Saturday, June 14, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 19 May 2014 - 25 May 2014

Only three nights of movies, but all double features, and kind of nuts beyond that.

This Week in Tickets

Once again, I had a movie I wanted to see before it left town - Only Lovers Left Alive - and it was down to alternating shows in the 14-seat room at the Coolidge. So, to kill time, I saw Belle, which wound up being the better movie of the night.

With plans to head north to see my folks over the Memorial Day weekend, there was a lot of stuff I wanted to catch before that, starting with Sansho the Bailiff from the HFA's Mizoguchi series. I figured I would have just enough time to get to the Kendall for Cold in July, but it was pretty close - there was something going on between the Carpenter Center and Kendall Square that closed a bunch of streets with police directing traffic away. No idea what it was, but I managed to get into the theater just at the end of the trailers, so it was all good. All great, actually, as Sansho is a classic and Cold in July is genuinely terrific.

Saturday... Well, that didn't go so well. I slept late, my brother found he couldn't rent a car with a debit card, I saw I wasn't going to get to the train station in time, detoured to South Station for the bus, and then managed to be the last person in a line that was two people more than there were seats on the vehicle (to be fair, I brought this on myself, stopping to buy a phone charger when I realized I had left mine at home). I could have waited another hour for the next bus, but that would have meant someone waiting around the station after Matt & Morgan got there or making a second trip, so I decided to do it the next day. With my afternoon and evening suddenly free, I headed for Fenway to see the motion-captured Indian musical swords & sorcery picture Kochadaiiyaan with Superstar Rajnikanth (it's a whole thing), and then went for X-Men: Days of Future Past after that.

The next morning I got up early, caught the bus, and then spent the entire day helping my brother, his wife, and their adorable daughters move into their new house. On the one hand, it certainly had me determined to have the yard sale before I move the next time; on the other, I got to spend time with all three of my brothers and all four of my nieces , who now live just a couple miles from each other. I'm pretty jealous, actually, as living in the same neighborhood as my cousins would have been pretty cool when I was growing up.

Only Lovers Left Alive

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 19 May 2014 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre GoldScreen (first-run, digital)

While there are some movies that are seemingly designed just for me, this one was pretty much in the other direction: I'm not fond of vampires at all, especially when they're supposed to be cool and sexy rather than walking death, and music fetishists are just the worst. I love fans, people who are genuinely enthused about things that bring them joy, no matter what they love, right up until the point where they try to convince you that their hobby is important, and music-lovers do that more than anybody else. So you can see why I was predisposed to find this insufferable.

Well, it's not that; it's at least down to Earth and maybe a little aware that its characters are sort of ridiculous. It's dull for long stretches, with writer/director Jim Jarmusch so hung up on his and the film's own eccentricity that it blots out any hope for a story, and there are times when the movie really needs it. Mia Wasikowska especially seems terribly under-used as the sister of Tilda Swinton's character, like the cast was supposed to improvise this relationship into being interesting. It's also another example of how boring we've made vampires, who are now just people with a restrictive diet and a bad skin condition that keeps them out of the sun, a fair tradeoff for immortality that doesn't seem to cost them anything otherwise.

And yet, there's enough talent in the right places that there's frequently something sublime about it: Tom Hiddleston and Swinton capture a most unusual version of true love, one that has lasted for centuries and is strong enough that it can survive years or decades apart, and doesn't need constant reaffirmation for validation. Their grand perspective lets Jarmusch train his camera on Detroit, capture it as a city nearing the end of an almost inevitable decline, and portray it as having a sort of peace and beauty that those of us who can only see it on a human scale cannot truly accept. I don't think that there's any doubt that by the end, even those of us who were frequently frustrated by the movie will feel something because of it, and that's probably all Jarmusch is looking for.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 24 May 2014 in AMC Boston Common #8 (first-run, RealD)

When X-Men: First Class came out a couple years ago, I made a comment to the effect that seeing the version of Mystique introduced in that movie actually kill and set herself irrevocably on the path to being the villain played by Rebecca Romijn (and generally seen in Marvel's X-Men comics) would probably be the hardest thing that the prequel movies could do. It's kind of gratifying to see that the folks at Fox and the Donner Company seemed to be thinking the same way, because they went and made that the fulcrum that the next movie pivots upon. It's a smart decision on a number of levels, from it always being smart to give Jennifer Lawrence a big role in your movie when you can to putting the shape-shifter at the center of a story that is, after all, about the potential for change.

That's the sort of clever use of science fiction and superhero elements that makes Days of Future Past as strong an entry in cinema's most tonally ambitious series of comic book movies as you can hope for (give Bryan Singer and company credit, they want these stories to be about something). The surprise, then, is just how much sheer fun the movie winds up being as well. Singer and company seem to be having a great time grounding their story in a real, specific past era - the opposite of how generic comics' traveling timeline seems to make them ever more generic - and they do something similarly cool with the action, building the most memorable scenes around mutants with cool powers, especially speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and portal-opener Blink (Fan Bingbing). The grand, over-the-top way that Magneto makes his presence known for the finale is just wonderful for how big and ridiculous it is.

It's got some flaws, in particular the way that it sometimes replicates the experience of reading X-Men comics too closely, with pages upon pages of mutants with code-names that don't necessarily connect to their powers to keep straight, alternate timelines, and story bits that sometimes drag on and sometimes become something unrecognizable while you look away for a couple months. That's what makes it even more impressive that the filmmakers harvest this unwieldy thing, wrestle a story out of it, and do so in a way that both makes a certain amount of sense and leaves the audience caring what happened. That's not always the case (for instance, I honestly can't remember what X-Men 2 was about), but they've done it with style here.


And I like the way things seem to be headed with the new status quo - anything that gets Famke Janssen back into these movies is fine with me, and even if I'm the only one who mostly liked X3, it's not really erased; it's a necessary part of continuity in order to get this movie where it does. I'm kind of hoping that things are somewhat more peaceful in the new timeline because Mystique was never the close partner to Magneto that she was before, making his plans less effective. She's not necessarily with the X-Men, but I could easily see Fox spinning her off to a series somewhat akin to the comics written by Brian K. Vaughan and Sean McKeever a while back.

As to the post-credit tease - I know squat about Apocalypse, and get the idea that there's kind of squat to know, with him being a very vaguely defined concept. Hopefully the filmmakers will get something interesting out of him.


Only Lovers Left Alive
Sansho the Bailiff
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Cold in July

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