Friday, June 21, 2013

This Week In Tickets: 10 June 2013 - 16 June 2013

What you should take away from the following page: Screen #1 at the Somerville Theatre is a great place to see a movie, both in terms of showing good things and high quality.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: Kill Bill Volume 2, 16 June 2013, 10pm-ish, in the living room.

Can I go to the "they called it a 'cinema slumber party' but wouldn't let me crash there until The Kid" joke one more time? No? Sorry.

Before that, though, things got a little wonky. As I mention in the "QT Chronicles" post (covering Jackie Brown, Foxy Brown & Kill Bill: Vol. 1 from last week and Lady Snowblood, Death Proof, and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 from this one) got sort of derailed by not feeling particularly well. Shame, I might have enjoyed seeing more, but trying to give a series one's entire week is filled with pitfalls. The reason that I was trying pull some clever scheduling was to see More than Honey on Monday; it turned out to be a nifty documentary and also reminded me that bees freak me out.

Saturday, I half-joked, was Fantasia training, cramming four movies into the day, knowing that some were short-timers (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty & Errors of the Human Body), rightly suspecting it of others (Shadow Dancer, and figuring that I might as well fit Man of Steel in there while I knew it was playing 35mm on Somerville's big screen and that it would have me in the right area for Errors afterward.

(Also, can I mention how great it is that MoviePass now works at Somerville? It's great. I've given them a heads-up that they should add the Arlington Capitol to their list of Discover-accepting theaters, but it's not available yet)

Sunday started where Saturday ended, with me heading to Somerville to see a Charlie Chaplin program that included "The Rink", "The Bond", and The Kid, which as usual for Somerville's silent programming was accompanied by Jeff Rapsis and presented on 35mm film with Dave Kornfeld manning the projector in the booth, which meant he couldn't wisecrack about me swiping his favorite seat as he did for Errors. Note to self: If that's the projectionist's preferred seat, it's probably not a bad place to sit.

Also cool to see: Both Man of Steel and The Kid got enough people coming that they opened up the balcony.

After that, I headed downtown to check out The East, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I've wanted to like Brit Marling's previous co-written/co-starring roles, but this one actually managed it. After that, the plan was to get to the Coolidge in time for Stories We Tell, but when it's in the 14-person room, it sells out in a hurry. Second sell-out of the weekend, as I got turned away from This Is the End on Friday.

Man of Steel

* * * (out of four)
Seen 15 June 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, 35mm)

I really want my friends at the comic shop to go see this one, because I've got opinions that I want to discuss where it's concerned, and they're of the variety that I can't really pussyfoot around with - I've got to be able to talk about the ending. You'll hear some comic book fans and pros rip into it, and my instinct is to do the same, although I don't think it undoes the number of things this movie does right.

And let's be clear - it does a lot of things right, from the very start: Its take on Krypton, for instance, is among my favorites in any medium, finding a way to fuse the sci-fi wonder of the "Silver Age" Superman comics with the sterile world that had already all but died even before its core exploded. I absolutely love what they did with Lois Lane, which is in many ways the exact opposite of what DC did when re-launching their line a couple of years ago, but which frees her of decades of nonsensical baggage and frees her to give the movie's final, perfect line. I like Henry Cavill as Superman, and think that as future films are less of an origin story, he'll fit the classic conception of Superman/Clark even better.

And surprise, surprise, Zack Snyder rises to the occasion. I may not be a particular fan of his early work, but he pulls back from his tendency to try and get noticed here and does some excellent mythmaking (an excellent soundtrack by Hans Zimmer that makes a clean break with the familiar but often-used-as-a-crutch John Williams themes is a great help). The movie is covering familiar territory, but I felt thrills of excitement throughout. Even the initial decision which I had a little hesitation on, playing this as a first-contact story turns out okay - a logical take on it for the twenty-first century, although one which shifts certain elements a little more than I'd like. I'm not hugely fond of what it does to Jonathan Kent's character, for instance; even if it's not a deal-breaker the way it seems to be for some of my friends, I don't think it would have worked if a lesser actor than Kevin Costner had been in the role. But I can't lie - making it more science fictional worked for me.

And in some ways, I don't really mind the level of destruction we see in the finale. In part, it's because it is in fact pretty close to the sort of thing I read in comics on a weekly basis; Snyder and company capture the grandiose, larger than life sense of the comics. I do really wish that they'd been able to also capture the fun of it, and the way that the superhuman heroes' determination and ability to save everyone is the same scale as the threats. Think back to The Avengers, where this is a specific part of Captain America's battle plan, or Iron Man 3, where the "barrel of monkeys" sequence was all about this being what superheroes do. You don't have to write yourself into the corner that screenwriter David Goyer did, where the only way out made me think he'd completely missed the point.

But he did, and while I think the immediate aftermath of that scene made it work a bit better, it meant I was still using phrases like "on balance..." when recommending it to Tony and Ken yesterday. And I shouldn't have to, as so much of it didn't need any sort of qualification.

"The Rink"

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 16 June 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Silents Please!, 35mm)

This Chaplin film is from 1916, which is early in his career, although he'd still cranked out enough movies since arriving in America to have his sense of what worked mostly down. What worked, apparently, was mostly strings of gags that don't necessarily have a whole lot to do with each othe/ Tthis short casts Chaplin as a trouble-making waiter who meets a girl while skating on his lunch break, gets invited to her evening skating party, and then finds trouble because a bunch of the people he'd upset earlier in the day are there too.

A lot of the gags work, and the roller-skating physical comedy is quite impressive. A lot of it is knockabout humor which Chaplin choreographs as well as anybody ever has; there's a reason we remember him as one of the all-time great physical comedians almost a century later. He hadn't quite figured out how to merge great characterization with slapstick yet, though; his character here is more than a bit of a jerk, so we as an audience are mostly impressed by the choreography rather than laughing along with the characters in the situations. Which isn't nothing, but it's not what Chaplin was capable of, either.

"The Bond"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 June 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Silents Please!, 35mm)

1918's "The Bond" isn't a whole lot more sophisticated than "The Rink" - in fact, as filmmaking goes, it's a lot closer to just shooting vaudeville than anything else - but it does show Chaplin having figured out how to make a personal connection to the audience. You might think that characterization wouldn't matter nearly as much in this collection of short skits - some of which basically amount to a live-action editorial cartoon - but in fact, that's what makes them work as well as they do: The audience gets them pretty much instantly.

The movie's aims are simple; it's a propaganda film through and through. But Chaplin knows how to make it go down easy; "The Bond" softens the audience up with pure music-hall silliness and whimsy even as it's trying to separate its audience from money needed to buy guns to go to war with. By the end, Chaplin is bonking the Kaiser with a great big hammer, exhorting the audience as directly as possible without sound to buy Liberty Bonds.

For something screened relatively rarely (or because it's something screened relatively rarely), the print which screened looked quite nice, even though Dave mentioned it dates from ~1962. Given the short's simple, high-contrast color scheme, strong blacks and whites are essential, and video wouldn't have looked quite right.

The Kid

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 16 June 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Silents Please!, 35mm)

It's been just a bit more than a year and a half since I last saw this, so it's probably not surprising that my opinion about it hasn't changed much at all - it's a template for many movies that would come later, most of which would add needless filler without making any particular improvement. It's amazing how many things Chaplin skips because they're neither funny nor important to the story - how Edna rose from where she started to becoming a well-known actress, for instance. The only real indulgence in the movie is the "Dreamland" section, but it's just odd enough - and filled with wire work that must have impressed in 1921 - to at least be a fun diversion.

Mostly, though, this movie gets by how well Chaplin and Jackie Coogan (as the title character) work together. Coogan's a special delight, never asked to play things too grown up but also not overly cutesy; just a very likable kid who brings joy to an initially unwilling father's life.

The East

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 June 2013 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, 4K DCP)

I've been wanting to like a Brit Marling-starring movie ever since I saw Another Earth, if only because it's pretty cool when any young actors look to generate good movies and roles for themselves, but a young woman doing character-oriented genre work is not something we see a whole lot. Unfortunately, her first two attempts were split between flawed (Another Earth) and utterly misguided (Sound of My Voice), and the latter gave plenty of reason to be worried about The East - she'd be reuniting with co-writer/director Zal Batmanglij in another story of infiltrating an underground group. This one works, though.

Why? I think the main reason is that Batmanglij and Marling have a better handle on her strengths - that she's easy to relate to even in peculiar situations. Her character is not exactly an audience surrogate, at least for the audiences at the boutique-house cinemas where this is mostly running - the radio in her car is tuned to the Christian station and she probably votes Republican at the start - but her drive and youthful certainty should be familiar to most. She is easy to empathize with, even if one doesn't necessarily agree with her.

Which, in general, is the strength of the movie in general. Batmanglij and a very solid cast - including nice turns from Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Shiloh Fernandez, Danielle Macdonald, and Tony Kebbell - get pretty comfortable in moral gray areas, tapping into the appeal of idealism and direct action but being rightly nervous of the extreme ways The East goes about striking back. That the movie is willing to point out that both the East's slogan of "you hurt us, we hurt you" and Sarah's trust in the system are somewhat childish may lead to a a less visceral finale than one might like, it beats the film devolving into a screed.

It does push things a little far at times - even if Patricia Clarkson's job is to personify corporate self-interest, it would be nice if her character had the charisma necessary to keep Sarah's loyalty. And the members of the East are a strange combination of wealthy drop-outs and folks who wear their injury on their sleeves. It may keep them from being righteous enough to tilt the balance too far in one direction, but even tense, the group is kind of bland.

Really, it would be nice if there was something more active and thrilling about this movie; it's often competent and capable rather than really exciting. Which isn't bad; I'd just rather see the team behind it do something great rather than just move in that direction.

More Than HoneyLady SnowbloodDeath ProofShadow DancerAn Oversimplification of Her BeautyMan of SteelErrors of the Human BodyThe KidThe East

No comments: