Thursday, November 15, 2018

This Week in Tickets: 5 November 2018 - 11 November 2018

Hey, I made some progress on recent Blu-ray orders, in part because scheduling got weird with other stuff.

This Week in Tickets

First up: I suppose there were more pressing gaps than The Great Buster: A Celebration on Tuesday, especially since I know it's going to be part of the Brattle's "Keaton-esque" series Christmas week, but I was kind of looking for complete escapism on Election Night after a bit of hubris a couple years ago, when I went to Mad Max: Fury Road (Black and Chrome) with some comments about celebrating strong women destroying bloated would-be dictators and crowed about it on social media. No chicken-counting this year, though things went better on that count.

Thursday's Plan A got pushed off because the MBTA was just uncooperative enough to make getting to Fenway in time for Suspiria to start, so I detoured at Park Street for a night-before show of Overlord, which turned out to be a pretty good time - not exactly elevated horror, but quality pulp that knows what it's going for. Regular opening night was given to Shunji Iwai's Last Letter, a pretty spiffy little movie that marks his first work in China and apparently serves as a sort of "premake" to a Japanese version coming next year, though this one felt more like a Japanese movie than a Chinese one.

Saturday, I made good on Thursday's plans to check out Suspiria, and that didn't go great at all - the Red Line was running shuttle buses so I got to the theater just in time for the start with no time for getting snacks or soda, and it just wasn't happening for me. Not sure why, because a 1pm movie doesn't knock you out on its own, but this one had me out of it a lot. On top of that, the AMC Stubs app apparently thought I was trying to buy overlapping tickets when I got out and wanted one for a movie starting at 4pm (it was a tight fit), and by the time I figured it wasn't going to happen, the movie had already started. So I headed home and decided to put on one of the discs I'd recently ordered from Hong Kong, but it was in 3D and my glasses weren't charged. So plan B again, An Inspector Calls. That Chinese New Year's movie from a few years back was fun to look at and kind of goofy but sputtered badly toward the end.

The next day, it was off to Waltham because that would likely be the only chance to see Outlaw King (or, as it's shown onscreen, "Outlaw/King") in a theater, because when Netflix says their movies are playing in "Select Theaters", they mean the ones that might let them buy out a screen for a week even if it might be empty and not selling popcorn because you can see the movie at home. As it turned out, the movie itself was okay, but maybe not worth the trip out there. The kicker is that there was a preview for another Netflix movie opening there the next weekend, so I'll probably be there again.

Getting to the Embassy and back meant nothing was more convenient to see than what I had at home (and it's starting to get too cold to just kill time), but by now my 3D glasses were charged and I could watch The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet that way, which was good, because the 3D effects were kind of the best part of it.

And that's another week. Here's the obligatory link to my Letterboxd page, for those that like first drafts and not running at the mouth about how I saw a movie.

Suspiria (2018)

* * (out of four)
Seen 9 November 2018 in AMC Boston Common #4 (first-run, DCP)

I had high hopes for this when the confirmation number for my ticket ended in "666" - I have to think that's a good horror movie omen - and finding what i figured would be a room with a few people mostly full, but it really did nothing for me. Had me dozing off during a 1pm show, actually.

I could see bits of a good movie in there, with great design, an eagerness to connect to something more concrete than the original, and some genuinely and literally twisted bits. But 2.5 hours is a lot to spend with characters who are more or less blanks in the service of an ending that doesn't mean much and is just stylish enough in most spots that some weak CGI gore can bring snickers. It also doesn't help much at all that so much of the finale wound up focusing on the wrong Tilda Swinton character, using the Holocaust to sell a kind of silly stunt

If this thing was an hour shorter, I'd be open to giving it another chance - it's a rare movie that's actually dull enough to make you drowsy ten minutes in, and this one's got the ambition to not really be boring - but at this length? Not likely.

Fau wa yin (An Inspector Calls)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 10 November 2018 in Jay's Living Room (recent acquisitions, Hong Kong Blu-ray)

I was attracted to this one by a fun cast and kind of had a good time for the first little while as a bunch of colorful settings and equally colorful characters came in, only to be really confused at the abrupt, nonsensical finale. Apparently this is par for the course for Hong Kong Chinese New Year movies; that the thing was adapted from a play not originally written as a comedy makes it goofier and more bizarre.

Kind of a shame that the filmmakers never really figure out where they want to go; the film starts with what seems like a really nifty combination of garish color and dark comedy and some delightfully crazed performances by Louis Koo and Eric Tsang, though it's tremendously frustrating how determined they are to waste Chrissie Chau. I guess you can see the original work underneath it and where a comic adaptation could have been great if they'd gone for sharper satire underneath the farce, though it's entirely possible (even likely) that a Hong Kong native sees what is being skewered and pronounces it vicious. The impulse seems to be there all the way through the film, but winds up feeling undirected in a potentially paranoid last sequence that instead becomes an orgy of cameos.

Not that I can truly hate a movie where one (or four) of those cameos is a doo-wop band featuring a digitally-multiplied Donnie Yen, no matter how dumb and pointless a joke that may be. The over-the-top nonsense is kind of the point for these things.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

* * (out of four)
Seen 11 November 2018 in Jay's Living Room (recent acquisitions, Hong Kong 3D Blu-ray)

If this turns out to be the only chance Jean-Pierre Jeunet has to work with 3D cameras in his career - he hasn't directed a feature film since and it wasn't used quite so much when he made Micmacs six years earlier - that will be a bit of a shame. When he's pointing a camera at the landscape, creating pop-up books to set the scene, or otherwise placing the cameras just far enough off the normal spot to both get down to his young hero's level and highlight the depth of field, he makes a beautiful film.

Unfortunately, he also makes what is likely the most insufferable film of his career, which is an impressive feat, because he is Jean-Pierre Jeunet and made Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. Its protagonist is a ten-year-old boy genius who lies constantly and may be completely insane, no decision anybody makes ever makes any sense, and the finale plays like it's supposed to be some sort of play on exploitation and media feeding frenzies, but it's so accelerated and cartoonish as to be ridiculous; I honestly couldn't figure what Judy Davis's character was trying to do in the movie's homestretch. It's trying to be satirical but seems to have no understanding of its targets at all.

And it's boring. Young T.S. Spivet somehow manages to cross three quarters of the country without ever having anything that feels like an adventure. For much of the movie, nobody is doing anything or even having anything happen to them, meaning Spivet has to go off on asides seemingly to fill time. It's a waste of a good cast - there's got to be an interesting movie about how Helena Bonham Carter's distracted entomologist and Callum Keith Rennie met and fell in love for instance, and I'm a bit surprised that Niamh Wilson, the actress playing T.S.'s older sister, hasn't done more than Canadian TV since; her character is a broadly-written teenage drama queen, but one I believed in.

Apparently this barely got a U.S. release two years after it first hit the festival circuit, with the Weinstein Company cutting a few f-bombs out and probably not releasing it in 3D theatrically, much less on video, meaning it lost its strongest element. The import Hong Kong Blu-ray was the original cut and included 3D, at least looking nice, but that's the best you can say about it. That Jeunet hasn't done a feature since isn't completely surprising - his projects always take a few years to come together, the price of doing elaborate films outside Hollywood - but I wonder if this may have basically ended his career, making producers too skittish to pay for the type of movie he's best at.

The Great Buster
Last Letter
Suspiria '18
Outlaw King
An Inspector Calls
The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

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