Monday, January 12, 2009

This Week In Tickets: 5 January 2009 to 11 January 2009

Not quite so hectic a week as I thought it might be; I'd pondered picking up the second Nagisa Oshima film at the Brattle at some point, as well as going to Showcase Cinemas Revere to see one or two from the After Dark HorrorFest. Alas, I opted to do that on Sunday, when buses and trains are sparse, and wound up arriving at Sullivan Station about five minutes after the 109 bus to Revere left. The next one wouldn't be for another hour, good to miss the start of the only movie playing in the series that I really wanted to see (The Broken), so I headed back home to hunker down against the cold. Still, an average of one-plus films a day isn't bad:

This Week In Tickets!

One of the unintentional juxtapositions here is Revolutionary Road and Marley and Me. I find myself grumbling about movies like Revolutionary Road a lot, but I am admittedly not always very quick to recognize when Hollywood does its opposite and does it fairly well. Marley and Me hits a number of the same themes as Revolutionary Road - particularly, dissatisfaction that one's life isn't what one planned it to be - but does a fine job of not presenting suburban life as a barely-hidden freak show populated by people who barely seem to tolerate each other, let alone ever loved one another. It's oddly reassuring to see that a movie family can actually get along and still be interesting and entertaining.

Granted, it helps to have a dog. The Wheelers might not have had all that trouble if they'd just gone and gotten a puppy.

Revolutionary Road

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 6 January 2009 at Landmark Theaters Kendall Square #7 (first-run)

There are some movies I have a hard time judging rationally, and the likes of Revolutionary Road are right up there. I enjoyed the life they mock as empty and stifling, and even though I know there can be unhappiness and disappointment there, the lifestyle itself isn't to blame. As much as my family probably figures I've assimilated into urban life and its associated attitudes, movies like this still get my traditional small-town back up.

That said, this movie is pretty decent at what it's trying to do, especially in the first half. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are great. But it's also got all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, frequently demonstrating exactly how little it actually has to say: There's a crazy guy (well-played by Michael Shannon) whose craziness includes the tendency to voice uncomfortable truths, for instance. The movie is basically over about halfway through, once DiCaprio's character makes a decision on taking a job offer versus Winslet's plan to move to Paris, but there's what seems like another forty-five minutes of playing out the string afterward. And then there's the ending, which is simplistically symbolic while clumsily forcing a dramatic resolution.

Marley & Me

* * * (out of four)
Seen 10 January 2009 at AMC Boston Common #10 (first-run)

One of my brothers has a yellow lab who is pretty much the exact opposite of this dog's in temperament; the best-behaved dog you'll ever meet (aside from stealing their other dog's toys). Not really important, other than to bring up the fact that my family tends to be dog people, and I loved how this movie really seemed to get how people relate to their dogs.

Otherwise, it's a nice little movie, and while that's often something people say to diminish a film, I don't mean it that way. I think movies like Marley & Me must be tremendously difficult to do well, because they tend to eschew drama. There are dramatic events in the lives of the characters, but they are by and large handled with grace, maturity, and good humor. In my experience, that's much more common and "realistic" than the other extreme, but it doesn't have the easy high points that would punctuate a film like, say, Revolutionary Road.

And if the end doesn't get to you - it ends as so many boy/man and his dog movies do - well, then, I'm sorry. You should have had a dog growing up; they're great.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 10 January 2009 at the Brattle Theatre (Brattle Selects)

Picnic at Hanging Rock is an interesting case; a mystery that doesn't present a solution. Director Peter Weir makes its setting quite otherworldly and unnerving, whether it's a girls' school, an aristocrat's estate, or the forbidding location of Hanging Rock itself.

Though it doesn't share many of the usual trappings, it's one of the finest horror movies ever made. Where most films in that genre eventually offer rationales and release, Hanging Rock only offers eeriness and uncertainty. There are a couple of shocks, but those come from utterly understandable (and thus more disturbing) sources. The real fear here is that of the unknown.

Merry Christmas Mr LawrenceRevolutionary RoadThe Man in the White Suit / The LadykillersMarley and MePicnic at Hanging RockBad Day at Black RockLonely Are the Brave

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