Friday, December 18, 2009

This Week In Tickets: 7 December 2009 to 13 December 2009

Not a whole lot of chance to get out to the movies between cramming a new movie into the DVD player every night for the EFC Sherlock Holmes review series and waiting online for Red Sox tickets on Saturday. Then, Sunday morning, I headed out to the Red Sox Yard Sale, an incredible event where the people of New England pay the Red Sox money to rummage through piles of stuff they were just going to throw out. I saw a random woman's shoe in one of the bins. I walked away with a Fenway Park brick, a genuine cup holder ripped off the armrest of some seat (I have no idea what I will mount it on), and two framed newspaper pages.

Look at it this way, though:

This Week In Tickets!

... one fewer movie seen and I would have had a great theme going: Two extremely different takes on New Orleans.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 8 December 2009 in Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run)

When I first heard that Nicolas Cage was doing a movie for director Werner Herzog, my reaction was giddiness - my two favorite crazy people working together! Would their respective forms of insanity work in harmony or at cross-purposes? And they're going to do it in post-Katrina New Orleans? On a sequel/remake to an infamous movie that makes its director absolutely livid? This would, obviously, be either awesome or a train wreck.

It is awesome.

Like many of Herzog's great films, it is about a man, none too stable to begin with, who loses his mind. Cage's Terence McDonah is a New Orleans detective who, in rescuing a drowning man during Katrina, developed chronic back pain and quickly escalated from vicodin to harder drugs to treat it. It's not long before he's hallucinating and throwing caution to the wind, and we get that from both ends: Cage's increasingly unhinged performance, and Herzog's deranged imagery.

And they go with it. I especially loved how, during the last act, there's a moment when you start thinking, okay, drug-addicted cop, already got a screw loose, we're in fantasy territory... And instead, they go with it. Terence is crazy, sure, but the world in general is apparently just as nuts.

The Princess and the Frog

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 13 December 2009 in Regal Fenway #8 (first-run)

It's hard to believe it's only been five years or so since Disney's last traditionally animated feature. It seems like longer, I suspect, because I missed Brother Bear and Home on the Range, and the sci-fi adventures of Treasure Planet and Atlantis seem like different things. Still, it's great to see that specific look on-screen again, and with Musker and Clements in charge. They directed many of the best of the late-80s/90s boom period for Disney (The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules), and they've returned in good form.

Maybe not quite perfect - I love Randy Newman and he contributes a nice soundtrack, but the first half has a lot of songs, sometimes one right on top of the other. But, then, it's New Orleans, a city where we can actually believe in the crowd bursting into a song & dance number, so it's OK.

The animation is a joy to watch, though - even if Disney is now farming it out rather than doing it in-house, it's smooth, hops styles on occasion without difficulty, and does things that digital might have issues with - stretchy characters, for instance. Of course, some things that seem like that - villain Facilier's shadowy minions, for instance - must have been created entirely during the coloring stage, which is digital.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's great to see Musker and Clements back, and here's hoping that Disney puts them right back to work!


* * * (out of four)
Seen 13 December 2009 in Regal Fenway #12 (first-run)

Perhaps the most amazing thing to happen in the past twenty years is a non-event: After apartheid, South Africa has failed to collapse into an unending mire of civil war despite the stark economic, ethnic, and cultural divisions, not to mention the bitter history. On the face of it, it should be even more of a mess than it is - and while crime is bad and there's still some ugly sentiment, they are not the mess that the former Yugoslavia is.

Clint Eastwood's Invictus doesn't really do much to demonstrate that it's due in any great measure to the South African rugby team's long-shot chase of the World Cup in 1995, when they were host nation. You could cut Matt Damon's team captain, and most of the sport-related scenes, without losing much. All of that together fails to match the first sequence when the black head of Nelson Mandela's security detail finds his request for more manpower filled with Afrikaaners who, months earlier, were probably throwing ANC members like him in jail. Following that group might have made for one hell of a movie.

Of course, to a certain extent it doesn't matter which group we follow because Morgan Freeman's Mandela is the story. Freeman's imitation is good - just short of uncanny - and as a result, it does still leave the man something of an enigma. In fact, maybe a bit more of one - though it's been easy to look at Mandela as little short of a saint, Invictus invites us to wonder how much of his actions are altruistic and how much were shrewd political calculation, made by a man with a handle on his own personal charisma. Either way, the man is impressive, a reminder that forgiveness and reconciliation can be powerful forces, even if they don't initially seem as satisfying as revenge.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New OrleansThe Princess and the FrogInvictus

1 comment:

Josh Lipovetsky said...

Jay, I just found your blog on Google. I love the way you post pictures of a weekly calender, with your movie tickets. I have yet to see such a unique idea. I will be following your blog, Jay.

Thank you for doing this!
Josh Lipovetsky.