The Reel Less Traveled – July 2019

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Stars Come Out in the Sky and on the Screen This Month

    I had initially thought that there might not be a column this month (or, at the very best, not so much of one) insofar as there was not as much to report. Certainly we still had (have) the Classic Film Showcase as well as the International Film Showcase but with the recent sale of the Rheem, that meant the Moraga Movers needed to put their program on hold, at least for the nonce. Let’s hope they find a new home – or reclaim the old one. The movies they showed were always a delight.
    The good news, however is plentiful as we not only have out regular programs but summer’s Movies Under the Stars returns to the Orinda Park.
    Starting July 11 (well after the smoke from the Fourth has cleared), you will be able to view The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, and I guess the most surprising thing I can think of to say is how popular the first one was!
    It would be easy enough to dismiss both the first and this one as nothing more than cash grabs but due to the high technical work that had to have gone into these films, not to mention the witty writing and voice talents (Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Jonah Hill among many others.) you, and the whole family, will find yourself engaged at the high adventure, this time from an alien invasion. It will start when dusk falls so make sure to get there early and stake out your patch of grass.
    On that same day at the nearby Orinda Theatre, the Film Classics Showcase will present Viva Las Vegas starring the legendary Elvis Presley. In the film, he’s a race car driver trying to put together enough money for a new engine, but to many, this one rises above all of his other films, mostly due to the presence of Ann-Margaret.
    Most of the women who shared screen time with the King were little more than window dressing. Ann-Margaret was an already established talent (just a year earlier she had co-starred with Dick Van Dyke in Bye, Bye Birdie – an irony in itself as it echoed many aspects of Presley’s life) and she manages to hold her own, matching Presley in nearly every regard, so you might say that there’s double the talent on display. In any case, you’ll be able to judge for yourself at 7 p.m. July 11. Free admission.
    Bouncing back to the Rheem again, the International Film Showcase presents a film that, just by the impression left by the trailer, would be difficult to pin down, genre-wise. Secret Ingredient is a timely film insofar as it deals with a substance that’s in the news these days, mostly due to its welcome (in many states) legalization.
    In Greece, however, where this film hails from, marijuana is still very much a black-market drug and so, when the central character finds a stash of it and uses it for an entirely decent reason, the rightful owners are not at all subtle about their desire to get it back. Part Breaking Bad, part poignant human drama, part dark comedy, this is a film that warrants lengthy conversations. It will begin a possible two-week run at the Rheem starting on July 13. For more information and previews of this and coming attractions, please go to www.internationalshowcase.org.
    Jogging our way back to Orinda Park again (and that’s quite a jog but at least it’s mostly downhill), we will spread out our blankets and unfold our lawn chairs for the next in the Cinema Under the Stars series with the 2019 film A Dog’s Way Home.
    Every generation needs a film like this and even though it’s a familiar story – and you read variants of this story happening all the time in real life – it doesn’t dilute its impact. This time, it’s a female dog traveling across America for about 400 miles, and I don’t think I’d be spoiling too much to say it’s a journey fraught with peril, laughter, hope and all that other stuff that makes these movies special. It will show at the fall of dusk at the Orinda Park on July 18.
    Next and, lastly, we once again find ourselves at the park, this time to witness the wonder that is Incredibles 2 and as a long-time comic book collector, I cannot begin to tell you how delightful this film is.
    It’s a Pixar film and that alone should tell you that it’s finely tuned in every regard, especially in the way it references nearly every comic book cliché imaginable, from reversed gender roles to mind control to domestic strife to heinous villains bent on world domination. It would also be worth your while to view the first one beforehand, if for no other reason than to see how Pixar has evolved and improved over the years, especially because this one takes place very soon after the first one, even though they came out nearly 14 years apart. So be there on July 25 and prepare to be amazed.
    I encourage everyone to check out www.orindamovies.com for last-minute surprises and additions as well as www.caiff.org for the upcoming California Independent Film Festival which runs Aug. 23 to 31. Until then, stay in the dark (or if you’re going to the park, wait until dark) for that’s where the reel magic lies.

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