Friday, January 16, 2015

This That Week In Tickets: 29 December 2014 - 3 January 2015

Wait a minute, that's only six days! What the heck is going on here?

This Week in Tickets

Oh, the calendars I've been using as scrapbooks for the past five years have gone from running Monday-to-Sunday on a page to running Sunday-to-Saturday. Why would they do that? Don't they realize that people count on calendars for predictability and structure?!?!

(Deep breath)

I can make this work. Sure, now some things that run weekends like the Boston Underground Film Festival will have the end clipped off, but it will give me a little more space for both weekend days, and maybe having lazy Sunday afternoons to work on these posts will make them more timely. It'll mess with the opening-weekend narrative, but you can worry about that if these seem strange one they're back on some sort of schedule...

ANYWAY, that leaves a not-really-blank spot at the top of the page to represent what was actually a fairly busy day (check out the 22-28 December 2014 post for that) before my last movie of 2014, which happened to be the only thing i caught from the Brattle's Bill Murray program, The Razor's Edge. It was not the best film playing in the series, although it is kind of interesting in that it is the sort of movie made by someone desperate to be taken seriously but who is also terribly worried that people won't like that. Murray would have to practically disappear, age, and reinvent himself before figuring out how to make his comedic gifts and dramatic ambitions work together.

Most of the week, then, would be quiet; I don't do much for New Year's because it's cold, I've seen the Christmas releases that I am actively interested in by then, and there was stuff to catch up on at the office after being on vacation a week. I did finally do some DVR cleaning and watch that Blu-ray set of True Detective, though, and that is some awfully fine television. I'm not sure whether I would have rather seen it during its original run and been part of the conversation or not; as much as it's cool to get swept up, internet TV talk disdains the procedural in favor of the built-out world and the tightening twist, and this show ultimately being a serialized cop show with more detailed character work than usual seemed to upset folks. Pity, because it reminded me of the original Prime Suspect in how it used an intriguing crime story as a way to just watch Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson (and to a lesser extent Michelle Monaghan) act the hell out of their roles.

That finished up, I was back to the Brattle on Friday night for Hayao Miyazaki documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which didn't cover nearly as much ground as I had hoped. I was also weirdly worn out afterward, so I didn't stick around for Why Don't You Play in Hell?, which would have made an excellent second movie of 2015.

It did lead to sleeping in, though, and that meant I was in good shape for Saturday: Catching The Interview now that the Somerville Theatre had room for it after committing to other things before, and then walking through some pretty miserable slush to catch A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night at the Coolidge's midnight show. Wasn't going to chance the GoldScreen being sold out, even if I did more or less kill a pair of shoes in the process.

Then on Sunday-- Oh, right. New calendar. Next week, then, and it's a good thing I don't really flip out over changes to my routine that much.

The Razor's Edge (1984)

* * (out of four)
Seen 29 December 2014 in the Brattle Theatre (Bill Murray: More than Just a Nut, 35mm)

The 1984 version of The Razor's Edge had a well-worn behind-the-scenes narrative attached to it almost as soon as it was announced - the comedian who wanted to be taken seriously, proved unsuited to it, and failed spectacularly. He goes back to making people laugh, but has he learned that this is even more important than making them cry, or has he been crushed by the realization that he will always be second class? In real life, Bill Murray hones his craft for the next fifteen years and ages into the kind of guy melancholy suits, but that doesn't mean that the first part of the story didn't happen.

For his dramatic debut, Murray and his collaborators adapt a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, with Murray playing Larry Darrell, a laid-back college baseball star who, along with classmate Gray Maturin (James Keach), volunteer to drive an ambulance on the front lines before the United States has officially entered World War I. He leaves behind sweetheart Isabel Bradley (Catherine Hicks) and married friends Bob (Joris Stuyck) & Sophie MacDonald (Theresa Russell). He comes back confused and dissatisfied with the gilded life awaiting him back in America, deciding to spend a year on Paris - and not the classy enclave Isabel's uncle Elliott Templeton (Denholm Elliott) picks out for him.

It stretches out to more than a year, of course, and is quest to find some understanding of the world takes him to many places other than Parisian grottos. In the meantime, life back "home" goes on without him, until the group inevitably reunites over a decade later. Indeed, it seems like everything that can happen does - every period-appropriate tragedy, every bit of soapy melodrama, every way a person can contemplate Just What All This Means. There is nothing that seems out of place, but also nothing that seems like it comes from the characters, rather than happening to them, the most serious moments picked from their lives and lined up by screenwriters who figure the way to maximize drama is to maximize the obviously important scenes.

Full review at EFC.

The Interview

* * * (out of four)
Seen 3 January 2015 in Somerville Theatre #5 (first-run, DCP)

The irony to The Interview having its theatrical release severely curtailed in the wake of a computer security breach at Sony Pictures that may or not have been initiated by North Korean hackers in response to this movie is not that the comical villains of the movie wound up being more powerful than its makers. No, the irony is that this film is, at its heart, about how when the media stands up and gives a damn, rather than compromising on the name of access or other sorts of timidity, it can be a tremendous force for positive change... And the movie will not be much seen because the theater chains were awfully timid.

And all of that aside, it means that people missed a very funny movie. The two opening bits are both kind of brilliant in different ways - the cute little North Korean girl singing a patriotic song that takes a harsh turn is a great comic bit made even better for actually being much closer to reality than many might expect, while the televized interview with Eminem that introduces the audience to talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) is both a clever pop-culture gag and a foreshadowing of what will happen at the climax. Throughout, there is a steady stream of jokes, often crude and broad, but still funny.

That's in large part because Franco and Rogen know exactly what they are doing. Both, I think, are guys who are not appreciated as much as they should be because people conflate their often not-so-bright characters with their easygoing personalities (something they have played into at times), but they're both ambitious and smart. Stuff that looks offhand is actually well-planned, and absurd doesn't equal dumb. They're great performers given fun support by Randall Park as Kim Jong-un, Diana Bang as the liaison officer Aaron falls for, and Lizzy Caplan as the CIA agent who tasks the journalists to kill Kim.

By the time things start going every which way in the last act, it's clear that the writing/producing/directing team of Rogen and Seth Goldberg can get a little sloppy, but they've still made a movie funny enough to deserve some of the extra attention it wound up getting, even if it's ultimately not much more than a brief, if topical, comedy.

The Razor's Edge
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
The Interview
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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