Thursday, January 30, 2014

This Week In Tickets: 20 January 2014 - 26 January 2014

Look at that big ol' Penn & Teller ticket in the center of the page. How was nobody doing a preview screening of Tim's Vermeer on Sunday while the guys were in town to do a Q&A?

(Unless, of course, the MFA actually did, but it was one of those "Friends of Film" screenings that doesn't show up on the main calendar. Are they still doing those? I should join if they are...)

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: Violet & Daisy, Monday, 7-ish, in the living room. Also, the print-at-home tickets are obviously reproductions, but, c'mon, those things are huge!

As with last week, I pulled something out of my unwatched pile of Blu-rays so that I could catch up on qualified films for Chlotrudis Awards nomination; unlike last week's Wolf Children (which apparently never got enough of a release to qualify), Violet & Daisy was a pretty crappy little movie, not good for much aside from bulk where the nominations are concerned. On the plus side, it's certainly made me consider VOD and streaming more; I bought this sight-unseen on Blu-ray, which means I not only gave Amazon $20 more than I needed to, but it's taking up valuable space in my house.

Plans got shuffled around a bit because of snow and the threat thereof on Tuesday; I had been looking forward to giving Black Out another shot after being worn out for it at Fantasia last summer, but the Regent Theatre canceled the show a few hours early, which gave me the chance to bump The Square up a day from planning to see it on Wednesday. Actually, I'd planned to see it on Monday with the director on hand, but that sold out. The real bummer was that we really didn't get much snow Tuesday night, either; it was no particular trouble getting in to work the next day despite warnings to be ready to work from home. New England has gotten soft since I was a kid.

Thursday had me seeing The Invisible Woman, which I actually liked a lot more than I expected from the previews. Ralph Fiennes has a perhaps-undeserved sort of dour air to him, so it was great fun to see his portrayal of Charles Dickens charismatic and the movie he directed exciting, even when kind of harsh.

I saw what would have been the second "missed at Fantasia" screening of the week on Friday, when "Somerville Subterranean Cinema" presented Animals, which always came up when talking about favorite movies among those that saw it. That wasn't a whole lot of us that day; hopefully there were more on Saturday, because it is in fact a pretty neat little movie.

Saturday was busy - sleeping in a bit and writing gave me just enough time to catch the T downtown for one of three Penn & Teller shows playing last weekend. It's a running joke in my family that while my brothers enjoy Las Vegas, I have no idea what I'd do there once I saw P&T, so now I guess I have no reason to visit that affront to every hour I spent learning statistics and probability at all.

Probably should have taken one after they took the stage, too.

It's a pretty fun show if you get the chance to see it, though. One of the great things you take away from it is just how much the guys genuinely seem to enjoy interacting with their fans - aside from calling someone up on stage for roughly half the tricks, they also make it almost impossible to leave once the show is over because they're in the Shubert Theatre's tiny lobby, shaking hands and posing for pictures, and, as Penn discussed on stage, listening to see how people reacted. The other is that, for all they often go on talk shows as a funny if conventional magic act, they also respect the audience in a way illusionists seldom do: By not presuming that ignorance and mystification is the only way to enjoy a magic show, but that it an be a lot of fun just based on the audience's admiration of the skill and creativity of the magicians. I tend to think that this approach engages our better natures.

After that show, I had just enough time to move a couple blocks down to the Boston Common theater, which was the only one in the area showing Gimme Shelter. It's not exactly a bad movie, but it's also not a particularly good one, and it served as something of an object lesson in not going to see a Vanessa Hudgens movie just because it's got Rosario Dawson and Brendan Fraser in it and you like them.

Next stop after that was Davis Square for the Alloy Orchestra's annual visit to Davis Square, with this year's local premiere being HE Who Gets Slapped. As always, they put on a good show with a well-chosen movie; in fact, I found myself quite pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this one; oftentimes, the weird Early-Twentieth-Century focus on the circus can make a movie feel mostly alien to me, but this one clicked into place.

I had just enough time when I got home to enter my nominations for the Chlotrudis Awards before the midnight deadline. Well, enough time to do it once; the connection timed out or something with twenty minutes to spare, and let me tell you, that was not enough time to get it all done again. I wound up spending much of Sunday morning re-calculating them and then arriving at the meeting and begging to have them re-entered. Then came four-plus hours of deciding whether screenplays are adapted or original (whether actors's roles are lead or supporting), watching as people tried to game the system when their favorite nominee didn't initially make the cut, and trying to figure out which five out of ten movies with roughly-equal levels of support merited being nominated as a "buried treasure". The list of nominees isn't bad (it will be published Sunday), although there's no way I'm going to be able to see enough of them to vote well in every category by the deadline, considering all the things I want to catch in a theater in the meantime.

Then I headed to Fenway to see I, Frankenstein. Let's face it, after four hours of people talking about tiny independent movies, sometimes you just want to watch CGI monsters beat the crap out of each other in 3D.

Violet & Daisy

* ½ (out of four)
Seen 20 January 2014 in Jay's Living Room (catch-up, Blu-ray)

I didn't realize Violet & Daisy had apparently been on the shelf for a while - it got an odd release in spring where I seemed to see plenty of advertising without it actually getting booked in Boston, so it felt less like it was being dumped than just another case of oddball genre films never opening here. It wasn't until the end credits that I realized that the 2011 completion date on IMDB wasn't kidding around, when Tatiana Maslany is credited as a young-looking teen despite playing a group of characters about ten years older on Orphan Black.

Why has it been in hiding for so long? Because it's a bloody mess is why. The first half-hour is non-stop "middle-aged guy trying to write teen-girl dialogue", and it's the most superficial version of it you can imagine. It doesn't make an interesting contrast with the title characters' work as assassins, and that part of the film makes no sense without being surreal enough to be some sort of weird fantasy inspired by whatever messed these girls up. It somehow manages to make some weird visuals, Alexis Bledel (who has seven years of Gilmore Girls proving she can handle stylized dialogue as well as anyone), Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Danny Trejo (who will likely appear in anything if you slip him a hundred) dull.

And even the good parts aren't that great. They are good, though: Saorise Ronan and her parents/agents may choose bad projects, but I can't recall her ever being a weak link; here, she holds up well enough as the junior partner trying to appear as hard-boiled as her only friend in the world. And then there's James Gandolfini, frequently paired with Ronan as a crusty father figure with a gooey inside, just making it look easy to play a full human being in the middle of a movie that's otherwise a mess. That he didn't live to have Gene Hackman's later career really stinks.

I, Frankenstein

* * (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2014 in Regal Fenway #9 (first-run, RealD 3D)

I don't think Kevin Grevioux's I, Frankenstein graphic novel ever actually saw print beyond a prequel comic that ties in to the movie (it may just be a clever way for Grevioux to retain certain rights to his concept without Lion's Gate owning it lock, stock, and barrel), but the film certainly plays like something that might have been an 80-pager or 4-issue limited series: A potentially-fun high concept, big action scenes on a regular basis, and an attempt at world-building that the project just doesn't have the room or ambition for.

The frustrating thing about this movie is that one can see where there's fun to be had. Aaron Eckhart gives the immortal Creature a bit of charm despite a script that pulls him a different way every five minutes, the villains have a marvelously gradiose master plan, and screenwriter/director Stuart Beattie and company make beautiful action on screen. There's a certain video game influence to characters "ascending" and "descending" rather than actually leaving bodies, but it looks great. Give Frankenstein some worthy antagonists rather than bored-seeming Bill Nighy and Miranda Otto, and maybe you've got something.

Unfortunately, Beattie and Grevioux don't manage that. The bland angels-of-the-gargoyle-order and demons (who, thankfully, employ a pretty scientist to do their research and thus give "Adam" an ally) aren't nearly as interesting as Frankenstein - eventually, the characters are as willing to give him his father's name as the audience - and that seems like a huge mistake. Beattie's script seems like it was written to go in a number of different directions, and while sometimes that's just a disappointment (as when the two most likable characters in the movie are killed off), or a blind alley that could probably be explained with a little effort, it climaxes on a moment that is downright contradictory. It's a mess that leaves a decent cast floundering throughout and sucks the air out of what should have been a fun movie.

SPOILERS! I mean, seriously, what happens between the moment when it's important that Frankenstein has no soul and the moment where it's crucial that he has one? It doesn't even make any sort of fantasy-mythology sense! !SRELIOPS

Make no mistake, I had some fun here, and I honestly think that a sequel where Frankenstein is given some better villains to fight would be a blast (put him on The Island of Doctor Moreau!). But the script either had one draft too many or one too few, and it wound up handcuffing almost everyone involved.

The SquareThe Invisible WomanAnimalsPenn & TellerGimme ShelterHE Who Gets SlappedI, Frankenstein

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