Saturday, January 24, 2015

This Week In Tickets: 11 January 2015 - 17 January 2015

I'm going to call this caught up, because with the Boston Horror Show today and the Sci-Fi Festival in a couple of weeks, it may be some time before I can say that again.

This Week in Tickets

It turned out to be a busy week, and the surprising thing is that I got a lot of writing done while still seeing all of these movies. It doesn't usually work that way!

The week started out with Tevar, which, well, was not auspicious. It's a pretty bad Bollywood movie, probably getting a little benefit of the doubt because it wasn't the visual incompetence of Taken 3 from the night before.

Things improved the next day with The Overnighters at the Brattle. It was part of their "Best of 2014" series and I can't argue against it belonging there. It's an interestingly tight focus on how a lot of things where our support systems fall over (the free market does not work smoothly, and the church does not always practice what it preaches), and definitely one of 2014's more interesting documentaries.

I took Tuesday off and went to see Predestination at Fresh Pond on Wednesday, which meant I supported this movie I'd seen at Fantasia last July with a little more money than I might have. I don't mind doing so; it's well deserved and I was glad to see that I wasn't alone in the theater. As at Fantasia, demand seemed to be a little better than expected, even if it was also out on VOD.

Oscar nominations came out Thursday, but that wasn't why I saw Whiplash that night - I had been meaning to catch it for months, but my timing was off, or there was something else that was leaving that night, etc. It's a pretty great little movie, though, and the nominations meant there was a packed house. Not sure why it cleared out before the credits ended, though - if you liked that movie, wouldn't you want to hear more of the drumming?

My Friday night plan got kind of messed up when the bus back into town from Burlington was almost twenty minutes late - and given that that's how long they are spaced, the next bus actually pulled ahead of us by the time we arrived in Alewife. Then the Red Line was running slow because of a disabled train. So, no getting to Fenway for a 6:55 show, and I instead wound up seeing Spare Parts at Boston Common. I don't regret it, though - it's a fun little movie that fits its template well, and was more up-front than usual in the end credits about compositing two people and casting more conventionally-attractive people that the real life students.

That meant waiting until the next afternoon to see 20 One Again, which turned out to be a remake of another movie I saw at Fantasia. Kind of nice to revisit my favorite festival roughly midway between two editions! The evening was kind of in that vein, to, with Blackhat taking place in Hong Kong and Indonesia (heck, I think I've seen another action sequence take place in a half-finished building that Mann used in Jakarta).


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 14 January 2015 in Apple Cinemas Fresh Pond #4 (first-run, DCP)

Predestination was always going to be an interesting one to see a second time around - it's a twisty pretzel of a time-travel story, built in such a way to have a "second time around" in the first viewing. I'm glad to see that it holds up very well - granted, I had some vague memory of the original story going in, so it wasn't all surprise revelations for me the first time - and I think that's in part because the Spierig Brothers knew it would be seen that way, and the puzzle-box aspect thus was not enough.

Plus, Sarah Snook is still fantastic here. The filmmakers ask an awful lot out of her, and she delivers in spades. Lots of people in time-travel movies have to meet their future selves, but few have the challenges Ms. Snook does, and she kills it. Ethan Hawke is pretty good as well, as is the "alternate-1960s-the-way-Heinlein-wrote-it" world the Spierigs create.

Still one of the best recent sci-fi films, and I can't wait to see what they do next.

Full review on EFC.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 17 January 2015 in AMC Boston Common #10 (first-run, DCP)

There were a couple of times while watching Blackhat where I joked to myself that it's too bad so much was set in Hong Kong, because it meant that I wanted to see the Johnnie To version of this movie. That passed, though - Michael Mann is no slouch at this sort of thing either, and he built a heck of a movie here, It kicks off with a great visualization of the inside of a computer, both giving the audience an idea of what's going on and reminding us that we don't really understand it at once, and keeps the good work up straight through a technical but still suspenseful body, right down to an impressively violent end.

Mann's approach is businesslike, which may turn off some people, but I kind of love it - the way the various cops and accomplices go about the investigation adds urgency, and the way that Tang Wei plays her Chen Lien's pairing off with Chris Hemsworth's Nick Hathaway is impressively subtle. There's an self-destructive history to her only vaguely alluded to in the dialogue, because Michael Mann and writer Morgan Davis Foehl aren't making a movie about that, even if it is a big part of who she is and why she doesn't feel like a cardboard cut-out.

It's a little harder to say the same for Hemsworth's Hathaway; I don't care that he's handsome and muscular (hey, all of us IT guys could be!), but he's a little too good at everything; he doesn't seem to have either the urgency of the other characters or a defining sort of restraint. He doesn't fit into a team story and isn't quite big enough to control the movie on his own.

Still, he's in the middle of a movie that looks as great as anything else Mann has done - contrary to what I said about wanting to see Johnnie To's version, I loved that Mann seeks Hong Kong differently - and sticks the landing in terms of the plot and villains being both monstrous and banal at the same time. Supposedly the hacking action here is more believable than is usual, and I believe it is, but there is an awful lot that just feels right about this movie, making it a heck of a thriller.

TevarThe OvernightersPredestinationWhiplashSpare Parts20 Once AgainBlackhat

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