Friday, April 26, 2013

This Week Month In Tickets: 25 March 2013 - 21 April 2013

So, between BUFF at the start of this four-week period and the chaos at the end, and being busy seeing movies and baseball in between, this has slipped. Sorry. At least there's nothing coming up to keep it from happening again...

Oh, right, IFFBoston started tonight. Well, let's hope it doesn't slip quite so much.

25 March - 31 March
1 April - 7 April
8 April - 14 April
15 April - 21 April

This Week in Tickets

Not going to lie - when I left for the last day of BUFF, I was hoping that they'd be using green tickets for passholders that day. Wouldn't that have looked cool? Instead, they used purple, but also just took them instead of ripping them instead of waving us in. It's like they don't care how an obscure blog looks at all!

As you can see, it was a busy week - Lore on what I think was its last week in town, Spring Breakers, and all five days of the Boston Underground Film Festival (count 'em - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!). Plus, apparently, it was Easter or something on Sunday. Apparently that's a thing.

Spring Breakers

* * (out of four)
Seen 26 March 2013 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (first-run, 35mm)

While waiting in one of the two or three lines necessary for to get into BUFF the next night, I heard a group of people dissing Stoker and praising Spring Breakers, and, man, I had a hard time imagining people being more wrong. Actually, I can - Spring Breakers is not an actual terrible movie, just one that failed to impress me.

This is where I half-expect people to tell me I didn't get it, but I think I did - I just didn't like it. Sure, writer/director Harmony Korine exaggerates the whole "Girls Gone Wild" phenomenon by using actresses known for their wholesome Disney Channel material and pushing the exploitation story from semi-innocent/supposedly-empowering half-naked-girl-power into straight-up psychopathy. That's kind of clever, but it's also just about of the end of what Korine does with it. So, ha-ha, bros, that tacky thing you idiots go for is actually really vile, and I've managed to lure you into a movie that insults you by making a satire almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

It's just mean, and it's not mean to go along with an interesting story - I never cared about what James Franco's character was up to as a local gangster, nor the self-discovery of the four girls who fall in with him. It's just stuff that happens, and all Korine has done is to mock something everybody mocks already. Sure, it's better-shot and the girls (Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Benson) play their parts well, but, honestly, it's a parlor trick, and a boring one at that.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: Renoir at the Coolidge (10am, Sunday 7 April 2013)

After a festival, it's nice to decompress for a bit, spend some time just writing and watching baseball on TV. Well, fat chance. Starbuck was only going to be playing for that one week, Thale only for the one night, and then the Brattle did their Schlock Around the Clock even the next weekend. At least that was a fun event, with lots of spiffy 35mm prints. Thale was okay, although I hoped for a bit more from it. Starbuck was also pretty charming; I wound up quite fond of it. And while Renoir wasn't great, it certainly looked great.

I considered going to more of Schlock Around the Clock, actually, but...

Evil Dead (2013)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 6 April 2013 in AMC Boston Common #18 (first-run, DCP)

... I wanted to see the new Evil Dead with an opening weekend crowd after the sun went down and that's when I had my chance. Horror movies, like comedies, are best with a crowd to feed off each other's reactions, so even when you don't necessarily like the way other people in the theater act, it's what you have to have.

The kind of funny thing about this verison of Evil Dead is that it kind of suffers for being an "Evil Dead" movie, at least if you're familiar with the source material. Director Fede Alvarez, his writing partner Rodo Sayagues (and an uncredited Diablo Cody) put together a fine spam-in-a-can movie, no dobut, but they've also built it around Mia (Jane Levy) trying to quit drugs cold-turkey, and that suggests a story where you don't necessarily know how much of what we're seeing is real and how much is in her head. Of course, we know what Evil Dead is (and we've seen how this one opens), so that specific suspense isn't really there even though the cast is good enough to play it. There's still some more depth to the story - it ultimately becomes about being there for family as much as just random mayhem - but the dismemberment is what you're there for.

Still, Alvarez and company are able to keep this a damn fine experience in grueling horror even as they wink at the source material, tending to fake the audience out - we gird ourselves against what we remember from the original movie only to have things veer off in a new gross manner. One of the fun things about the Evil Dead series is that everybody gets to play both hero and villain at some point, and another is the copious blood, which Alvarez doesn't stint with. It's not the most original horror movie, but it is pretty intense for something with a studio behind it.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: Jurassic Park at Jordan's Furniture Reading (2:15pm, Sunday 14 April 2013)

My first trip to Fenway Park this year was a heck of a way to spend an evening - what started out as a pretty good game with the Red Sox appearing to have things in hand wound up having a pretty miserable rain delay in the middle, and then the end featured an epic ninth-inning collapse. You leave the ballpark kind of stunned after that.

But, before that, I did a couple of nights seeing things by interesting directors. Sharply different results: The Host made me downright angry at how the apparent terribleness of the source material seemed to take down a decent filmmaker in Andrew Niccol, while Christian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills wound up being right up my alley, an insistent indictment of religion, although one that seems to lead the audience to its position rather than browbeating them.

It was back to Kendall Square on Saturday night for a double feature, although that wasn't the original plan - I'd originally gone to Boston Common to see 42, only to find the showtime that worked for me wasn't in MoviePass's database. So, turn around and head back to Cambridge, pick Koch based on starting time, a likely short run, and a director Q&A, follow that up with From Up on Poppy Hill, because it's a quick turnaround.

Sunday started out as 3D-day, where I used a voucher to see the cheap show of G.I. Joe: Retaliation and then hopped a train and bus to make it to Jordan's Furniture just in time for Jurassic Park in Imax 3D. A little grocery baseball on TV and I was ready to see The Company You Keep to round the week out. I had no idea that I would kind of need to store moviegoing up!

Kokuriko-zaka kara (From Up on Poppy Hill)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 13 April 2013 in Landmark Kendall Square #18 (first-run, DCP, English Dubbed)

When this movie got booked, I found myself grumbling a bit - while the company that distributes the movie is called "GKids", Studio Ghibli's films do have a substantial adult audience that generally prefers to see them subtitled, and since you'd no longer have to wrangle two prints to show both English and Japanese versions (even if a DCP doesn't have the subtitling and soundtrack options of a DVD, handling two hard drives shouldn't be difficult). But, no, not even the 9:10pm show is subtitled.

At least this time it's a pretty good dub. Part of the reason for it, I think, is that the screenplay (by, among others, Hayao Miyazaki) feels a little less formal than other Ghibli films involving teenagers - at least in the English-language version, these kids quip and joke with each other, and the girls aren't particularly shy or demure, even when they've got a crush on a boy. And while much of the voice casting is decent but low-key, Beau Bridges really should do more anime dubbing; he nails the bigger-than-life personality of a certain character type perfectly.

Amid all the fun, the movie throws up some serious obstacles to its first-love plot, and while it could be all gnashing of teeth, it's maturely matter-of-fact, with one character even stating that he's not going to act like he's in some TV melodrama. Director Goro Miyazaki and the writers turn the screws a little bit, recognizing that sometimes knowing something awful isn't as bad as not knowing whether something awful is true. The resolution is somewhat pat, but it's something the movie has quietly earned, so the audience isn't likely to mind.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

* * (out of four)
Seen 14 April 2013 in AMC Boston Common #1 (first-run, Real-D 3D)

What a peculiar thing G.I. Joe: Retaliation is - it's a direct follow-up to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, picking up on that movie's ending, but pretty much wiping the slate clean, character-wise. It's the ultimate example of the brand beign the drawas opposed to the cast or filmmakers. And, honestly, I don't really think the first needed such a complete purge - it has its weaknesses, but it was fun more often than not.

This one has a decent cast of Joes - I'm generally not going to complain about Dwayne Johnson and Adrianne Palicki starring in a movie - but the ninja stuff is kind of a waste of Lee Byung-hun, despite containing the best action scene in the movie. Bruce Willis is kind of superfluous; I can't see how the movie would be much different without him. The trouble is the villains. Johnathan Pryce, playing a master of disguise who has replaced the President of the United States, is entertaining, but clearly not the alpha villain; Luke Bracey's Cobra Commander is generic and off-screen through much of the movie.

Plus, the climax is off in every way possible. Forget the question of just how the ninjas wind up being brought into Cobra's inner circle pretty much overnight; that might be boring and easy to cut. We don't get that big special-effects scene of London being devastated until late in the last act, when having it earlier could have really defined the stakes more than "the one guy who came back from the first movie dies", and it makes the Joes' response look kind of small-potatoes.

Jurassic Park

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 14 April 2013 in Jordan's Furniture Reading (20th Anniversary re-release, Imax-branded 3D)

Guys, Jurassic Park is still pretty darn awesome. Sure, it hits some of its themes without subtlety, and the characters Steven Spielberg inherited from Michael Crichton's novel are kind of thin. As a guy who loves science, I kind of hate Crichton's distrust of it, here personified in the most obnoxious way possible by Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm. But the filmmakers set out to create the best action/adventure featuring dinosaurs eve, and they succeeded.

When you've got some time, take a look at the first big action scene, when the T-Rex attacks the jeeps, and kind of marvel at how great Spielberg is at putting it together. He takes what had been kind of a funny scene - the characters being disappointed that the dinosaurs aren't showing up - and then builds the tension up just enough so that we're ready for the big jump into all-out action. There's horror movie gore in it as the goat's leg lands on the jeep, freaking the kids out, and then once the T-Rex shows up, it's a masterfully composed sequence: The dinosaur's head pushes the car, the people scramble to stay behind it, pushing down on the overturned car makes it harder to get out, this motion leads to the edge (which appears to go down forever due to a nifty 3D effect), which Alan and Lex have to climb down, leading to the car... There's a ton of moving parts, but Spielberg and cinematographer Dean Cundey always have the exact right angle to show what's going on without resorting to slow motion or just having two things smash into another and calling that action. It's one thing leading to another clearly and quickly, and right in the middle, Spielberg injects some of the themes that define his work, with a panicky Lex crying "he left us!" - referring to the lawyer who had been sharing the kids' jeep, but remember that she and Timmy are on this trip because their parents are going through a divorce, so this big action scene how has this very human dimension injected into it without reducing the crazy science fiction stuff to a mere metaphor.

Seriously, that's one of the best action sequences ever made. And there's two or three more like it coming, including some virtuoso editing when Grant & the kids are climbing the fence while Ellie & Muldoon are trying to switch the power on with Malcolm & Hammon on the other end of the walkie talkie. "Clever girl!" The can full of embryos becoming a fossil itself. "Let's hope they don't figure out how to open doors!" Tyrannosaurus Rex living up to its name. And it still looks darn good twenty years later - some of the animatronics may be a bit stiff, but the filmmakers never overreach what they can do. The 3D upgrade is nice, although only rarely a big deal. It's a shame Jordan's doesn't run genuine sideways-70mm IMAX any more; the digital projection was occasionally fuzzy, especially with things in the middle distance that maybe should have been more clear.

Then again, I was in the second row looking up at a six-story screen because I arrived just a couple minutes before showtime. Not complaining - I didn't haul my butt out to Reading to not have life-sized 3D dinosaurs in my lap - but, man, I wish Colin Treverrow was shooting the next sequel with the big cameras. That would be genuinely awesome.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: Still Mine at Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (10am, Sunday 21 April 2013) and Buster Keaton Shorts at the Brattle Theatre (7:30pm, Sunday 21 April 2013)

Also stubless: Everything horrible that happened this week. I'd figured on going to see something downtown Monday evening, but a couple of bombs at the end of the Boston Marathon scotched that. I said it elsewhere on the blog, but it's worth re-iterating: What kind of monster attacks the Marathon? The elite runners are from every country, ethnicity, and culture; the rest are just ordinary people doing something very difficult, often as a way to raise money for charity. I went straight home instead, and then mostly continued a busy week as normal until I got text messages on the way out the door on Friday, telling me to turn on the TV. That's when I heard of the mess the previous night and that the T wouldn't be running. I let WCVB run, but mostly went into the back room and tried to work.

It wasn't really an act of defiance, trying to do normal stuff; I just get antsy doing nothing. I went to Antiviral after the "shelter-in-place" order was lifted, because I wanted to see it and the Saturday midnight show was out of the question (I wanted to see Still Mine there Sunday morning, and the folks at the theater probably wouldn't let me spend the night). I was glad to see a fair amount of other people out that night; if we were making a statement, I guess, it was that as much as the attack angered us, we were going to treat it as an irritant, rather than life-changing.

I wouldn't be free of it right away; I had tickets for Saturday's ballgame, where security was tighter than usual but the pregame ceremonies were, as usual on such a big day, excellent. That's the game that will probably become known as the "our fucking city" game, which was actually great baseball in addition to being cathartic: David Ortiz came back from injury, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava continued murdering baseballs, and Clay Buchholz continued to be a beast. I did have to to scratch my heads at some of the drunks doing "USA!" chants - I mean, I love my country, but this was a local attack, with the man who had been captured a citizen. It's okay to be provincial at times, even if an "us versus them" mindset generally does more harm than good.

Anyway: Movies happened again after that; I headed to Boston Common for Oblivion, then slept fast enough to get to Still Mine in the morning - got there early but was seated at the last moment, having waited like half an hour for a crepe and a smoothie. I limped home because my new shoes were digging into my ankles in a really painful way (#BostonStrong!), re-emerging just in time for Not So Silent Cinema's Buster Keaton Shorts, because Buster Keaton.


* * (out of four)
Seen 19 April 2013 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run/@fter Midnite, digital)

I wanted to like this movie more than many I've seen in some time; Brandon Cronenberg's first feature has him doing the same sort of grotesque, satirical body-horror that his father made his name with but has eventually moved away from. And Cronenberg fils certailly has enough cool ideas to be worth watching, but he also doesn't seem to have his father's skill at teasing a story out of it that makes the audience shake as well as squirm.

Antiviral isn't really boring, at least, but it is kind of nonsensical. I can deal with a world where people eat 3D-printed meat grown from the DNA of celebrities and pay to contract their recent illnesses; I don't know where faking one's death makes any sense in it, though. The motives of the characters seemed vague rather than alien. The late bits about corporate ruthlessness didn't quite have the teeth of the attacks on celebrity culture.

I'm kind of torn on whether I wish Caleb Landry Jones and Sarah Gadon had better characters to play, too. Gadon, especially; she was good in Cronenberg pêre's Cosmopolis last year, and her character here has the potential for a tragic arc disproving the "celebrities are not people" assertion from earlier on in the movie as she suffers out of the limelight, but there's an argument for keeping her cryptic as well. It doesn't quite work out for me, though - I see the ideas, but I have a hard time getting excited about them.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 20 April 2013 in AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, DCP)

Here's something to ponder - if Oblivion had come out thirty-ish years ago, I would have wanted all the toys from it. Today, big sci-fi epics are so common that there's no toy line for this at all, despite it being full of cool and merchandisable things.

Kind of surprising, because it sort of feels like the kind of movie that's built to sell toys; it's a bunch of not hugely original ideas pieced together in a fairly capable form. Actually, "fairly capable" undersells it - co-writer/director Joseph Kosinski executes this movie very well indeed - he stages actions scenes that look cool and are easy to follow, and knows how to give something expressionless and mechanical genuine menace. He deploys Tom Cruise well, and while Cruise may sort of be aging out of this sort of movie (he's noticeably older than his female co-stars in close-up), he has an easy charisma in the part, as much as you can when you start a movie with "after a mandatory memory wipe..."

The story fits together, more or less - it's easy to find holes but just as easy to smooth them over (though I think I might have preferred it without the opening narration). It's a shame that they couldn't come up with a more clever line for the climax than the one f-bomb PG-13 allows. The music by M83 is pretty great - it's modern and driving without feeling particularly unusual (Kosinski apparently has a knack for this; the Daft Punk soundtrack was arguably the best part of Tron: Legacy). The supporting cast is nice, although there's no question that the movie is about Tom Cruise with a side of Morgan Freeman.

And, man, there is stuff in it that would make great toys.

Buster Keaton Shorts

Weird thing - I think I've seen all four Buster Keaton shorts presented relatively recently. Within the last couple years, anyway. I've already got reviews for "The Goat" and "One Week" elsewhere, so I'll leave those to be read in those posts (the one which includes "The Goat" has just been crazy popular over the last few weeks; I'm guessing someone linked to it when talking about the Somerville Theatre's upcoming silent series). But let's get to the other two!

"The High Sign"

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 April 2013 in the Brattle Theatre (Not-So-Silent-Cinema, digital)

A thoroughly goofy short which has Buster tossed off a train, disrespect some cops, then stumble into the service of both a fiendish secret society and the man they intend to assassinate while working at a shooting gallery, and then fight villains off in a house filled with secret passages and trap doors. All within twenty minutes! It's a remarkable dense bit of silent comedy, with more intricate set-pieces than many current features have.

Some bits of the setting and humor are dated, but nothing that relies on Buster's ingenuity both as a filmmaker and a character. It's actually an amazing bit of filmmaking, both technically and in pacing, even if it does include some jokes early on that are only amusing, rather than gut-busting.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 April 2013 in the Brattle Theatre (Not-So-Silent-Cinema, digital)

"Cops" once again finds Buster Keaton in trouble with the law, as he was with "The Goat", this time as a love-struck but trouble-finding young man whose attempts to make enough money to woo the mayor's daughter find him accidentally committing a number of crimes, until finally the city's whole police force is after him.

Like almost all Keaton films, it's frequently very funny, especially since Keaton has a knack for escalation, even within the confines of a short. Some of the gags here aren't necessarily among his funniest - some are undoubtedly funnier in the context of the 1920s, some just have a set-up that victimizes people in a way that's not entirely amusing - but it's got a pretty good chase or two, and it's quite funny to watch Buster dig himself into a bigger and bigger hole.

Made it this far? Have yourself some Horrible Photography!

 photo IMAG0345_zps3a0d04f1.jpg

That there is Not-So-Silent Cinema, taken from the Brattle's balcony. Kyle Tuttle plays banjo, Brendan Cooney is on keyboards (he also composed the scores), and Andy Bergman plays clarinet & jaw harp.

One of the reasons it's always fun to see silent movies is that with new accompaniment, it's not quite like seeing a new movie, but it's a new experience. For instance, NSSC puts a lot of bluegrass into their scores, a fun and energetic sound for comedies like this which feels more or less period-appropriate, especially in the more pastoral shorts. Cooney is also an entertaining narrator, tossing in information that may or may not be true but is fun to hear nevertheless.

They're a fun group. Their main April tour has completed, but their website shows a few early-May shows in Newton and Bethlehem, PA, if you happen to be in that area - a trip well worth taking.

There, the end. Now, to write up Next Week and then get to working on IFFBoston stuff!

LoreSpring BreakersBUFF: I Declare WarBUFF: Blue DreamBUFF: A Band Called DeathBUFF: Guilty of RomanceBUFF: See You Next Tuesday & Jug FaceBUFF: The RamblerBUFF: PietaBUFF: White Reindeer & Cheap ThrillsBUFF: Samurai CopBUFF: Los Chidos, Vanishing Waves, & Big Ass Spider!

StarbuckThaleCarnival of Souls & Spider BabyPhantasm IIDr. Who and the DaleksDreddEvil Dead (2013)

The HostBeyond the HillsOrioles 8, Sox 5KochFrom Up on Poppy HillThe Company You KeepGI Joe: Retaliation

AntiviralSox over RoyalsOblivion

No comments: