Friday, December 02, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 2 December 2022 - 8 December 2022

It's an exceptionally dead period between Thanksgiving and Avatar and Netflix isn't extending Glass Onion's run, so let's see who is ready to pick up the money they're leaving on the table.
  • The big opening this weekend is Violent Night, with David Harbour as Santa Claus, who finds himself in the middle of a Die Hard-ish robbery when a kid on his Nice List is taken hostage. It sounds like something more suited for a trailer parody than a full film - indeed, that's what the trailer feels like - but that describes a lot of the films by director Tommy Wirkola which have worked better than they have a right to, and the action is choreographed by the guys who did Plan B. It's at Fresh Pond, Boston Common (including Dolby Cinema), Fenway, South Bay (including Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX).

    Universal covers its Christmas-movie bases by also re-releasing Love Actually at Arsenal Yards (through Sunday). There are Christmas matinees at Boston Common and South Bay of Love Actually (Friday), Elf (Saturday); the Illumination Grinch (Sunday); National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Monday); The Best Man Holiday (Tuesday); the Jim Carrey Grinch (Wednesday); and The Polar Express (Thursday). Top Gun: Maverick also gets a "hey, there are screens open" re-release at Boston Common and South Bay.

    There are 40th Anniversary screenings of The Dark Crystal on Sunday and Wednesday at Fenway, South Bay, and Assembly Row. Broadway Rising, a documentary about the New York theater scene reopening after the pandemic, plays South Bay and Assembly Row on Monday. Another documentary, Johnny Cash - The Redemption of an American Icon is at Fenway, South Bay, and Assembly Row Monday to Wednesday. Moonage Daydream returns to Boston Common (Imax Xenon) Wednesday. Greek film Smyrna plays Fenway, South Bay, and Assembly Row on Thursday.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square picks up two streaming productions: Amazon's Nanny stars Anna Diop in the title role, a Senegaliese immigrant who watches another family's child while saving up money to bring her own son over, although both families are under some strain. Netflix has White Noise, Noah Baumbach's adaptation of Don DeLillo's book about a family trying to keep it together with a potentially apocalyptic event on the horizon.

    They also have Memories of My Father, a film about a Colombian activist told from the point of view of his son, who would become a noted writer, although only for matinees. Neil Young: Harvest Time plays Sunday afternoon (also at Boston Common and Fenway). Tuesday's Retro Replay is Gremlins, starting a run of holiday-themed movies.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre is billing their run of A Couple in their smaller rooms as an exclusive booking, and it's unusual, a small film from Frederick Wiseman - an hour-long narrative rather than a sprawling documentary, following Sophia Tolstoy as she walks a garden, discussing her fraught marriage.

    Midnight movies include The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the 2019 Black Christmas on Friday and Krampus on Saturday (doing holiday movies this month). Babe is the Saturday morning matinee, while Goethe-Institut selection The Silent Forest plays Sunday morning. There's a special presentation of Children of Las Brisas (Los Niños de las Brisas) on Monday evening with director Marianela Maldonado, producer Luisa de la Ville, and others on-hand for a Q&A afterward.
  • Six new South Asian movies start Friday at Apple Fresh Pond: Telugu crime flick HIT: The 2nd Case features Adivi Sesh as a detective on the trail of a serial killer; Hindi action comedy An Action Hero (also at Boston Common) follows a movie star who has gone into hiding; Gold is a Malayalam comedy; Yaara Vey is a Pakistani romance; DSP and Gatta Kusthi are Tamil-language comedies; and Bhediya is a Hindi werewolf comedy. Bangladeshi sports film Damal has an encore on Saturday.

    Drishyam 2, Love Today, and Uunchai continue at Fresh Pond; Drishyam 2 is also at Boston Common.

    The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie, the finale of the popular series, plays Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row Friday to Wednesday (except Monday), some shows dubbed and some subtitled. Hideaki Anno's Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time has shows Tuesday and Thursday at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards (no show Thursday).

    Hong Kong romantic comedy Love Suddenly plays Boston Common; the poster makes it look like the same sort of "overlapping romances" as Love Actually, so maybe folks won't be too upset if they buy a ticket to the wrong one. Director Mak Ho-Pong and writer/producer Edmond Wong Chi-Mun did the Breakout Brothers movies and also worked on the Donnie Yen Ip Man series.

    Park Chan-Wook's Decision to Leave continues at West Newton and Lexington, and opens at The Capitol and Luna Lowell. Korean music/concert doc NCT Dream the Movie: In a Dream plays Boston Common and Fenway on Saturday.
  • The Brattle Theatre kicks off the holiday season on Friday with "Kevin Geeks Out About Christmas" and then a secret screening on 16mm (although they leave enough clues to figure out what it is).

    After that, they have a week of "Damn Fine Cinema: The Films of David Lynch", with The Straight Story (35mm Saturday/Monday), a package of short films in a double feature with Eraserhead on 35mm (Saturday), Inland Empire (Saturday), Lost Highway paired with Mulholland Drive (both on 35mm Sunday), Blue Velvet & 35mm Wild at Heart (Monday), The Elephant Man (Wednesday), Dune (35mm Wednesday), and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (35mm Thursday).
  • The Harvard Film Archive wraps their fall season with EAMI on Friday, with director Paz Encina on-hnad for a Q&A. They also have last week's Kaidu Club Experimental Shorts directed by Han Ohki in the 1970s available to stream through the 12th.
  • The Regent Theatre has outdoor adventure film program "Mountains on Stage: Winter Edition" on Wednesday.
  • Bright Lights has Long Live My Happy Head on Thursday, with directors Will Hewitt & Austin McCowan on-hand to talk about their film a Scottish cartoonist who starts making autobiographical comics after learning he has an inoperable brain tumor. Free to the public, tickets available starting noon the day of the show.
  • The ICA has a 95-minute program of Sundance Film Festival Shorts from this year's event on Thursday evening, with more shows during the coming weekend.
  • The Somerville Theatre is, as often happens in December, down a screen with The Slutcracker taking the main stage on weekends (Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Thursday this week). They've also got a special show, "Kevin & Ken Save Christmas!", with audience voting for which holiday special, clip, TV episode, or short plays next, on Saturday.
  • The Museum of Science will be showing Wakanda Forever on the Murgar Omni dome Fridays and Saturdays into December.
  • The Lexington Venue is open Friday to Sunday with Decision to Leave, The Banshees of Inisherin and The Menu.

    The West Newton Cinema has Strange World, Aftersun, Amsterdam (Saturday/Sunday), The Menu, The Banshees of Inisherin, Wakanda Forever, Lyle Lyle Crocodile (Saturday/Sunday), Armageddon Time (Saturday), Decision to Leave (Sunday), and Tár. Closed Monday.

    The Luna Theater has Decision to Leave Friday, Saturday, and Thursday; Concert for George Saturday afternoon; Die Hard Saturday night and all day Sunday; plus Weirdo Wednesday.

    Cinema Salem has The Menu, Violent Night, and Strange World Friday to Monday. There's also a show of Elf hosted by Miz Diamond Wigfall Friday night with a more kid-friendly matinee on Saturday, with VideoCoven running the original Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night on Thursday.
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes.
I am down for Violent Night, White Noise, and Love Suddenly, maybe catching up with Devotion and Bones and All. I probably should fill in some David Lynch-shaped holes as well, and we'll see if I catch up on the rest of Evangelion to the point where I go see the finale (I mean, I did see the other three, even if I didn't love them).

Monday, November 28, 2022

Irish Movies in Ireland: The Wonder

Saturday was one of those days when I sort of struggled to remember how I navigated new cities without a smartphone, in part because that navigation was kind of imperfect: For whatever reason, my Galaxy was popping up notes that my location was approximate in the Maps app, and whatever combination of gyroscope and GPS is supposed to calculate which way I was pointing could be off by 90 or 120 degrees. This always seems to happen to me in a new city, and I can't guess why.

The upshot is that while I was walking from the Georgian mansion-cum-tenament house at 14 Henrietta Street to the Irish National Museum of Art and Design, I got turned around a fair bit, so was zooming in and studying the map, and Google probably knows me well enough to highlight theaters at this point. So when I saw "Light House Cinema" and looked up to see this:

… I couldn't help but think, damn, that marquee game is on point! That is not the marquee, but an observation deck that was probably a smokestack for the power plant which has since been remodeled into a nightclub below at one point. Still, if Light House is a chain, they chose a heck of a location with that landmark across the street from this relatively modest location:

It's actually pretty nice inside, a bit less cramped and segmented than the IFI was, though with the same odd-to-me emphasis on a bar/café at which one can stop and talk before the film as opposed to place to get snacks for during. Probably more appropriate in this case, as I was seeing a movie about someone pointedly not eating, though I got some popcorn anyway.

As with the IFI, I'm kind of struck by how that entryway is a passage that sort of emphasizes how you're kind of going past the outer edge of the building, into a central area that might have been a courtyard before but is now windowless before you go down to the lower levels. Reasonable enough you don't necessarily want a whole lot of potential light pollution.

At any rate, I'm kind of glad I saw this on the Dublin trip as opposed to at the IFFBoston Fall Focus or its run at the Kendall afterward, if only because visiting places like 14 Henrietta and the like did a nice job of hammering the historical context of the movie home. There's "knowing of the Irish famine" and "having the desperation of it fresh in your mind", after all.

The next day would bring me to the Emigration Museum and the replica Jeannie Johnston; the former pointed out the extent to which the famine shrunk the country and the latter was actually used as a shooting location:

The guide pointed out, sort of amused, that the production repainted this half of the ship, as that was what would be on camera, and it would be another year before the trust would be able to paint the other to make it symmetric.

The Wonder

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 November 2022 in Light House Sheffield #3 (first-run, DCP)

The Wonder has an odd sort of framing device which initially made me think of how many people (myself included) initially thought TÀR was based on a real person, if only because they don't really make films about that sort of singular character unless they actually exist these days; was filmmaker Sebastián Lelio doing something similar but more deliberate, playing with the audience's assumptions about whether this really happened and what segments were necessarily speculative? As it turns out, probably not; by the time the film is over, it's got more interesting thoughts on how stories are told than just reassuring the audience they haven't been fooled.

After that, it sets the scene Rural Ireland, just past the midpoint of the Nineteenth Century. Nurse Elizabeth Wright (Florence Pugh), who had previously tended patients on the battlefields of the Crimea, has been hired for a most unusual job: Spend two weeks observing Anna O'Donnell (Kila Lord Cassidy), who has by all accounts not eaten since her fourteenth birthday, four months ago. She will alternate shifts with Sister Michael (Josie Walker), fittingly, as much of the town committee that hired her, including the local priest (Ciarán Hinds), seek evidence of a miracle, while the local doctor (Toby Jones) hopes for some sort of scientific discovery of how humans can perhaps draw sustenance from the ether. Lib is mostly practical, although she notes that Anna is bright and inquisitive, while her parents are sincere and non-exploitative. That said, Anna is not healthy, and what sort of nurse would allow her patient to starve to death, even if it is happening at an impossibly slow pace?

There is a casual mention of the Irish Potato Famine toward the start of the story, seemingly designed to make the audience discount the scale of the event (Ireland was a nation of 8 million at the start, with a million dying and another million emigrating during the famine, and the population still not recovered 170 years later), perhaps focusing on Lib's own demons. It makes sense; this is the sort of thing one tries not to speak of as opposed to moving forward, but it seeps in through cracks: It explains why Will Byrne (Tom Burke), the reporter sent by a London newspaper to cover the story, is no longer of this place even though he grew up there. As it becomes clear that Anna is choosing not to eat more than not needing to - and that her older brother is gone - the idea of survivor's guilt begins to take center stage, and not just for Anna. The men of God need to find meaning in this; the man of science needs to find a way for it to not happen again. Meanwhile, the full plates placed in front of Lib at the inn where she is staying begin to look downright vulgar as the film passes its midpoint. Co-writer/director Sebastián Lelio and company may not be able to evoke the actual hunger of the famine, but they can perhaps simulate remembering it, and knowing that it will leave its mark upon one forever.

It's such a raw and obvious scar that the audience may figure out what is happening before Lib does, but that serves to bring the film back to where it started and the idea of just what to do with what she's found. The truth, after all, is not going to support the narratives that Anna and the people in her orbit are committed to. Lib is practical, and more rigorous in her science than the doctor who sees her as more instrument than peer, but human minds are often too committed to the world being fair by their own lights, and if Lib is to save Anna, the solution must serve the narratives - including hers. The importance of this makes Niamh Algar's Kitty O'Donnell (Anna's aunt or cousin) an intriguing choice of narrator; despite being as close to things as anybody is, she's so peripheral as to be able to smash the fourth wall without it affecting the story. She pores over Will's stories with difficulty, as she is not quite so well-educated as him or Lib, but both within and outside the story, she's looking to supply context and help everyone - Lib, the viewer, herself - understand the whole situation, including where one can't really know, but has to fill in bits for oneself.

She's nevertheless off to the side for the most part, with Florence Pugh front and center, terrific as always. Lib is a mostly-functional addict, and the way that Pugh captures that not quite being segregated from her work as much as she'd like, especially as the film goes on and the stress of the assignment begins to wear on her. She establishes this aura of being wryly no-nonsense that stabilizes the film when she starts to lose control. It's reflected in Kila Lord Cassidy's Anna, a curious but not precocious kid who has this other layer to her experience even beyond the memory of the famine, and there's something blistering true about how she, in particular, needs a version of this story that makes sense.

That is, ultimately, what makes The Wonder fascinating beyond what's the main story - it's about how truth gets built, without ever being cynical about whether what actually happened is important.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 23 November 2022 - 1 December 2022

Thanksgiving already? Dang! My sense of time is way off.
  • Steven Spielberg has a new one out, The Fabelmans, based more or less directly on his own childhood and discovery that he's got a real talent for filmmaking as his parents' marriage crumbles. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano stand in for them, and there's an impressive cast all the way down. It's at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Assembly Row.

    Also opening more in the specialty houses is Luca Guadagnino's Bones and All, whose trailer gives me some Let the Right One in Vibes, with Taylor Russell playing a young woman with a cannibal compulsion who flees her hometown to find there are others like her - some trying to quietly get by doing as little harm as possible, others more sinister. It's at the Coolidge, Boston Common, Fenway (starting Friday), South Bay, and Assembly Row.

    There's also The Inspection, with Jeremy Pope as a gay Black man who opts to join the Marines despite the fact that it is very much a hostile place for folks like him, with Gabrielle Union as the mother who was no more ready for that than the institution. It plays the Coolidge, Kendall Square, and Boston Common, and expands next week.

    Aside from all that turnover, the Coolidge continues its Noirvember material with Akira Kurosawa's Drunken Angel playing on 35mm Wednesday, while Devil in a Blue Dress plays Monday and Gilda on Tuesday, the latter two with pre-show seminars. Midnight shows over the weekend are Spielberg's genre films, with a 35mm print of Jaws on Friday and one of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on Saturday. There are weekend kids' shows of Panda! Go Panda!, an animated adventure directed by Isao Takahata with a story by Hayao Miyazaki from before when they founded Studio Ghibli.
  • Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery mystery opens at Boston Common, Fenway, and Assembly Row; the film brings back Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc to get to the bottom of a whole new murder case with an all-star cast. Note that (barring a change of heart) Netflix is only letting it have a one-week preview, so it's gone after Tuesday until showing back up on the streamer on Christmas.

    Disney debuts its latest animated feature, Strange World, in which the son of a lost explorer on an alien world is recruited to follow his trail across the bizarre planet to help save the settlement. It's at the Arlington Capitol, Fresh Pond, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema 2D), Fenway, South Bay (including RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema 2D), Assembly Row (including RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema 2D), Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    Devotion features Jonathan Majors as a naval aviator during the Korean War, notable for being the first Black man in that role. Looks solid. It's playing the Capitol, Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    Arsenal Yards has the Illumination The Grinch on Friday and Gremlins Friday to Sunday.. There's an early screening of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish on Saturday at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Chestnut Hill. Documentary Six Locked Doors: The Legacy of Cocoanut Grove (about the infamous Boston nightclub fire) plays Chestnut Hill on Monday. K-Pop concert film NCT Dream the Movie: In a Dream plays Boston Common, Fenway on Wednesday the 30th. I Heard the Bells, an "inspiring" film about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writing the Carol of the Bells, plays South Bay and Arsenal Yards on Thursday 1 December
  • In addition to the other openings, Landmark Theatres Kendall Square has a new adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover beginning on Wednesday.

    The Tuesday Retro Replay show is the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit (have they been doing a Jeff Bridges month? I didn't catch that at first). There's also Neil Young: Harvest Time, a chronicle of Young creating his album Harvest, mostly composed of previously-unseen footage, on Thursday 1 December (also at Boston Common and Fenway).
  • The Brattle Theatre has more Marilyn Monroe classics this week, with double features of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes & How to Marry a Millionaire on Wednesday, Some Like It Hot & The Seen Year Itch Thursday and Tuesday, and Niagara & The Misfits next Wednesday and Thursday.

    After Thanksgiving, they offer an anti-consumeriism Black Friday Double Feature with They Live & Chopping Mall on Friday (including free popcorn). Saturday and Sunday are "Give Thanks for Bogie" days with Casablanca, with Monday described as a "Post-Thanksgiving Palate Cleanser" featuring a 35mm print of The Royal Tenenbaums.
  • New Indian movies start Friday at Apple Fresh Pond, with Itlu Maredumilli Prajaneekam a Telugu-language, rural-set drama and Padachone Ingalu Kaatholee a sprawling Malayalam comedy. Drishyam 2, Masooda, Love Today, and Uunchai continue at Fresh Pond, though not every one is playing every day; Drishyam 2 is also at Boston Common.

    Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, Hideaki Anno's long awaited finale to his "rebuild of Evangelion", plays Boston Common (subtitled Imax Xenon) on Wednesday. One Piece Film: Red continues at Boston Common (subtitled) and Assembly Row (dubbed).

    Park Chan-Wook's Decision to Leave continues at the Somerville (through Sunday), West Newton and opens in Lexington.
  • Most of the students are away, so The Harvard Film Archive is closed most of the weekend, but they've got an encore 35mm screening of Michael Roemer's Nothing But a Man Sunday afternoon. Monday evening, they have a selection of Kaidu Club Experimental Shorts directed by Han Ohki in the 1970s; Kaidu Club was one of South Korea's first groups of feminist filmmakers
  • The Regent Theatre shows Concert for George on Tuesday night, hosted by ChaChi Loprete of "Breakfast with the Beatles" and Gary Backstrom playing George Harrison's music on stage before the film begins. Apparently no sing-along movie this holiday break!
  • As with the HFA, Bright Lights is off with students going home for Thanksgiving, but will be back next Thursday (1 December) with the very cool Neptune Frost, with Professor Wendy Waters leading the discussion of Saul Williams's queer Afrofuturist cyberpunk stoory. Free to the public, tickets available starting noon the day of the show.
  • The Museum of Science will be showing Wakanda Forever on the Murgar Omni dome Fridays and Saturdays into December.
  • The Lexington Venue is open Friday to Sunday with Decision to Leave, The Banshees of Inisherin and The Menu playing through Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema gets Strange World, Aftersun, and Amsterdam, joiining The Menu, The Banshees of Inisherin, Wakanda Forever, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, Armageddon Time (Wednesday/Saturday/Sunday matinees), Decision to Leave, and Tár. Closed Tanksgiving and Monday.

    The Luna Theater has Weirdo Wednesday this week and next, Edward Scissorhands Friday afternoon, Aftersun Friday and Saturday, In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson at 50 and The 22nd Annual Animation Show of Shows on Saturday, plus Elf on Sunday.

    Cinema Salem has The Menu, Wakanda Forever, and Strange World Friday to Monday.
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes.
I've already got my ticket to Glass Onion, and am looking forward to The Fabelmans, Strange World, plus maybe Devotion and Bones and All, along with some more Marilyns.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 18 November 2022 - 22 November 2022

Thanksgiving approaches, which means we'll get movies opening again on Wednesday. But for now...
  • ... a likely very quick run for Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, with del Toro collaborating with stop-motion animator Mark Gustafson (who, in addition to his work in Claymation, probably deserves more credit than he gets for Fantastic Mr. Fox). It's at The Coolidge Corner Theatre and Kendall Square for a fairly short run.

    Midnights this weekend at the Coolidge include Michael Haneke's Funny Games on Friday and Robin Williams in One Hour Photo on Saturday. Monday's Science on Screen show is I Heart Huckabees, with mathematician Joseph Mazur talking about probability and coincidence. Tuesday's Noirvember show is Chinatown, with Akira Kurosawa's Drunken Angel playing on Wednesday as they clean house with three films opening for the long weekend.
  • I'm reading that The Menu plays more as black comedy than horror despite what the trailer implies; it stars Ralph Fiennes as a celebrity chef who apparently has it in for the rich folks paying thousands per plate at his pop-up event, including Nicholas Hoult and Anya Taylor-Joy. It's at the Somerville, Fresh Pond, Lexington, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    Arsenal Yards plays Chicken Run Saturday and Sunday mornings.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square, the Somerville, Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row open She Said, starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as the New York Times reporters who got people to go on the record about Harvey Weinstein.

    The Kendall's Tuesday Retro Replay is The Big Lebowski
  • The Brattle Theatre has a quick weekend run (Friday, Saturday, and a matinee Sunday) of Utama, in which an elderly Quecha couple in Bolivia must confront both how climate change is making their life untenable and news from their grandson. It shares the screen with rock doc Meet Me in the Bathroom (Friday night and Saturday/Sunday matinees).

    On Tuesday, they start a series of Marilyn Monroe classics with a double feature of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes & How to Marry a Millionaire, which also plays on Wednesday.
  • Drishyam 2 is a sequel to a remake and a remake of a sequel, with Ajay Devgn returning as a man once again having to go to dark places to protect his family. It's at Fresh Pond.

    Also opening at Apple Fresh Pond on Friday are Telugu horror film Masooda (through Monday), Tamil action flick Kalagathalaivan (through Monday), Malayalam legal caper Mukundan Unni Associates (through Monday). Telugu comedy Alipiriki Allantha Dooramlo plays Saturday to Monday, and Bangladeshi soccer drama Damal plays Sunday. Hindu drama Uunchai continues at Fresh Pond and Boston Common; Fresh Pond keeps Telugu sci-fi flick Yashoda and Tamil comedy Love Today.

    One Piece Film: Red loses some big screens but continues at Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row, with dubbed and subtitled shows by location.

    Park Chan-Wook's Decision to Leave continues at the Somerville, the Coolidge, West Newton, and the Kendall.
  • The Harvard Film Archive welcomes the director in question for a weekend of "Michael Roemer and the Rite of Rediscovery" presentations: He'll be hosting his films Dying (Friday 16mm), Vengeance is Mine (Saturday 35mm), Pilgrim, Farewell (Sunday 35mm), as well as Carl Theodor Dreyer's Day of Wrath (Monday 35mm). Actress Brooke Adams will also be in town to discuss her films Days of Heaven (Sunday 3pm) as well as Vengeance Is Mine, which she appeared in.
  • The Somerville Theatre has a double feature of the first two Star Trek theatrical films on Saturday, both director's cuts in new 4K DCPs used for the recent disc releases (The Wrath of Khan was previously listed as 35mm).
  • The Museum of Science will be showing Wakanda Forever on the Murgar Omni dome Fridays and Saturdays into December, and also adds "Train Time" to its Omnima mix, plus a condensed Polar Express and Thomas the Tank Engine story to the 4D room as part of its annual train exhibits.
  • Wicked Queer's fall documentary festival is this weekend, including Esther Newton Made Me Gay (Friday), Uyra: The Dying Fores (Saturday), A Run for More (Saturday), and Casa Susanna (Sunday) at the MFA and Nelly & Nadine (Sunday), All Man: The International Male Story (Sunday), and The Radical at the Brattle.
  • The Lexington Venue has The Banshees of Inisherin and The Menu playing through Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema gets The Menu and The Banshees of Inisherin, joining Wakanda Forever, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, Armageddon Time (Saturday/Sunday matinees), Decision to Leave, Tár, and Ticket to Paradise. Closed Monday and, apparently, on Wednesday as well.

    The Luna Theater has Aftersun for most of the weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), with a matinee of The 22nd Annual Animation Show of Shows on Saturday. There's also a Weirdo Wednesday show on the schedule.

    Cinema Salem has The Menu, Wakanda Forever, Armageddon Time, and Tár Friday to Monday.
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes.
I will probably hit Pinocchio, The Menu, Wakanda Forever, and the Star Trek and Marilyn double features. I should probably also fit She Said in there, considering how fast Call Jane came and went.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Irish Movies in Ireland: My Father's Dragon

I'm on a not-particularly-scheduled vacation in Dublin right now - I basically saw I had to use some time up before the end of the year, knew I couldn't use Thanksgiving to extend it a little more if I wanted to go extra-far, and figured I didn't want to screw around too much with having to navigate in a land where English isn't the de facto first language - Gaelic may be listed first on some signs, but there's a lot of English in the air.

Anyway, as I tend to do, I spent most of Thursday walking about, in this case near Dublin Castle - not exactly the stone edifice that word conjures up, but impressive and noteworthy all the same. It being November and surprisingly far north - climate-wise, it always blows my mind that Dublin and London are not just north of Boston, but Montreal! - it was soon dark, so I popped "movie theaters" into my phone, saw that the Irish Film Institute was nearby, and had my eyebrows go up at this:

I don't know if My Father's Dragon got any theatrical release in the U.S. at all, or if they just couldn't find a screen in the Boston area, but, hey, I like Cartoon Saloon a lot and I had already been mentally composing at least one "Irish movies in Ireland" post for the blog. So, nifty!

The IFI itself is kind of tucked away on the street; the lobby is down a passageway, past a little shop nook that sells discs and (maybe) film books. The concession stand is smaller than the box office, labeled as a café stand with seats around the circular lobby to the point that I wondered if this was a "no snacks in the theater" type of place, especially considering that there was a fairly bustling restaurant/bar area off the lobby. Maybe that was just the way boutique houses work in this city.

(I could, in fact, bring my chocolate chip cookie and Coca-Cola upstairs to the theater)

I wish there were more places with this sort of vibe around Boston; the closest thing is probably the ice cream parlor at the Arlington Capitol or when the Studio in Belmont was sort of tied in with the burrito place next door (or, I guess, the bar areas that have infested the local multiplexes). I don't think it's really a planned part of the Coolidge's expansion, although they'd maybe be the best fit. I could imagine the Brattle taking over one of the other spaces in the building for something like that, but it would also involve imagining the rents in Harvard Square being less crazy than they are (this also goes for imagining something like that being done with the old Harvard Square Cinema space, still vacant with rumors of a development including a two-screener in the basement seven years after it closed). It feels like we could have something like this, where film-lovers would have a sort of dedicated space to browse and hang out before and after a screening, but the right opening is hard to find.

My Father's Dragon

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 10 November 2022 in Irish Film Archive #2 (first-run, DCP)

Between their Irish folklore series and The Breadwinner, Kilkanney's Cartoon Saloon has staked out an enviable place in the animation landscape - their films are instantly recognizable, and while often built with younger audiences in mind, they have generally been mature enough to appeal to adults without having to plant "aren't we clever for going over kids' heads" bits. They've been so good that My Father's Dragon being a tick below that is noticeable, if not truly disappointing: The movie is fine; and kids should enjoy it, but it may not click in quite the same way for their parents.

It initially introduces the audience to Elmer (voice of Jacob Tremblay), a bright and energetic kid who knows where to find anything in the small-town market run by his mother Dela (voice of Golshifteh Farahani), although that place can't quite last, and the pair are soon moving to "Nevergreen City", where Dela is having a hard time finding work and landlady Mrs. McClaren (voice of Rita Moreno) isn't exactly pleased to find she brought a kid with her. Other things go wrong - a cat follows Elmer home despite Mrs. McClaren's no-pets rule, he rubs the other kids who are down-and-out the wrong way, and Dela has to spend the money they were saving to re-open the store. That's how he ends up alone by the docks, told that if he can rescue a dragon, surely he could make some money selling pictures and rides and such. But when a bubbly whale named Soda (voice of Judy Greer) gets him to the island, things turn complicated: Boris (voice of Gaten Matarazzo) is just a kid dragon himself, tied to the island by orangutan Saiwa (voice of Ian McShane) to keep it from sinking by flying up.

The script by Meg LaFauve (based on Ruth Stiles Gannett's children's book) is not especially complicated, and neither she nor director Nora Twomey burdens it with more than needs to be there. They could have set up parallels between the island and the mainland, perhaps re-using voice actors or otherwise doing more to hint that the island is an imaginary place where Elmer can work through what's really eating him, beyond there being tangerines in both places. This happens and that happens, with Elmer and Boris not exactly moving in a straight line but close enough that kids can follow them. The film winds up introducing a lot of characters that viewers may figure would be more important, and there's not a lot of reason for this to be "My Father's Dragon" rather than "Elmer's Dragon", there's no flashing back or forward. The filmmakers aren't putting in complicated structure for kids who won't consciously notice it but will hopefully just be involved in the moment. That's fine, as is the moment or two when the film stops so Elmer can state exactly what he's learning; it does the job for the main audience.

So does the voice acting, with Jacob Tremblay and Gaten Matarazzo apparently recording together and capturing the right vibe where Matarazzo's Boris is almost perfectly sweet, though scared, with Tremblay's Elmer often just selfish enough to frustrate the viewers without losing them. There are a lot of enjoyable character actors around them, from Golshifteh Farahani being note-perfect with Dela's faltering optimism to how Ian McShane and Chris O'Dowd are sort of frightening in their pragmatism, with folks like Alan Cumming, Dianne Wiest, Jackie Earle Haley, and Rita Moreno in between. Special props go to Whoopi Goldberg and Judy Greer, whose sly cat and happy whale are opposites woh work quite well together.

And, almost needless to say, the film is gorgeous, animated in classic style, with character designs that seem coloring-book-ready and which allow a lot of expression without distortion. There's a house style that makes Cartoon Saloon productions recognizable but seldom repetitive, especially the backgrounds that feel busy without quite being dizzying, the distinct color schemes for the village, city, and island. There are big, clear shapes, and rather than overwhelm the audience at crucial moments, Twomey will throw away perspective or reduce action to silhouettes to make sure what's actually important gets the most full, impactful emphasis.

That simplification, both in story and style, makes me wonder if the studio was animating with knowledge that this was heading for Netflix with very little time on the big screen. My Father's Dragon feels streaming-scale rather than grandly cinematic - fine enough for kids, but not as thrilling as this group's best work.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 11 November 2022 - 17 November 2022

I'm out of town, but let's face it - a sequel to what many feel is Marvel's best movie is coming out this weekend and every other studio is going to stay the heck away, with maybe a little happening at the margins of the multiplexes, plus some good times at the independents.
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the film dominating screens this week, with Ryan Coogler having to build a movie around the giant hole left by Chadwick Boseman's death, but the trailers make it look terrific, with much of the previous film's cast returning and Tenoch Huerta as Namor the Sub-Mariner, one of Marvel's first heroes, with the underwater nation of Atlantis reimagined as having Meso-American roots. It's at The Capitol (including RealD 3D), Fresh Pond (including 3D), Jordan's Furniture (Imax 2D/3D), West Newton, Boston Common (including RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema/Imax Xenon/Imax 3D), Fenway (including RealD 3D), Kendall Square, South Bay (including RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema/Imax Xenon/Imax 3D), Assembly Row (including RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema/Imax Xenon/Imax 3D), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill (including RealD 3D).

    60th anniversary shows of To Kill a Mockingbird play Fenway, South Bay, and Arsenal Yards on Sunday and Wednesday (no Arsenal Yards). Boston Common has a special early screening of The Menu on Tuesday. Concert film Liam Gallagher - Knebworth 22 plays Boston Common on Thursday.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square continues to be the place where Netflix movies show up, with BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. That is absolutely the title of an Alejandro González Iñárritu film, this one following a Mexican journalist returning home to receive an award after living in Los Angeles for many years, which is apparently both emotionally overwhelming and absurd. It's a long one (though actually a few minutes shorter than Wakanda Forever) and is getting an unusually generous theatrical window, not expected to hit the service until mid-December or later.

    The streamer also supplies The Swimmers, about two sisters who fled Syria as refugees and would eventually compete in the 2016 Olympics. This one is mostly playing matinees, and will be on Netflix the 23rd. Tuesday's Retro Replay is The Fisher King.
  • It is Noirvember at The Brattle Theatre, and they make a good argument for living there this week with a slate full of 75th anniversary screenings (1947 was apparently a top-notch year for the genre): T-Men (Friday), Framed (35mm Saturday), Born to Kill (35mm Saturday), Dead Reckoning (Sunday), Dark Passage (Sunday), Desert Fury (35mm Monday), Ride the Pink Horse (35mm Monday), Crossfire (35mm Wednesday), Kiss of Death (Wednesday), The Lady from Shanghai (Thursday), and Johnny O'Clock (Thursday).

    They also have Meet Me in the Bathroom playing the late shows Friday to Sunday and earlier on Tuesday; a "this time and place was really special for rock & roll" doc that focuses on New York City in the early 2000s.
  • Hindu drama Uunchai, about three older friends reuniting at the Mount Everest Base Camp, opens at Fresh Pond and Boston Common.

    Apple Fresh Pond has Telugu and Tamil screenings of Yashoda, a sci-fi/action film starring Samantha Ruth Prabhu as a woman who discovers there may be more to her pregnancy than meets the eye. They also get Tamil comedy Love Today, about a young couple who switch phones for the day and presumably learn more about each other than they bargained for, and Malayalam family sports film Aanaparambile World Cup.

    Table for Six, which I seem to recall was climbing the all-time Hong Kong box office charts a few weeks ago, makes its way to the US, starring Louis Cheung as a man who shows at at his brother's dinner party with his new girlfriend Monica (Stephy Tang) - who also used to date said older brother. It's at Boston Common, but looks like it may be the first thing bounced when they want to show Black Panther a few more times.

    One Piece Film: Red loses some big screens but continues at Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay (including Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill, with both dubbed and subtitled shows in most locations.

    Park Chan-Wook's Decision to Leave continues at the Somerville and West Newton to the Coolidge, the Kendall, and Boston Common.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre keeps the same rotation for continuing runs. After midnight shows this weekend include a 35mm print of Blackenstein on Friday, with Michael Jai White as Black Dynamite Saturday, also on 35mm. Goethe-Institut Boston presents A E I O U: A Quick Alphabet of Love on Sunday morning; Monday's Big Screen Classic is Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; a 35mm print of Out of the Past plays on 35mm Tuesday (with seminar) as part of Noirvember; Wednesday's Shakespeare Reimagined show is Throne of Blood on 35mm, and the film projector is also in use for Addams Family Values on Thursday, with a Rewind! afterparty at Parlour.
  • The Harvard Film Archive offers a chance for folks to study up before guests arrive next weekend, starting the "Michael Roemer and the Rite of Rediscovery" series with Nothing But a Man on Friday, paired shorts "Cortile Cascino" (16mm) & "Faces of Israel" (digital) and The Plot Against Harry on Sunday. "Brooke Adams: Radiance in Plain Sight" has Gas Food Lodging and Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Saturday and The Dead Zone on Monday. All are on 35mm except where notd; Roemer ad Adams will be in town next weekend.
  • The Museum of Science will be showing Wakanda Forever Fridays and Saturdays for the next month (some of the film takes place and was shot nearby!).
  • Bright Lights offers an aperitif for Wicked Queer's fall documentary festival with Mama Bears on Thursday, about Christan mothers who have their LGBTQ kids' back. Activist Kay Shappley and subject Sara Cunningham will be there for a Q&A. Free to the public, tickets available day-of; the festival begins at the MFA next Friday.
  • The in-person portion of the Boston Jewish Film Festival has finished, but a number of features and shorts presentations are available to stream via Eventive through Sunday.
  • The Lexington Venue has The Banshees of Inisherin and Ticket to Paradise playing through Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema brings in Wakanda Forever and Lyle Lyle Crocodile, plus Armageddon Time, Decision to Leave, Tár, and Ticket to Paradise. Their current schedule shows nothing Monday or Thursday, plus a lot of time blocked out as "Rental" on Friday/Saturday/Sunday, which probably aren't the horror movie listed on Fandango, although I suppose it's possible.

    The Luna Theater has The 22nd Annual Animation Show of Shows, a program of nine new shorts plus a restoration on Friday and Saturday nights. In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson at 50, Moonage Daydream, and Meet Me in the Bathroom also play Saturday afternoon (music lovers can just settle in). Sunday's got four shows of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (it's mostly a Tim Burton month), with a Weirdo Wednesday show also on tap.

    Cinema Salem was closed last week to recover from Halloween, but re-opens with Wakanda Forever, Armageddon Time, and Tár Friday to Monday. They also have two "VideoCoven Presents" shows on Thursday, with Salem Horror Fest alumni The Last Thanksgiving & Cold Wind Blowing.
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes.
I'm still out of town for most of this week, but it's entirely possible I'll pop into Wakanda Forever just to protect myself from accidentally hearing too much (hey, it's dark and museums are closed at 5pm anyway). I may also try and catch a couple Irish/not-at-home movies in the evenings, and hit Table for Six when I get back Wednesday.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Good and Bad: Decision to Leave and Black Adam

This was a double feature built out of potential necessity; the work week bled into Saturday and I had no idea how long Decision to Leave would be for theaters and figured I probably ought to see Black Adam both while it was on the fancy screen and before the spoilers escaped containment (though, to be fair, everybody had already figured them out as soon as word got out that there were surprises to be had). So, knock 'em out together, although ideally the times would have lined up so I started with the not-so-great Black Adam and ended on the excellent Decision to Leave.

Is the latest from Park Chan-wook a better movie than the new DC? Yes, obviously. But the why of it is kind of surprising.

First, it's just a delight to look at in a way that the likes of Black Adam generally aren't: It's a noir with bright colors and bold, solid shapes that point the eye at what you need to see after you take a moment to admire how it's all laid out. Compare to Black Adam, which fills the screen but almost randomly, borrowing things from the comics and having a few good ideas but almost throwing them together randomly. Dr. Fate in his helmet and suit on the one hand and Pierce Brosnan on the other are striking in their own ways, but they don't really seem connected. All the ordinary things in Decision seem chosen to work with each other and make a specific impression together; every single element in Adam seems to have been given to a separate effects house, none willing to do something especially bold, with yet another one compositing them together. It's capable, and they're animating cool things, but it's purely functional: DC needs Hawkman and Black Adam in mid-air, that's what they get.

More interesting, in a way, is the ethical universes they live in with regard to their murders. Decision to Leave is a noir and Black Adam is a superhero movie, but there's a solid set of principles at play in the former - as one character puts it, "murder is like smoking". Once you start (again), it's hard to stop, and even small compromises in that direction can destroy a man. Black Adam has Hawkman lecturing the title character about how heroes don't kill, but he never really has an answer to Adam's willingness to use lethal force - which could actually be an interesting thing to drive the film! - and the perspective on this wavers on what's convenient for the story right now. It's a mess, and doesn't lead anywhere by the end. Park gets that for moral ambiguity to matter, morality has to be important, but the guys making the DC movies don't seem to commit to that.

So, yeah, obviously the movie you expect to be better is better. But it's not just because it appeals to more rarefied tastes - in some ways, it targets a mainstream audience better than the blockbuster!

Heojil kyolshim (Decision to Leave)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 17 October 2022 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

Decision to Leave is so good that it's able to take the sort of perfect murder whose explanation would be the brilliant revelation around which a pretty good mystery story is built and use it as a final knife twist. It's kind of fantastic to watch play out, because Park Chan-wook has already spent the last act keeping the audience's interest through a couple rounds of the movie seeming to be over. You can do that, of course, when the film has been so consistently solid; it places the audience in a great place to say what the hell, we'll see where he goes with this.

It starts with detective Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) and his partner Soo-wan (Go Kyung-pyo) tracking down a couple fugitives, but they're soon called to the scene of another incident, where Ki Do-soo (Yoo Seung-mok), an experienced climber, has fallen off a cliff to his death. It could be an accident, but you look at the wife anyway, and while Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei) seems like she could have motive - her husband is older and who knows what he demanded so that Chinese refugee could stay in Korea while he was with the Immigration service - she's well-liked and has a solid alibi. But she spots the insomniac Jang watching her - he only returns to his wife in Ipu on the weekends - and seems to welcome his fascination.

It's sort of flirting, really, although unusual in that the language barrier keeps either of them from being really clever with their words; Seo-rae learning Korean from costume dramas apparently has the dialogue not just simple but somewhat anachronistic. Director Park and his cast take advantage of that simplicity to quickly communicate the basics of the story and then invite the audience to watch it play out in the characters' expressions; one almost wonders if he's aware that much of his audience will be watching the film subtitled and wants that quickly digested so one's attention can return to faces and action.

The cast more than makes that a good gamble. Tang Wei plays Seo-rae as maybe not really intending to be a femme fatale but seeming to enjoy seeing how far she can push things when it comes to that. She's able to carry the tragedy that has followed her character, smile a bit as she puts how to get away with things in plain sight, and also seem like she'd be a catch for her dissatisfied pursuer regardless. Park Hae-il makes for a fine complement, casual with what's eating him up, good but fallible enough that his goodness itself doesn't have to be his fatal flaw, and playing well off Tang or anybody else he gets a scene or two with.

All of that good material being right up front makes this movie something that seems surprising: It's a fun thriller without ever crossing the line to where one feels like the case isn't being taken seriously, or where the escalation and reversals become too much to believe. Park regularly hits this sweet spot where the mystery matters, but there are quality comedic bits and earnestly odd characters, plus more crimes to discover, while somehow never crossing a line where one can't continue to feel enough sympathy all around to be ready to watch anything play out without getting detached. He's looking to entertain, but seldom taking shortcuts to make it happen.

On top of that, the movie is gorgeous. A thing about Park and his collaborators is that he often chooses subject matter that one might expect or even remember to be shadowy and dark but he actually shoots them with great clarity and fills the screen with bright colors. He'll lean into the more Hitchcockian moments by getting a little more playful with the camera and having the music go almost-Hermann, but he's not just cribbing; the film has half a dozen shots worth remembering and he seems to take real joy in not just cross-cutting, but showing people in different locations in the same room as they talk. Not running from cell phones and smart watches but not making them the focus seems like a point of pride.

Decision to Leave is a downright great little movie - a cut above most two-person thrillers but easy to recommend to even folks who don't go for art-house floor or Korean intensity.

Black Adam

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 17 October 2022 in AMC Boston Common #14 (first-run, Dolby Cinema DCP)

Man, Jaume Collet-Serra directed this? That's surprising, considering that he's usually good for competent with the occasional flourish, but this is just a mess, all flourish and something like 50% action that is downright terrible about staging, editing, and using the superpowers of the various random C list DC Comics characters the writers apparently drew out of a hat. For how this movie has seemingly been in the works forever and has an interesting nugget or two to build around, it sure feels like something thrown together quickly.

Thousands of years ago, we're told, Qurac was the first city where power concentrated, before even Mesopotamia, but a mad king sought to mine a rare mineral, "Eternium", which led to a brave slave to rebel, eventually given superpowers by the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). In the present of the DC Universe, historian Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) seeks to find this Champion's tomb before the Intergang forces occupying Qurac do, eventually freeing Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson), who begins fighting them off with lethal force. This gets the attention of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who dispatches a Justice Society team to bring him in: Leader Carter "Hawkman" Hall (Aldis Hodge); mystic Kent Nelson, aka Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan); nanotech-infused "Cyclone" Maxine Hunkel (Quintessa Swindell); and size-changing rookie "Atom Smasher" Al Rothstein (Noah Centineo).

There's the bones of a good movie here, once you scrape away the eagerness to put as much merchandisable or potentially spun-off DC lore in as possible: Adam is more than willing to meet his adverseries at their own murderous level while Hawkman and his team are either too detached from it as a life-and-death struggle or are constrained by how, once you've seen killing someone as a viable solution to a problem once, it may be again. On a meta level, this genre has often struggled with this - how many villains have fallen to their deaths because they spitefully wouldn't take the hero's hand, affirming that evil is self-destructive while leaving no reason to fear being on the bad side of someone with that sort of power? - and there's certainly no end of real-world conflict that inspires that sort of thinking. For all that the story centers the idea that Adam is willing to kill while the likes of Waller and Hall find that dangerous, it never gets into whether their concerns come from recognizing where vigilantism leads or being comfortable at the top of the food chain, and everyone from Adam to Adrianna to the Justice Society shifts their position between caution at where the use of violence may lead to "maybe you're just afraid to do what needs to be done" less because of their recent experiences than because that's what serves the next action beat.

And aside from that, this is the worst kind of superhero drivel in terms of overpopulating the movie with powerful characters who don't feel special, not really hitting a good balance between realism and fantasy, and the uglier "darkness is kewl" tendencies of a certain sort of comic book fan. The filmmakers seem to expect a lot more attachment to some of these characters and their backstories than they bother to foster. The plot is also built around a Macguffin that seems vaguely defined even after someone uses it, also featuring a grab for unearned heft with prophecy and perhaps the world's worst misdirection. It also never connects to Shazam!, despite that misdirection only working if you assume a parallel to Billy Batson.

(Let us also not carp too much about how Adam's tomb is hidden in an easily-accessible cavern with smooth floors and plenty of headroom that a child could have found at any point in the past 5,000 years.)

It goes down smoothly enough in part because these movies are loaded up with overqualified casts. Dwayne Johnson - who has been working to get some version of this off the ground since he would have been credited as "The Rock" - may not have been given a great script but seems to get that Adam is not just driven by rage but is also just smart enough to recognize that the immense powers he's been given de facto makes him sort of the authority he's got such good reason to distrust - his face is worth watching when the script isn't putting dumb jokes in his mouth. Aldis Hodge is a charismatic guy who always feels like he should be a movie star even in secondary and ensemble roles, and that's the case here, while Sarah Shahi does "regular person who doesn't shrink among titans" well. Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo are very likable up-and-comers, and for all that Dr. Fate is kind of sketchily defined, Pierce Brosnan makes the character feel like a veteran hero that the actor has been playing for years.

A ton of resources have been thrown at the film, though it doesn't necessarily feel smooth - the action choreography and editing is often shockingly clumsy, and some of the staging looks like it was done with the intention of a stereo conversion that either never happened or didn't get released in the United States. Combine that with a script that never quite hits the right balance between being about Adam and servicing the greater universe, and it's a mess, yet another example of Warner/DC showing that this isn't nearly as easy as Marvel makes it look.