Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 20 October 2014 - 26 October 2014

The plan during October: Try to see movies that start early and run short so that you can also catch a full night of playoff baseball.

This Week in Tickets

... And sometimes have work run just late enough that you can't get to the ones you planned to see at all. That's what happened early in the week, with an issue arising at quarter of five scuttling the evening's plans, pushing a couple things forward a day. That meant #Stuck got seen on Tuesday (after the initial special screening I had intended to see a week and a half earlier was canceled), and The Blue Room was Wednesday's flick. They actually pair fairly well, both hitting the fractured timeline idea and relying heavily on the characters' personal perspectives, although the French mystery thriller was much better than the American romantic comedy.

The fixed point on the schedule was Thursday's Revenge of the Green Dragons at the Brattle. It was the opening film of the Boston Asian American Film Festival and had a whole ton of guests. Perhaps more than a ton, as they were in good shape but numerous. Hong Kong director Andrew Lau and his American co-director Andrew Loo were front and center, and it was kind of amusing to see them refer to each other as "Lau" and "Loo" like a Chinese comedy team.

It was back to the Brattle the next night for the first film in their William Castle series, The Whistler, which wound up being the only one I'd see because, aside from the World Series, I sort of wrestle with questions like "is the experience of seeing The Tingler in a theater rigged for Percepto worth seeing The Tingler?" I just don't love B-movies enough sometimes.

Saturday, I went for a double feature because I didn't foresee being too lazy to go far from the house on Sunday. John Wick, happily, did a pretty good job of living up to the buzz that came out of Fantastic Fest, which I had kind of worried was inflated by Keanu Reeves being a thoroughly charming guy. After that, I headed down the Green Line (well, actually, it was a nice enough day to walk, but my conception of Boston geography is T-based) to Fenway to check out Happy New Year, this Diwali's big caper movie. It's okay, but Deepika Padukone takes much too long to show up.

The Whistler

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 24 October 2014 in the Brattle Theatre (William Castle, 35mm)

In 1944, not only was CBS a radio network, but the "C" in "Columbia Broadcasting System" actually indicated an actual connection to the film studio and record label. It was also long enough ago that William Castle had not yet become an independent, iconoclastic film producer and director, but was still working his way up, cranking out B-movies for Columbia Pictures. In this case, it was an adaptation of a popular radio mystery program, disposable by its nature but still fairly enjoyable.

It's actually got a neat little hook: Earl C. Conrad (Richard Dix), whom the whole community has looked at accusingly since his wife disappeared under suspicious circumstances, has taken out a life insurance policy and made sure that his business would be in good hands should he pass - and then gone and hired an assassin to kill him through a cutout so that the plan cannot be traced back to him. Of course, as soon as he's done that, he's given a reason to live, and it becomes impossible to get back in contact with the middleman (Don Costello).

The Whistler himself is a narrator who lurks in the shadows, face unseen, although one whistle from him does prevent things from ending too soon. It's the sort of conceit that anthology shows on the radio (and early television, which also had a Whistler series) would use to craft an identity that carries from one week to the next. It's a bit out of place here, especially with the film playing to an audience of Castle's fans now as opposed to folks who listened to the radio show seventy years ago, but it's not intrusive, even if it is a bit odd.

Full review at EFC

John Wick

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 25 October 2014 in AMC Boston Common #1 (first-run, DCP)

I prioritized John Wick low when making my choices at Fantastic Fest, and not just on the basis of "it will play regular theaters later"; it just didn't have much buzz around it, and sort of looked like something that could wind up going straight to video (on demand), much like the last movie Reeves brought to the festival. Instead, it not only hits theaters, but winds up playing the Imax screens as well. Go figure.

And it's kind of surprising, because to a certain extent I cynically expect action this good to get passed over in favor of something bigger in scale but not so well crafted in the details. And the details of this are fun, both in writer Derek Kolstad's world-building and the way directors David Leitch & Chad Stahelski shoot action with exceptional clairty. There's a sequence that has Reeves's title character slicing his way through a nightclub like a hot knife through butter, not quite a single shot but still constant, smooth motion, with Wick moving from one target to another without stopping, kind of like the gun katas in Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium. Leitch & Stahelski come from a stuntwork background, and they are dedicated to showing off that part of the movie in a way that few directors outside of Hong Kong have a vested interest in doing.

Plus, Keanu Reeves. The guy knows his strengths and weaknesses as well as any actor out there, and he's not only quite able to execute physically, but he's got a nice gravitas as Wick, mourning with a cold fury that explodes from his whole body. There's a nifty ensemble around him, all fitting into the heightened underworld that Kolstad came up with. What's particularly nifty (aside from the awesome dog whose brief time with Wick kicks everything off) is how Wick can be built up as larger than life without making him a overblown caricature of badassness.

There's not necessarily anywhere to go with Wick at the end of the movie, but I want more anyway. Kolstand came up with a neat environment, Leitch & Stahelski brought it to exciting life, and Reeves gets a part that fits him like a glove. It seldom comes together this well.

#StuckThe Blue RoomRevenge of the Green DragonsThe WhistlerJohn WickHappy New Year

No comments: