Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blood & Guts in Theaters I Haven't Visited in a While: Go Goa Gone, Aftershock, and No One Lives

It seems like it's been a while since I've been to either Fresh Pond or the Showcase Cinemas in Revere. That's because Fresh Pond has historically not been very good and Revere is far away, and, well, I don't know how much that's changed since then. But, sometimes they get movies that don't show up downtown. This seems kind of backwards to me - aren't you going to get more people going to a niche film where there's a large concentration of people rather than further away? - but, hey, if I book theaters Boston would have had a chance to see Tai Chi Hero.

Anyway, the two places haven't really changed. Fresh Pond still reminds me of the theaters of my youth, in that it's a great big cinder block in an ocean of parking spaces, with center aisles in most (if not all screens). The prices actually aren't bad - a $9.75 evening show ($12 for Indian movies) is pretty good compared to what you'll find at Boston Common and Fenway, and roughly on par with what FEI charges in Somerville and Arlington. I actually used to go there a lot, as neither Fenway nor Boston Common had been built when I first moved to Cambridge, and the same movie seldom played both Harvard Square and Fresh Pond, Copley was small and expensive, and Somerville & the Capitol were mostly second-run.

Go Goa Gone played in one of the upstairs theaters, which are generally the good ones. It's not a great movie, but it's kind of fun, and seeing Indian movies just tends to be a kick in general. One thing that kind of amused me was just how hard a push there seems to be against smoking in Bollywood; for all that folks raised a bit of a ruckus in America when the MPAA started including tobacco use in the ratings system, this movie was not only preceded by a long anti-smoking PSA, but whenever someone was smoking on-screen, there would be a warning in the corner that "smoking is injurious to health". This was made even funnier by the fact that most of the time, the characters were smoking marijuana rather than tobacco. Other fun bits of Indian prudishness: The subtitles would often say something like "f___ers", punctuation and all, even though the characters were often swearing in English.

Things took a bit of a step downhill for Aftershock, though - it was (sadly) just me and one other guy there, and there still was not much in the way of good seats. Not just the center aisle thing, either - a large chunk of seats was removed from the middle of the auditorium, either to provide disabled seating or for damage. The pre-show slides were two years old and what were described as "fun facts" on them were actually just banal data. The sound quality of the music being piped in was terrible. And the two trailers before the movie included Dark Skies, mid-February release data and all. I guess that was the only horror-movie trailer they still had on 35mm.

And, to be fair, the presentation of the movie was actually fine. It's kind of sad that seeing it on 35mm turned out to be a pretty pleasant surprise; these days I just assume it's going to be digital, and part of me wonders if Aftershock was just what they could book in 35mm because they haven't upgraded all the screens to DCP yet. Whatever the reason, I'll take it, and recommend that folks go see it - it's a pretty good movie, will likely only last a week, and, hey, there's $4.75 shows on Tuesday. I think that's new to the place's "Apple Cinemas" incarnation (while it still says "Entertainment Cinemas" on the marquee, the tickets show them as under new management). I'm kind of curious as to how many smaller releases shown as coming soon on their new website actually show up; I could wind up spending more time there than expected if they are looking to draw people in with stuff that doesn't play elsewhere.

That was Friday night; Saturday I took a trip out to Revere to see the 2:20pm show of No One Lives. Again, only place showing it on the T, and I do like director Ryuhei Kitamura. I got too late a start, so I was too late for the bus connection I wanted to make at Malden station, and the one which looked like it could be a useful backup wound up being ten minutes late. That meant I got there too late to even do the "buy ticket, run inside without any snacks" thing, and since it was a shopping center area in Revere, there was nothing to do but see another movie in the meantime. I'll get to Peeples in another post.

I used to work in Showcase Cinemas in Worcester while in college, and the "Cinema de Lux" in Revere has basically the same layout I remember from the "new" Worcester North cinema - concession area in the center, two wings with about ten theaters each. It must be a pain in the neck to staff, as the concession area is like a food court in how it's set up, right down to a weird little steakhouse set up inside the lobby. There were no kiosks to buy tickets, either, as I've grown to expect in multiplexes, and they don't take Discover, so MoviePass was out of the question. It was kind of a weird combination between tricked out and lacking basic amenities.

To be fair: The pizza they had on offer was pretty good, and even the screen No One Lives played on was big and comfortable. One odd thing I noticed was that several of the previews (mostly before Peeples) didn't just say they had been approved by the MPAA for "Appropriate Audiences", but to "Accompany This Movie". Since when has that been a thing?

It was interesting to get out of my usual routine, I suppose, but I don't see myself revisiting either one of these cinemas soon unless they've got something I can't see elsewhere - so, guys, when Well Go is releasing an Asian action movie, pounce! Otherwise, convenience and cost put other places ahead of them.

Go Goa Gone

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 10 May 2013 in Apple Cinemas #1 (first-run, DCP)

Go Goa Gone isn't going to be of a whole lot of interest to serious horror movie fans unless they're trying to fill a zombie passport of some sort and were missing a comedy from India. Otherwise, it's pretty familiar stuff, far from the leading edge where intensity is concerned, the jokes either aren't that funny or don't really translate, and the opportunities for just going weird get passed by.

For heroes, it gives us Hardik (Kunal Khemu) and Luv (Vir Das), two stoners who only have jobs because of their more responsible roommate Bunny (Anand tiwari). Luv decides to clean up for his girlfriend, gets dumped... Look, they wind up on a trip to Goa, Luv meets a new girl, Luna (Pooja Gupta), and the drugs at a rave turn everyone into zombies. The ferry back to the mainland won't be back for a couple of days, so they and Russian gangster Boris (Saif Ali Khan) have to stay alive until then.

That's fairly basic material, and the filmmakers manage to stick reasonably close to the template; the biggest twist is that the "heroes" are screw-ups, but that's hardly enough of a variation to be worth noting these days (heck, a zombie dressed as the title character from Shaun of the Dead shows up at one point). It's a bit bloated for something so basic by western standards - though the 110-minute running time is arguably short for an Indian movie, it could easily be tightened down to an hour and a half. Directors Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru (who co-write with Sita Menon) spend a lot of time establishing Luv and Hardik in the opening act for very little payoff later, and what's the point of do a freeze frame with the characters' names in big letters if you're just going to stop the movie to have everyone introduce themselves to each other three times? There's also pauses to explain in dialog how zombies work compared to vampires/ghosts/evil-deads, though that may be necessary for the Indian audience; I gather there have only been a few Hindi-language zombie pictures before this.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

Aftershock (2013)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 10 May 2013 in Apple Cinemas #5 (first-run, 35mm)

Aftershock is an impressively vicious combination of disaster and horror movies, and I mean about 75% of that as a compliment. The purpose of these movies is to draw forth sharp, primal emotions, and director Nicolas Lopez manages that even in the face of repeated, numbing exposure to the genre. He does that job so well that by the end, fatigue may set in, making one wonder if there's a point to it beyond the wringer.

Things start with an amiable gringo (Eli Roth) visiting Chile, hanging with his friend Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Ariel's friend Pollo (Nicolas Martinez). Pollo may not look like much, but his father is rich, which is how they're getting into exclusive clubs and making time with Eastern European model Irina (Natasha Yarovenko), heiress Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), and Monica (Andrea Osvart), the half-sister along to keep Kylie out of trouble. They're in a Valparaiso nightclub when a massive earthquake hits, and as they climb out of the rubble and carnage, at least one member of the sextet is in urgent need of medical attention. With a tsunami warning sounded and reports of escaped prisoners, it's everyone for themselves, and only a local firefighter (Marcial Tagle) offers much assistance.

It was by coincidence more than plan that I saw Aftershock back-to-back with another movie that spends a fair amount of time introducing the audience to the cast before hitting them with a disaster, but instructive in terms of showing how to do it well rather than run in circles. Even when Lopez and company are setting up locations and such that will be important later on, they're also letting the viewer see the good and bad sides of the characters' personalities and how they relate to each other. The traits assigned may be familiar ones, but they're expressed well; even the moments that seem far from smooth where the viewer may want him to just get to the earthquake already are not smooth in a way that fits the characters. There's enough detail given to throwaway characters that it's actually shocking when they're thrown away.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

No One Lives

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 May 2013 in Showcase Cinema de Lux Revere #14 (first-run, DLP)

No One Lives is a nasty piece of work, the sort of "thriller" that mostly seems to be designed to string an increasingly grotesque set of violent deaths together while taking a perverse sort of pride in how there's nothing really close to a conventional hero for the audience to cheer for. It should just be easily dismissed junk, but somehow cult favorite director Ryuhei Kitamura makes all the pieces that don't really make any sense together into a movie that holds the audience's attention.

At the top level, the three basic pieces have potential: First, there's Emma Ward (Adelaide Clemens), a girl attempting to escape her kidnappers as the movie opens. After that, we meet a couple (Luke Evans & Laura Ramsey) moving cross-country stopping at the Highwayman Motel after a long day of driving. Finally, there's Hoag (Lee Tergesen) and his bad of robbers, which include his girlfriend Tamara (America Olivo), the hulking Ethan (Brodus Clay), hot-headed Flynn (Derek Magyar), and Denny (Beau Knapp), who's really only there because he's dating Hoag's daughter Amber (Lindsey Shaw). After a job goes wrong, Flynn decides to make up the shortfall by going after the guy just passing through - which turns out to be a very bad idea.

That's the basic "dangerous people who run afoul of someone who is on a whole different level" set-up, with an interesting wild card thrown in, as it becomes clear that Emma is not the typical helpless heiress she might have been once upon a time. You can do a fair amount with that beyond just assuaging the audience's guilt at enjoying inventive murder because the victims kind of have it coming too; and the script by David Cohen plays with a number of ideas. The thing is, it doesn't exactly commit to any of them. There's an theme running through the movie about which people are capable of being killers under which circumstances, but it doesn't quite connect. That connects to what's going on with Emma's kidnapping, but the way that plays out is disappointing, too.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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