Friday, June 24, 2011

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 24 June 2011 - 28 June 2011

I'm not the world's biggest defender of 3D, although I seem to like it more than 90% of the critics and film enthusiasts I know. I do like it, but let's face it - very few people outside of James Cameron like it as much as its detractors hate it. Guys I generally like and admire, such as Roger Ebert and Scott Weinberg, allow their disdain for the technique to overwhelm their discussion to a painful degree; you can expect the first paragraph of any review of a 3D movie or the bulk of their first tweet to be along the lines of "3D is evil see it in 2D". They pick up and repetitively retweet anything that suggests 3D Is Fading Away Like The Fad It Is with glee, even when the same data might also point to other conclusions.

(Honestly, I think that the theaters and studios shot themselves in the foot when they bumped the 3D premium up from $3 to $4 or $5. Three bucks seems fair, but kicking it up an extra dollar or two per person just comes across as gouging.)

That said - there is some actual evidence this week that there's some 3D fatigue going on; check out how the Capitol Theatre in Arlington is programming Cars 2 - one screen, alternating 3D and 2D showings. That's a little worrisome, as switching out the lenses between showtimes is often impossible, and the 2D screenings often suffer for it

Surprisingly, the only deluxe screens it will be opening on in the Boston area are IMAX screens at the furniture stores in Reading and Natick - the digital IMAX screen at Boston Common is keeping Super 8 and the RPX screen at Fenway is sticking with Green Lantern. Both are probably holding their screen open for Transformers 3, which opens Wednesday (which means "Next Week" will be a couple days early next week, too).

  • As mentioned, Cars 2 is opening in IMAX 3D at the furniture stores, digital 3D at most other venues, and generally one 2D screen for every two 3D screens (so most theaters haven't given up on 3D as a cash cow). It's a weird state of affairs when the new Pixar movie and the new Transformers movie seem like a match - vehicles with personalities in a movie that seems more driven by merchandising than creativity. Still, I'm hopeful - Pixar gets the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, and Michael Caine as a James Bond car may prove an adequate replacement for Paul Newman. Plus, Disney is almost certain to attach the Muppets trailer!

    Also opening in the multiplexes: Bad Teacher, with Cameron Diaz as the title character. Not getting good reviews, I'm afraid, which is too bad; the previews made me laugh and it looks like the filmmakers understand that the premise of an indifferent teacher has to be tasteless in order to work. Hopefully it works better than expected.

  • Hey, check it out - that Conan O'Brien Can't Stop review that got embargoed a couple months ago can go live! It's a fairly entertaining documentary about O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television" tour that closed IFFBoston this year. Bigger fans of Conan than me will probably enjoy it even more than I did. It's in the screening room at the Coolidge, as well as at Kendall Square.

    Conan closed IFFBoston; the movie that opened the Boston Underground Film Festival, Hobo with a Shotgun, plays the Coolidge midnight on Friday (the 24th), as well as next weekend. It's plenty fun, and since BUFF is co-presenting, there will probably be fun events around it. Saturday night's midnight show is Serenity, part of the annual "Can't Stop the Serenity" fundraiser, raising money for Equality Now; they will also be collecting non-perishable items for the New England Food Bank.

    And, finally, on Monday night (27 June), there's a restored print of La Dolce Vita. Not a particular favorite of mine, but it's supposedly a gorgeous print, and the Coolidge is a place to see it.

  • As mentioned, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop is also playing at Kendall Square, one of four documentaries opening there this week, two with tentative one-week bookings. The other expected short-timer is Pianomania, a documentary about Steinway & Sons Master Tuner Stefan Knüpfer, who is charged with matching and calibrating instruments with some of the world's greatest pianists.

    There's a more open-ended booking for Buck, which I missed at IFFBostson but heard great things about. This one follows Buck Brannaman, a cowboy who knows horses better than just about anybody and eschews traditional "breaking" for a kinder, more humane way of interacting with these animals, in part because of his own abusive childhood.

    And, finally, there is The Last Mountain, which covers a West Virginia community's attempts to stop "mountain top removal", a strip-mining technique linked to health problems and environmental devastation. Filmmaker Bill Haney is local, and will be at the theater in person for the 7:10pm show on Friday 24 June to introduce the movie and answer questions.

  • The Aap Ka Manoranjan folks are actually opening three movies in different languages on their screen at Fresh Pond, but only Double Dhamaal has English subtitles, so we'll focus on that. It's apparently a sequel to the 2007 comedy Dhamaal, and looks to be on the zany side - something with a bunch of disguises and slacker comedy - with a third Dhamaal movie allegedly already in the works.

    If Chinese is more your speed, The Beginning of the Great Revival opens at Boston Common. When it first appeared on China Lion's website, it was called The Founding of a Party, and all reports have it as a complete propaganda piece made by the Chinese Communist Party for its own glorification. It is, however, notable for its amaing cast, including Liu Ye - recently seen in A Beautiful Life and City of LIfe and Death - as the young Mao Zedong, along with nearly every other big name in the Chinese film industry. A very strange choice to have a near day-and-date opening in America, making me almost suspect that it's a contractual obligation of sorts (the promotion has been very quiet as well).

  • There's greatness at the Brattle, as a restored print of The African Queen plays afternoons and evenings through Thursday. It is Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, it is wonderful, and as it only very recently became available on home video, it hasn't been seen nearly as much as it should. The 9:30pm slot, at least until Wednesday, is IFFBoston Audience Award Winner 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike's take on the classic samurai film. It is fantastic in an entirely different way.

  • A similar line-up will be making appearances on the Somerville Theatre's big screen: The cult classic is Rubber, playing Friday and Saturday at midnight. It is fantastic, and midnight showings with an enthusiastic crowd is its natural environment. The Somerville Theatre website indicates a special live pre-show on Saturday, and if previous weeks are any indication, you can see it as a double feature with the 10pm Bad Teacher (note: do not pitch a fit with the good people there if I'm mistaken on this; I'm just going by what they've done previously). There will also be midnight showings of Super 8 and The Hangover Part II.

    The more conventional classic film is Double Indemnity, which plays Sunday morning at 11am and Monday evening at 5pm and 8pm. If last week's screening of Captains Courageous is something to go by, there may be classic cartoons or other short subjects before the movie.

  • The Harvard Film Archive has classics of a different sort as they finish their Luis Buñuel retrospective. Last weekend focused on the extremes of his career; this one covers what is arguably his peak, from 1962 to 1974: Friday night is The Exterminating Angel at 7pm and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie at 9pm; Saturday features Belle de Jour at 7pm and Phantom of Liberty at 9:15pm; Sunday's 7pm show is Diary of a Chambermaid; and Monday has a repeat of Tristana at the same time. After that, they take off for a summer break, returning in late July.

  • Art on Film begins its last week at the MFA, with scattered screenings of Cameraman: The Life and Times of Jack Cardiff and a screening of big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues on Thursday (29 June). The weekend also includes the last dates for Armadillo and Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?.

And that is close to it. I will be attempting to get out to Reading to see Cars 2 on the big IMAX screen, maybe doing the Bad Teacher/Rubber double feature if there is such a thing, and otherwise playing catch-up.

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