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RAY'S PIX: Aliens remain a mystery in ‘Annihilation’

RAY'S PIX: Aliens remain a mystery in ‘Annihilation’

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Love old or unusual movies but never know when they’re on? Here are several I recommend:

Annihilation (2018): This wonderfully strange and ambitious science fiction thriller stars Natalie Portman as a biologist whose husband has disappeared in a mysterious alien miasma of unknown origin. She and a band of other scientists enter this mysterious area to try to solve the mystery. Bad things happen. What I liked most about the movie was how it was reaching for the idea that, if we were confronted with an alien presence, it’s much more likely than not that we would not be able to understand their motivations or actions. The point of the film is the mystery, and if you lean into that, it can be quite enjoyable. Also featuring a strong performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Now streaming on Amazon Prime.

The Far Country (1954): Here’s another of the wonderful Westerns director Anthony Mann and star James Stewart made in the 1950s. This one’s a breezy, slightly lumpy but still very entertaining romp about the Klondike Gold Rush, a cattle drive to Alaska (!), and Jimmy’s rugged individualism getting challenged by two women (Ruth Roman and Corinne Calvet) and perhaps a bit smoothed over by his buddy (Walter Brennan). That and some spectacular scenery and what more could you want from a Tuesday matinee?

Turner Classic Movies, Tuesday, 12:30 p.m.

The Lovebirds (2020): I was eagerly awaiting this movie’s theatrical release this spring before the pandemic shut down the movie theaters. It’s now on Netflix, and it’s a delightful guilty pleasure. Guilty, because it’s another mashup of romcom and crime caper, but this one is smarter than those movies usually are, because the story takes place on the day the couple breaks up and their non-whiteness adds texture to the stress of being hunted by law enforcement. Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae sparkle as the couple who get framed for murder 5 minutes after agreeing to go their separate ways. It’s a fun and sweet romp.

Now streaming on Netflix.

Storm Center (1956): OK, so here’s the thing. If you are on the city council of a small town in the 1950s during the height of the Red Scare, and you decide you’re going to start banning certain books from the local library ... do you really think that’s a good idea when the librarian is Bette Davis? Yeah, no. That’s what happens in this tight little programmer from 1956. The cast includes Oscar winner Kim Hunter, with Brian Keith and Paul Kelly. The movie’s a bit shrill, but it was made in shrill times, and the stakes were high. Interestingly, it’s an independent film. Probably this topic was too hot for the studios to handle!

Now streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Ray Ivey is a writer and movie fan in Hollywood, California. He would love to hear from you at

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