Monday, April 09, 2018


It's not entirely unusual for a movie to wait a week between its initial American opening and playing Boston, but I don't really get the impression that Neon and Stage 6 were doing a tiered opening for this. In fact, I strongly suspect that Boston Common was planning to open Chinese horror film The Possessed on the 6th, and when China Lion canceled their release because the Chinese censor board removed it from the schedule in China - apparently, it was approved as a found-footage-style film built around people exposing exorcists in rural China, but the filmmakers started talking up the weird things they saw while making it, then it became too much about the supernatural - and it left the theater with a somewhat bigger hole in their schedule than they'd want want to fill with holdovers or extra shows for A Quiet Place and Blockers. I was kind of hoping for The Endless, but was kind of happy to see the new one from Aaron Katz; I'd liked his last three films.

It's a bit of a disappointment - I don't think there was really much of a story there - but I was glad to see it and a bit surprised that I'd heard nothing about it before; Katz's last, Land Ho!, managed to hang around here for a while, although I suspect that both it and this are enough of a departure from his earlier indie-youth work that there's not a lot of carry-over. It makes me wonder if it's notably harder to establish even a niche reputation now than it was even five or ten years ago - Katz hasn't yet had something go straight to Netflix and thus kind of flown lower on the radar, but it doesn't seem like "if screens only have 18 seats, you can program something with pretty narrow appeal" is exactly countering "fewer seats per screen means more of the same number of screens to a smaller number of films" the way I'd hope.

Still, it got out there, and I dig that Neon is, at least in this case, attaching a short to its feature. I don't know to what extent it's going to be their standard operating procedure - I'm guessing both the feature and the short have to be fairly compact, as is the case with the 93-minute Gemini and 4-minute "Aspirational" - but more people getting to see and enjoy short films seems like a good thing.


* * (out of four)
Seen 8 April 2018 in AMC Boston Common #6 (Neon Shorts, DCP)

Including "Aspirational" with Gemini is not a bad match as short/feature pairings go, although there's a bit of a backhanded compliment in there: Aside from having similar subject matter, it's also not exactly something that's going to overshadow the middling feature it's attached to. It's one easy joke, told well enough, and not really extended too long, but it's not really a good joke.

It's kind of punching down, having Kirsten Dunst flummoxed by two fans (of sorts) that just want to take selfies and maybe get the images tagged, not even asking questions. I half-wonder if it's the opposite of the usual critique that a feature would make a good short - this is a short that might make for a good bit within a feature, but which on its own seems like an isolated bit of sneering, without a punchline good or unexpected enough to stand on its own.


* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 8 April 2018 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run, DCP)

Gemini feels like the idea of a decent movie without much of the interesting detail, as if filmmaker Aaron Katz knew he wanted to do another mystery-influenced film along the lines of Cold Weather and was intrigued by the star/assistant dynamic, but overestimated how this sort of Hollywood story would appeal to outsiders by a lot. It looks good and sets a mood, but it comes perilously close to just being an outline with slick reference pictures, not something worthwhile on its own.

It starts out with Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke), personal assistant to actress Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz), switching between phones in her car, fielding calls for her employer. Heather's ex Devin (Reeve Carney) is the first to say he's going to kill her over some slight, but not the last, as Heather sends Jill into a meeting to drop out of a movie for her. As that film's producer (Nelson Franklin) storms out, a fan (Jessica Parker Kennedy) shows up, asking if Heather and Jill are really as close as the rumors claim, along with an annoying paparazzo (James Ransone). There will be a few more stops that night - Jill's place, K-town karaoke with Heather's maybe-girlfriend Tracy Kim (Greta Lee), and then to Heather's. Jill's got an early meeting the next day - not satisfied with bailing on her next film, Heather doesn't want to do reshoots on the current one - and she returns to a crime scene. Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho) initially treats Jill as a witness, figuring she remembers details better than most, but she's soon the prime suspect and looking to figure it out on her own.

This is the sort of movie where the title seems like it gives the whole game away, although the one that it apparently started out with ("Heart Heather") isn't a whole lot better. That's not necessarily a big deal, since the solution to the mystery does not seem to be what's actually important - but if it isn't, then what is? Katz never really finds an answer to that. There are some vague thoughts about the demands of celebrity and the privilege of wealth and fame, but they're not exactly new and structuring the movie as a whodunit keeps Katz from diving in to look very closely lest he give things away too soon or stretch the story too far past its climax. That rich folks can be flaky and not realize the consequences of their changes of mind on those around them isn't much to hang even such a relatively short film on.

Full review on EFC

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