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What “The Fighter” did for trainer Mickey O’Keefe and the West End Gym in Lowell, the new Kevin James movie, “Here Comes the Boom,” might do for Mark DellaGrotte and his Sityodtong gym in Somerville.

DellaGrotte, a Somerville native and mixed martial arts (MMA) specialist, introduced Thai style boxing to New England through his Sityodtong gyms, which includes a branch in Beverly. James, an MMA enthusiast, trained with DellaGrotte for more than a year to prepare for “Here Comes the Boom,” which opens Friday. In the comedy, James plays former collegiate wrestler Scott Voss, a 42-year-old high school biology teacher who raises money to restore cuts to extracurricular school programs by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter.

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Palestinian and Israeli teenagers in Lisa Gossels’s documentary “My So-Called Enemy.”
Palestinian and Israeli teenagers in Lisa Gossels’s documentary “My So-Called Enemy.”Arlington International Film Festival

“Ninety-nine percent of what you see in the film was how we trained and how I would train a fighter,” says DellaGrotte, who plays himself in the film. “Kevin really put the time and effort into playing the character. He lost 100 pounds. People might think, ‘It’s a Kevin James movie; he’s not a fighter,’ but he pulls it off. That’s part of the twist.”

DellaGrotte, who lives in Woburn with his wife and two young children, first met James in Las Vegas in 2004 while DellaGrotte was working on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series. James told DellaGrotte that he wanted to do a movie about MMA and needed a trainer. So, while the actor shot two films in Boston —“Grown Ups” and “Zookeeper” (in which DellaGrotte has a role) — he was training with DellaGrotte.

“We did a lot of work at the Somerville facility but also on the sets during [filming of] ‘Zookeeper’ and ‘Grown Ups.’ We’d work in parking lots, baseball fields, or in his trailer,” says DellaGrotte.

A lifelong martial arts practitioner, DellaGrotte was first introduced to Thai boxing in 1997 when a friend took him to the famed Yodtong boxing camp in Thailand. After eight years of training there, Kru Yodtong, as he’s known professionally, designated DellaGrotte as his representative to teach Muay Thai boxing in the United States. “I was one of the first people to bring the native sport to New England,” says DellaGrotte, who teaches Muay Thai and other MMA at his gym. In honor of his mentor, DellaGrotte named his gym Sityodtong, which means “Student of Yodtong.” There are affiliated locations in the US and around the world.

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DellaGrotte says he hopes “Here Comes the Boom” will generate new interest in MMA. “It has the image of human cockfighting but it isn’t that — it is a legitimate sport,” he says. “I truly believe it has crossover appeal beyond teenage guys to soccer moms.”

For more information go to www.sityodtong.com.

The 1964 political drama “The Best Man,” starring Cliff Robertson and Henry Fonda. will screen at the Coolidge.
The 1964 political drama “The Best Man,” starring Cliff Robertson and Henry Fonda. will screen at the Coolidge.United Artists/Photofest

AIFF returns

The second annual Arlington International Film Festival at the Regent Theatre kicks off Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. with “All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert.” Director Vivian Ducat and Rembert himself will join in a discussion following the screening of Ducat’s documentary, which chronicles the life of Rembert, a 66-year-old African-American artist who grew up in Cuthbert, Ga., spent most of his childhood working in cotton and peanut fields, took part in the civil rights movement, served seven years on a Georgia chain gang, and, in 1995, began to carve and dye pictures on leather in his house in New Haven, where he still lives. Organized by April Ranck and Alberto Guzman, the AIFF offers shorts and features from around the globe, many by local filmmakers. Arlington’s Eric Stange and composer John Kusiak will be on hand with “The Wall: A World Divided” (Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.), which documents, through rare archival film and photos, the forces that built and then brought down the Berlin Wall. Other highlights include the world premiere of “Racing the Rez” by Somerville filmmaker Brian Truglio (Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.). The film follows Navajo and Hopi runners from two rival high school cross-country teams in northern Arizona as they compete for a state championship. Truglio will participate in a post-screening discussion.

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Lisa Gossels, director of “My So-Called Enemy” (Oct. 19 at 8:45 p.m.), will discuss her documentary, which follows six Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls who traveled to the United States to participate in a 2002 women’s leadership program called Building Bridges for Peace. Gossels will also screen and discuss her film earlier in the day at both Arlington High School and Arlington Catholic High School.

Boston director Heidi Sullivan and subject/producer Ashley Norwood will accompany their documentary, “Ashbash . . . A Love Story” (Oct. 20 at 8:50 p.m.). The film follows one woman’s journey from panic over being single to celebrating her life and relationships.

Lincoln-based director Marc Fields screens and discusses “Give Me the Banjo” (Oct. 21 at 2:15 p.m.), which traces the instrument’s role in popular music.

For more information, go to www.aiffest.org.

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Cinematic cycles

The Regent Theatre also plays host to the 8th Annual Boston Bike Film Festival on Oct. 12 beginning at 7 p.m. The event benefits the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) and Bikes Not Bombs. “Our films range from polished professional pieces to labors of love, but they all display a passion for bicycling,” says festival director Cat Bryant. Highlights include “The Man Who Lived on His Bike,” a short by Guillaume Blanchet which features Blanchet going through the motions of a regular day — feeding fish, ironing a shirt, relaxing with TV — all while riding his bike through the often snowy streets of Montreal.

For more information, go to www.bostonbikefilmfest.org.

Let it snow

There’s a new sports film festival in town. The first-ever Boston Winter Film Festival debuts Oct. 13 at the new Theatre 1 Boston at the Revere Hotel (200 Stuart St.) from noon to 10:30 p.m. The event promises some of the world’s best ski and snowboard films, including “Sunny” at 7:20 p.m. and Jeremy Jones’s “Further,” by Teton Gravity Research, at 8:45 p.m. The latter film opens officially in Boston on Nov. 29.

For more information go to www.bostonwinterfilmfestival.com.

Too big to fail

The Coolidge Corner Theatre, the only cinema in New England that’s showing Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed “The Master” in 70mm, reports that the film’s opening week broke box office records. “The Master” took in just under $51,000 (tickets to the shows are $2 higher due to the added costs to install 70mm equipment) — that’s the Coolidge’s highest gross in seven years, good enough for 10th position among US screens showing the film. “The Master” continues its 70mm run at the Coolidge until Oct. 11, then will screen in standard 35mm.

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For showtimes, go to www.coolidge.org.

Playing politics

One of the late Gore Vidal’s most celebrated works is his 1960 play “The Best Man,” which was made into a film in 1964 starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, and Lee Tracy. The Coolidge Corner Theatre presents a 35mm screening of the political drama on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m., to kick off its new Stage and Screen series presented in collaboration with the Huntington Theatre Company. The goal of the series, according to the Huntington, is “to explore the depictions of shared themes in upcoming Huntington productions and acclaimed films.” Throughout the 2012-2013 season, Huntington artists will appear at the Coolidge “to discuss the films that inspire and impact their work and the different ways in which film and theater can enlighten and inform audiences.”

Michael Wilson, acclaimed director of the recent Broadway revival of “The Best Man,” directs the Huntington’s upcoming production of Christopher Shinn’s “Now or Later” at the Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts Oct. 12 through Nov. 10. This new play also tackles timely themes of religion, freedom of expression, and personal responsibility in politics. After the film screening, Wilson and Shinn will participate in a discussion with the audience.

For tickets and information, go to www.coolidge.org. Tickets to the Huntington’s production of “Now or Later” are available at huntingtontheatre.org/noworlater.

Live on screen

The hit comedy “The Last of the Haussmans,” Stephen Beresford’s funny, touching, and at times savage portrait of a family full of longing that’s losing its grip, will be broadcast live on Oct. 11 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre as well as cinemas in Amherst, Dennis, Great Barrington, and Williamstown. Several encore performances will also be shown in Massachusetts later in the month. The play, which stars Helen McCrory, Julie Walters, and Rory Kinnear, is part of National Theater Live’s fourth season, broadcasting stage performances from the UK’s historic National Theater (where the run of “The Last of the Haussmans” is sold out) to cinemas around the world.

For more information go to www.ntlive.com.

The new ‘Normal’

Heading north for some leaf peeping? Why not check out some of the shorts, documentaries, and dramatic features at the New Hampshire Film Festival (Oct. 11-14) in Portsmouth, N.H.? Highlights include “3 Days of Normal” (Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. and Oct. 14 at 11:30 a.m.), about a lonely small town cop and a reckless Hollywood starlet who find each other and themselves during a long weekend in rural New Hampshire. Director Ishai Setton will attend both screenings. Dustin Hoffman’s much-anticipated directorial debut, “Quartet,” starring Maggie Smith, screens Oct. 13 at 4:30 p.m. Most events take place at the Francis Ford Coppola Main Stage at The Music Hall (28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth) with additional screenings at three other intimate venues in town.

For more information go to www.nhfilmfestival.com.


Loren King can be reached at
loren.king@comcast.net
.