Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A weekend's worth

REMINDER: The Brattle Movie-Watch-a-Thon is in progress. Drop me a line if you would like to sponsor me, go here to make a donation, and check back on a near-daily basis to see how well I'm doing. With these films, I'm at 3 Brattle film seen and 8 elsewhere, which means 14 "points" total (or 7, depending on whether Brattle films count for two or other films count for ½)

Updated HBS with a feature on The Animation Show 3.

The combination of there not being much out to see right now and the bitter cold has slowed my progress on the Watch-a-Thon something fierce. Oh, sure, the guy at the box office said I was busy Saturday night, but he didn't see me slack off Sunday. What can I say, other than that after getting groceries in the morning, I didn't have much desire to go out into the cold again. Besides, I figure I used up my quota of in-and-out on Saturday - I went to the 11.30am For Your Consideration in Arlington, the four-ish Letters from Iwo Jima at Fenway, and the midnight Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles at the Brattle.

Actually, I think I'll cheat and say that counts as Sunday. I think it started after midnight. So it's 'just yesterday and a week before that that I missed a movie. It's starting to look like a Monday thing.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 January 2007 at The Coolidge Corner Theater #1 (First-run) (Movie Watch-a-Thon)

To be honest, I can take Almodovar or leave him. Maybe it's because I missed out on his early work, when he was doing wild comedies with Antonio Banderas, but I think I've only seen a couple of his films, and what I remember most about Talk to Her was the silent-movie portion with Paz Vega. Still, his rep can get my attention and sticking Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura in the cast as mother and daughter sells me a ticket: Cruz is kind of attractive and Maura has impressed me in a few Alex de la Vega pictures.

I'm gald I did. Almodovar keeps Cruz and Maura separate, for the most part, but sows the seeds for connections between them the will pay off by the end. The title appears in a song midway through the film, where it's translated as "coming back", a clever play on words: Maura's character comes back from the dead (Almodovar sets it up in such a way as to make it seem relatively believable, in context), while the sins of one generation are visited on those of the next. It could be a very bleak film, but there's plenty of good humor sprinkled throughout.

For Your Consideration

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 January 2007 at The Arlington Capitol #1 (Second-run) (Movie Watch-a-Thon)

I wanted to laugh at this more than I did. It's packed with jokes, and most of them actually work, eliciting a chuckle instead of just laying there and dying. Even if only every other joke or so is working, For Your Consideration still packs enough comedy into its ninety minutes to bring it out ahead of truly bad comedies; it's a tick above average.

The trouble is that the things that don't work kind of don't work at a really fundamental level. The film-within-a-film, "Home for Purim", is hilariously awful, and the idea that it might be getting Oscar buzz based on a single internet posting is a perfect set-up to cruelly crush the characters' hopes when reality sets in. That actual Oscar buzz actually appears seems unlikely based on what we've seen, and by the time the hammer falls, the characters have been distorted to the point where it's tough to feel anything for them.

Letters From Iwo Jima

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 20 January 2007 at Regal Fenway #6 (First-run) (Movie Watch-a-Thon)

I can sort of see why Flags of Our Fathers fizzled at the box office and likely won't get much in the way of award consideration, although I still thought it was an excellent movie. There's really no reason for Letters From Iwo Jima to share its fate, though - Clint Eastwood's companion piece, relating the same events from the Japanese point of view, examines the idea of a country and culture at a crossroads even as it constructs that story in front of a classic war-movie backdrop.

The doomed mission is to defend the island of Iwo Jima - a barren rock that's of little use except as a stepping stone to the main islands - from an invasion force that dwarfs the defenders not just in sheer numbers, but in terms of technology and in terms of how they think. The commanding general has spent time in America and knows what he's facing, that his job is to slow the Americans down even if it means acting in a way that is more pragmatic than traditional definitions of honor and nobility would demand.

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 20 January 2007 at The Brattle Theater (Special Engagement) (Movie Watch-a-Thon)

I understand that for many people my age, Robotech was the gateway drug which led to anime, manga, toy kits and every other for of Japanese pop culture imaginable. I just missed it; by the time Mill Road in North Yarmouth was wired for cable, Fox and Disney were starting to push that sort of import of television. As a result, I came into Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles somewhat cold.

It does a good job of recapping what's been going on up until that point - the discovery of Robotechnoloy and protoculture, the war with the Invid that resulted in the Earth falling to the aliens, a mission to deep space to recruit potential allies. It does all that only to resolve it, set up a new enemy, and completely change the story's direction somewhere around the midpoint. And... Okay. Fine. I get that this is being made to both provide fans some sort of resolution and hopefully start up a new franchise. It strikes me that the liberation of Earth from the Invid after a twenty-year occupation should be a bigger deal, but whatever.

The whole thing left me a bit cold. I'm not sure how much attachment we're supposed to have to given characters, and I could have done without some of the goofier anime-isms (what was up with the singing robot?). The space opera stuff was pretty decent, though - there clearly wasn't a lot of money for CGI, but the battle scenes were suitably grand-scale, and there's a lot of them for a ninety-minute movie.

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