Friday, March 30, 2018

This Those Weeks In Tickets: 5 February 2018 - 18 March 2018

Well, I wasn't going to allow myself to fall behind like this, but festivals and vacations and such got us here, catching up on six weeks:

5 February - 11 February
12 February - 18 February
19 February - 25 February
26 February - 4 March
5 March - 11 March
12 March - 18 March

This Week in Tickets

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool was only in town for a week or so, and it got a little attention because it was expected to get some Oscar nominations for Annette Bening or at least Elvis Costello, and they both had an argument. Still, well worth a watch. It probably would have made sense to hit the sack immediately afterward, but instead I opted to put a pin in the first leg of my plans to watch all my discs of entries in series that I haven't finished with The Vanished Murderer, which... wasn't good. A real disappointment, honestly.

After that, it was time for the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, which was as always a mixed bag. The opening weekend included Junk Head & Ayla on Friday; Flora, The Gateway, and Andover on Saturday; and Kill Order on Sunday. That's not a festival schedule that entirely fills the weekend, but I also tried to catch all of the Oscar-nominated shorts. I missed the docs - you've really got to buy ahead of time when stuff's in the GoldScreen - but I did manage to catch the Animated Oscar Shorts as well as the Live Action Shorts.

This Week in Tickets

The next week was also pretty much all festival, with Beyond Skyline on Monday; Space Detective & Darken on Tuesday; Before We Vanish & Tangent Room on Wednesday; Division 19 & Paradoxical on Thursday; Framed on Friday; and Closer Than We Think, Muse, and Canaries on Saturday. That's a busy week, but one of the reasons I am kind of down on letting it eat an entire week is that we're starting to see a lot of Chinese New Year releases, and I was only able to get to two of the three that came out that weekend - The Monkey King 3 and Monster Hunt 2 - around the festival.

And then, after the "festival" part was over, it was time for the Marathon! As I say in the roundup, I kind of got to the point where I decided that the event probably wasn't for me anymore early this time around, because who wants to see movies with people who think they can make a Spielberg classic better with their call-outs, especially if so little is going to be on film? Supposedly, the Somerville Theatre will be playing a larger part next year, but we'll see how it's looking closer to the time. Anyway, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Time Machine '60, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, "Haley", The Lost World '25, Marjorie Prime, and Bride of Frankenstein got us to midnight...

This Week in Tickets

... and Shivers, Night of the Living Dead, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", World WIthout End, The Little Shop of Horrors, Yellow Submarine, Army of Darkness, 20 Million Miles to Earth, and Looper got us to noon or so.

I half-considered doing another movie during the afternoon, but figured I'd be better off doing laundry, packing, and such before heading out on vacation - at one point, I actually planned to get on a plane that evening and let the whole "being exhausted from being up 36 hours" help me sleep on the flight and beat jet lag, but I didn't go that route. Instead, I headed to New Orleans, which isn't entirely my bag - a lot of the cool tourist stuff is in the French Quarter, which is bigger on drinking and noise than I am. Pretty great food, though, and I had fun visiting Steamboat Natchez, The National WWII Museum, The Louisiana State Museum (well, the ones that were in NOLA and open: The Calibdo, The Presbytere, The 1850 House, and The Jazz Museum at the Old Mint), The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, a swamp tour, Preservation Hall, the Sculpture Garden, and jazz at Snug Harbor. A full week, and I ate beignets the way I eat poutine in Montreal, at a rate completely unsustainable if they were common in the Boston area.

And, yeah, I saw a couple movies while I was there, both because I'm not drinking after dark the way a lot of tourists are and because I was feeling kind of spoiler-averse. So I went to Black Panther on Wednesday and Annihilation on Friday. There was only really one cinema particularly close to the hotel, Regla's "Cinebarre Cafe", which charges premium prices (or at least, enough for MoviePass not to cover it) and has table service, but doesn't really feel that much like a fancy spot in the theaters. Decent enough, though, and the movies were pretty darn good.

Black Panther

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen on 21 March 2018 in Regal Canal Place #9 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

Separate the Marvel stuff from this movie - and, believe it or not, you can do that fairly easily; you really don't need Captain America: Civil War even though important setup happened there - and you've still got something pretty terrific: An African-influenced bit of science fantasy that manages to balance two concepts extremely well. Black Panther's Afro-futuristic setting both asks us to imagine a world where Africa wasn't colonized and developed independently with all of its resources and, for those who would point out that this is a fantasy, it wrestles with the idea of what obligation the fortunate have to the less fortunate, and what the best course is when that good fortune comes after a lifetime of denial.

It's a non-DC superhero movie, so you can guess where it will land to a certain extent, but it's also a pretty great bit of pulp entertainment, with great big action that draws from both totemic fantasy and dizzying science fiction, set mainly against beautiful African (approximating) vistas but traveling enough to have fun set-pieces in London and Busan. Writer/director Ryan Coogler occasionally slows things down enough to both get some background out and let a character articulate his or her point of view, but it never becomes drab, and even the characters who supply a lot of the jokes are seldom played for fools. The movie never gets dumb to have fun.

It's also got a cast worth loving; Chadwick Boseman and Martin Freeman return from Civil War and both kick things up a notch as the title character and the token American ally (although, I must admit, as a fan of the comics I much prefer Everett K. Ross as a State Department liaison in way over his head than as a CIA operative), but Michael B. Jordan makes a pretty darn charismatic villain, the trio of Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright are great as the warrior women who have their king's back in different ways, and even the smaller roles are well-filled.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen on 23 March 2018 in Regal Canal Place #6 (first-run, DCP)

Right now, I think Annihilation is pretty darn good, and I'm only half-joking when I say that I want to see what I think of it after it's given me a few new varieties of nightmare. That is to say, it may wind up seeming even better.

And, make no mistake, it is pretty great as it sinks its audience into a situation that finds something more to disturb in every moment - a returning husband who is just demonstrably more shaken and traumatized in every moment until he starts shaking apart, a team of people who are not only all damaged goods but seemingly aware of it in the least reassuring way possible, chimera-like plants and animals that display a certain beauty despite verging on the unearthly... and then it starts in with the things that are more obviously horrific, split right down the middle between the familiar and the really terrible idea executed extremely well.

Then things get weird.

Much of this movie reminds me of Sunshine, the screenplay writer/director Alex Garland wrote for Danny Boyle, especially how both feature rational, capable people more or less destroyed by getting too close to something that they can't possibly grasp, whether it be the awesome power of the sun or an incursion onto Earth by a life form that not only may lack comprehensible motivation but which may be so different that the lecture Natalie Portman's Lena gives to her students about the cell being the basic building block of life may not apply. It's also got a nifty cast, an aesthetic that veers between practical and impossible while using piercing light to put the audience off-guard, and a last act that is visually stunning but also challenging in how it pushes into bizarre situations without much in the way of explanation at all.

Indeed, it's so willing to trust the audience to catch up then that it makes the blemish of its framing device a little more noticeable; maybe the flashbacks/forwards help the audience identify with Lena more because they see something in her relationship with her husband, but it both could have come out in conversation with the other characters and seems kind of small, conventional potatoes against the rest of what's going on. It's hardly a problem (though the film only going that far is apparently why some of the producers and its studio lost a certain amount of faith in it), especially when it's so great otherwise

This Week in Tickets

My flight back was fairly early on Tuesday morning, although I was soon headed back downtown because Federal Express wouldn't deliver a parcel with my Red Sox season ticket package while I was away, and that meant going halfway back to the airport. The FedEx facility is pretty near the seaport, but Icon was only open for the very early and very late shows that day, so I couldn't give it a look. Weird schedule. So I wound up headed to Boston Common to do a double feature of Game Night and Operation Red Sea, not yet aware that the latter would have a pretty impressive run there.

I mostly let go of scrambling to see all the Oscar nominees before the ceremony, because feeling like I was fulfilling an obligation would probably lead me to not actually enjoying Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name even if I wouldnormally go for them. I did wind up going for the Documentary Shorts, although their length and scheduling meant seeing the first three at the Coolidge on Thursday night and the last two at the ICA on Saturday, where they wound up playing in reverse order, confusing some of the folks there. I might have done that double feature, but I'd already purchased tickets for a different double feature a few weeks earlier, with the Alloy Orchestra accompanying The General and A Page of Madness at the Somerville Theatre.

Sunday would be Oscar Night, but instead of catch-up my matinees were a couple of foreign oddities. I got up early to take the T out to Brookline for the Goethe-Institut screening of Wild Mouse, which I might not have prioritized if the Wilde Maus roller coaster in Wiener Prater hadn't caught my eye when I was on vacation in Vienna last fall. That's probably not the best reason to see a movie, but, on the other hand, if that can be a reason for you to see a movie, you really should make the effort. After that, it was up the Green Line for Detective Chinatown 2, and then home for the Oscars. Which were fun; I like the positive vibe Kimmel brings to it and years where, even if one movie wins a lot, nothing really dominates.

The General (1926)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen on 3 March 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Alloy Orchestra, digital)

I know the Alloy Orchestra uses this to get people to come out for the back end of a double feature which is somewhat more esoteric, but it's nevertheless a great experience on its own - a fantastic movie and they've honed their propulsive score to perfection.

Other than that, what to add to the other times I've talked about this movie? It's a ton of fun, the choreography and stuntwork is fantastic, and even in an era where we probably want to be a little more conscious about presenting the Confederacy as heroes, there's something absurd enough about the way Buster Keaton presents them to make it go down a bit easier.

Full review at EFC (from 2004).

Kurutta ippêji (A Page of Madness)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen on 3 March 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Alloy Orchestra, digital)

Ever since learning about the Japanese tradition of narrated spent films, I've wondered if seeing something like A Page of Madness without a benshi is a bit off the original intent. It's a fascinating film to watch and the lack of intertitles makes it feel like a pure, abstracted silent, but maybe it wasn't meant to be quite so abstract.

It's intriguing nonetheless, spending most of its time in a mental hospital where a humble janitor seems to have more empathy for the patients than either the doctors or their visitors, particularly a woman who seems to have snapped after losing a child. It can sometimes straddle a fine line between gawking and sympathy in how the inmates are observed, and the story could occasionally use that narrator as it presents alternate outcomes.

It's often striking, though, especially for how willing the filmmakers are to muddle which side of the bars one is on from shot to shot. There will often be no visual signifier to distinguish looking out and looking in, which both makes it easier to see insanity consume the seemingly sane and to wonder about often this sort of commitment is less helpful than convenient, or if the cruelty toward the patients is more dangerous than their afflictions.

The Alloy Orchestra were quite good, as usual, even if certain bits of the score did seem a bit more awkwardly "oriental" than is comfortable from western performers, although that diminished the deeper one got into the film.

This Week in Tickets

The next week was a little more relaxed, starting with a sort of mini-theme that nobody involved would have planned: On Tuesday night, I hit the Brattle to see Skyfall on 35mm film as part of their series on Oscar nominated winning cinematographer Roger Deakins. It looked fantastic, obviously, but it also served as a bit of a contrast to Agent Mr. Chan the next night, which was a straight up James Bond spoof, something a little less relevant in an era that has already seen the "Bond Begins" of Casino Royale.

The weekend was about going to theaters I don't hit that often. Early Man was down to just matinee shows in the small room at Fresh Pond, and it's a bummer it didn't have more success here; it's quality work from Aardman, although I didn't realize that it had been a decade since Nick Park's last directing credit. Later that evening, I headed to the Seaport to catch Red Sparrow on their big "Icon-X" screen, and returned the next morning to see A Wrinkle in Time in 3D. The picture is extraordinary (for digital), although that's really not the place to go to see how kids are going to react to that movie.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen on 6 March 2018 in the Brattle Theatre #1 (Roger Deakins, 35mm)

There are a lot of reasons why Skyfall is an all- timer as far as James Bond movies are concerned, but it was playing the Brattle as part of a Roger Deakins series, so you'll forgive me for mainly focusing on how it looks amazing. It was on film, too, a pleasant surprise considering that it's not always a sure thing that actual prints exist when the movie is of such recent vintage.

I am, personally, very glad that this one in particular was good, because my second viewing was actually in London, at the Imax theater not far from Parliament where some of the action took place, the sort of thing that sticks a movie in one's head just a tiny bit more.

One thing that really struck me was how it disassembled both classic Bond and the newer pictures in order to ultimately arrive at a version of the franchise that is both traditional and very modern. It's an impressive balance that they couldn't really achieve again with Spectre, and I hope like heck that Danny Boyle can hit this spot for Daniel Craig's expected last go around.

This Week in Tickets

The next week would be pretty quiet - it snowed again, so I didn't mess around for a couple of days - but it led to a decent weekend: I caught Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story on Friday night, which I enjoyed, and then Tomb Raider on Saturday, heading out to South Bay because they had the cheapest 3D show. Probably won't be doing that much in the future; it's a hike and I like the way that the theaters are set up at other places a lot better than that spot.

Tomb Raider (2018)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen on 17 March 2018 in AMC South bay #6 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

I wouldn't say that Tomb Raider doesn't deserve Alicia Vikander; it's got the makings of a top-flight adventure series despite being a second run at something adapted from a video game and having someone like Vikander in the lead can only help. But it absolutely needs her; in an age where new big-screen pulp shows up every week and only a few have truly great action or effects, someone who can grab the audience between the running, jumping, and punching is a must.

Tomb Raider isn't one of the great ones; its story is one part lost-parent quest and one part vague, almost incidental conspiracy. The filmmakers show only the vaguest interest in the mythological story being chased down, the sort is moved forward by people doing something dumb just to make things happen, and it absolutely involves a collapsing floor that is apparently not a big deal on the way out of the trap-filled tomb. The action is fine but often uncreative; you'd think they would pick up some guys to help with that during a stop in Hong Kong.

There's no denying it's got all the pieces, though, with a star who always makes her scenes worth watching improving a film that, even if it seldom hits the highest heights, seldom screws things up. With a supporting cast for the first that includes Kristen Scott Thomas, Walton Goggins, Nick Frost, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, and Derek Jacobi, some of whom could come back, it's certainly well-placed to be a decent film series if the producers fine-tune it in the right ways.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
The Vanished Murderer
Junk Head & Ayla
Flora, The Gateway & Andover
Kill Order
Oscar Animated Shorts
Oscar Live-Action Shorts

Beyond Skyline
Space Detective & Darken
Before We Vanish & The Tangent Room
Division 19 & Paradoxical
The Monkey King 3
Closer Than We Think, Muse & Canaries
Monster Hunt 2
Sci-Fi Marathon

Sci-Fi Marathon
Black Panther
Steamboat Natchez
National WWII Museum
Louisiana State Museums
Preservation Hall

Snug Harbor
Game Night
Operation Red Sea
Oscar Documentary Shorts
Oscar Documentary Shorts
The General
A Page of Madness
Wild Mouse
Detective Chinatown 2

Agent Mr. Chan
Early Man
Red Sparrow
A Wrinkle in Time

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Tomb Raider

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Boston Underground Film Festival 2018.01: My Name is Myeisha & Liquid Sky

I'm not sure quite how many years running BUFF has been beset by the sort of weather than makes the Brattle Theatre's insistence that you leave the auditorium and get a new ticket so you can wait in line to get into the cramped lobby all the more miserable, as the last week of March is just a perfect chance to get snowed on if you're lucky (not lucky means cold, unceasing rain). It looked like that was going to be the case again this year, as every weather report was forecasting a six-inch Nor'easter for Tuesday before revising it to Wednesday, so I lugged the laptop back from the office on Tuesday night in order to work from home on Wednesday, and then… nothing. Clear skies all day. Felt kind of ashamed for getting worked up over nothing, but at least it allowed time for visiting the comic shop and getting food before heading to the Brattle to pick up by Kickstarter backer's packet and settle in for My Name Is Myeisha.

After which there was a Q&A, with star Rhaechyl Walker (left), screenwriter/director Gus Krieger (center), and programmer Nicole McControversy (right). It was a fairly enjoyable one, too, as they talked a lot about how the film was the adaptation of a stage play that Walker had starred in five or six years ago, and as such Krieger wanted to be very careful in how he adapted it, not changing much of the dialogue and trying to retain the dreamlike feeling of a bare stage as much as possible while still making it a movie. They did a pretty good job on that account, although Walker talked about having to regularly have people remind her that she didn't have to play all the female parts. More importantly, she spent a lot of time talking about how the role on stage was a big deal for her at a time when she was still trying to figure out her own identity and feel accepted in a lot of ways; there was a lot of confidence to Myeisha that she could use to push back when someone said she didn't belong.

After a quick circuit of the building, it was back to my seat for Liquid Sky, where it turned out that there was an effect to the weather after all - director Slava Tsukerman was meant to be there, but his train from New York was canceled; apparently the storm actually showed up at the other end of the line. I must admit, I'd never really given the idea of Amtrak canceling trains much thought, but I guess it would happen more often than the bus. Kind of a shame for the folks who came and were really into the movie and were looking into some insight or at least insane stories about making it. I turned out to not really be up for it, fatigue-wise, although I was kind of enjoyably gobsmacked by what I did see.


* * (out of four)
Seen 21 March 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival, digital)

"Chickens" is the sort of short film (or, really, film of any length) where I understand and admire what the people involved are trying to do but don't find that the execution works well enough to really find sitting through the thing time well spent. The filmmakers have the bones of a good thriller - two cops have just shot an unarmed black man in a pizza shop, and are now trying to cover things up, holding the two remaining diners and the deaf teenager behind the counter hostage - but a lot of things don't seem to be calibrated right, so to speak. The shooter seems like he's supposed to be horrific in his racism and sociopathy, but it comes off as overacting; there's little impact to his nervous partner ultimately acquiescing. The two black diners are barely characters, and the filmmakers seem to play the counter girl's deafness kind of fast and loose.

It leads to the finale not quite hitting with the kind of irony and righteousness that it should have. The last scene or two is actually fairly well-done, but might work better if the film hadn't been wallowing quite so much in its nastiness so much as stating the problem in a way that doesn't completely overwhelm the response.

My Name Is Myeisha

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 March 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival, DCP)

It's a challenge to build a feature-length film around a specific, brief incident; the options generally seem to be providing enough background to lead up to it (and risk swallowing the important moment) and pointedly attacking it from different perspectives in a way that risks making the audience numb to the moment. My Name Is Myeisha tries to do a little of both, and there's no doubt that, by the end, the audience can feel the filmmakers stretching, although many will find themselves not exactly begrudging it that extension.

The incident in question (or at least, the fictionalized version presented here) takes place on 28 December 1998, the third day of Kwanzaa, which 19-year-old Myeisha Jackson (Rhaechyl Walker) figures is kind of a fake holiday. After dinner, she, her cousin Roni (Dominique Toney), and their friend Kai (Dee Dee Stephens) decide to head into Los Angeles to hit a club, but about halfway there from their home in the Inland Empire, their car gets a flat tire. Kai and Roni step away to find help, while Myeisha stays with the car, keeping her aunt's gun on her lap to discourage anyone trying to make trouble. She passes out, and when "help" comes, there's a chance for one heck of a misunderstanding on the part of responding officer Garland (John Merchant).

What Gus Krieger's film (and the Rickerby Hinds play upon which it is based) posits is that, while Myeisha may not be conscious, she is at least partly aware of her surroundings, breaking the fourth wall to describe it as "one of those dreams" where the waking world seems within reach but she is unable to move or break free. It's a choice that allows her to free-associate, make observations about her life and those of African-Americans in general, recounting memories that may or may not have any sort of direct bearing on the present situation, and speculating on what this looks like from others' points of view. That sort of loose structure can sometimes be too much freedom for a filmmaker to have, and there are moments when Krieger seems a bit too ready to range fairly far afield - it's not always an easy transition from a scene of Myeisha frozen behind the wheel of the car, describing her terror, and her standing on a bare stage, mentally debating whether she prefers Denzel Washington or Wesley Snipes, or telling the audience about her cousin who just can't do anything without injuring himself.

Full review on EFC

Liquid Sky

N/A, tending toward * * ¾-ish (out of four)
Seen 21 March 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival, 35mm)

Well, crap, I wound up sleeping through a ton of this. Given that this 35mm screening came 35 years after it initially played Boston, it's probably going to be a while before it shows up in a theater and piques my interest again

But, then, I kind of suspect that this is the best way to experience a movie like Liquid Sky - not so much because it's such a movie about and arguably designed for altered states that exhaustion is probably the best way to simulate that for those that don't indulge, but because it's sort of sloppy and amateurish and I imagine that 112 minutes of it could become pure torture, but watching five or ten minutes of bright colors, inventive if often unconvincing special effects, silly plotting, bad acting, and psychedelic distortion at a time can be kind of fun. I mean, I didn't give one single damn about Anne Carlisle's bland model Margaret, but watching Margaret feud with snobbish male model Jimmy (also played by Carlisle with an absurd attempt at sounding like a guy) is kind of fun when my brain has no reason to care about the context. It's almost meta in ho wit leans into its ridiculous effects, but never winks.

It's a bad movie, I think, but one that may make you regret that you're not the type to be invited to the absurd bacchanalian parties is presents, much less go.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 26 March 2018 - 5 April 2018

I guess opening a movie a day or two early on Easter weekend is a thing this year? Do a lot of people have Ash Wednesday or the day after off? Doesn't seem like it's been a thing in the past.

  • Wednesday's opening is Isle of Dogs, which will open wider in a week or two, but for now The Coolidge Corner Theatre, Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Fenway get the new animated film from Wes Anderson, which looks like it brings out both his best (fun stop-motion design and a great cast!) and his worst (it looks twee and appropriational as heck!). The Coolidge and Kendall also open Foxtrot, an Israeli drama about a dysfunctional family coping when something happens during the son's military service; the Coolidge also finds a screen for Itzhak.

    The Coolidge finishes their March Francophone Film Festival on Thursday the 29th with a night of short films from France, Belgium, and Quebec. Over the weekend, they go with the classics for their midnights - a 35mm print of Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator on Friday and one of Sam Raimi's original The Evil Dead on Saturday night. On Wednesday.the 4th, they have the "Wide Lens" screening of Get Out with post-film discussion that was cancelled due to snow a couple weeks ago,and then on Thursday the 5th, they have a "Sounds of Silents" screening of Harold Lloyd's Speedy, accompanied by Marty Marks of the MIT Music & Theater Arts program.
  • The new Spielberg film opens on Thursday, and though you'd think virtual reality adventure Ready Player One would be the film the would be a natural match for digital 3D, but when The Somerville Theatre convinces Warner Brothers to cough up a 70mm print (as well as a 2D DCP), you make sure you catch it there for one of the nine days they have the big film. It also plays at Fresh Pond (2D only), Jordan's Furniture (Imax 2D/3D), the Belmont Studio (2D only), the Embassy, Boston Common (including Imax 3D), Fenway (including RPX), the Seaport (including Icon-X), South Bay (including Imax 3D & Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax 3D), Revere (including XPlus & MX4D), and the SuperLux (2D only).

    The Friday openings are a little sketchier as of Tuesday, but it looks like Acrimony, a thriller written and directed by Tyler Perry starring Taraji P. Henson as a woman who learns her husband (Lyriq Bent) is cheating on her and takes some extreme measures, is opening at Boston Common, Fenway, Assembly Row, and Revere. Revere also opens God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, the third in a series of Christian persecution fantasies. Boston Common brings back The Greatest Showman for more sing-along screenings, as well as a special double feature of Peter Rabbit & Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

    Fenway and Revere have dubbed screenings of Ponyo on Wednesday (dubbed). They also get Best F(r)iends, which reunites Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero of The Room, with Fenway playing it Friday and both playing in on Monday. Fenway also has Boston, a documentary about the marathon, on Monday evening, and documentary Eating You Alive on Thursday the 5th.
  • The Brattle Theatre plays host to director Jennifer Brea and a few other guests for a screening of Brea's documentary on her own sleep disorder, Unrest, on Wednesday, while the ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston has screenings of Thank You for Your Service at the Revere Showcase, Swim Team at Lexington's Cotting School, and the RealLove shorts program at the Coolidge that day before wrapping up at the Brattle with Off the Rails on Thursday.

    While that festival has its closing night, Wicked Queer, the Boston LGBT film festival, will be having its opening night at the MFA with director Mikko Makela presenting his film A Moment in the Reeds. The festival will have shows at the Brattle, the MFA, and ArtsEmerson's Paramount Theater all week, including two free Bright Lights shows: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women on Tuesday and BPM: Beats per Minute on Thursday the 5th (they'll also be showing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as part of Bright Lights but not Wicked Queer on Thursday the 29th).
  • In addition to the other films Kendall Square picks up this week, they also open The China Hustle, a documentary on how the massive investments being made in China may be poised to make scant returns, if any. They will also have a special one-night-only show of New Chefs on the Block on Wednesday the 4th, with one of the documentary's subjects, restaurateur Nancy Cushman, there for a Q&A. And, on top of that, the Landmark Theaters chain to which they and the Embassy in Waltham belong apparently just signed a deal to accept MoviePass!
  • The Harvard Film Archive continues to show the recent films of Hong Sang-soo, presenting Hill of Freedom on Friday, Our Sunhi on Sunday, and On the Beach at Night Alone on Monday. They also have more Wim Wenders's The American Friend on Friday, and Mr. Wenders himself will be delivering one of his Norton Lectures at the Sanders Theater on Monday afternoon (tickets are free and available the day of the lecture). This month's "Cinema of Resistance" presentation is on Saturday, with director Lee Anne Schmitt appearing with her film Purge This Land.
  • In addition to their Wicked Queer programming, The Museum of Fine Arts continues their 17th Annual Boston Turkish Film Festival with Murtaza (Wednesday the 30th), Nublu: Music of Now (Friday), Sour Apples (Friday), Rosso Istanbul (Saturday), The Smell of Money (Saturday/Sunday with director Ahmet Boyacıoğlu in person both days), In the Fade (Saturday/Wednesday), the short film winners (Sunday),
  • The Capitol in Arlington starts their spring/summer "Throwback Thursdays" program on the 29th with The Godfather, and from a tweet earlier, they will have cannoli at the concession stand to go with it. They pick up The Leisure Seeker the next night.
  • Belmont World Film continues their Monday screenings at Studio Cinema with All the Dreams in the World, with director Laurence Ferreira Barbosa on hand to discuss his film about a Portuguese family that has recently emigrated to France.
  • The Regent Theatre has three film events over the next week-plus: The No Man's Land Film Festival, a female-focused set of adventure film shorts, plays on Wednesday the 28th, followed the next night by Tempest Storm, a documentary about the famous burlesque performer that will include a Q&A with Harvey Robbins, Ms. Storm's manager. They also have the local premiere of neo-noir Los Angeles Overnight on Wednesday the 4th.
  • Apple Fresh Pond continue subtitled Hindi shows of Hichki and Telugu shows of Rajaratha. They also have a single screening of documentary American Circumcision on the evening of Wednesday the 4th.
  • The Salem Film Fest finishes its run at CinemaSalem on Thursday. That's on the main screen; the screening room has Charlotte Rampling in Hannah on Wednesday and Thursday and then Sophie Turner in indie thriller Josie starting on Friday.
As a sucker for big Spielberg fantasy-adventures, I may be down for Ready Player One in multiple formats, as well as Isle of Dogs and whatever else I've fallen behind on.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Wild Mouse

Of all the regular screening series that go on in the Boston area, there's probably none that's a better value while flying under the radar than the one run by Goethe-Institut Boston. It's at the Coolidge the first Sunday of every month, it's five bucks, and every time I've gone they've been pretty good movies from countries whose cinema maybe doesn't necessarily get the same sort of exposure in the United States that others do. I'm as bad about that as anybody; 11am on a Sunday is kind of a tough sell, especially now that it's not quite so easily walkable as it was when I lived on Western Avenue in Cambridge.

And this one isn't really a huge draw in and of itself, but I went to Vienna for vacation last fall - a little late in the season, just after most of the castles closed up, but early enough not to get snowed on - and it was kind of a delight. Beautiful city, tons of great museums and sights, and one of my favorites was the Prater amusement park. Like a lot of guys who like movies, I went there to ride the ferris wheel most famously seen in The Third Man (and, yes, I wound up taking a Third Man tour and hitting up the theater that shows The Third Man every week to see it while the locations were fresh in my head), which was pretty darn neat. But I kind of fell in love with the park itself as well; it's like where all the rides that tour town fairs rest between engagements, just small and comfortable in scale compared to the monster places that have sprung up in America and part of the city, especially in how you pay for rides but not admission.

Among the rides was this thing:

The "Wilde Maus" roller coaster, which caught my eye in how it's kind of a kid-scale ride but has some kind of scewily-risque mascots. I saw that there was a movie attached to it, but didn't really give it much of a thought, although I did wonder whether the movie was built around the coaster or vice versa. Whatever the case, I figured it would be the last I heard of it, because how likely is that movie to come to America? So, color me kind of surprised a few months later when I saw Wild Mouse on the Coolidge's site when writing up a "Next Week in Tickets" entry four months later. It took me a few minutes to actually make the connection, but I kind of had to make the time to see it once I did.

The coaster itself doesn't actually figure much in the movie - they repair it, but there's nothing really specific to it there, and it's not quite the metaphor it could have been. But, still, it was kind of a kick to see this thing that had caught my interest show up on my own doorstep not that long after.

(Sadly, I seem to have lost most of the photos when the phone I took with me on that trip became a brick earlier this year; this one I posted on Facebook is okay, but I had some which zoomed in on the mascots and other things a little better.)

Wilde Maus (Wild Mouse)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 March 2018 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (Goethe-Institut German Film, DCP)

As midlife crisis movies go, Wild Mouse isn't bad, although that's kind of a sketchy genre in and of itself - how many of them come up with new innsight, or even feel like more than the middle-aged men making reassuring themselves that they're basically okay? This is not exactly one that breaks the mold on that count; it's got some good moments, but also a level of meanness to it that might occasionally make a viewer wonder where writer/director/star Josef Hader is going with it.

Hader plays Georg Endl, the long-time classical music critic at a Vienna newspaper who, just after scoffing at a colleague's idea of a story about how certain pieces have been popularized via rock music and sports anthems, is laid off for being too narrowly focused to justify his high salary. He opts to keep this from his wife Johanna (Pia Hierzegger), a therapist a few years younger than he is fretting about both their closing window to conceive a child and her dismissive but attractive patient Sebastian (Denis Moschitto). Instead, he spends his days at the Prater amusement park, where he runs into high-school classmate Erich (Georg Friedrich) and his Romanian girlfriend Nicoleta (Crina Semciuc), eventually joining Erich in restoring the "Wilde Maus" roller coaster - probably a better use of his time and energy than stalking the paper's editor (Jörg Hartmann), playing out a series of petty aggressions that threaten to escalate into something dangerous.

It may not necessarily be imperative that audiences like Georg so long as they relate to him or find his situation interesting, and that's an area where Hader perhaps underachieve s. His misanthrope protagonist never really seems to really like anything - even scenes involving music and writing are more moments to show him as having come down in the world rather than something that illuminates him - and none of the folks around him really have much more to them aside from being convenient ways to suggest he could be better. In some ways, it takes the plot of Tokyo Sonata but doesn't make any effort to make the laid-off husband's shame palpable rather than primarily an excuse for shenanigans that never really take on a life of their own.

Full review on EFC

Friday, March 23, 2018

Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival 2018.10-11: The Marathon

I think I'm done with this.

I've grumbled about the festival and the marathon for a while, but I think this was the year that finally broke me. There was the usual annoyance at how the festival people would announce something as a premiere even though a few seconds with Google would keep them from sending out misinformation, the non-stop string of movies that just weren't very good. This year, though, I felt all that much more keenly aware of how I could be doing or seeing something else that I would likely enjoy more - I found myself scrambling to fit screenings of the Oscar-nominated short films in, as well as the three films that opened the weekend of the Chinese New Year, along with the new releases. Having actually walked out of one movie, I pretty much decided I wouldn't be getting the festival pass next year, but rather actually watching the previews and picking and choosing the stuff that looks good.

But at least there's the Marathon, right? Sure, it seemed to have a lot of stuff that had played recently, and almost none was scheduled to be on film, but getting to see these things in a big screen with an enthusiastic crowd ain't nothing.

And then people started doing the little marathon catch-phrases right from the start, especially "door!" whenever someone left a door open and it just drove me up a wall. What kind of fan of sci-fi film goes to see Close Encounters on the big screen and thinks the experience can be improved not just for themselves, but for the other five hundred people in the theater, by shouting out stupid crap? Jerks, that's who. Jerks who can't wait until between shows to get up, talk constantly, and who look up stuff on their phones during the movie. Sure, it's a small percentage of the audience, but, screw it, who needs to spend twenty-four hours in a theater with people who think they're competing with the actual entertainment?

So, yeah, I felt pretty sure by the end that I had been to my last thon. The frustration had reached a tipping point where it outweighed the fun. I may hedge my bets on that - toward the end, the festival director announced that they had formed a closer partnership with the Somerville Theatre, and while he didn't say what that entailed, I'm guessing it might mean that Ian Judge and David Kornfeld might have a much larger hand in putting together next year's marathon, with a bigger emphasis on 35mm prints.

If that's the case, maybe I'll come back. But, I dunno, a good night's sleep and not letting idiots ruin a great movie has its appeal too.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

Aside from the whole deal with the crappy audience, though, it's pretty terrific to see this one again. It's a peculiar film in a lot of ways, odd enough while watching it that you can understand why director Steven Spielberg talks about not being able to approach it the same way today, if only because he can't connect with a parent being willing to abandon his family that way. I've always thought that was more feature than bug, though - if you look at it as a movie about a man having a quasi-religious experience, that sort of explains its power, that something which cannot be denied has wormed its way inside his head and become bigger than all the traditionally important bonds, it's just so transformational and overpowering.

It's of a piece with a lot of early (mostly) early Spielberg in that way, in how it presents something very strange in a way that is nevertheless very easy to empathize with. There's a lot about this movie that is alien and unexplained and even kind of cold and distancing, but the film itself never feels that way; the audience connects. You see that in stuff like The Sugarland Express, this, and even E.T., although it sometimes seems A.I. was the only time later in his career that Spielberg really felt willing to make the audience feel kind of uncomfortable even as he was drawing them in. I don't know that he ever did it better than he did here.

Close Encounters is something other directors dream of making and it maybe cracks Spielberg's top five, which goes to show what sort of terrific work he's done over the years. I suspect we'd pull it apart in all sorts of little ways if it came out today, but it's kind of amazing regardless.

The Time Machine (1960)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

Huh, I seemed to enjoy this a heck of a lot more my first time around, back in '05 (also at a sci-fi marathon). Not that I disliked it this time - not even close - but you can kind of tell that, even with the horrors of atomic war figuring into the story, George Pal made his version of the H.G. Wells story with children at least partially in mind, and it seems a little less full of things to discover the second time through (especially with that second time at the start of a 24-hour marathon, rather than the end!).

It's still a very entertaining take on the material, though, and has a very nice arc of pure wonder becoming more mature but not being lost as its hero faces challenges

Full review on EFC (from 2005)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

I kind of envy movie fans of my generation who grew up in area with a proper UHF station or the like in their area. Portland, Maine, had three network affiliates and a PBS station in the early 1980s, none of which programmed old movies (well, there was "Matinee at the Bijou" on WCBB Sunday mornings, but that was mostly Shirley Temple stuff if I remember correctly), so I was kind of denied the chance to experience them when they would have really blew my mind. Instead, I discovered them kind of piecemeal as an adult, able to see where they're sanitized, rough story-wise, or kind of relying on weird stereotypes, even as I do admire the heck out of Ray Harryhausen's animation.

7th Voyage is pretty good, though; Kerwin Mathews's Sinbad is kind of a bland hunk of a hero, but he's amiable enough, and he does pretty well selling that he's battling with Harryhausen's monsters. He's got a pretty delightful love interest in Kathryn Grant's Princess Parisa, who takes being shrunken down to fashion-doll size more or less in stride, especially if it means she can be useful in her fiance's adventures. They're the sort where everyone in the audience can see exactly what's coming, but it's breezy, good-natured fun where Columbia has spent just enough that Harryhausen's creatures don't look like the only functional thing in an otherwise time-killing B movie.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, digital)

The "Gort Short" this year - the winner of the best short subject audience award during the festival - is Corey Sevier's "Haley", which is, indeed, pretty darn good. I saw it at Fantasia last summer, liked it then, and am pleased to see that it holds up; that's not always the case.

Review (along with those of other sci-fi shorts) from the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival

The Lost World (1925, restored)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, digital)

The new restoration of this movie had a lot more dinosaur gore than I remember from previous versions; it's kind of eye-opening Pre-Code, something usually just said about sexiness. It also, peculiarly, feels more like it's got too much going on even though it's now stretched over more time, like the editors who cut it down before were on to something, cutting out some dumb running jokes and some tendencies to run around in circles (as well as an introduction from Arthur Conan Doyle). Or perhaps that's just me having internalized its existing rhythms and noticing where it's different.

Still, the core of it is as classic as ever, filled with impressive stop-motion animation, studio-bound shooting that nevertheless is just convincing enough. Jeff Rapsis contributed a rousing score to this showing, and by the time you get to the end and all the action, it certainly feels familiar again

Full review on EFC (of a different cut)

Marjorie Prime

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, digital)

I wouldn't be surprised if I was one of something like a dozen people to see Marjorie Prime when it played Arlington last year; it had the sort of release that went way under the radar, which is too bad, because it's a good, smart sci-fi movie. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the audience quieted down for it, because it's kind of a delicate film and could have been destroyed by being treated as something to riff on.

It's maybe not quite so stunning the second time around, or in a "we're here to be entertained" context, but it still builds to something powerful in the end, especially as one character ultimately decides to look forward rather than back, even if that's a somewhat easier, more conventional idea to explore than the machines constructing their own reality.

Full review on EFC (from August)

Bride of Frankenstein

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

I seem to wind up catching this one every five years or so - my last check-in was late 2012, and implies it had been about the same length of time between viewings - and for as much as I still love it, it's got issues. There are large chunks of perfection in it, but it's kind of padded like crazy up front, with the Mary/Shelley/Byron bit and, once we're picking back up from where the last one left off, we spend way too much time with the single most annoying character in cinema history. Still, once things start to click into place, you can't help but appreciate just how well the filmmakers have found a way to take what Universal probably intended to be just a simple monster movie and make something that is introspective as well as thrilling.

Shivers (aka They Came from Within)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, 35mm)

Holy cow, guys, after twelve hours in one of the best theaters for projecting film in New England, we finally get some actual 35mm celluloid!

I suspect the relative availability of prints is why the marathon has had a lot of Cronenberg in recent years, but I'm not going to complain; I haven't seen many of them and there's something kind of amazing about his early Montreal films: They're not just creatively gross and sexual in ways that seem like they probably would have prevented most filmmakers from becoming respectable, but there's this odd detachment and acceptance to them that really shouldn't work: Something man-made in the water is turning people into vicious rapist monsters with weird parasitic excrement organisms growing inside them, and everybody is just barely nonplussed, like this is an inevitable consequence of modern life. The screaming doesn't start until it's not just coming for that person specifically, but it's completely inescapable.

That's there right from the start, and yet Cronenberg is doing a lot of stuff that more mainstream filmmakers probably wish they could do as well even after years of practice: Sketching out the inhabitants of the infected apartment building quickly but effectively, introducing new ones when needed, making great use of his location both as this sort of dehumanizing arcology and a place where you can do some really well-built action. There's the weird self-awareness, but it doesn't kill the genuine tension at all.

Man, I miss weird, gross Cronenberg. As much as there were hopes of his son picking up the family business, it hasn't really happened yet, and Cronenberg's more mainstream (though still off-kilter) art-hour work just isn't the same.

Night of the Living Dead

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

You know, for all the time people have spent arguing about fast and slow zombies, the guys at the start of this movie were actually pretty darn spry. Like, maybe not running after their victims the way that the rage-virus victims of 28 Days Later do, but moving with a sense of urgency rather than aimlessly shambling.

It's tough to separate it from 50 years of follow-ups, but it's worth pointing out that a lot of what I hate about this genre is pretty fully-formed from the start, although holding them against George Romero's film is unfair - the shock and despair, and quick descent into "every man for himself" with every underlying prejudice being thrown into sharp relief wasn't necessarily the world's most original thought when he made this, but he and his cast find the right blend of presenting it as nearly inevitable but also repugnant; you can feel the urge to recoil at it. It's a taut, empathetic take on the material that maybe only works quite so well the first time around; as the tropes become more familiar, the more pragmatic take on the material can't help but make more sense, even if it winds up reinforcing an emotion that is basically antithetic to the original premise.

Still, good enough that I'll have to watch it again someday, hopefully with a better audience. In the same way that I probably did myself a disservice seeing the redubbed-for-comedy Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Crawling, Zombified Living Dead Part 2: In Shocking 2-D first (hey, I was in college and that's what the floor-mates found at the video store), it's not really ideal to have one's first encounter with a classic be interrupted by dumbasses yelling "door!" at every opportunity.

The Twilight Zone: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, digital)

Young William Shatner was just perfect for 1960s TV in a way that we probably have a hard time giving enough credit to, no longer being bound by the same technical limitations. He had an expressive face and voice and emoted just enough to feel mostly natural while being able to make his character's feelings clear even if reception was crappy. Just look at him in this classic Twilight Zone episode - bigger than life, enough to seem reasonable though obviously disruptive on the plane, but not really hammy. It seems like a bit much, projected clearly on a large screen, or even upscaled to your HDTV, but that wasn't how people saw it 55 years ago.

It's not just him, of course; this episode has a killer team behind the camera with Richard Matheson writing the script, Richard Donner directing, and Rod Serling overseeing things. They start out playful but not silly, having fun with the absurdity of the situation without ever throwing up obstacles to taking it seriously. It's an impressively crafted short story, and it's kind of amazing that Serling was able to mass-produce them.

World Without End
The Little Shop of Horrors

N/A (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, some digital format or other)

I am past making excuses for not staying awake through the whole marathon. It was 3:30AM, I had been up 19-ish hours, and it's not like these are necessarily hard-to-find classics.

Sure, I do wish I'd been able to see more than just the opening few minutes of Little Shop; as much as the acting looked questionable, the film had a nice indie look to it and a soundtrack that seemed like a little more than just the standard thing that gets put together for chases/shocks/something mysterious. It's maybe not Roger Corman at his best, but it's him making an effort rather than just grinding the next thing out.

Yellow Submarine

* * (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, digital)

At the end of the thon, we were told that this was a secret screening because they didn't get permission to show it and, in fact, the rights-holder had been saying no for years, so could we keep it quiet? Uh, no. My blog is a log of what I see, and I didn't make any such agreement. You stand up to the man your way, I'll do it my way.

Anyway, I thought I'd seen it before, and maybe I have, but you'd think I'd remember something this peculiar. It's not really what one would call "good" as a movie in many ways after the opening, but credit where it's due; that sequence of the Blue Meanies attacking Pepperville and laying waste to it genuinely works in how it has that pure malice attacking and laying waste to the city. That's straight-ahead good filmmaking, and the folks involved know how to make that work. They're not quite so good at dry humor, and it's in part because they've already set higher stakes, but in part because it can seem hyper-specific or consequence-free. On the other hand, every few minutes a different Beatles song will appear on the soundtrack, complete, with animation that ranges from beautifully abstract to weirdly literal, and even if these songs aren't the best parts of the Beatles catalog, they still tend to be pretty darn good, and you can certainly enjoy that.

Supposedly, remaking this was the project that ended Robert Zemeckis's motion-capture studio, and I've got no idea how that would have worked, because he might have wanted to make it coherent.

Army of Darkness

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

It's not possibly for me to love this movie as much as I did in college, but I'm still kind of amazed by it - it's the genre-mashing, self-parodying thing that everybody has been chasing for the past 25 years, and it's not been done as well since. Raimi wasn't alone in taking his slasher film in genuinely weird directions around this time (you got Jason X, Wes Craven going meta, Leprechaun in space and in tha hood, Puppet Master with Nazis, Phantasm just being generally bonkers), but he did it best, and when the studio demanded changes, he made it even goofier.

Also ridiculous: I don't believe Sam Raimi has done a feature since that Wizard of Oz prequel, and that's just wrong. I know he's been busy as a producer, but how many folks are there out there that have succeeded in low-budget genre films, massive blockbusters, and mainstream adult dramas, while being by all accounts someone people love to work with, that seem so unable to nail down a next project?

Full review on EFC (from 2004, so probably terrible)

20 Million Miles to Earth

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

This was another film that was kind of rough on my general alertness (and, as the second Harryhausen film in the marathon, perhaps something of a sign that we could use more diversity/variety in the genre movie canon), but nevertheless a fairly enjoyable early-morning watch. Like The Time Machine and Sinbad, you can see how it's more kid-oriented and silly than its monster-movie successors, but it's good-looking, whether a given scene was shot in Sicily, on a soundstage, or a part of Harryhausen's always-terrific animation. It's sort of a standard-issue monster movie in a lot of ways, but certainly a well-constructed one.

Full review on EFC (from 2013, probably shown as a tribute when Harryhausen passed)


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 February 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

Ha! When I reviewed this five years ago, I compared writer/director Rian Johnson's work favorably to George Lucas's. I am taking credit for putting the idea of his doing Star Wars in someone's head!

I still love this movie, even as the flaws are still quite clear - I'm choosing to believe that what Joe tells us about time travel and the future-relative-to-him is not necessarily accurate as opposed to being what he's come to believe. It's a good enough explanation, I think, that makes it relatively easy to enjoy what he does to hang a story on it, which turns out to be great in its details, it's quick but well-executed action, and its willingness to chase things around in time-travel circles so that one's head hurts just enough.

It's no wonder that everybody doing the major franchises that would rise up in the years after this one tried to grab Johnson; he's yet to make a movie that wasn't a pretty delightful surprise in some way or another, and the only real bummer about Star Wars landing him is that it might mean less that is purely his own for a while.

… And with that, I say goodbye to the marathon for at least another year, and in the short term I went home to get some laundry done and collapse before flying to New Orleans the next day. 2018 may have been the rare year that the weather didn't seem to mess the festival up much, but it was still a good idea to head out and go somewhere warm!

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 23 March 2018 - 27 March 2018

Apparently, movies opening the Wednesday before Easter is a thing this year, so it's kind of a short week for new releases - but a big weekend for festivals!

    First up - The Boston Underground Film Festival , mostly at The Brattle Theatre Friday through Sunday, although there is also some matinee programming at the Harvard Film Archive Saturday and Sunday afternoon. One of those is Spoor, one of the best things I saw at Fantasia last summer, so I can at least gnash my teeth about making choices a little less. Other notable entries include the Homegrown Horror on Friday afternoon, Let the Corpses Tan from the Amer team of Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani Friday night, Saturday Morning Cartoons with all-you-can-eat cereal, buzzy horror film The Ranger with director Jenn Wexler on hand Saturday night, a secret screening at midnight Saturday, and Tigers Are Not Afraid Sunday evening. Once the festival is over,
  • The Brattle Theatre has a few days of filling in until the next one starts, with DocYard selection Railway Sleepers on Monday (featuring a post-screening Skype chat with director Sompot Chidgasornpongse), and then Tuesday is Trash Night, with Patrick Swayze mess Steel Dawn. On Wednesday, they welcome director Jennifer Brea and a few other guests for a screening of Brea's documentary on her own sleep disorder, Unrest
  • Irish Film Festival Boston uses a screen or two at The Somerville Theatre all weekend, with Director's Choice Maze on Friday and then two screens' worth on Saturday and Sunday, with Saturday matinees of animated features Song of the Sea and The Breadwinner, Global Vision Documentary The Farthest, two programs of shorts, and much more. The theater also picks up a couple screens of The Death of Stalin, which also expands West Newton, The Lexington Venue, and Fenway after having opened at the Coolidge, Kendall, and Boston Common last weekend.
  • The threat of snow postponed the ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston opening night, but they'll be hopping around the area all week, most with free admission but registration suggested. Films include It's Not Yet Dark at the Somerville and Sanctuary at the Museum of Science, both Sunday afternoon; Keep the Change at the JCC's Reimer-Goldstein Theater in Newton on Monday, Stumped at the Cambridge Public Library on Tuesday; a choice of Thank You for Your Service at the Revere Showcase, Swim Team at Lexington's Cotting School, and the RealLove shorts program at the Coolidge on Wednesday, and closing-night film Off the Rails at the Brattle on Thursday.
  • Go further out of town, and The Salem Film Fest occupies the main screen of CinemaSalem all week, as well as a few other local venues.
  • So, you've maybe got some things getting in the way of hitting the multiplexes, even though a couple of 3D sequels are opening. The first, Pacific Rim: Uprising, is a "next generation" entry without Guillermo del Toro's direct involvement or much of the cast of the first, but it's still got giant robots fighting giant monsters, which may just be your thing. It's playing at the Capitol (2D only), Fresh Pond (2D only), Jordan's Furniture (Imax 2D/3D), the Embassy, Boston Common (including Imax 3D), Fenway (including 2D/3D PRX), the Seaport (including Imax 2D/3D), South Bay (including Icon-X), Assembly Row (including Imax 2D/3D), Revere (including MX4D & XPlus), and the SuperLux. The other sequel is Sherlock Gnomes, which follows up Gnomeo & Juliet, and, you know, the preview almost had me until I saw Johnny Depp was voicing the title character, and hard pass. But, hey, maybe the kids will dig it at the Capitol (2D only), Fresh Pond (2D only) Boston Common, Fenway (2D only), South Bay, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    There's also Midnight Sun, featuring Bella Thorne as a teenager with a skin condition that keeps her inside during daylight and Patrick Schwarzenegger as the boy she falls for; that's at Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Revere. Some theaters also get a jump on Easter with Paul, Apostle of Christ, including the Seaport, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    The last major opening is the latest from Steven Soderbergh, who has come out of retirement more or less on his own terms, shooting Unsane with a smartphone and therefore being able to get right in there to present Claire Foy as a woman involuntarily committed to an asylum, although the freaky things happening there may just be part of her delusions. It's at Kendall Square, the Embassy, Boston Common, South Bay, and Revere.

    Fenway and Revere have screenings of animated feature Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies Saturday afternoon (Fenway only) and Monday evening; they also kick off this year's Ghibli screenings by marking the 10th anniversary of Ponyo on Sunday (dubbed), Monday (subtitled), and Wednesday (dubbed)
  • In addition to Unsane, Kendall Square has Flower, starring Zoey Deutch as a teenager looking to expose a teacher's secret, and Itzhak, an entertaining-looking documentary about Itzhak Perlman, who seems to be a really likable guy on top of an extraordinary violinist.
  • Apple Fresh Pond opens Hichki, a Hindi-language movie about a teacher with Tourette's syndrome (if I remember the trailer correctly), as well as Rajaratha (in both Kannada and Telugu). They've also got English-language horror film Followers, though mostly for late-night shows.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre mostly keeps the same line-up for the weekend (though with a special preview screening of Isle of Dogs on Saturday night to give an idea of how it will be upended mid-week). They do put on some screenings of Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy in the GoldScreen.

    Midnight features include Demon House on both Friday and Saturday, with paranormal investigator Zak Bagans documenting his visit to a particularly notorious haunted house; there's also a 35mm print of German cult classic Der Fan on Friday and one of Misery on Saturday (sort of a theme, eh?). They also have a special National Evening of Science on Screen showing of Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, with MIT professor Muriel Médard introducing the film by talking about the actress's work in science and invention.
  • The Harvard Film Archive starts two new series this weekend. The first celebrates Wim Wenders, who will be in town to deliver a pair of lectures next week, but they will be priming the pump with Alice in the Cities (Friday), "3 American LPs" (free on Friday), The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (Friday), Wrong Move (Sunday), and Kings of the Road. They will also be showing the recent films of Hong Sang-soo, including The Day After (Saturday), Nobody's Daughter Haewon (Saturday), and Right Now, Wrong Then (Sunday).
  • The Museum of Fine Arts is spending the weekend on the 17th Annual Boston Turkish Film Festival, with this weekend's selections including Gone with the Hazelnuts (Friday, with director Ercan Kesal in person), Rosso Istanbul (Saturday), Big Big World (Saturday), The Guest (Sunday), and Ayla: The Daughter of War (Sunday). Kind of a bummer that clashes with the Turkish film at BUFF Sunday afternoon, but oh well.
  • Belmont World Film shifts their series at the Studio Cinema to Mondays with The Wound, a South African film about a Xhosa coming-of-age ceremony.
  • Bright Lights features IFFBoston alum Barracuda on Tuesday, with director Julia Halpern doing a Q&A after the free screening in the Paramount's Bright Screening Room.

I'm at BUFF, then probably catching Pacific Rim 2 in its very brief time on the big screens before the new Spielberg hits.