weekend in a 2-D print. With Bruce Dern. —J.R. Jones PG-13, 92 min. Fri 8/10, 10 PM, Music Box

[Recommended] The Movie Orgy Dante first presented this epic found-footage program in 1968, but the creative sensibility of his Hollywood career is already in evidence. At once a send-up and a celebration of American kitsch, it draws on 50s drive-in movies, vintage commercials, and TV westerns (there are also lengthy clips of Abbott and Costello and other comedy legends). Dante's accomplishment here is to make everything seem fake: footage of early A-bomb tests and video of Richard Nixon's Checkers speech seem like products of the same garish showmanship that produced Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Dante has presented this in various versions over the years, some running more than seven hours; this one clocks in at 280 minutes. —Ben Sachs Sat 8/11, 8 PM, Nightingale

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