Friday, February 25, 2011

This Week In Tickets: 14 February 2011 to 20 February 2011

Ah, the first festival pass of the season. It's sort of easing into the festival experience, as this one only scheduled one show a night. Of course, I had to make it more like a regular festival by throwing a second film in on a couple of nights:

This Week In Tickets!

Technically also included would be the Marathon portion of sf/36, but that's twelve movies, half of which I intend to write up, so since that ran into Monday I'll put it in next week's entry.

I wound up seeing No Strings Attached because the free ticket from AMC's awards program actually expired that night and my combined tendency to see movies before they're eligible for passes and ridiculous desire to "get the most" out of said pass (why use it on a $9 matinee when you can use it on an $11 evening show - and yes, readers from outside large cities, I did just write "$9 matinee") means I always tend to wait until the last minute to use them and generally see a not-so-exciting movie when I do

No Strings Attached

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2010 in AMC Harvard Square #4 (first-run)

Thus, No Strings Attached. As I noted when it first hit theaters, I do think the best version of the three similar films coming out in 2010-11 with the exact same plot (and in some cases, nearly the same name) will be the independent Friends (with Benefits), if only for doing surprising things with the supporting characters and generally being willing to go anywhere for a joke. This iteration has what is really an annoyingly good cast - Ashton Kutcher is actually pretty pleasant when playing a guy of modest intelligence, Natalie Portman makes her character enticing despite being closed off to the point of being almost emotionless, and their friends/family include Kevin Kline, Olivia Thirlby, Mindy Kaling, Lake Bell, and more - but a real shortness of jokes.

It's not a case of the movie never being funny, but there aren't a lot of real belly-laughs. It definitely hews more to the "romance" side of the romantic comedy. And, to be fair, it does well by that. There is some sort of warming of the heart when Portman's Emma finally manages to open up and admit that, yes, she does have room in her life for that sort of attachment. It's preceded by a clunky bit of "here's the reason why she's so closed off" exposition, so it's not all it could have been, but it's good enough.

One other note: We may have reached the sad point in Kevin Kline's career when the odds of him appearing in a hospital bed at some point (to teach the younger lead characters something about the fleeting and impermanent nature of life) is greater than 50%. I've got to tell you, I'm really not looking forward to the point when it's more likely he dies in the movie than not.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2010 in Regal Fenway #12 (first-run)

First: Seriously, Regal? Digital projection on screen #12? Presumably 2K, which isn't that much better than what I can get on my TV at home, as I remember a snip of film touting the 4K projection when I last saw a digital screening there. It was admittedly less of an issue once the film got going, but during the previews and titles, it looked really bad from where I was sitting. That screen is too big and has seats too close for 2K projection.

Second: I'm not saying I had what was going on completely figured out, but Diane Kruger's character being an attractive, age-appropriate-by-movie-standards woman who spends a lot more time with Liam Neeson's amnesiac Martin Harris than Harris's wife Elizabeth (January Jones) does is a pretty big hint as to how things will play out. Sure, there's a chance that the filmmakers will do something unconventional with the finale, but it's not exactly a big one.

Even without that, this is still just a middling thriller. As much as it's got some good bits, it's frustrating in that despite Neeson's character supposedly being very smart, the audience always feels like they're one step ahead of him - it takes him forever (and the prodding of a helpful ex-Stasi agent) for him to realize that if he was taking a cab from the airport, despite having just been there, he should probably focus some energy in that direction. Plus, when you wreck three taxis from the same company in three different action sequences, there's an opportunity for a good running joke that the movie sort of misses (also, the third is not nearly so spectacular as the first two; you really should build these things).

SF/36No Strings AttachedThe Housemaid (2010)Unknown

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