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Whedonites, zombies, heists, aimless New Yorkers and men in rubber monster suits


If you are a film fan and you live in Lawrence, this week is full of great opportunities to geek out.

A double-feature charity screening of Joss Whedon-related fun called Can't Stop the Serenity is showing at 7 p.m. Friday at Liberty Hall, with proceeds going to benefit the women’s rights organization Equality Now.

Seven years before he helmed the monster hit “The Avengers” for Marvel/Disney, writer/director Whedon (famous for his “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series) made a sci-fi western called “Serenity” that flew under the radar of those not in “the know.”

“Serenity” is a fast-paced, clever spin on the space-adventure genre, adapted from Whedon’s short-lived TV show “Firefly,” it and holds up well. Back in 2005 when it was released, star Nathan Fillion (playing a wisecracking Han Solo-like spaceship captain) was virtually unknown, but an older generation of fans now know him as the title character on ABC’s “Castle.”

Following “Serenity” will be all 43 minutes of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” a funny trifle with singing superheroes and villains. Whedon dreamed up his project, starring Fillion, Felicia Day, and Neil Patrick Harris, during the 2007-2008 writers strike, and as a “just for fun” diversion, it’s way more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Lastly, season one of the online gaming comedy-short Web series “The Guild” — starring Day again, but having no other Whedon connection other than an increasing amount of Whedonverse cameos — will screen as a bonus.

“Frances Ha” opens at Liberty Hall this weekend, and there has been a lot of media talk calling it a modern-day kind of “Annie Hall.”

The film was directed by Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Greenberg”) and is reportedly way sunnier in disposition than his usual fare. Greta Gerwig (Baumbach’s real-life girlfriend) stars as a flighty young woman from New York who seems to wander aimlessly through her life.

It's shot in gorgeous black and white, and I’ve been hearing the dreaded word “quirky” thrown around a lot.

Comedies aren’t usually as polarizing as “Frances Ha” has been, but Gerwig’s title character — a ball of unfocused energy — is turning heads in both ways.

“World War Z” has been the subject of lots of bad buzz. From a ballooning budget to reported re-shoots, the Brad Pitt-produced adaptation of Max Brooks’ best-seller has long been troubled. The final product, however, isn’t a disaster at all — as long you’re not expecting it to be anything like the book.

Director Marc Forster shoots “World War Z” — which is about a sudden zombie-like virus that takes over the world in a matter of days — in a more realistic fashion than most zombie movies. It’s way more “Contagion” than “Dawn of the Dead.”

After grounding the story emotionally with Pitt and his family (Mireille Enos from AMC’s “The Killing” plays his wife), the chaos kicks in with some well-staged scenes of zombie panic that put the audience in the middle of the confusion.

Before there is barely time to process what’s happening, former United Nations man-of-action Pitt is whisked away to travel the world and figure out how to stop the pandemic.

“World War Z” has a couple of loose ends from a plot standpoint, and it’s not at all realistic that Pitt would be able to traverse the globe and be everywhere important at just the key moment. But Forster succeeds in making it a very tense film without the aid of any “Walking Dead”-style gore. This is a PG-13 movie that wrings maximum tension out of its life-or-death situations, with nothing less than the future of humanity at stake.

At noon Sunday, Liberty Hall celebrates the one-year anniversary of its Film Church movie/brunch series with a double-feature of early Quentin Tarantino movies.

“Jackie Brown” and “Reservoir Dogs” showcase the decade-defining filmmaker before he became obsessed with revenge fantasies. Despite the fact that every lame heist movie in the '90s ripped off these films (and especially “Pulp Fiction”) to the point of parody, they still hold up.

Tarantino’s ear for great dialogue and expert plotting make “Reservoir Dogs” a treat, and “Jackie Brown” contains the two most soulful performances in the Tarantino canon — from Pam Grier and the Oscar-nominated Robert Forster.

Lawrence resident and obscure-movie aficionado Adam Jeffers offers up “two colossal hours of king-size videotainment” at The Bottleneck on Tuesday with another edition of his homegrown, awesomely strange Trash Nite. This edition of the weirdest and best parts of otherwise terrible movies is a tribute to Japanese monster flicks, or Kaiju.

Jeffers is calling it "Big Meanies," and the whole program — featuring clips from no-budget oddities like 1987’s “Ganjasaurus Rex,” 1994’s “Saurians,” and “King Kung Fu” from 1976 — is edited together like an '80s cable access show, complete with camp-tastic commercial breaks.

The trailer showcases a lot of really, really bad "special" effects and "actors" wearing cheap rubber monster suits. In one clip, the filmmakers couldn't even be bothered with an entire costume, so it looks like they strapped a couple of scales on a guy in a business suit and filmed him with an exaggerated perspective and added some Godzilla sound effects. The show starts at 9 p.m. and, as usual, it’s completely free!


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