Thursday, May 26, 2016

Almost Gone: A Monster with a Thousand Heads & Keanu

If you're in Boston and you run out to the theater now, you just might be able to catch these two before they leave (I gather Keanu has a few more days of very early shows, but it's effectively done). Didn't get to see them until Monday, and I haven't been able to nearly as much writing during business hours while working from home as I thought I don't have those distraction-free hours to write on the bus any more.

Speaking of working from home, I wound up making a double feature of this, because these couple months working from home (we had to be out of our old office last week and the new one won't be open until late July at the earliest) mean that I can pretty much roll out of bed at 8:45am if I want. So, two movies on Monday night with the last one getting you home at midnight? No problem! Well, other than how the increasingly long combinations of film, trailer package, and "pre-show entertainment" is really stretching the distance between early-evening and late-evening shows. When I worked at a theater during college, we had a pretty standard schedule of one group going in between 7:00pm and 7:30pm and the second between 9:30pm and 10:00pm (and, because it was a four-plex, it was usually ten-minute intervals). There is just no way that gets pulled off today, so the first group creeps up to before seven, making a pre-film dinner tricky, and the last show often going in at 10:40 or so. I have no idea how that even works at a place like Boston Common, where there's no parking and the MBTA doesn't run particularly late. Probably not as well as it should.

This makes the 74-minute runtime of A Monster with a Thousand Heads even more of a blessing, really - aside from not a minute being wasted, it just fit into a lot of schedules well.

Un monstruo de mil cabezas (A Monster with a Thousand Heads)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 23 May 2016 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

As a strong proponent of the seventy-five minute thriller, I would likely approve of A Monster with a Thousand Heads even if it didn't turn out to be a quietly twisty film that is not just admirably compact, but which also uses that efficiency to keep a familiar story feeling new.

It opens with Memo, an husband and father with cancer, waking up in the middle of the night in tremendous pain; his wife Sonia (Jana Raluy) sees to him quickly, and the next morning is on the phone to his doctor and insurance company to try to get him back on the therapy where he had shown improvement. She runs into roadblocks, naturally, and when Dr. Villalba (Hugo Albores) blows her off, she and son Dario (Sebastian Aguirre) follow him home - and then, when he continues to dismiss her concerns, Sonia pulls a gun on him.

Before this has happened, director Rodrigo Plá and writer Laura Santullo have made it clear that this isn't going to be a tale where quiet, polite persistence eventually resolves issues for the better; as the scene where Sonia finds herself stonewalled by a receptionist ends with a voiceover of that woman giving testimony in court, a device that the filmmakers will return to on occasion, but which keeps the audience from being too enthusiastic about where things are going. After all, it may not escape the audience's notice, after Sonia and Dario make a couple more stops, that this is basically Richard Stark's The Hunter (adapted as Point Blank and Payback) with the insurance industry substituted for organized crime, something that many in the audience might find to be a lateral move. Knowing things are going to go wrong prevents it from playing as a revenge thriller from which the audience is supposed to derive glee.

Full review on EFC.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 23 May 2016 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, DCP)

A couple of days after watching Keanu, I thought, hey, what if this isn't just a fairly amusing bunch of jokes, including callbacks to some of stars Keegan-Michael Key's and Jordan Peele's most famous sketch-comedy bits, but a sort of riff on what it's like to be a minority who doesn't exactly fit the most popular view of that means. I can't exactly speak to that, but I can say that I laughed quite a bit, even though I was only vaguely aware of Key & Peele before.

They respectively play Clarence Goobril and Rell Williams, the former an overly-giving family man and the latter a bit of a schlub who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. The good news is that an adorable kitten has just appeared outside his door; potentially less good news is that it escaped from a shootout at a drug dealer's hideout. And, indeed, when Rell's house is broken into a few weeks later, it turns out that the guy who wrecked the place and took Keanu is a gangster who goes by the name "Cheddar" (Clifford "Method Man" Smith). It seems the only way to get Keanu back is the pose as tough guys themselves, although Cheddar's lieutenant Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish) is justifiably skeptical.

Key & Peele have been working as a team for a while, so it's not surprising to see that they've got a solid dynamic hammered out - Key is the manic one, eager to please in a way that becomes somewhat off-putting, while Peele is more laid-back, although he's mastered the art of catching the audience off-balance by undercutting this with a surprising determination. Both director Peter Atencio and Peele's co-writer Alex Rubens worked on the Key & Peele television series, so it's not surprising that the group seems well-practiced, changing tempos between Key's fast delivery and Peele's more relaxed responses, and unlike a lot of buddy movies where the pair seems to get on each other's nerves enough to make one question how much they really enjoy each other's company, there's a genuine sense that these guys genuinely like each other.

Full review on EFC.

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