Thursday, February 25, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 15 February 2010 to 21 February 2010

I may just make Thursday the standard TWIT day, if only because it gives me a chance to mention interesting stuff worth seeing in and around Boston (and elsewhere) without giving them a blog post of their own. And there is a bunch of it this time!

* I'm delighted to see that the Red Riding trilogy is getting a second week at Kendall Square. Hoping for a third would probably be pushing your/my luck, so if you'd like to see a set of three connected English crime movies that are quite good, carve some time out, whether it be a Sunday marathon or mixing and matching showtimes.

* I missed it last week, but the Spike & Mike "Sick and Twisted" and "New Generation" animation shows are running 25-26 February at the Regent Theater in Arlington ("New Generation" 7:30 on Thursday and 9:30 on Friday, vice versa for "Sick and Twisted"). It kind of took me surprise, both because it's very easy to forget that the Regent occasionally runs film programs and because I had sort of figured that Spike & Mike was more or less defunct, selling off their inventory of VHS tapes but not doing much else. Indeed, I figured that the Judge/Herzfeldt "Animation Show" was created in large part because Spike & Mike had closed up shop. Good to see that's not the case.

* Summer Wars will be playing the New York International Children's Film Festival on Friday (26 February 2010), with the director in attendance. I was pretty excited to see it in the New York/Tokyo mailing, since I loved The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but it's only playing once and a Friday trip to NYC is tough enough in most situations, and just would not have flied with this week at work.

* Chidren of Invention opens at the Brattle, sharing a screen with Antichrist's 10pm shows. I liked Children quite a bit when it played IFFB last year, and have no interest in seeing Antichrist whatsoever.

* The Alloy Orchestra will accompany Man with a Movie Camera Saturday at the Somerville Theater. It's a very cool silent movie, and Alloy tends to get nice restored prints as well as create great scores.

* Bong Joon-ho will be at the Harvard Film Archive to introduce a preview of his new film, Mother, on Sunday (28 February 2010) and his excellent Memories of Murder on Monday (1 March 2010). After that, I presume he heads back to Korea or France or somewhere, although the HFA will be playing The Host and Barking Dogs Seldom Bite on Saturday (6 March 2010).

So now that you've got some idea of where I'll be next week, here's the crowded tally from this week:

This Week In Tickets!

I'm not sure it's a matter of my being too thrifty, technology generally hating me, or what, but I saw my third USB memory card reader in approximately two years crap out this week. Now, the first admittedly died an impact-related death, but the last couple just stopped working. That's three different brands that have given up the ghost on me, mainly related by the fact that I probably maxed out at $15 on them. We'll see if the Sony I picked up at Staples tonight does better by me - or works with my old 1997-era tower.

And, yeah, you can bet that my new computer will have one of those suckers built-in.

Saint John of Las Vegas

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run)

This one had a short run on the plex's smallest screen, and it's not hard to see why. It's a pretty decent movie, with a good cast, but it's also a weird one, with gambling addict John encountering a variety of bizarre characters both in Albequerque and the outskirts of Las Vegas. in what I'm told is a loose retelling of Dante's Inferno.

It's not a bad hour and a half if you've got patience for the quirky. Steve Buscemi plays John, and he turns in another excellent performance. John's as off-center as any of the characters played by Buscemi's co-stars, but there's a desperation to his eccentricity. His gambling addiction is obviously self-destructive, and John knows this even as he seems incapable of fighting it. We sometimes wince watching him, but he also works as the sane man in a crazy world. It strikes me that it's been a while since we've seen Buscemi as the quirky supporting character in a mainstream movie, and I kind of wonder whether it's a case of him banking the money he made on those to do things like this, or he's been relegated to them because people are casting John C. Reilly in those roles. Whichever the reason is, it's great to see him doing good work.

The Last Station

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2010 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (first-run)

The Last Station is a perfectly adequate sort of historical drama. Nice cast in Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, and Helen Mirren. Nice production values. Interesting subjects. You may learn something while watching it, whether in terms of history, literature, or philosophy, and it's fairly entertaining.

The thing is, it's got James McAvoy in one of those parts he seems to specialize in: The "viewpoint character", whom the audience is meant to identify with, but whose storyline just winds up taking up space that could be much better spent on the actual interesting characters he interacts with. Here, the extent of his personality is that his character sneezes when he gets nervous. Yeah. That's totally a reason to spend time on him rather than, say, Leo Tolstoy and his wife. Certainly, he learns from watching the Tolstoys' loving but complicated relationship, but there's very little we can get from him that we couldn't get from the source.

Bitch Slap

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2010 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (IFFBoston Presents)

Bitch Slap is energetic, I'll give it that. It piles one fight scene on top of another, tying them together with flashbacks that contain even more action and chaos, jumping from a nice-looking desert to locations that were pretty obviously added by computer. It's also buxom, introducing its three main characters with shots that linger on their breasts and then making sure that, no matter what costume they're wearing, there's plenty of pushed-out cleavage to stare at.

I like both those things, so I'm not complaining. I do wish director Rick Jacobson had just a little bit more craft in tying it together, and maybe a little more talent from his good-looking cast. Julia Voth is the best of the bunch, having a grand time playing the stripper who really isn't into the same sort of physical stuff as her badass companions as the funniest of the bunch, and Erin Cummings might be a pretty good action heroine with a little more practice. America Olivio gets a little tiresome as the bad girl among bad girls; she just seems to be trying too hard.

The action isn't bad at all, though, especially when stunt co-ordinator Zoe Bell gets to take charge of the hand-to-hand stuff. And sure, I really like Ms. Bell (what person who has watched Double Dare and Death Proof couldn't?), but I don't think I'm cutting her any slack; when characters get into it and stunts are done in-camera, the movie's a lot of fun, much more so than during the crazy, over-the-top gunfights or the convoluted story that tries to hide how simple (and kind of dumb) it is by telling things out of order.

From Paris with Love

* * (out of four)
Seen 20 February 2010 at AMC Boston Common #19 (first-run)

And, hey, Bitch Slap is at least better than From Paris with Love, an movie out of Luc Besson's Europacorp action factory that suffers more obviously in comparison to the other Europacorp movie I saw that day, District 13: Ultimatum. That's not to say that Paris is no fun at all, just that for all its rushing from one action bit to the next, it's never a grabber, never really obscuring where its story is kind of dumb and, if not actually racist, uncomfortably close.

The big, obvious fault with it is that one thing Besson and company do really well is to tailor their action movies to their stars' strengths. He does a movie with Jet Li, expect some brutal fights; David Belle, some crazy acrobatics. He figured out that Jason Statham looks good behind the wheel of a car and that Liam Neeson should be intimidating and efficient. What particular strengths do John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Myers have? Crazy for Travolta, I guess, and good-looking for Myers, and those just don't seem to be enough.

The Red Riding Trilogy

* * * + (out of four)
Seen 21 February 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run)

I will (hopefully) be getting full reviews of these up over the next couple days, so let's just lightning-round them and get this posted:

1974: My favorite of the bunch, laser-focused on one flawed, but interesting and redeemable, character who is in way over his head.

1980: Perhaps suffers a little bit by the non-inclusion of 1977, but it's kind of intriguing to see what has happened with minor characters a few years down the road.

1983: Spends a lot of time flashing back to 1974, to the point where the story in the present suffers a little. But, when the end is approaching and it's time to wrap up five hours of movie, it does deliver an exciting climax.
North FaceSaint John of Las VegasThe Last StationBitch SlapFrom Paris with LoveDistrict 13: UltimatumRed Riding: 1974Red Riding: 1980Red Riding: 1983


Jason said...

Excellent! I'm tempted to head down for the screening on the 13th, although that probably means catching a 6am bus from Boston. said...

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