Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 7 April 2014 - 13 April 2014

Ah, the first full week of April, when we were still so excited for the upcoming baseball season:

This Week in Tickets

That's the fourth game of the Red Sox' first homestand, and the first one they won at Fenway. The real trouble wouldn't start for a while.

I planned on hitting The Missing Picture on Tuesday, but as I say in the review, I wasn't in the mood. Of course, given the material (life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge), there's a real chance that one will never be in the mood for it, so I gave it a shot the next night and really liked it; its tough material, but presented in an unusual, memorable way.

Friday night I went for a double feature at the Somerville. First up was a new release, Oculus, which had me excited both for its pedigree (I'd liked the director's previous film) and cast (Karen Gillan! Katee Sackhoff!). Chris Hallock was presenting a Subterranean Cinema show there and we spent a good few minutes on how this thing wound up being pretty great. I stuck around afterward for Klute, which I really need to see at a better hour sometime - I've liked it both times I've seen it, but I tend to be fuzzy enough that I don't retain all the details.

Saturday was mostly a day for writing BUFF reviews and working on the pile of books and comics by the bed, so I didn't get out until late, when I decided to hit Lebensraum (Habitat) at ArtsEmerson's Paramount Theatre. I've been there fairly often for movies in the Bright Screening Room upstairs, but this is the first time I've been in the main room - once a cinema, now once again dedicated to stage shows. Of course, the thing I was there to see was movie-inspired, because I'm me; it was a silent-film homage with Reinier Schimmel and Yannick Greweldinger as roomates who are both Buster Keaton and Silke Hundertmark as a mechanical woman they have invented to help around the house. It's kind of fun, especially at the start, but while Jakop Ahlbom’s show captures the physical comedy of the silents (and the frequently-used device of the house with all sorts of contraptions), it loses the rhythm at times. The best silent comedies have an inevitability to how A follows B and so on, but Albohm really seems to be stringing jokes together for no other purpose, and that - along with the odd choice of making Alamo Race Track (the band doing a soundtrack) part of the show - makes it kind of weird and exhausting.

Afterward, I headed a block down the street to Boston Common for Joe, David Gordon Green's best movie in a long, long time, with a great performance by Nicholas Cage. I was kind of surprised it opened there, as it had one of the simultaneous VOD releases which is usually anathema to the multiplexes opening it up. Glad it wasn't in this case.

Sunday was a two-location double featue without a lot of wiggle room in between - Jodorowsky's Dune at Kendall and then The Raid 2 at Boston Common. Actually paid money for the latter, because the MoviePass 24-hour rule is stupid, but unless you plan things carefully around the places that don't take MP, it's going to happen on the occasional weekend.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 11 April 2014 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Centennial Celebration, 35mm)

Donald Sutherland may play the title character in Klute, but it's Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels (a woman trying to be a model who keeps falling back on call-girl work) who seemed to get most of the praise from the audience after this screening. That's certainly fair enough, as she is terrific, but it does sell Sutherland a little short. Fonda impressed in large part because the script gives her plenty of chances to show Bree opening up, whether to her psychiatrist or to John Klute, and one or two to break down, while Sutherland's Klute often seems to mostly be possessed of a robotic doggedness, with contrasting emotional notes carefully parceled out as needed.

It's an intriguing blend of styles that I suspect wouldn't necessarily play out the same way today. On the one hand, I'm not sure how many directors there are like Alan J. Pakula who would get those different styles to harmonize rather than forcing a sharper contrast. Klute is much lower-key than a lot of crime movies with similar plots, perhaps because it was made during that 1970s period that so many idolize, and was able to be less glib than the films noir that preceded it but less lurid than those that followed.

Then again, it's not really a crime movie, is it? Sure, it works as a detective story, much better than many dramatic pictures in genre clothing, but at its heart, what Pakula and writers Andy & David E. Lewis have created is a romance. Strip it down, and it's two people who encounter each other pursuing specific goals but who, as a result of this meeting and what they find, end up moving in the opposite direction with each other. Sure, every other crime story that's not part of a series (and many that are) do that - the screenplay-writing manuals practically insist upon it - but Klute defines the target that they are all trying to hit: Understated enough that it's clear that the movie is taking the murder seriously but not to the point of it becoming obligatory. I probably need another watch in a more alert state to really say this with certainty (it always plays as the back end of a double feature around here), but that's how it comes across in retrospect.

Jodorowsky's Dune

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 13 April 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

I kind of suspect that director Frank Pavich is overstating just how smoothly the pre-production of Alejandro Jodorowsky's version of Dune went. The documentary certainly makes it look like everybody was chummy throughout , and I can't imagine that there was nobody involved in the production who was like, hey, Alex, you're being insane! Stop it!

Aside from that, though, this movie is a whole ton of fun. Much of that comes from Jodorowsky himself; even in his mid-eighties he is energetic, rebellious guy with an apparent complete lack of regrets to go with his fondness for envelope-pushing. He's fully committed to his hippie spirituality but smart enough to not look like a goof for it. And while he's open about not having known much about Dune going in, his enthusiasm for what he aimed to create is just as infectious now as it appears to have been then. He and his collaborators - notably producer Michel Seydoux, artists Chris Foss and H.R. Giger - have great stories that may sound unlikely but are delivered in a way to make them at least sound possible. What we see - whether from the concept art by Foss, Giger, and others or the complete set of storyboards by Jean "Moebius" Giraud - is fantastic. I want to see that entire book of storyboards Jodorowsky has, and I'm downright shocked that something hasn't been done to get it on store shelves.

Jodorowsky talks about how he hopes somebody makes the movie someday, pointing out that it could be done with animation. I'd pay to see that, but I kind of think that the money could be better used in adapting the material that parts of Dune eventually transmuted into - The Incal, The Metabarons, and all the other great bandes dessinées that Jodorowsky wrote (I wish like heck that I could afford Final Incal this week). It also reminds me that I should actually try and read Dune (and its sequels) again as adult.

The Raid 2: Berandal

* * * (out of four)
Seen 13 April 2014 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

I will a bit like I'm swimming against the tide where Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais are concerned. Not that I dislike their work, but where the popular consensus seems to be that each movie they've done is better than their last, I really liked Merantau, had no reservations recommending The Raid, and think this latest Indonesian action movie has some pretty astounding action sequences but enough boat and iffy plotting to drag it down.

I think the movie's biggest problem is that it's a sequel to The Raid. Not so much because that set expectations but because it saddled Uwais's Rama with a bunch of backstory that always seems to be at odds with him going deep undercover for years and winds up generally pushed to the side. Cut that and the pretense of finding corrupt cops rather than just trying to take an organized crime family down from the inside, and you could probably get the movie down to something closer to two hours without having to sacrifice any of the amazing action.

And make no mistake, the action delivers like crazy, to the point where there's an argument to be made that the amount and blood level is so high as to be numbing. I don't think that's true beyond how some scenes come while the story isn't really going anywhere and reflect that they're part of a repetitive cycle. The ones that have an impact, from the two big fights in the prison to the final gauntlet that seems like it runs 30 to 45 minutes, are exhilarating even though they just pummel the viewer non-stop and, being "boss battles", have even bloodier coups de grace than what came before. And, honestly, that final act is well worth the ticket price for fans of great action - it contains both a car chase that goes for the full Spielberg* followed by two amazing melees... And some other stuff. It's a crazy action movie, and while it could use a trim, it delivers the goods.

Red Sox 5, Rangers 1The Missing PictureOculusKluteLebensraumJodorowsky's DuneJoeThe Raid 2

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