Film: Frosty Films

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STILL LAUGHING: Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn in the 'Suicide Squad' sequel, 'Birds of Prey.'

With two months of winter left, we're all digging in—avoiding the monsoons and bitter (to Californians) cold. Time to head to the ever-more opulent multiplexes, with their reclining seats and beer-to-seat porters.

True, the first month of the year is a dumping ground for mulch like Dolittle. However, as January ends, the first-run lists get more interesting. Downhill is a study in spinelessness; the remake of the Swedish film Force Majeure, it features Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Feb. 14). Margot Robbie schemes some stochastic crimes with her new gang, post Suicide Squad, in Birds of Prey (Feb. 7). I'm curious about Come to Daddy, in a limited release Feb. 7; it's been embraced on the festival circuit as a peculiar comedy about Elijah Wood as a man suddenly in contact with his deranged father. And finally, James Bond returns, as he will from time to time, in No Time to Die (Apr. 10).

Of course, your living room remains the ultimate, lean-back, beer-in-hand, media-consumption experience. Netflix drops new episodes of Bojack Horseman (Jan 31) and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Jan 24); AMC releases the final season of Better Call Saul on Feb 23. No date for this, but director Ben Wheatley remakes a property Hitchcock adapted fairly definitively in 1940, Rebecca, this time with Armie Hammer as the grim blueblood Maxim de Winter. On Amazon, Star Trek: Picard brings the aged, yet ageless, space captain back into action (Jan. 24); undated is season two of The Boys, in which the unsettling Homelander faces an immovable gang ready to counter his irresistible force.

On Hulu, a new season of Shrill (Jan. 24) has Aidy Bryant back as a large and not-in-charge Seattle alternative newspaper drudge. On Valentine's Day, the series High Fidelity does a gender-switch on Nick Hornby's book, with Zoe Kravitz as the listicle-making record-store owner who backtracks through her mixtapes to recall the busted love affairs in her life. (John Cusack played the character in the fondly remembered movie from 2000.)

As Werner Herzog once said, you only really need one streaming service—Criterion. Herzog told Variety: "They have hundreds of films and all of them are great." Beyond its roster of world classics, Criterion recently showed a mini-festival of 1970s science fiction and dystopian films—all produced during an era of shortages, strife and ecological disaster: A Boy and His Dog, Demon Seed, The Terminal Man, Logan's Run, ZPG, No Blade of Grass and several others—including the 1973 Michael Crichton film, Westworld (the HBO series based on the movie returns for a third season in March).

One of the bleakest and least known in this Criterion series is 1971's The Omega Man. It was the kind of story that became a specialty for Charlton Heston, the Harrison Ford of his day. Again and again he played doomed, middle-aged males in End Times; starving throngs, damned dirty apes, atom bomb-worshipping mutants—he harrowed them all. Omega Man has Heston as seemingly the last man on Earth—the prey of Luddite, puritan, nocturnal ghouls created by germ warfare. It's a chilling prophecy of Taliban mania, Fox News and the ambience of The Handmaid's Tale, though tough Harlemite Rosalind Cash gives it some street cred.

BIG SCREEN: The Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival is back for its 30th year in San Jose. Photo by Greg Ramar

Festival Season

Returning for its 30th year, the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival lands in San Jose and Redwood City on March 3 and runs through March 15. This year's theme is "Elation."

While the guest list isn't nailed down yet, one sure invite is Hong Chau, the devious "Lady Trieu" from Watchmen. Hong Chau will receive the Maverick Spirit Award in connection with her appearance, with Brian Dennehy, in the indie film Driveways (directed by Andrew Ahn). The Burnt Orange Heresy, starring Mick Jagger and Elizabeth Debicki (of the upcoming Christopher Nolan movie TENET), is based on a 1971 novel by the great Charles Willeford. Dennis James performs live on the Wurlitzer to one of the essential silent films The Mark of Zorro (1920) with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as the masked avenger in a colonial California plagued, then as now, by cruel, avaricious landlords. And at the California Theater, 2001: Space Odyssey is screening in a 70mm print.

Opening night is John Pinette: I Go Now, a documentary about the comedian. There are a spate of documentaries on figures as varied as the Lucha Libre wrestler Vampiro and windsurfer Robby Naish. One evening celebrates Ruth Weiss, a 92-year-old poet; she'll be part of a program with Metro's Gary Singh. The closer: Resistance with Jesse Eisenberg starring in an unknown chapter of the life of arch-mime Marcel Marceau, a performer good enough to make a person appreciate this derided form of theater. During the French resistance, Marceau hid children from the Nazis—I guess the Fascists knew they could never make him talk.