Movie Review

Thanos (Josh Brolin) in a scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

By Kyle Barr

Marvel movies tread a line between being formulaic comic-book style action movies and surprisingly nuanced examinations of real world problems with real emotional heart. Some do better than others with that. 

A scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was as much a condemnation of modern government surveillance as it was a spy-style action thriller. “Black Panther” was an exploration of afro-futurism and a condemnation of isolationist policies as much as it was a high-tech, high-flying romp. 

That’s not a bad thing, and in fact the formula has grown to the point it’s now expected that Marvel movies cannot have their introspection without the action, and visa versa.

So what extra edge does “Avengers: Infinity War,” directed by the brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, have to set it apart from its contemporaries in the action genre? Well, to avoid spoilers, the most I can say is that it flips the genre formula where “heroes learn a lesson and win the day” on its head. 

 

In this movie, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the main villain is also the main character. Thanos, played with such subtle menace and intelligence by Josh Brolin, searches the universe for the infinity stones, glowing rocks that control an element of existence, from time to reality. Superheroes from Earth and beyond must find a way to stop him before he commits the biggest act of genocide the universe has ever seen.

Unlike a normal Marvel movie, it is the villain whose decisions drive the plot. In most Marvel movies, the main characters need to learn, grow and change in order to win the day. In “Avengers: Infinity War,” even if a character learns a lesson and even if they make the right decision, it doesn’t necessarily mean they win.

Being that this is the most recent big crossover Marvel movie, it is impossible to list the characters and actors who play them without leaving out a number of characters who all make contributions to the plot. Many of these actors have been in their roles for so many years it seems it would be hard at this point for any of them to not play their characters effortlessly. 

A scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Chadwick Boseman of this year’s “Black Panther” remains great as the stoic and noble King T’Challa. Robert Downey Jr. adds an extra edge of fear and foreboding to the character that really takes the performance above the usual I’m-too-smart-for you sarcasm of old Iron Man. 

If there were to be a weak link, it would have to be Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, who can’t seem to make an emotional impact compared to the other characters. His jokes land largely flat, and he doesn’t seem to be as invested as the rest of the cast. Another small disappointment is Eitri, the weaponsmith dwarf played by Peter Dinklage, who despite having an interesting play upon the “Dwarf” character, seems stiff and his performance seems almost phoned in.

Although it’s been a conflict built up to through 19 films so far, the ferociousness with how the plot develops is breathtaking. Again, trying to resist spoiling the plot is hard, but none of the characters come out of this movie clean. 

Thanos’ race to find the infinity stones takes place both on Earth and across the stars, but nearly every character plays off of the emotional conclusions of their own separate movies. For those who have been keeping up with every new Marvel release, you might feel as if you’re watching family members being repeatedly punched in the gut. 

If you haven’t been a hard-core Marvel fanatic, it might seem overwhelming. All of these characters have a backstory, and while some of them are meeting for the first time, several have long and troubled histories together like a big screen version of a soap opera. The movie tries to avoid info dumps (though it still has to go and explain what the heck the big colorful space rocks are) so people going into this as their first Marvel movie might have a hard time understanding what’s happening.

A scene from ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

The film ends on a very deep and somber note. Of course that is in anticipation for “Avengers: Infinity War Part 2” to be released in May of next year. The sequel now has quite the task of concluding what happens at the end of Part 1, and one could be skeptical to see how they might manage to pull it off. 

Isn’t it strange how we got here? It has been a decade of nothing but Marvel fever. When the idea for a shared film universe was still new there were quite a few people who were waiting for the bubble to burst. They waited for the first movie that was bad enough to let the whole thing crumble.

Of course that didn’t happen. For now, “Avengers: Infinity War” is the real deal. There are few good movie series like what Marvel has done that combine real emotional heart with comic book action gravitas. As long as they stay good, they still deserve an audience.

“Avengers: Infinity War,” rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, language and some crude references, is now playing in local theaters.

Edith Storey, third from left, in a scene from 'A Florida Enchantment'

By Victoria Espinoza

“I want to be a bit different from the girl across the aisle.” — Edith Storey

Town of Huntington residents may be surprised to learn a Hollywood actress from the early 20th century once lived a stone’s throw away from their own backyards. Silent film star Edith Storey, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, lived in Northport for a considerable amount of her life, and in celebration of her career, the Cinema Arts Centre will be showing two of her films this week. 

Edith Storey in 1917

A special screening of “A Florida Enchantment” (1914) followed by the 1916 short “Jane’s Bashful Hero” will take place on Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. Film historian Steve Massa will speak at the event, and the film will have live theater organ accompaniment by Ben Model.

Considered one of her best films, “A Florida Enchantment” stars Storey as a strong-willed young woman named Lillian who is irritated with her much-older fiancé, Dr. Cassandene, played by Sidney Drew, who also directs the film. Lillian finds magic seeds that transform her into a man and enjoys the newfound freedoms she gains with her switch of gender. She kisses other women, dances with them, smokes cigarettes, applies for a man’s job and dresses in men’s clothing. When she starts secretly feeding the magic seeds to those around her, including her unsuspecting fiancé, pandemonium ensues.

Born in New York City in 1892, Storey began acting in Vitagraph productions at the age of 16, appearing in “Francesca da Rimini.” From 1908 to 1921 she starred in over 140 films and shorts in a variety of film genres including comedies and westerns. Reportedly an excellent horseback rider, one of her director’s commented that Storey could “ride anything with hair and four legs, throw a rope and shoot with the best of the cowpunchers.” During that time she was one of the most celebrated actresses on the American screen.

Dylan Skolnick, co-director at the Cinema Arts Centre said he happened upon Storey’s life story quite accidentally during a visit to the Northport Historical Society. 

“They had a display of Northport’s history and significant people and there was this section about her,” Skolnick said in a phone interview. “I was shocked, I had never heard this story before.”

Skolnick said he reached out to Massa, who had written about Storey in his book “Slapstick Divas: The Women of Silent Comedy” to learn more about the movie star.

“He was like, ‘Oh, of course, Edith Storey.’ His knowledge is so deep,” Skolnick said. The co-director said after learning more about the actress he reached out to the Library of Congress, which confirmed it had some of her films and would loan them to the Cinema Arts Centre.

Massa called Storey a “talented character actress” and outstanding in “A Florida Enchantment” in a recent email. He said during World War I she took time off from acting to drive an ambulance that transported wounded returning soldiers to New York hospitals.

After retiring from films in 1921 at the age of 29, she moved to a house in Asharoken where she eventually became village clerk, a position she held from 1932 to 1960. According to Skolnick, in the 1930s there was no village hall in Asharoken so elections were held at her house. During World War II, her front yard served as the drop spot for scrap metal. Children who grew up in the neighborhood later recalled how she would tell them stories of her movie career. Storey passed away in Northport in 1967 at the age of 75.

Skolnick is looking forward to this special evening dedicated to the silent film star. “It all sort of came together and here we are,” he said. “Audience members will have a really good time. The film is a delightful comedy and will be accompanied by some wonderful live music.”

The Cinema Arts Centre is located at 423 Park Ave., Huntington. Tickets for this event are $16, $11 members. For more information, please call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in a scene from ‘Sunset Boulevard’. Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies are bringing the timeless classic “Sunset Boulevard” to select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day event on Sunday, May 13 and Wednesday, May 16.

Winner of three Academy Awards, the 1950 film directed by Billy Wilder stars Gloria Swanson, as Norma Desmond, an aging silent-film queen, and William Holden, as the struggling young screenwriter who is held in thrall by her madness. From the unforgettable opening sequence — a body found floating in a decayed mansion’s swimming pool — through the inevitable unfolding of tragic destiny, “Sunset Boulevard” is the definitive statement on the dark and desperate side of Hollywood. 

The film also stars Erich von Stroheim as Desmond’s discoverer, ex-husband and butler, and Nancy Olson as the bright spot amid unrelenting ominousness. The screening will include an exclusive commentary from TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz. 

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook at 2 and 7 p.m. on both days; Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale on May 13 at 2 p.m. and May 16 at 7 p.m.; and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on May 13 at 2 p.m. and May 16 at 7 p.m. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

Burton Gilliam, center, in a scene from ‘Blazing Saddles’
Burton Gilliam set to host special screening of 1974 classic 

By Kevin Redding

Harrumph harrumph harrumph. On Saturday, April 28, the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington invites one and all back to Rock Ridge circa 1874 for a screening of the groundbreaking, controversial and hysterical “Blazing Saddles” more than 44 years after its original release, featuring a very special appearance from one of its stars.  

It was February 1973 when Burton Gilliam, a Dallas, Texas, firefighter of 14 years and a Golden Gloves champion boxer during his time in the Coast Guard, got a phone call from a fast-talking “little ball of energy” from Hollywood he’d never heard of named Mel Brooks. 

Brooks, best known at the time as a staff writer on the Sid Caesar-led variety program “Your Show of Shows,” the co-creator of “Get Smart” and the writer-director of the 1968 film “The Producers,” was offering Gilliam the role of a cowboy in his upcoming film, a then-untitled Western-themed comedy. Gilliam laughed and thanked “Mr. Brooks” before hanging up. 

Just one of his buddies at the fire station putting him on, he thought. “‘Cuz that’s what firemen do to each other,” Gilliam, 79, recalled, laughing.

Months prior, Gilliam, who was 35 at the time, had responded on a whim to an ad in the Dallas newspaper about a local casting call for extras in director Peter Bogdanovich’s film “Paper Moon,” starring Ryan and Tatum O’Neal. 

Despite having no acting experience, Gilliam showed up with his big old grin and even bigger Texan exuberance. Over the course of a few weeks, he beat out hundreds of people in the audition process and impressed Bogdanovich enough to be given a small speaking part as a desk clerk named Floyd. After filming in St. Joseph, Missouri, wrapped, he returned to Dallas and his job at the fire department, looking forward to the June release of the film and thankful for his brush with movie stardom. 

But that phone rang again 10 minutes after he hung up and it was Brooks once more, explaining that he had seen a rough cut of “Paper Moon” and wanted Gilliam to meet with him to play this part. Gilliam was hesitant to abandon his job and $12,000 a year salary to go to Los Angeles and commit to the film. He wound up meeting with Brooks and producers three times before finally agreeing to come aboard.

“I remember that first time I met [Mel] — this little guy jumped over a desk and ran over to me and jumped into my arms, pushing me against the wall,” Gilliam said. “He was like a koala bear. I had no other thought but to like him. He was so open and funny.”

Between Gilliam’s first and third trip to Hollywood, Brooks and his team expanded his once-tiny role as Lyle, a dim-witted and callous antagonist to the film’s hero Sheriff Bart (played by Cleavon Little), into a much heftier one that sets the stage for the entire film (“What about ‘De Camptown Ladies’?”). 

He received a call of persuasion from Richard Pryor, one of “Blazing Saddles’” many writers, and Brooks promised to pay him his yearly salary at the fire department in the three weeks he’d be filming for, plus overtime.

Burton Gilliam and Slim Pickens

“About four weeks later, I quit the fire department,” said Gilliam, one of 10 members of his family to serve as a fireman. “I was the only one that ever quit. And after I did, everyone came out of the woodwork to tell me how crazy I was. But I went to Hollywood and stayed for 23 years! And what a great 23 years it was.”

Since appearing in Brooks’ 1974 classic, Gilliam has acted in more than 50 films and television shows, including “Fletch” starring Chevy Chase, “Back to the Future Part III,” “Honeymoon in Vegas” with Nicolas Cage, and episodes of “Mama’s Family,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Knight Rider” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He has also appeared in countless commercials and has even lent his instantly recognizable voice to video games. 

“To me, the most rewarding part has been meeting the people working behind the scenes — the makeup people, the wardrobe, lighting, sound departments,” Gilliam said. “They were all so good to me.”

When he isn’t in front of the camera, Gilliam has become a staple at various charities across the country. 

Through it all, the actor said he never gets tired of answering questions about, and quoting lines from, the movie that made him famous. Although, he admits he never would’ve guessed “Blazing Saddles” would remain so popular and beloved nearly 50 years later, especially one that very clearly could never be made today.

“It’s really a mystery almost that something like this can last this long, and it’s going to last a lot longer,” Gilliam said. “And Mel Brooks is as surprised as anybody that it’s lasted this long. I don’t know what to make of the whole thing. When we did the picture, Mel always said the people at Warner Brothers gave him $3 million and told him to go have a good time. And that’s it right there … it’s something that had never been done before, saying those words and doing those things we did and getting away with it.”

Burton Gilliam as Lyle, right, in a scene from ‘Blazing Saddles’ with Slim Pickens as Taggart

The film, of course, about the arrival of a black sheriff in an over-the-top racist town, is a raunchy (it’s the first film to feature a flatulence scene!), chaotic, uproarious, surreal, wholly politically incorrect and brilliant satire of the western film genre and a no-holds-barred takedown of racism and prejudices. 

In the opening of the film, Gilliam’s character Lyle, joined by his gang of thuggish cowboys, orders a group of black members of a railroad crew, led by Little, to sing a song while they work, saying “When you was slaves, you sang like birds.” Lyle expounds a series of racist comments here, including the N-word, which he recalls made him uncomfortable while filming the scene on set. 

“It was the second week I was there and I had to say those words to about 25 black guys, saying these things that had never been spoken before in movies and that was a bit hard,” Gilliam said. “So after we were on the scene for probably 25 minutes, they were switching cameras for somebody’s close-up, and Cleavon said, ‘Hey let’s take a walk.’ He told me, ‘Listen, I know you’re having a little bit of trouble saying these things but this is a movie and we’re having fun. Be comfortable and call me anything you want to … it’s okay, this is all fun…”

But, Gilliam said, Little warned him, “After they say ‘Cut!,’ if you call me that, we’re gonna go to fist city.’”

Cinema Arts Centre co-director Dylan Skolnick said he considers “Blazing Saddles” one of the funniest movies ever made, and remembers seeing it in theaters when it came out. While it’s been shown at the theater several times, he said he’s excited to have Gilliam emcee the screening.

“Burton’s one of those guys — his name’s not necessarily famous, but when you see him, since he’s been in a lot of movies and things as a character actor, it’s like, ‘Oh! That guy! I love that guy!’” Skolnick said. “It was great to be able to build an event around somebody like him, where he can be the star for the evening … It’s such an iconic movie and he has a crucial scene in one of the most famous moments.”

Gilliam said he’s looking forward to meeting and talking with the fans, and reminiscing about the making of the movie. “I enjoy those things because I get to talk a lot,” Gilliam said, laughing. “And I always get new questions; I have to be on my toes a little bit and I like that.”

As part of its Cult Cafe series, The Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington will present a special screening of “Blazing Saddles” on April 28 at 9:45 p.m. with a Q&A with Burton “Lyle” Gilliam. Tickets are $15 per person, $12 members. To order, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

Photos courtesy of Bobby Bank 

Sherlock Gnomes saves the day in the sequel to ‘Gnomeo & Juliet.' Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

By Heidi Sutton

It’s been seven years since moviegoers were invited into the magical world of garden gnomes with Touchstone Pictures’ “Gnomeo & Juliet,” the charming animated film loosely based on William Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy while celebrating the music of Sir Elton John. 

Juliet and Gnomeo are back for a new adventure.

Set in the English town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the story, which features a star-studded cast, takes place in the backyard gardens of two feuding elderly neighbors — Mr. Montague and Miss Capulet. Their garden gnomes, which are blue and red, respectively, are also strict enemies until Gnomeo (blue) and Juliet (red) secretly fall in love and manage to unite the two gnome clans.

I remember taking my daughter and her friends to see this movie and being so enamored by it that I went to a bunch of garden centers the following day and snatched up all the red and blue garden gnomes I could find to put in my rock garden. 

Now Paramount Pictures and MGM Studios bring audiences a sequel to the adorable fairy tale, “Sherlock Gnomes,” with all of the original characters you love including Gnomeo (James McAvoy), Juliet (Emily Blunt), Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine), Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith), Nanette the Frog (Ashley Jensen), Benny (Matt Lucas), Mankini (Julio Bonet) and Fawn (Ozzy Osbourne) in a brand new mystery adventure directed by John Stevenson.

The Montagues and Capulets have married and moved to London. Their collection of garden gnomes have also made the trip, albeit to a much smaller garden that needs a lot of work, “a fixer upper” of sorts. Gnomeo decides that the garden needs a centerpiece, Juliet’s favorite flower — a Cupid’s Arrow Orchid — and ventures out into the city to find one. When Juliet discovers Gnomeo’s plan, she follows him and ends up rescuing him when he becomes trapped in a florist shop.

Sherlock Gnomes and Watson are on the case of the missing garden gnomes.

When the couple returns home, they find that all of their friends as well as gnomes in seven other gardens have been kidnapped, “an ornamental crime on a scale never seen before.” They must be rescued within 24 hours or they’ll be smashed to smithereens. The police are too busy to help, so Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp), sworn protector of garden gnomes, and his trusty sidekick Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) take the case. Sherlock is convinced this is the work of his arch nemesis Moriarity (Jamie Demetriou) and, along with Watson, Gnomeo and Juliet, follows a trail of clues to find the gnomes, with lots of plot twists and turns along the way. Will the case be solved in time?

A nice touch is the many places in London that the detective team visit to find clues including the Royal Green Park, the Natural History Museum, Chinatown and Tower Bridge. While Elton John recently announced he is retiring from touring, his music will live on in this film with catchy songs like “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “I’m Still Standing” peppered throughout.  

Although this sequel is not as good as the original, as sequels rarely are, “Sherlock Gnomes” is still worth a trip to the theater for its visually stunning and lifelike animation, wonderful music and positive message to not take your friends for granted. By the same token, it is highly recommended that “Gnomeo & Juliet” be seen first as it will help in relating to the humor and connecting to the characters better. And I’ll be visiting the garden center to stock up on green garden gnomes. Running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes. 

Rated PG for rude and suggestive humor, “Sherlock Gnomes” in now playing in local theaters.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta star in ‘Grease.’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, “Grease” will return to select movie theaters nationwide on April 8, 11 and 14, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies. 

Based on the 1971 Broadway musical, the movie, starring John Travolta as greaser Danny Zuko and Olivia Newton-John as his sweet and innocent girlfriend Sandy Olsson who dance their way through their senior year at Rydell High, was a smash hit when it was released in 1978, becoming the highest grossing film of the year and it is still the second-highest grossing movie musical of all time. 

The cast also included Stockard Channing (Rizzo), Didi Conn (Frenchie), Jeff Conaway (Kenickie), Eve Arden (Principal McGee), Sid Caesar (Coach Calhoun) and Annette Charles (Cha Cha DiGregorio) with a special appearance by Frankie Avalon.

The movie’s unforgettable soundtrack, which includes such hits as “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You Are the One That I Want” and “Sandy,” was the second best–selling album of 1978, behind “Saturday Night Fever,” which also starred Travolta. 

“Whether you’ve seen it dozens of times and know the words to every song, or you’re in for the rare treat of seeing it for the first time, watching ‘Grease’ on the big screen with an audience is an unforgettable experience that we’re delighted to offer movie lovers,” said Tom Lucas, VP of Studio Relations at Fathom Events.

The screening will include an exclusive commentary from TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz who will give insight into this classic film that has become a pop culture phenomenon. 

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook at 2 and 7 p.m. on April 8 and 11 and at 2 p.m. on April 14; Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale on April 8 at 2 p.m. and April 11 at 7 p.m.; and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on April 8 at 2 p.m. and April 11 at 7 p.m. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

Jimmy Stewart stars in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, ‘Vertigo.’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Universal Pictures will bring the classic film to select cinemas nationwide on Sunday, March 18, and Wednesday, March 21.

Considered one of Hitchcock’s greatest cinematic achievements, “Vertigo” is a dreamlike thriller from the Master of Suspense. Set in San Francisco, the film creates a dizzying web of mistaken identity, passion and murder after an acrophobic detective (James Stewart) rescues a mysterious blonde (Kim Novak) from the bay and must unravel the secrets of the past to find the key to his future.

Appearing as No. 11 on IMDb’s list of the Top 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, the film will also feature an exclusive commentary from TCM host Eddie Muller, who will give insight into this classic film. Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook at 2 and 7 p.m. on both days; and Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on March 18 at 2 p.m. and March 21 at 7 p.m. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

‘The Judge’ offers a unique portrait of Kholoud Al-Faquih, above, the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Sharia’a courts.
Popular film festival gives voice to stories that need to be told

By Heidi Sutton

Islamic law, autism, the stock market — these diverse subject matters and more will be explored at length as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS) kicks off its spring 2018 season Monday evening, March 19.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the PJDS will present seven award-winning documentaries on Monday nights through April 30, alternating between two venues — Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with guest speakers.

The documentaries were handpicked by a seven-member film board that includes co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein. The “film ladies,” as they are affectionately known, each choose one film to present and then a seventh film is chosen unanimously by the group.

It is a system that has worked well since 2005. “I have learned that almost everybody [on the board] has their fingers on the pulse of some segment of our audience,” said Boland in a recent phone interview. “I think that we all have slightly different ways of judging the films that we are attracted to,” which the co-director says is a good thing. “You really want a balanced season that appeals to a lot of people.”

According to Boland, the goal of the festival has always been the same. “What we want most is to give our community the kind of access to important well-done documentaries that are fresh, shown the way they were created to be shown, on a big screen with a good sound system at an affordable price. A guest speaker will amplify the experience.”

This spring’s exciting lineup was selected after the members attended screenings at DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival. When choosing the selections, Boland said she looks for a story “that really grabs me, that I think is dramatic, important, … a must see film,” adding “It is our hope that [the film selection] is really adding to the public discourse — that this is something people will talk about and think about.”

Kicking off the festival is the Long Island premiere of “The China Hustle.” “[This film] is one of those cool movies that is like a slow reveal — a financial mystery that you just start putting the pieces together as the film goes on and you really see what a ‘hustle’ the whole situation is with these fake Chinese companies that grabbed American investors,” Boland divulged. “It is absolutely fascinating.”

The co-director is most excited about sharing “The Judge” with festivalgoers. The documentary follows Kholoud Al-Faqih and her journey to be the first female judge in a Shari’a court in Palestine. “I think it is particularly appropriate to be screened now during Women’s History Month. [Al-Faqih] is a very mesmerizing figure — practical, smart, stubborn and just totally dedicated. That appealed to me,” said Boland. “[The film shows] how family disputes were negotiated in a Muslim religious court. As a former matrimonial attorney I was amazed how similar the issues were [to the United States] and how similarly they were handled.”

She is also enamored by “This Is Congo.” Skillfully directed by Daniel McCabe, Boland describes it as “an incredibly risky showing about what’s going on in Congo that nobody’s talking about, nobody’s writing about. This is a story that needs to be told and we have to do our part to get some of these things out.” Boland’s favorite part of the evening is the Q&A, which this year will feature for the first time six directors and one screenwriter.

The documentary series wouldn’t be possible without the support of numerous volunteers. Every season, help is needed for each part of the process, from distributing flyers and running the ticket booths to tracking down directors and even recommending new films. “We need volunteers not only to help the evenings go more smoothly but we would really love to have more people on the board,” said Boland. If you love documentary films and would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5220.

The board was recently notified that the PJDS was chosen by Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Best of Long Island survey as the Best Film Festival on Long Island, beating out the Stony Brook Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Gold Coast Film Festival for the second year in a row for “its devotion to documentaries — which are evocative, thought provoking, and shed light on often-unrepresented segments of our population.” To Boland, it is affirmation that the group’s tireless work is paying off. “I am just thrilled,” she gushed. “Every time we have our first meeting to start work on the next series … I am just amazed at how everybody hangs in there … just because they really love films and love to bring them to the community. That’s the bottom line.”

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from March 19 to April 30 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson or The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets, sold at the door, are $7 per person. (No credit cards please.) New this year at the Long Island Museum’s screenings is the Cinema and Chardonnay program. For $5, participants can purchase a glass of chardonnay and/or a $1 bag of pretzels and then enjoy the wine and snack while watching the film. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule

▶ The spring season will kick off with a special screening of “The China Hustle” at Theatre Three on March 19. The documentary exposes a new financial crime perpetrated by Wall Street where investors dumped their money into Chinese businesses that turned out to be fraudulent. The hook of the story is that everyone involved is guilty, including the investor who called out the fraud in the first place. Guest speakers will be Director Jed Rothstein by Skype and Juan Carlos Conesa, chair of Dept. of Economics, Stony Brook University.

▶ “Sammy Davis, Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” to be screened at the Long Island Museum on March 26, is the first major documentary to examine Davis’ vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress in 20th century America. With interviews from Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg and Kim Novak along with photographs, television, film and concert. Moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on WUSB, guest speaker will be screenwriter and co-producer Laurence Maslon.

▶ The series continues with “The Judge” on April 2 at the Long Island Museum. The Muslim Shari’a courts in the Middle East have excluded women for centuries, and the influential religious legal system has never appointed a woman as a judge — until Kholoud Al-Faqih came along. The documentary follows the Palestine judge’s brave journey as a lawyer, her tireless fight for justice for women and her drop-in visits with clients, friends and family. Guest speaker will be Director Erika Cohn.

▶ “This Is Congo,” to be screened at Theatre Three on April 9, is a riveting, unfiltered immersion into the world’s longest continuing conflict and those who are surviving within it. Following four compelling characters: a whistleblower, a patriotic military commander, a mineral dealer and a displaced tailor — the film offers viewers a truly Congolese perspective on the problems that plague this lushly beautiful nation. Moderated by Shimelis Gulema, professor of Africana studies and history, SBU, the guest speaker for the evening will be Director Daniel McCabe.

▶ The series continues on April 16 at Theatre Three with an impressionist, fly-on-the-wall portrait of the life and glorious music of Israeli-born Itzhak Perlman, widely considered the greatest living violinist. Titled “Itzhak,” the documentary follows the virtuoso around the world for a year, portraying his huge passion and spirit. Wheelchair-bound from childhood polio, Perlman recounts overcoming obstacles with humor and talent. Featuring archival materials and performance clips, the guest speaker will be Director Alison Chernick.

▶ “Love, Cecil,” which will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 23, brings to life the glamorous world of fashion/celebrity photographer and stage set designer, Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) through the use of archival footage, interviews and readings from his diaries by actor Rupert Everett. Guest speaker for the evening will be Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

▶ The final film for the spring 2018 season, “Mole Man” will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 30 and follows Ron Heist, a 66-year-old autistic man who built a 50-room structure, consisting solely of scrap materials, on the land behind his parent’s home in Western Pennsylvania. His creation was built without the use of nails or mortar and keeps expanding, as he collects, classifies and displays objects from a deserted cluster of homes in the woods. This is the story of an extraordinary life, a family and the beauty of thinking differently. Director Guy Fiorita will be the guest speaker.

All photos courtesy of the PJDS

Thirty-five years after it first stunned audiences and critics with its unprecedented visions and mythic storytelling, Jim Henson’s 1982 epic fantasy-adventure “The Dark Crystal,” co-directed by Henson and Frank Oz, will return to big screens nationwide in a special presentation from Fathom Events, The Jim Henson Company and Universal Pictures.

Newly restored in 4K “The Dark Crystal” is a visually spectacular tale of a young hero who must find a legendary relic in order restore harmony to the universe. A watershed in fantasy filmmaking produced by Gary Kurtz (“Star Wars, A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back”), “The Dark Crystal” will play in select theaters on Saturday, March 3 and Tuesday, March 6.

The event will feature a brand-new introduction with Lisa Henson, CEO and president of The Jim Henson Company, who will reflect on the making of the one-of-a-kind film and the legacy of her father, Jim.

Gelflings Jen and Kira in a scene from ‘The Dark Crystal’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

The ambitious story of “The Dark Crystal” takes place in the world of Thra, which has been torn asunder by a fracture in a great magic crystal, causing two races to be created: the tranquil Mystics, or urRu, and the evil Skeksis, who all but destroyed Thra’s native species, the Gelflings. Now, the Mystics have summoned Jen, one of the last surviving Gelflings, to find the lost piece of the crystal. The quest sends him on an unbelievable adventure that can restore harmony and peace to Thra.

“The Dark Crystal” features performances by Jim Henson as the Gelfling Jen (voice of Stephen Garlick), Kathryn Mullen as the Gelfling Kira (voice of Lisa Maxwell), Frank Oz as the astronomer Aughra (voice of Billie Whitelaw) and Dave Goelz as Fizzgig (voice of Percy Edwards), with Henson, Oz and Goelz also performing as the Skeksis. Kiran Shah also performs the body of Jen, Kira and Aughra. With a screenplay by Dave Odell (“The Muppet Show”), “The Dark Crystal” also features a majestic score by Trevor Jones (“Excalibur,” “Labyrinth”).

“Jim Henson created a truly one-of-a-kind experience with ‘The Dark Crystal,’ one that is rarely seen on the big screen,” said Tom Lucas, Fathom Events vice president of studio relations. “Fathom Events could not be more excited about the privilege of working with The Jim Henson Company and Universal Pictures to give movie lovers the chance to see the visual splendor of ‘The Dark Crystal’ in movie theaters.”

The participating movie theater in our neck of the woods will be AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook at 2 p.m. on March 3 and at 2 and 7 p.m. on March 6. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com

From left, Ruth Hussey, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in a scene from ‘The Philadelphia Story’. Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. Entertainment are bringing the timeless classic “The Philadelphia Story” to select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day event on Sunday, Feb. 18 and Wednesday, Feb. 21 as part of the TCM Big Screen Classic Series.

Winner of two Academy Awards including best writing, screenplay (Donald Ogden Stewart) and best actor (Jimmy Stewart), “The Philadelphia Story” is a  1940 romantic comedy directed by George Cukor and starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Stewart and Ruth Hussey that was adapted from Philip Barry’s Broadway hit play of the same name.

Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart in a scene from the film. Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

In one of her most famous roles, Hepburn plays Tracy Lord, the daughter of a well-to-do Pennsylvania family. On the eve of her wedding, her blue-blood ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant), returns. C.K. discovered that a national tabloid plans to do an exposé on Tracy’s philandering father and has agreed to smuggle a reporter (Stewart) into her wedding if the magazine kills the story on the elder Lord. But C.K. never expects that the woman he still loves will suddenly fall for the undercover reporter. Now, before the evening is over, Tracy will be forced to take an unflinching look at herself and to realize which of these three men she truly loves.

Hepburn won a 1940 New York Film Critics Circle Award for her performance, and the film was named one of the 10 best of the year by Film Daily. Adapted in 1956 as the MGM musical “High Society,” starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, in 1995 “The Philadelphia Story” was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

The two-day event will also feature an exclusive commentary from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz who will give insight into this classic film.

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook (at 2 and 7 p.m. on both days); Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale (on Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.); and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville (on Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.).

To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

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