Friday, October 03, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 8 September 2014 - 14 September 2014

Heh, I thought I was going to finish this on the plane to Austin. Then my laptop crashed while this was halfway done. But, hey, more time than I expected tonight.

This Week in Tickets

The Fantastic Fest trip loomed over this week a bit, as I tried to get stuff in beforehand, but most of it was just things that were not going to be playing many other times.

The Maze Runner was one where I got a preview pass and decided to use it, both because it was opening while I'd be in Texas and because it specified the RPX screen at Regal Fenway; it's a nice screen that I don't hit that often, as not only does MoviePass not work there but they've closed the hole where it's only a little bit more expensive for 3D presentations. Glad I got to see it there, but also kind of glad I didn't pay anything for it; the movie is good-looking but thoroughly generic until a frustrating ending.

It was back to the same area on Tuesday, this time at Fenway Park for another Red Sox loss. Bleah. Xander Bogaerts got a home run, which was nice to see after a summer-long slump, but Anthony Ranaudo stunk, they pinch-hit Craig for Nava, and even with a relatively low score, it never seemed like the Red Sox were in it.

Thursday, I did one of the work-from-home things so it was possible to get to Kendall Square for a last-day-in-Boston double feature - they've gone to the one evening show schedule rather than two on weekdays in recent months, which I might like more if the Chlotrudis folks were still doing the regular pre-show dinners. Worked out okay this time, though - Calvary was very good, but The Last of Robin Hood was not.

Then it was a busy weekend, bookended by two Films at the Gate presentations - Fearless Hyena & Come Drink with Me on Saturday and Sunday nights, respectively. As always, it was a lot of fun, and pretty good movies both times. I was interested in the one on Saturday, too, but not only was it raining, but I was kind of wiped after two movies already that day: Korean film The Pirates played in Revere, so I had to get there fairly early, and then was at Assembly Row just in time for The Drop. The lady at the box office tried to talk me out of the front row, but the next two were full in the middle. Fortunately, the first few rows there are recliners, so it's unusually tolerable.

I forgot the MoviePass 24-hour rule, which meant that instead of seeing But Always on Sunday, I had to wait for 4pm to pass and then catch Finding Fanny. It worked out okay - Fanny is actually the better movie.

Next up: Fantastic Fest.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 September 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (first-run, DCP)

Calvary is so good that I keep trying to find ways to separate it from the Catholic Church in my head. After all, when the end comes, wouldn't you rather be aligned with Brendan Gleeson's Father James then not? Of course you would - he's kind, generous, funny, and genuinely concerned about all around him - but the Church (and, for some of us, religion in general) has not made it easy over the past few years. And though I think that it is important to uncouple our sense of morality from our belief in fables and superstitions, I suspect that writer/director John Michael McDonagh may aim to do the exact opposite, whether I agree or not.

After all, that's the entire arc of the film, from the opening scene where the unseen man in the other half of the confessional promises to kill James in one week's time, precisely because he wants his message clear: Killing a bad priest would just be cleaning house, while murdering a good one like James would be an attack on the institution itself. After that, the film is almost split in two, with the first half demonstrating that he is a good man, if as imperfect as any human. It's the second half where I begin to suspect that McDonagh isn't just telling the story of a good but flawed man in an impossible situation, but making an argument for the Church itself. As much as James's less charming traits come closer to the surface, the townsfolk get even nastier, belittling and ostracizing him in large part for his connection to the Church, and it seems like no coincidence that the vitriol increases when the town's church building is burnt down. Even if McDonagh and James struggle with the hypocrisies and other failings of the institution, the suggestion is that humanity is in big trouble without that anchor.

Even if one doesn't buy that, though, the film is well worth seeing entirely because Brendan Gleeson is as fantastic as usual in it. He zeroes in on the combination of humility and ego necessary to believe that one has been called to the clergy, and it helps him build the sense that Father James is a good man, and most of the time even a likable one. He's also adept with all the various shades of humor that McDonagh has him work with, but still sharp when the situation calls for it. He's worked with McDonagh before (The Guard), and makes the most out of both the lines he's given and the spaces between. There's a fine cat around him as well, with special attention serving to go to Kelly Reilly as the daughter whose reaction to her mother's death was less healthy than turning to the priesthood.

I'm not sure McDonagh meant Calvary as a defense of the Church in a time when people are leaving it behind, even in places like Ireland where Catholicism is a part of the national identity. If he didn't, it's still a darn good movie, making me want much more from the Gleeson/McDonagh pairing. If he did, I don't agree, but like the way he stakes his claim.

The Last of Robin Hood

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 September 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (first-run, DCP)

Look at the talent wasted on this thing. Kevin Kline. Susan Sarandon. Dakota Fanning. All of them playing potentially colorful characters in a lurid story against a snazzy period backdrop. There is absolutely no excuse for this movie to be boring, and yet, that's what happens, as the story of an aging movie star having an affair with a teenaged girl fizzles.

I suspect part of the problem comes from this being a Lifetime-produced movie and skewed toward their audience. Much of the film takes place from the point of view of Sarandon's mother character, with her relating the story and including occasional returns to the framing scenes to demonstrate that she's an unreliable, self-serving narrator. It never quite feels like she goes full stage-mother, at least not to the point where she feels like she should be as central as her positioning. On the other hand, scenes with just Kline and Fanning are often kind of fascinating, as Kline sort of muzzles his natural charisma to show Flynn as a shell of a man whose game seemingly would only work on the inexperienced, and even then, Fanning's Beverly Aadland doesn't quite seem to be buying it completely, but enough. Later scenes where Flynn seems disappointed in Beverly being a teenager rather than a sophisticated adult highlight the ickiness of their relationship but are also kind of tragic - neither is being well-served by what the situation can give, despite the superficial benefits.

Every time the movie threatens to really look at this May March-to-December relationship - and, to be fair, that would necessarily be a great movie; neither Kline nor Fanning is playing close to capability and filmmakers Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland seem to lack both resources and focus - it goes back to Sarandon's Florence, and she's just not active enough to keep the audience's interest. She's got a potentially interesting story, but clearly not the most interesting, and the filmmakers don't have what it takes to elevate it.

The Drop

* * * (out of four)
Seen 13 September 2014 in AMC Assembly Row #7 (first-run, DCP)

It's not particularly surprising that The Drop is based on a short story rather than a novel; it actually doesn't have a particularly twisty story, instead opting to let the audience marinate in a seedy environment, watching to see how things play out, but mostly just seeing people talk about the way things were and are. There's a bit of a jolt in the last act, but it doesn't make the machinery grind much.

Which is fine, because you've got Tom Hardy in most scenes, and he's excellent throughout. The role he plays is one that's usually off to the side, the guy without enough going on to thrive outside his native environment, but with the brains and self-awareness to recognize this situation. Give him a puppy and a woman who is justifiably wary (Noomi Rapace) and you can easily forget that his backstory necessarily includes some rough stuff. Hardy keeps the audience's focus, giving Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, and especially the late James Gandolfini the chance to carve out interesting niches without making things operatic. Then, when the time comes, Hardy is quite capable of taking the movie back and holding onto what's left.

Michael R. Roskam uses those resources fairly well. There are occasional signs that Dennis Lehane has stretched his story a bit in converting it to a screenplay, with something off at the end in what is not quite the right way. It moves at a good pace, though, and builds more tension than you might expect, even though everything seems to be out in the open, by the end.

Is the season over yet?The Maze RunnerCalvaryThe Last of Robin HoodThe Fearless HyenaThe PiratesThe DropFinding FannyCome Drink with Me

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