Monday, August 12, 2019

This Week in Tickets: 5 August 2019 - 11 August 2019

Back from Montreal, and London not long before that, and Hong Kong a little while earlier, and I'll often say the MBTA isn't that bad, but, yikes, while those places aren't perfect, there's a certain basic level of reliability to their public transportation that I kind of miss

This Week in Tickets

Anyway, I'm leaving a gap here for Fantasia, and after getting my rest after the trip back, it was back to work and back to the movies on Monday, when I opted to catch Crawl because I'd heard good things online - which were pretty deserved; it knows what it's doing and does it well. And then, when I get home, there's a package with a new camera waiting, which is an ironic thing to get the day after arriving home from vacation.

The next night, I had a ticket to the Red Sox, and my encounters with the T went "the 350 bus is 20 minutes late", "the 350 bus breaks down and we wait by the side of the road for 20 minutes", "ten minute wait for the Red Line at Alewife", "two Green Line trains leave as I arrive at Park Street", and somehow I managed to avoid any more delays on the way to Kenmore (where it fortunately takes just a minute or two to buy some 35mm film for the camera). Once there, the game is not good; the Red Sox lose to the Royals 6-2, and I missed the first couple innings. What the heck happened to this team after last year, right?

Wednesday was for picking up a month's worth of comics (what the hell is DC doing these days? Who actually enjoys this "Year of the Villain" garbage enough for it to be in every damn book?), Thursday had me leaving work at a weird time, and then Friday's ride home just kind of wore me out and threw me off: I got to Alewife, and then actually got stuck in the tunnel between Alewife and Davis, eventually going back and moving to another train. I've gotta say, I kind of figured being on the train that held the whole Red Line up would be more exciting.

I briefly toyed with the idea of heading out to the Liberty Tree Mall to catch Nekrotronic, but guess I'll just settle for VOD after it took a few minutes longer than I'd allotted to get a haircut and I got cold feet at the times listed for transfers on Google, which could leave me all the way out in Salem and having to turn back. Instead, I caught Chinese firefighting adventure The Bravest early and then headed home, watched some baseball, and then caught Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 35mm at the Somerville, a reminder that film looks great and giving it up for the same of easier workflow was a mistake.

Sunday was laundry day, capped with Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Show on Assembly Row's Imax-branded screen. Not bad, but a little try-hard, and it's kind of crazy how weirdly big the spin-off from what started as a pretty modest series (and isn't nearly this grandiose) wound up being.

Sadly, my my Letterboxd page has fallen behind because I couldn't keep up in Montreal, but I'll do my best to keep it current while backfilling the festival stuff.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2019 in AMC Boston Common #8 (first-run, DCP)

This movie does what it's supposed to do with no fuss and does it less than 90 minutes, which is something more horror movies should aspire to. It is a killer-animal movie that knows its job and spends just enough time building everything up to make everything that plays out extremely satisfying. It is the sort of thing you go into knowing it's a large alligator movie, where you spend the first act scoping out the terrain of the house and thinking about just what sort of trouble a corner will be when the reptiles finally appear, and still go "holy shit, gator!" when one shows up.

Around there, it's smart about knowing just how cranked up to be. Kaya Scodelario's Haley and Barry Pepper's father aren't stoic - they react to huge alligators in their basement during a Category Five hurricane with a believable amount of alarm - but they feel like people who can survive and won't exhaust the audience in doing so. The filmmakers are also pretty slick at getting the most of their effects - the CGI gators mesh very well with the practical ones (he says, assuming there are practical gators), and there's just enough gore the get the audience to react without getting to the point where it's taken for granted. They do a nice job of getting the light and sky to feel right, too.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 10 August 2019 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, 35mm)

Quentin Tarantino has always been more than a bit heavy-handed, but something about this movie makes me wonder if, for all the ways in which he is a terrible human being, Harvey Weinstein had a knack for reeling him in just enough. There are a lot of scenes that run just a bit too long here, and cameos that feel just a little too cute in part because people watching the movie know who his rep stable is. Maybe he could use a producer who knows how to say "this is great, but..."

Of course, the movie is great in a lot of ways - Tarantino's pure love of Hollywood and the movies comes through in how Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate seems to be radiating pure joy most of the time on-screen, even as a bit about not being recognized at the box office of a theater showing a movie she's in hints at how fleeting fame can be, for instance. He gives the audience a couple of men who have made complete messes of their lives and lets the audience wonder just how worthy of second chances they are even while acknowledging that they can't just stop living and working. I don't know that Leonardo DiCaprio is quite playing against type here, but he vanishes inside the tough-guy actor who is in truth a mess of insecurities in a way that he has seldom done before. It's a performance that's almost too funny and bombastic to feel good, but it nevertheless plays as authentic.

And it's gorgeous, between how Tarantino clearly shoots this to be seen on film first and foremost, framing shots wide enough that even 2K high definition is going to lose significant detail and making great use of twilight, and how the crew puts 1969 Los Angeles together, both via visual effects and in terms of design, with the occasional wink toward how filmmakers make the past feel contemporary without being anachronistic. It's fun to see Zoe Bell graduate to full stunt coordinator here; this isn't an action movie, but her and Quentin being on the same wavelength helps out a lot when the time for action comes. There's a great sequence in the middle that does a fantastic job of making the Manson Family the stuff of horror movies but also showing how people can dismiss it and the like until it's too late.

I'll still probably be happy to catch it again on 35mm while my local place is still running it that way, even if it's not quite up there with my favorite Tarantino flicks.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 August 2019 in AMC Assembly Row #1 (first-run, Imax digital)

There are credits for 3D conversion on this movie, nestled among an honestly absurd number of mid/post-credit scenes, but we don't get 3D in America, which is kind of a shame: This big dumb movie that just doesn't know when to scale back and never has any heft despite always cranking up the scale could not only use a bit of fake 3D, it probably deserves it.

(Yes, I checked the Hong Kong movie times app that is still on my phone to see if they got it in 3D - they did - and did you know there is a sequel to Minuscule and a new movie starring Simon Yam and Weathering with You playing there?)

Anyway, for as much fun as the Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham team-ups were in the previous F&F movies, a whole movie is a lot of two puffed-up headcases bickering, especially since the intended counterweight is Vanessa Kirby just wanting no part of their stupidity. They're all trying too hard to be cool but never get tested in a way that makes them overcome it. Meanwhile, Idris Elba is given a potentially great true believer of an antagonist but the script makes him muscle rather than mastermind - apparently they're saving the alpha villain for a sequel - and the two cameos that could have actually served as fun complements to the very serious stars are trying too hard to be scene-stealers.

David Leitch is still pretty good at action even when he doesn't have people as happy to get down and dirty as Keanu Reeves or Charlize Theron (that Statham is less tied up in being an unstoppable force than Johnson tends to make him more fun to watch), but he's got a solid sense of how things move and tug at each other, from Elba's motorcycle that seems like an extension of the cyborg assassin and seemingly wants to be with him to the finale which, while shown plenty in the trailer, is still a genuinely terrific set-piece, even if it seems as deliberate in the world of the film as it does as part of a film.

It's fun, even if its old-school James Bond villains seem as far removed from the later Fast & Furious movies as they themselves are from the first movie's plot that involved stealing a few VCRs. It's a big, dumb movie, but probably wouldn't have worked smaller and smarter.

Red Sox 2, Royals 6
The Bravest
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Hobbs & Shaw

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