Monday, September 18, 2006

Boston Film Festival Day 2006, Day Eight: The House of Usher

-- sigh -- I could have been a few blocks away, in Chinatown, watching Stephen Chow in God of Cookery. Or in Somerville, checking out the Chuck Norris Film Festival. Instead, I see this thing, which is just not good. I want to resist being too mean, because the basic idea they're playing with is inherently creepy, it was shot locally, and the screenplay is credited to someone named "Collin Chang"... I knew a lady by that name freshman year of college. I mean, I love when movies that start with my city's skyline. Roughly half the theater, it seemed, was people connected with the production and their families.

But, this is just pretty bad. Lots of flat acting, an ending that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, a timeframe that wasn't communicated at all - in the Q&A, the director and producer said it took place over months rather than what felt like just a couple of weeks. Also, while it will probably look OK on DVD where it will eventually land - I think they mentioned it shooting on HD - sitting up close in the theater, it looked pretty bad.

Speaking of the Q&A - I would have loved to see someone ask Izabella Miko if she wore a bra at any point during filming. It seems like almost every change of clothing put her in something with a pretty darn low-cut neckline. It's the sort of thing you're thankful for in a bad movie, since it gives you something to pay attention to other than the film's badness.

So, what to think about the BFF? Certainly better than last year, although nothing I saw really bowled me over. Also, I think this falls a little short of being worthy of the name "festival"; for that, you need multiple venues or a program which attracts people from out of town. The old BFF had that, even if was just two Loews theaters playing something of a subset of the Toronto program.

Of course, by that definition, the next thing on my festival calendar isn't really a festival - The Bosotn Fantastic Film Festival is pretty much an extra-spiffy Brattle program. But, man, that's at least got something to get excited about.

Catch-up: Review up on HBS for The Hidden Blade. I can't believe no-one else reviewed that.

The House of Usher

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 15 September 2006 at AMC Boston Common #17 (Boston Film Festival)

Festival movies that don't work for you stink worse than ordinary bad movies, not just because there's a higher expectation of quality, but because you're in the room with the cast and crew, their friends and family, and maybe even their small, adorable children. The guy next to you gives you the stink-eye if you don't applaud, and when Q&A time comes, most of us don't have the guts to ask something like "so, at what point in the process did you realize you weren't making a good movie?"

Then, of course, there's that moment toward the end, when they start with the whole "there's this website called eye-em-dee-bee-dot-com, and all the people in Hollywood read it, so if you post your opinions there it can really help us" deal. It makes them seem like friendly, regular folks, but the truth of the matter is, they're probably not talking to you.

So it is with The House of Usher, a "modern retelling of Poe's classic story from a female perspective". What makes this movie not being very good hurt all the worse is that director Hayley Cloake and writers Collin Chang (screenplay) and Boyd Hancock (story) have hit upon a pretty good way to go about this. Here, the nameless male narrator of Poe's story is replaced by Jill Michaelson (Izabella Miko), a former girlfriend of Roderick Usher (Austin Nichols) who counted his twin sister Madeline as her best friend until both Ushers vanished from her life three years ago. Now, she returns to the titular mansion for Madeline's funeral, and though family retainer Mrs. Thatcher (Beth Grant) makes every effort to send her home quickly, Roderick wants her to at least stay through the weekend, to help him get through the twins' upcoming birthday...

Read the rest at HBS.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Boston Film Festival 2006 Day Six: Ways of the Flesh

Missed days five and seven, both days when the cable company's annoying refusal to schedule around when I could be home caused me to work from the house. I don't know about other folks, but I have a hard time getting work done when I'm home, and not just because the VPN connection and power supply have a knack for choosing terrible half-seconds to not work. And, yesterday, there was a query kicking my butt. Fortunately, most of the movies shown during the days I missed already have release dates scheduled (heck, I missed The Last Kiss on Tuesday and it opens today), and the others are ones I'm okay with missing. I'd rather not, but I can deal.

Which left Ways of the Flesh as my mid-week getaway to the film festival. Not a bad movie, not a great one. I probably wouldn't give it many second thoughts if it wasn't part of a festival program, but since it's independently produced and chosen to screen by people I assume know something about film, I'm more likely to give it a chance than I would if it were just film #8 on the multiplex's marquee.

The picture in the program was dark and reproduced in such a way that I didn't realize this was something aimed at the African-American audience. The story itself is hardly black-specific at all, although some of the execution left me not nearly as amused as it maybe ought to have. In a way, these African-American-oriented films have the same sort of effect on me as Bollywood - my brain just doesn't have the jacks to interface with them properly, and as much as I appreciate that they're made for someone with a different cultural background, that doesn't obligate me to really like them.

And yet, the writer/director looked nearly as white as me - I told Matt afterward that he reminded me of Wallace Shawn minus thirty years and plus a fair amount of hair. He had that kind of voice, and it's certainly not the voice you expect to hear going on about how studios don't know how to connect with the black audience outside of T&A-laden gangsta flicks. Which, of course, is absolutely true; it's just a bit tricky to accept someone who looks a lot more like me than that audience as the voice of authority on the subject.

Ways of the Flesh

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 13 September 2006 at AMC Boston Common #18 (Boston Film Festival)

The opening credits to Ways of the Flesh don't quite come out and say "based on a true story", although they imply it, and during the Q&A after the movie, writer/director Dennis Cooper never came close to talking about a real Dr. Zachary. Where these characters came from doesn't really matter; I'm just curious to know whether the muted feel of this movie is Cooper trying to show specific people or whole groups in a good light.

Inspired by a real person or not, Dr. Sidney Zachary (Wood Harris) is the film's narrator, constantly dictating material for his book and standup comedy routine into a tape recorder. He's doing some research on laughter as a palliative medicine, and also observing one of his new interns, Dr. Ray Howard (Brian J. White). Howard is a gifted Harvard graduate who has left Boston for Florida because of a woman (Mya), and comes with a well-deserved reputation as a player. Assisting Sidney with his literary endeavors is his girlfriend Donna (Zoe Saldana), an artist whose life he once saved; supporting cast includes arrogant department head Dr. Graves (Scott Paulin), his sycophant Dr. Propper (David S. Lee), and nervous intern Mitchell Kwan (Kenneth Choi).

All of this goes into Sidney's tape recorder and on-screen, and indeed the very beginning announces what kind of genre tropes we're in for: The mentor who has run-ins with an uncaring bureaucrat, the muse who inspires him, the cocky player who becomes a better man. And it's not so much the standard pieces that are the problem so much as their announcement; when the narrator neatly summarizes the movie up front, then what follows has to either cleverly subvert those expectations or be the best darn example of them that it can be (or at least be as good as an average episode of Grey's Anatomy). It doesn't help that Sidney, having chosen Ray as the subject of his book, occasionally discusses Ray's growth as a doctor and a person with Donna or Ray himself; it's elementary self-referentiality that doesn't make the movie seem any cleverer, even if one or two of the scenes are kind of cute. Similarly, I'm not sure how a story about someone making use of humor is, itself, funny - even when the jokes are on, the audience is a little too aware of the effort to make them funny.

Read the rest at HBS.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Boston Film Festival, Day Four: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

I went back and forth over actually seeing Guide Monday night, since the work schedule this week might have made it difficult to get to, and besides, I've been seeing trailers for it, which means it will probably show up at the Kendall before the end of the month, where it will cost less than ten bucks. It's not like this is one of the screenings where, if you don't get to it at the festival, you might not see it at all.

I did go, although I would make the opposite decision with The Last Kiss on Tuesday. I think the festival was pulling the same trick to get a full house that they did for Guide; I'm pretty sure that they also had a bunch of people being let in for free as part of a screening ticket giveaway. I'm cool with that; it's a for-profit enterprise, sure, but it can't hurt to get a bunch of people in to listen to your spiel; maybe some come back for the remaining three or four days, or remember you next year. And I imagine Chazz Palminteri is going to go back to Hollywood with a much better impression of whether the festival is worth coming to than Amanda Detmer or Robin Tunney will. Maybe he tells folks that Boston's a fun little festival

As to the movie itself, well, I think the whole "nostalgia over growing up in a crappy neighborhood" genre is like musicals for me - I like them when it's done exceptionally well, but when it's something less than perfect... Well, my interest drops off in a non-linear fashion. So it was here; the movie isn't so much bad as it's not above average, which doesn't interest me here.

Admittedly, part of the problem is that so many have played as "real people live in the cities, while the suburbs are either dysfunctional or planned to the point of soullessness", which I (despite loving the city too much to consider moving back) take as an attack on my own childhood. So even movies like Saints, which don't get into that territory at all, annoy me by just being in the neighborhood. I probably ought to work on that.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 11 Septembe 2006 at AMC Boston Common #17 (Boston Film Festival)

The program for the Boston Film Festival describes the origin and meaning of the film's title, as does most of the publicity I've seen for it. This is probably helpful, since I didn't catch anything about it in the actual film. Instead, it was a decent-enough collection of things that happen to and around Dito Montiel, but remarkably little that makes the story his own.

The film opens with Dito's mother Flori (Dianne Weist) calling him in the present day, asking him to come home because his father Monty (Chazz Palminteri) is sick. He's initially reluctant, but it causes him to think back twenty years, when he (played by Shia LaBeouf rather than Robert Downey Jr.) was finishing a hot summer of hanging around his friends Antonio (Channing Tatum), Nerf (Peter Anthony Tambakis), and Giuseppe (Adam Scarimbolo). He was sort of dating Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and making friends with Mick (Martin Compston). He's the nenew kind in class, a Scot with horizons beyond the city. Expanding his horizons may be a good thing for Dito to explore, since he and his friends appear to be the targets of an angry graffito.

Whenever someone adapts a book or a life to film, a certain amount of pruning is necessary to fit the story into a reasonable length and focus the narrative, but I think the real-life Dito Montiel (who wrote and directed the film based upon his own memoir) may have made some bad choices on that count. He doesn't exactly cut himself out of his own story, but he does seem to go out of his way to render himself a rather generic figure. The film's title, I'm told, comes from Montiel describing his ability to stay out of trouble to being watched over by the saints; this idea never shows up in the movie. Mick and Dito talk about earning money to start a band and go to California, but he never shows us whether the two have any musical ability, or whether playing is something that they only talk about vaguely without actually doing. Those are things that could make young Dito interesting, but Montiel is apparently more interested in making a movie about the environment where he grew up than one about him growing up.

Read the rest at HBS.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Boston Film Festival 2006 Day Three: Shorts and Open Window

Two quotes summarize the day:

"Remember when there was a Boston Film Festival?" - overheard during the screening of Shorts Program #1, where the projectionist projected a short with lush backgrounds too dark to see them, played the supplemental features instead of the actual short, adjusted brightness and zoom/positioning while the audience was watching the film, etc.

"Wow, this looks much nicer than my MTV Movie Award for Best Fight" - Robin Tunney, after the screening of Open Window.

In between, during Shorts Program #2, we got to see the new Patrick Smith cartoon, "Puppet". I really do like Smith's work a lot; "Drink" was one that showed up in several festival programs an was always entertaining. "Puppet" is darn funny and also dark as heck, despite Smith's cute style.

Oh, and before we get to Open Window, Homie Spumoni is now complete in the previous entry.

Open Window

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 10 September 2006 at AMC Boston Common #17 (Boston Film Festival '06)

The days of one's town or neighborhood having one cinema (or the TV just having a few channels), are long gone, meaning someone is much less likely to go in blind and just take whatever comes. People seeing a movie generally have some idea of what kind of story they're getting themselves into. So if you opt to see Open Window, you know that when the first five minutes include a marriage proposition cutely delivered and eagerly accepted, the characters are being set up to be knocked over.

The hammer, in this case, comes in the form of Izzy (Robin Tunney) being raped in her own home photo studio. Pater (Joel Edgeron) finds her locked in a close and takes her to the hospital, but like many rape victims she declines to file a police report. Peter is supportive, but the situation soon puts a strain on their relationship, as an emotionally scarred Izzy becomes reclusive and Peter finds himself unable to do anything to help.

Robin Tunney has some tricky work to do, since for a good third of the movie, her character just won't get out of bed, which has the potential to make for some less-than-dynamic scenes. We initially empathize with her, but Mia Goldman's script isn't afraid to have Izzy make less-than-optimal decisions, right from the moment she opts not to file a police report. Tunney manages to keep the audience generally seeing Izzy in a positive light, but also keeps the character from appearing a faultless saint. She is a victim, and deserves the audience's empathy, but we also want someone to find a way to jolt her out of her self-pity, even as the former makes us feel guilty about the latter.

Read the rest at HBS.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Boston Film Festival 2006 Day Two: Ice Kings, Homie Spumoni, Jam

None of these are in the HBS database yet, since they've been too busy with Toronto. Story of the BFF's life. Still, I'd like to get them posted if only to give folks a heads-up about Jam, which is playing again tonight and is pretty good.

Oh, and no "Day One" post because when I finally got off the bus last night, Homie Spumoni (the only thing playing) was sold out. No big deal, as it was the only thing playing during its time period today anyway.

Ice Kings

* * * (out of four)
Seen 9 September 2006 at AMC Boston Common #18 (Boston Film Festival '06)

Sometimes, when producing a documentary about sustained greatness and achievement, it's necessary to wait a while, in order to have a proper ending. Every time Ice Kings pushed forward a few years with a montage of Mount St. Charles Academy winning state championship after state championship, I imagined filmmaker Craig Shapiro gritting his teeth, wishing they'd lose so his film could have a final act.

It probably didn't happen that way, but it could have; "The Mount" won twenty-six consecutive Rhode Island state hockey championships from 1978 to 2003, making that program the most successful high school athletic program in the country. A streat that long, and the history leading up to it, provides Shapiro with an excellent framework with which to examine R.I. high school hockey - and its fandom - in general.

And why not? After all, its popularity rivals football in Texas. Ah, you might say, but Texas is a region of the country unto itself, while geographers are currently considering reclassifying Rhode Island as a "dwarf state". In some ways, that makes what it has produced even more impressive; when on high school finals features a half-dozen future pros, that's got to count for something.

The film spends some time at the start giving the audience a little background on the state's general history, quirks, and accent (you're in for eighty minutes of it) before starting to focus on hockey. Starting with the enormously popular minor league Rhode Island Reds (just a notch below the NHL's Original Six at the time, before "minor league" and "farm system" were synonymous), we see Rhode Island's hockey mania and large number of French-Canadian immigrants feed on each other, as Reds players settle in mill towns like Mount St. Charles's Woonsocket and help create the next generation of fans and players. This provides a nice segue to Mount St. Charles's first dynasty, built on the backs of players imported from Quebec as ringers.

One story of a legendary student athlete who chose not to go pro later, the film is ready to focus on the Mount's quarter-century on top. Much as the story of a high school dynasty must, Ice Kings focuses less on the players (after all, the team roster turns completely over six to eight times over the course of the run) than on the coaches nad opponents who would try to topple them. The coach is a personable enough character - Bill Belisle played for the Mount as a teenager, and after a stint in the army worked a series of blue-collar jobs that culminated in his position as the Academy's rink manager. Made coach after a last-place finish, he institutes a rigorous practice schedule that emphasizes quality skating (his own forte as a player). Despite perhaps coming off as a harsh taskmaster in the interviews with former players, the impression he leaves is of a serious but low-key instructor, a tough old french guy who seems about a decade younger than his seventy-five years. We also meet his son, Dave, who took over temporarily after Bill took a puck to the head and has been his assistant (Bill running practices, Dave running games) for the twenty years since.

The challengers are interesting stories themselves; we meet Don Armstrong, who was the coach of another hockey powerhouse, Bishop Hendricken, during the eighties, and Sarah Costa, the female goalie (and future Olympian) hwose Toll Gate High Titans team nearly ended the streak in '95. Star players from Mount St. Charles are also represented, including Brian Lawton, the first American ever to be an NHL #1 draft pick.

One of the things Shapiro does very well is to pull threads that don't necessarily seem to have anything to do with the main story and tie them in; the "and they got married and had many children..." ending to the segment about Joe Cavanagh opting not to turn pro initially seems like bloat but is, in fact, important later on. He also does a very good job of keeping the Mount from becoming villains of the piece - aside from being obvious overdogs, the film hints that they exploit a real home-rink advantage in underhanded ways (caroms only they know about, overheating the visiting locker-room). The film also avoids explicit mention of whether Mount St. Charles is public, private, or parochial, although mention is made for the other schools - that the Titans are a public school is considered a special victory when they play the Mounties. It's also sometimes difficult to tell what relationship the person currently being interviewed has to Mount St. Charles; a lot of ex-hockey players are interviewed, and a caption stating someone was on the San Jose Sharks from 1992 to 1994 isn't always helpful if you don't remember how that guy was introduced a half-hour earlier.

One thing that is a lot of fun to see is several decades of hockey footage, from the early years of the Reds to the present. There's a lot of talking heads, and that breaks it up nicely. Very little else looks like old sports footage, and even the more recent clips, being locally-produced broadcasts of high school games, don't have the slick, over-produced look of many professional sportscasts. The archival footage is also in great condition.

I'm not much of a hockey fan - baseball and basketball have tended to rule in Seaver households - so a lot of the hockey-specific details may have flown right past me. It's a nifty story, though, even for non-fans, and I expect hockey fans may appreciate it even more.

Homie Spumoni

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 9 September 2006 at AMC Boston Common #18 (Boston Film Festival '06)

I'd call Homie Spumoni cringe-worthy, except that it strikes me as the type of movie that would take that description as a badge of honor. The idea, after all, is to get a rise and a laugh out of pervasive but not malevolent racism. Like most of the characters, it's got a good heart that belies the crudity of its exterior.

The film opens with a flashback, as childless Italian couple Enzo (Alvaro D'Antonio) and Angelina (Michelle Arvizu) discover a baby floating down a nearby river in a basket. Since the bambino is black, they fear the reaction of their small town, and so set out for America. Twenty-five years later, the family is settled in Providence, where Renato (Donald Faison) works in Enzo's deli and volunteers at the animal shelter. It's there he meets Ally (Jamie-Lynn DiScala) when she's looking for a dog. The usual comic hijinks ensue because her mother has a nice jewish doctor picked out for her, but what really causes trouble is when Thelma (Whoopi Goldberg) and George (Paul Mooney) show up, claiming Renato is their long-lost "Leroy" - and they'd like him to come with them to Baltimore to get to know them and his older brother Dana (Tony Rock). This really throws Renato for a loop, since he had never been told that he was adopted, as opposed to being an unusually dark-skinned Italian immigrant.

The premise sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but holds up well enough once you figure Renato isn't likely to question his happy, loving family. Besides kicking the story into gear, it enables a very funny performance form Donald Faison. When you get right down to it, there's probably nothing extraordinarily difficult about the basic Italian-American city kid (who, having grown up in Providence, likes hockey far more than basketball) that Faison essays; it's just unusual for someone of Faison's skin color, so the audience is more likely to notice any slips (which Faison doesn't make). Faison deserves credit for more than pulling off a stock role without a hitch, though - he gives Renato kindness to go with his frequent crudity, and there's palpable hurt when Renato's world collapses around him.

Director Mike Cerrone (co-writing with his brother Steven and Glenn Ciano) seems to be trying to take the same approach as another set of Rhode Island filmmakers, the Farrellys (the Cerrones also wrote Me, Myself, and Irene), by telling jokes that could easily come off as nothing more than crass and offensive if it weren't abundantly clear how their hearts are in the right place. The filmmakers do manage this trick at a somewhat better than break-even pace, although they don't often manage to be really creatively appalling. A cop with a thick Irish accent using terms like "stovepipe" and "dago" isn't exactly cutting-edge satire, especially when nothing much is done to subvert it.

The support cast is also kind of hit-and-miss. Joey Fatone's best friend character Buddy suffers a bit since (per the Q&A) a running joke build around a certain bit of boorish behviour got cut for length, leaving a payoff without quite enough setup. Whoopi Goldberg, on the other hand, is funnier than I can ever remember her being before. She puts Thelma on the border of heartwarming and psychotic in her devotion to "Leroy", generally going over the top in just the right way. Tony Rock is fairly entertaining as Renato's brother, trying to school him in the ways of blackness. It's a shame Jamie-Lynn DiScala isn't on Faison's level in terms of charm; they're a mismatch, but not a great one. The duet between the two that the film builds to is seriously underwhelming.

One thing that's interesting to note is how much more some of the casually racist comments make the audience wince when said on-screen than they might in real life. It's as if we can forgive a bad habit, but saying the same thing in a movie is the result of planning and effort. Indeed, the outtakes shown over the end credits are often nastier, but also funnier, if only because they're spontaneous.

The film does, as mentioned, do better than break-even on a high concept that seems like more than a bit of a long shot. It's also a nice spotlight for Faison, a funny guy who hasn't gotten nearly the boost from the critics' Scrubs-love as his co-stars have.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 9 September 2006 at AMC Boston Common #18 (Boston Film Festival '06)

Before I saw this movie, I admit, I was ready to lead with a snarky "after a Crash inevitably comes a Jam" comment, which is just super-tacky because I haven't even seen Crash. Of course, Jam's producers probably aren't likely to complain too much about their film getting mentioned in the same sentence as an Oscar-winner.

It initially appears that Jam is going to spend a lot of time on race, too, as the auto accident that causes the titular traffic jam is between black cellist Lorraine (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and a white father/son pair, Ted (William Forsythe) and Josh (Dan Byrd). Soon after, dark-skinned hippie chick Lilac (Gina Torres) is given static by white yuppies Gary (Jonathan Silverman) and Judy (Julie Claire) while trying to find help for her extremely pregnant partner Rose (Mariah O'Brien). They eventually wind up in an RV stolen by Curt (Christopher Amitrano) and Jerry (David DeLuise). Also caught in the traffic jam are Dale (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his kids Robert (Skyler Gisondo) and Brianna (Marissa Blanchard), bride-to-be Amy (Amanda Detmer) and her bridesmaids Jen (Elizabeth Bogush) and Stephanie (Amanda Foreman), and older married couple Mick (Alex Rocco) and Ruby (Tess Harper).

Rather than spending the majority of its time on hot-button issues, Jam is mostly concerned with parent-child relationships. The film is set on Father's Day, and the stories include expectant parents, divorced parents on their custodial weekend, grown children missing a deceased parent, a father and son at odds, etc., etc. Even the thread about the bride with cold feet involves her wanting to start a family. It's a theme that holds the film together without being painfully obvious about it; nobody ever says "man, we've all got daddy issues!"

The cast is full of familiar faces, mostly from television, doing what they do best. Marianne Jean-Baptiste is the calm, centering influence she has been ever since coming to American attention in Secrets & Lies; David DeLuise is the not-so-bright but affable guy he's come to specialize in. The trio of Amanda Detmer, Amanda Foreman, and Elizabeth Bogush play off each other very well, feeling like people so used to being friends that they don't realize how much they've grown to dislike each other. Detmer shares a number of scenes with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and they develop a nifty antagonistic chemistry right off the bat. Also of special note is Gina Torres, whom fans of action-oriented TV series have loved for nearly a decade and may, in Lilac, have finally found the role that grabs the attention of a wider audience.

Many of director (and producer/co-writer) Craig Serling's recent credits have been as an editor on various unscripted television programs. While it's easy to reflexively bash those shows, it actually turns out to be a solid training ground for an ensemble drama like this. Both jobs involve introducing the audience to a lot of people in very little time and then balanceing those characters evenly, trying to avoid repetition even though they're all doing more or less the same thing. Often in an ensemble piece, some characters are more equal than others or many seem like filler; Shipley, by and large, manages to avoid that.

What shortcomings the film has likely come about due to the tight shooting schedule. During the Q&A, Shipley seemed pround of how many scenes were shot in just one take, but sometimes that may have happened more out of necessity more than complete satisfaction. An independant film like this casts familiar faces by being able to get them in and out quickly, and if you've only got a central character for two or three days (how long Detmer said she was on set), you may just take what you can get. In particular, the Gary & Judy scenes don't really work, and Forsythe plays much better off Ms. Jean-Baptiste than he does off Dan Byrd.

It occurs to me that "Jam" may have a double meaning, in that aside from depicting a traffic jap, it's a chance for many fine character actors to get together and, well, jam. None really take the lead, but supporting each other is what these guys do best.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Two Duds And A Wedding: Crank and Edmond

Not quite so much movie-watching as I would have normally done on a holiday weekend, even if the holiday is Labor Day and thus packed with absolute crap to see. One happy reason is that my best friend from high school got himself married up in Freeport. So, after signing for a delivery, I headed up to Portland, met my mother for dinner in Freeport, then stayed in a nice hotel before getting picked up for the actual wedding the next day.

And, contrary to the impression Kent & Xan (and anyone else) may have received, I had a great time. I got to see a couple of folks I hadn't seen in way too long, met Tim's wife for the first time, and saw people generally enjoying myself. No dancing for me, since it's on the long list of social things I outright suck at, but I'm okay with that. No date, either, but see dancing. I don't really see myself throwing one of these things any time soon, but other people's are fun when the weather is nice.

The rest of the weekend got occupied by getting the new TV with all the HD goodies set up. I still need to find myself a calibration disc or something to get everything tweaked just right - the sharpness seems to be too high, making SD look awful and even HD a little too pixel-y, and some scenes in Serenity looked way too dark - but it's impressive. Before-and-after pictures will come after Comcast gets the CableCARDs installed properly, and I can put the shelving back in because I don't have to get behind it any more.

As an aside: The Boston Film Festival starts tonight, and... ugh. There will be rants, and not just because the year has gotten me accustomed to going to these things for free.

How you can call yourself a film festival without any sort of midnight show...

Catch-up: Monster House, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Who Killed the Electric Car?, A Sixth Part of the World, Sherlock Jr., The Captive City, and Witness to Murder


* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 August 2006 at AMC Boston Common #14 (Preview)

This just isn't good. I didn't really expect it to be, but Statham had Transporter 2 at this time last year, which wound up being a lot of fun. There's no Corey Yuen to punch up the action in this turd, though, and it becomes immensely frustrating: The plotline is a twenty-first-century X-treme update of D.O.A., with Statham's hitman character out to avenge his own murder, finding that adrenaline will keep him from dying.

The irony is that although the main character needs a constant rush to keep himself alive, the film never really bothers to provide any to the audience. It's wall-to-wall action that never raises the viewer's pulse. A few scenes are entertaining because of how casual they wind up being, but for the most part, the action is just obligatory, and even the absurdly over-the-top finale only provides a small boost.


* * (out of four)
Seen 4 September 2006 at the Landmark Kendall Square #5 (First-run)

Edmond is a pretty unpleasant movie, with the title character played by William H. Macy bouncing from spot to spot, repeatedly complaining that the price of sex-for-hire is too much before his tightly-wound anger explodes and we get a glimpse of just how much capability to be an unfeeling bastard such a nondescript person can actually have. It's got some impressive talent (or at least names) in small roles - Rebecca Pidgeon, Joe Mantegna, Denise Richards, Julia Stiles - and a bunch of chewy David Mamet dialogue. Director Stuart Gordon ties everything together visually with a lame tarot card device.

Still, I wasn't quite harrowed enough, and nothing after the police station seemed particularly new or interesting. I'd missed a couple of chances to see it at festivals, and now I'm glad I did - sure, I wound up spending $7 I might not have otherwise, but time is the most precious resource at a festival, and I'm almost certain I saw more interesting films at IFFB and Fantasia using the time that could otherwise have been spent on Edmond.

It did make me nervous in one sense: I think this is based on a play, and my brother's a film/theater major. That means there's a non-zero chance of seeing this story again if Matt ever lands a role in a production.