Thursday, December 11, 2014

This That Week In Tickets: 3 November 2014 - 9 November 2014

Sometimes the page looks like slow and steady but contains double features. Sometimes it's about pacing yourself, sometimes it's about taking advantage of your location.

This Week in Tickets

On Monday, for instance, I must have either been working from home or out of work really early in order to get to Before I Go to Sleep at a 6:45pm show, but I think I probably wanted to do grocery shopping or the like afterward, so I went for a relatively early one. Pretty firmly in the "I've seen worse" category, and not one that leaves a lasting impression.

Tuesday night, I made a bit of a last-minute change; I think I was planning to see Nightcrawler, but went with Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans instead. Sometimes, you are just in the mood to see people mauled by tigers.

Friday, I did an on the way home from work double feature - the Capitol is on my bus route, so that's where I caught Big Hero 6, and had a good time with it. After that, it was a quick bus ride to Apple Cinemas near Alewife, where I caught The Lookalike, which could have been better.

Saturday got spent at the Somerville Theatre, where they were playing Interstellar on the big screen (unfortunately, that room is in demand, but they're still playing it in 35mm). Ian mentioned that it was done on film as much as possible, without even a digital intermediate, and looks that good.

After that, it was a fairly quick turnaround for St. Vincent, a generally likable little movie with a nice cast, including Bill Murray doing more to play a character than usual. Because I saw that at 7:15pm, MoviePass's 24-hour rule meant I headed out to Assembly Row for a slightly later screening of Nightcrawler than was at the local theaters. Not complaining about the comfy seats, even if it is more time on the T than usual.

Before I Go to Sleep

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 3 November 2014 in AMC Boston Common #9 (first-run, DCP)

The fun part of Before I Go to Sleep, I think, is watching Mark Strong be the concerned and most likely legit doctor and Colin Firth be the guy who is pretty clearly up to no good, which is fun against-type casting, even if neither they not Nicole Kidman (as a woman who wakes up each morning with no memory of the past dozen or so years) really have much interesting to do. Kidman's thing of basically playing a woman in her twenties who wakes up to find she's settled down and aged (if better than many) is a neat idea, but Kidman plays her as too vacant to really be interesting.

On top of the performances just being okay but lacking the details that make characters actually interesting, it's just very difficult to build interesting momentum with stories built around resetting to zero on a regular basis. All too often, the writers seem to be spending so much time and effort on clever mechanisms that they lack much else, and once the obvious turns off events happen, the result is often more frustration than suspense.

It makes for a movie about regularly forgetting everything that is itself rather forgettable, and I'm going to guess that this isn't what the people making it had in mind.

Big Hero 6

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 7 November 2014 in Arlington Capitol #5 (first-run, RealD DCP)

Marvel wasn't testing to see whether it could achieve superhero saturation on its own this year - they have very little control over when Fox or Sony will release something based the Marvel properties that those studios have the rights to - but it's not surprising that the closest thing to an acknowledgment that Big Hero 6 first appeared in a comic is a Stan Lee cameo. There are other reasons, likely including keeping the question of diversity from getting ugly (it's one of the more enjoyably diverse casts you'll see, but it got there by making an all-Japanese team more white, although that team was built on a lot of stereotypes...).

Happily, though, what they ended up with is a lot of fun. From the first shots of illicit robot fighting to the whimsical hybrid world of San Fransokyo, it's a colorful environment packed with nifty optimistic-future details, one that looks great in 3D. It's got a lot of orphaning going on - not only are Hiro Hamada's parents lost when the movie starts, but he soon losses his older brother Tadashi and a mentor to boot - but it takes this situation much more seriously than many movies, for kids and otherwise, do; it's not something that primarily means that the hero must solve things on his or her own but has become extra-plucky and capable because he/she has had extra responsibilities. It's something that Hiro struggles with, and the emotional core of the movie. It's not quite so heavy as to get in the way of a lot of funny and exciting bits, though, because this is a good light adventure.

And, wow, did the kids around me love Baymax. A robotic nurse built by Hiro's brother who becomes the boy's best friend, Baymax is a great creation, an unapologetic cartoon who is an endless source of gentle humor - impressive, because gentle physical comedy is hard to pull off - and even those of us prone to bristle a bit at treating a machine with clever software as a person can see the 'bot as an ongoing expression of Tadashi's love and concern. That's pretty clever.

It's kind of amusing that this movie came out the same weekend as Interstellar, if only because it seems extremely unlikely that two movies with this climax (guy and robot sidekick dive into a singularity to retrieve something from a pocket universe) would be playing at the same time. I also hope my niece(s) watch and dig it, because I think at least one would love Honey Lemon - she's a superhero who loves both science and total girly-girl accoutrements without it seeming like any sort of contradiction! - and is love to get her that sort of thing for Christmas rather than just more Frozen stuff.

St. Vincent

* * * (out of four)
Seen 8 November 2014 in Somerville Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

Here's a question to ponder a bit: How much of the highly-enjoyable later stages of Bill Murray's career has been built on the discovery that he has previously-unsuspected acting chops and how much has been based upon casting him in place where he can make the most out of a dry delivery and somewhat befuddled or arch characterization? I don't mean this as an "emperor has no clothes" statement, but it's worth noting that his title character in St. Vincent demands more outside his usual persona than usual, and it's not hard to see the stretching that Murray has to do.

That doesn't hurt the movie much; even if you can see Murray acting more clearly than usual - in large part because he's a guy who historically hasn't varied his accent much trying a new one on - he's still a bunch of fun to watch, an entertaining curmudgeon who plays well off the entire cast. That cast is packed with actors doing nice work - a toned-down Melissa McCarthy, an offbeat Naomi Watts, Chris O'Down stealing every scene he's in as a teacher at the Catholic school attended by Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), the kid Vincent winds up babysitting during the afternoon. It's generally funny stuff, good-natured and with just enough abrasiveness to prevent it from being saccharine.

At least, for a while. It eventually reaches exactly the ending you'd expect, and that's maybe a little bit of a disappointment considering how enjoyably prickly things had been up until then, but I'm not one to argue against sincerity.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 9 November 2014 in AMC Assembly Row #7 (first-run, DCP)

Given how long it took Los Angeles Plays Itself to get any sort of official release, it's a shame that it didn't get updated, but even in that case, Nightcrawler came out just late enough to not be included. Nightcrawlers like Jake Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom are not a phenomenon exclusive to that city, but it does seem to be their natural environment. Writer/director Dan Gilroy gets this, spinning an unlikely but dark and thrilling story.

It rests on the back of Gyllenhaal, who plays Bloom as something approaching thoroughly crazed - he blinks maybe twice during the movie, has a towering ego, and a naked sociopathy that is honestly stunning to behold. It's the sort of thing that can be kind of wearing, but somehow Gyllenhaal and Gilroy are able to draw us in more than they push us away. This isn't really a fascinating character, but an oddly magnetic one, and he manages to make the rest of the cast look almost sympathetic even if they'd be monsters in other movies. Especially Rene Russo's sharklike news director (we do not see enough of her these days)

There are also a couple of great sequences in the picture, one of which leads directly to the other. The first may be far from the usual "action" piece, but it's tremendously suspenseful, especially as it immediately forms the spine of a mocking, satirical scene soon after. That's pretty near the exact right tone for the movie - exciting, but also fairly relentless in mocking how exciting an audience might find what goes on.

Before I Go to Sleep
Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans
Big Hero 6
The Lookalike
St. Vincent

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