Normally in this space, we provide a rundown of the upcoming month of scheduled repertory screenings here in the Philadelphia region. Obviously, that's not happening this month, with all of the area movie theaters closed. Instead, here are some movies with Philadelphia ties that you can check out at home this April. There's also a way to help out the area art house theaters while they're closed.
12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)
Now's as great a time as any to watch a film about a deadly virus that threatens humanity, right?
This time 25 years ago, director Terry Gilliam was filming 12 Monkeys, here in Philadelphia, ahead of its release in December of 1995. The first of many Philadelphia-shot films to star Bruce Willis, 12 Monkeys was a loose remake of the 1962 French classic short La Jetee. The plot has Willis as a convict in the mid-21st century, who is sent back in time from the future to 1996, with a mission to find out how the virus that killed most of humanity got loose. (Spoiler-it was an "apocalypse nut," played by another mainstay of Philadelphia movies, David Morse.) Also on board is a very young Brad Pitt, giving a crazy-eyed performance as a very wealthy mental patient.
12 Monkeys presents a gross, grimy, often subterranean vision of Philadelphia, using Eastern State Penitentiary as a mental hospital, a pre-renovation Memorial Hall as a lecture hall, and the then-new Pennsylvania Convention Center for the climactic third act set at the airport. And of course, we see animals crawling around the Center City skyline after they've been let out of the Philadelphia Zoo.
Every time in the last several years that large animals have gotten loose in Philadelphia—something that happens more often than you'd think—I've made the same joke about the return of the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
12 Monkeys is streaming on Showtime's on-demand platform.
Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2015)
Creed is not only probably the best franchise reboot movie of all, but it's clearly the best movie that's made in Philadelphia in the new century.
Rather than a mere cash-grab nostalgia exercise meant to wring a few more dollars out of the then-four-decade-old Rocky franchise, Creed was an astonishing work of artistry and filmmaking vision. Yes, it's built on both the Rocky mythology and the general structure familiar from the series. But Creed offers a compelling character arc, a superlative performance from Michael B. Jordan, and even a fine valedictory role for Sylvester Stallone.
Creed is also full of absolutely beautiful shots, like that moment when Creed and Rocky are standing in front of the photo of Apollo and Rocky.
Creed is available as a video-on-demand rental on all major VOD platforms
Selah and the Spades (Tayarisha Poe, 2019)
This film, directed by Philly native and Swarthmore graduate Tayarisha Poe, grew out of the filmmaker's participation in the Sundance Screenwriters Intensive, and made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019. It premiered in Philadelphia last May, and now Saleh and the Spades is headed to Amazon Prime this month.
The film, though filmed in Massachusetts, is set at a Philadelphia-area boarding school, and focuses on rival factions among girls at the school.
The film's distribution rights were acquired by Amazon Prime last July.
In an interview with BSR last year, Poe described Seleh and the Spades as "like a crime family drama but set in a boarding school," and added that while she always enjoyed crime films, she never saw young black women or girls in those types of stories.
Selah and the Spades will be available to stream on Amazon Prime April 17.
Supporting your local art house
Do you miss your local art house? It turns out there's a way to see the sort of first-run films you'd be watching this month at home, while also supporting the theaters themselves.
Several local independent theaters are participating in such programs.
Pedro Costa's illuminating Portuguese film, Vitalina Varela, can be rented for $12, through its distributor Grasshopper Films, allowing viewers to support the Lightbox Film Center.
The Philadelphia Film Society and Film Center, through Kino Lorber's Kino Now platform, is offering a $12 rental of the Brazilian/French film Bacurau, which showed last fall at the Philadelphia Film Festival.
The Bryn Mawr Film Institute has launched a "Theater 5" program. Louie Schwartzberg's Fantastic Fungi, which was to open the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival is available for $5. For $10, there's Kelly O'Sullivan's Saint Frances. A portion of the proceeds for both will go to BMFI. You can also catch Fantastic Fungi through Phoenixville's Colonial Theatre.
Through Film Movement Plus, you can watch Corpus Christi, the Polish film that was Oscar-nominated for Best International Feature Film last year, for a $12 rental, while supporting the Ambler Theater.