Thursday, June 02, 2005

Boutique stuff: Assisted Living, 3-Iron, Millions

I don't head out to the Fresh Pond Cinemas area much any more; though they were acceptable when I moved here from Portland, General Cities and Loews soon built some nice theaters in Boston proper, and the distance is not that much farther to walk on a nice day. So I basically don't get to that part of town unless I'm going to keep going past them and hit the Arlington Capitol. But I made a couple stops, and offer these random observations, only tangentially related to the movies I've seen in this category:

The Newbury Comics at Fresh Pond has seperate racks for "Foreign Films", "Asian Cinema", and "Martial Arts". Within "Martial Arts", there are subsections for Jackie Chan and Jet Li. It's really amazing how DVD has grown, although I can't get the image of the racks dividing in a bizarre sort of mitosis out of my head - the "DVD" rack gets wider and wider until it starts to sag in the middle, at which point it rips itself into smaller ones ("Comedy", "Action", "Drama").

Also, I nearly missed the movies I was planning to see because I went poking around in Toys R Us and started playing with one of those TV Games things. I'm going to need to get the paddle one, because Circus Atari is the best game ever.

Assisted Living

* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 April 2005 at Kendall Square #2 (preview)

Assisted Living is as independent as independent films get. You probably haven't heard of writer/director Elliot Greenebaum; the lead actor, Michael Bonsignore, has five times as many credits as a grip than as an actor. It's shot on one or two actual locations, and features a blurs the line with reality by apparently having a few actors and featured extras basically playing themselves.

There's nothing wrong with that; not every new filmmaker has to burst onto the scene. Greenebaum and Bonsignore's names aren't going to be on everyone's lips because everyone in Hollywood got excited about this movie. Indeed, this film didn't play Slamdance until a year and a half after its first showings, and then has quietly slipped into a limited release, where it lasted a couple of weeks before (likely) heading to IFC and a tiny video release. But everyone will get a line on their respective resum├ęs, and if the industry doesn't beat their doors down, it will at least give them more serious consideration.

Read the rest at HBS.

3-Iron (Bin-jip)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 9 May 2005 at Embassy Square #1 (first-run)

The modern world is crowded, busy, and filled with ways to identify or track its inhabitants. It would seem that the only ways to disappear in such a world are to go "off the grid", moving away from people and technology and records, or to fall "through the cracks", living on the street in a life of squalor and want. What the characters of 3-Iron recognize is that there are empty spaces; they just don't stay empty for very long.

Tae-suk (Jae Hee) owns very little; a motorcycle and the clothes on his back. Rather than sleeping on the street, he puts circulars on doorknobs, coming back a day or two later to see which ones haven't been removed; those, he reasons, are houses or apartments where the owner is out of town. A quick spot of breaking and entering later, and he's got a place to stay for a night or two. While he's there, he'll clean up, do the laundry, fix things that need fixing. One night, though, the place he chooses isn't empty; it's still occupied by Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), a one-time model trapped in an abusive marriage. They intrigue each other, and when Sun-hwa's husband (Kwon Hyuk-ho) returns home, Tae-suk takes her with him, after pelting the husband with golf balls. Initially, Tae-suk tries to ignore this new addition to his life, but they inevitably find themselves growing closer.

Read the rest at HBS.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 May 2005 at Capitol Theater #6 (second-run)

It's intriguing how Millions in some ways represents Danny Boyle's career coming full circle after a tumultuous ten years, even as it demonstrates what a versatile filmmaker he has become (or, really, has always been). Looking at his early collaborations with John Hodge and Ewan MacGregor, the idea of a warm, family-friendly Boyle movie seems an unlikely one. Still, once you get past the age and innocence of the main characters, familiar motifs may seem familiar - a bag of money, contention among the people who find it, and sharp, witty, suspenseful direction.

The money falls from the sky, crushing the structure eight-year-old Damian (Alex Etel) has made from boxes discarded by people moving into a new housing development. Damian is smart enough to recognize that he has an active fantasy life, having taken to conversing with deceased saints since his mother's death, so he asks his older brother Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon) to verify that the money is, in fact, real. It is, and Anthony quickly starts formulating plans on how to spend or invest the money (I idly wondered if writer Frank Cottrell Boyce was inspired by the "Great Brain" young adult novels by John D. Fitzgerald in creating these characters). The first catch is that the money is all pounds, and Britain will be switching to the Euro on Christmas Day. The second is that, as Anthony deduces later, the money is stolen, and honest, trusting Damian accidentally points people in his direction.

Read the rest on HBS.

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