Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This Week In Tickets: 15 January 2018 - 21 January 2018

Check it out - actually getting through some of the discs I've accumulated over the past few years. Not sure that I'm actually outpacing the rate they're coming in, but it's more than I've done in a while.

This Week in Tickets

I opened the week playing with 3D Blu-rays again, with two 3D Infernos - a 1953 Technicolor noir and a 2013 Hong Kong firefighter action movie. Lots of space between them, but they're both interesting and good fun to watch.

After the Hong Kong movie, I stuck to the far East for the next couple shows - the "Special Premiere Event" of Mary and the Witch's Flower on Thursday and A Better Tomorrow 2018on Friday. The former was pretty darn good, certainly indicating that Studio Ponoc is capable of picking up where Ghibli left off (before Miyazaki decided he wasn't quite done yet). The latter suggests there isn't much point to remaking a movie that was a big deal unless you can do something similarly revolutionary with the new version.

Saturday was spent lazing around the apartment and then headed out to Fresh Pond forMom and Dad, and that was a bit of an experience. Fresh Pond has upgraded its seats to the power-recliner models in most, if not all, of its theaters, which cut theater #9 from something like 80 seats to 18 (plus a couple wheelchair spots), but for some reason unfathomable to me they built it with a center aisle. Center aisles in movie theaters are generally awful, but this arrangment made it impossible for three people to sit in a row (two seats on each side of the aisle), and there were three three-person groups at the show. Apple Cinemas also apparently doesn't just have the movies on a timer and sometimes they forget these smaller movies, so I had to go out at 8:15pm to get them to start the 8pm movie (which had 11 people in it, a pretty good crowd for something you booked in an 18-seat theater).

Then, an hour and a half later, it ends on a bit of an odd note - and how could something this nuts end otherwise - and as I'm getting up to move out, someone from the audience comes back in, says that the movie's not over, the disc just skipped to the end credits, and there's another half hour, because the movie is 2 hours long. So we get back to our seats, and the folks in the booth start skipping to different chapters, rewinding, and so on until, ten minutes later, we get to the end. They're giving out refunds and passes at the ticket desk, figuring there must be forty minutes missing, but let me tell you, there is no way you can tack forty minutes onto the end of that movie. What we figure out is that this movie is 83 minutes long - or 1:23 - and someone typed "123" in as the running time in a few places (including IMDB), so folks thought it should be 2:03.

So, on the one hand, I got to watch something that would otherwise just be on VOD in a theater, which is good, and support a small local business, which is also good. On the other... Man, everything about that could have been done better!

At least that was only one T stop away; 15 minutes between trains on the Red Line on Sunday (with a busker in Davis playing what felt like the same song on Spanish guitar the whole time) meant I couldn't make it to Coolidge in time for the 70mm Phantom Thread, and instead saw Den of Thieves at Boston Common. Based upon the number of Oscar nominations Thread received this morning, it was not a great substitution. Amusingly, the show I watched on the DVR afterward had a similar plot but a better cast.

After that, I pulled the top Blu-ray off the pile and checked out Sha Po Lang: Parado, since it was the central feature when I ordered a bunch of things from Hong Kong and I figured I should try not to delay. It's interesting, at least, and it's got me started on a "watch the parts of series I haven't seen yet" jag.

As always, quicker updates on my Letterboxd page, for those that like first drafts.

Mom and Dad

* * (out of four)
Seen on 20 January 2018 in Apple Cinemas Cambridge #9 (first-run, projected Blu-ray)

A numer of folks in the audienct thought that this film was not 1 hour 23 minutes long, but 123 minutes, and though they had fair reason to epect that, there's no way this film has another half hour in it despite all the places I've seen listing it as just over two hours.

Because, to be honest, 83 minutes is stretching it. This thing takes forever to get going, is padded out by some really pointless flashbacks, and never really finds a good pace with that. Writer/director Brian Taylor also never quite seems to figure out if he wants to play up how utterly unthinkable his plot of parents suddenly attacking their children is or if he wants to play it as a dark fantasy, the impulses apparently zapped into parents' minds bringing barely-buried impulses rather than inserting new ones. It may be why the action is cut to near-incomprehensibility, even by his standards, and why he's weirdly stingy with the blood and gore. It's weird (at best) to want parents murdering kids more graphically, but being so obvious in pulling away when half the point is bring on the edge does him no favors.

On the other hand, there is Nicholas Cage going full Nic Cage on this thing, impressively finding a higher gear even after establishing his character as a weirdo. He's almost upstaged by Selma Blair, though, who makes the other half of the titular pair more reserved in her initial resentment and more deadpan in her insanity. They give the movie exactly what it needs, and however much of a mess the film may be on the whole, they make damn sure it's got its moments.

Sha po lang: taam long (Paradox)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen on 20 January 2018 in Jay's Living Room (finishing the series, HK Blu-ray)

So far as I know, no North America distributor has yet bought up the rights to the latest entry in the "Sha Po Lang" franchise, renamed it Kill Zone 3, and waited until nearly a year after its Hong Kong release to release it, and that's both kind of surprising and kind of not: As much as noteworthy Chinese movies have been getting same-day (or at least quick) releases abroad in recent years, and this series is certainly noteworthy, this entry is a different beast, less focused on the martial-arts action and more on the dark, underlying themes.

It continues the series' tradition of starting fresh with each entry, with characters from the previous film in different roles. In this case, Louis Koo Tin-lok plays Lee Chung-chi, a Hong Kong detective who tends to still think of his daughter Wing-chi (Hanna Chan Hon-na) as a little girl, although she's not that pre-schooler any more, breaking the news that she's in love and pregnant as Chung-chi is buying her dinner for her sixteenth birthday. Inspector Lee does not take that well, and soon Wing-chi has run off to Pattaya, Thailand, to visit a friend who works there as a tattoo artist (Iris Lam). She goes missing, and Lee convinces local detective Chui Kit (Yue Wu) to let him tag along on the case. It turns out that she's been kidnapped by organ traffickers led by ex-mercenary Sacha (Chris Collins), and the mayor needs a new heart.

Louis Koo is a big star in Hong Kong, but he's not primarily a kung fu guy like the previous stars of these movies (Donnie Yen, Wu Jing, and Tony Jaa). He can play intense with the best of them, and doing so forms the backbone of this movie, from the tightly-coiled rage as Lee discovers just how grown-up Wing-chi is to his determination upon discovering who is responsible for the horrific ordeal she's been put through. It's not a terribly broad range of emotion to play, but Koo finds the right nuance for each scene to keep Lee from just being a set-jaw robot with one operating mode; whether Lee is pushed further into despair or given a temporary glimpse of hope, it feels authentic right down to a moment visiting Chui's wife in the hospital where he still seems focused but not unable to grasp what others are also going through. The crime film industry cranks out enough cops like Lee Chung-chi every year that it's tough to make a new one stick out, and while Koo may not manage that, he doesn't often misstep and the movie gets the job done because of him.

Full review at EFC

Inferno (1953)
Out of the Inferno
Mary and the Witch's Flower
A Better Tomorrow 2018
Mom and Dad
Den of Thieves
Sha Po Lang: Paradox

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