MOVIE NIGHT! Elemental animation, French procedurals, and John Cassavetes

Pixar mixes fire and water in the new animated rom-com Elemental. Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios.


By Glenn McDonald

Every other week, our Movie Night! column previews the best upcoming films showing in Chapel Hill theaters – for those who still like to go out to the movies. Please remember that bookings and schedules change all the time, so always check online before heading out.


Opening June 15 at the Lumina and Silverspot

Pixar Animation Studios remains one of the surest bets in the entertainment industry. When Pixar releases a new film, you can safely assume a good time at the movies for kids and adults both.

The studio’s latest is the animated romantic comedy Elemental, which imagines a world where anthropomorphic representations of elemental forces – like fire and water – manage to get along and, ideally, fall in love. The character names are pretty great: Ember Lumen is the fiery female lead; Wade Ripple is the go-with-the-flow water-based character.

Reviews so far have been solid, and Pixar is always at its best when debuting new storylines and characters rather than stringing out old ideas with sequels and spinoffs. (Last year’s Toy Story spinoff Lightyear was a rare Pixar bomb.) Director Peter Sohn, the son of Korean Immigrants, based the story on his memories of multicultural New York City in the 1970s.

The film addresses, in an oblique and kid-friendly way, our nation’s current challenges with polarization and culture wars. Pixar movies are always fun, funny, and visually dazzling. But their real strength is this willingness to tackle deeper themes. Kids respond to this kind of thing. Adults, too, if we pay attention.

The Night of the 12th

Opening June 23 at the Chelsea

Looking forward to next weekend, on June 23 the Chelsea is opening the French crime thriller The Night of the 12th (La Nuit du 12), which won all the big categories at last year’s César Awards – France’s equivalent of the Oscars. A gritty and ground-level procedural, the film follows two dogged investigators as they try to solve a brutal murder of a young woman.

The story is based on an actual case and closely mirrors the real-world frustrations that the investigators encountered – among them, the deadly strain of casual misogyny that has long infected French society. Director Dominik Moll’s film is deliberately structured to confound expectations about crime-and-punishment stories. By all accounts, it’s a gripping drama and a challenging film.

Quick Picks:

The Chelsea Classics series turns its attention to indie film godfather John Cassavetes this week. Look for the director’s great 1984 film Love Streams, with Gena Rowlands and Cassavetes as siblings with an extremely complicated relationship. Also on tap: Cassavetes’ 1970 dissection of the American midlife crisis, Husbands, with Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk. Check the series page for screening times and dates.

The Chelsea’s Late Night series, meanwhile, features director David Lynch’s immortal 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Prequel to the infamous early ‘90s television series, Lynch’s deliciously weird story explores innocence, experience, and mysterious fate of homecoming queen Laura Palmer.

On Saturday, June 17, the Lumina’s Movies on the Green series will present the only movie that can make me cry every time, guaranteed: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Next weekend: Pixar’s 2009 classic Up.

Next on Silverspot’s Flashback Cinema series: Michael J. Fox takes on the time-space continuum in Back to the Future (June 18 and 21) and Jennifer Grey takes on Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing (June 25 and 28).

This weekend, the Varsity theater downtown is cycling in The Flash, the latest from the DC Extended Universe line of superhero movies. Look for appearances from Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Michael Keaton, also as Batman. Alternate universes, you see.

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