Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 12 April 2010 to 18 April 2010

Wow, this is early! You know why? Because the page right below this is sparse. But don't worry, next week will be crazy:

* The Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 starts this Wednesday (21 April 2010), continues through the weekend, and wraps up next Wednesday (28 April 2010). I wrote an article at eFilmCritic that is half preview, half "how to see a lot of films at a film festival" tutorial. It's mostly common sense, but you know what they say about that.

* Wondering what the Somerville and Brattle Theatres have lined up for between the IFFBoston heading for the ICA and Coolidge and when new movies open up on Friday? A lot of speaking engagements at the Brattle, but Somerville kicks off a Jeff Bridges retrospective - which will run weekdays through May - with a double feature of The Last Picture Show and Fat City. Even if you're committed to IFFB, you can still get to the showings on Thursday (29 April 2010). They promise all features in this series will play on their big screen (which got a nice upgrade recently and looks fantastic) on 35mm film.

* Kendall Square isn't one of the venues for IFFBoston, but they do have three films opening: Exit Through the Gift Shop, In Search of Memory, and one-week-wonder Dancing Across Borders. They're kind of in the festival spirit, though, as the filmmaker and subject of Dancing Across Borders will be at the Friday night screenings to introduce the movie and answer questions. It also looks like The Square is still going to be kicking around, meaning I can get to it after IFFBoston (lucky me).

* The Harvard Film Archive presents movies by pioneering Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad Friday, Sunday, and Monday; Ms. Bani-Etemad will be appearing in person on Sunday and Monday. On Saturday, Emerson College Professor John Gianvito introduces his sprawling documentary Vapor Trail, about the devastating effect a U.S. Air Force base had on a Filipino community. The MFA appears to be taking the weekend off.

* The Coolidge continues to celebrate the Kurosawa Centennial with a new 35mm print of Rashomon. They also pick up BUFF's It Came From Kuchar and The Square for the digital screening rooms.

* Oh, The Boston International Film Festival is still going on, and still has a terrible website.

This Week In Tickets!

No, not a lot of moviegoing this past week; it was a draining week at work and then, when I got home, the charming discovery that my gas payments weren't being deducted from my checking account like I'd thought and thus my gas had been shut off for non-payment. When I did pay, the website said it would be turned back on within 24-48 hours, but it's pushing 108 now. Anyway, that meant cooking was a matter of either the microwave or the grill, and once you're done screwing around with the grill, it's a little late for hitting the early-evening show.

The weekend wound up being excellent, which is pretty amazing considering it was cold and rainy without heat or hot water in my house, ad the Red Sox got the crap kicked out of them by the Rays for four games. My friend Laurel was down for the weekend, and we hung out on Saturday, having a long and late lunch at Todd English's Kingfish Hall, walking through a historical graveyard, and then hanging out with her friend Jeff until nine or so.

It was also kind of cool to find out that the documentary she mentioned working on a couple years ago was Racing Dreams, which was easily the highlight of the two days I spent doing the Boston Film Festival (not to be confused with IFFBoston) last September. I wish I'd known so that I could spot her name in the credits; it's a pretty good movie, apparently due for limited release in mid-May, so there's some extra reason to check it out.

The next day was baseball with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece. Dagny has been to games before, but she wasn't talking or even clapping much for the "Mother's Day Miracle" game. Everyone was kind of worried about how much she'd be up for nine innings of baseball, especially once the game started with a rain delay, but she was excited from the time she got out of the car, only had to go exploring once, and had a great time cheering for the team. Her "go Red Sox, pleeeease!" probably sums up the mood of the fans pretty well.

So, I ate well and hung out with cool people, keeping me out of the cold house. But if you could turn my gas back on, NStar, that would be much appreciated. Sure, it has warmed up and I'll be at the film festival all week, so I won't need to heat the house and cook, but I suspect the other people in those packed theaters would appreciate it if I could take a hot shower.

The Runaways

* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 11 April 2010 at Entertainment Cinemas Fresh Pond #8 (first-run)

I had heard bad things about The Runaways before plunking down my cash to see it, and the path of its release pattern was both unusual and damning - it was met with such indifference from audiences that it shed screens and bookings between its limited release and "national expansion", resulting in an actual net loss of 40 screens over that period. The preview was the type that sold the idea of a movie about Joan Jett's first band much better than this particular movie. So I was kind of prepared for it to be bad. What I wasn't prepared for was for it to be boring.

I don't just mean "boring" as in it being a rote, paint-by-numbers musical biography where young musicians get too famous too fast, succumb to the lure of drugs and ignore the people who got them there. That's "uninspired"; you can still make something out of that. This is boring, where the characters we're ostensibly supposed to connect with fail to do anything interesting for long stretches of time. And that's the last thing rock and roll should ever be.

And there's no reason to expect this movie to be dull. After all, you'd think that a group of girls who wanted to rock bad enough to defy convention, form a band, record great songs, and make a name for themselves would be full of strong personalities, right? But that's shockingly not the case; Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), whose memoir forms the basis for the movie and who is thus at the center of most of the action, almost never initiates any sort of activity. Things just happen to her, and we don't even see her react in an interesting way. Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) has a little more to her, but she still gets bulldozed by Michael Shannon as manager Kim Fowley. While I gather that Fowley being that sort of overpowering presence in real life, all he does here is out-shout the other characters.

It takes a lot of work to take the events of this film and make the end result so uninvolving, but writer/director Floria Sigismondi is up to it. She makes the movie a bunch of scenes presented without much to connect them into a story, gives us a tight focus on Cherie and Joan despite Sandy West and Lita Ford arguably having stories that are just as compelling... And what the heck is Alia Shawkat even doing in this movie as a placeholder for the band's various bassists? Despite being third-billed, I don't think she actually has a line (you can't even call her a composite character). Casting her in the part implies that the filmmakers at some point intended to do something with her, and that there might be more on the cutting room floor. It just confounds me that they possibly wound up leaving the interesting stuff out.
The RunawaysRays 7, Red Sox 1

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