Saturday, December 20, 2014

Back in Time

I feel kind of weird making some of the complaints I have about Back in Time - is it really my place to complain that the guys in this movie are putting pressure on the ladies? I always feel uncomfortable getting offended on someone else's behalf, although if I'm legitimately uncomfortable watching it, it's worth mentioning.

Still, the end... Well, I'll put it at the end.

Cong Cong Na Nian (Back in Time aka Fleet of Time)

* * (out of four)
Seen 18 December 2014 at Regal Fenway #11 (first-run, DCP)

It can be kind of interesting to watch a movie like Back in Time ("Cong Cong Na Nian" in the original Mandarin, translated onscreen as "Fleet of Time") which comes from another culture, though often kind of puzzling: It's at least partly someone else's nostalgia, and if you don't know the late-1990s mandopop song accompanying a scene, you may be missing the punchline. Then again, it's not like the movies that make an appeal to one's own youth generally wind up being very good beyond that knee-jerk reaction, even without this movie's specific problems.

It starts in the present day, with thirty-ish Chen Xun (Eddie Peng Yu-yan) drunkenly telling others in a bar that he punted thirteen points on his college entry exam for a girl, which gets the attention of Seven (Liu Ya-se), a younger woman elsewhere in the room. He wakes up in her hotel room the next morning and eventually tells a bit of how he met and fell for transfer student Feng Hui (Ni Ni) fifteen years ago, in 1999. The story also involves his high-school friends Zhao Ye (Ryan Zheng Kai), Lin Jimao (Zhang Zixuan), and Qiao Ran (Vision Wei Chan), but he doesn't give it that much thought until he reunites with Ye as the latter's wedding approaches. Seven turns out to be Ye's wedding photographer, and she's got a way of steering conversations toward flashbacks.

There's kind of a weird disconnect to those flashbacks, though: They're tremendously sentimental, with show pans meant to make sure the audience breathes every lovingly recreated detail in, but often the main impression that comes through is that guys that age are kind of jerks. The oblivious basketball captain Jimao has a crush on often comes off the best because he is hurting her feelings in a completely passive way, unlike Chen Xun, who is constantly putting the shy Hui into situations where she has to react backed into a corner or with people watching. It's fairly mild as these things go and the girls have their own sorts of weird behavior, but seeing this as Chen Xun's lost, perfect love is kind of off-putting of you give it a moment or two of thought.

Full review at EFC.

SPOILERS!

I wonder how many other people spent more time than necessary wondering if there was some way Seven could be Hui's daughter or some other family member without getting to the obvious-in-retrospect relationship. Maybe not completely obvious - after an hour forty-five or so of everyone matching up boy/girl, we find out Seven and Hui are lovers, and while it does explain why Feng Hui and Chen Xun never made love during their three-year relationship, it did leave me wondering somewhat whether how normal that would be in China. Chen Xun, really, seemed to be the one who was more uptight about sex when the subject came up. Not that that really means anything, but it means the one thing that was really pointing this way was diluted.

Then again, maybe it was not the only thing pointed in that direction. Gay characters seem relatively rare in Chinese films - the only other ones I remember seeing recently were the couple in Breakup Buddies, and that was sort of the same thing; a gotcha moment when the audience realized that she was gay. I don't know enough about where that sort of thing sits in Chinese culture these days to know if I was missing something, perhaps in her father's behavior. Seeing as there were other indications that mainland Chinese culture was kind of conservative around sex - Chen Xun really seems to get bent out of shape about premarital sex, not to mention the way people were swarming around Feng Hui at the clinic - it seems like kind of a big deal.

And, man, that scene in the clinic, where Hui's professor is brought in and there seems to be a lot of preparation to shame until Chen Xun decides to fall on the sword... Some of the more uncomfortable scenes in the movie, and something I think is done a bit of a disservice by being left in the background. That's a dramatic situation that could use a bit of light aimed in its direction, but instead it just serves as a dramatically weird moment that severs Chen Xun's ties with both the woman he should actually be with and the one he stood up for. Really, it's downright weird how the film makes that scene about Chen Xun, while Feng Hui is suffering through an abortion without anesthesia for sleeping with the wrong guy.

I kind of wonder what happened after that, how the shy girl who had stumbled to fit in got to a point where she realized something basic about herself and found happiness and confidence. That seems like a heck of a much more interesting story than the guy who pestered his way into a relationship with a girl, pushed her away (with a girl that was a better fit anyway), and then blew that, but it's okay because she turned out to be gay anyway. The movie really seems to miss the point of who had an interesting story to tell.

!SRELIOPS

Friday, December 19, 2014

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 19 December - 23 December 2014

It's the week before Christmas vacation, and two kids' movies are come out. There's an argument that it should be three.

  • That argument comes from me, who liked the fairly kid-friendly first Hobbit movie and is vaguely disappointed that this trilogy (itself crazy) is moving closer to The Lord of the Rings in tone as it moves on, with the new one being The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies rather than "There and Back Again". As such movies go, it's actually fairly reasonable in length at 144 minutes, and available in 2D and 3D at most theaters, and 48-frame-per-second "HFR" screenings at some. It plays the Capitol, the Embassy, Apple, Jordan's (3D Imax only), Boston Common (2D/3D/3D Imax), Fenway (2D/3D/HFR RPX 3D), Assembly Row (2D/3D/HFR Imax 3D), Revere (2D/3D/HFR XPlus 3D), and the SuperLux (2D/HFR 3D).

    The more kid-targeted movies are both rehashes of a sort. Annie has Quvenzhané Wallis in the title role and Jamie Foxx as "Will Stacks" - apparently war profiteering is no longer cool, so "Warbucks" is out as a name - and is not, sad to say, the crazy adventure strip Annie was until it ended (mid-cliffhanger, eventually picked up by Dick Tracy) but an adaptation of the musical. Ah, well. It's at the Capitol, Apple, Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb brings its group to the British Museum, and, yeah, it's Robin Williams's last film aside from a voice part next year. It's at the same theaters.

    For the grown-ups, Wild expands a bit, continuing at Kendall Square & Boston Common but also opening at the Somerville Theatre, the West Newton Cinema, and Revere.
  • Lingaa doesn't look to have as much staying power as Endhirian did, but Peekay (aka "PK") opens at Apple Cinemas/iMovieCafe and Fenway, a Bollywood production about a simple, child-like man who disrupts a city with his innocent questions and point of view; I kind of got a Forrest Gump vibe from the trailer. Aamir Khan stars as the title character.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre has a very limited engagement of The Way He Looks, Brazil's Oscar submission about a blind teenager - it is in the Goldscreen with The Babadook still playing the 9:30pm show. They also have 35mm screenings of Elf at midnight on Friday and Saturday, and The Muppet Christmas Carol on Saturday morning.
  • The Brattle is also in the Christmas spirit with It's a Wonderful Life playing Friday to Sunday, and then the "Alt X-Mas" screenings: Batman Returns in 35mm on Monday and a double feature of Die Hard and Die Hard 2 on Tuesday. Though not technically part of that program, they'll kick off the Bill Murray series on Christmas with Scrooged (part of a double feature with Ghostbusters).
  • The Harvard Film Archive finishes up the Jacques Demy retrospective before Christmas break with Bay of Angels (Friday 7pm), A Room in Town (Friday 9pm), A Slightly Pregnant Man (Saturday 9pm), and the delightful The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Sunday 7pm); Bay and Umbrellas are 35mm. They also celebrate the holidays with "Another Kuchar Christmas" at 7pm Saturday and a free show of vintage holiday shorts at 3pm Sunday, headlined by Seth Green in in "Charlie's Christmas Secret".
  • The Museum of Fine Arts has yet more of The Films of Catherine Breillat - The Sleeping Beauty (Friday), Bluebeard (Friday), Fat Girl (Saturday & Sunday), and Abuse of Weakness (Sautrday & Sunday).


My plans? The Hobbit in HFR, Wild, Batman Returns, and whatever I can fit in around quite a bit of Christmas shopping that needs to be done.

Inherent Vice

I get into being afraid of Thomas Pynchon in the review, and it's an honest fear; Gravity's Rainbow wasn't necessarily the book that made me decide I was better off with stuff that just presented what was going on in clear language that required relatively little decoding, at least when I was twenty. I guess these days, I tend to prefer having someone like Paul Thomas Anderson do that decoding for me.

That said, I do remember one scene, where the hero finds himself sampling various types of utterly revolting British candy, as being one of the funniest things I have ever read, which threw me, and a look at the description makes me curious to give it another look, especially after seeing this one. Maybe it's funnier now that I know more.

The thing that got me into the Brattle that night - aside from "hey, this looks like a good movie" - was noting that the screening was in 35mm. Paul Thomas Anderson hasn't been making as much noise about film this year as in 2012, when The Master was shot on 65mm and released in 70mm, but the might in part be because Christopher Nolan sucked a lot of that particular air out of the room with Interstellar. Of course, both times I saw that movie, Inherent Vice was one of the previews that played, and that preview was very clearly on film, leading to a bit of hope that the film itself wouldplay that way. Still, best to be sure and not miss any opportunity.

Watching it that way, though, one is reminded how digital production and projection has in many ways started warping our view of what a movie should look like (or, if that's too loaded, what it looks like by default). People who know cameras, lenses, and film better than me can describe what Anderson and Robert Elswit are doing here from a technical standpoint, but I could not help but notice that the sharp, clearly defined edges we see more often than not today weren't there; more than grain, there was haze, and bits out of focus, and a glow around light sources. Our brains like those edges, which is why televisions in electronics stores often have the sharpness turned way up and films were often processed with "edge enhancement" before being recorded to DVD; we equate it with clarity, and after seeing most released movies that way, it takes a little time to readjust to something like Inherent Vice, which doesn't look quite as great as Interstellar but still looks like a film, one straight out of its early-1970s period.

I suspect that when the film reaches wide release in January, the Coolidge and Somerville will get 35mm prints, but it will certainly be worth checking. Ned made a big enough deal about it at the Brattle screening (implying that Warner Brothers was trying to accomodate those who asked for prints) to make me somewhat hopeful, but it will certainly be worth checking when it does come out.

Inherent Vice

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 December 2014 at the Brattle Theatre (preview, 35mm)

Thomas Pynchon kicked my butt in both classes where I had to read one of his books twenty years ago, and the film adaptation of Inherent Vice seemed like it was going to be the same sort of experience - I felt like I had lost the plot about two minutes into a 148-minute movie, which shouldn't even be possible. Of course, sometimes the plot matters much less than the telling, and the telling of this story is exceptional.

That story starts with dope-addled hippie private eye Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) getting a visit from old girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), warning that her new, married boyfriend, real-estate developer Mickey Wolfman (Eric Roberts) is about to be caught up in a scheme to put him in a mental institution. Meanwhile, another potential client wants him to approach an old cellmate, both Shasta and Wolfman disappear, a widow (Jena Malone) wants him to investigate the possibility that her husband (Owen Wilson) isn't dead, and when Doc stumbles onto that guy, he wants him to look in on her. Doc also stumbles onto a murder, which means Detective Christian F. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), a cop who moonlights as an actor, is on his back. All things considered, Doc is starting to wonder if all these cases are really connected or if his brain is just fried.

Given that Doc's not actually the narrator, it would probably be unfair to label him an unreliable one. Still, as the audience tends to follow Doc almost exclusively, the film would be missing something important if it did not portray a certain amount of disorientation and fuzziness of mind that comes as a result of drug use - although it would likely be equally dishonest to make the audience feel impaired. That's the impressive line screenwriter/director Paul Thomas Anderson walks throughout the movie; he gets even a more modern, jaded viewer to connect with the hippie sentiment circa 1970, when it may have felt, in certain circles, like this sort of acceptance of pharmaceuticals as a part to calm, pleasure, or even enlightenment seemed to be poised to break into the mainstream, although a look around the margins at the inflexible police and very businesslike Golden Fang group shows what that sort of idealism is leaving out.

Full review at EFC.

Monday, December 15, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 10 November 2014 - 16 November 2014

A relatively not-busy week, but with a lot of love, even if some of it is my love of pancakes.

This Week in Tickets

For insurance, Wednesday had me stopping at the Regent Theatre on the way home for the first time in a while. The movie was The Canal, an Irish horror movie with a bit of potential that was just destined to disappear among the hundreds of decent but not exceptional genre movies that one can find on the streaming/on-demand service of your choice at any given time. Someday, I should find a way to organize a Tuesday Night Thrills series there - it's a good-sized theater with a lot of open dates, and I figure there's got to be a way to get some of these fun movies on the big screen where they belong, barring a small distributor just renting the place for the night like this.

Thursday night involved killing some time until the relatively late start of The International Pancake Film Festival, as there was a somewhat more prestigious event earlier in the evening. And once the doors were open, there was the need to serve a pancake to everyone in the Brattle, and who wants to be the one to kick kids playing 8-bit videogames off a movie screen? As you might imagine, a good time was had by all.

Late buses, IIRC, delayed seeing the new Johnnie To movie until Saturday, but that still meant I got to see Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 at about the same time it came out in China, which is undeniably cool. I wound up looking it quite a bit until that stupid ending, and no amount of reading that it's a pointed jab at hyper-capitalist China is going to get that taste out of my mouth.

Sunday's double feature was fun, though, starting with the last film in the Somerville Theatre's "Silents, Please!" series, The Strong Man. Both Jeff and Dave talked about how Harry Langdon was a strange sort of aberration, a guy who was tremendously popular for a couple years of the silent era despite being a strangely minimalist performer but largely forgotten after. As Dave put it (I paraphrase greatly here), Charlie Chaplin would react to a strange situation with pathos, Buster Keaton would engineer his way out of it in dating fashion, Harold Lloyd would rise above it like a heroic underdog... And Langdon would do nothing. Dave said that in all his years projecting films, this was his first time projecting Langdon. So, a bit of an oddity, and Dave, Jeff, and Ian all said they'd be going for deep cuts again next year.

That was followed a little later by The Theory of Everything, a basic but enjoyable biography of Steven and Jane Hawking. Nice performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, and I'll probably never get tired of repeating the awed wonder 15-year-old me would feel at a theater not necessarily full of crazy sci-fi fans who got and laughed at the Doctor Who reference.

The International Pancake Film Festival 2014: Animation, Puppetry, and Pancakes

Seen 13 November 2014 in the Brattle Theatre (special event, 16mm & digital)

This is a profoundly silly event - really, one of the silliest you'll see that doesn't get very close to mockery, which is a good thing, because who wants to be making fun of pancakes? I don't know if I'd have them at the concession stand at my hypothetical theater, because this:

Mmm, pancakes!

... is just asking to get knocked onto the floor and have the syrup make a famously sticky surface even worse, let alone that it may involve people using knives in the dark, but it wasn't a bad change from the usual cinema snacks at all. I just wish I'd had time to go through the line twice, since this took a while:

Pancake video games

That there is a kid playing a custom video game based upon the Festival's previous postcards and posters on a piece of hardware older than he is. Well, more likely some sort of HTPC with a custom case mod, but whatever - it's playing pixel-y games on a screen built for much higher resolution, providing entertainment as kids with twitch reflexes much better than their elders tend to flop while folks ten-plus years older clear all three levels because they know the mechanics and expect to work in the crazy precision that old games require.

(There was talk of the game being online, but I have not been able to find it yet.)

There was one other bit before the festival program pepper, three 16mm (I think) shorts from some archive or other. They... Well, they were not exactly from major studios' animation departments, which meant that "Buck & Pepito's Pancake-Taking Cure" was just not that funny, especially when you consider that what was probably meant to be a fairly progressive spirit at the time, with American and Mexican kids as friends, still come across as kind of icky stereotypes, along with the jokes being weak. Chuck Jones was said to have figured out the precise length, to the frame, that every bit of a Roadrunner cartoon needed to be for maximum comic effect, while these guys have not. You can see what the slapstick is going for, and how it's just not making it. After a vintage Golden Griddle commercial, there was another cartoon with a relaxed pace, "The Emperor's Oblong Pancake", although that one worked a bit better for me. It's not quite "The Emperor's New Clothes" with pancakes, but it's in the neighborhood, and it has the sort of dry, lay-the-joke out sort of wit that I can see kids going for. It reminded me of stuff I saw and liked as a kid, and did so without making young-me look silly.

The stuff in the regular festival package was kind of a mixed bag, and I won't run down them individually because it is no fun saying that a couple young folks didn't make a great short film. You can look at the various entries below (where I can find links), but I will say that I looked "The Shrove Tuesday Speech", "Flapjack Smash!", and "Sea Battles" quite a bit (perhaps not coincidentally, these were the stop-motion entries), while "Mr. Bear Googles How to Make Pancakes... But Gets Drunk Instead" is exactly the low-fi literal spin on the title you'd expect and done well.

"Attack of the Evil Pancacke"
"Frogboy"
"Sea Battles"

The Strong Man (1926)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 16 November 2014 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Silents Please, 35mm)

When a modern film lover stumbles across The Strong Man, it is almost certainly as an early work of Frank Capra, with something between mild surprise and retroactive retroactive acknowledgment that his career extends back to the silent era. At the time, it would have been different, with Capra a relatively anonymous name directing the new one from top-five comedian Harry Langdon. Today, Langdon is all but forgotten, but the film itself is nifty to see, an entertaining and representative example of a body of work, no matter what direction you approach it from.

It starts during The Great War (in 1926, there would not yet be a reason to attach a Roman numeral), where Belgian infantryman Paul Bergot (Langdon) is kept going by letters from American pen-pal Mary Brown, although his defense of his position against a hulking German officer is more luck than skill. After the war, the pair come to America together, with Paul an assistant to strongman "Zandow the Great" (Arthur Thalasso), with Paul not quite realizing that his beloved has a very common name. After a few misadventures is New York City, the pair land a gig upstate, where the Prohibition-era "social club" that booked them is opposed by the abutting church's pastor "Holy Joe" (William V. Mong) and his pretty (but blind) daughter (Priscilla Bonner).

No points will be awarded to audience viewers who guess where this is going in the long or short term; Capra and the various writers tread paths that, even in the mid-twenties, were probably fairly predictable. That's okay, though; the material is in both Langdon's and Capra's wheelhouses. It's maybe not necessarily a natural mix - though his collaboration with Capra marked Langdon's greatest commercial successes - but Langdon's somewhat passive brand of physical comedy and Capra's fondness for moral crusaders who succeed in part because most people are decent (along with the belief that the Universe favors justice over the long term) kind of reinforce each other - things don't work out entirely without effort or setbacks, but there's a certain joy to the serendipity that drives both.

Full review at EFC.


The Cabin
International Pancake Film Festival
Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2
The Strong Man
The Theory of Everything

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top Five

I note below that I was improperly psyched for this movie, in large part because I didn't realize that Rosario Dawson was going to have such a central role - all of the posters and standees I saw in theaters had Chris Rock front and center, and many reprinted reviews that talked about how he's a genius as the writer & director. Most of the previews I've seen emphasized him too, with a couple being the personal sales job things that the theater chains have recently taken a liking to. He's also done a bunch of great, far-ranging interviews to support the release. It's totally reasonable to think of this as a Chris Rock movie, first, second, and third.

The thing is, I really like Rosario Dawson. She only rarely seems to get good roles in good movies, and I honestly can't understand why. She's beautiful, funny, and has the chops to carry a scene or movie on her own. I would rather not imagine this movie without her. Here's hoping this movie serves as a reminder of how good she is and she gets some better parts soon.

Top Five

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 December 2014 at AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run, DCP)

It took roughly a minute of Top Five for me to realize that I really hadn't been anticipating this film enough - it is, after all, built around Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson hanging around and verbally jousting with each other, and I like both of them a lot. It's not much longer than that before it's clear that we're getting both of them at their best, and that makes for a formidably funny movie.

The pair are doing this walk-and-talk because former stand-up comedian Andre Allen (Rock) has a new movie coming out - Uprize!, a dead-serious dramatization of the Haitian revolution - and the New York Times has managed to get reporter Chelsea Brown (Dawson) a chance to tag along for the day. But while Andre just wants to talk about the movie, the public at large is more interested in his upcoming wedding unscripted-TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) or if he'll ever return to his blockbuster series about a cop who is also a talking bear.

This is Rock's movie in more ways than one - he not only writes, directs, and stars, but it's easy enough to look at the broad strokes of Andre's character and guess that it's pulled from his experience - but Rosario Dawson is just as crucial to its success, and maybe even more important in front of the camera. That first scene establishes her as a cheerful, optimistic counter to Allen's cynicism, but it's never unbalanced: Chelsea is obviously smart, and the fact that she's generally positive doesn't mean she can't push back at Andre. She gets to regularly take over the movie as well, and those bits are terrific; it's easy to see a movie about a writer trying to pry something out of a reluctant interviewee that's just as full and funny as the one where the emphasis is the other way around.

Full review at EFC.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Zero Motivation

I must admit to being mildly surprised that this is only playing at Kendall Square right now; both the Coolidge and West Newton tend to be aggressive in booking movies pointed at the Jewish community, and I'd think an Israeli military comedy would fill the bill. Sure, the jokes aren't often specifically Israeli or Jewish - I think the only one or two that I didn't get involved how Zohar grew up in a kibbutz - but that would mostly be a plus, right?

Then again, it will probably show up at one or the other in a week or two, after its Kendall Square run. It looks like a one-week booking, but the theater's new, prettier, but less informative website doesn't say much on the subject.

Worth seeking out, though - it's a pretty funny movie. I'm not sure it's quite a M*A*S*H for a new generation/place (and I hope the Frank Burns reference in the review doesn't go over some readers' heads, because then I'm old), in part because anything it has to say about the absurdity of militarization in general is a bit blunted by how it avoids saying anything about the reason for that military presence at all. Despite some of what happens, it's a fairly light comedy set against a war whose ethics are far murkier for an American audience than they likely are for an Israeli one, and the occasional mentions that there's a war on rather than this taking place during a time of peace bring that home a bit.

Zero Motivation

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 December 2014 at Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

Having a crappy job or two is often a rite of passage for folks in their late teens and early twenties, and if you live in a country like Israel with mandatory military service, having that turn out to be your crappy job means that you've probably gotten pretty lucky, compared to how things could have turned out. The joke, of course, is that those for whom that is the case are too young and fortunate to realize it at the time, and that adds a nice little sting to the already quite funny Zero Motivation.

Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar (Dana Ivgy) are both doing their time in the army as office support on a fairly remote base in 2004, and they've become best friends during that assignment. Neither is particularly hard working, with Daffi enough of a ditz that her entire job is shredding papers, but she still craves a transfer to Tel Aviv and thinks she has it when replacement secretary Tehila (Yonit Tobi) gets off the bus with them after a weekend leave. Things do not go as planned, though - not for them and not for Rama (Shani Klein), the actually-committed officer in charge of the office, which also includes testy Russian Irena (Tamara Klingon) and Livnat (Heli Twito) & Liat (Meytal Gal), who have an annoying habit of singing in unison all day long.

Zero Motivation looks to be a sort of slacker comedy at first, and that probably describes the film as well as anything, although both the setting and the cast mark it as out of the ordinary for that genre. Talya Lavie breaks it into smaller (though connected) stories, rather than the string of funny anecdotes one might be expecting. Things also take surprisingly dark turns at a couple of points, showing that the insanity in this situation is not just fish-out-of-water absurdity, but something approaching genuine madness.

Full review at EFC.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 12 December - 16 December 2014

Not often I have my weekend so specifically booked up beforehand, but there's some fun stuff on the way.

  • One of the most entertaining-looking ones looks to be Top Five, a new movie from writer/director/star Chris Rock, playing a guy with a similar background (former stand-up/actor moving into more serious roles) who has a long interview with journalist Roasario Dawson as they crisscross New York. Two smart, funny folks I like a lot right there. It's at Fenway, Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    The other big opening is Ridley's Scott's 3D Exodus: Gods and Kings, another retelling of the story of Moses (Christian Bale, with Joel Edgerton as Ramses), which means it stands a chance of being the second-best Biblical movie of the year (nothing's beating Noah). It's at the Capitol, Apple (2D only), Embassy, Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    Also, this is likely the last chance to see Interstellar on the premium screens, as most Imax/Imax-branded places will be doing a Hobbit marathon on Monday and early shows of There and Back Again The Battle of Five Armies on Tuesday.
  • Boston Common also shares a couple of movies that also open at Kendall Square. Wild stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman who hikes the Pacific Crest trail in an attempt to jar herself off a self-destructive path after the death of her mother, despite having no experience in that sort of thing. It's based on a true story, as is The Imitation Game, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer who broke the Enigma code during World War II while hiding his homosexuality (a crime in the UK at the time). Word is it stops short of his tragic end, though.

    They also get Zero Motivation, and it's kind of shocking that they're the only ones, as this comedy about Israeli women serving their mandatory military service in a small, out-of-the-way base seems like it would be something other local theaters would pounce on. It recently played the Boston Jewish Film Festival and has won a number of awards at other fests.
  • The Indian film playing at Apple Cinemas/iMovieCafe with English subtitles this week is not Hindi, but Tamil: Lingaa stars superstar Rajnikanth and Sonakshi Sinha, and appears to be a historical adventure with Rajini as father and son trying to build a dam despite the British refusing to assist. There will also be screenings in the Telugu language, and I don't suppose it matters which one those of us using subtitles see. I remind you that Rajini was the star of the absolutely bonkers Endhirian and writer/director K.S. Ravikumar also wrote the actor's recent animated adventure Kochadaiiyaan. I also warn that these are $20 tickets, no matter the time of day.

    The other near-day-and-date international release comes from China: Back in Time tells the story of a person's first love back in 1980s Beijing, and how it shaped him into the man he is today. It stars Eddie Peng and Ni Ni, and apparently opened ahead of John Woo's new film back home. It plays at Fenway, which is also keeping Women Who Flirt around for matinees.
  • The Brattle will be pairing a new restoration of documentary Burroughs: The Movie with other films based on author William S. Burroughs's work from Friday to Saturday: A 70-minute "assault version" of Nova Express on Friday & Saturday (director Andre Perkowski is continually adding to his combination of novel-reading and found footage), and a 35mm print of David Cronenberg's version of Naked Lunch on Saturday & Sunday. All are single features, and note that the times on Saturday have shifted some to accommodate an unrelated preview screening.

    The rest of the week has special screenings. On Monday, The DocYard presents Approaching the Elephant with filmmaker Amanda Rose Wilder on had to discuss her documentary on the Teddy McArdle Free School and its unusual means of operation. There's a Trash Night screening of Starcrash on Tuesday (and, honestly, the images look like the thing's too much fun to have people "enhancing" the experience, and then the place is closed on Wednesday for recovery or a private event. Thursday brings a special screening of The Loudest Sound, a locally-produced film with the cast and crew there for a Q&A afterward.
  • Though The Somerville Theatre is using the big room for burlesque show The Slutcracker all through December (hey, it's a tradition!), the good folks at All Things Horror will be taking over the Micro-Cinema on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon for the Etheria Film Night a program that includes Axelle Carolyn's feature debut Soulmate along with seven short films, all science fiction, fantasy, and horror and directed by women. Tickets are available on Ticketleap.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre shuffles things between screens a little but keeps the same line-up, although The Babadook only gets out of the Goldscreen for midnights (screen #2 on Friday, the Screening Room on Saturday). The other midnights are more in the Christmas spirit, with a 35mm print of Black Christmas playing Friday (screen #1) & Saturday (screen #2), while Johnny Cupcakes presents Home Alone in the big room on Saturday (there's also a kid-oriented free screening at Assembly Row that morning, but the two events are unrelated).

    The other specials don't require staying up so late, with the Goethe-Institut showing their monthly German film - Superegos, a comedy about a fence who specializes in rare books hiding out with a senile psychiatrist - playing Sunday morning. Monday night, on the other hand, offers a Big Screen Classic of Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (featuring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert) on 35mm.
  • The Harvard Film Archive has their last two screenings of Alain Resnais's Hiroshima, Mon Amour on Friday and Saturday, and also continues the Jacques Demy series with Bay of Angels (Friday 7pm), Break of Day (Saturday 9pm on 16mm), The Pied Piper (Sunday 5pm on DCP), The Young Girls of Rochefort (Sunday 7pm, followed by Agnes Varda's 25th anniversary retrospective doc), and Lady Oscar (Monday 7pm). All Demy films are 35mm unless noted.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts has its final screening of Bad Hair on Friday, but continues The Films of Catherine Breillat with Sex Is Comedy (35mm Friday), Anatomy of Hell (35mm Saturday & Wednesday), The Last Mistress (Saturday & Wednesday), The Sleeping Beauty (Thursday), and Bluebeard (Thursday). National Gallery has a Sunday-afternoon screening, and also opens at The West Newton Cinema.


My plans? As I said, pretty mapped out, with tickets already grabbed for Etheria and the Brattle preview of Inherent Vice (I believe they all went to members). I will probably try to fit Top Five, Back in Time, Zero Motivation, a couple of the Demys, and maybe Lingaa in there. Maybe Exodus and Black Christmas. Oh, and Red Sox tickets go on sale Saturday, so there's that...

This That Week In Tickets: 3 November 2014 - 9 November 2014

Sometimes the page looks like slow and steady but contains double features. Sometimes it's about pacing yourself, sometimes it's about taking advantage of your location.

This Week in Tickets

On Monday, for instance, I must have either been working from home or out of work really early in order to get to Before I Go to Sleep at a 6:45pm show, but I think I probably wanted to do grocery shopping or the like afterward, so I went for a relatively early one. Pretty firmly in the "I've seen worse" category, and not one that leaves a lasting impression.

Tuesday night, I made a bit of a last-minute change; I think I was planning to see Nightcrawler, but went with Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans instead. Sometimes, you are just in the mood to see people mauled by tigers.

Friday, I did an on the way home from work double feature - the Capitol is on my bus route, so that's where I caught Big Hero 6, and had a good time with it. After that, it was a quick bus ride to Apple Cinemas near Alewife, where I caught The Lookalike, which could have been better.

Saturday got spent at the Somerville Theatre, where they were playing Interstellar on the big screen (unfortunately, that room is in demand, but they're still playing it in 35mm). Ian mentioned that it was done on film as much as possible, without even a digital intermediate, and looks that good.

After that, it was a fairly quick turnaround for St. Vincent, a generally likable little movie with a nice cast, including Bill Murray doing more to play a character than usual. Because I saw that at 7:15pm, MoviePass's 24-hour rule meant I headed out to Assembly Row for a slightly later screening of Nightcrawler than was at the local theaters. Not complaining about the comfy seats, even if it is more time on the T than usual.

Before I Go to Sleep

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 3 November 2014 in AMC Boston Common #9 (first-run, DCP)

The fun part of Before I Go to Sleep, I think, is watching Mark Strong be the concerned and most likely legit doctor and Colin Firth be the guy who is pretty clearly up to no good, which is fun against-type casting, even if neither they not Nicole Kidman (as a woman who wakes up each morning with no memory of the past dozen or so years) really have much interesting to do. Kidman's thing of basically playing a woman in her twenties who wakes up to find she's settled down and aged (if better than many) is a neat idea, but Kidman plays her as too vacant to really be interesting.

On top of the performances just being okay but lacking the details that make characters actually interesting, it's just very difficult to build interesting momentum with stories built around resetting to zero on a regular basis. All too often, the writers seem to be spending so much time and effort on clever mechanisms that they lack much else, and once the obvious turns off events happen, the result is often more frustration than suspense.

It makes for a movie about regularly forgetting everything that is itself rather forgettable, and I'm going to guess that this isn't what the people making it had in mind.

Big Hero 6

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 7 November 2014 in Arlington Capitol #5 (first-run, RealD DCP)

Marvel wasn't testing to see whether it could achieve superhero saturation on its own this year - they have very little control over when Fox or Sony will release something based the Marvel properties that those studios have the rights to - but it's not surprising that the closest thing to an acknowledgment that Big Hero 6 first appeared in a comic is a Stan Lee cameo. There are other reasons, likely including keeping the question of diversity from getting ugly (it's one of the more enjoyably diverse casts you'll see, but it got there by making an all-Japanese team more white, although that team was built on a lot of stereotypes...).

Happily, though, what they ended up with is a lot of fun. From the first shots of illicit robot fighting to the whimsical hybrid world of San Fransokyo, it's a colorful environment packed with nifty optimistic-future details, one that looks great in 3D. It's got a lot of orphaning going on - not only are Hiro Hamada's parents lost when the movie starts, but he soon losses his older brother Tadashi and a mentor to boot - but it takes this situation much more seriously than many movies, for kids and otherwise, do; it's not something that primarily means that the hero must solve things on his or her own but has become extra-plucky and capable because he/she has had extra responsibilities. It's something that Hiro struggles with, and the emotional core of the movie. It's not quite so heavy as to get in the way of a lot of funny and exciting bits, though, because this is a good light adventure.

And, wow, did the kids around me love Baymax. A robotic nurse built by Hiro's brother who becomes the boy's best friend, Baymax is a great creation, an unapologetic cartoon who is an endless source of gentle humor - impressive, because gentle physical comedy is hard to pull off - and even those of us prone to bristle a bit at treating a machine with clever software as a person can see the 'bot as an ongoing expression of Tadashi's love and concern. That's pretty clever.

It's kind of amusing that this movie came out the same weekend as Interstellar, if only because it seems extremely unlikely that two movies with this climax (guy and robot sidekick dive into a singularity to retrieve something from a pocket universe) would be playing at the same time. I also hope my niece(s) watch and dig it, because I think at least one would love Honey Lemon - she's a superhero who loves both science and total girly-girl accoutrements without it seeming like any sort of contradiction! - and is love to get her that sort of thing for Christmas rather than just more Frozen stuff.

St. Vincent

* * * (out of four)
Seen 8 November 2014 in Somerville Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

Here's a question to ponder a bit: How much of the highly-enjoyable later stages of Bill Murray's career has been built on the discovery that he has previously-unsuspected acting chops and how much has been based upon casting him in place where he can make the most out of a dry delivery and somewhat befuddled or arch characterization? I don't mean this as an "emperor has no clothes" statement, but it's worth noting that his title character in St. Vincent demands more outside his usual persona than usual, and it's not hard to see the stretching that Murray has to do.

That doesn't hurt the movie much; even if you can see Murray acting more clearly than usual - in large part because he's a guy who historically hasn't varied his accent much trying a new one on - he's still a bunch of fun to watch, an entertaining curmudgeon who plays well off the entire cast. That cast is packed with actors doing nice work - a toned-down Melissa McCarthy, an offbeat Naomi Watts, Chris O'Down stealing every scene he's in as a teacher at the Catholic school attended by Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), the kid Vincent winds up babysitting during the afternoon. It's generally funny stuff, good-natured and with just enough abrasiveness to prevent it from being saccharine.

At least, for a while. It eventually reaches exactly the ending you'd expect, and that's maybe a little bit of a disappointment considering how enjoyably prickly things had been up until then, but I'm not one to argue against sincerity.

Nightcrawler

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 9 November 2014 in AMC Assembly Row #7 (first-run, DCP)

Given how long it took Los Angeles Plays Itself to get any sort of official release, it's a shame that it didn't get updated, but even in that case, Nightcrawler came out just late enough to not be included. Nightcrawlers like Jake Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom are not a phenomenon exclusive to that city, but it does seem to be their natural environment. Writer/director Dan Gilroy gets this, spinning an unlikely but dark and thrilling story.

It rests on the back of Gyllenhaal, who plays Bloom as something approaching thoroughly crazed - he blinks maybe twice during the movie, has a towering ego, and a naked sociopathy that is honestly stunning to behold. It's the sort of thing that can be kind of wearing, but somehow Gyllenhaal and Gilroy are able to draw us in more than they push us away. This isn't really a fascinating character, but an oddly magnetic one, and he manages to make the rest of the cast look almost sympathetic even if they'd be monsters in other movies. Especially Rene Russo's sharklike news director (we do not see enough of her these days)

There are also a couple of great sequences in the picture, one of which leads directly to the other. The first may be far from the usual "action" piece, but it's tremendously suspenseful, especially as it immediately forms the spine of a mocking, satirical scene soon after. That's pretty near the exact right tone for the movie - exciting, but also fairly relentless in mocking how exciting an audience might find what goes on.


Before I Go to Sleep
Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans
Big Hero 6
The Lookalike
Interstellar
St. Vincent
Nightcrawler

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Fantastic Fest Catch-up, Second Half: Purgatory, From the Dark, The Guest, The Absent One, Haemoo, and It Follows

So, remember what I said in the last Fantastic Fest catch-up about how it can be pretty easy to finish a review even a couple months later if you did the capsule at the time? Sorry, Local God. Back in September, I wrote that you had some memorable scenes, but come December? Well, as I like to say when I'm trying to get festival reviews done as quickly as possible, sometimes things fall out the back of your brain.

I'd feel worse about it if I had attended on a Press Badge, but that wasn't the case; I was the third person to apply for one from my outlet and we're not exactly big enough to merit that. As it turns out, I wound up being the only one who posted any Fantastic Fest stuff to eFilmCritic, and while that kind of stings a little - there was an anxious week or two where fan badges sold out while I was waiting to hear if I would get a press badge - I'm not going to be bitter about it. Going to film festivals and writing reviews is half vacation and half avocation for me, and I am not in a situation where I can't afford to pay for my time off and hobbies. Plus, I would have felt bad if me getting a press pass meant that someone who needs it to do a job went without. Fantastic Fest is a big enough festival these days that freelancers - which, basically, is everyone writing about movies online - probably have to list their entire potential reach at every outlet they work for to qualify for a badge, and if they don't generate material for every one, well, that just may not have worked out.

(The need to freelance for multiple outlets is why, as much as I love seeing and writing about movies and idly dream of doing this for a living, it will only ever be just a hobby for me. The idea of having to put together five employers means I'm much better off financially writing SQL code from nine to five and then writing when I really should be sleeping. I'd probably be better if I had an editor and had to hone my skills in competition, but I'm not built for that.)

Besides, I'm as bad as anyone - when they couldn't give me a FF badge, the good folks at the festival offered me one for MondoCon, and my reply was along the lines of "wouldn't say no", even though I strongly suspected that I wouldn't get near the poster art festival running in parallel with Fantastic Fest unless I had some pretty terrible luck with the lottery system for movie tickets.

So, anyway, here are the links to the six reviews: Purgatory, From the Dark, The Guest, The Absent One, Haemoo, and It Follows.

I'll probably be one-and-done with Fantastic Fest; the way that these reviews wound up getting put on hold and dragged out of me doesn't indicate a lack of enthusiasm, but does show how busy fall gets, movie-and-other-things-wise. If I feel like bulking up on genre film festivals next year, there's the New York Asian Film Festival before Fantasia and Sitges around my early-October birthday (and let's face it, as much as folks like Austin, if your two options are a week there and a week on the coast of Spain...).

Now to try and catch up on everything else before the New Year!

Purgatorio

* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #7 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Though it's not uncommon to encounter one that makes a good case for its greater length at all, most horror movies would be best served running seventy-five to eighty minutes, long enough to set a story up, make the audience jump a few times, and stick a twist or two in without giving them the chance to realize that what's going on makes no sense. So let's give a cheer to Purgatorio, a nifty little thriller that doesn't have an ounce of fat on it.

It starts as any number of scary movies do, with Marta (Oona Chaplin) and her husband Luis (Andrés Gertrúdix) moving into a new apartment in a recently renovated building. Luis works the night shift, so Marta is unpacking on her own until Ana (Ana Fernandez), one of the very few other neighbors, is unexpectedly called into work herself and asks Marta to watch her son Daniel (Sergi Mendez). It doesn't take long for the kid to reveal himself to be more than a bit of a brat, with a taste for creepy and tasteless pranks. And if any of the weird goings-on are for real...

I didn't think much of Purgatorio for much of its first third or so; it starts off on a fairly slow burn, holding the sort of information that might normally be used as foreshadowing or myth-building back, so there didn't seem to be much story. The cast was doing the best that they could with artificial constraints, making for a few good moments, but it was looking kind of forgettable.

Full review on EFC

From the Dark

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #9 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

From the Dark has the feel of the first movie from a new horror talent, but Conor McMahon has actually been doing for a while, never quite having the same sort of breakout as others in the Irish horror scene. This probably won't be the one that leads a producer to give him a still-modest ten or twenty times the money something like this costs for his next project, but it's decent fodder for genre fans, with a couple high points worth recommending.

It's got a familiar starting point - young couple Mark (Stephen Cromwell) and Sarah (Niamh Algar) are driving to some relative via the back roads of Ireland when their car breaks down. It is, of course, the middle of a mobile phone dead zone. Mark sets out to find someone with a landline; after a while Sarah follows. Darkness falls, which is too bad, because whatever the owner of the farmhouse they found unearthed while digging peat greatly prefers the dark to the light.

Give McMahon credit for building a reasonably solid horror movie out of almost nothing here, but it really strains against its tiny budget. The premise of it - a light-averse peat bog zombie thing - requires darkness, but there are long stretches of this movie where I felt like I couldn't see anything either because of the dark or because there were lights being shone directly in my eyes, and it was more aggravating than eerie. McMahon and cinematographer Michael Lavelle could have shown much more of what was going on without losing the visceral sensation of stumbling around in the dark except for the blinding moments and reduced the frustration immensely.

Full review on EFC

The Guest

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 23 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #4 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Initially, The Guest almost seemed like a step back for the team of writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard. It introduced a pleasant enough cast and set up a kind of familiar "stranger in the house is more dangerous than anyone knows" situation which the group was good enough to make go well, but it lacked the zing of You're Next. And then a thoroughly unremarkable scene starts a chain that gets Lance Reddick involved. After that, it's still the same movie in a lot of ways, but it gets bigger and crazier, just flat-out exciting.

The stranger is David (Dan Stevens), who introduces himself to the Petersen family as a comrade-in-arms of the son that died in the Middle East, saying he'd check in on them if he was ever in the area. The family - mother Laura (Sheila Kelley), father Spencer (Leland Orser), bullied younger brother Luke (Brendan Meyer), and sister Anna (Maika Monroe) - react with the expected mixed emotions, but he seems sincere and helpful, though most don't realize how violently helpful he has been. So Anna isn't entirely suspicious when she calls the Army looking for a little more information, but David's name gets the called flagged and sent to a mysterious defense contractor, who dispatch a no-nuance troubleshooter (Reddick) to the area immediately.

And that's when the movie becomes a real kick, to be honest. It wasn't bad before, but it looked like it was going to be as close to a typical indie thriller as to team is capable of (or one of the things pointed at young adults built around the star's handsomeness, often just as bad), a very familiar story told competently but forgetably. Thankfully, it doesn't stop there; it gets just big, nuts, and self-aware enough to drop jaws in a good way. The kills are neither treated as a perfunctory narrative necessity nor something the audience is meant to whoop and cheer for, and while the filmmakers go for a very familiar plot point, the portion size is just enough that the action becomes bigger than life but not big enough for the audience to check out.

Full review on EFC

Fasandræberne (The Absent One)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #8 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

I swear I've heard of the Department Q books from somewhere, even though I haven't really been keeping up on detective fiction as much as I'd like. If they're going to keep cranking out movies this good in adapting them, I hope they make it over here as well as the Dragon Tattoo series briefly did. This second movie based on the series is a nifty, intense little thriller.

Department Q is a desk in the Copenhagen police department manned by two people, Carl (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Assad (Fares Fares), that investigates cold cases. The one they had just been dropped on their desk is a doozy, a cop's kid who was murdered twenty years ago, with the dead girl's father always thinking that some of the evidence used to put the now-released Bjarne Thøgersen (Kristian Høgh Jeppesen) away as a juvenile didn't add up. As Carl and Assad reopen the investigation, they find the investigation leading in two very different directions - one toward rich and powerful Ditlev Pram (Pilou Asbæk) & Ulrik Dybbøl (David Dencik), the other toward homeless Kimmie Lassen (Danica Curcic).

It is kind of a familiar sort of detective story set-up - the too-intense sleuth with the partner who grounds him, the case that leads into decadence among the elite going all the way back to boarding school, the finale that, let's face it, involves a lot of things that would get these guys fired from the police force. The script by Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg (adapted from Jussi Adler-Olsen's novel) is not exactly a mystery story much of the time - while Carl & Assad do have to do some digging to figure out what happened, it's laid out fairly clearly for the audience, enough that the wave of details and subplots is appreciated for more than just filling time.

Full review on EFC

Haemoo

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #6 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

This one has received a lot of notice in part because of Bong Joon-ho's involvement as a producer and co-writer for long-time collaborator Shim Sung-bo, and if that helps it out, that's great. It's a nifty little movie, the sort of thriller that South Korea seems to do better than anyone else right now - the type that plunges the audience into much darker than expected territory and still keeps one on the edge of his or her seat out of genuine excitement.

It takes place in 1998, and times are tough in the port city of Yeosu, South Korea. Kang Chul-joo (Kim Yun-seok), the captain of a small fishing boat, has just been told that the owners intend to sell the old ship for scrap, putting him and his crew out of work. He would like to buy the Jeonjiho, but fish won't let them make that sort of money fast enough. Smuggling people in from the North will do it, but it's a job for which these grizzled fishermen are ill-suited; they almost lose young and idealistic hand Dong-sik (Park Yoo-chun) when he dives into the sea to rescue Hong-mae (Han Ye-ri), one of just a couple women in the group. Still, what happens when a Coast Guard ship stops them for an inspection is far worse.

Haemoo is based upon a real incident, and comes to the screen by way of the stage, but those looking for an introspective film built around the characters talking about the moral dilemmas they face are in for a few shocks. There is not much opportunity for big, memorable speeches at all, and if Bong & Shim have done much to make the dialog of their (generally) unrefined working-class characters snappier, it doesn't make it to the subtitles. And that's probably good, because the film becomes a quite starkly horrifying thing in the blink of an eye, and it would not do for a glib or self-satisfied impression to come through.

Full review on EFC

It Follows

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #5 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

It Follows is genuinely weird in a few places, and there are moments when I think writer/director David Robert Mitchell had a great idea for a horror movie without any idea of how he would finish it. This thing is pure distilled "stalker who won't stop and whom nobody will believe exists" without much worry about mythology, and that's okay - it lets Mitchell really get at the emotion of never feeling safe again, and the ending he comes up with is, in its own way, kind of fantastic.

The premise is simple - as soon as Jamie "Jay" Height (Maika Monroe) has sex with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), his curse - a strange pursuer that only he could see - is passed on to her. It can take any form, but it is always coming, its intentions are not good, and it never stops. Soon Jay isn't sleeping, and is otherwise acting weirder than her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), their friends Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Paul (Keir Gilchrist), or neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto) can ever recall.

What is "It"? Mitchell doesn't say, and in some ways that's terrific. His heroes are teenagers who don't know anything, and the setting - basically 1980s Michigan, although cars and some electronics are present-day models - doesn't give them instant access to information. It is a set-up that minimizes the importance of mythology while leaving plenty of room for the characters to try and figure stuff out. It is an impressively clever way of concentrating the story and with it the audience's attention in specific areas: Not just how good they are at figuring out puzzles, but how committed they are to doing the right thing. There's an easy out if Jay is willing to just think of her own safety, but the movie has been built to make that seem unlikely.

Full review on EFC