Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Week In Tickets: 11 October 2010 to 17 October 2010

Ah, a weekend with no traveling, no demands other thana much-needed haircut and spending some time watching baseball, working on the pile of books (prose and graphic) that are piling up by my bedside, and seeing which fall TV shows are worth following and which aren't.

(Brief TV thoughts: FX seems dedicated to having one show on the air that I want to watch at a time; Terriers will likely give way to Justified to Rescue Me; The Event seems to want to break Lost's best-in-class standard for being needlessly convoluted by the same margin Lost came in ahead of The X-Files; Fringe still rocks; it is a minor TV miracle that someone got Fox to pay for a full season of The Good Guys, though how its genuinely inspired lunacy gets ignored while people go nuts for Glee's idiocy vexes me.)

(Brief comic thoughts: Wait, 2011 won't have a new Darwyn Cooke Parker adaptation? The Outfit ended with a "Parker will return in 2012" tease, and that's too long. However, if you want good crime comics in the meantime, A Sickness in the Family, the new Vertigo Crime entry, is the best yet in a very good line.)

This Week In Tickets!

Funny-ish story on that Red ticket; I arrived in time for the 3:40 show, but since Regal Fenway helpfully shows which screen a given film is playing on at a given time, I looked up, saw that the show a half hour later was playing on the second-to-last screen, and presumed that meant it was playing on one of the two "screen monsters", as they cutely describe screens 12 and 13. But, when I buy the ticket, it says 11 on it. Apparently 13 is temporarily undergoing renovation to open as an "RPX" (Regal Premium Experience) screen, which I presume will be roughly comparable to the IMAX-branded screen at Boston Common. I'm not sure whether there will be just one or if they'll start work on screen 12 once 13 is finished, or whether they'll try to slap a surcharge on it for non-3-D films (it's not like RPX is the sort of brand name IMAX is). In the meantime, they're down a screen, so check showtimes carefully.

Speaking of AMC Boston Common.. I'm not a big fan of people using their mobile devices during movies, but you know what might be a cool idea? Registering a Twitter ID for each theater and sticking it in your pre-show ad package, so that customers can send feedback directly to management in real time. I mean, once the movie starts, I'm generally not going to leave, but I might walk over to the entryway where I can still see the movie without disturbing others in the audience when I send the theater a message to turn down the bloody house lights in auditorium 3 because they're really working against the movie whose hook is that the guy is buried in near-total darkness!!

Although, granted, I might not put it quite like that. That's longer than 140 characters, after all.

Media That Matters: Short Documentaries

Seen 11 October 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (CineCaché/The DocYard Presents)

This was a pretty good collection of documentary shorts. Rather than star-rate them individually or as a group, I'm just going to rattle off some brief thoughts on each. Clicking each title will bring you to its page on Media That Matters's website, where you can watch the film, share it, and go to the various take-action links:
  • "Lessons from a Tailor" - The film that opened the program is perhaps a little lightweight compared to the other films, but its charismatic subject - a tailor who came to America as a boy escaping the holocaust, learned his trade, bought his business, and eventually made suits for Presidents - makes it worth a look, and his quiet determination to do good is a welcome contrast to the other films' railing against evils.

  • "A Girl Named Kai" - Not quite a dud of a short, but the sort that tends to leave me kind of cold - first-person, artsy, more about visually and metaphorically representing feelings than telling a story. It's not bad for that kind of movie, really, but left me feeling like I knew little about its narrator as a person or about her challenges.

  • "The Next Wave" - A very interesting piece about the inhabitants of an island in the South Pacific facing an almost immediate need for relocation due to climate change. It's informative on how rising sea levels do more than just flood, although the directors could perhaps do a little better in establishing the geography in question, especially describing the place they propose to relocate to.

  • "Perversion of Justice" - The site suggests that this is a condensed version of a 30-minute film, and I suspect that it works better at that length. Here, director Melissa Mummert states her point about how mandatory sentences for those involved in drug-related crimes are counterproductive, but it does feel a bit rushed.

  • "I'm Just Anneke" - This one fell a little flat for me; as much as I support its general message (that gay, transgender, and other kids with different sexual identities should be given the room and understanding to be themselves), the filmmaking felt off in a couple of ways: First, it doesn't define some of its terms like "fluid gender" very well; second, the medical treatment it shows with unblinking, unquestioning approval struck me as somewhat creepy, as it is described as holding puberty off. The message sent, especially when showing Anneke with her friends, is not one of her becoming what seems right for her, but staying in place as the rest of the kids grow up around her.

  • "A Girl Like Me" - Is there anything more immediately depressing than movies like this, a simple document of how black teenagers, especially girls, feel that society makes them feel generally inferior, starting from a very young age, as black toddlers consistently choose white baby dolls over black ones? It feels like something we should be long past as a society. It's a good film, though; when teenagers turn their cameras on each other with any amount of skill, the end results are usually intriguing, and this is no exception; it's direct, honest, and well put together.

  • "Denied" - A simple but damning indictment of the American health care system which demonstrates by example its (literally) fatal flaw - that there is often an enormous gap between the cost of treatment and the threshold at which sick people can get assistance in affording it. This one uses a suburban mother as an example, and is all the more tragic for how clear-eyed and straightforward both the movie and the subject are about the situation.

  • "Massacre at Murambi" - A short, sharp, and supremely haunting film that brings us to the Genocide Memorial in a small Rwandan village and ruminates on what we see there. Perfectly accusatory without being strident.

  • "Justice Denied: Voices from Guantánamo" - A well-constructed film commissioned by the ACLU that does an effective job of confronting the excesses and injustices perpetrated by the War on Terror by interviewing a number of people who had been detained in Guantánamo Bay. They're an interesting, diverse group of Muslims and it sort of kills me to see how my country is earning a bad reputation by how it has treated these people.

I'm not certain of the order beyond the first film and the last two, or that I included everything (the Brattle's site lists a few that weren't shown, and I didn't search through Arts Engine's list for any I may have missed). Most are worth seeing, and there are dozens of other free documentary shorts there as well.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 October 2010 at AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run)

Buried is the sort of movie where every step in the process of getting made is a combination between those involved challenging themselves and crafting a movie that can be shot with a tiny budget, cast, and crew. Fortunately, this is one of the ones where the folks involve rise to the challenge, even on a set with very little headroom.

We open in darkness, not seeing Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) until he uses his Zippo lighter. He's bound and gagged, in a box roughly the size of a coffin, and while he is able to free himself from the ropes fairly quickly, he's not going anywhere. He does find a mobile phone in the box with him, along with his empty wallet, a pencil, a knife, a flask of water, and his anxiety medication. As he makes his attempts to contact the outside world, we eventually learn how he got in this situation - he's a trucker, working a contract in Iraq, and his convoy was attacked. He eventually hears from his kidnapper Jabir (Jose Luis Garcia Perez), and gets in contact with a State Department rep whose job it is to facilitate the release of hostages (Robert Paterson). But, as we all know, U.S. policy is not to negotiate with terrorists.

When the local film society has its nomination meeting early next year, I think I'm going to have fun defending my inclusion of Buried among my selections in the category of "Best Cinematography", as its hyper-constricted setting is roughly the opposite of the usual definition of great camera work; the only scenes set outside of this box appear on the telephone's minuscule screen (disclaimer: I may or may not be including the last five minutes of the movie). Cinematographer Eduard Grau has a very restricted set of angles to work with in any given shot, even though the walls and roof of the coffin are likely added digitally in some shots, but it seldom feels like we are getting unfair shots; the P.O.V. almost always seems to be inside the box. It's a legitimate marvel of close-up photography.

Full review at eFilmCritic.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 October 2010 at Regal Fenway #11 (first-run)

There are two ways to look at someone adapting one's work rather liberally. Comic legend Alan Moore insists his name be taken off it, holds a grudge, refuses the money, and gives interviews about how bankrupt the system is. Warren Ellis, on the other hand, sees that Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Mary Louise Parker, Ernest Borgnine, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, and Helen Mirren have signed on to something he's written and blogs a star-struck "holy crap". Then, when he gets a look at the script, notes that it's got Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle, and says that if you don't want to see that, he doesn't even want to know you.

Red isn't terribly close to his and Cully Hammer's original work; it takes the main character and basic premise and inflates it to a broad ensemble comedy with action that is often flat-out cartoonish. And as an action comedy rather than an adaptation, it's a lot of fun; there's always an amusing new character just waiting to be introduced and the action scenes are unbelievable but just short of superhuman. They're not quite the gigantic action scenes of a summer movie, or the gritty, down-in-the-dirt fights of a grim spy flick, but a happy medium.

There is a kind of 1980s nostalgia to this, of course - American and Russian spies reminiscing about when they just fought the other side and there seemed to be rules, as opposed to today's high-tech espionage about covering up one's own nation's secrets and those of corporations. Karl Urban's villainous assassin is a family man, an everyday joe compared to the larger-than-life retirees he's hunting. You can't blame the characters for missing the cold war, nor necessarily the audience; evil empires are much easier to root against.

Media That MattersBuriedThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestRedTamara Drewe

1 comment:

Helen said...

I posted news about Buried on my site, too!

Anyway, Buried should be a great watch, so, I'm going to look out for that.

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