Sunday, May 26, 2019

These Weeks in Tickets: 5 May 2019 - 19 May 2019

A weird couple weeks, where a lot of moviegoing got concentrated.

This Week in Tickets

This Week in Tickets

Doubly stubless: The Red Sox crushed the Mariners on 10 May, and there wasn't even a good place to mark it down on the page.

No stub for Friday night's game both because the team didn't give me physical tickets this year and because I decided to head into New York the next day to catch some movies and those tickets were kind of sizable. I actually pondered taking a late bus after the game, but that didn't seem like a great idea. The good night's sleep was probably a good plan, though that Mostly Manhattan Movie Marathon was kind of tight, with the subway eating up pretty much all my time between Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché,Long Day's Journey Into Night, Fugue, All Is True, and Pokémon Detective Pikachu, before the inevitable reminder that Greyhound is what you do when absolutely nothing else is practical (if you've got a week's notice, it's literally cheaper to fly than take the train from Boston to New York).

I wasn't completely zonked on Sunday, but there was some caffeine necessary for the other film I wanted to see that weekend, Zhang Yimou's Shadow, which is pretty darn terrific. It was a near thing to see that before receiving my 4K disc from Hong Kong (it turns out one will be released in North America, but that's hard to predict with smaller distributors), but there wasn't any doubt; it's a heck of a big-screen movie.

Speaking of such things....

The next Tuesday's movie was Star Wars at Symphony Hall with the Keith Lockhart conducting the Pops to provide the score, and that is a fun night out. It turned out to be a tight squeeze despite the way the ticketing site made the orchestra section look, but, hey, it's a movie, and should be. It is, of course, a great movie, and more so this way, even without looking up during the moments when there was no John Williams to play and seeing who in the orchestra was looking down and who was watching the movie.

Next up: John Wick 3, which is what it says on the tin - two hours of the sort of violence John Woo and Chow Yun-fat used to make. It may be a little more heavy on the mythology and self-aware than I'd like, but it delivers the goods.

Friday was about staying in and not getting caught in the rain, but it made for a nifty double feature on Saturday: The nifty Swedish science fiction epic Aniara at the Kendall and then a 70mm print of The Dark Crystal at the Somerville. Both are apocalyptic in their ways, and well worth seeing on the big screen if you get the opportunity.

Then on Sunday came an encore screening of Avengers: Endgame, both because I didn't see it under ideal conditions the first time and because, hey, it's pretty darn great. It's amazing that Marvel stuck the landing on this.

More my Letterboxd page since, although the downright crazy moviegoing has kind of slowed down..

Star Wars

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 14 May 2019 in Symphony Hall (Special Edition, digital with live orchestral accompaniment)

This movie is pretty darn good, folks. That's not surprising - global media empires generally can't start from nothing - but it can sometimes get lost in all the sequels and later incarnations and tie-ins and people who have very strong opinions. This event, which so far as I know is just the original, albeit in Special Edition form, and just watching that, unattached to the rest, is an unusual experience these days.

(Although if the Pops wanted to do this every few weeks until The Rise of Skywalker comes out, I'd be good with that too.)

Seeing it like this highlights just how well George Lucas tapped straight into a lot of things early on - youthful rebellion, older generations that in some cases meant the best but always had their own agenda, the thrill of adventure and the massive technological monsters lying in wait. The mysticism of The Force which is so often seized upon actually feels a little hokey, and thinking about Lucas's career (and the saga) in retrospect, it's kind of hard to know whether this is a sign of cynicism or just him not fully able to articulate something. It also illustrates just how much the film and the franchise owes to Sir Alec Guinness's work - he may famously have had no love for what became his most famous role, but he got Obi-Wan, giving glimpses of the warrior in exile who knew how to weaponize his worldliness and Luke's inexperience. That Lucas could build out this mythology is in no small part due to Guinness hinting at complexity.

Twenty-odd years on, the Special Edition updates have aged faster than the practical work from 1977, enough to push me from not really minding them to hoping Disney gives us 4K versions of the original cuts at the first opportunity. On the other hand, one of the interesting things about this presentation was how they suggest that maybe films should not always be entirely frozen in amber - especially in the second half, Maestro Lockhart's arrangements occasionally seemed just different enough from those of John Williams to notice, and it helped make an old favorite a bit more new and thrilling.

Star Wars evolves, even when you're getting back to basics.

The Dark Crystal

* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 May 2019 in Somerville Theatre #1 (70mm and Widescreen Festival, 70mm)

My fondness for this one fluctuates as I see it; it is, on the one hand, a bold and remarkable achievement, a pure fantasy that somehow got financed and into theaters despite being utterly unlike anything audiences have seen before except maybe the works of Jan Svankmajer, and that's not exactly mainstream itself. On the other, there is a Muppet-y chaos underneath the grandiosity, the sense of humor maybe undercutting Jim Henson's ideas for an epic story. It doesn't quite work when it can't blow the viewer's mind, although it's still admirable.

Digging through the blog, I'm mildly amused to note that the first time I blogged seeing it, in 2005, I mention a sequel that the Henson family is working on, and that project is just emerging now, a limited-series prequel that will be on Netflix at the end of August. I find myself wondering if the lore is really sturdy enough to support that sort of expansion - or if it can be done without dragging the tone away from Henson's anarchy.

Avengers: Endgame

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 April 2019 in AMC Boston Common #8 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)
Seen 19 May 2019 in AMC Assembly Row #1 (first-run, Imax digital)

A second time through, this time in IMAX rather than 3D, confirms that this is maybe not perfect or hefty, but it is tremendously satisfying. The filmmakers have two jobs here - the biggest superhero action movie ever made and a satisfying conclusion to teen years of build-up - and somehow they pull both off and make each half complement the other.

I love the way they built this thing, using a time-travel plot so that everything is a reminder of (and revisit to) all of the ways that the audience has enjoyed the previous movies. It mixes up the pure fun and the grace notes so that the movie never feels empty or cloying, and serves up little surprises that make the audience smile stupidly. All of what the audience has seen before matters, but it's not just homework, and the combined retconning/demolition is awfully clever (and in many cases, the sort of thing you can only do when you know you won't have to deal with the fallout). It's also weirdly reassuring that a bunch of people who didn't have to come back did. They apparently like this stuff too, and weren't just collecting a paycheck.

The execution is good; the action isn't exactly what we got in John Wick 3 a few days ago (little is), but as "enough special effects to fill an IMAX screen" goes, it's solid even from the second row, and the cast all has these guys down pat to the point where the ones that aren't returning will be genuinely missed. But like their characters, they've given a lot over the past decade, and now, as with any big comic book event, it's time to see what the new faces and new arrangements can bring.

Be Natural Long Day's Journey Into Night Fugue All Is True Detective Pikachu Shadow

Star Wars John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum Aniara The Dark Crystal Avengers: Endgame

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