Thursday, November 21, 2013

This Week In Tickets: 1 November 2013 - 17 November 2013

It's a good week for a movie blogger when there's reason to write about what interests you and be reasonably curtabout what doesn't.

This Week in Tickets

This week, for instance, there wasn't a whole to say about the first thing I saw, Monday's About Time, that necessarily fit in a full "should-you-see-it-or-not" review. It's enjoyable enough, if a bit overdone in the way Romantic Richard Curtis movies tend to be. You're not going to go far wrong seeing it, but some things stick at me a little more than they maybe should.

Tuesday was Gathr Presents Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film", from which I was perhaps expecting more than I should have. I was under the impression that the three shorts would be followed with Q&A or discussion - the description didn't explicitly say so, but did have phrasing along the lines of them "hitting the road" with the magazine's editor, and I figured that the lack of an entry the next week meant they were spacing things out to accomadate this, but if they did, they didn't stop in Arlington, MA. Not a bad set of shorts, really - "Needle", "Refuge", and "Surveyor" all had something to recommend- but it was a quick night for me and maybe one other person.

This weekend was the first time I really found myself thinking about the new MoviePass restrictions, as I made sure to get to the earliest screening on Friday night among the movies I wanted to see, so that the 24-hour window wouldn't cause an issue. That turned out to be The Counselor, and while it turned out I wasn't able to catch anything at 7-ish on Saturday, I wound up deciding to use cash rather than MoviePass to see the Coolidge's midnight screening of The Wicker Man in its Final Cut so that I could use it on a more expensive screening of The Best Man Holiday. I will, honestly, write that long-delayed piece about MoviePass this weekend, because I think that this need to use it strategically is something worth talking about, as it's the sort of need for planning that they worked to move away from last year.

Also due for a write-up: The Showcase SuperLux, where I took in a second screening of Thor: The Dark World afterward. I want to give it one more look from the pricey seats, but something about it is not sitting quite right, even if it is delivering all it promises.

About Time

* * * (out of four)
Seen 11 November 2013 at AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

For the longest time, I would see Richard Curtis's name on a movie as screenwriter (and, later, director) and be kind of disappointed that it was almost inevitably a thoroughly earnest contemporary romance. What had happened to the guy who did sharp, occasionally mean-spirited comedy that rewarded a little bit of extra background with Rowan Atkinson on the likes of Blackadder? Departed for more lucrative pastures. Now, I guess, I'm to the point of not really minding. I like the charming love stories well enough and Curtis does them well.

That's the case with About Time: He's got a clever little spin to put on it - Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in their family can return to other points in their lives,and he opts to use it in large part to make sure things go smoothly with Mary (Rachel McAdams), a nigh-perfect girl he meets and then un-meets while trying to help someone else. Curtis has cast himself a pretty darn adorable couple in Gleeson & McAdams, surrounded them by an enjoyable supporting cast, and let them do their thing. He delivers a Richard Curtis movie and the folks who come for tha will leave pleased.

It is, thankfully, a bit more than that; as the movie goes on, the relationship between Tim and his father takes on a greater focus, especially toward the end, when it indulges in a familiar time-travel fantasy rather wonderfully. He's also clever in how he uses limits imposed upon this ability by the characters to demonstrate the idea that at certain points in one's life, there is no going back to the way things were before - although I must admit that the biggest demonstration ties things up in a knot that Doc Brown couldn't make sense of no matter how large a blackboard you gave him.

I also have to admit to being a bit concerned about some of the movie's sexual politics - specifically, the way that only the men in this family can travel in time. On the one hand, it focuses the plot on Tim and his Dad, and that's nice and tight. On the other... Well, at what point do Tim's attempts to reconnect with Mary after a good deed undoes them meeting and her giving him her number approximate stalking? The implication seems to be that this is okay because they hit it off the first time, but Curtis seems to very carefully avoid situations where Tim could be considered a creep as opposed to someone who recognizes True Love, even though it would take just the smallest of changes to tip the scale. Also, the difficulties Tim's sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson) has both in her love life and in moving to the city in general are in contrast to how Tim can make everything go well. I wondered if it was a sly commentary on how men get more second chances than women, or an example of how selfish Tim can be (SPOILER! he actually undoes setting his sister's life right because it has a butterfly-effect change on his daughter; apparently the altered child doesn't have the same right not to be rewritten because Tim had just met him !SRELIOPS), but Curtis really doesn't dwell on this enough to give the impression that he was thinking about it this way.

That doesn't undo the enjoyable parts of the movie, but it stuck with me. Time travel isn't for dabblers.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 November 2013 at the Regent Theatre (Gathr Previews Presents New Faces of Independent Film, digital)

All three short films in this program were roughly 20-25 minutes, and while that doesn't necessarily seem like a long time, it can be. "Needle" was one of two shorts in the program whose craft was actually quite good, but which also triggered a feeling that not enough was going on.

There's a lot to like here, though - Anahita Ghazvinizadeh's look at a 14-year-old girl (Florence Galimberti) about to have her ears pierced only to have even something simple like that disrupted by the ugly divorce her parents are going through is immensely well-observed. Galimberti is great, and Moe Beitiks makes the mother quite human even if she is all germophobia and egotism. For most of the short, the impression is definitely that this is what it's like.

But there's also about five or six minutes that feel like padding, or rambling on after a point has been made, and while a feature can absorb that, a 21-minute feature that's all about observation as-is really can't; it makes the movie feel even more static and uneventful. It doesn't overshadow the good stuff, but it is an issue.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 November 2013 at the Regent Theatre (Gathr Previews Presents New Faces of Independent Film, digital)

This one was my favorite of the group, an episode of Futurestates (a PBS anthology series) featuring Nikohl Boosheri as a Persian immigrant facing deportation after an Iranian virus cripples an American government computer network who may be given a chance to stay in the country if she will carry a child for a biotech firm.

It's good science fiction built on some rather current events, with strong attention to detail, both visually and in terms of how everything that happens seems like a very reasonable extrapolation from the present day. Writer/director Mohammad Gorjestani doesn't just come up with little bits that seem right, though; he's strapped them to a story that is the right size for this short and finishes on just the right shot.

Plus, Boosheri is pretty good. She seems just flustered enough as an immigrant who is finding herself trapped in a bureaucratic mess; it would have been rather easy to either overplay it or give the story too little. She's just right, even when the temptation to make the piece hers might have been very strong.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 November 2013 at the Regent Theatre (Gathr Previews Presents New Faces of Independent Film, digital)

"Surveyor" was the other one in the package that could perhaps have done with a little more happening. It's a beautiful film, following the title character as he helps to map the American West in the 19th Century, eventually crossing the path of several unusual (and often dangerous) people.

It's beautiful, but often seems to be trying to hard. The opening minutes take great pains notto show the surveyor's face or have him speak, but when he does start to talk and appear on screen clearly, there's no particular import to the change, and by association there was no reason to have done it before, other than to make it look like something telling was going on. There's also the sound of bees in the background, persistently. Eventually, stuff starts happening, but it doesn't exactly resolve into a story.

The Counselor

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 15 November 2013 at AMC Boston Common #19 (first-run, 4K DCP)

Speaking of gimmicks that take more effort than they're worth, there's not giving Michael Fassbender's title character in The Counselor a name. It's something that could come across as very clever when one realizes what's been going on at the end, but you can see director Ridley Scott and writer Cormac McCarthy tiptoeing around it. There are also two or three sequences in the beginning that are quite self-conscious in terms of foreshadowing or being more than just what's happening.

That would be okay if there was a bit more to the story, but the criminal activity this counselor is involved in isn't terribly interesting. There's some drugs being smuggled, and then intercepted, but as a crime story, it lacks the intrigue that one may hope for. It's got a heck of a femme fatale in Cameron Diaz, a better-than-serviceable lead in Fassbender, and memorable performances by Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Rosie Perez (Penelope Cruz is good enough, but is given little to do).

It stretches a little long at the end, too, an unusually long wind-down for this sort of movie. It's a crime movie without an interesting crime, and it has all the traits of film noir, but without the solid genre story underneath, and noir movies need that foundation. Otherwise, it's just style, and this really needs more.

Thor: The Dark World

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 15 November 2013 at Showcase SuperLux #3 (first-run, RealD 3D 4K DCP)

Just saw it last week; haven't changed my mind.

About Time
New Faces of Independent Film
The Counselor
The Wicker Man
The Best Man Holiday
Thor: The Dark World

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