Thursday, October 30, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 6 October 2014 - 12 October 2014

When we last left "This Week in Tickets", Jay had managed to catch a cold just before heading to Maine for various family things. Would the lingering effects of said ailment put a crimp in his moviegoing schedule?

This Week in Tickets

No, not really. I did manage to give it to my mother and her husband, though, forcing them to cut their vacation short. Sorry about that.

I did wind up feeling kind of lousy for most of the week, but for better or worse, I need the situation to be more drastic than that before I stop going out. Thus, I headed to the Coolidge on Monday night for the monthly "Science on Screen" presentation, less because of the attached lecture (which was fun and informative if not exactly sticky) than because the movie in question, Soylent Green, is one that I really should have seen by now as someone who lives science fiction and good movies. Happily, it lives up to its reputation as a legitimate classic.

Tuesday night wound up being a second shoot at my original plans for Friday the 3rd, when Chinese import Breakup Buddies surprised me something fierce by being sold out despite a second screen being added. It was probably giveaway-aided to a certain extent, but it is still kind of cool to actually have an enthusiastic crowd for a mainstream foreign film like this without having to go to a festival. The film itself was fairly decent as well, even if I may be giving it more credit than it deserves for clever misdirection that may have been a function of subtitling more than intent.

Then the cold kind of came back and I kind of stayed in for the rest of the week before giving Saturday to the Somerville Theatre's thirteen-hour Terror-Thon. It wasn't quite the cool "one film per decade" format as last year, but it was still all 35mm and great-looking, and a fun and varied line-up: The Cat and the Canary (silent, with Jeff Rapsis on the organ), Poltergeist, Creature from the Black Lagoon (anaglyph 3D), The Thing (on a fantastic print), Wait Until Dark, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and Let the Right One In.

It's probably not the greatest idea to get home from a marathon that ends at 1am and then go to a morning matinee the next day, but that's when the not-horrible-expensive 3D screening of The Boxtrolls was, so I tried to sleep quickly. Not a bad movie, and it certainly looked gorgeous, as Laika's stop-motion tends to do.

Soylent Green

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 October 2014 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (Science on Screen, 35mm (?))

Say what you want about Charlton Heston, but the man had a knack for choosing genre projects that would burrow their ways so deep into popular culture that one needn't have actually seen them to be up on their iconic finales. Plus, they let Heston be a star of sorts without having to try and be charming in a way that really would not have suited him. He'll be an icon for much longer than contemporaries who were better-known (or better actors) because of those choices.

Of course, while the end of Soylent Green is what everybody knows, it's not all that makes the movie great. Director Richard Fleischer and screenwriter Stanley L. Greenberg take the standard trick of making their sci-fi story a police procedural and ground it even more by making Heston's Detective Thorn casually corrupt instead of any sort of idealistic seeker of justice, even if there is a sort of dogged determination underneath. It really does fine job of highlighting what sort of dystopic future these people are living in while still saving the crushing blow for later. I also suspect that it's the result of a lot of the crew knowing real suffering, either in World War II or even the Depression. Despite taking place in an exaggeratedly overcrowded New York, the little details seem true-to-life, and there certainly has to be some intent in having the "books" near the end resemble Holocaust survivors.

Part of what's amazing, though, is just how wonderfully melancholy the movie is. The idea that most of the women we see are "furniture girls" is pretty disheartening, but watching Leigh Taylor-Young fret about her future in that position is a great little detail that arguably plays into the theme of human beings as a commodity. And, man, those last scenes with Edward G. Robinson, as he realizes he can't live in a world where what he's discovered is true are heartbreaking, especially watching the gruff Thorn break down. I feel awful about not recognizing him, because I love Robinson during his film noir prime. At least he went out with a good movie, even if he might have thought doing sci-fi was slumming it at the time.

The Boxtrolls

* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 October 2014 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, RealD)

Yow, what a great-looking movie. Not necessarily pretty, but with a level of detail that is kind of mind-boggling in this type of stop-motion animation, and combination of smoothness and a slight hitch (maybe exaggerated by the 3D projection) that makes sure that the audience knows just what is being pulled off

It's an oddly prickly movie at times, though, in large part due to the kid characters at the center. Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning with a bratty British accent) is the kind of kid who revels in being pushy and in charge, even if it's reined in enough to mostly be funny. Newcomer Isaac Hempstead Wright voices Eggs - a boy raised by the Boxtrolls of the title (scavengers who live beneath the city streets) - and manages to capture not just how he is something of an innocent in the human world but that he also has an impatience to him that feels like a real kid who hasn't yet learned that lashing out can be a bad idea even if you are right.

There's a fun group of grown-up voices around them - Ben Kingsley as the villain, Nick Frost as a hulking henchman unsure of the morality of their actions, Jared Harris as Winnie's inattentive father - and the filmmakers use them to tap into a dry Brit-type class-skewering humor that is anything but reserved. Character designs and settings are fairly extreme caricatures, sight gags are peculiar (and sometimes grotesque) but funny, and when it comes time for a chase or confrontation, the animators do some pretty amazing things. It might be odd enough to be a tough sell for kids and parents at times, but it's at least always something impressive to look at.

One question, though: Where do jokes about English folks loving cheese come from in these movies? It's one of the recurring gags in Wallace & Gromit, too, and I don't know if I've seen this cheese-obsession in real life. I'm guessing it's a matter of going into obsessive detail over anything commonplace, and kids like cheese much more than other targets like wine, beer, electronics components, etc. Of course, it's best exemplified by Monty Python's Cheese Shop sketch, which isn't exactly kid's stuff.

Okay, that's enough overthinking things for one post.

Soylent GreenBreakup BuddiesTerror-ThonThe Boxtrolls

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