The Yellow Birds—The young Han Solo himself, Alden Ehrenreich, stars in this drama, adapted from the 2012 novel by Kevin Powers. Ehrenreich plays a young American soldier who has returned from the Iraq war, obviously traumatized by his experience, but utterly uncommunicative. Gradually we learn the secret he’s carrying.
Directed by Alexandre Moors, this is a grim, tragic tale about the squandering of young men’s bodies and souls in interminable wars. It isn’t what I’d call fun, but it’s very well acted, by Ehrenreich, Tye Sheridan as his buddy who has gone missing, and Toni Collette and Jennifer Aniston, both heartbreaking as their helpless moms.
It opens today at AMC Arizona Center.
Lives Well Lived—The premise of this sweet documentary by Sky Bergman, playing Sunday afternoon at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, is simple: Starting with the filmmaker’s
103-year-old grandmother, a variety of elderly men and women are asked questions about what constitutes a life well lived. Along with their answers, we get quick biographies, illustrated with wonderful photos or film footage of the subjects as younger people.
These are impressive, attractive folks, who have survived war and oppression and bigotry and made lives for themselves in business, the arts, medicine, education, etc. And when asked for their insights on how to live, they tell us…
…well, basically nothing you haven’t heard already. Work hard, play hard, love your family, value your friends, listen, learn, be respectful, don’t sweat the small stuff, take nothing for granted, make the most of every day, do good deeds. And, of course, that kids should put down the damn cell phones and take notice of the world around them. The movie would seem like a massive collection of platitudes, but when they come from these accomplished people with their astonishing life experiences, you’re led to the conclusion that this familiar wisdom probably constitutes the best words to live by that humans have.
A presentation of No Festival Required, the film shows at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 17, at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $15. Go to
nofestivalrequired.wordpress.com for details.
2001: A Space Odyssey—Somehow simultaneously futuristic and dated, Stanley Kubrick’s iconic sci-fi mind-bender, with its killer ape-men and lip-reading computersand mysterious alien monoliths and waltzing space stations, turns fifty this year. Harkins Theatres plays the film this weekend at Tempe Marketplace, in eye-filling 70 mm. If you’ve never seen this one-of-kind epic on a screen, or heard its magnificent classical score on a good sound system, this should be the perfect way to do it.
Head—Meanwhile, the good folks at FilmBar are taking note of a less celebrated 50th anniversary: This shapeless, free-form surreal sketch comedy from 1968 starring the Monkees. Their sole foray into feature films, this bizarre collection of movie parody vignettes, fourth-wall gags, pretentious montages and some surprisingly evocative music was co-scripted by none other than Jack Nicholson (with director Bob Rafelson).
Appealing neither to the group’s teenage fans nor to hipster adults, the film unsurprisingly bombed in its theatrical release, but has developed a cult following over the years; a friend of mine swears by its brilliance, and has a framed poster of it in his living room. In any case, it also features Frank Zappa, Annette Funicello, a cameo by Nicholson himself, and a giant Victor Mature. Can you afford not to see that?
It plays at 10 p.m. Saturday, June 16 at FilmBar. Tickets are $9.95; go to thefilmbarphx.com for details.