Wednesday, September 12, 2018

This Week in Tickets: 3 September 2018 - 9 September 2018

Kind of a boring week at the cinemas, but one where I finally caught up with some of the stuff I'd been meaning to see for a while.

This Week in Tickets

I mentioned being a slug all last weekend, at it lasted through Labor Day, when I finallly caught a new release and The Little Stranger wasn't very good, which was frustrating because you could see all the things it could have been saying but which it never really went for.

The middle of the week was good for catching up, with Crazy Rich Asians at Fresh Pond on Wednesday and Sorry to Bother You at the Somerville on Thursday. That's kind of a fantastic run for the latter, really - I think it opened just as I went to Montreal in July and is still kicking in a few theaters two months later. Part of that is that this theater is not opening a lot with construction going on and the big 70mm fest coming up, but it's outlasting bigger, more recent things.

After that, another weekend where not a lot opened, and then pretty much all of Sunday was spent getting too and from Revere to see Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, which I'd missed here for being at Fantasia and missed at Fantasia, but which I wound up really liking. It makes a nice bookend for the week with The Little Stranger, both being fantastical end-of-an-era stories, but the anime wound up looking better the closer you examine it, while the British one just didn't come together.

More coming up on my Letterboxd, including stuff I just didn't get the chance to do back in Canada..

Crazy Rich Asians

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 September 2018 in Apple Cinemas Cambridge #2 (first-run, DCP)

Crazy Rich Asians doesn't stray far from the romantic comedy template, but it seems like it's been so long since Hollywood produced one of those that standing out isn't necessary. You've just got to do it wil enough to not trip over your own feet, and you'll be good. And it does, right from... okay, maybe not quite the unnecessary prelude at the start, but it quickly establishes a bunch of charismatic characters, an entertaining situation, and slick enough packaging to make it watchable, and then gets out of the way.

And, really, why wouldn't you just get out of Constance Wu's way here? She's charming and funny even while leaving most of the actual gags to other characters, and nails the right expression and emotion in every moment. She's got a pretty darn good cast to play off of, most notably Awkwafina and Michelle Yeoh, but it goes all the way down to people who are just in one or two scenes, doing something in the background that amplifies what's working up front.

Plus, there's a really enjoyable level of romantic fantasy to it - the filmmakers know that these movies with a touch of Cinderella to them need nice things, but they're good at pivoting away from tacky consumerism except when the grossness of it is going to figure into the story. Director John M. Chu not only gets scenes playing out in snappy but not artificial fashion, but also frames shots really well - he uses space and crowds to focus attention just right, but never in an artsy, ostentatious way.

There's a mid-credit teaser for a sequel, and that one will be a tougher sell, with a less immediately-likable main character and heightened expectations. But that's 2020's problem; this is just a solid old-Hollywood romance.

Sorry to Bother You

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 6 September 2018 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, DCP)

The neat thing about Sorry to Bother You is that, while it does quickly become just as weird as it promised to be from the previews and opening scenes, it winds up feeling a little less peculiar than it maybe should. There's a talented cast that plays it fairly straight, and beyond that, the filmmakers always make sure that the audience knows where they're coming from. It's mostly good folks navigating a strange world.

But never one so strange that it's disconnected. Sometimes filmmaker Boots Riley hammers things down hard, although he kind of has to (simply advocating for a labor union seems radical in this day and age). Sometimes he takes a hard turn into the bizarre, and you have to just gape in wonder at the lengths he'll go to talk about how capitalism seems determined to grind humanity back to slavery, with people of color on the front lines. Among other things - he's got a lot to talk about and stitches it together well.

And there's always someone or something entertaining in front of the camera. Lakeith Stanfield (dubbed or otherwise) makes an entertainingly too-cool-for-his-own-good semi-hero, paired with a series of great foils from Danny Glover to Tessa Thompson (who should be in all the things) to Armie Hammer. He and the crew build a surreal world that never quite seems to go full Gondry, and the script always seems to be at a perfect spot between snappy and deadpan.

I'm sorry I put this off so long and glad my local theater kept it. It's a great big-screen movie though one I'll probably also love going through on disc.

The Little Stranger
Crazy Rich Asians
Sorry to Bother You
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

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