The Best Movies, New and Old, to See in Dallas this Weekend, January 24 to 27

Categories: Film and TV

Each week, we tell you exactly where you can go ... cinematically speaking.

The Room
Tommy Wiseau's melodramatic love triangle is a mainstay of the Inwood's midnight features. The movie's trailer calls it a black comedy, but just how much of that humor is intentional is part of the film's mystique. The Room screens this Friday and Saturday, with more chances to catch it in February and March.

Amour
It's not often that a foreign-language film ends up with an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, but you get exactly that with Amour. (The last movie to do it was Clint Eastwood's 2006 Letters from Iwo Jima.) Despite being in a foreign language, Eastwood's nom was still financed and filmed largely in America.

Finding a Best Picture nominee with a truly international pedigree requires going back to Roberto Benigni's La vita é bella/Life Is Beautiful, and beyond that to 1994's Il Postino: The Postman. So the fact that Michael Haneke's elegiac Amour, now playing at the Magnolia, earned a place alongside Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, and other major American films is almost a victory in and of itself. That Haneke also received a nomination for Best Director and Emmanuelle Riva a nomination for Best Actress is icing on the cake.

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The Shining
Jack Nicholson snarling "Heeeere's Johnny" is a deeply embedded, well-worn aspect of pop culture, but that doesn't mean Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film-which plays at the Texas Theatre January 24 through 27-- has lost its power. Heavier on atmosphere than gore, The Shining is a terrific example of a simple artistic truth -- in the hands of a master, restraint can be the most powerful tool in the artist's toolbox.

Kubrick earns our unease through his careful attention to detail, underlining the movie's early thrills only as much as he has to as he builds steadily to the terrifying climax. The Overlook Hotel becomes a raging animal awakened from hibernation. If the acting early on comes off as stilted or a bit phony, it's because the strained concern between Torrance family members (Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd) is a sham. The unrestrained rage and the terror we see in the third act have been there all along, it just took the waking of a giant to bring them to the fore.

West of Memphis
The story of the West Memphis Three has already been well chronicled in the Paradise Lost documentaries, but now producer Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson) and director Amy Berg have a crack at their own coverage with this big screen documentary opening Friday at the Angelika Film Center.

The film covers the trial and wrongful conviction of Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin, who were accused of murdering three children, plus the ensuing call for their release that didn't come to a conclusion until August 2011. Roger Ebert, writing on his website, recommended West of Memphis over the existing topical documentaries because it has both the benefit of hindsight and for the difficult, but ultimately probing questions it raises.

Primer
There are still a few months until Shane Carruth's new film, Upstream Color, opens locally, but with it screening earlier this week at Sundance, now's as good a time as any to catch up on the Dallas filmmaker's debut feature, available on DVD. Directed by, written by, and starring Carruth, Primer takes a standard component of science fiction-time travel-and gives it a cold, mathematical reality.

Shot for only $7,000 and filmed in the metroplex, Primer removes the romanticism from the idea of time travel, portraying it as an addiction fed by the curiosity of its two central characters. As unassuming as it is intelligent, it's hard not to feel that, in the world that Carruth has crafted, time travel is more like a cancer that will slowly eat away at the world, instead of a scientific breakthrough worthy of celebration.


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