MOVIE NIGHT! Sentient dolls, atomic bombs and theater nerds

Margot Robbie contemplates her world in director Great Gerwig’s sly comedy Barbie. Image credit: Warner Bros Pictures.


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.



Now playing at the Chelsea, the Lumina, and Silverspot

Now that all the reviews and receipts are in, it’s clear that Hollywood’s double feature bill of Oppenheimer and Barbie has been a smashing success. According to industry reports, total box office revenue for the two films together, last weekend, totaled more than $310 million, making it the fourth biggest domestic weekend ever. On top of that, both films have been critically adored.

In the event that you’ve just awoken from a coma and/or returned from space, Barbie is a big bright comedy from director Greta Gerwig, concerning the iconic children’s doll come to life. Oppenheimer is director Christopher Nolan’s biopic of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb.

Both films were projected to be big summer tentpole movies and typically would be released on separate weekends. But because the movies were so different, studio planners opted to go head-to-head, figuring each would draw a different audience.

Instead, audiences embraced both films and some even pledged to watch them both, back-to-back, in a kind of spontaneous cultural viral challenge. In any case, the Barbenheimer phenomenon is Good News for those of us who still like our movies delivered in their natural habitat, the movie theater.

Last weekend will go a long way toward encouraging studios to develop quality material for theatrical distribution. Significantly, both movies are original scripts (not sequels) and both are ambitious visions from auteur-ish filmmakers. You can feel good about going to either film, or both if you really want to participate in the cultural moment.

And if you’re brave enough to do the same-day double-feature thing, consider downloading the inventive RunPee app, which will help you time your bathroom breaks. No, really. Bonus trivia: Oppenheimer’s nickname was Opje, later anglicized to Oppie. Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. Knowledge is power!

Quick Picks

Opening this weekend at Silverspot, and next weekend at the Chelsea, the indie comedy Theater Camp is getting great early reviews and earned multiple standing ovations at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It looks like so much fun, especially for those of us who were high school theater nerds. Check out the very funny trailer.

If you’re in the mood for a scary movie, you’ve got two options this weekend. On the mild side, Disney’s Haunted Mansion is a light spooky-comedy based on the old theme park attraction. On the wild side, the Australian indie Talk To Me – concerning seances and severed hands – is earning real respect from the hardcore horror crowd. 

Another big hit at Sundance, the independent film Earth Mama follows a single mother in the Bay Area fighting to get her children back from foster care. The film opens at the Chelsea this weekend.

Next up at the Chelsea Classics series: William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in the notorious 1981 erotic thriller Body Heat. Over at the Late Night series: the 1997 actioner Double Team, with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, and walking cautionary tale Mickey Rourke as the baddie. Check the Chelsea website for times, dates, and details.

For the kids, the Lumina’s Movies on the Green series will be screening Finding Nemo this Saturday night, July 29, and Back to the Future next Saturday, Aug. 5.

Silverspot’s Flashback Series will bring back the original Top Gun, July 30 and Aug. 2; and the Twilight Saga series’ New Moon, Aug. 6 and Aug. 9. Fighter pilots! Vampires! America!

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