Tuesday, May 19, 2015

IFFBoston 2015 Day #06: Manglehorn and Future Shock!: The Story of 2000AD

Monday at IFFBoston is always kind of a quiet day, nestled between the weekend Gorge and the last two days of films that the organizers seem so confident of that they get a competition-free showcase. It's full of choices that are less agonizing than reluctant.

I went for Manglehorn in the first slot; it was one of those where I scam the description, think it sounds good bit will play theaters, but then get reminded that the director is David Gordon Green and his last movie's release was a blip (plus, it may hit Boston while I'm in Montreal). It was pretty good; not a choice to regret by any means.

The 9:30 block was a little tougher; it was between Posthumous and Future Shock!, with the former winning out until the last minute - nice cast, amusing premise (artist invents a twin brother when erroneous reports of his death send the process of his work through the roof) - especially since I've read a fair amount about 2000 AD's early history in the Megazine. Ultimately, though, I sort of figured that if Nancy, Brian, and company we'd going to program a movie so specifically asked at me, it would be terribly ungracious not to go.

Kind of a shame no local comic shops were there as official presenters. I know there are about three of us that subscribe at the Million Year Picnic (and I was the only one of that group at the movie). On the other hand, it looks like they gave away a fair number of samplers at Free Comic Book Day later in the week. It works out that the next batch of comics to come in after the screening is all new stories, so a great place to start, too.

I hope some of the folks who came to the movie start picking it up, at least; it's more than Judge Dredd, and that isn't bad itself.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 April 2015 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival Boston 2015, DCP)

David Gordon Green seems to make movies in spurts-first some noteworthy independent dramas, then some crude studio comedies. Now, a year after doing Joe and reminding audiences that, yeah, Nicholas Cage can act a little when he decides to apply himself, Green has teamed up with another actor who does not always choose roles that match his talent level, Al Pacino. The results are not bad at all, although it can at times be hard to embrace them.

Pacino plays the Manglehorn of the title, A.J., a locksmith in a small Texas town. Though not shy about offering his opinion, he is fairly private, spending most of his time at home with his ailing cat. He's fond enough of a certain teller at the bank that the line knows to go around him so that he can talk to Dawn (Holly Hunter), although the true love of his life left him forty years ago, and as the daily letters returned to sender and shrine in his house indicate, he's not close to being over it.

Manglehorn is a character who could really play to Pacino's worst habits, having a tendency to go from charming to blustering rage without necessarily having a whole lot of space in between. Fortunately, he and the filmmakers realize that he doesn't have to charm the audience here, and can instead play up the lower-key ways that someone can be anti-social or consumed by an obsession. Pacino perfectly zeroes in on the tone that will push the person he's talking to away even while A.J. is outwardly trying to be friendly, and it's a performance that makes the audience just put off enough that when Managlehorn shows us his worst, it's not a betrayal but it's still fairly shocking.

Full review on EFC.

Future Shock! The Story of 2000 AD

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 April 2015 in Somerville Theatre #5 (Independent Film Festival Boston 2015, digital)

2000 AD is not the only comic that could believably have its history scored with punk rock, but most of the rest burned out fast, or never made any sort of popular impact. 2000 AD has been a big deal for the better part of 40 years, and while Future Shock! may not be telling fans a lot that they don't already know - regular artist "interrogations" in the Judge Dredd Megazine do a good job of keeping the history alive - it's a good overview. After all, it's always nice to have something to point to when someone asks me why this comic is kind of a big deal.

For those that don't know, 2000 AD is a weekly British sci-fi anthology comic that started in 1977, created and edited by Pat Mills, who figured that the futuristic material might help it avoid the controversy that had doomed his previous magazine, Action!, despite its popularity with its target audience of young boys. Over the years, the magazine would launch dozens of popular characters - the most well-known being Judge Dredd - as well as the careers of comic-book creators popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

There aren't exactly a lot of surprising twists and turns to the story - people came and made comics, often moved on, but the magazine endured with new writers and artists. Director Paul Goodwin does a good job of building a sort of progression out of it anyway, generally moving forward in time but also bending the timeline so that he can examine a character or feature and talk about how it is relevant to the book's history and evolution. Judge Dredd, for example, is able to endure because it works both satirical commentary and as an example of what it parodies without losing equilibrium, making him a bit harder to outgrow. In particular, Nemesis comes across as very personal for Mills.

Full review on EFC.

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