Friday, August 22, 2014

This Week In Tickets: 11 August 2014 - 17 August 2014

Some people would come back from three weeks of summer movie nut camp and slow down. I am not one of them.

This Week in Tickets

More trips than usual to Fenway, but they were the ones that fit the schedule. The first couple of days turned out to be tight fits - got there just in time for Lucy, which I was rather fond of, and with a little more wiggle room for The Hundred-Foot Journey. I wish I could remember what I snacked on for that - I think it was an ice cream sandwich, a bit of a crime against being exposed to good food.

Comic shop on Wednesday, then caught Mood Indigo on its last day before it left town. I wasn't aware it had been cut for US release before seeing it, and while I figure that could explain a lot, who knows?

Friday's movie was Singham Returns, which isn't very good at all. Much better was the next afternoon's Korean film at Showcase Revere, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, which was the second Choi Min-sik movie I saw at a mainstream theater that week, which is sort of unusual.

Not much time for other stuff that day, as I had some shopping to do after the bus ride back from Revere. Just enough time to head out to Somerville for The Expendables 3. Not the best of the series, but still fairly fun.

And then nothing on Sunday, because the shopping on Saturday was to get my niece Maisy birthday presents. She's four and further evidence that my nieces are the cutest nieces.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 11 August 2014 in Regal Fenway #1 (first-run, DCP)

I was asked about Lucy just the other night, and was glad to let some enthusiasm out. It's not quite my favorite movie of a summer that included Snowpiercer, Guardians of the Galaxy, Begin Again, A Most Wanted Man, and everything from Fantasia, but it's hugely entertaining, and that's at least in part because it is so ridiculous. Discussing this movie inevitably involves laughing while bringing up something unusual, goofy, or even downright stupid, but either cheering the former or forgiving the latter.

No mean feat, as the basic premise of the movie falls into "downright stupid", playing as it does on the well-discredited idea that human beings only use 10% of their brains with a side of "more would give us superpowers". Morgan Freeman doesn't really attempt to make this malarkey believable as the scientist espousing it, just saying it in a calming voice that soothes the audience into running with the proposition. And as cool as it is to see Choi Min-sik as the villain, the combination of globe-spanning influence and brute-force attacks may make even less sense.

But we look past that, because writer/director Luc Besson has style. We see it front and center right away, as he keeps cutting away to jungle animals stalking and devouring prey as Lucy's lousy boyfriend tries to get her to enter a figurative lions' den on his behalf, and these bits are both on-point and off-kilter. They're the sort of thing that keep such a straight-ahead movie from getting dull even at an admirably brisk 89 minutes, and when Besson goes all-in on the sci-fi weirdness at the end, we can't say we didn't see it coming.

Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson is selling everything, from the initial wariness that turns into well-earned terror to a great deal of impressively physical action. This is the last leg of an impressive summer for her, and she commands the screen very well indeed, even with the character going from being inhumanly authoritative to suddenly vulnerable and back. I am kind of curious to see if there are any deleted scenes on the Blu-ray that portray Lucy as more empathetic than the generally detached way she moves through the rest of the movie - it keeps the story going, but the scenes where we see that she actually feels things more keenly, even as she's having trouble relating to normal humans, are some of her best.

The quick pace (which I like!) also serves to half-cover something Besson takes as a given in this movie - that there's no going back. Lucy never talks about a way to undo what happened to her - she seems to intrinsically understand that the only way to survive is moving forward - and neither does anybody else. Besson could easily end the movie with no lasting effects, but doesn't. There's no whiff of "there are some things man was not meant to know" here; evolution happens and that's just how things are.

The Expendables 3

* * * (out of four)
Seen 11 August 2014 in AMC Boston Common #4 (first-run, DCP)

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course, but I think the Expendables series has thus far peaked with the second: The filmmakers zeroed in on the appeal of the thing - a bunch of guys from when action stars weren't so concerned with being able to act getting together and throwing down like they used to - and had R-rated fun with it, especially with Jean-Claude van Damme going to town as an energetically evil villain. They had stumbled upon it in the first one - casting likely designed to be an extra treat became the reason people would see the movie - found it in the second, and made the mistake of trying to broaden it here.

Thus, a too-large infusion of younger actors, a few of whom wind up rather interchangeable, pushing the guys who were the series's raison d'ĂȘtre aside (and while I enjoyed Kelsey Grammar's talent scout, he and Stallone did the same scenes for or five times). Too much plot but not enough villain. And a frustrating PG-13 rating that both sells out a good chunk of the throwback appeal and ties the hand of director Patrick Hughes, an up-and-coming action filmmaker constantly cutting away from the literally impactful part of a scene and throwing off their rhythm. You can see that there are well-designed action sequences executed without the spark they could have, at least until the end when the grand finale being big and ridiculous means he had to pull back less.

But at least the expanded cast is a ton of fun, serving as a great reminder that a lot of these guys have a lot more to give. Harrison Ford takes over for Bruce Willis, and while he doesn't give top effort, he fits into the role perfectly. Others are less perfect fits, but show why we don't see certain actors enough: Antonio Banderas is hugely funny, something that only Robert Rodriguez seemed to realize could be used in his action roles before. Wesley Snipes has an almost unmatched combination of charisma and legitimate physical chops. And Mel Gibson is capable of so much more than this role that he sometimes seems to be toying with it, making the audience frustrated that he's such a lunkhead as to have become mostly unemployable.

There's enough working well enough to make it a good time. Here's hoping that if a fourth one gets made, they'll course-correct a little, and maybe pull in a couple more folks who could use the boost. I nominate Chow Yun-fat, Jackie Chan, and Cynthia Rothrock.

LlucyThe Hundred-Foot JourneyMood IndigoSingham ReturnsThe Admiral: Roaring CurrentsThe Expendables 3

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