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Movie Blog: This Week’s Best Bets

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Eric Henderson Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson joined the WCCO.COM web team in June 2006 and currently...
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It’s going to be a good weekend at Landmark Theaters for movie-goers who specifically seek out movies that tie into current events.

The much discussed Grand Jury Prize-winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — Fruitvale Station — has been the subject of many a think-piece on the subjects of race and violence, especially in the aftermath of the “not guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman (who was accused of stalking and then killing unarmed teen Trayvon Martin). The movie depicts the 2008 death of Oscar Grant, who was shot by a police officer while under restraint at a BART transit platform. It opens on Friday at the Lagoon.

On a much lighter note, if you simply can’t get enough Royal Baby buzz in your life as Prince William and Kate Middleton prepare to welcome their first child, you should probably consider taking in the one-time-only screening of Born to Royalty, a “feature-length celebration charting the history of the Royal babies born in recent times.” It screens Wednesday evening at the Lagoon.

Here is a list of some of the other limited release screenings you’ll want to check out this week.

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Monday, July 22: Show Boat (Heights Theater)

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s magnificent Show Boat has often been called among the 2 or 3 greatest American musicals ever staged, and almost certainly the first to pull the medium into the modern era. Without the serious-minded, socially conscious, heavily dramatic Show Boat, there may never have been West Side Story, or South Pacific, or Gypsy, or Fiddler on the Roof. Heck, even A Chorus Line would probably have ended with both lines being admitted into the chorus. Filled with such classic showtunes as “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Ol’ Man River,” Show Boat tells the tale of doomed love amid the players of a traveling entertainment float. Conscious of racial discrimination, the show was ahead of its time, and gay director James Whale certainly taps into the sense of social inequality.

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Monday, July 22: A Raisin in the Sun (St. Anthony Main Theater)

In a tie-in with the Guthrie Theater’s production of Clybourne Park, “Bruce Norris’ satiric comedy deals with race and class in response to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun,” the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul presents a screening of the 1961 film adaptation of Hansberry’s trendsetting drama. The film stars Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, along with Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands, playing the Youngers, an African-American family who decide to buy a house in a predominately white suburb of Chicago after receiving a windfall from their insurance company.

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Wednesday, July 24: Black Sunday (Trylon Microcinema)

If I may editorialize, Trash Film Debauchery sort of got it wrong with this month’s programming. Black Sunday is no jerry-rigged, campy, dated Grade B (or Grade Z) trashterpiece. It’s one of Italian maestro Mario Bava’s most popular, most elegant gothic horrors. That said, I guess I consider most of the other movies selected by TFD more defensible than your average Best Picture Oscar winner, so perhaps this lady doth protest too much. Starring the intense-eyed Barbara Steele as a witch who is sentenced to death by spiked mask, who then returns to destroy the lives of her descendants two centuries later, Black Sunday is awash in dark, moody B&W imagery.

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Friday, July 26 through Thursday, August 1: Jaws and The Birds (Parkway Theater)

Aside from the obvious, the films in this weekend’s double feature at the Parkway have a few other things in common. Steven Spielberg’s underwater chiller and Alfred Hitchcock’s most overt entry into the field of horror are both surprisingly slow builds, biding their time, slowly ratcheting up the suspense. They’re also as much about the curious behavior of humans under duress as they are about the animal attacks they depict on the surface. Jaws makes it clear that there is no rationale behind that great white’s dead eyes, and that, if anything, human error is as much to blame for most of the tragedy that ensues once authorities have been alerted to the danger at their shores. In contrast, The Birds‘ fierce fowl are at once strangely omniscient but also reflective of the harsh pecking order at the idyllic Bodega Bay, and indicative of what chaos can ensue when an outsider roosts among birds of a feather.

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Sunday, July 28: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Theatres at Mall of America)

I haven’t read a single volume of the six-book Mortal Instruments series, so I have no idea whether this film is going to kick off the next Twilight or the next Golden Compass. Suffice it to say that the Mall of America will be hosting some of the movie’s very photogenic young stars as well as the books’ author Cassandra Clare this Sunday in the mall’s rotunda. Clips from the movie, which opens on August 21, will also be presented. Bring earplugs.

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