Monday, September 13, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 6 September 2010 to 12 September 2010

The theme of this week's moviegoing isn't quite rushing to stay ahead of stuff closing, but there was a fair amount of that going on:

This Week In Tickets!

The initial plan for the week had actually been to see the Mesrine movies on back-to-back nights, but a combination of rain and screwy screening times did that in: For some reason, Landmark was programming Kendall Square like these two movies were unusually long, rather than under two hours with room to spare. Once I saw that they'd be splitting a screen starting on the 10th (note: This means that they are on their way out; see them before the end of Thursday if you haven't), it made more sense to just wait and fit Animal Kingdom, which had no 7pm screenings, into there somewhere. It probably would have been easier if I'd made use of Monday's day off, but for some reason I didn't.

It wound up being an all crime/action week, and as it turned out, there wasn't a bad one in the bunch:

Animal Kingdom

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 9 September 2010 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run)

Animal Kingdom is kind of brilliant, really. It's a family melodrama and crime thriller brought so down to earth as to be almost unrecognizable as those typically operatic genres. It's almost off-puttingly chilly, from the opening scenes where Joshua Cody (James Frecheville) seems to treat his mother's dying of a drug overdose as something that gets in the way of his watching Deal or No Deal. There are few, if any, memorable scenes that involve people raising their voices to each other.

And yet, it's thrilling. Joshua is plunged into his small-time crime family's activities not when they're riding high, but when the noose is starting to tighten, and the pull of both his family and his girlfriend's is balanced perfectly. The portrayal of the police is well-handled, too - Guy Pearce's detective seems a reasonable sort, but the rest are a violent force looking to eliminate the Codys without much in the way of due process.

With any luck, there will be some awards talk for a few of the actors involved. Jacki Weaver gets the flashy role as Joshua's grandmother, with displays of impressive ruthlessness despite not looking like much to begin with, while Frecheville does very well in making Joshua conflicted but not indecisive.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 September 2010 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run)

I remember a lot of people describing the Machete trailer as the best part of Grindhouse a couple years ago, and while I wouldn't say it's even close - does anything really beat Zoe Bell on top of the car for the last twenty minutes or so of Death Proof? - it was certainly the best of the fake trailers, and it was a genuine kick to see Robert Rodriguez spin the character off into his own movie.

A kick in part because Rodriguez has a real knack for getting the most out of his cast, even when they're people like Jeff Fahey, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, and other folks you might (rightly or wrongly) not think much of. Nobody is really stepping very far outside their comfort zone, but all of them are well-utilized. He maximizes the funny/sexy/cool from every contributor and situation.

Also, are there many filmmakers better at getting their vision on-screen than Robert Rodriguez? Part of it is that his name is all over the credits - although, interestingly, while many previous movies would show him as a one man show, with credits like "written/produced/shot/cut/directed by Robert Rodriguez", this one shows him paired up with someone for every one of those jobs. But there's a quite frankly remarkable consistency of tone to this action comedy, with the blood, skin, and 'splosions just a bit over the top, right on the line where they can be enjoyed both as grandiose action movie craziness and parody of same. This is an action movie with a personality, unquestionably Rodriguez's; a person watching it knows both what he likes and where he's coming from.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 September 2010 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run)

Salt came out while I was in Montreal, and despite the generally good notices, I kept putting off seeing it after I got back. The creative team was interesting - both director Philip Noyce and writer Kurt Wimmer have done stuff I like, but also vanished for long periods. And the plot outlined in the trailer seemed a bit on the far-fetched side.

Now, I'm still not sure whether Wimmer's script completely holds together, but it's enjoyably audacious, and Angelina Jolie is great in the title role - physical, smart, and projecting just enough doubt to make the audience wonder whether she's the hero or villain of the piece. Outside of her, it's a pretty low-key cast: Liev Schreiber as her boss at the CIA, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the guy heading up the manhunt, Daniel Olbrychski as the Russian walk-in up to no good, and August Diehl as Salt's arachnologist husband are all pretty solid. Andre Braugher shows up as the Secretary of Defense in the last act, proving once again that movie casting directors have no idea what to do with Andre Braugher.

And, of course, Wimmer and Noyce manage to cook up some pretty darn impressive action scenes. There's a ridiculous chase scene early on that takes jumping from vehicle to vehicle to the next level, and maybe it says something about how relatively disappointing most action movies are, but I found myself smiling, nodding, and thinking "this is a really good chase; I have not seen many better lately". The filmmakers also have great fun bouncing between improbably bits that somehow avoid major injury and ones where things don't go nearly so well.

You can have a much worse action double feature than Machete and Salt; they're a great pairing of bombastic films that somehow manage to get the audience to buy in.

Mesrine: Killer InstinctAnimal KingdomMesrine: Public Enemy Number OneMacheteSalt

1 comment:

Greg said...

I really liked the Movie Salt. I loved the action scenes as well