Friday, December 02, 2005

I'm running out of movies to see.

Seriously. At some point this weekend, I will probably see the likes of Rent, Aeon Flux, and The Polar Express in order to try and fill the Movie Watch-a-Thon card. Yours, Mine, and Ours is not out of the realm of possibility.

The big, prestigious Oscar-bait movies really can't come soon enough. I'm dying here. There's a snowboarding documentary opening on two screens in Boston this weekend because there's nothing to see. The AMC MovieWatcher newsletter has information on three movies from India in limited release. You can't tell me that this would be the case if Hollywood or the indies had something more exciting than Aeon Flux coming out this week.

The Movie Watch-a-Thon Recap:

Movie seen at the Brattle: (11/30) Key Largo, (12/1) The Maltese Falcon.
Movies seen elsewhere: (11/29) Aelita, Quen of Mars, (11/30) Shopgirl.
Money pledged so far: $50 entry fee + $50 flat donations + $9 x (16 Brattle Films + .5 * 15 other films) = $311.50
Why the Brattle Theater Matters
Details on the Movie Watch-a-Thon
Where to send cash in support
Mail me if you'd like to pledge some dollar amount per movie

The Latest Reviews:

A History of Violence

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 18 November 2005 at Arlington Capitol #2 (second-run)

There's an temptation, when discussing movies like Ghost World, The Road to Perdition, and now A History of Violence, to deliberately omit references to their "graphic fiction" roots (to use the newest term employed by people who don't want to use the phrase "comic book"). If you like the movie, you don't want to turn people off by having them immediately compare it to Batman & Robin, or even the good examples of the spandex genre. Even if you like comics as a medium, and regularly gobble up as much autobiography and crime as brightly-colored action/adventure, you might just shrug and think, hell, I don't want to fight this battle again. And maybe you shouldn't; looking at the finished product, A History of Violence is an excellent movie regardless of the quality or form of its source material.

But, on closer examination, several of the qualities that make it unique appear to come directly from the graphic medium. Take the strikingly individual character designs, like Ed Harris's ruined eye or the pair of thugs whose hotel robbery opens the movie. Consider the graphic violence, a bit less stylized than what you'd find in Sin City, but still willing to linger on the blood & guts because it makes a striking visual. Notice how some sequences play out without words, while the dialogue is quick and punchy, like it has to share a three-square-inch panel with the action. None of these techniques are unique to comics, of course, but the look and feel does set it apart from other films.

Read the rest at HBS.

Walk the Line

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 19 November 2005 at Loews Harvard Square #1 (first-run)

My mother and her parents like country music, unlike most of the kids I knew in the Maine suburb where I grew up. Because of this, I tended to dismiss whole swaths of music as boring, because I was a kid and this was stuff old people listened too. So, it wound up taking me far too long to recognize the actual coolness of folks like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.

Cash, as this movie will tell you, grew up a dirt-poor sharecropper in the deep South, put in some time in the Air Force, married his high-school sweetheart (Ginnifer Goodwin), then moved to Memphis hoping to break into the music business. He succeeded, but the time on the road and the drugs he scored there destroyed his marriage. On the plus side, it's there he meets June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), who will become his muse, his on-stage partner, and the love of his life.

Read the rest at HBS.


* * (out of four)
Seen 19 November 2005 at AMC Fenway #6 (first-run)

Do so-called thrillers get much more tedious than this? I don't think so. Sure, there are examples of the genre where the production values are worse, or the script is more egregiously stupid, but that variety is more likely to feature uninhibited trashiness, or the type of plot twist that causes jaws to drop in disbelief, rather than simple head-shaking. [i]Derailed[/i] never gets near the sublime, and only briefly manages the ridiculous.

Some Damn Fool (Clive Owen) with a Beautiful Wife (Melissa George) and a Sick Daughter (Addison Timlin) meets cute with a Sexy Lady (Jennifer Aniston) on a train. They flirt, meet up for lunch a few times, and soon find themselves looking for a hotel. Just as they're about to do something their spouses really wouldn't approve of, a Violent Frenchman (Vincent Cassel) bursts in, knocks Some Damn Fool stupid, and has his way with Sexy Lady. She, of course, doesn't want to report it, fearing reprisals from her Unseen Husband, even when the Violent Frenchman opts to blackmail Some Damn Fool, demanding he deliver to him the money he and Beautiful Wife have saved to buy medicine for Sick Daughter. Is Some Damn Fool going to take this? Of course he is. But will he take it twice?

Read the rest at HBS.

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