By Eric Henderson

Apologies for my absence last week. I could lie and say I was out busy watching all the new movies in theaters, but in actuality, I spent a lot of the last week nursing a cold and watching clips from my favorite movies on Blu-ray as part of my medicinal routine. You’d be surprised at just how well Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend does the trick when you’re feeling miserable. (And speaking of Blu-rays, if you didn’t already know, this month is Barnes & Nobles’ 50% off sale on all Criterion titles. No, they didn’t pay me to say that.) In any case, here are some of the best bets for limited-release and retrospective screenings around town this week. One extra thing to note (which I didn’t include below because seating is limited) is that there’s a free advance screening at St. Anthony Main tonight of the new scientific-spiritual whatsit from director Mike Cahill, I Origins.


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Friday, July 18: Top Gun (North Mississippi Park)

I can do no better than Queen Pauline (Kael) did taking down this quintessentially square-jawed (or square, depending on who you ask) stuck-in-the-’80s blasterpiece: “The movie is a shiny homoerotic commercial: the pilots strut around the locker room, towels hanging precariously from their waists. It’s as if masculinity had been redefined as how a young man looks with his clothes half off, and as if narcissism is what being a warrior is all about. In between the bare-chested maneuvers, there’s footage of ugly snub-nosed jets taking off, whooshing around in the sky, and landing while the sound track calls up Armageddon and the Second Coming.” Oh yes, there’s volleyball too. Lots and lots of volleyball.


Thursday, July 17: Blazing Saddles (Heights Theater)

Yesterday, we got some if not “complaints,” then at least some objections to this morning show report about the probably junk study that speculated on the power smelling flatulence could have to preventing cancer. Well, if we’re living in a world where we can’t enjoy a collective chuckle at a poot, then the terrorists have won. In that sense, even though Blazing Saddles isn’t my favorite (or even my fourth or fifth favorite) Mel Brooks movie, I urge you to see it this week at the Heights as part of your patriotic duty.


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Friday, July 18 and Saturday, July 19: Stand By Me (Riverview Theater)

Before The Shawshank Redemption came out and ruined everything, Stand By Me was generally considered the best of the non-horror Stephen King adaptations. Based on the Different Seasons novella “The Body,” it’s by turns touching, humorous, and also boasts an immortally gross pie-eating contest sequence. Sounds like summer to me!


Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20: Metropolis (Trylon Microcinema)

Fritz Lang’s gorgeous futuristic sci-fi epic was one of the most extravagant productions of the silent era this side of D.W. Griffith’s bank-breaking Intolerance. (Both films are covered extensively in Stuart Klawans’ crucial book Film Follies, which I cannot recommend highly enough.) Resplendent in German expressionism and at least thematically prescient, if not scientifically, Metropolis is unquestionably one of cinema’s incontestable masterpieces.


Saturday, July 19: Mary Poppins (Theatres at Mall of America)

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Subject of the positively frightful biopic cornfest Saving Mr. Banks last Oscar season, Mary Poppins was actually one of the most impenetrably entertaining things Disney studios ever touched, in spite of themselves. (If indeed P.L. Travers was a pill on the set, it only made for an improved final product.) There are a lot of frivolous pleasures around every corner, but I love how hard-headedly feminist it is at the end of the day. Mall of America presents audiences with the chance to belt out their favorite songs during a sing-a-long screening this weekend. “Vote for women!”

Eric Henderson