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It’s a hot late-summer week, but there’s a lot more going on at rep houses than in first-run theaters. The Egyptian has a fairly comprehensive slate of “Once Upon a Time in…” programming that features two of Jet Li’s best films — and also pairs Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico with Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, which might just be the best example of film programmer trolling we’ve seen in a while.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1991) / ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 2 (1992)
dir. Tsui Hark
August 15, 7:30 PM at the Egyptian Theatre
The Egyptian has a whole “Once Upon a Time” film series to play alongside Quentin Tarantino’s new movie Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, and these two films (on 35mm!) are the most essential programming. Writer/director/producer Tsui Hark is a titan in Hong Kong filmmaking, and these movies, which star Jet Li as Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung, are among the best martial arts flicks ever made. (They’re the opening salvos in a series that would eventually feature five sequels and one semi-connected spin-off.)
The first is an epic and overtly nationalistic period drama punctuated by brilliant action setpieces, while the sequel features a lot more action. Once Upon a Time in China and Once Upon a Time in China 2 inspired a whole wave of imitators; it’s not a reach to say that their lingering influence led to the wuxia resurgence of the 2000s, with films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero — another burst of action-nationalism starring Jet Li.
GODZILLA VS DESTOROYAH (1995)
dir. Takao Okawara
August 18, 10:30 AM at the Vista Theatre
There are multiple eras of Godzilla movies, and this is the capper of the second, the Heisei era, named for the Emperor who ruled during the series’ production. The Heisei films have more internal continuity than the first run of movies, leaping off from the original 1954 Godzilla and ignoring most of the rest of the movies from the first era. Godzilla vs Destoroyah is one of the better Godzilla films of any era. It opens with the big lizard on the verge of a meltdown as his nuclear heart fails, and pits him against one of the biggest, strangest symbols of man’s hubris in the series.
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1962)
dir. Lewis Milestone, Carol Reed
August 18, 7:00 PM at the Billy Wilder Theater
Come for Marlon Brando’s kinda-bizarre turn as Fletcher Christian; stay for the lavish production, which became notorious as an expensive flop when costs — and Brando’s ego — ballooned far beyond initial projections.
PADDINGTON 2 (2017)
dir. Paul King
Begins August 19 at the Alamo Drafthouse DTLA
It is impossible to overstate the warmth and charm of the Paddington films. In this sequel (which can easily be enjoyed by those who didn’t see the first movie), Paddington bear is framed for the theft of an antique book. It features winning performances from Brendan Gleeson, as a grimacing convict, and Hugh Grant, who gleefully punctures his own celebrity image, playing a narcissistic and criminal washed-up actor. These screenings are “pick your price” entries in the theater’s Kid’s Camp sidebar, with tickets set between $1 and $5.
TOKYO STORY (1953)
dir. Yasujirô Ozu
August 20, 1:00 PM at the Aero Theatre
Never pass up a chance to see Yasujirô Ozu’s masterpiece on 35mm if you can help it. The filmmaker’s patient, unblinking gaze at generational discord is always moving, but never more potent than in this story of aging parents who visit their grown, indifferent children in Tokyo.
dir. John Singleton
August 20, 7:30 PM at the Hammer Museum
This is part of the Hammer Museum’s look back at the films of the late John Singleton, but Rosewood should really be programmed more often, outside the context of a retrospective eulogy. As 1923 begins, the black middle class residents of a small Florida town are attacked by a white lynch mob. Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames (with possibly his best performance), and Jon Voight star in a horrific story of festering racism.
dir. Stephen Norrington
August 22, 9:30 PM at the Alamo Drafthouse DTLA
It’s not a stretch to say that Stephen Norrington created the template for the modern comic book movie, which means he essentially laid the groundwork for the most dominant trend of current cinema. No: We can’t quite believe it, either. That doesn’t change that Blade is an absolute blast — weird and campy and visceral.