Tuesday, January 15, 2019

This Week in Tickets: 7 January 2019 - 13 January 2019

If I made New Year's Resolutions, they might involve giving up even the attempt at midnight movies. But I don't so I didn't so here we are.

This Week in Tickets

The week started off with Sisters at the Brattle, which has apparently been recently restored and looks nice, although I gather that I liked it a fair bit more the last time I saw it. The events of the past few years have highlighted the general creepiness of its narrative, and I'm not sure how well it sits now. It makes me curious to see just what is on that box of early counter-culture comedies director Brian De Palma did with Robert De Niro (though some of that is dread). I'd be back there on Wednesday for the start of the theater's Best-of-2018 series, watching the really impressive The Rider.

Thursday was a trip to the Fenway theater, as that's where they show the anime. Modest Heroes turned out to be a nifty little shorts program, although there was a fair amount of confusion toward the start regarding the subtitles, or lack thereof. It got sorted, but could have been avoided.

I was considering a double feature Friday night, but nothing aligned very well with Queen Boxer at the Coolidge at midnight. I thought I was in good shape for that, having slept in enough to almost miss two buses to work in the morning and having fortified myself with caffeine ahead of time, but I was frustratingly in and out. And while I"m not exactly going to shake my fist at the theater for loading up on old kung-fu trailers before the movie, I just missed the last 66 bus across the river and wound up taking a Lyft home (and, yeah, I feel bad, because I know the business model is predatory, but the genuine taxi app was quoting a price something like 6x as high and I wasn't adding $36 to the price of a movie I barely saw).

Back to the Brattle the next afternoon for Hereditary, which wasn't quite the slog I'd feared but was still kind of a lot. No way I was staying another 2.5 hours to try the Suspiria remake again, although that probably would have been better than taking the Red Line downtown to see Replicas, which was impressively Not Good, but not even in a surprising way. It was just boring.

Destroyer wasn't quite "boring" the next night, but it certainly wasn't what I'd hoped for when combining a favorite actress with a director who has a ton of potential. Of course, it didn't help that I followed it up by coming home and watching the first couple episodes of the new True Detective, which is thus far looking like a much better take on revisiting a case decades later.

More potentially good TV coming up this week, but still plenty of movies planned, with the Letterboxd page where the rough drafts go.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 January 2019 in the Brattle Theatre (Refreshed, Renewed, Restored; DCP)

Hot take: The best part of Sisters is the segment in the beginning with the "Peeping Tom" show and African Room, where De Palma is doing some weird, mean satire on much more deserving targets than career women and people with mental health issues. The thriller stuff after that is stylish and arty and has a fair Bernard Herrmann score, but plays as seriously misogynistic, with Jennifer Salt's career woman pretty much useless in terms of actually figuring things out and instantly gaslighted when necessary (between this and The Hot Rock, I wonder if there was some weird fad for hypnotism in the early 1970s that now seems especially weird). The doctor may be a creep, but at least he's a creep with some agency.

The end loops back to the same level of knowing absurdity as the start, and while it's not as targeted as the opening minutes (a shame, because there's something to be said here about what happens to women who try to report crimes and evidence often being right there but people being unwilling to see it), I do kind of like how merrily destructive this sort of ironic ending is - it acknowledges just how much of what's gone on that it's undercutting, rather than just doing it to get an extra scare in. De Palma owns his nihilistic ending.

I liked it a bit more seven years ago

Chou (Queen Boxer)

N/A (out of four)
Seen 11 January 2019 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (After Midnite: East Meets West, dubbed 35mm)

That is a lot of axes. Honestly, this movie deserves to be referenced more for the axes than the boxing. And maybe with the other guy more than Judy Lee's Ma Su-chen; from what I managed to be alert for, he certainly seemed to be driving the story more, with her drifting in and out.

Nice fighting, at least, and truth be told the dubbing wasn't horrific. I would have happily given this another chance when I got home if it were readily available anywhere, but I guess that's why I at least make the attempt to get through a midnight show. Hopefully the Police Story movies won't be like that!


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 January 2019 in the Brattle Theatre [(Some of} The Best of 2018, DCP]

I guess if you're going to make a horror movie around a series a creepy scenes, as opposed to something basically unnerving at the core, it's tough to do it better than Hereditary. The staging of each individual scene is impressive, it looks great, it sounds creepy. Toni Collette gives a genuinely terrific performance, especially when one considers just how much of the center of the movie is her manically diving into something utterly irrational and making the audience believe she'd do that after having been so reserved and scared. It's a jump-scare movie, but it's dressed up nice for folks who feel like they want more.

But, boy, does it feel like an big collection of nice stuff. Though not quite so long as I'd thought it was (I'm not sure where the 2.5 hour runtime in my head came from), my biggest moment of dread came from looking up at the Brattle's clock, thinking it was almost over and then realizing I'd misread the hour hand and it was just at the halfway mark. All the nice sleight of hand and practical effects can't really cover how I always find this sort of movie less scary when the actual paranormal material pushes all the stuff in the characters' heads to the side - early on, there's this genuine feeling of dread as Collette's Annie lists out the various people in her family who suffer from some sort of mental illness, and her worries that she's eventually going to lose her mind - or that she's already just barely maintaining control and may not be up to what her family needs from her - is much more frightening to me than some ridiculous cult or demon.

I do wonder a bit how much my being less impressed than some comes from not seeing it early. There were some things that probably should have been bigger surprises based on what was emphasized in the trailer, but though the folks on social media didn't exactly "spoil" things in some cases, there were enough oblique references that I wasn't really shocked. There's an argument that a good horror movie can beat this by either being more than just out-of-nowhere jolts or by being so enveloping that even those who have seen it before get engrossed enough to be shocked, and I don't know if Hereditary does that quite as well as you might hope.

The Rider
Modest Heroes
Queen Boxer

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