Thursday, July 17, 2014

This Week In Tickets: 7 July 2014 - 13 July 2014

Why yes, I was trying to get a bunch of stuff in before heading to Fantasia while also indulging events with inflexible timing!

This Week in Tickets

First up - baseball. Normally, there'd be an exclamation mark after that, but this game was just a sort of grinding reminder of what 2014 has been like for a Red Sox fan - pretty good pitching, nearly zero offense, which meant even though the game was close, it felt doomed. I think the most fun I had baseball-wise was when Chicago DH Adam Dunn crushed a ball over the Red Sox bullpen - it put my team behind, but Adam Dunn hitting home runs is satisfying: The man's approach is to try and crush balls he thinks he can drive, which leads to a lot of walks and strikeouts which frustrates fans who love the aesthetics of hitting the ball on the ground and moving the runners along. Hitting coaches keep trying to get Dunn to do that, the results are terrible, and then he eventually decides, screw it, I'm swinging for the fences again, and his game may become mostly ugly with moments of awesome, but it's more useful on average.

It was still kind of fun - I had good seats even if it was raining a little at points. A family with a two-year-old named Xander who was crazy excited whenever Xander Bogaerts was on the field (kids care nothing about horrible month-long slumps), at least until some other seats nearby opened up and they could spread out without little X squirming on someone's lap. On the other side was a guy and his lady friend from (I think) Brazil who had never seen a baseball game but seemed to be getting into it. It was a fun reminder of two things: Baseball is a lot more difficult to explain than a lot of popular sports,and baseball seems to collect colorful characters and odd events more than many other games. Maybe it's the downtime that lets personalities come out or the relaxed, clock-free pace, but baseball seems to make people laugh more than the other major sports. That may be a big reason why it's the best. (box score)

I meant to check out Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case on Tuesday, but when I got off the subway I realized that I'd forgotten my Landmark discount tickets. Being the cheap bastard thrifty New Englander that I am, I bailed, did some grocery shopping, and came back Wednesday. I liked it, although it made for a weird contrast with a film on Ai Weiwei from a couple years earlier, almost playing like a sequel but with certain things that were important before kind of rearranged and discounted.

Friday, I hit the Coolidge for Snowpiercer. I'd already seen it before, but given the bizarre, at least partially spite-based release pattern The Weinstein Company gave it, it was important to me to support it with money (even if it was MoviePass's money). That weird release pattern, though, led to a rare treat - something that plays like a big summer sci-fi action movie playing on the Coolidge's main screen, which is well-suited for that sort of thing but generally only has it for midnight and Big Screen Classic shows. Good crowd, too.

Then I loaded Saturday up pretty good, because who knew if some of this stuff would still be playing in a month? First up was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, early enough to catch the relatively inexpensive early 3D show despite a few worries about how 3D would treat it. That left me time for a much-needed haircut, some time reading on the deck, and watching a little baseball before heading to the Brattle for the Magic Lantern Show and then from there to the Fenway theater for Deliver Us from Evil

The Magic Lantern show was kind of neat to see, as I'd seen a lot of these pre-cinema mechanisms in motion picture museums in Montreal, Paris, and other places, but never really seen them used as intended. This show was done as part of the Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada's convention, and had a convivial atmosphere - perhaps too convivial, really, as some of the presentations were more self-deprecating and played to a presumed audience of enthusiasts as opposed to just recreating what these shows were like in their heyday. There were also a lot of times when the presentation of the slides didn't go off so well, likely from the Brattle's unique rear-projection set-up, which meant that the presenter on stage and the operator underneath couldn't easily see and cue each other, not being able to get into a groove. Like I said, it was fun to do once, but I dont think I'll be marking out time for future magic lantern shows the way I do for silents.

And speaking of silents, I had a long Silent Sunday with Three Ages, Orphans of the Storm, and Intolerance to close out the week. I just wrote about it during this bus ride, so follow the link. It was fun, though, and probably a good warm-up for the Fantasia Festival, what with the running between screens, drawing up a plan of attack rather than just showing up and killing time if I was late, and reading the dialog (though with intertitles instead of subtitles).


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 July 2014 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (first-run, DCP)

My second time around for this one - I caught it in Paris last year, because that's what a guy like me does when my facation lines up iwth the French release of movies that might be butchered for their U.S. run - and I'm pleased to say that it's still really, really good. I maybe enjoyed it a little more this time because not being jet-lagged and anxious about language barriers may trump feeling like you're getting away with something. Though it's uncut, I think I noticed a little bit of a difference in the subtitling; I remember a bit in the French release about Song Kang-ho's character being frustrated that the others couldn't get his name right that seemed downplayed in the US one, but that may have been entirely done with different subtitling. Speaking of which, I was very pleased to see that my lousy high school French didn't fail me too badly with Song's subtitled speech at the end last time.

It's a pretty great movie which is happily doing a good job of sticking around the Boston area and even expanding into more screens. It's also on VOD if the big screen's not an option for you where you live, but I do advise hitting the theater if you can. Like I said, this sort of thing needs to be supported with money.

Original review at EFC

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2014 in AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, RealD 3D)

Even if you don't include Snowpiercer, this has been a pretty darn good summer at the movies, what with including Edge of Tomorrow, this, Begin Again, and some other good stuff looking to follow. Dawn isn't the fantastic surprise that its predecessor Rise of the Planet of the Apes was, but in a lot of ways it's even better. It channels its smarts into telling a great story without obvious winks at fans of the previous series (even if Rise did manage to do that in the very best possible way), one that stands alone quite satisfyingly while still having clear links to the last movie and the presumed next one.

It's also put together, visually, exceptionally well. The ape village here genuinely feels like a precursor to the ape cities from the novel - the three-dimensional ones built for four-handed inhabitants - more than any from the previous movies. The apes themselves are a wonder, the current apex of how today's CGI rendering skills are meshing with performance capture to create something real enough to not be unsettling. The environments and the rest of the world are well thought-out, and director Matt Reeves and company build some fairly impressive action out of it, which looks pretty good in the native 3D but doesn't seem like it would look wrong or too busy when flattened.

Part of what's impressive, though, is that the action does not feel like the purpose of the movie the way it does with so many others of its type - in fact, I half-suspect that it was somewhat dialed down so that it wouldn't steal emphasis away from the great build-up of tension that comes around it or the stories around that. This is a movie that invites the audience to watch the directions everyone is moving in, because the script quietly establishes each character with his or her own point of view and ideas about what is necessary to thrive in such a desperate situation, with every conflict, whether between ape and man or within either group, seem tragically inevitable even for the ones desperately trying to avoid it. It's a heady but never dull picture, one that leaves me legitimately excited to see another movie in this franchise for the first time ever.

Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2014 in Regal Fenway #2 (first-run, DCP)

I know Scott Derrickson is doing Doctor Strange next, but I half-wonder if after that, he plans to do a caper movie built around exorcism. After all, he's done a courtroom drama (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and a cop movie (this) on the subject; wouldn't that sort of crime picture be next?

As exorcism movies go, this is a pretty decent one. It's not my favorite type of horror movie, mostly because the plot generally requires buying into some sort of fringy religious belief and, relatedly, I tend to find the idea of people believing in demonic possession more frightening than the idea of possession itself, and this one's got a lot of the flaws of the genre: The villain is an uneasy balance between generic and absurd, and I can't help but feel that if the supernatural were so accessible, we'd see a lot more of it. Derrickson mostly handles it by creating situations that are weird but which don't require explanation, and where the supernatural elements basically extend real-life horrors: The mother who doesn't care for her baby properly, or the soldier who comes home from war broken. Maybe there's a little something there about the impossibility of continually confronting evil and being able to engage the normal world properly, whether you're a detective who sees the worst of human behavior or a Jesuit priest who confronts literal demons.

Eric Bana and Edgar Ramirez serve pretty well in those roles. Bana, in particular, is terrific, giving his Bronx-accented, familiar-seeming detective exactly the right attitude in every scene, a near-perfect blend of cockiness and genuine terror. Ramirez plays the more conventional pulp hero - the secret-society guy who still has quips at the ready despite having been involved in horrific adventures, but he's got the knack for making it seem believable. My favorite, though, is probably Chris Coy as Bana's partner on the force; he's confident and sarcastic and despite his often having a blade at the ready, I was still surprised when he got involved in a pretty great knife-fight at around the two-thirds mark. The knife fight is an underrated bit of movie action - it adds all the nervous tension and high stakes to every hit of swordplay to the close-in exchanges of a fistfight - and Derrickson directs a good one. I may not always love the supernatural subjects Scott Derrickson chooses or how he seems to give them more credence than they deserve, but I continue to be impressed with the solid movies he builds around them.

Sox vs SoxAi Weiwei: The Fake CaseSnowpiercerDawn of the Planet of the ApesMagic Lantern ShowDeliver Us from EvilThree AgesOrphans of the StormIntolerance

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