Thursday, June 26, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 2 June 2014 - 8 June 2014

Not a bad week. Nothing less than good, and some bits of greatness. Would have been cool if two movies were playing on a screen #3 and a screen #6.

This Week in Tickets

See those first two days? That is some strategic use of MoviePass right there, finding you've got a pretty narrow window to see while they're still in theaters and deciding to see them in that order to work around their "wait 24 hours" rule. It's kind of tight - you've got 10 minutes to get the app working, checked in, ticket bought, and ice cream purchased before sitting in the theater - but sometime I'd like to see how many consecutive days I can use it before being forced to skip a day.

The movies themselves? Okay. I liked Million Dollar Arm a bit better than The Railway Man, but both were kind of ho-hum.

Things got a bit odd over the weekend. It started out great with Ida, an absolutely fantastic movie that I suspected I'd want to get seen and written up early beforehand (it was scheduled for a one-week booking at Kendall), and it exceeded expectations. Afterward, I was planning to catch Rob Grant's new one, Desolate, as part of the Somerville Subterranean Cinema series, but it looks like some really crappy circumstances got in the way, which had me standing around the micro wondering what was up both that night and the next. I wound up catching Neighbors on Saturday, at least.

Sunday a pretty fun double feature - I headed out for the least-absurdly-priced screening of Edge of Tomorrow on the bigger 3D screen, and liked it quite a bit, then headed up the Red Line to catch The Navigator at the Somerville Theater, the first "Silents Please!" screening of the year. 35mm prints (there were two short films as well) and Jeff Rapsis at the organ.

I almost made it three on the day, but decided the third could wait until the next day.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 2 June 2014 in Somerville Theatre #4 (first-run, DCP)

As I mentioned above, it took me a few weeks to see Neighbors, and it was sort of a backup plan when I did, but there was actually something resembling a running joke leading up to it, in that I think Somerville Theatre manager Ian Judge told me a few times that not only was it a pretty good R-rated comedy, but that it was 97 minutes long.

That's probably not just a guy who is really pleased to be able to get three or four shows in before the T stops running, either; there have been a lot of comedies, frequently including star Seth Rogen and the circle of folks he regularly works with that are twenty or even thirty minutes longer without being twenty or thirty minutes funnier. They'll often try and compensate by packing on a little dramatic heft, but it's usually not enough to get the movie from navel-gazing territory to insightful, just diluting the movie further. Writers Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O'Brien and director Nicholas Stoller seem to get this, hitting every joke they want to without the premise of a college fraternity moving in next to two new parents who maybe aren't quite as young at heart as they think they are wearing thin or falling apart (which it could with too many quiet moments to think about what's going on), and then maybe saying something true about continuing to grow up during adulthood without acting like it's revelatory. They get in, they make their jokes, and they move on.

It's a strategy that works very well when you've got funny people doing funny things, and I'm not sure that there is anybody better in that department than Seth Rogen right now: He's got a well-established comic persona, but also the chops to do more than stand there just being a genial stoner. He has a real advantage in getting able to work off Rose Byrne, too; for all that the film deserves all the props it's getting for explicitly calling BS on the schlubby guy/hot but sensible girl dynamic, it doesn't work unless Byrne kills it, which she does, both on her own and going back and forth with Rogen. Zac Efron and the rest of the fraternity crew are funny and reasonably sympathetic as well, although there are points where Efron, Dave Franco, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse sort of run together. The MVP may just be the twins playing the baby, though. Getting the right look from an infant may be a lot more like directing a dog than even a child actor, but however they manage it, that's one hilariously expressive kid.

Edge of Tomorrow

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 3 June 2014 in AMC Boston Common #2 (first-run, Imax-brand 3D)

I think All You Need Is Kill was the first book Viz released in its Haikasoru line, and if not, I am pretty sure that it was the first one where the table of contents was followed by a flow chart diagramming the complicated paths of the main characters in space and time, which sort of became their thing. I must admit, I was kind of surprised to see an American company pick the rights up and see it actually make it through development hell into a big movie starring Tom Cruise.

Which is kind of odd, because the main character of the book was a young Japanese guy. Still, making him into Tom Cruise turns out to be one of the best things the movie has going for it; he gives his Major Bill Cage a beautiful layer of cocky arrogance over his cowardice, and watching him learn to confront death with courage turns out to be a lot of fun beyond the "watch Cruise die a lot" thing people were joking about. The best part is that his hyperconfident Cruise-ness is never actually blotted out; even when you might expect a modest, deferential take on the character later on, he's still pushing his luck, just with better motives. It makes for a fun pairing with an all-business Emily Blunt. She gives the brusque Rita a humanity that prevents the highly-committed character from seeming robotic, perfectly complementing the smooth way Cruise plays Bill.

It's fun how they get to show these different takes on the characters by changing how they play the action, too. It's fun action, with director Doug Liman and his crew doing a really fantastic job of taking what is often the same scene and making it communicate progression. The staging is nifty, too, making good use of the big screen and 3D. The scale is human, too, even with the busy, fast-moving monsters and characters covered in mech suits. I wonder about the action being moved to Europe in the movie - I seem to recall the book taking place on one of those "neutral ground" battlefields (Antarctica?) that seem relatively common in Japanese sci-fi. It raises the stakes but it also creates a lot of WWII imagery that the filmmakers don't quite seem to know what to do with if deliberate. That's not a negative, though, and may just be a sign that Edge of Tomorrow is good enough to get one looking for more in it rather than just seeing it as an empty light show.

The Railway ManMillion Dollar ArmIdaNeighborsEdge of TomorrowThe Navigator

No comments: