- I am extremely excited about the Harvard Film Archive's SF-1970 series, which plays like a greatest hits of one of science fiction's most exciting decades on film. With one exception, they all were made between 2001 and Star Wars, and there's plenty of classics and curiosities over the next couple weekends
- Toy Story 3 grabs darn near every digital 3-D and IMAX screen this weekend, as it likely should. Sure, it looks like we're going to see a clueless Buzz again, but I'm curious to see what sort of metaphor for growing up Pixar sneaks in there. It will certainly keep Jonah Hex on the back-burner, which is probably just, as it looks like it does a terrible disservice to a classic character who has a great comic on the stands right now.
- The MFA offers The Films of Federico Fellini,and stays in Italia for Videocracy, a documentary on how an Italian TV magnate influences his nations politics to a degree that Fox News can apparently only dream of.
- The one-week warning at Kendall Square applies to Stonewall Uprising, a documentary on a gay bar that stood up to police persecution back when closets were very, very deep. Filmmakers will be present at the Friday evening show. Also opening are another pair of IFFBoston films: Winter's Bone, which is fantastic, and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, which was coincidentally moved to a smaller screen at IFFBoston because of the high demand for Winter's Bone.
- Winter's Bone also opens at the Coolidge, which also opens another pair of IFFB films on top of that: 8: The Mormon Proposition, and Micmacs. Midnights are familiar bookings: The Room and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" on Friday, The Human Centipede and Serenity on Friday. The Whedon screenings are expensive, but for charity. Special screenings include the Goethe-Institut presenting Berlin 36 and Big-Screen Classic The Girl Can't Help It.
- The Brattle offers organic-food documentary Fresh, late shows of Harmony Korine's new thing, Trash Humpers, and a Monday evening presentation from The DocYard, 45365.
Nice to see that somewhat full up again, isn't it? It would probably be even more full, but I came home from Air Doll to find my gas shut off due to some clerical error, and I wound up waiting around until 8pm or so on both Wednesday and Thursday to get it turned back on, as all the technicians who could do that were busy with emergencies, or so they say. If I'd known that was going to happen, I absolutely would have braved the crowds converging on the Coolidge for a Robyn Hitchcock show!
I am extremely glad I saw Splice, and I hope some of my friends see it soon, and it falls squarely into the category of "film I want to talk about but can't without giving the good stuff away". If I had really been thinking when I started writing this week's reviews, I probably would have paired it with Air Doll for a little compare-and-contrast action, as they both are, in broad strokes, movies about things brought to life and... Yeah, can't go farther. Both also kind of falter in the last act, but I think Splice holds together better because it's got a more interesting story to tell. Admittedly, my preference for hard science fiction over "magical realism" kicks in, but I do think that it is, on the whole, a much more solidly put-together movie.
Black Cobra (Eva Nera)
* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 June 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Revenge of the Grindhouse)
The Brattle's recent "grindhouse" series will get their own posting in a few days, so I'll be fairly quick with this one: Leading lady Laura Gemser is very pretty and gets undressed quite a bit. There are snakes, and a weird rivalry between two brothers, with one played by a slumming Jack Palance. And... It's kind of boring. Host Lars Nilsen wasn't kidding when he said that sometimes a kind of "sex fatigue" sets in with these movies; as good looking as Gemser and the ladies who share her bed are, it's a contrived and hollow exhibition.
* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 June 2010 at AMC Boston Common #17 (first-run)
People have been trying to make a movie from The A-Team for a long time. You can tell just from the opening credits, which has a long list of producers and production companies that worked on the picture at one point,and though the movie wasn't made on their watch, they still maintain some small interest that merits a courtesy credit. What's surprising is that it doesn't feel like a cobbled-together mess, in part because Joe Carnahan and company follow the relaunch playbook.
That playbook was written with Batman Begins, applied to James Bond in Casino Royale, and tested with Star Trek. It's pretty simple: Put together a good cast, keep the good stuff, jettison the stuff that makes for easy parody, and give the audience a previously untold first chapter. The first part: Check. They come close to going overboard on the last one. It's the middle two that are tricky, because a large part of the appeal of the original TV show was arguably its campiness. How do you reconcile that?
Here, it's by substituting movie-crazy for TV-crazy. As Jessica Biel's character tells us, "they are the best, and they specialize in the ridiculous"; so we get set pieces way beyond the budget of a 1980s television show but with the same insane abandon, including a couple of bits of insane aerial action (to go with the team's insane pilot) that Stephen J. Cannell couldn't have dreamed of dreaming of. The end result is a movie that, despite its sometimes convoluted plotline, is almost never grim. Impossible, oh, absolutely, but it's a different kind of absurdity, one to be marveled at rather than scoffed at.
Full review at eFilmCritic
* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 June 2010 at Regal Fenway #1 (first-run)
Splice is an independent film that has been cleverly disguised as a big-studio summer movie, so a fair portion of the audience may feel uneasy as they watch it. More uneasy, that is; writer-director Vincenzo Natali isn't just throwing the popcorn-movie rhythms off, but finding ways to creep out even a jaded audience.
The near-future potential of genetic engineering will do that. Genius team Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) have strung together a number of breakthroughs to create "Fred" and "Ginger", a pair of synthetic organisms whose genes may contain a bounty of easy-to-isolate (and patentable) DNA sequences. They're ready for the next big challenge, but their employers (Simona Maicanescu and David Hewlett) opt to scale the program back, so they carry their work out in secret, working with human DNA. Though only meaning to see if such splicing is possible, they don't account for the embryo's accelerated growth, and soon have a small tailed biped on their hands.
Though the science in Splice is likely better than the typical Hollywood sci-fi/horror flick in that it's probably only 75% bull, Natali and company are able to make it seem authentic by not obviously overreaching early, and they do seem to at least know enough about the process and people involved to make Clive, Elsa, and "Dren" (the name they give to their creature) fascinating to watch. These guys seem like real hotshot science nerds as opposed to the usual socially-inept pop-culture obsessives we usually get. More than that, Natali recognizes and presents the process of incremental discovery as fascinating, enough that the movie doesn't need jumps or constant peril.
Full review at eFilmCritic