Wednesday, September 08, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 30 August 2010 to 5 September 2010

If I did things like try and establish a weekly budget for how much I spend on movies, Monday would have blown it, once you figured in the Ticketmaster fees and money spent getting between Boston and New York City:

This Week In Tickets!

... It was worth it, though - Louis was one of the coolest movie experiences I can remember, combining a very entertaining silent film with excellent music and the history of the Apollo Theater. It wasn't a bad afternoon and evening in New York all told - the bus was a half-hour late in leaving from Boston (note: this does not happen when I am a couple minutes late for the one bringing me to the New York Asian Film Festival; funny how that works), but I was able to get there and walk around without much trouble. I struck out at the comic shops when trying to plug a few gaps in my reading, looked around for a decent burger, and had my Droid point me at the Broadway Shake Shack. Verdict: Fantastic milkshake, decent burger.

I actually stumbled upon Discovery's Times Square Exhibition by accident, but it was cool: There were lots of genuinely interesting artifacts to look at, although I must admit to being surprised how many were wood. It's not just that one often tends to imagine ancient civilizations based upon the gold and stone treasures that are talked up to make them seem wondrous and rich, but it's hard for me to imagine wooden toys lasting that long - even down to the paint! Of course, it's not like Egypt would be bombarding them with moisture even if they weren't sealed in a dry, airtight tomb for thousands of years.

I do suspect that I'm getting pretty close to too old to do the overnight bus back, though - Louis got out at 10pm, and I probably could have wheedled my way onto the 11pm bus, but I opted to wait for the 1:30am, since that way I could take the T back home easily enough and go straight to work. I used to be able to do this no problem, and while I got through work okay - I didn't even leave early, despite my plan of arriving early so that I could bolt if I started to crash at three p.m. or so - I felt tired all week. Hence the not seeing many other movies this week, although I kind of wanted to over the long weekend.

The less said about the Red Sox game, the better. It was actually a fairly enjoyable game for a while, but watching Papelbon completely implode and the bullpen walk in a bunch of runs is enough to drive one a bit nuts


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 3 September 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (The Legacy of Psycho)

I know I've written about Psycho somewhere on this blog, as part of a Brattle double feature with The Birds, but - and this legitimately surprises me - Google is terrible at searching Blogger blogs more than a couple of years back in time. It is, as most people who have seen it will most likely attest, a nearly perfect movie. It is so good that it retains the ability to shock and surprise despite how completely it has entered the common consciousness: People who have never seen the movie know the shower scene, its music, and the special connection between Norman Bates and his mother. Heck, before this screening, the Brattle presented the spoiler-filled Psycho-related bits of The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, prompting the (probable) freshman girls behind me to ask why they were ruining the movie - and they still jumped and screamed when Hitchcock said frog.

Alfred Hitchcock was that good, folks, and Psycho was him at his best, more or less inventing the modern horror movie. He doesn't do it alone, of course, and to watch the first half of the movie is to be reminded just how great Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh were in these roles: Despite knowing what's going to happen, it's still possible to convince oneself that this is Leigh's movie until Perkins shows up and has just enough time to charm us before making us uneasy.

Psycho II

* * * (out of four)
Seen 3 September 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (The Legacy of Psycho)

If Universal were to announce plans to do something with the Psycho franchise today - beyond the Blu-ray release coming in mid-October - there would be a gigantic internet riot the likes of which the online movie community has never seen. After all, back in the late 1990s, the online community was much smaller, it hadn't completely devolved into its current "be sarcastic and assume everybody agrees with you" state, and there was no point in getting angry about Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake: Van Sant is a nut, the specific idea was screwy, and no-one figured it would be more than a curiosity. It was an artist's insanity, not an executive's.

The howling would strangle the project in its crib, and even though I kind of hate that on principle - only Peter Jackson ever seems to to be judged based on his "best" work as opposed to his worst/most recent - I might sympathize. But sometimes it works. Sometimes a lunatic idea done for commercial purposes leads to a pretty good movie, and Psycho II is one of them.

It's a heck of a gamble. A crazy one - writer Tom Holland and director Richard Franklin set up a situation that absolutely hinges on the audience being familiar with the original film, and then they spend the next two hours inverting it. Or are they? Anthony Perkins as Norman doesn't become the hero, but he is the protagonist, while Vera Miles's Lila, though his antagonist, is thoroughly understandable in her fervor and motives. Twenty-two years after the first film, they are completely recognizable in their roles, but the positions that they are now in make the atmosphere delightfully confusing. It makes sorting out the mystery plot trickier and more intriguing, and Anthony Perkins is terrific as he wrestles with Norman's tormented psyche.

It's not perfect, and it tends to go off the rails toward the end, as Franklin seems to have a difficult time finding the right balance between making Psycho II feel like a continuation of the original and reflecting the time that has passed in terms of what sort of violence he can portray on screen. For as much as Psycho jolts, its moments of mayhem are quick, perfectly utilized, and not hugely explicit; Psycho II has more and gorier deaths which wind up looking somewhat dated, far more so than what Hitchcock did twenty years earlier.

As surprisingly good as Psycho II turned out, I'm not sure I feel any need to test my luck with the later sequels and remake. But this one, at least, stands out as a fine example of just how well a crazy idea can go, even when it seems vaguely sacrilegious.

King TutLouisPsycho Double FeatureThe Latest Indignity

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