This, folks, it what you call a pretty darn good week.
Stubless: Watching fireworks over the Charles and heading up to Maine for my twin nieces' second birthday party on Saturday.
The Red Sox have been weird but fun this summer - predicted to finish last in the AL Beast because they were terrible last year and the unexciting moves they made over the winter all said "decent placeholder until the guys on the farm are ready in two or three years", they've instead been in first place all season and don't look particularly likely to give it up. On top of that, defensive whiz who couldn't hit a lick Julio Iglesias has been really effective with the bat and John Lackey - who the fans had pretty good reason to hate - has been the best pitcher on the staff and one of the best in baseball, especially with Buchholz out. I was genuinely pleased that the ticket I purchased in December wound up being for a Lackey game, which I can't remember ever being the case. The Sox won, of course, because that's what they do in 2013.
On either side of that ticket are stops at Coolidge Corner - on Monday for Raiders of the Lost Ark, because when a 35mm print of that movie shows up at a local cinema, you go, and on Thursday for Much Ado About Nothing, because it seemed like a good idea to wait a couple of weeks and be sure it wasn't a theater filled with Joss Whedon superfans.
After that, my time pretty much belonged to Stomp Boston!: Giant Monster All-Out Attack at the Brattle, seeing King Kong & Monsters on Friday and the Ray Harryhausen double feature of 20 Million Miles to Earth & It Came From Beneath the Sea on Sunday. More got skipped - I was hanging out with family on Saturday and the Brattle's scheduled was thrown off by a print minxup (they received a German-language print of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and by the time they got permission to run a DVD, I was doing something else). That gave me the chance to head up the Red Line to catch The Heat in Somerville.
Much Ado About Nothing
* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 July 2013 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run, 35mm)
I like most of what Joss Whedon does quite a bit - enough to qualify as a fan by most reasonable standards, although the standards can be so skewed in this guy's case that I practically look like a skeptic. He's a massively talented guy who, if he didn't already know it, often seems to have taken the press and (especially) internet declarations of his genius to heart, and that sort of thing can make vanity projects like this adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing insufferable.
And there are moments when this movie - filmed in a couple of weeks at Whedon's home with friends he's worked with before - are way too cutesy. A scene shot in what I presume to be his daughters' bedroom is distracting in how it calls attention to the shoestring the movie was shot on, for instance, causing the audience to giggle at the setting rather than pay attention to what's going on. Another scene, set in the pool, is goofy staging for the sake of goofy staging, asking the audience to notice how clever Whedon is rather than just being well-done.
Which is kind of a shame, because it threatens to overshadow the movie's greatest revelation: That Amy Acker is damn good and doesn't need the sort of exaggerated deliveries that Whedon had her affecting on Angel as a crutch. She plays Beatrice with the sort of genuinely good heart to temper a bitter, sarcastic streak - at least, until the end when we see what she really looks like angry. The rest of the cast is quite acceptable, but Acker's the one who makes the movie.
Admittedly, comparisons to the actors in other roles and other actors in the same roles hurt the movie a bit for me: I think Alexis Denisof has a weird voice here, and I don't think it's just because Whedon had him affect a British accent on Angel (on the other hand, seeing things finally work out for Wesley and Fred made me quite happy). And as nice as the cast here is, the cast of the Kenneth Branagh one was great. Reed Diamond struggles to match Denzel Washington, for instance, and while the idea of Nathan Fillion and company playing the constabulary as deadpan cops is clever, Michael Keaton's slovenly Dogberry works much better with the material.
Heck, I'd argue for Keanu Reeves's wooden-but-angry Don John over Sean Maher's version. Maybe that serves as proof that I can't look at this objectively - but then again, Whedon made a better Thor & Loki movie than Kenneth Branagh, so maybe we can call them even.
* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 July 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, DCP)
I was kind of surprised to see that The Heat was pretty darn close to a solid two hours, although not completely so; director Paul Feig and co-star Melissa McCarthy are in the Judd Apatow family of filmmakers/frequent collaborators, and "running a bit too long" seems to be in their DNA. This particular movie doesn't exactly wear one out as much as it makes odd choices - in particular, there's a "bonding over getting drunk and acting stupid" montage that doesn't quite fit and seems to come at the expense of Sandra Bullock's fed and McCarthy's Boston cop actually solving the case that brings them together.
Fortunately, Bullock and McCarthy are both quite impressive in their roles. McCarthy winds up with the meatier role, in part because her character is given an extended family to play off but also because she has a deadpan weariness to her that lets her drop sarcasm so well. Bullock's goody-goody is more isolated - well, aside from some entertaining banter with Marlon Wayans (in a surprisingly affable supporting turn) - and we're seldom given the opportunity to enjoy her being smart or right. Her prissiness and arrogance mostly plays against her strengths in the beginning, too.
It's a good thing that they're so much fun as actors - and that Feig can make the jokes work - because they've been dropped into a very generic buddy cop movie. And while to a certain extent that may be intentional - the hook of the movie is that it's a buddy cop movie with two women, and making it too specific, or something where it being these two characters was crucial, might have undercut how it's not supposed to be a big deal - it makes things a bit forgettable. The movie has done well enough to make a sequel likely, and I hope that if it happens, it's a more interesting story. Not necessarily one about these guys, but one with memorable villains and supporting characters and crimes.