It might be easier to explain Annihilation by telling you what the movie isn’t. It isn’t a comedy, that’s for sure. Nor is it a period-accurate costume drama. Beyond that, though? Annihilation could squeeze into just about any label you give it: a horror film; a science-fiction flick that toys with the possibility of extraterrestrial life; a wilderness adventure; a romantically yearning character study; a chilling, painfully suspenseful mystery; a “message” film about either the environment or male toxicity, depending on where you feel like directing your anger; an abstract, allegorical art piece with long stretches of dialogue-free visuals. However you classify it, Annihilation is the best kind of cinematic experience—one that floods the senses without battering them into submission, and one that moves the mind and heart without manipulating them. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
★ BLACK PANTHER
Marvel movies get a bad rap for their cheesy dialogue, disjointed plots, and CGI-crowded battle scenes. But you never know when they’ll drop a gem. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is one huuuge gem, and comes closer to achieving truth and realness in its story than any Marvel film has before. Fully embracing its Blackness, the film smartly toes the line between history and fantasy. JENNI MOORE Various Theaters.
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
Daniela Vegas’ amazing face—even her most muted expressions communicate visible thoughts—carries most of the weight of A Fantastic Woman, Sebastián Lelio’s endurance piece of a movie. Even in nominally progressive media like Transparent, cisgender men are often cast as transwomen, so it’s somewhat revolutionary to see Vegas, who is transgender, play transgender singer Marina, whose mourning for her dead partner, Orlando, is disrupted by brutal treatment from Orlando’s bigoted family and the police and hospital workers handling his body. There’s a lot of rhetorical and physical violence in A Fantastic Woman, and all of it is hard to watch (and almost enough to make you wonder at what point depicting abuse leveled at a marginalized character becomes more exploitative than instructive). But a strain of emotionally startling fancy pushes A Fantastic Woman away from gratuitous pain and into the surreal, with moments that are visually striking and frame Marina’s inner life and reserves with the respect they deserve. MEGAN BURBANK Cinema 21.
THE HURRICANE HEIST
Director Rob Cohen is best known for launching the Fast and the Furious series, and also the vastly less successful xXx spy film series. He’s like a smart Brett Ratner, or a classy Michael Bay, which is to say: You’re watching something utterly fucking brainless with no real redeeming quality, but at least you’re not going to feel too debased afterwards. The Hurricane Heist wasn’t screened for critics, which doesn’t really matter because either this Snakes on a Plane-esque premise (“Let’s rob the US Treasury during a hurricane!”) sounds good to you or it doesn’t, and no highfalutin’ elitist Ebert wanna-be is gonna tell you any different. Various Theaters.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY PROGRAM
In honor of International Women’s Day, Fifth Avenue Cinema hosts director Susie Rivo as she screens her 2016 documentary Left on Pearl, about a demonstration by the women of Boston and Cambridge that led to the creation of Boston’s first Women’s Center. Also screened: Genesis 3:16, a short film by Maureen McCue used by Rivo in the making of Left on Pearl. Director in attendance. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
★ KUNG FU THEATER: THE KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM
This month’s installment in Dan Halsted’s ongoing celebration of all things whoop-ass is a rare 35mm print of 1979’s Kid with the Golden Arm, directed by Chang Cheh—well, not so much “directed” as much as it is “detonated,” featuring three or four completely distinct (and ridiculously costumed) groups of kung fu masters consistently and furiously engaging in arias of balletic violence over a single shipment of gold. Well, sometimes the violence is beautiful and fluid. And other times it’s just a giant mess o’ swords, axes, and wine splashing all over the screen. Which is equally awesome, really. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The 1996 documentary from Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou takes specially-designed cameras and lenses into the ecosystem of a French meadow and shows the fantasy found in Honey I Shrunk the Kids is so much more mundane than the reality of the insect world happening in and around those towering blades of grass. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
OUR BLOOD IS WINE
Filmmaker Emily Railsback and sommelier Jeremy Quinn combine talents to create this document of wine’s 8,000-year-old history in the Republic of Georgia, and the way that history was just barely reclaimed after decades of Soviet rule. Winemakers in attendance, post-screening wine tasting. Cinema 21.
PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
Franklin Schaffner’s sci-fi classic is one of the best counter-arguments to the conventional wisdom that avoiding spoilers is the most important part of enjoying a movie. For 50 years, this movie has been sold to audiences via the image of Charlton Heston beating up a beach in response to learning the planet of the apes is EARTH! And the film has managed to grow and maintain an appreciative audience anyway. It’s almost like the “what” of a story isn’t anywhere near as important as how the story is told—and the how of Planet of the Apes balances classiness and kitsch, elegance and chintz in a way that still packs a punch even when you know (maybe even because you know) what’s coming. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILOR MOON: THE MUSICAL
A live-action adaptation of the musical adaptation of the anime adaptation of the manga about Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians’ heroic battle against a group of evil Sailor Guardians who are out to steal the Sailor Crystals. Various Theaters.
One of gone-way-too-soon actor Anton Yelchin’s final roles is Tim, the skewed, spacey, and sorta-kinda-sinister would-be murderer in writer/director Cory Finley’s black comedy about homicidal upper-class teenage girls. It’s a scenario that immediately draws comparisons to Heathers, a comparison the marketing isn’t even trying to play down. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, March 9-Thursday, March 15, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.