Thursday, March 17, 2011

This Week In Tickets: 7 March 2011 to 13 March 2011

I strongly suspect that Adrianne Palicki will never have as perfect a role as she has in Women in Trouble and Elektra Luxx, and I suspect that Sebastian Guitierrez's annual movie with Carla Gugino at SXSW this year suffered for her absence:

This Week In Tickets!

Not only was Saturday the only time I got out to the movies last week, it was also (just) warm enough throw a steak and potato on the grill outside. And I finished the book I've been reading for what seems like the last month. Sometimes, you've just got to power through 300 pages of people playing games in a casino with the author acting like the cards have some sort of spiritual component beyond chance to get to what one hopes to be the sci-fi action at the end.

And then, you go to a midnight movie, daylight savings time hits, and Sunday is gone right before it starts. But, hey, look at Saturday:

Battle: Los Angeles

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 12 March 2011 in AMC Harvard Square #5 (first-run)

It's a good thing for the world at large that things arranged themselves so that I wouldn't have time or inclination to write a full review of Battle: Los Angeles. Not that it's quite so bad as the reviews on EFC (especiall) and elsewhere have it; rather than the affront to God and Man some paint it as, it's just an old-fashioned war movie, with aliens substituted for terrestrial villains so that it can be set in present-day Los Angeles.

I'm not sure whether that makes it bad satire or bad science fiction. As science fiction goes, it really is head-thumpingly awful, falling apart as soon as you apply even a few seconds of thought to it: It actually pulls out "aliens are attacking Earth for its liquid water supply", which is so idiotic that even Star Trek Voyager backed away from it after the pilot. And I'm not sure where "bad science fiction" and "bad tactics" ends, but I don't get why these aliens did a ground attack first, and then went for aerial bombardment. If you're looking to crush a relatively ground-bound civilization, pulverize them from orbit, and keep your command & control center there, rather than underground. From orbit, you've got a clear line of sight to all your units, human defenses have a hard time hitting you, and you're way less vulnerable to a plucky group of marines sneaking in and wreaking havoc.

Maybe "satire" isn't quite the correct word for what this movie might have been going for, if the idea was to show gung-ho American audiences a role reversal ("hey, now you're the ones watching your homes be leveled by a technologically advanced enemy who wants your resources! Sucks, doesn't it?"). If that's where the filmmakers are going, they're being awfully subtle about it, and maybe undercutting themselves with the ending. I don't expect them to be quite so bleak or on-the-nose as, say, Brian Wood's and Riccardo Burchielli's comic DMZ, but playing this as a chance to do a war movie without getting into politics could be seen as a bit of a missed opportunity.

Not that there's anything really wrong with that; without actually glorifying war, it's a fine environment for telling stories of duty, sacrifice, et al, and the cast here is pretty good. It's just a shame that, despite it's sci-fi trappings, it winds up being so generic in execution.

Elektra Luxx

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 12 March 2011 in Landmark Kendall Square #7 (first-run)

Although Elektra Luxx is being released in markets where Women in Trouble didn't play theatrically, and you can probably follow along well enough without having seen the other one. And despite it picking up on threads from that movie, that may be the best way to see it - that way, the viewer won't be thinking of how much better the first one was.

We open on Bert Rodriguez (Joshua Gordon-Levitt) lamenting the retirement of Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) on his porn-oriented vlog. Elektra is pregnant, see, and though she's not ashamed of her old job - she even teaches a course on how to spice up one's marriage at the local community center - it's not the life she wants any more. She's about to get an odd reminder of it, though - Cora (Marley Shelton), the flight attendant who was in the middle of a tryst with the rock star father-to-be when he died (really, see the first movie) arrives and offers her the lyrics he was going to use for his next album (all of which are about Elektra) if she'll help assuage her guilt by seducing her fiance. Meanwhile, Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki), one of Elektra's old co-workers, is heading out on vacation with her best friend (Emmanuelle Chirqui), which has the potential to be awkward because Holly's starting to think she may want to be more than friends.

Though the title implies that this movie will focus solely (or at least primarily) on Elektra, that turns out not to be the case; both Bert's and Holly's stories go their own way without intersecting very much. That's a problem, because all three are decidedly not created equal: Bert's segments are filled with tedious, played-out jokes about bloggers who present themselves as experts but live with their parents and have nothing outside their obsessions, and neither Bert nor Holly gets nearly as much good material as Elektra. That's as it should be - she is, after all, the title character - but if their stories are going to be such slight reflections of hers, then maybe writer/director Sebastian Guitierrez shouldn't spend so much time on them.

Full review at EFC.

Gone with the Pope

* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 12 March 2011 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (@fter midnight)

Gone with the Pope is a genuine oddity, shot in the mid-seventies in whatever time and supplies writer/director/star Duke Mitchell had available. Being shot on such a shoestring, finding money for post-production was similarly difficult, so it was still uncompleted when Mitchell died in 1981. The footage sat in his garage for nearly a decade and a half, when his son mentioned it to Sage Stallone and Bob Murawski. Murawski spent another decade and a half piecing it together between other jobs. The result is, quite honestly, terrible, but give it credit - it's memorably terrible.

It opens with one group of gangsters plotting to kill another; they hire Paul (Mitchell) to do the job. Just released from prison, he'd really like to just spend time with Jean (Jenne Hibbard), an old girlfriend who's now a rich widow. But he figures this is a way to make some money to help his friends Luke (Jim LoBianco) and Peter (Peter Milo). Eventually, he comes up with a scheme of his own, where they will sail to Italy and kidnap the Pope (Lorenzo Dardado), with an affordable enough ransom: One dollar from every Catholic in the world.

That's a reasonably clever hook, actually; or at least it seems clever enough that it's initially frustrating that the movie spins its wheels for half its running time before actually getting to Rome and getting started on it. In actual practice, though, it's not so exciting; the actual kidnapping is not a particularly memorable caper and what follows does not turn out to be a thrilling battle of wills or chase or the like. It's almost as if Mitchell had the idea for the story and jumped straight from that to shooting, eventually getting many bits that didn't add up to an actual plot.

Full review at EFC.

Battle: Los AngelesElektra LuxxGone with the Pope

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