Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This Week In Tickets: 16 April 2012 - 22 April 2012

Hey, rest of the country, why don't you have Patriot's Day like Maine and Massachusetts do? Sure, it's more of an elective holiday than one that everybody gets these days, but if you do take it, it's a day off when spring is just getting nice, an excuse for day baseball, and, when things fall just right, an extra day you can procrastinate on your tax returns. Plus, as you can see...

This Week In Tickets!

... it's as good a reason to hit up a weekday matinee as any. Heck, for me it's almost mandatory, as the direct route between Fenway Park and my house crosses that of the Boston Marathon, and I can tell you from personal experience that there's no crossing it on foot. On a day as hot as that one was, there is no good reason not to jump into the theater and wait it out for a couple of hours.

I wish I could say Patriot's Day was great from start to finish, but the Red Sox lost and Lockout was only so-so. Things improved quite a bit when I made it to Davis Square, though - a "King" at Boston Burger Company and scoring the big room and a decent crowd for a Monday to see The Cabin in the Woods on 35mm improves pretty much any day.

Tuesday's game - ugh. On the one hand, I got to hang out with my brothers on top of the Green Monster for a while, with Dan plenty excited about Private Stage, the local music show he's been trying to get off the ground practically ever since he started working for a TV station in Portland, Maine, and that's always good. On the other hand, it was an ugly loss (a prelude to the incredible ugliness to come on Saturday) and got kind of chilly by the end of the game.


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 16 April 2012 in Regal Fenway #8 (first-run, Sony Digital 4K)

Why, I wonder, does somebody make a movie this high-concept and goofy and give it a name as generic as "Lockout"? It begs for something self-awarely pulpy, like "Assault on Space Prison One!" (the exclamation point is crucial; without it, you're open to being called blandly descriptive, but with it, you're winking at the audience). Heck, even "Lock-Up" would be okay, because, get it, up, like in orbit? But, no, instead you've got "Lockout", reflecting what a kind of generic movie this is despite the makers' best intentions.

Don't get me wrong, it's fun - stars Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace are a quality odd couple, the type that get on each others' nerves because they're more alike than their different backgrounds would suggest. They banter well, and directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger (who wrote the script with Luc Besson) use that without making a joke of the action. And while some may sniff at the action scene that opens the movie and its bargain-basement effects, I kind of dig it; it says that Mather & St. Leger have more crazy than money and aren't going to let them hold them back. They seem to know just how goofy "space prison" sounds.

But, boy, could this movie have used some better villains. The two brothers leading the riot on Maximum Security One might as well just be called Scottish Nutjob and Scottish Gangster, and the framing story is even more generic. None of the action scenes are staged in a particularly memorable manner, and forget having one make use of free fall or the threats of decompression or radiation, which sort of defeats the point of setting it in orbit.

Back when Escape from L.A. was coming out, John Carpenter talked about wanting to make that a trilogy with "Escape from Earth". I'm not sure latter-day Carpenter would have had something cooler than Lockout in him, but for all this one wants to remind of us Carpenter's Escapes with its loner sent into a high-concept prison to liberate the President's daughter, it needed to use its setting more and create some memorable characters.

The Cabin in the Woods

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 16 April 2012 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, 35mm)

Well, that was a ton of good fun, with a very nice cast, a clever premise, and a few moments that put a big smile on my face for how absolutely right they are. I love the injection of guys like Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford into this riff on The Evil Dead; they're talented guys who wouldn't be near this movie unless it was more than it appeared to be. And I am very impressed how the movie eventually turns me around on a character I just hated at first sight.

It's good enough that I wish it were perfect, but it's got a few problems that are not exactly small. The main one is that, like a lot of horror movies with a comedic component, it undercuts its scares too much. The kills too quickly cut to a punchline, and while writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon initially do a good job of shifting the horror to a new target, it doesn't really stick.

Somewhat related is how (SPOILERS!) going meta makes the movie just a bit hollow. Everything in Cabin is about horror movies themselves, sort of making the point that they've become formulaic out of laziness, which is too bad, because we need scary stories as an outlet to keep the real monsters (Elder Gods/darkness of the human soul) chained up. It's a bit problematic, though; as much as the main thrust is about wanting more creativity and less been-there-seen-that, there is a strong stick-to-the-template message. And then there's the same issue I have with The Midnight Meat Train - I want the optimist/atheist ending, the one where the survivors give the monsters the middle finger and say that they might have been hot shit back when people were primitive with no understanding of the universe, but we're through sending you human sacrifices and if you try to breach our dimension again, we'll drop a nuke in yours. In short, we solve problems in the twenty-first century rather than appease monsters.

Sure, that's not really what the movie is about, but in some ways, the meta-commentary is subtle and contradictory enough that it's not hard to think of what Cabin says about people rather than its genre. (!SRELIOPS)

Mirror Mirror

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 April 2012 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, Sony Digital 4K)

Well, that's what a Tarsem Singh Dhandwar family movie looks like. Just strange all around - having previously gone an average of five years between films, all of which were thematically dark and gritty, this pleasantly fluffy concoction comes just a few months after Immortals. While I knew Tarsem was doing one of the dueling Snow White movies coming out this year, up until very recently I would have bet on Snow White and the Huntsman Kristen Stewart, just based on the looks of them.

Still, Tarsem does all right here - like most of his movies, he embraces artificiality, whether in terms of elaborate and absurd costumes or not caring if a set looks like a set. The whole movie has a nifty storybook look, and when the script by Jason Keller and Melisa Wallack hits a snappy patch, he and the cast do pretty well by it. That's especially true of the seven actors playing the dwarves - it's almost like having the whole lot on-screen at once forces the filmmakers to pick up the pace a little, while the space Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, and Armie Hammer are given in their more spacious sets seems to isolate them timing-wise.

The kids in the theater seemed to dig it, though, and it is kind of their speed: Clever enough, but not requiring a whole lot from the audience.

Patriot's DayLockoutThe Cabin in the Woods (w/spoilers)Just UglyJiro Dreams of SushiI WishA Simple LifeMirror Mirror

No comments: