Friday, September 22, 2017

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 22 September 2017 - 28 September 2017

Another week of the big prints at the Somerville,as well as something that is probably getting twice as many screens per capita here than everywhere else.

  • Seven more days of The Somerville Theatre's 70mm & Widescreen Festival, even if it does get interrupted by the comedy festival Saturday night. There's a ton of large-format goodness (and, admittedly, badness) on tap: The Dark Crystal (Friday & Sunday), Howard the Duck (Friday), Lawrence of Arabia (Saturday), Hook (Sunday), The Untouchables (Sunday), Days of Thunder (Monday), Wonder Woman (Tuesday), Top Gun (Wednesday), Blue Thunder (Wednesday), and Cleopatra (Thursday). This, plus the new releases, pushes The Big Sick and Dunkirk to their sister theater The Capitol in Arlington.
  • I've got to admit, when I saw post-Boston Marathon Bombing drama Stronger being listed, I groaned, but it looks like David Gordon Green doing the sort of small, intimate story where he's at his best, with Jake Gyllenhaal as a man who lost his leg in the attack and Tatiana Maslany as the love of his life, and that's a group worth keeping track of. It's at Kendall Square, the Embassy, The Lexington Venue, Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row, Revere, and the SuperLux.
  • The release getting the premium screens this week is Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which is hopefully less Mark Millar-ish than the first. If nothing else, it's got a lot of fun-looking additions to the cast and some neat action in the preview. It's at the Somerville, Apple Fresh Pond, Jordan's, the Studio Cinema, the Embassy, Boston Common (including Imax), Fenway (including RPX), Assembly Row (including Imax), and Revere (including XPlus).

    For the kids, there's The Lego Ninjago Movie, a 3D spin-off of The Lego Movie focusing on the Ninjago characters, which look fairly neat from the previews; hopefully it's not too much a thing only kids will get. It's at the Capitol (2D only), Apple Fresh Pond (2D only), Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row, Revere, and the SuperLux.

    Friend Request, yet another horror movie trying to make social media supernaturally scary, gets a smaller release, playing Apple Fresh Pond, Boston Common, and Revere. Fenway, meanwhile, gets The Tiger Hunter, a comedy about an immigrant to Chicago in the 1970s who, despite being half a world away, still feels that he is in the shadow of his famous tiger-hunting father.

    Boston Common gets the next film in Disney's weekly Princess series, with 2pm and 6pm screenings of Mulan. Other animated classics include presentations of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, with dubbed screenings on Sunday/Wednesday and subtitles on Monday at Fenway and Revere as part of GKIDS's Ghibli series. There are also 30th Anniversay Screenings of Wall Street at Assembly Row and Revere on Sunday and Wednesday. Finally, there's a single screening of Jeepers Creepers 3 on Tuesday at Boston Common, Fenway, and Assembly Row.
  • Another thing opening wide-ish is Brad's Status, with Ben Stiller as a guy taking stock of his life while accompanying his teenage son on his college visits. It's at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Somerville, Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Revere. The Coolidge also opens Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, a documentary on the seldom-mentioned Native American influences on rock & roll, in the Goldscreen.

    The weekend midnight theme is iconic but nasty revenge movies, with 35mm prints of William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones in Rolling Thunder (Friday) and the original I Spit on Your Grave Saturday (Friday's also got The Room, because they're apparently back to monthly screenings of that thing until The Disaster Artist comes and goes). They celebrate Art House Theater Day on Sunday with a free kids' show of "Revolting Rhymes" in the morning and a special screening of Food Evolution in the afternoon with a post-show discussion on GMO foods. There will also be science and discussion of game theory before Monday's "Science on Screen" presentation of Dr. Strangelove.
  • Apple Fresh Pond keeps subtitled Hindi film Simran and Telugu-language Jai Lava Kusa around this week, with Saturday/Sunday screenings of Magalir Mattum and Thupparivaalan, while Spyder opens on Tuesday in both Tamil and Telugu, both listing English subtitles. They also open the English-language Last Rampage, a prison-break movie starring Robert Patrick, Heather Graham, Molly Quinn, Bruce Davison, and John Heard, which is almost the platonic ideal of a B-movie cast.
  • The West Newton Cinema has a couple of fancy events to go with their openings this week: Year By the Sea will have original novelist Joan Anderson and star Karen Allen on-hand for a red-carpet premiere on Friday, while Saturday's 8pm screening of documentary California Typewriter will feature a live performance by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra.
  • The Brattle Theatre wraps up Tilda Swinton: World's Greatest Actress with a comedy double feature of Hail, Caesar! & Trainwreck on Friday and a "unique directors" pairing of Snowpiercer & Only Lovers Left Alive (the latter on 35mm) on Saturday. Then it's specials the rest of the week: Art House Theater Day on Sunday features a disaster-relief screening of The Tree of Life on 35mm in the afternoon and a new restoration of A Matter of Life and Death in the evening, while Monday's DocYard screening of The Work has director Jairus McLeary on-hand to discuss his film set in a single room in Folsom Prison. The Elements of Cinema screening on Tuesday is Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu, while IFFBoston presents a preview of The Florida Project on Wednesday. The week ends on an odd-looking program Thursday, with composer Chris Brokaw live-scoring some short films by Peter Hutton while leaving others silent.
  • The Harvard Film Archive begins their annual McMillan-Stewart Fellowship series, this year focusing Niger's Moustapha Alassane with a program of 16mm shorts on Friday, Toula on Saturday, and "Tall Tales and Short Films" (on 16mm and 35mm) Sunday afternoon. For the first two nights, they'll shift to Chantal Akerman at 9pm, showing All Night Long on 35mm Friday and Golden Eighties on Saturday. The rest of the schedule is Synaesthetic Cinema: Minimalist Music and Film, with a psychedelic program on Sunday evening and a preview screening of "Electro-Pythagorus" followed by a live set from Ernst Karel on Monday.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts still has My Journey through French Cinema (Friday), Letters from Baghdad (Friday with director Zeva Oelbaum in person plus Saturday/Sunday/Wednesday/Thursday), and After Love (Sunday, and also playing at CinemaSalem this week). "Costa-Gavras: Encounters with History" has a second 35mm screening of Missing on Saturday, and director Annette Lemieux, whose gallery in the museum references To Kill a Mockingbird, among other films, will be on-hand for a special screening of that one Thursday evening.
  • Bright Lights has local video essay "Wander Wonder Wilderness" on Tuesday and documentary Chavela on Thursday, with both free screenings in the Paramount's screening room followed by discussion with the directors. The latter also serves as opening night for The Boston Latino International Film Festival, which also has shows at Harvard's Tsai Auditorium that day.
  • The Regent Theatre has 1 Buck in the "Regent Underground" space on Friday while a live performance goes on upstairs, and has the first of their two presentations of this year's Manhattan Short Film Festival on Thursday..
  • The Boston Film Festival continues through the weekend at AMC Boston Common with Augie (Friday), American Satan (Friday), What Haunts Us (Saturday), Damascus Cover (Saturday), Dabka (Saturday), The Bullish Farmer (Sunday), and Crash Pad (Sunday), as well as three shorts programs and a live presentation.
I'll mostly be living at the Somerville and Fenway Park this week, but I'll probably go for Lego and Stronger as well.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Simran

As mentioned in the main review, I absolutely came into this thinking it was going to be four hours long and therefore filled with twists or strangeness or whatever, and it's funny how your head can make reality match expectations. I was expecting a four-hour movie, so in my head, the first half was very leisurely, taking all the time it needed to set things up, maybe a little draggy, but kind of making use of two hours well enough, while the second just went on and on and you'd think the filmmakers would actually do something with all the time they had to play with. Then, it mercifully ended at right around 9pm, roughly 125 minutes after it started, and I still had time to go home and watch some baseball, despite being pretty sure four hours had passed right until I took out my phone.

And I admit… I do kind of wish it had been four hours so that they were filling it with that sort of thing; Simran is pretty dull and by-the-numbers, and I can get that with domestic movies.

I am kind of impressed with how steadily but surely Apple Cinemas has been upgrading, even past what seems to make real sense - they just upgraded the seating a couple years ago but now have gone and done it again, upgrading to recliners this time around, with what looks like a little more work put into the decor as well. It seems like a reasonable enough movie to me, since I'm usually in a near-empty room when I go there and so you might as well cut seating in half, although to be fair I mostly go there when seeing something off-beat enough that it won't play anywhere else and haven't really seen what a Friday night for a major release is like there. Maybe it's pretty crowded, although apparently not so much that they can't lose some seats (though, to be fair, the last remodel created some awful wide aisles, so by reclaiming some of that space, they probably aren't losing that much capacity.

Anyway, over the past few years, they've added Coke Freestyle machines, upgraded the seats, and got added to MoviePass in their recent push for expansion. They've currently got bargain Sundays as well as Tuesdays, and, folks, $4.75 for a first-run movie on the weekend in the Boston area (not far from a Red Line station, even) is not something you see anywhere else, as are the Indian movies and genre material that might otherwise only be on VOD here. There's still some issues with punctuality (the movie started ten minutes late, after someone in the audience went to remind the employees), and I doubt I'll ever see a 3D movie there again without it not playing anywhere else (though like a lot of local places, they often don't bother anymore), but it's certainly not the cinema of last resort it was just a couple of years ago.

Simran

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 August 2017 in Apple Cinemas Cambridge #5 (first-run, DCP)

Half of the places listing Simran online showed a 238-minute running time, and while in some ways it was a relief to see the film actually just over half that length when it wound up being bad, I must admit that thinking it was that ridiculous length was what drew me to it. Something that seemed as simple as "Hindu maid in Atlanta turns to crime to pay off debts" must have had some real twists or depth to justify that length, or at least some big heist scenes or satirical music numbers. Instead, it's bland enough to seem bloated at 125 minutes.

The maid in question is Praful Patel (Kangana Ranaut), 30 years old and living with her parents Mohan (Hiten Kumar) and Kunad (Kishori Shahane) since her divorce seven years ago. She has saved up just enough for the down payment on a nice condo, but a trip to Las Vegas with her soon-to-be-wed cousin Amber (Aneesha Joshi) has her developing a new taste for gambling that not only goes through her down payment, but $32,000 from loan shark Mr. Bugs (Jason Louder), and if she thinks running back to Atlanta is going to get him off her trail, she's mistaken. What's a girl to do? Well, as a famous outlaw once said, the banks are where the money is.

Unfortunately, it takes forever to get to the first robbery (right when "intermission" appears on-screen), and the bloat in the first half is not justified by cleverness in the second. Indeed, the crimes are not just boring, but unconvincing (Praful's attempts to indicate she has a bomb strapped to her waist look more like some weird belly-dancing thing), and the ending car chase would be dull even if Edgar Wright hadn't just made the definitive "speeding through Atlanta after knocking over a bank" picture. Being based on a true story isn't really an excuse, as this is just loosely based upon the actual Sandeep Kaur case, so there's really no excuse for how repetitive and uncreative the action here is (although, to be fair, I did learn more about how to play baccarat than from a lifetime of James Bond fandom).

Full review on EFC.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

I had no idea that this was a Netflix production before their logo popped up before the film and thus had me a little surprised it was playing theaters at all. I suspect it's gone from Kendall Square on Friday, either because it doesn't draw when a lot of people can see it as part of their subscription package or because the release was a heavily-subsidized stab at awards consideration. Whatever the case, I've heard (and participated in) a lot less outcry over this only having a small theatrical footprint than Okja just a few months ago, and I wonder if it's a matter of my being in the wrong circles and the art-house crowd is just as annoyed as the genre crowd was, or if we just get tired about yelling about the same things again and again.

I do kind of suspect this loses a bit playing at home versus the theater. In the review I talk about how the wide overhead shots go from making the exodus from Phnom Penh look big to making the individual people look small, and I suspect that's something the cinematographer and visual effects guys have to be pretty precise with - the average person in those shots being a few pixels wider jumps him or her from being an anonymous entity to an individual human for the audience, but I suspect that threshold is different on the big screen than on the smaller one. Maybe not, and maybe they're primarily composing for video anyway, what with Netflix putting up the money and the monitors both on-set and at the FX house not being twenty feet wide.

Speaking of theaters, it looks like Kendall Square is pretty much done its renovation, and so far, it doesn't feel a whole lot different - the lobby has basically replaced the spot with the baked goods with a bar space, and video screens have replaced the manual signage. So far, mostly harmless, so long as they don't go in for animating them too much. The hallway has gotten a little too low-key, perhaps - no posters next to the doors or signs above, just a fairly low-key numeral. I initially walked past the auditorium, and I've been in those rooms a lot. Inside, I noticed that the seats had been upgraded, though the rows were much closer together than the surprisingly sparse arrangement in theater #9, enough so that though they reclined, the foot-rest didn't extend. Still fairly comfortable, at least.

The marquee outside is still kind of a mess, but maybe they won't be cleaning that up until the rest of the work around the area is done. It'd be nice if the thing most visible from the street made a nicer impression, but it's certainly the part of the theater that has the least impact on it beating the heck out of my living room.

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

* * * (out of four)
Seen 17 August 2017 in Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run, DCP)

It's a bit surprising to me that First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers didn't have its name cut in half during the transition from page to screen, and not just because it may look unwieldy on a VOD menu (let alone a marquee in the small number of theaters that are booking a Netflix original). That title implies adult reflection, while the film is almost entirely devoted to the child's point of view. That's often a source of its power, although it sometimes denies the film some of the clarity director Angelina Jolie looks to find elsewhere.

It opens in April 1975, when Loung Ung (Sareum Srey Moch) was six or seven, the second-youngest of six siblings whose father (Phoeung Kompheak) works for the government - or at least, until the Khmer Rouge takes over and they, like everyone else, are forced to flee Phnom Penh. The father is canny enough to hide his identity as the family eventually winds up in one of the camps where the KR is trying to rebuild the country on communist ideals, but there's no end to the danger and cruelty to be found in post-revolution Kampuchea.

Jolie and the real-life Loung Ung collaborated on the screenplay (from Ung's book), and mostly keeping this a kid's-eye-view account has its pluses and minuses. It's important to note, for instance, that Jolie bookends the film with more documentary-style bits that highlight America's contributions to the rise of this regime, and while that's an important subject, it's not what the rest of the film is about. There's a majesty to the final shot that emphasizes that the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror was, though destructive, an aberration, and that point of view seems like a bit of an afterthought within the film itself.

Full review on EFC.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Abracadabra

Not too long ago, a film like this would have found, if not an audience, then critics and enthusiasts willing to champion it on a festival and preview circuit; that happened with director Pablo Berger's previous film Blancanieves, and this one could probably benefit from a few thoughtful eyes on it before being dropped in American theaters with little support. It's weirder and richer than it initially appears, though maybe not quite genius.

Instead, its Boston-area release was one screen at Boston Common, and though I admittedly chose an odd time - the 4:50pm show on Saturday is kind of a no-man's-land, too early to be part of anyone's evening plans but too late for matinee prices - I was kind of surprised that I was the only person there at the start. I'm not close to plugged-in to the Spanish-speaking community around here, so I've got no idea whether Sony Pictures International did much to promote this to that audience at all. I do know that I had no idea that the movie existed before a listing showed up on Fandango on Wednesday, and even then, I had to go digging to find the right Abracadabra because the listings there were a mess.

I don't know whether a more old-school rollout would have helped this; it kind of lands somewhere between the Spanish-language comedies distributed by Pantelion and something quirky or resonant enough to become a critical darling that drives people to the boutique houses. But I do think that it is notable as a European release where the distributor decided to bring it to North America relatively quickly, without the likes of Magnolia/Weinsteins/SPC/Cohen or the like waiting to see how it did in its home territory, bidding, and then trying to find a window and a release strategy for it. No big deal for a relatively small, average movie like this one, even if there probably are some folks who would be curious about the next thing from the guy who made that really neat movie five years ago. But I can't help but wonder a little bit whether this is the first of several things like this, and whether in a couple of years genre festivals will be struggling to find Spanish-language horror to program that hasn't already come and gone without people noticing, or if critics will flip out at the next Almodovar film not hitting art houses but instead flying under the radar because it plays day-and-date like other Latin films the way they freaked over Stephen Chow's The Mermaid.

It gives me a little pause - we seem to be trading curation for rapid access, especially as places like the AMC in Boston Common look for things to fill their screens, and I wonder if that's necessarily a great trade for all people, or how many folks are behind the curve on it, or just how regionalized it may make movie availability: I've pointed out that, for all Austin people make a great big deal about being a great movie town, they're never on the list for Chinese films opening day-and-date, but if this becomes the norm with Spanish/Latin films, they're probably more likely to get those than Boston is. Heck, it would be kind of funny to see French films open in Lewiston or Northern Maine but not much in other parts of the country, though I'd kind of like to see them.

The lesson, I guess, is that if you like movies, especially international film, you've got to pay a lot more attention to the week's new releases, because there's an ever-increasing chance that something which may interest you is playing in a venue that you don't immediately expect than there ever has been before.

Abracadabra

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 August 2017 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run, DCP)

It's a bit strange when a filmmaker makes waves with something as distinctive as Blancanieves, Pablo Berger's 2012 silent version of Show White set in the world of 1920s bullfighting and then follows it up with something as superficially mainstream as Abracadabra, set in present-day Madrid and opening with gags that would seem right at home in much more conventional comedies. Eventually, one does see a similar sort of cock-eyed ambition, and while this follow-up isn't as obviously ambitious, it is quite impressive when looked at in total.

That obvious joke has Carlos Lopez (Antonio de la Torre) animatedly and angrily watching a Cup match between Madrid and Barcelona while his wife Carmen (Maribel Verdú) is putting a lot of effort into looking nice for her nephew's wedding. When they finally arrive, Carlos makes an ass of himself twice, the second time by ruining a hypnosis show put on by Carmen's cousin Pepe (José Mota). But something happens, and the next day, Carlos is making Carmen breakfast in bed, helping their daughter Toñi (Priscilla Delgado) with her geometry homework, and generally being friendly. A consultation with Pepe's mentor Dr. Fumetti (Josep Maria Pou) indicates that Carlos has been possessed, and they'll need to find something belonging to this "Tito" spirit to exorcise him. But, really, based on what we've seen of Carlos and Tito, why would she do that?

It's a clear, potentially-fun premise, one that seems like it should be a little more common than it actually is - it's an easy pitch and some actor gets a potentially fun double role out of it. Making it work as a story is a trickier thing, and Berger winds up waving away a lot of the nuts and bolts. Abracadabra is at its weakest when playing with this as a plot, full of "just because", things that don't quite fit, and things meant to kill time. It's a movie with a question rather than a story, and trips over that repeatedly.

Full review on EFC.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 15 September 2017 - 21 September 2017

Remember to get your new releases in early this week, because the Somerville is firing up the big projectors later along with other special events, so it's very easy to run out of time to see things.

  • ... Things such as mother!, the new film from Darren Aranofsky that features Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple whose guests cause what is apparently even more bizarre havoc than usual. I don't know much more than that, because I've not seen any sort of preview or read much about it, and am looking forward to going in cold. It's at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Somerville, Kendall Square, the Embassy, Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row, Revere, and the SuperLux.

    The Tuesday 7pm show at the Coolidge is an "Off the Couch" presentation with post-screening discussion with the Boston Psychoanalytic Society, which sounds like it may be a good idea. Other special presentations at the Coolidge include blaxploitation weekend midnight shows - Shaft on Friday and Foxy Brown on Saturday, both on 35mm - and a Big Screen Classic show of Band of Outsiders on Monday. There's also a 35mm Cinema Jukebox screening of Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man on Thursday.
  • The other big mainstream release is American Assassin, with Dylan O'Brien as the title character who eventually winds up on the trail of a terrorist-for-hire played by Taylor Kitsch, both trained by Michael Keaton's CIA veteran, and I suspect that even if you're half my age, you read that and feld disappointed that Keaton is not actually the star of the movie. That one's at Apple Fresh Pond, the Embassy, Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row, Revere, and the SuperLux.

    Boston Common also has the first of five weeks of Disney Princess movie reissues, and though it's only playing twice a day, it's probably worth heading in for the animated Beauty and the Beast. They also have Abracadabra, a relationship/possession comedy which is director Pablo Berger's follow-up to Blancanieves and is getting a very quick release: It's hitting American theaters just a month after opening in Spain - common for Asian films but I can't recall seeing it done for European ones.

    Concert film David Gilmour: Live at Pompei plays Revere on Friday night, and they also have a TCM presentation of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial on Sunday and Wednesday (as does Fenway and Assembly Row). After the dubbed version played last week, the subtitled Lupin III: The Castle of Cogliostro runs in Revere on Thursday. Again, not part of the GKids/Ghibli Miyazaki series, so you'll need a ticket separate from that season pass.
  • In addition to mother!, Kendall Square opens First They Killed My Father fresh from Toronto. The newest film from Angelina Jolie, it depicts the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from the perspective of a five-year-old girl. Another actor-turned-director, Danny Strong, is behind Rebel in the Rye, with Nicholas Hoult as J.D. Salinger; Sarah Paulson and Kevin Spacey co-star.
  • The Apple Fresh Pond website says that Simran runs 126 minutes, but everything else I've seen shows 238, and four hours seems like a lot for a sexy thriller about an Indian cleaning lady in America who gets involved in crime, even by Bollywood standards. I remember liking Kangana Ranaut in Krrish 3, though. The other Hindi-language opener is Lucknow Central, in which a man in jail awaiting his murder trial is recruited for a behind-bars-battle-of-the-bands. Tamil-language films Magalir Mattum(about three friends reuniting after 36 years apart) and Thupparivaalan (a "detective fantasy thriller") are also listed as subtitled. There's also Kannada-language romantic comedy Mugulu Nage and daily matinees of Lipstick Under my Burkha. Telugu-language action flick Jai Lava Kusa opens Wednesday.
  • The Brattle Theatre has plenty more Tilda Swinton: World's Greatest Actress this week: Separate shows of The Last of England and The Beach (35mm) on Friday, matinees of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe on Saturday & Sunday, and single admissions of Michael Clayton (35mm) and Constantine (35mm) on Saturday. It's double features for the reason of the series, with I Am Love & A Bigger Splash on Sunday, The Deep End & We Need to Talk About Kevin (both 35mm) on Monday, The Seasons of Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger and the collected "Cycling the Frame" & "The Invisible Frame" on Wednesday, with Conceiving Ada & Teknolust on Thursday. Tuesday, meanwhile, is Trash Night, and while I'm sure there must have been some drek from early in Swinton's career they could have used, they instead go with Slappy and the Stinkers.
  • The Harvard Film Archive continues Breathing Through Cinema - The Films of Chantal Akerman with News From Home (Friday 7pm), I… You… He… She… (Friday 9:30pm), and unconventional 1996 self-interview "Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman" (Sunday 5pm). There's also the back half of An Ethics of Observation. Four Films by Wang Bing, with 'Til Madness Do Us Part (Friday 7pm) and Ta'ang (Monday 7pm). Directors Joshua Bonnetta and J.P. Sniadecki are on-hand for the monthly "Cinema of Resistence" screening on Sunday evening, with their El mar la mar a very art-house take on life around the U.S./Mexico border. There's also a free screening of Sergei Eisenstein's October: Ten Days That Shook the World at the Tsai Center on Thursday evening.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts continues their runs of Hermia & Helena (Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Wednesday), My Journey through French Cinema (Friday/Sunday), and After Love (Saturday/Wednesday), while starting one for Letters from Baghdad (Thursday), which has Tilda Swinton narrating the story of British spy & explorer Gertrude Bell. Thursday also has the first screening in their "Costa-Gavras: Encounters with History" series, a 35mm print of his 1982 film Missing with an after-screening discussion with local film scholars.
  • The Somerville Theatre kicks off their second annual 70mm & Widescreen Festival on Wednesday with Charlton Heston as Michaelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy, following it up on Thursday by repeating an essential from the previous year, Lawrence of Arabia. There's another whole week of stuff after that, from Howard the Duck to Cleopatra to 2001, so get comfortable and remember to sit close because the film looks great.
  • Bright Lights officially kicks off its fall program of free screenings in the Bright Screening Room at the Paramount Theater, with Get Out on Tuesday and Risk on Thursday, both followed by discussions with Emerson professors.
  • CinemaSalem, in addition to Wind River and It, has the two extremes of sci-fi on screen: The new 4K restoration of action-packed Terminator 2 (presented in 2D) and the art-house stage adaptation Marjorie Prime.
  • Because the Brattle had all those Tilda Swinton movies on the schedule, they couldn't keep Columbus around, but it moves over to both West Newton Cinema and The Capitol. the Lexington Venue, meanwhile, brings back The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography.
  • The Regent Theatre has the second and final show of music documentary L7: Pretend We’re Dead on Friday.
  • Hey, The Boston Film Festival is still a thing! It looks to be entirely at AMC Boston Common this year, opening on Thursday with documentary In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America.
It's a week for curiosity morbid and genuine, with mother!, Abracadabra, American Assassin, and Simran looking for spots around the Tilda Swinton and 70mm series. And, yes, I will find it hard to skip Beauty and the Beast in a theater, especially since the last time it played it was in a lousy 3D conversion.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fantasia 2017 catch-up, part 1: Good Time, Bushwick, Museum, Mohawk, Game of Death (2017), Plan B, Napping Princess, Shinjuku Swan II, and Lowlife

So, here's roughly 20% of the reviews I saw at Fantasia this summer and just had time to get an entry on Letterboxd and the blog before the next day started with a whole new batch of things to write up started screening. It's slower than I've been in other years, but well ahead of last year's "crash and burn" pace.

There's some darn good stuff in here, and I probably should have posted a smaller update while Good Time was still in theaters. Bushwick is on demand, at least, and recommended.

Good Time

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017, DCP)

Whether the Safdie Brothers explicitly intended to make something that feels like 1970s cinema right down to the dirtier, more desperate side of New York taking the fore or whether the just got there naturally from starting from the same place with the same goals, Good Time manages the neat trick of seeming like a throwback to that era without ever coming across as an imitation. It's got a vitality to it that comes from not being so obviously controlled, but never gets so shaggy that it's not moving forward.

It opens with Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) being examined in a mental hospital, and it's clear that he's got some cognitive issues and difficulty with abstract thought. Despite that, his brother Constantine (Robert Pattinson) pulls him out, and they're soon robbing a bank, botching the getaway bad enough that Connie is soon desperate to bail his brother out, knowing Nick might not even survive overnight at Riker's Island. It's a fear soon borne out, as Connie is soon trying to find Nick at a hospital and teaming with another small-time crook (Buddy Duress) to recover a bag of drugs that can maybe get Connie the money he's looking for.

There's a fair amount of "and then this happened, and then this…" in the middle of that and plenty after, a flitting from one scenario and group of characters to another that can seem almost like the filmmakers are easily distracted, Good Time just moves. The Safdies set up what seems like a simple central relationship and then blow it up by pushing Connie into new bad situations, keeping the goals simple but always just outside Connie's grasp so that the running at them always seems natural and while the nervousness and panic accumulates, it doesn't require Connie or the audience to recall a whole lot and set one's mind counter to that forward momentum. It's clear that the situation Connie is in at any given moment is often a matter of his not stopping to think, but the pacing is just such that it's easy to get swept up into the bad choices.

Full review on EFC.

Bushwick

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 30 July 2017 in Théâtre D.B. Clarke (Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, DCP)

The makers of Bushwick were likely never going to be able to bury its progressive message under a movie that people across the political spectrum went to see for the well-made action, but it's not hard to imagine the people financing the film wishing they would be a little more coy. It turns out that the film is hitting video on demand and a few theaters at a time when patience with wishy-washiness is fairly spent, so it's in good shape there. And while the script and story are often a bit simple, the action is impressively elaborate, often eyebrow-raising in both what the filmmakers do and how they do it.

It opens with Lucy (Brittany Snow), a graduate student coming home to Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood for Thanksgiving break, walking through a strangely empty subway platform with her boyfriend, only for them to get the shock of their life as they discover that there is open warfare going happening on the surface. As they are separated by a sniper's gunfire, the camera follows Lucy as she takes cover from both invaders and those looking to take advantage of the chaos in the basement of Stupe (Dave Bautista), an ex-Marine Corps medic who wants to reach his family in Jersey City, but agrees to help Lucy find her grandmother and cousin Belinda (Angelic Zambrana). Eventually, it becomes clear that the only hope of escape from this organized invasion is making their way to the Army's evacuation point at Cleveland Park, but to fight their way there, Lucy and Stupe must act as go-betweens for JP (Jeremie Harris), who has guns, and Father John (Bill Blechingberg), who has people hiding in his church.

Bushwick opens with a bit of cute banter, but it's not long before that's interrupted by violence, and after a while, someone watching the movie with an eye toward filmmaking technique (whether purposeful or not) will notice they can't remember the last cut. It's about then that the degree to which the film is not going to let up sinks in, and what seemed like an interesting what-if about Brooklyn being attacked by domestic terrorists becomes a grueling survival thriller. It's a heck of a well-executed one, too, even with some cuts that aren't as hidden as the filmmakers were trying for not diminishing just how much they've often got going on in a sequence. Directors Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott are plenty ambitious and don't miss many tricks, especially during the first half, stitching together tight bits centered on a single room with long handheld shots through a school building, and often doing this while keeping a sniper and his victim in the same shot. The action that can be surprising both for its relentless and for how it never seems escapist; the tension comes from just how ugly things have become in a matter of hours.

Full review on EFC.

Myûjiamu (Museum)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 14 July 2017 in L'Auditorium des Diplomes de la SGWU (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017, DCP)

Museum is the sort of serial-killer story that has a lot of good bits, including the gruesome ones, and I wonder if it would have been served better if it had been developed as a screenplay first, rather than a serialized manga. After a while, the need to have a new cliffhanger every twenty-five decompressed pages rears its head, and the twists build up, and what started out as a nifty thriller about elaborately gruesome murders has gotten downright weird and drifted far from what grabbed the viewer's attention in the first place.

When the first case rears its head - a woman tied up and allowed to be eaten by starved dogs - detective Hisashi Sawamura (Shun Oguri) and his partner Nishino (Shuhei Nomura) start following the usual sort of leads, although the fact that she was found with a note indicating punishment makes Sawamura nervous; the veteran detective knows that that sort of thing usually indicates the work of a serial killer. Sure enough, another body turns up with a similar note, and Nishino soon uncovers the connection: Both were jurors for the "Girl in Resin" case three years ago, but there doesn't seem to be anyone who would be inclined to take revenge on the six jurors and three judges. More immediately pressing is that the jurors included Sawamura's wife Haruka (Machiko Ono) - who has just taken their son Shouta and left the workaholic after years of neglect, naturally without leaving a forwarding address.

As nasty a serial-killer story as that is already, it will get even nuttier, suddenly involving weird mutations, extended torture, and even more astonishing psychological torment than the audience has already allowed for (which was kind of a lot). It's a fairly severe shift for a movie that had not entirely been about the chase but still had the thrill of something new discoveries and an unsettled situation to keep things exciting; the answers it provides are twisted enough to match the questions, but once that's done, the movie keeps going, fairly quickly getting into a rut where the audience isn't so much eagerly or nervously awaiting what happens next, but just dreading the confirmation that the situation is what it looks like and wondering how much more unpleasant the next scene will be compared to the previous. The film hadn't been cheerful to that point, but it becomes a real grind.

Full review on EFC.

Mohawk

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2017 in Théâtre D.B. Clarke (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017, DCP)

Set during the War of 1812, Mohawk plays like survival horror where neither the hunted nor hunters have a moral high ground and can change position in a heartbeat. It's a somewhat ambitious way to attack something that is more flat-out action than larger look at war as a concept - a lot of filmmakers will look for the simplest possible through-line that gets from one fight to another in that case, or look for murk - but it makes for a smart, no less thrilling action picture.

During that war, both the Americans and the British sought the allegiance of the Mohawk nation, though as the film opens, they remained steadfastly neutral despite British emissary Joshua Pinsmail (Eamon Farren) being very close to Oak (Kaniehtiio Horn), daughter of a local matriarch, and their lover Calvin Two Rivers (Justin Rain). The hotheaded Calvin opts to force the issue, attacking an American fort. As a result, the trio are pursued by an American unit commanded by the reasonable Charles Hawkes (Jack Gwaltney) but with Hezekiah Holt (Ezra Buzzington) agitating for harsher action, aiming to exterminate the party before they can make their way through the woods to a mission and make their case for joining the Brits to the elders.

What ensues is often great, flat-out horror-inspired action, with blood, guts, and plenty of shock as danger frequently leaps out of nowhere. The fighting is often up close and personal, moving at a slightly different pace than many audiences may be used to as characters have to reload after each shot, and writer/director Ted Geoghegan makes good use of how this creates short bursts of offense amid longer moments of vulnerability, along with frequently gruesome deaths that give the characters enough time to register horror at their impending oblivion. There are suspenseful sequences and moments to make one wince, but it never seems to pause to space things out.

It does, of course, although the cast is also very good at building their characters up on the run. That's a major benefit for the primary trio of Kaniehtiio Horn, Eamon Farren, and Justin Rain, whose relationship is settled enough to not require much comment but unusual and complex enough that the audience can read a lot into how they interact. Horn is especially good, with Oak often more capable and leel-headed than her men, never coming close to saying that she's putting up with Joshua because that's what Calvin wants because she's loyal, but Horn can make the idea hang there making Oak stronger rather than weaker. Ezra Buzzington makes Hezekiah Holt a frenzied, monstrous adversary, but the men with him are an interestingly varied group, from Ian Colletti as his son Myles - a chip off the old block but more sneering than sociopathic - to Jonathan Huber (the WWE's Luke Harper) as an amiable giant of a man fighting for his country and who could easily be the protagonist if the perspective shifted a bit.

Full review on EFC.

Game of Death (2017)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 15 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017, DCP)

There's plenty of enthusiasm and energy on display in this Game of Death, from the zippy 8-bit titles to the gleeful rampage that concludes it. The filmmakers are having fun doing a gross-out fest without a whole bunch of apology. It's a nasty little movie, but maybe not quite so nihilistic as it seems; I was eagerly anticipating its cast of young jackass characters dying, and some at least make a bit of a case for them to somehow survive, so they grow on you at least a bit.

There's five of them to start out, teenagers initially hanging out by the pool at Ashley's house - her (Emelia Hellman), her boyfriend Matt (Thomas Vallieres), their kind of snobby friend Beth (Victoria Diamond), Kenny with the broken hand (Nick Serino), and sweet-seeming Mary-Ann (Catherine Saindon). Beth invites Tom (Samuel Earle), and their dealer Tyler (Erniel Baez Duenas) eventually shows up, by which time they've found "The Game of Death" among the other old board games in a closet. Though it looks like a twisted version of the 1980s "Quizzard", it draws blood when all the players are holding it, and then has a couple of LED countdowns start - the players have to kill over twenty people, and if nobody dies before the timer hits zero… Well, exactly what you think is going to happen does before it resets.

Game of Death was originally put together as a web series, and it's fair to wonder how much of the story was built on the fly - once it hits the road in search of more bodies, it never moves back, and the characters can be very thinly sketched: I honestly wasn't sure through much of the movie whether Beth and Tom were supposed to be brother and sister, boyfriend and girlfriend, or some sort of weird step-sibling middle ground (probably the second with me misinterpreting a "bro" thrown into conversation or something). Directors Sebastien Landry & Laurence Morais-Lagace and Edouard H. Bond & Philip Kalin-Hajdu, their co-writers, are probably not looking to make any particular statement about the perils of other people's nostalgia or today's teenagers being particularly craven and amoral, or even get a lot of tension out of the moral dilemma this game poses; they pretty much just want to serve up a bunch of exploding heads and other gory deaths in fairly rapid-fire manner.

Full review on EFC.

Plan B: Scheiß auf Plan A (Plan B)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017: Action!, DCP)

You see a lot of calling-card shorts meant to show what a director or an actor could do in a feature, whether they're explicitly presented as that or not, but a calling-card feature is kind of rare, especially one as elaborate and meta as Plan B: It basically announces at the start that its three stars are guys that can do much more, both as actors and stuntmen, than the German film industry is asking of them, and then sets about giving examples. That could be either painfully silly or a bland exercise in fight choreography, but the filmmakers know when to wink and when to let folks show what they've got.

Can Aydin, Cha-Lee Yoon, and Phong Giang all play versions of themselves, 1980s-movie-loving German stuntmen looking for work and held back in equal parts by Can's over-enthusiasm - the massive Stallone fan butts head with directors by trying to make fight scenes more elaborate - and having their pal U-Gin (Eugene Boateng) as their manager despite his really having no head for numbers. This includes the location of their next gig, so instead of finding a film shoot, they find gangsters holding their boss's wife Victoria (Julia Dietze) hostage because she's one of the only people who knows where Gabriel (Henry Meyer) keeps his blackmail files on just about everyone in Berlin - or, more precisely, the first stop on a scavenger hunt that leads to it, with a bunch of goons at every stop, which is why the kidnappers hold on to Phong and sent Can, Cha, and U-Gin out rather going themselves.

Each stop on this leads to an impressive fight scene, and the filmmakers do something pretty clever - the opening credits have made it clear that Can, Cha-Lee, and Phong are not just starring in the movie but choreographing the action, and while it's usually not a great thing to associate performer and character too much, these guys often being doofuses on-screen can make you forget that they are actually really good at this part of their jobs. The script may be 1980s Hollywood, but the action is like something out of Hong Kong, and each bit is kind of a delight. Aydin, Yoon, and Giang divide the fight scenes among themselves fairly equitably, and they're smart enough to know that they'll look best by giving themselves quality opponents, giving a lot of fellow stuntpeople a chance to let audiences see their faces as well as just their moves, with Heidi Moneymaker (Scarlett Johansson's stunt double for her Marvel work) and others impressing and letting the filmmakers shoot action scenes Jackie Chan-style, with a ton of medium shots that show motion and aren't frantically cut trying to hide things.

Full review on EFC.

Hirune-hime: Shiranai watashi no monogatari (Ancien and the Magic Tablet, aka Napping Princess)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017: Axis, DCP)

I judge animated movies based in part on niece-appropriateness these days, and roughly five minutes into this, I was seeing a fantasy about an awesome little girl whose magic power is basically knowing how to code, so, heck yes, I was ready to pencil it in as a Christmas present right away. The movie doesn't live up to that great beginning all the way through - it's got kind of a big problem toward the end - but a bad climax is not really a deal-killer, even if it tries.

Mostly, though, it alternates between two related stories: It opens in Heartland, where everyone's job revolves around the auto factory in the castle, and Princess Ancien (voice of Mitsuki Takahata) is a powerful sorceress, able to change the world with her magic tablet. This, it turns out, is the recurring dream of teenager Kokone Morikawa (also voiced by Takahata), a few days out from her last summer vacation, which coincides with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. She lives in Okayama with her auto-mechanic father Momotaro "Jersey" Morikawa (voice of Yosuke Eguchi), with childhood friend Morio (voice of Shinnosuke Mitsushima) just arrived home from college. There's also a more sinister visitor - Ichiro Watanabe (voice of Arata Furuta), who has Jersey arrested, claiming he has stolen Shijima Motors property, leaving Kokone to figure out what is going on.

There's something genuinely charming about both halves of the film. Heartland is openly and unapologetically a fantasy, but the 2020-set scenes have a lovable looseness to them, feeling like they're being played out by regular people who may be mechanically-minded but not conspiracy naturals. It's fun to watch them stumble both forward and back, as the case may be; it's the source of a lot of laughs and humanizing. The way they reflect each other actually allows writer/director Kenji Kamiyama to come at car culture from opposing directions, showing both the delight of innovation, speed, and maneuverability on one side while also questioning the overbearing corporate weight and inertia of the automobile industry. Each half is, on its own, a perfectly enjoyable story, and Kamiyama does a fine job in making them reflect each other, even if things get a little fuzzy when it's time for them intersect.

Full review on EFC.

Shinjuku suwan II (Shinjuku Swan II)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017, DCP)

Maybe it's just a filtering effect - Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono makes enough movies that only the really good ones make it to American festivals, theaters, and home video - but I can't recall ever being bored by one of Sono's films before, certainly not the way I was by Shinjuku Swan II. Maybe he's at that point in his career where he's having a harder time producing outrageously creative material on a regular basis but still needs to pay the bills (and, as you get older, those bills get larger, requiring more and better-paying work), or maybe something like this isn't unusual but being a sequel got it past the filter, but whatever the reason, this feels like the first time he's truly mailed it in.

It picks up a year after the events of Shinjuku Swan; Tatsuhiko Shiratori (Gou Ayano) is still a successful "talent scout" in Tokyo's Shinjuku district but he's a bit less cheerful than he was - one friend is dead after the brawl between rival agencies and the gangs that support them and his friend Yosuke (Yuki Kubota) has disappeared. In terms of pure business, the merger between two agencies that ended the war leaves the "Burst" agency Tatsuhiko works for with too many scouts and not enough clients, a solution they propose to rectify by expanding to Yokohama, with Tatsuhiko accompanying Gensuke Seki (Motoki Fukami), who left the island some time ago, to get things started. Of course, Yokohama already has its own scouting business, headed by Masaki Taki (Tadanobu Asano), and his response to having his territory invaded is to attack Burst on its own turf.

Where the first Shinjuku Swan captured some interest in part because it was an introduction to the "scout" business, and there was a certain sense of discovery from seeing how this process worked, a second film inevitably digs into less vital minutia, from which organizations are protected by which yakuza groups and other questions of how the business works, especially in terms of the country's liquor distributor supporting clubs and whatnot. Maybe if you're getting 20 pages of the manga every week, it holds greater fascination, or if this story comes relatively quickly on the heels of a revisit to the first, the details will still be fresh and hold one's interest. But maybe not; it's a deeper dive into material that was not considered important enough two years ago, and it shouldn't be taken for granted that viewers excited to learn the basics and enough detail to tell a story want more details.

Full review on EFC.

Lowlife

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2017 in Auditorium des diplômés de la SGWU/Théâtre Hall (Fantasia International FIlm Festival 2017, DCP)

Lowlife got a lot of the hype at the festival this year, enough for people to worry before it screened that it can't possibly live up to what the programmers have been saying about it, expectations being raised all the higher because it seemed to be coming out of nowhere, so there was no moderating talk from other festivals. And yet, somehow, it managed - it's a gritty crime story that can throw a disgraced luchador and a good-hearted guy with a full-faced swastika tattoo into the mix and somehow not just make it work, but capture something that a slew of imitators haven't gotten right since Pulp Fiction..

It's got no business doing so - it starts off in a dark, dark place and will find ways to sink lower as the film goes on - but it's also got an eye on which characters deserve better even if they're going to come to a bad end, and that's most of them aside from a genuinely nasty villain. It's the sort of movie that can often be described as ruthless in how it makes the audience love characters just to have them die horribly, but the filmmakers don't really go in for that sort of cruelty. There's tragedy to be found here, and violent absurdity, but it's not a sarcastic, smirking combination of the two. Director Ryan Prows and his collaborators respect that most of their characters are good people who have made the mistake of assuming others were just as decent, only to have genuine monsters screw it up.

Take the opening, when an ICE raid led by Agent Fowler (Jose Rosete) rounds up a whole bunch of undocumented immigrants in a motel whose owner Crystal (Nicki Micheaux) at the very least looks the other way, with the detainess delivered to Teddy "Bear" Haynes (Mark Burnham), whose burrito shop is cover for something far worse. One of the abducted girls says that luchador hero El Monstruo will save them, but it turns out that El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate) not only works for Bear, but is married to Bear's adopted daughter Kaylee (Santana Dempsey) - and while pregnant Kaylee thinks they should make a break for it, the luchador feels honor-bound to stay. Meanwhile, Crystal is hoping Bear can find a kidney for her ailing husband Dan (King Orba), and Bear's accountant Keith (Shaye Ogbonna) is picking his old friend Randy (Jon Oswald) up after that man is released from prison, with Randy's umissable new ink not the only thing that could make this uncomfortable.

Full review on EFC.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Independent Film Festival Boston 2017.138: Columbus

Okay, that's stretching it, but given that there was actually a filmmaker there, it feels like a festival:



That's director Kogonada and the Brattle's Yangqiao Lu up there, talking a fair amount about how the former was inspired by Ozu, apparently right to his professional name. Despite that start (I am generally far less interested in recognizing and enumerating someone's influences than what the person does), and how making a movie whose frequent focus on architecture sure sounds like it could lead to a dry discussion, it turned out to be not quite lively but certainly animated, covering topics from architecture to how Haley Lu Richardson was a dancer before turning to acting, so getting her to dance ugly and desperately in one scene was a bit odd. He also mentioned they shot this before the #StarringJohnCho stuff, so that was a nice boost for them.

(And something that casting directors should be doing regardless; Cho strolls into this movie like James Bond, and really needs some sort of debonair spy role)

There were a couple of comments about people finding this movie devastating, and it makes me wonder, just a little bit, if it didn't resonate with me because my parents are both with me and, by and large, had their crap together as I grew up, so a lot of what serves as a major factor for feeling that way is something I very happily cannot connect with at an experiential, "yeah-they-got-that-feeling-right" level. So maybe add a quarter-star or so for that.

Some good news: Though it could only be scheduled for a week-long run at the Brattle with interruptions once the weekend was done - including a cancellation on Monday due to technical issues that immediately made me think of how Kogonada and Yangqiao pointed out that was a bit mis-framed at the start of the Q&A and how this was a bit of an over-reaction - it will be moving over to the Capitol starting Friday, so this is not entirely a catch-it-in-the-next-two-days-or-miss-it post.

Columbus

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 10 September 2017 in the Brattle Theatre (first-run, DCP)

Columbus is the fourth or fifth movie I can recall off the top of my head that draws its title from its setting in a way that anticipates the audience reading about it in a film-festival program. You're not really expected to go in without having read something along the lines of "... in Columbus, Indiana, a city noteworthy for its modernist architecture…" at some point, and I sometimes wonder how they play without that preliminary step. Fortunately, it's not a huge deal in this case, although there may still be a moment or two when unprepared audiences wonder just why these impressive performances often return to that particular subject.

The town's architecture is a point of interest for Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a 19-year-old who works in the library and spends most of her off-hours hanging out with her mom (Michelle Forbes). She was looking forward to a talk by a famous Korean scholar, but he had a stroke, and he's currently stable but not healthy enough to move, so his former student Eleanor (Parker Posey) calls his son Jin (John Cho), who flies in from Seoul. Though Korean tradition maintains that it is important family be by a person's side when he or she dies, Jin is too restless for that, and meets Casey while pacing near where she takes her smoke breaks. Though his rocky relationship with his father has led him to avoid the man's passion, he doesn't exactly have a lot of other people to talk to when Eleanor returns home to Chicago and his father continues to lay in limbo.

John Cho is the big, recognizable name in the cast, and expect the film to be used as an argument for why he should be a bigger star; the film is frequently built around shots where the characters are subordinated to the buildings around them but Cho strides through them with a hostility that catches one's attention but doesn't actually put a viewer off. He's a compelling-enough presence that he can push Jin's resentment hard without obvious justification beyond his own words, only letting the man's friendlier side to emerge later. It's worth noting that he does this without any direct interaction with Jin's father, whom writer/director Kogonada quickly establishes as frustrating in a wordless, initial sequence where he's mostly either just off-screen or backgrounded while the audience sees the frantic concern of Parker Posey's Eleanor, a contrast that allows the scenes where they have to sometimes-contentiously meet in the middle to ddraw the audience in.

Full review on EFC.