Tuesday, December 30, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 24 November 2014 - 30 November 2014

After Christmas, just getting to writing up the week of Thanksgiving. I think catching up will pick up speed from here, though.

This Week in Tickets

Things started off heavy, with John Stewart's Rosewater, the sort of film whose intentions are the best and whose every moment is sincere but the final effect isn't quite what you'd hope for.

I think it was a crappy week, weather-wise - or more, it was expected to be one - because the time on the ticket for Women Who Flirt indicates I was working from home and thus able to get to an early show, because suddenly Chinese movies sell out and I wanted to get my write-up on the new Pang Ho-cheung movie in early. Fortunately, it was a fun one, a romantic comedy that occasionally strays toward the genre's worst instincts but winds up clever and offbeat enough to work.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, which meant a trip up to Maine and shuttling between a couple of places for dinner - starting at Gramma & Grampas, because not only was the power out at my mother's house, but a nearby transformer was still burning (Yarmouth, Maine got hit a bit harder than Cambridge, Massachusetts). After dinner there, we headed to my brother Dan's place, and I wound up hanging around to play with my nieces and even staying over. The girls wanted me to watch Elf, and as a semi-professional movie-watcher who had never seen it, I could not say no.

I got back, lazed around for a while, trying to drill down through unread graphic novels and such, and then headed over to the Harvard Film Archive for Lola on Saturday, not quite falling in love with Jacques Demy's first feature, but finding that I liked his work quite a bit.

On Sunday, I went for an early double feature: The 10am screening of Penguins of Madagascar was a fairly entertaining movie, but dead - not only was I the only person in the theater, they didn't even bother opening up the downstairs concession stand for it. Shame, it was fun, and comedies and kids' movies are usually better with a bit of a crowd. After that, it was down the C line for Foxcatcher at the Coolidge. Definitely a weird one, with Steve Carell working so hard to avoid his usual persona that he becomes almost alien. In a way, I think that's the point - the super-rich really aren't like you and me - and I hope that didn't make it too weird for people to get into, as it's really a good little movie.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 November 2014 in Dan's Living Room (hanging around, DVD)

Elf is apparently considered, by many, to be a holiday classic already - folks in the UK freaked when the station that usually airs the movie over the holidays didn't have it on the schedule - although in some ways that seems a little generous. Then again, I occasionally see the Elf on the Shelf referred to as a holiday tradition (mostly in its own advertising, admittedly), so why not? With as hectic as the holiday season can get and how heavy-handed holiday stories can be, this movie's gentle goofiness is kind of nice.

It works, I think, a little better than some of Will Ferrell's other movies where he's playing this sort of off-center character, in part because he actually has a place to fit in, rather than just being some nonsensical weirdo. He's broad and absurd and silly, but he comes from somewhere good, and that makes him much easier to swallow, especially as that silly world of his has a lot of charm in its Christmas-y details, most hitting just the right note with audiences of all ages without becoming cloyingly nostalgic.

I do have to admit, though, that I'd probably like it a little more if some of its jokes and supporting characters were a bit bigger. Sure, I remember being kind of excited about Zooey Deschanel when the movie came out, but this was right about when she went from an intriguing actress to a mannered persona, and there's just very little to her character aside looking nice in a costume to make her an interesting female lead. James Caan, Ed Asner, and Bob Newhart all feel like they should have great moments that they really never get. Daniel Tay - as Buddy's half-brother - actually proves to be Ferrell's best foil, with Peter Dinklage the one who gets to be explosively funny.

But, good cheer counts for a lot in a Christmas movie, and this turns out to be where Jon Favreau first demonstrates and ability to really merge the fantastical and mundane better than most, and that's an impressive discovery on its own.

RosewaterWomen Who FlirtElfFoxcatcherLolaPenguins of Madagascar

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