What to see during the Philadelphia Film Festival's final weekend - Metro US

What to see during the Philadelphia Film Festival’s final weekend

The Handmaiden
Magnolia Pictures

Good times must end, and so the Philadelphia Film Festival begins its final descent. Though it wraps on Oct. 30, there’s still a ton to binge on. Here’s our picks, and visit the site for more:

RELATED: Interview: Park Chan-wook on “The Handmaiden” and how all his films are love stories

‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’
The documentarian Steve James is a chameleon. He can do long-form verité (“Hoop Dreams,” “The Interrupters”), biographies (“Life Itself”) and cine-essays (“No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson”). His latest finds him doing topical journalism, telling the sad, dark story of what befell Abacus Federal Savings, a mom-and-pop bank operating out of NYC’s Chinatown, and the only federal institution that was prosecuted after the 2008 economic catastrophe. It was pure bunk, too, a case where the feds looked to make an example, but out of people who ran one of the most honest banks in the world. James spends enough time with CEO Thomas Sung and his family/employees that it’s not all facts and figures, showing the grind a years-long investigation can do to people who know they’re right. (Matt Prigge) Fri., Oct. 28, 5:05 p.m., Ritz Five

‘Blue Jay’
There’s ’90s nostalgia, and then there’s throwing in a reference to the Emilio Estevez-Charlie Sheen vehicle “Men at Work.” This brief aside is a sign that the indie dramedy “Blue Jay” is really trying — that it’s specific and eccentric and not your standard “Before Sunset” knock-off about exes reuniting. (Also namechecked: Toad the Wet Sprocket.) Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson play high school sweethearts who run in to each other when visiting back home. They haven’t seen each other in some 20 years, and spend the film hanging out, joking around, even engaging in some “Certified Copy”-esque role play. It’s not going to end well, for the characters or the audience hoping it will stay sharp till the closing credits. But it is funny, and it’s fun watching Duplass and Paulson adlib through some palpable chemistry. (M.P.) Fri., Oct. 28, 7:10 p.m., Ritz East; Sun., Oct. 30, 4:40 p.m., Ritz East

‘The Dekalog’
It’s newly out on Criterion, but only a big movie theater can contain the grandiose ideas and emotions in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s legendary (and freshly remastered) 10-part TV opus. Each episode is loosely based around the 10 Commandments, each a concise and devastating moral dilemma. The heroes kill, steal, cheat, covet, blaspheme, even, yes, fail to keep the Sabbath Day holy. They’re all sinners, but they’re not to be judged. They’re to be understood. Devastating, horrifying and even, in the final episode, pretty funny, these films train us to in the art of boundless compassion. All 10 will be screened in one fell swoop, with intermissions and one hour earmarked for dinner. It’ll be the year’s best binge-watch. (M.P.) Sat., Oct. 29, 12 p.m., Ritz East

‘Do Not Resist’
An activist doc that’s as formally exciting as it is blood-curdling, this study of the growing militarization of the police doesn’t need to lecture us to get under our skin. Starting with hair-raising footage from Ferguson, director Craig Atkinson patiently tracks through a new problem that’s already well out of control, with localized police forces cheerfully taking federal money and military do-hickeys to combat the citizens it should be protecting, not attacking. The issue reaches its darkly comic apex with no less than Rand Paul asking why small town police forces have added bayonets (!!) to their arsenals. (M.P.) Sun., Oct. 30, 7 p.m., URBN Center Annex

‘Gimme Danger’
The first official rock doc for the eight-megaton proto-punk outfit The Stooges is far from business-as-usual. It’s a shaggier affair than most, made by Jim Jarmusch, friend of shirtless lunatic/frontman Iggy Pop. He trades slickness for chumminess, plus better stories than they’d give strangers. The gang dwell more on the hilarious screw-ups than the masterstrokes, including that time they actually bothered to call up Moe Howard to ask if they could use the name. We learn about a band who stumbled into the ’60s music scene like a group of Clouseaus, and still created some of the greatest, most bombastic music of all time. They never sold out, and in Jarmusch, they have a brother in arms. (M.P.) Fri., Oct. 28, 5:10 p.m., Ritz East

‘The Handmaiden’
“Oldboy” bomb-thrower Park Chan-wook goes period, but the results are far from staid; indeed, it might be the most compulsively watchable film he’s ever made. Rejiggering Sarah Waters’ lesbian romance “Fingersmith” from Victorian England to 1930s Korea, “The Handmaiden” follows a pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri) hired by a cad (Ha Jung-woo) to help with his scheme to marry an heiress (Kim Min-hee). Instead the two women fall in love, yielding a flurry of betrayals and some old-fashioned, semi-comedic classic Park nastiness. The acrobatic, “Blue is the Warmest Color”-esque sex scenes are pure male gaze (complete with a vag-cam), but Park always knows where his allegiance lies. The men are awful and the better gender is heroic and badass. It’s trash on the side of angels, and good, good fun. (M.P.) Sun., Oct. 30, 8:35 p.m., Ritz East

‘I, Daniel Blake’
For better and worse, the new Ken Loach film is a Ken Loach film. There will be righteously angry working class Englanders. There will be corny jokes. There will be at least two or three times when the plotting, by Loach’s longtime regular writer Paul Laverty, will turn so calculatedly grim you can only respond with a forehead-slap. And there will be times when you forgive the preachiness because Loach understands the down-and-out like no other. Here, an aging, ailing construction worker (comic Dave Johns) suffers through the labyrinth of England’s bureaucracy, making friends with a sparkplug single mom (Hayley Squires) in similarly dire straits. Mystifyingly, this all-too-typical entry scored this year’s Palme d’Or, which only makes it seem worse: you’re better off focusing on the little bits that kill, not the big moves that don’t. (M.P.) Sat., Oct. 29, 5:05 p.m., Ritz East

This gripping Romanian drama opens with a heated argument during a family lunch. Much to his children’s dismay, Victor (Adrian Titieni), the patriarch, admits he prevented women from having abortions during the Communist regime. When his daughter Sasha (co-writer Alina Grigore, outstanding) discovers she is pregnant by her twin brother Romeo (Robi Urs), she wants to terminate. However, Romeo is determined to keep their baby. Director/co-writer Adrian Sitaru deftly navigates the family’s social and moral conundrums without judgment. As his handheld camera zooms in on the characters during their most uncomfortable moments, “Illegitimate” maximizes the intensity and emotions. (Gary M. Kramer) Sun., Oct. 30, 6:45 p.m., Ritz East

‘King Cobra’
At once campy and deeply felt, Justin Kelly’s gay porn romp goofs on the true story of Brent Corrigan, a young lad so strapping he started a war between rival producers. Disney Channel star Garrett Clayton dirties up his image as the obscure and not too bright object of desire, a “twink” who signs up with a lonesome but enterprising suburban porn-maker (Christian Slater). He’s so endowed that a pair of coked-up idiots (producer James Franco and Keegan Allen) try to steal him to their side, with grisly results. On top of nailing a tricky tone, it confirms that the Slater-aissance is real: The actor’s deeply melancholic turn makes this more than laugh-at-the-morons sleaze, though that would have been fine, too. (M.P.) Tues., Oct. 26, 9:10 p.m., Ritz East

Alma Har’el’s exquisitely made documentary (produced by Shia LaBeouf) features three stories about love — but they aren’t love stories. In Alaska, Joel loves Blake, a dancer; in Hawaii, Willie, a surfer, loves his son; and in New York City, Victory, a teenager, loves her parents. Har’el gets her subjects to open up and discuss some painful things about their lives and relationships, and some of the revelations are heartbreaking. But it is Har’el’s distinctive approach to storytelling — she employs an actress to portray “Older Blake” — that add layers of depth and meaning. “LoveTrue” is unusual, but it is also poignant and inspiring. (G.M.K.) Sun., Oct. 30, 7 p.m., Ritz Five

‘My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea’
And now for something completely different: Take a break from the serious for this loudly-colored comedy featuring actual jokes. Of course it’s all about death. Jason Schwartzman leads an all-star vocal cast as a pretentious high school journo who tries to survive as an earthquake rips his school a new one — sights brought to us in splotchy colors that often make the film look like psychedelic freak-out sections from ’60s movies about drugs. It’s a beautiful eyesore, even if the deadpan humor is a bit too much of the “don’t take us too seriously” kind. Not to mention, this is already a hilarious PFF, with numerous films (“Manchester, By the Sea,” “Toni Erdmann,” “A Quiet Passion”) that are profoundly sad (or messed-up) and yet far funnier than anything here. (M.P.) Sun., Oct. 30, 8:45 p.m., Ritz East

‘Personal Shopper’
It almost sounds like a dumb ghost movie: Kristen Stewart plays a, yes, personal shopper who moonlights as a medium, and appears to have awoken an evil spirit — an evil spirit with a smartphone! But this is the latest from Olivier Assayas, and Stewart’s second go with him after “Clouds of Sils Maria.” You know he’s not just a real artist, but someone interested in films that resist interpretation, that like to stew in character’s bustling worlds, that are fluid about how you should interpret them. This is to say one shouldn’t take this not-quite-horror-film too literally. Assayas picks up then drops genre elements as he likes, and even playfully steers you to dwell on meta jokes: Once Stewart’s Maureen finds herself haunted by a text-messaging ghost, the movie could be read as a story about someone stalking KStew. Speaking of which, she’s, as ever, a magnetic screen presence, even when doing nothing, and especially when she makes a line like “It’s extremely difficult to find a portal to a spirit world” sound hilariously off-hand. (M.P.) Fri., Oct. 28, 3 p.m., Ritz East; Sun., Oct. 30, 6:30 p.m., Ritz East

‘The Rehearsal’
In 1999, New Zealand director Alison Maclean brought us “Jesus’ Son,” an eccentric, playful and perfectly judged stab at Denis Johnson that captured a distinctive voice while bringing her own. Jump 17 years, and she finally got to make another movie. “The Rehearsal,” about a group of young drama students, doesn’t entirely make up for lost time, but it does remind you what a lively talent she is. No shot is tossed-off, and the smallest scenes are sometimes the best, using off-beat framing or even a specific shade of sky to convey character psychology. It also has a bland everyguy as a hero — a big comedown compared to “Jesus’ Son” hungry, goofy FH, brought to us by Billy Crudup’s finest screen performance. On the other hand, someone finally remembered Kerry Fox, as the troupe’s bitchy but warm teacher, is one helluva actor. (M.P.) Sat., Oct. 29, 12:20 p.m., Ritz East

‘The Salesman’
When Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) find temporary housing after being evacuated from their apartment, a complication arises involving the former resident. However, things get worse when Rana is attacked one night. Emad takes it upon himself to track down the culprit, but Rana has a different response to the traumatic event. “The Salesman” — named for the production of “Death of a Salesman” that Emad and Rana co-star in; an apt if obvious parallel — thoughtfully considers themes of revenge, justice, betrayal and forgiveness. If writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s (“A Separation”) morality play is at times too talky, it is still quite powerful. (G.M.K.) Sat., Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m., Ritz East

‘The Unknown Girl’
You can set your watch to the Dardenne brothers: every two or three years the Belgian brothers will gift the world with another immaculately crafted, socially-driven drama, boasting an ethical dilemma that eats at your guts. Their latest, though, throws a bit of a curveball: It’s technically a mystery, following a young, workaholic doctor (a laser-focused Adele Haenel) as she tries to find the identity of a girl who was killed in an event she might have been able to stop. And that’s not all: Whereas every Dardenne picture methodically builds to a moment of grace, this one is more warm and fuzzy, finding its character scuttling out of her shell. That doesn’t mean it’s a minor work. Far from it. (M.P.) Sat., Oct. 29, 7:25 p.m., Ritz East

The Philadelphia Film Festival ends on Oct. 30. Visit the site for showtimes and tickets.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge and Gary M. Kramer @garymkramer

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