Monday, September 30, 2013

This Week In Tickets: 23 September 2013 - 29 September 2013

Not a busy week, but makes up for it by being pretty good.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: We Are What We Are, Thursday 19 September 2013, 7:30pm, Regal Fenway #2

... Although, I suppose you could say I did have a stub for that, in the form of the piece of paper taped to a seat to reserve it for me because I'm an IFFBoston member. Disappointingly, it wasn't a packed house for this preview, despite all the local festivals and horror-oriented websites saying this was likely to be good and worth watching. I was surprised how good it was, just because I half-remembered the original as putting me to sleep, but Jim Mickle did a great job with the material.

It was one of two things this week where I didn't miss the bus on purpose in the morning but didn't complain, as it's a lot easier to put in a full day of work at get to a theater on the gren line in the 7pm hour from home than from Burlington. The other was Monday's screening of The Last Command at the Coolidge with the Alloy Orchestra. I thought I'd seen it with them before, but the only entry on the blog is from a Sterberg/Dietrich series at the Brattle almost ten years ago.

Between and after those: The surprisingly good last-minute-replacement Jose e Pilar as part of the Gathr screening series on Tuesday; my last show in the HFA's Hitchcock series, Suspicion, on Friday; straight-from-China prequel Young Detective Dee on Saturday; and Ron Howard's latest, Rush, on Sunday.

One per day is kind of short, but there's still baseball, and even though there's going to be more in October, I cling to the regular season because I don't want to let the summer go without a fight.

The Last Command

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 23 September 2013 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (Sounds of Silents, 35mm w/ live accompaniment)

I cringe to look at my original review of this movie, not just because the stuff I wrote nine-plus years ago is not very good (as you might expect), but because I openly admit that I arrived late and reviewed it based on that. Granted, back then I was just throwing this stuff up on the blog for my own amusement, but it was less than a month before I started writing for eFilmCritic and imported everything that thirty-year-old me didn't find too embarrassing. I've revised that review a bit.

I still like the movie an awful lot, though: For all that the bits with the aged, shaky Sergius Alexandr seems kind of blunt, the movie is a fine story of not judging a man's morality by his politics, and Evelyn Brent is rather fantastic in it. And, yes, it really does pay to see it from the beginning: Missing the first couple of minutes with William Powell the first time meant that I wasn't completely keyed into his character's potential for meanness when he reappeared later, and having it in mind that this former revolutionary has the capability to be so vindictive does affect the way one looks at the character.

Revised review at eFilmCritic


* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 September 2013 in the Harvard Film Archive (The Complete Hitchcock, 35mm)

Given how certain an element of a thriller that the shocking twist has become, the way Hitchcock's Suspicion ends is kind of a surprise on its own; it not only doesn't end the way one has come to expect, but it's even more abrupt that the typical Hitchcock finale.

This isn't one of the greatest thrillers of its type - even considering that it's from 1941, it seems a bit generic, like the writers had the basic shell of a "did I marry a killer?" story but didn't really have a unique setting or character hook to run with. It's a workable enough story that actually does fairly well to keep certain things off-screen, and while it's sort of dated in spots, there's a lightness to much of the activity that makes the genuine threats that make their way into the movie that much more sinister.

That includes - perhaps primarily - Cary Grant, who plays his character in much the same way he'd play his comic roles, tossing off quips and showing a casual, insouciant charm even as he's being an utter jerk, with just the sort of twinkle that lets the audience believe that his wife will give him the benefit of the doubt even when the audience is past that. Joan Fontaine isn't quite so ideal here as she was in her previous collaboration with Hitchcock (Rebecca), but she has moments, especially when Lina is allowed to be confident. Nigel Bruce, meanwhile, is kind of charming as the dimwitted Beaky, although, man, this guy is dumber than his version of Dr. Watson.


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 29 September 2013 in Regal Fenway #5 (first-run, 4K DCP)

I've never been a particular naysayer where Ron Howard was concerned, and am in fact usually pretty surprised when I see folks acting like he is a particular blight upon filmmaking - his stuff is mainstream, but generally fairly capable, and he's got a real knack for doing movies that are technically very difficult without ever letting the spectacle overwhelm the storytelling. (See: Apollo 13) So I'm kind of surprised that it's Rush, of all movies, that seems to be getting him some praise.

It's not a bad movie, by any means; Howard really does know how to present a story clearly, neither overweighing things nor allowing the movie to feel like it's just filling time. That's a good trait to have with this movie, where supporting characters are drifting in and out and the real-life story doesn't really allow for streamlining to a simple story. He gets good performances out of stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, with Hemsworth especially having great movie-star charisma that makes the movie slow smoothly and pleasantly.

But, like I said, the competition between James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Bruhl) is in some ways too full of the complications of real life to make a good movie. Take how the first act introduces a girlfriend for Hunt who disappears off-screen, quite contrary to how her introduction is such a big deal. Or the structure of the 1976 Grand Prix season, which denies the audience a real feeling of head-to-head competition between the two. That may be how things went, but it's not dramatically satisfying. Plus, for all that Howard and company shoot some great racing footage, it's not great action storytelling. Getting so close to the action doesn't often give the audience a chance to see what Hunt and Lauda are doing in relation to each other during the head-to-head races.

It goes down pretty easy, and Hans Zimmer contributes a good soundtrack that becomes great as the closing credits roll. Rush is certainly no waste of time, but it's not going to be one that sticks in my head. It's filmed and acted well, but it seems like it skipped the step where writer Peter Morgan should have looked at it and decided it wasn't really a movie.

The Last Command
José e Pilar
Young Detective Dee

No comments: