Monday, February 05, 2018

Till the End of the World

This thing where MoviePass has decided to strong-arm AMC by not letting their card be used at ten of their biggest theaters, including the one at Boston Common, is kind of a bummer. I suspect that, to a certain extent, it's set up so that AMC doesn't actually lose a whole lot of business: If, to use a not-entirely-hypothetical example, I and other MoviePass members opt to see Winchester at Assembly Row or South Bay rather than the Common, the chain doesn't lose a lot of money but they've got a sharp illustration of how a chunk of their business will go where their subscription card is good rather than being particularly loyal to a particular theater or company. But for stuff that only opens at Boston Common, whether it be because they've got 19 high-capacity screens to fill or because they're right next to Chinatown, it can be a bit dicier.

In this case, for instance, I'm cheap thrifty, so I save a couple bucks going to a matinee rather than an evening show, and probably get lighter snacks than I might have. But, then, at least I'm seeing it at all; it's a pretty sparsely attended screening (though not so much so that there aren't people sitting in my usual seats when I get there) and I idly wonder how much not having MP available there just cut the audience. I suspect, in this case, it wasn't much, given that Chinese film fans are a bit of a captive audience in that they can't see these movies anywhere else in the Boston area and I suspect that there aren't a whole lot of folks like me who are looking at their MoviePass membership and thinking "well, if it's not going to cost me more, why not see the Chinese Antarctic survival romance?"; on the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't a few foreign students or Chinese-American kids who joined specifically to see Chinese stuff at Boston Common.

It'd be a shame if that was keeping people from seeing this; it is, as I say in the review, something that merits big-screen, uncompressed presentation. I suspect I'd knock a partial star off it if I wasn't seeing it theatrically. It's designed for scale, and would just be a different beast without it.

Nan ji jue lian (Till the End of the World)

* * * (out of four)
Seen on 4 February 2018 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

Till the End of the World feels like the sort of movie that they used to show us in school when they needed to give the teachers a break or there was a hole in the lesson plan - an attention-grabbing story of survival that nevertheless had something like a PG rating and enough science and practical information that we could be said to be learning something useful. It's not bad, as that sort of thing goes, and has the sort of Antarctic photography that's worth seeing on the big screen, even if it is kind of too long and gets heavy by the end.

It's genial enough even as it starts in what seems like overly-familiar territory, with "Fortune" Wu Fu Chun (Mark Chao You-ting) making a bit of an ass of himself as his charter plane flies over Antarctica - he has a plan to stage destination weddings on the continent - with two other passengers, Natasha and Jing Ruyi (Yang Zishan), who are heading for scientific outposts. There won't be much time for that, though, when the plane flies into a storm and goes down, with Natasha not long for the world and Ruyi's leg broken. Fortunately, Fu Chun is able to find a shed in which they can take shelter, and Ruyi thinks it might be one 20km away from her base. She doesn't know which direction, though, and that's a lot of ground for Fu-chun to cover when they have an estimated 70 days of supplies.

The two-person cast proves to be all the movie needs, in large part because filmmaker Wu You-yin doesn't spend a lot of time making them rub each other the wrong way just to have conflict. Mark Chao tones the immaturity down after the plane goes down, but he's still able to make plenty of comic moments work even while conveying Fu Chun's growing maturity and determination. Yang Zishan similarly sheds the early portrayal of Ruyi as uptight and a bit snobbish, converting it into a believable pessimism that nevertheless has room for changed perspective later on. The love story stops being understated after a while, but it's earned, and even when it seems like it might be a matter of survival instinct as much as true affection, that's legitimate, and it works for them.

Full review at EFC

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