All movies are free, and, unless otherwise noted, will be screened by video projection.
What can you say about the movie that taught you what movies were? The first time I saw Kane I discovered the existence of the director; the next dozen or so times taught me what he did--with lights and camera angles, cutting and composition, texture and rhythm. Kane (1941) is no longer my favorite Orson Welles film (I'd take Ambersons, Falstaff, or Touch of Evil), but it is still the best place I know of to start thinking about Welles--or for that matter about movies in general. 119 min. (DK) Screening in 35-millimeter as part of the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival. Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper of Ebert and Roeper at the Movies will introduce the screening. Tue 7/12, 8:59 PM, Grant Park, Lake Shore Drive and Monroe, 312-747-4912.
Ken Carter, a high school basketball coach in working-class Richmond, California, made national headlines in January 1999 when he benched his entire team (then undefeated) in midseason because some players' grades were too poor. This dramatization of his story consistently takes the high road, stressing education over sports and responsibility over despair, and Samuel L. Jackson is good as the straightforward, maddeningly stubborn coach, who gets more static from the parents than the players. But screenwriters Mark Schwahn and John Gatins continually compromise the story's real-world bite by recycling scenes and situations from other coach-team weepies (Hoosiers et al) and teacher-student inspirationals (Stand and Deliver et al). This is supposed to be about setting high standards, yet it's full of fudged ultimatums; in the end I couldn't be sure whether its morality was complex or just confused. Thomas Carter (Save the Last Dance) directed. PG-13, 137 min. (JJ) Thu 7/14, sunset, Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St., 312-747-6174.
A curiously subdued offering from Marc Forster (Monster's Ball). Johnny Depp plays a rather inexpressive J.M. Barrie, stuck in a loveless marriage, turning out flop plays, and hopelessly attracted to a lovely widow (Kate Winslet, in English rose mode) and her four adorable apple-cheeked sons. Barrie's constant attentions to the family are here portrayed as innocent and selfless (though well past the bounds of propriety, according to Winslet's dragon-lady mother, Julie Christie in a dazzling performance). The plays and amusements the boys put on--by far the most successfully magical scenes in the movie--inspire Barrie to create his great work, Peter Pan. PG, 101 min. (Meredith Brody) Wed 7/13, 9 PM, Northwestern Univ. Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston, 847-491-4000.
RFriday Night Lights
H.G. Bissinger's best seller about the 1988 high school football championships in Texas gets a heart-pounding big-screen treatment that captures all the action of a tumultuous season while showing the emotional toll on the players. Billy Bob Thornton gives an understated performance as coach Gary Gaines, whose small-town Permian Panthers are pursuing their fifth state title; his ability to withstand community pressure shores up a group of teens who face trouble at home and/or a future without many prospects. Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) stands out as the star running back, ably assisted by Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, and country musician Tim McGraw. Peter Berg (The Rundown) directed, though the 100-odd football plays were choreographed by his second-unit director, former USC offensive lineman Allan Graf. PG-13, 117 min. (AG) Tue 7/12, 8:30 PM, Eugene Field Park, 5100 N. Ridgeway, 773-478-9744.
At the end of the digitally animated Shrek the lovely Princess Fiona (given voice by Cameron Diaz) flipped the formula of Beauty and the Beast by electing to become a stocky green ogre just like her gruff but tender beau (Mike Myers); this time around she faces the delicate task of bringing him home to mom and dad (Julie Andrews and John Cleese). Like the first movie this is unassailable family entertainment, with a gentle fairy tale for kids and a raft of mildly satirical pop-culture references for parents. Antonio Banderas is very funny as the Zorro-esque Puss in Boots, and there are two priceless set pieces: a parody of COPS and a giddy survey of the kingdom, which is a medieval version of Rodeo Drive. PG, 105 min. (JJ) Fri 7/8, 8:30 PM, Mozart Park, 2036 N. Avers, 312-742-7535; also Wed 7/13, 8:30 PM, Warren Park, 6601 N. Western, 773-262-6314.
Many critics are calling this an improvement over the first movie, and they're probably right. But both are fairly routine minor variations on superhero tropes that have been around for over half a century, and as such I find them blending together into one ultimately forgettable (if agreeable) four-hour romp. As Dr. Octopus, Alfred Molina makes a more baroque supervillain than Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin, but the other stars--Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons--seem happy to be giving us more of the same. Sam Raimi's direction, on the other hand, is even more fluent and well paced, integrating the hero's spectacular acrobatics with the grueling horrors of being a working-class teen. PG-13, 127 min. (JR) Thu 7/14, 8:30 PM, Maplewood Playground Park, 1640 N. Maplewood, 312-742-4554.
RThe Wizard of Oz
Thanks to innumerable childhood viewings, this 1939 film is too firmly planted in my (pre)consciousness for me to find the proper critical distance. In many ways, it's stiff, ersatz, and anonymous in the usual MGM house style of the 30s (though King Vidor, one of several directors who worked on the project, does manage some graceful camera movement in the Munchkin scenes), but frankly I don't care. Those talking trees were a staple of my nightmares for years, and Margaret Hamilton is still my prime mental image of absolute evil. I don't find the film light or joyful in the least--an air of primal menace hangs about it, which may be why I love it. With Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, and Billie Burke; Victor Fleming took the final directing credit. 101 min. (DK) Thu 7/14, 8:30 PM, Dunham Park, 4638 N. Melvina, 773-685-3257.