Saturday, October 17, 2015

This Week In Tickets: 4 October 2015 - 10 October 2015

Someday, things will line up so that I can go 1-2-3-4-5 at the Somerville Theatre. Or maybe not; it's rare for them to have five-screening days even in the summer. But Sunday was a pretty nice try:

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: The Inhabitants, 9 October 2015 at 9:30pm in the Somerville Theatre Micro-Cinema.

I probably could have slipped Black Mass or Goodnight Mommy in there, but I wanted to watch the last Red Sox game of the season, tributes to fired announcer Don Orsillo and all, on TV. Fortunately, the times lined up, especially since Tramp, Tramp, Tramp is very short. Also, the Somerville Theatre is about a block away from me now, so it was no big issue to head back there for the excellent Sicario and then stick around for the day's only 3D screening of The Martian. Yeah, it was half past midnight when I got out, but I wasn't messing with the t.

Monday... Not so great; I was the only person in the theater for Hell and Back, and it was not good at all. I was, however, temporarily excited to see it was in theater #3. If I saw something in a theater #4 sometime during the week, that'd be 40 points for a large strait or something.

Not to be, though, as the next movie on the week, Thursday's Peace Officer was in theater #9 at the Kendall, where things on their way out tend to be. Not a bad doc, though.

Friday doesn't show up as a double feature, but I wound up catching Goodbye Mr. Loser despite my plans to catch something else before coming back to Davis Square for The Inhabitants, as both of the "something elses" I figured on seeing instead of the Chinese movie were cancelled in order to give it more screens.

Saturday's plans got erased early and I wound up heading out to Fenway Park for the GlobeDocs presentation of Fastball, which wound up being a unique movie-watching experience but not a great one. Still, anything to keep heading out there.

Next week: A lotta noir.

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp

* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 October 2015 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Silents Please!, 35mm)

The word "Tramp" seems to have gone through half a dozen usages over the course of the twentieth century and would probably be completely out of use in the twenty-first if it didn't rhyme with "stamp" or wasn't so firmly attached to the persona of a certain silent film star. Not this film's star, Harry Langdon, although once you get stop being surprised that this particular silent film does not star Charlie Chaplin, it's quite entertaining.

Here, to "tramp" means to walk, and John Burton (Edwards Davis), chairman of Burton Shoes, aims to promote his brand by sponsoring a cross-country walk - presumably one that will pass the billboards featuring his lovely daughter Betty (Joan Crawford) at every chance. Across town, the one-man shoe shop of Amos Logan (Alec B. Francis) is threatening to lose its mortgage. Son Harry (Langdon) does odd jobs and is besotted with the image of Betty, and when he meets her in the flesh, he's instantly besotted and convinced to sign up for the race. He's already made an enemy out of Nick Kargas (Tom Murray), one of the country's pre-eminent walkers, so it might be even more difficult.

Oddly, the fact that Burton's business is likely what has destroyed the Logans' livelihood barely gets brought up - even in 1926, this would be pretty obvious and it would make sense, but there's not even a moment in the end where, ha-ha, Harry tells the newsreel people interviewing him that he has been wearing shoes his father made instead of Burtons the whole time. On the one hand, this is the exact sort of thing to which a Harry Langdon character would be utterly oblivious; on the other, would his father be so excited by the whole thing? It's really peculiar.

Full review on EFC.

Sicario

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 October 2015 in Somerville Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

Sicario looks and plays like a crime thriller, but at its heart is a question: Who should fight the War on Drugs? It's something that is traditionally the job of the police, but they have limited jurisdiction - and, if they're what we want cops to be, they'll have reservations about what they must do to keep pace with their enemy. So who? The army? Secret agents? Is there an answer that is both practical and moral?

That's potentially dry stuff, but director Denis Villeneuve and writer Taylor Sheridan keep things exciting. The larger crime story is only shown in bits and pieces, mimicing FBI agent Kate Macer's frustration that she can't see the whole situation, but the individual action sequences they lead to are thrilling. Heck, even the situations that just might erupt into violence are full of the same kind of tension as the big action scenes. That's due in no small part to Emily Blunt, who always seems extremely capable but nevertheless on edge as Macer, and is very well-complemented by the rest of the cast: Daniel Kaluuya as her cautious partner, Josh Brolin as the cowboy running the unit she's assigned to, and a steely Benicio Del Toro as the mysterious "consultant" working with the group.

The real star of the movie, though, may just be cinematographer Roger Deakins; he shoots a gorgeous movie, filled with forbiddnig skies and grays that seem just a bit heightened, but not so much as to make thinigs seem unreal. He'll often set the camera far back, giving Villeneuve free rein to shoot some terrific action from a good distance, showing what's going on with some complex set-ups.

I must admit, it's the sort of movie where the relentless grimness and pessimism that I wonder just how rigged the game is, although that despair is sort of the point - that playing fair, the way law enforcement is expected to do, isn't going to cut it in this case. Unsettling, but you wouldn't get the intensity without it - and this is a crazy-intense movie.

The Martian

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 October 2015 in Somerville Theatre #2 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

Yep, this is a movie made just for me - space travel, pretty good science, emphasis on problem-solving, great cast, excellent 3D photography. Pretty much everything guaranteed to make me happy if done well, and this crew does it very well indeed.

I like it so much that I almost feel little need to write about it; it not only gets so much right, but it does so in laid-back manner - though The Martian features some amazing catastrophes and incredible eye-popping sequences, it's one of those movies which succeeds in large part by creating a world that is seamless in being both futuristic and familiar. It's also got the sort of use of 3D that makes every scene a little more clear, but doesn't necessarily throw stuff in the audience's face.

It's intriguing throughout, and surprisingly funny - Matt Damon has a gem of a performance as botanist astronaut Mark Watney, as witty/capable as most of us would like to think we'd be in a similar situation, but not over-polished. He spends most of the film alone, but the rest of the group is terrific as the scientists trying to work out a way to keep him alive or the crew who left Mars without him.

Some would argue that they're a little too subdued; that's an issue with lot of movies about astronauts; they're selected for being able to handle stuff like this. It makes for a relative lack of conventional drama, but I appreciate the focus - rather than injecting excess conflict into the story, the filmmakers stick with keeping it something about cooperation and thinking their way out of a situation, rather than having the solution feel like it's about who has earned a reprieve.

That won't work for some, but it's a nice change of pace, and the right call for this movie about space exploration.


Tramp, Tramp, Tramp
Sicario
The Martian
Hell & Back
Peace Officer
Goodbye Mr. Loser
Fastball

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