Thursday, June 12, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 12 May 2014 - 18 May 2014

Time flies when you're having fun.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: The Signal, 7pm Wednesday 14 May 2014, in the Brattle Theatre, and The Machine, 7:30pm Saturday 17 May 2014, in the Somerville Theatre micro-cinema.

Things were actually going to be arranged a little differently, as I had planned to catch Short Peace on Monday, but its 8pm show was cancelled and I didn't see this until it was too late to see something else. So, the next day it was, also nixing the plan to stay up late and write a review that would hopefully convince people to go to that second screening. It also meant I wound up at the Brattle on two consecutive nights, as I caught The Signal on Wednesday as part of a preview, though I held out on writing it up until closer to its release and because I wasn't sure what the embargo rules would be considered to be. I'm having a weird time with how I feel about it - disappointed as I watched it, wanting to defend the good parts as I wrote the review but watching the anger sort of take hold in the writing, and not really wanting to tell people to stay away now that it's out. Probably due in part to the filmmaker being there and being a pretty likable guy - as much as I can't help poking holes in his movie, I don't want him or his career hurt by doing so, you know?

Friday wound up being a double feature at the Harvard Film Archive, as I saw Ugetsu & Song of Home, the first two movies in their Kenji Mizoguchi retrospective. It was an impressive night, and I wish I'd been able to catch more of the series than I did.

The next day was sci-fi at different ends of the spectrum. I started off by heading to Reading for the new Godzilla, because "actual size" is a consideration one tries to take into account. The theater was packed, making me glad I'd taken the risk of buying my ticket online ahead of time (I'm often loath to do that because missed MBTA connections have made me eat those tickets more than once). Since I was looking for the big green guy to fill up as much of my field of vision as possible, I didn't mind being in the second row too much, and even scooted over one when some late-arrivers came in. They didn't wind up taking the seats I'd vacated, though - some folks just can't handle that much monster, I guess. In the evening, I went to the Somerville Subterranean screening of The Machine, because for as much as I tried to get people to come out to it (not nearly as much as I might have hoped), I also wanted to see it on the big-ish screen again and support it with money. Only a few of us there, sadly, but Chris let me have one of the one-sheets XLRator sent. Apparently, they were really glad to just have it screen somewhere in Boston and maybe generate a little word of mouth. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: We really need to carve out a spot in this city where movies like this can not just show up as a blip, but thrive. Ideas welcome.

Finally, I headed out to the Embassy in Waltham for God's Pocket, which I saw a bunch of trailers for despite it only opening in the suburbs. It would, eventually, pop up in Kendall Square, but since I spent a fair amount of time away that next weekend, this was a good gamble as well. It's a bit of a bus ride out, though, so I wound up making it back to the city just in time to see the pretty great Chef downtown. That was a loooong circuit of the 70 bus and Red Line with a couple of movies in the middle.

Godzilla (2014)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 17 May 2014 in Jordan's Furniture Reading (first-run, Imax 3D)

Writing this now, almost a month after seeing the newest film to bear the name "Godzilla", it's hard to escape all of the links I have been sent which defend a fair amount of the effects-driven, character-light final act as a clever bit of commentary on the part of the filmmakers - it's not really what I would have written myself, but it's well-argued enough that it has shaped my thinking since... Even if I do kind of expect a fair amount is critics trying to justify enjoying the sort of movie that they usually have knives out for.

It's hard to blame them; when director Gareth Edwards brings the kaiju action, right up to a deeply satisfying final fight, it is just about everything one could want it to be: Well-choreographed and staged, combining the comforting solidity of men in suits knocking over models with the endless possibilities of digital imagery like few attempts to do so have managed. It feels like the classic monster movies we enjoyed when we didn't know any better without the cheese, and the impulse to cheer that is a good and correct one. This is great action/adventure filmmaking, from teasing the audience with what it expects, giving it something else, having a character acknowledge that the filmmakers are on the same wavelength by saying "let them fight!", and supplying plenty of action on the way without diluting the main event.

But, man, its also not possible to overstate just how much of another sort of energy drains out of the movie when a crucial character makes an early exit. It makes a blockbuster with an unconventional hero not just conventional, but kind of mechanical, with a human protagonist who does more than can really be believed but doesn't seem to accomplish anything. The cast whose names promised some interest just never get the chance to shine that they deserve, and the way they are ultimately unimportant compared to the monsters despite getting just as much screen time does make one appreciate just how good Pacific Rim was in how it balanced those demands.

Still, Godzilla '14 is its own thing, and it's a pretty good thing. I like that the filmmakers apparently set out to make "a Godzilla movie", not really remaking the original at all but still establishing something. Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein give the film some weight - there are obvious echoes of the Fukushima meltdown early on, and while that means there is still an element to the series that warns against messing with atomic forces, the central metaphor has shifted toward climate change (partly cyclical, greatly exacerbated by man's activity, quite possibly out of human control now that it's started) - but not so much that the audience can't enjoy a monster fight on its own terms. Because, on a certain level, that's what we want to see, and give this entry credit for keeping both itself and any more refined taste the audience might have out of the way.

Short Peacethe SignalUgetsuSong of HomeGodzilla (2014)ChefThe MachineGod's Pocket

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