Monday, June 01, 2009

This Week In Tickets: 25 May 2009 to 31 May 2009

I spent most of yesterday helping my brother and his girlfriend move, and I'm convinced that the next time I have to do that myself (which would be next year at the earliest, and I have no idea why I'd leave my current spot any time soon), I'm just writing a check. Then maybe I'll take the day and hang out with my family at a ballgame or doing something that doesn't involve bringing a ton of boxes down stairs and into a pickup truck.

One sort-of interesting thing I learned from my brother Travis, who is in some business nebulously connected with mortgages and foreclosures and other things a renter like me doesn't have to worry about: The only two cities they won't touch property in are Detroit and Worcester. Now, you hear horror stories about Detroit, but is Worcester quite in that category? I rag on that city a lot, because it is a terribly boring place to go to college with some rough areas - although friends who went to RPI told me that Troy, NY, isn't exactly wonderful either - but is it really as bad a place as Detroit? Or has the economy just hit it especially hard?

This Week In Tickets!

On video: The Sky Crawlers

Yep, that's sparse... I decided I'd pretty much had enough Truffaut after Love on the Run, had work run too late to meet the Chlotrudis folks on Tuesday, and as for new releases, well... Just after I bought my ticket for Up on Saturday, someone tried to use a promotional ticket, and was told that those could only be used for "non-special engagements" - basically, a film has to run for a couple of weeks before they'll let folks in for free, unless you've got the super-premium tickets. Most theaters actually use a ten-day rule, since folks coming in Monday through Thursday generally aren't potentially displacing paying customers and are buying popcorn, but since it was a Saturday, that doesn't apply. How do I know which ones those are, the guy says. The lady at the box office says you can't use it on the ones with a star by the title, pointing up at the digital marquee. The guy steps back to look up, and I turn around in curiosity, and sure enough, every title has an asterisk to the left. Now, as near as I can tell, that shouldn't have been the case - Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels and Demons, and Ghost of Girlfriends Past have been out long enough to lose the star. It just goes to show how, during the early summer, relatively few films will gain a stranglehold over the local multiplexes.

It doesn't just apply to the big downtown places, either - for reasons I can't quite comprehend, Landmark in Kendall Square is showing Summer Hours on two screens, and is on its second week of doing so. Are Juliette Binoche and Olivier Assayas really that popular? For comparison, both Easy Virtue and The Brothers Bloom are singles, although those two seem much more likely to draw an audience (although, to be fair, they are playing at the Coolidge and Boston Common, respectively, which likely draws some business away from Kendall Square).

This week looks a lot busier, though, as I've got things planned for just about every day before Friday.

Domicile Conjugal (Bed & Board)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 May 2009 at the Brattle Theatre (Truffaut: Man, Woman & Child)

Probably my favorite of the Antoine Doinel movies, if only because it gives us the most of Claude Jade as Doinel's now-wife Christine. I don't just say that out of some retro-crush, but because married couples are often portrayed on-screen as conservative or boring, but she is lively and energetic, with a wonderful playfulness that American film/TV writers and actresses seem to lose once their characters walk down the aisle. I especially love how, in the latter half of the movie, she can be furious at Jean-Pierre LĂ©aud's Doinel and very much concerned for him without making the character seem weak or vacillating.

As with all the films in this series, Bed & Board often seems like a sort of spot where Truffaut can put whatever odd or amusing extra idea he has, and some of them are a lot of fun - a random appearance by a M. Hulot-esque character, a Japanese girl who loses the traditional garb once her parents are out of town, Antoine's struggles with her furniture. It comes together fairly well, though, balancing the humorous and sad in an enjoyable slice-of-life story.

L'amour en Fuite (Love on the Run)

* * (out of four)
Seen 25 May 2009 at the Brattle Theatre (Truffaut: Man, Woman & Child)

This is probably the most frustrating of the Doinel films. Some of that is self-inflicted - I haven't seen "Antoine & Colette", which Love on the Run draws a fair chunk of material from. Literally and figuratively; Love on the Run often feels like a clip show episode of a TV series which has run late/over budget and needs to quickly shovel an episode out to make the network's 24-episode order. Everybody hates those - I think the one exception was when Hercules or Xena would go full-on meta - and it's exacerbated here by having seen the previous three features in the past two days (and Bed & Board immediately before this one!). It's useful to remember that back in 1980, you couldn't just go down to the neighborhood video store and pick up the other three.

Still, this is often a pretty weak movie. It seems like half of its very short running time is flashbacks, and the bit that sounds like it could be an interesting story - Antoine finds a torn-up picture, pieces it together and goes off to find the girl it shows - is tossed in as fait-accompli backstory. It's not entirely without charm, but thin and often silly.

Sukai Kurora (The Sky Crawlers)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 May 2009 in Jay's Living Room (Blu-ray)

Mamoru Oshii's latest animated film looks like a more commercial, action-packed thing than the rest of his "recent" output, but a few spiffy aerial battles aside, it's often just as ponderous as Oshii's last couple of science-fiction films. Which isn't to say it's not interesting; the concepts Oshii is playing with are intriguing: A future where war is corporatized and treated as sport by the warring nations, eternally young armies who either lose their memories or watch their children "catch up" to them, etc. The contrast of visual styles is also interesting, with extremely simplified human figures existing in a CGI world where machines are rendered down to the last rivet.

There is not, however, two hours of things happening here, and revelations tend to spur characters to neither action nor particularly interesting introspection. Definitely not tops on the list of movies to throw in the player at 10:15pm (10:30pm by the time one's old and slow Samsung BDP-1000 actually starts the movie); I'll probably watch it again (perhaps in English, this time) before writing it up.


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 30 May 2009 at AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, 3-D digital projection)

When John Lasseter struck gold with Toy Story, I remember thinking it was really fortunate that this new technology was paired with a great storyteller, someone who really got how to make an animated film that works for everyone. When they hired Brad Bird, that was bringing in a ringer. Looking at the amazing jobs Andrew Stanton did with last year's Wall-E and Pete Docter did with Up, though, one has to become impressed with Pixar as an environment - they've created a system where mentors can bring the next generation in and within a few years have them surpass their own achievements.

In a lot of ways, Up shouldn't work as well as it does. It defies narrative convention - you're supposed to start light and then add weight, but this one opens with a segment that is simply heartbreaking. Then it breaks out the whimsy, with talking dogs, giant chocolate-loving birds, a battle between a blimp and a house held aloft by balloons. But all through that, Docter never lets go of those first ten minutes. He never comes right out and points it out, but everything in the film's last act has a dual purpose. It does something logical for the story, yes, but he's also making a statement about which of the elderly characters has lived a fulfilling or wasted life, or about how hanging on to the past can hold you back.

It's brilliant, really, and it's amazing that Pixar has built a company and a culture where we can expect brilliant, no matter who actually works on the movie. There aren't that many geniuses out there, and Pixar is able to attract, nurture, or create them. Doesn't matter which; that's all hard.
Bed & Board / Love on the RunUp

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