Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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

I started looking around Borders at potential calendars for next year this weekend. I'll probably get something with the same basic design, although if I could find something with a little more room, I'd like to. The main issue is that most Saturday and Sunday as smaller than normal, pretty much the opposite of what I need, as you can see below:

This Week In Tickets!

Stubless: Summerhood (11am @ the Brattle) and the 7:30pm double feature of The Raven & Tales of Terror at the same place.

There will be links to the Edgar Allen Poe movies later in the week or next; I'm planning on waiting until the series is over and the big blog entry can be posted to do that.

Busy week at the movies, as I tried to see as much Poe as I could and wanted to see some favorites while they were hanging around. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I still loved Star Trek - I'd been worrying that my slobbering all over it was more a function of what it represented than its actual quality, but I had a darn good time at the Aquarium. There's a few flaws - with a better seat than when I saw it in May, it was easier to notice that Abrams isn't really a great action director, and the logic is at times iffy - but not enough, and it feels right.

(For the next film, I hope they find a way to say Rachel Nichols's character wasn't killed and is serving on the Enterprise, just because I love Rachel Nichols and it wouldn't hurt if Star Trek re-invented for the new millennium could use a few more women in the cast)

The Toy Story double feature was another great time revisiting old friends. It's kind of amazing to me that Joss Whedon's name in the credits to the first film surprised me, since he's kind of got a fanbase that won't let you forget anything he does well. Also, Woody was sort of a prick at first, wasn't he? Watching them back to back for the first time in a few years, I was surprised by how much better the second one really is, and the first is no slouch. "When She Loves Me" just absolutely kills me as soon as it starts up; it's almost worse than the gut-punch of hearing it the first time, knowing that it's coming.

So, the familiar stuff was as good as I remembered it. The Poe stuff wasn't bad. The rest had a certain "well, nice idea, but..." feel to it:

Jennifer's Body

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 8 October 2009 at AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run)

The nice idea here is doing a horror movie for and about high school girls. A lot of slasher movies are certainly built around nubile your ladies, but that's clearly not the same thing; Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody are clearly working on something that's about how teenagers treat each other, which is frequently awful. It's fertile ground; during its early, best years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer did very well with it.

The thing is, for all she apparently tries to be, Diablo Cody just isn't Joss Whedon. It doesn't help that most of her more mannered dialog is given to Megan Fox, who just isn't up to making it sound something other than silly. The villains - both the demonic Jennifer and the creepy band guys - are also just not that scary. Loathsome, sure, but Cody and Kusama never manage to get us to think that there's hidden, dangerous evil to them.

Of course, the question of why there's so much obsession over the second-most attractive girl in the film comes up. Megan Fox is a plastic cartoon compared to Amanda Seyfried, and though the crew manages to downplay Ms. Seyfried's attractiveness somewhat, she's still ten times more interesting on screen. That's good in terms of being likable, but Jennifer needs to have more charisma than Fox can supply.

The Invention of Lying

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 10 October 2009 at AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run)

Ricky Gervais and company start off with a concept that seems like its natural state is five minute chunks on a sketch comedy show - an alternate reality where deception is just not part of human nature. Not only are folks truthful, they're almost compulsively so, and when one of these people discovers the ability to say "something that isn't", he wreaks havoc.

On the one hand, it's really only fitfully funny. Though a good many of the jokes are barbed, they're kind of obvious. The fantasy premise sometimes seems like it hasn't been entirely thought through, too - a scene where a guy sends a bottle of wine back to make a girl think he's got high standards, and says he's doing so flat out, doesn't work because it's a bit you'd do with someone who has lost the ability to deceive, not someone who never had it.

On the other hand, though, it's a movie that gets in your head and invites you to consider the concepts that it is playing with. Early on, it's the idea of lies as social lubricant, but the big one comes with the accidental invention of religion as Gervais's character tries to reassure someone in her last moments. It's just a smaller part of the larger point, that we could think through even the things we know to be true. The most important scene, I think, is the one where Gervais's Mark asks Jennifer Garner's somewhat shallow Anna what she sees when she looks at certain people, and she gives glib answers until he prompts her to look closer. It's about how, even if you know something is true, like the people in this world, you should still ask questions and examine your beliefs.


* * (out of four)
Seen 11 October 2009 at the Brattle Theatre (Sunday Eye-Opener)

This print screened had a 2006 copyright at the end, so even though I sometimes feel a little gun-shy about saying too much about movies that might perhaps still be tinkered with, something that filmed over three years ago with child actors is probably not going to have reshoots. There could be re-editing that happens, but I kind of doubt it at this late date.

Why has it been sitting on the shelf that long? Well, in large part, because it's not very good. It's at least in part a comedy, but it was a very quiet audience; you want to hear people laughing. It's got both a ton of "clever" narration and kids who are too self-aware to provide much in the way of contrast. It jumps between the stories of the kids and the counselors without tying them together thematically. It reminds you that it is set in 1984 with a new music cue roughly every five minutes.

It's a nice cast of young actors, and actually looks pretty nice - the art direction guys made the summer camp look fantastically lived in. But I suspect that it will fall flat for most who don't have the same nostalgia for summer camp as the filmmakers.
Pit and the PendulumThe Avenging ConscienceJennifer's BodyTomb of Ligeia/House of UsherThe Invention of LyingToy Story Double FeatureStar Trek

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