Tuesday, January 08, 2019

This Week in Tickets: 31 December 2018 - 6 January 2019

New year, new calendar! Take a look:

This Week in Tickets

It looks a little different because not only do I have to shrink it down more, but I accidentally bought one that's actually too large for a two-page spread to fit on my scanner, so I'm kind of cut-and-pasting the two pages together, which means you should prepare for a lot of funny-looking spiral bindings in the coming months. I do worry a bit that this now shrinks things down to a level that's tough to read, but I'm not sure. Let me know in the comments (or on social media, or whatever) if that's the case.

(And maybe follow one of the merch links, too - I've apparently been pennies away from a $5 gift card for a long time!)

Anyway, New Year's Eve was another day when I didn't do much of anything other than try to finally unpack a lot of the tubs in the back room and organize after the previous Saturday's Great Collapse of Shelves not Actually Strong Enough to Hold Books. Unfortunately, my method of doing so involves making a bigger mess as the first step, and I'm stuck midway through that now. By the time I was done with that, there were no movies playing because apparently nobody wants to have anything else going within a couple hours of midnight, and I just hit the hay.

That got me up early enough to do relatively early shows for New Year's, though, starting the year off right with If Beale Street Could Talk at the Coolidge, which, yeah, is as good as its trailers have made it look. After that, it was inbound on the Green Line for a second go with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and that, too, is every bit as great as people have been saying, holding up pretty darn well on a second viewing. I'm really hoping Sony does a combined 3D/4K release for this one, because it's gorgeous all around.

On the 2nd, the Brattle started a series with three movies arranged in two double features of Ida Lupino's films as director on consecutive nights, so I went with the late show of Not Wanted on Wednesday (after the weekly trip to the Million Year Picnic) and then did the pair of The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist on Thursday. It's a kind of fascinating trio, especially when you consider that Lupino was one of the few women directing mainstream movies at that time (if not the only one), and you can't help but wonder how it impacted each of them in different ways, just in terms of being different from how the men around her did them.

Friday was the first night for Mojin: The Worm Valley, which is on the low side of average and probably not helped much by my mentally comparing everyone in the cast to their predecessor (Gu Xuan, for instance, is actually pretty good, but she's also clearly "off-brand Shu Qi", and that thought just drives me to the internet to try and find out when Shanghai Fortress comes out). I'd actually meant to watch Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe earlier in the week, but wound up (mostly) watching it afterwards Twice, actually - once in 3D right after I got home, and then again in 2D the next afternoon to get what I missed nodding off.

Then on Sunday, I arranged things based on something showing once that day - not Escape Room, which was a new release and playing all day (and turned out to be decent enough, especially by eary-January-dumping standards), but Dark Money, which was one of fifteen documentaries sharing one screen downtown and as such played once over the weekend. I'd meant to catch it earlier, and it turned out to be all right.

Not a bad way to start 2019, all told More to come, with the well-thought out editions of my thoughts here and what I can get down on the train home on the Letterboxd page.

Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 1 January 2019 in AMC Boston Common #?? (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

The sort of quick, potentially-expensive revisit you can do when you've got A-List and don't have to ration 3D tickets, done in part because while I certainly liked Spider-Verse a lot the first time, I was kind of taken aback by just how much the public at large seemed to go for this one - both online and hearing folks who usually haunt the art-houses and rep screens saying that they'd seen in six times already. That's a lot of love.

It's certainly deserved, and I think coming at it as just a movie rather than an assembly of comics I quite like helped it. It's just spectacularly well put-together, and I think the key is that it arguably gets Miles Morales better than the comics have, for the most part. Miles is an Afro-Latino teenager who has been written by basically one middle-aged white guy since he was introduced (at least until a few months ago), and I think having people closer to him voicing and directing et al has really sharpened his characterization. It feels like a movie made more by people who know its characters than by those intrigued by what they represent.

And, of course, it's still tremendously funny, gorgeous to look at, and full of action that feels like it's truly got all the possibilities of a comic book for a first time. Absolutely everything in this movie is working together, and it's no wonder people find it brilliant

What I said a couple weeks ago

Not Wanted

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 2 January 2019 in the Brattle Theatre (Refreshed, Renewed, Restored; DCP)

This is basic B-movie melodrama, fit for the back end of a double feature that most people wouldn't have stayed for when it came out. I don't know whether Emerald Productions and Film Classics were technically Poverty Row studios, but this was no prestige picture with top-of-the-line talent. The acting is rough and the scripting at times rougher.

Ida Lupino co-wrote and produced the fim, eventually taking over as director when Elmer Clifton had a heart attack, and I'm curious how much that changed the movie. It's tremendously sympathetic to its main character (a 19-year-old girl who runs off to follow a man and winds up pregnant and alone), never taking the position that her strict parents knew best or treating her as ruined, and the last act is all about women helping women. It's a cautionary tale, but seldom a scolding one, and while men certainly can make that sort of picture, they're examining every aspect of Sally's situation from the outside.

It's still kind of a mess, but every once in a while you can see past its clumsiness to find a little style. There are moments that feel horrific and others that feel surreal, and though lead actress Sally Forrest is not great with dialogue, she is pretty good when she's not reciting banal lines; she's expressive in a lot of other ways.

It's not great, and maybe it winds up forgotten without Ida Lupino's involvement. It's better than just a curiosity, at least.

The Hitch-Hiker

* * * (out of four)
Seen 3 January 2019 in the Brattle Theatre (Refreshed, Renewed, Restored; DCP)

Famously the only classic noir directed by a woman, The Hitch-Hiker is nevertheless a testosterone-laden affair, just over an hour of a driver with the urge to fight back against the killer of the title being held in check by his smarter friend, who figures they should bide their time. The killer himself is even more pure id, nothing but the urge to take what he wants and kill anyone in his way. They're three different sorts of masculinity. William Talman makes a fine psycho, and Edmond O'Brien plays a frustrated version of the same impulses, with Frank Lovejoy trying to be less controlled by them.

Or maybe it's not really that deep, but it's a crisp thriller, surely tightening its screws without needing to complicate things. Its cutaways to show the pursuit are quick and perfunctory, never leaving the action behind for more than a minute or two, although they often tend to highlight just how basic the story is. Still, it's not stretched out, and at seventy-odd minutes, things don't need to get that complicated.

The Bigamist

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 3 January 2019 in the Brattle Theatre (Refreshed, Renewed, Restored; DCP)

This is one of those movies that's something like 75% flashback and lots something from that, becoming all recitation of facts and not particularly dramatic. It's capable and does all right with that, but Ida Lupino doesn't really manage to turn its sympathetic take on the situation into something tragic or even a fascinating sort of irony, despite how hard the writers lean on that word in the last few scenes.

It is, like Not Wanted, impressively sympathetic to its characters, which in some ways contributes to how it can feel rather uneventful - everybody involved is basically decent, and they're isolated enough to never come into direct conflict. That's a big part of why not a lot seems to happen, perhaps. Shame, because the cast is nice; director Ida Lupino does nice as the girl who could be the femme fatale but isn't, and Joan Fontaine is terrific as the first wife. Edmond O'Brien is kind of bland, but earnest enough when need be, and Edmund Gwenn is an entertaining foil as the adoption agency official. Weird that someone name-checks the actor at a couple of points.

If Beale Street Could Talk
Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse
Not Wanted
The Hitch-Hiker / The Bigamist
Mojin: The Worm Valley
Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe
Escape Room
Dark Money

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