Since this was a relatively quiet week in which I wrote up a blog post for everything I saw, this is more or less a collection of pointers and excuses for there not being more:
No ticket: Ocean Heaven (screener DVD in my living room on 7 October, about 7pm-ish)
Quiet week at the movies for a couple of reasons: First, Sunday was Dagny's Birthday (Observed), in which the Seaver clan heads to Maine and celebrates my niece stealing my birthday from me. It's cool; she's an energetic five-year-old and because of her, my age has frozen at the 32 years old I was when she was born (that's how it works, right?). Second, some jerk hacked my debit card number, and while my bank was quick to catch it, getting a new card sent took "3-5 business days", which meant doing what I could to stretch what cash was in my pocket out that length of time. It's the second time it's happened this year; clearly it's time to beef some security up.
So, you see what makes the cut when such things must be managed - Detective Dee, because I was meeting people and I loved it back at Fantasia; a classic Chaplin film I have (embarrassingly) never seen, and the new Jackie Chan movie, which I nearly passed over due to bad reviews (which, sadly, I had to add to), but which I wound up seeing out of curiosity and wanting to support this sort of [close to] day-and-date release. Naturally, it winds up being the most expensive ticket because I had to fit it around trips to the toy store and Maine, and the evening show was the only one that fit.
It's also another one of those really annoyingly nationalistic movies coming out of China (although I wonder how other countries see Hollywood films). This has become such a trend that there have actually been stories about Chinese studios preparing "international versions" which cut out some of the flag-waving. It's a bit odd that those are the ones getting quick American releases; even if marketed to the expatriate community, I wonder how much of that community is here because they want to be away from such things versus missing home.
Di Renjie (Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame)
* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 October 2011 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (first-run)
Picking up on that "nationalist Chinese film" angle, I think Detective Dee either does pretty well in that regard or is depressingly accepting of totalitarianism. It never does the rah-rah stuff, but much like in Hero, where the rebellious character winds up accepting the need for an autocrat, there may be a hidden pro-state agenda here, at least if you're determined to find one: The title character was jailed for opposing the Empress-to-be, but acknowledges that the empire is better off under her stewardship upon his release to work for her. In the end, SPOILERS! Dee uncovers a plot by the Empress to eliminate dissidents, but decides that stopping this is less important than foiling her assassination, which would kill innocent people and could plunge the nation into chaos. Tsui Hark and company maybe aren't completely cool with this sort of thing, as they finish with Dee a fugitive who must literally do good in the shadows because of what he knows !SRELIOPS. On balance, it's better than I thought when I started this paragraph (this is basically how 24 ended), but it's hard not to think of these things when watching a Chinese movie these days, even one like Detective Dee which is more Hong Kong than Beijing.
Still, I wasn't thinking about it during the film that much, because Tsui Hark and the other filmmakers really are completely nuts. To give you an idea of how crazy and over-the-top this movie can be, the seventh-century kung fu robot marionettes showing up took me by surprise on this second viewing because there was so much other insanity to be found. The filmmakers really didn't do anything halfway, and good for them - if you're making a movie where it makes sense to have a character doing martial arts on talking deer, you are arguably failing your audience if this never happens.
So I'm glad I got a second chance to see it in theaters before its last day (if you're reading this in the Boston area before 7:45 on 13 October 2011, run to Cambridge! you can still catch it!); it's a ton of fun, and I like giving movies I saw on a press pass at festivals a bit of my money, voting with my pen AND my wallet, even if theater 4 in Kendall isn't quite the floor-to-ceiling screen of Theatre Hall in Concordia.
(For more on this movie, my festival report is here; the eFilmCritic review is there.)
(Yes, I realize now that I did actually pay to see this one at Fantasia because I didn't have time to pick up my press pass until Friday. The principle still holds!)