Thursday, October 10, 2013

This Week In Tickets: 30 September 2013 - 6 October 2013

My birthday was Wednesday. On Friday, the Sox played their first playoff game in a few years and Gravity came out, so I had no problem celebrating then, especially since everybody (rightfully) thinks of the 2nd as my now-seven-year-old niece's birthday anyway.

This Week in Tickets

Not-Technically-Stubless-But-The-Printout-Doesn't-Fit: The Etheria Film Festival, with shorts and Best Friends Forever, Saturday 5 October 2013, 5:15pm, Somerville #4

Lots of play-in baseball to watch this week, which combined with things not lining up with my commute quite right made for a quiet week. I was excited to see The Broken Circle Breakdown as part of the Gathr preview series on Tuesday, with a live bluegrass performance a bonus, and wound up being even more impressed than I expected.

I started Friday off with Gravity on the RPX screen at Regal Fenway. I debated between that and the Imax screens at Boston Common and Jordan's Furniture, but figured this would give me some time to eat and arrive on time for the pre-game ceremonies. I wound up using an (expired) Groupon at Sweet Caroline's for lunch - some not-bad fish & chips and apple crisp, winding up somewhat alarmed when I looked up and out the window and saw the rain coming down quite hard. Fortunately, it tapered off while I was standing under cover in the concourse trying to charge my phone (on that day, I think my phone was draining faster than the cord was supplying power whenever I tried to do anything).

Fortunately, it turns out that playoff baseball is even more awesome than regular baseball! It opened with a long-ish ceremony honoring Patriot's Day people (which was cool other than using "Boston Strong", which I'm reasonably sure came into being as a phrase to sell T-shirts that week), but then the game started and... Well, baseball. The best kind, as there wasn't a lot of worrying about the longer season or getting people some work in. It was just play all-out, with the fans so into the game that the wave didn't even get started. Being in the center-field bleachers, I got to hear a lot of mocking Wil Myers for the rest of the game, but all in all, it was a good time.

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That didn't hurt, either. Pretty enjoyably decisive

I pushed my luck later that night, though, heading to the Coolidge's midnight show of The Keep even though it had already been a long day. As a result... Well, I hope they break their print out again sometime next year.

Saturday was spent at the Somerville Theatre, first with Prisoners and then with The Etheria Festival. Then it was back there again for the second look at Safety Last in a year, this time on 35mm.

Gravity

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 4 October 2013 in Regal Fenway #13 (first-run, RPX/RealD 3D)

I'll probably write up a full review after a second viewing, and let the very fact that there will be a second viewing tell you all that you need to know about how I feel about this movie: I think the last time I was making plans to see something on the big screen several times before it left theaters was Hugo, for pretty similar reasons: Brilliance combined with astonishingly good 3D.

And this really is an amazingly great bit of movie. Alfonso CuarĂ³n has built a lean, suspenseful thriller in a pretty basic way: Give the characters a very difficult problem to solve and don't let their personal issues overwhelm the story, even if they do become important enough to give the movie some emotional weight beyond just being tremendously exciting. It's straightforward, but relentlessly so, one brilliantly constructed sequence after another.

Those big action scenes are eye-popping, especially since they often start off with something in the background before exploding into eye-popping chaos. Practically every sequence is in free-fall and the effects, 3D, and staging. The science isn't perfect, but it's better than usual and a great example of what I like about "interplanetary era" sci-fi - it's built out of things we know and understand but which are stranger and more amazing than the far-future stories built to make things convenient.

Plus, I love the cast. This will probably wind up Sandra Bullock's signature role; she's fantastic even if the character's background is a little difficult to make fit at times. George Clooney is himself, which is exactly what his part needs. And even if we only hear Ed Harris's voice, it would be an assuring and ideal one even if it didn't stir up happy memories of Apollo 13.

The Keep

N/A (out of four)
Seen 4 October 2013 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (@fter Midnite, 35mm)

So, yeah, I conked out midway through this, and I couldn't put the story together if I tried. A shame, because I really liked what I saw at both ends. It starts with rational, pragmatic people approaching something creepy and supernatural in a rational, pragmatic way, even if they are Nazis who don't know what they're getting into. It ends with the whole situation have gone completely nuts with screenwriter/director Michael Mann having no problem just throwing something absurd-looking on the screen. Honestly, I watched it and wondered why DC Comics/Warner Brothers hadn't sued the heck out of Paramount for doing a movie with Darkseid as the villain thirty years ago.

In between, though... Well, I was tired and the movie was slow to get things moving, so I'm not totally sure how things got from point A to point B, or where Ian McKellan came from. I suppose I could watch it on Amazon, but it's one of those movies where the streaming services seem to be running off a cruddy pan & scan VHS master rather than the spiffy print the Coolidge has.

In fact, the story of why the Coolidge Corner Theatre could quickly substitute this when the print for The Amityville Horror they received was unusable was some of the most entertaining stuff of the night - apparently this was so disavowed by everyone and caught in legal limbo that Paramount never insisted they ship it back, it wound up in the theater's basement, and whenever they opened the cans to see what was in them, the heads on the reels said "keep", so they kept it. Thus, thirty years later, they had a really great-looking 35mm print. Here's hoping they pull it off the bench again, so I can watch it while less wiped out.

Prisoners

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 5 October 2013 in Somerville Theatre #3 (first-run, 2K DCP)

It's an odd thing - Prisoners is somewhere between three and four times the length of an episode of a television police procedural, and yet, where Law & Order is built around running down blind alleys and developing theories that don't pan out, the shape of this film's mystery is almost too clear. It fits together too well, and by the time storylines climax, they really don't have much opportunity to surprise.

So, what's left? Acting and darkness. They're fairly well intertwined, with everybody given an opportunity to look very serious and tortured as they ponder the terrible things that may be happening to two missing girls off-screen. And the cast handles it well, if with a tendency toward the grandiose. It's a familiar set of moral quandries and questions of how many lines one is willing to cross to see justice done and how wrenching a missing child can be, but the cast handle it well.

And so it goes. Prisoners is the sort of crime movie that makes an attempt to impress with its and horrific themes, but is mostly well-polished pulp. Good pulp, and too grim to be called escapist, but basically a decent crime story with a nice cast.

Safety Last!

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 6 October 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Silents Please!, 35mm)

With this screening just three and a half months since the last time it popped up in Boston (as part of the Brattle's DCP debut) and with another booking planned for the Coolidge this December, there is a lot of Safety Last! around here in 2013. Not complaining, just saying there's not a whole lot more to write about it. I still like it and find the final act as breathtaking as ever, even if the lying that leads up to it is still problematic.

This time around, the print was 35mm, Jeff Rapsis was on the keyboard, and Annette D'Agostino Lloyd, author of a Harold Lloyd biography, was on-hand to introduce. She spent a fair amount of time talking about co-star Bill Strother, the human fly who inspired the picture, and also doing the whole "if only more people were like this character..." bit, which kind of overlooks how the hero is a pretty irresponsible liar.

One of the interesting things about seeing silents in the theater is that you might get a new soundtrack with each viewing, and this time around was a pretty good example of how it can change the character of a movie. In this case, Jeff Rapsis really pounded the keys hard and seemed to build the movie's sound around the death-defying stunts of the last act as opposed to the light, comedy-emphasizing scores I've heard before. It didn't work in opposition to the comedy, but it occasionally had the feeling of adventure themes played funny rather than comedy themes played thrilling, a different but still enjoyable way to experience the same material.

Once more, a link to the review I wrote in 2004.

The Broken Circle BreakdownThe KeepALDS Game 1GravityPrisonersSafety Last!

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