Thursday, January 14, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 4 January 2010 to 10 January 2010

Wow, this lasted a whole year. Not without some bumps - there was that mess with Blogger back in November, and this week's edition being pushed to Thursday because I wanted to do full write-ups on stuff from the weekend is sadly less common than I had hoped. A year ago, I would stay up until the wee hours Sunday night making sure that something was ready for Monday morning, and as much as I'd like to give TWIT a "regular timeslot", so to speak, the desire to be functional at work on Monday overcame any ambitions I had of being a Monday-morning must-read whose new-found popularity leads to a website offering me actual money to travel to film festivals and file reports...

(Although, anybody who has a job like that open, I will happily trade some salary for cool travel, free DVDs/Blu-rays, etc. Email me.)

Also, I'm open to suggestions for interesting festivals to travel to this year. I won't be doing SXSW in '10, although it's a possibility for '11. I'd actually really like to, as I have a friend whose band is at the music portion of the festival, and it would be cool to (a) support him and (b) have someone to hang with at the fest for a couple of days (not that the eFilmCritic-related crew weren't cool). Toronto and Fantastic Fest are likely out, as September is not only filled with Important Baseball, but it looks like I've got two weddings to attend that month. Some in New York look appealing, but Tribeca usually overlaps the Independent Film Festival of Boston and the New York Asian Film Festival is too close to Fantasia for me to do much more than hit a weekend or two hard.

So, no big plans for this year, as yet. Just a new calendar:

This Week In Tickets!

I switched from a teNeus to a Taschen, mainly based upon what was available at Borders when I went in between Christmas and New Year's. It's a little wider, with the days a little shorter, and a picture on every opposite page so that the tickets don't get caught on each other so much. Not ideal, really, but there's not a whole lot of choices in calendars when the most important factor is that Saturday and Sunday have just as much room as the other days of the week (if not more!).

Eagle-eyed readers will note a couple different stub styles. The ticket for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus just appears to be a case of the AMC in Harvard Square using a new style that the one in Boston Common hasn't switched over to yet. I appreciate the reduced real estate, although I suspect that no-one else cares, beyond using less paper probably being good for the environment. Then there's the tiny one for The Young Victoria.

That's a new theater, "new" being a relative term. The Stuart Street Playhouse opened as a cinema in October, but I hadn't had a great opportunity to see anything there before this weekend, as they've been something like a second-run boutique house, picking up things a week or two after I've already seen them. They had been a live theater for at least the last ten years, although before that, there was a two-screen duplex in the location (the space used for the second screen is currently standing empty).

As theaters go, it's definitely in the "not-bad" category. The price of that ticket was $8; I'm not sure whether that was a matinee price or not. If it is, it's not a great deal, but still a dollar less than the AMC Boston Common a couple blocks away; pretty competitive if it's the price they charge all day (by comparison, the Boston Common theater jumps to $11 in the evening; Kendall Square is about $9.75 a couple stops up the Red Line, with the Coolidge the same for a similarly large auditorium). Projection was fine, the lobby is very spacious and comfortable, although the location is somewhat well-hidden (it's tucked underneath a hotel). The auditorium itself is very large - roughly 400 seats. I sat in the front section, which is flat on the floor; there was stadium seating behind me. It was fine for a relatively light crowd, but the size of the screen and the room makes me wonder how it would play filled to capacity for a non-scope movie, as there's a common-height screen.

And now, the movies:

Bluebeard's Eight Wife

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 January 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Screwball New Year!)

Romantic comedies could be pretty darn mercenary back in the day, couldn't they? Take this one, which has multi-millionaire Michael Brandon (Gary Cooper) fall in love at first sight with Nicole de Loiselle (Claudette Colbert), the daughter of an impoverished French marquis (Edward Everett Horton). The meet-cute is clever, but the courtship is so fast that we really don't get an idea of whether they are right for each other or not. We don't get to the main plot of the film - having found out that Brandon has been married seven times before, Nicole needs to find out whether or not he really takes marriage seriously. Which she does by demanding an even more favorable pre-nup than he'd given his previous wives, marrying him, and then treating him like crap.

It's often a funny movie - the clash of the rich yet uncultured American and the sophisticated (but not quite so flush) European gets more than a few laughs. Colbert is especially nice in her part, and David Niven makes every scene he's in better as a fellow titled-but-poor buddy. Warren Hymer is a complete stitch as the boxer hired as a means to make Brandon jealous.

In the end, though, the premise doesn't quite make enough sense for the playing out to be funny - when all is said and done, is there any particular reason to believe that he's interested in more than the chase, and willing to really commit to this marriage more than his others?

Easy Living

* * * (out of four)
Seen 5 January 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Screwball New Year!)

Easy Living turns on people acting bizarrely and one Huge Coincidence, but it's a fun, breezy comedy that does a nice job of piling its absurdities on until the entire stock market is rising and falling through a series of events that starts with a man throwing his wife's fur coat out the window in a fit of pique. That's classic screwball nuttiness, and what's more amusing is that it doesn't require any of its characters to be completely ridiculous.

Jean Arthur is the film's leading lady, and she walks a careful tightrope in making her Mary Smith oblivious enough for the craziness to work without actually coming off as stupid. Edward Arnold packs some impressive bluster into investment banker J.B. Ball, and Luis Alberni manages to scheme without quite coming off as oily. Ray Milland makes a likable opposite number for Ms. Arthur.

It's an silly movie, no doubt, but one with plenty of laughs, from escalating misunderstandings to flat-out slapstick. A real charmer.

The Young Victoria

* * * (out of four)
Seen 10 January 2010 at the Stuart Street Playhouse (first-and-a-half-run)

A quality, old-fashioned costume drama, well-done enough that there's really not a whole lot to say about it. Emily Blunt is fairly impressive in the title role, humanizing a figure often thought of as little but stern and elderly, even though the fact that she assumed the throne at a very young age is one of the ost important things to remember about her. The rest of the cast is similarly high-quality, from Jim Broadbent in an all-too-brief role as her uncle, King William, to Rupert Friend as the prince sent to woo Victoria for strategic reasons who ultimately falls for her, to Mark Strong as the minor noble who attempts to control her through her mother. Then there's Miranda Richardson as said mother, Paul Bettany as the politician who forges an alliance...

In fact, the film's biggest weakness is that there's clearly too much hear for just one movie. Mark Strong is such a strong, forceful villain - better than he was in Sherlock Holmes, honestly - that it's a bummer to see him fade into the background halfway through. But, I wouldn't want to lose any of the love story. And then, there are whole great swaths of Victoria's life just mentioned in passing by the end credits. This would have made a great miniseries, akin to HBO's John Adams. It still makes a very good movie; it just sometimes feels like it can't decide how focused it wants to be on the Victoria/Albert romance.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife / Easy LivingThe Lovely BonesThe Imaginarium of Doctor ParnassusMe and Orson WellesDaybreakersThe Young Victoria

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