Hey, a nice clean split for the first half of the year! Keen!
Stubless: Broken (24 June 2013, Regal Theatre); they apparently don't bother to give you a ticket if you're the only one there.
After that, a reasonably quiet week at the movies: This Is the End got chosen over The Bling Ring mostly on the basis of start time on Tuesday, and I must admit - it always surprising me how busy the Somerville Theatre can get even on off-days. I'm used to my weekday-evening movies being at Kendall Square and being niche fare as opposed to mainstream-indie or at Boston Common where multiple screens dilute the audience. Here, it's a pretty good crowd for a movie that's been out a few weeks.
Saturday wound up being a busy day - start at the Brattle for Safety Last as part of their DCP Debut series, take the Red Line to South Station so that I can use up the last of a two-for-one deal on IMAX tickets at the Aquarium the day before they expired to see "Penguins 3D", stick around to watch Star Trek Into Darkness at the full IMAX size that some scenes were shot/rendered at, and then kill some time before the next convenient screening of White House Down.
Aside: Part of that killing time was eating an okay steak at an Irish pub using a Restaurants.com voucher purchased in 2010. It turns out that I have about $300 worth of those things right now, so friends & family living in/passing through Boston: Let's get dinner.
Sunday's only movie-related activity was picking up my swag bag from the Brattle's Kickstarter drive, and being pleasantly surprised to find that what I thought was going to be a shot glass was actually a pint glass. After all, I don't drink, and the pint is a lot more convenient for soda or lemonade than the shot glass. Instead, I drilled my way down through a bunch of the backlogged comic book collections, most notably the back end of Greg Pak's "Incredible Hulks" run (which meant a happy detour into the last couple "Incredible Hercules" trades) and Jason Aaron's subsequent "Incredible Hulk" run. Man, "Incredible Herc" was a fun book. It's a shame Aaron's run had artist troubles to go along with an ill-considered first storyline, because the second trade is wonderfully nuts.
And... Wow, this took too long. Hopefully I'll get on a regular schedule before Fantasia can disrupt things!
This Is the End
* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 June 2013 in Somerville Theatre #3 (first-run, DCP)
Seth Rogen's a guy whom I don't think gets nearly the respect he deserves; while this movie references how he plays variations on similar characters a lot, he's also a guy who makes odd choices when he doesn't have to, insisting on an interesting director for The Green Hornet, making a downright uncomfortable comedy like Observe and Report, and playing Take This Waltz pretty straight. So, if he and writing partner Evan Goldberg want to make a goofy self-referential apocalypse comedy, why not?
And, surprise surprise, it turns out to be pretty funny. It doesn't hurt at all that the friends involved - Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride in the main cast, a great many others passing through - are just funny and eccentric enough to make playing both to and against type a blast, and there's just enough of a story about friends Jay and Seth growing apart as they find different levels of success and fame that the movie doesn't feel like just a stream of gags.
They're pretty good gags, though, even if some do eventually start to wear (Jonah Hill oddly seems to try to hard when playing himself). It's hard not to enjoy a big goofy idea that gets executed in a big goofy way, though.
* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 29 June 2013 in the Brattle Theatre (DCP Debut, DCP)
Go figure - I don't think I've watched this since the last time it played the Brattle, eight years ago, and then, wham - Criterion Blu-ray arrives, Brattle plays the new digital restoration as part of its DCP debut series, and the Somerville Theatre has it scheduled as their October "Silents, Please" presentation.
Well, there are much worse movies to see a few times in relatively rapid succession. It's got one of the best-remembered gags of the silent era in Harold's long climb up a 12-story building's facade, running into particular trouble at a clock face. And, on this second time through, I found something a little sweeter about Harold trying to maintain the illusion that he's rocketing up the corporate ladder - it's a dumb idea, and though he looks a bit too old to really sell the character as a naive kid, it still works, and you know he's going to pay for it.
Another thing I noticed better the second time through is just how well-populated this movie is: There are some broadly-built characters, but also a lot that feel like a genuine ensemble, even if they are there just to play off Lloyd for one gag.
2005 review at EFC, not bad for its age
* * * (out of four)
Seen 29 June 2013 in the New England Aquarium Simons IMAX Theatre (first-run, 70mm IMAX 3D)
Going by what I find on IMDB (which is not always the safest thing to do), "Penguins 3D" appears to be what you get when you cut a British nature documentary, "The Penguin King 3D", down to half its length to play on museum IMAX screens that like to start a new movie on the hour, every hour. Things could be worse; it seems to be just fine at that length and narrator David Attenborough was not replaced for the American release (Tim Allen was considered, and I don't care to think what he would have done with the gassy elephant seals).
The king penguins that the movie follows are not native to Antarctica, but rather the island of South Georgia, about a thousand miles away from any human habitation. It's mostly a rocky, inhospitable place, aside from the beach, where millions of black-and-white birds make up "Penguin City", though there are other inhabitants as well. As the movie begins, a male penguin who has been out fishing for three years comes ashore, finds a mate, and then they alternate watching the egg (and later chick) while the other goes out to catch fish. Well, at least until the kid's appetite becomes so great that they have to place the chick in day care while both go fishing.
Reading that synopsis, it's natural to ask why the world needs this movie when March of the Penguins already exists, and it's a fair question; they cover a lot of the same ground. March wasn't shot in 4K 3D and wasn't presented in IMAX , though, and that does add something to the experience. While the 3D is in the "nice to have, but not essential" category - there are only a few scenes where the heightened depth really makes itself known - the scale and clarity of the large-format projection are very nice: Penguin City is filled with individual birds, as opposed to being a vast smear of black and white with some yellow and brown spots.
Like a lot of movies built to play the science museum circuit, it's built with kids firmly in mind; there's a sequence where three penguins who landed on the wrong side of the beach are apparently puzzled at how to get around three massive elephant seals, especially since their flatulence seems to form a powerful barrier (one does wonder, considering how much this was apparently cut down, what got cut so that could stay in). It does get surprisingly intense at times, though, as two of the best uses of 3D could easily show up in horror movies: There's a shot of a leopard seal swimming after a group of penguins that reminds the audience that these cute, sleek creatures are also carnivorous predators; in another scene, a skewer walks through the area like something out of Jurassic Park. David Attenborough (the brother of Jurassic Park's Richard) narrates without speaking down to the audience.
In fact, he's a little harsh at times, but that actually gives "Penguins" a little more personality than many of the docs it shares screens with - a hint of "kids are cute but they eat you out of house and home" frustration. It's a welcome bit of prickliness in a genre that is often beautiful but bland, even if the movie is mostly a bigger version of familiar material.
Star Trek Into Darkness
* * * (out of four)
Seen 29 June 2013 in the New England Aquarium Simons IMAX Theatre (second-run, 70mm IMAX 3D)
It was eight years between viewings for Safety Last!, but roughly a month for Star Trek Into Darkness. Not particularly surprising, though - I think I saw the first J.J. Abrams Trek in theaters three times because it played various IMAX screens (Jordan's, Aquarium, Boston Common), and since this one actually shot bits with the big IMAX cameras - and seemed to render some of the pure-FX scenes at IMAX scale... Well, might as well catch it while it plays one of the area's few genuine real-IMAX screens.
And, you know... It's kind of a blast. The issues I had the first time are still very much there, but they don't quite frustrate me as much this time; I can just enjoy the adventure and how Abrams, for all the script's faults, hits the emotional beats and the way these characters bounce off each other as well as anybody. And the action is big and beautiful in IMAX; I might have liked to see it in 2D - that's how it was shot, and while this is generally one of the better conversion jobs you'll see, that means even the native-IMAX shot stuff has been through a computer and downscaled a bit - but it's still a bright, fun movie.
Makes me wonder - will I enjoy Man of Steel a little more if I give it a second chance? I had a lot of the same fan-related issues with that, after all.
EFC review from last month
White House Down
* * * (out of four)
Seen 29 June 2013 in AMC Boston Common #17 (first-run, 4K DCP)
It's just a week for "haven't I seen you before", isn't it? White House Down is somewhat familiar territory as well, with Olympus Has Fallen just opening three months ago; do we really need another Die Hard-in-the-White-House movie?
Well, it's not a matter of need, but this one is a lot more fun. It's less about grim headshots and more about enjoying its odd-couple pairings. Jamie Foxx is a surprisingly fun President - in large part, I suspect, because he's playing President Sawyer not as a generically good man but as a Jamie Foxx character, so he's got as much personality as the last five presidents you've seen in a movie combined. Channing Tatum continues to demonstrate he's got more than bland hunkdom going for him as funny but capable action hero. Meanwhile, Jason Clarke and James Woods make excellent adversaries - I barely recall seeing Woods in anything since Shark was cancelled, and while it's initially a bummer to see how old he seems to have gotten overnight, he builds up to being a sarcastic monster quite nicely. Fill out the cast with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Joey King, Lance Reddick, and Richard Jenkins, and you're doing all right.
The action's not bad, either. Roland Emmerich has had a sort of rough couple of decades since Stargate and Independence Day, but doing something that's not a huge event movie seems to suit him; White House Down is still big and frantic and crazy, but it's not grandiose, so he can do things like a goofy car chase on the White House lawn and just make it fun. That's the whole movie, really - kind of silly, but well-done without the meanness of its predecessor.