Friday, January 31, 2020

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 31 January 2020 - 6 February 2020

Oscars in less than a week and a half, which doesn't leave a lot of time for catching up. The ceremony is crazy early this year.

  • There are, at least, plenty of places to catch up on nominated films, with the Oscar-Nominated Shorts playing not just the The Coolidge Corner Theatre, Kendall Square, Cinema Salem, and The ICA as usual, but also Boston Common, Causeway Street, and the Luna in Lowell. The Coolidge, the Kendall, and Boston Common have Animation and Live Action every day, while Causeway Street and CinemaSalem have them and the Documentaries as well. The ICA has Live Action on Friday, Saturday, and Thursday and Animation on Saturday and Sunday; the Luna has animation on Friday and Saturday, Live Action on Saturday and Tuesday, and Documentaries on Saturday and Monday. Docs will also be coming to the Coolidge and ICA next weekend.

    Aside from the ones that are still kicking around in release, several places are doing Best Picture showcases, with Boston Common having a single ticket with Ford v Ferrari, Joker and Little Women on Saturday while Fenway and Kendall Square are running Best Picture series. Fenway and Boston Common are skipping the Netflix productions, but the Kendall will be including Marriage Story and The Irishman in theirs.
  • While that's going on, there is new stuff opening. The Rhythm Section is a rare non-Bond film from Eon Productions, with Blake Lively as a woman seeking vengeance on those she believes killed her family and Jude Law as her mentor. That's at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Causeway Street, Fenway, the Seaport, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Revere. There's also Gretel & Hansel, a consciously dark take on the myth from cult horror director Osgood Perkins. It's at Boston Common, Causeway Street, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    Fenway has an encore of Russian fantasy comedy Kholop (aka Peasant) on Sunday afternoon. For anime fans, Revere seems to be the only place around here playing The Wonderland (which I found okay but not great at Fantasia), with one subtitled show Wednesday evening. The ArcLight on Causeway is doing a 29 Days of Free Film program, although apparently all of the tickets have been reserved at their website, although there is a survey/mailing list to let you know if they release more.
  • Apple Fresh Pond turns over their slate of Indian film, opening Telugu action movie Ashwathama; Hindi biopic Gul Makai, starring Reem Shaikh as Malala Yousafzai; Hindi comedy Jawaani Jaaneman, in which Saif Ali Khan's playboy discovers he has an adult daughter on Friday. Tamil-language action movie Dagaalty plays on Friday and Saturday, with Marathi political thriller Dhurala, also playing on the 1st. Panga continues from last week and Ancham Pathira plays one more show on Sunday.

    Dominican comedy Los Leones continues in Revere, and Japanese animated fantasy Weathering with You sticks around for another week at Boston Common. The latter also brings back Ne Zha to fill the Chinese-movie shaped hole left after the Lunar New Year movies were canceled, which Well Go is promoting as a new English dub, although the listings don't indicate dubbed or subtitled for these shows.
  • The Brattle Theatre pays tribute to the late Agnès Varda with a series of Varda Rarities: Lions Love (...and Lies) & One Hundred and One Nights play as a double feature on Friday, with Cinevardaphoto and Daguerréotypes paired on Saturday. There's an early matinee of The World of Jacques Demy on Sunday, with the rest of the day a double feature of shorts programs that cover 45 years of filmmaking. The series finishes with Jacquot de Nantes on Monday.

    After that, they begin a short run of Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood on 35mm film, with shows on Tuesday and Wednesday before it (temporarily) cedes the screen to the opening night of Boston Jewish Film's Boston Israeli Film Festival, which welcomes special guests for the premiere of Aulcie.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre has a 35mm print of They Live at midnight on Friday and Us on Saturday, with the latter day also featuring a midnight show of Cats. The Somerville is also doing late-ish "audience participation" shows, and I'm mildly curious to what extent this national attempt to make Cats a cult movie right away, without it fading into obscurity and being rediscovered, is organic and to what extent it's Universal trying to get something out of that debacle.

    There's also a Science on Screen Jr. show of Big Hero 6 on Sunday morning, with a robotics engineer teaching kids about soft and swarm robotics. Monday's Stage & Screen show is Chaplin's Modern Times, with post-film discussion with cast & crew from the Huntington Theatre Company's Sweat.
  • The Harvard Film Archive has more 35mm Silent Hitchcock this weekend, with The Lodger at 7pm Friday and Blackmail at the same time Saturday & Sunday, with the latter the sound version. Friday night's "Cinema of Resistance" show is Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool, screening on film at 9pm (note that it was pushed back a half hour after they adjusted The Lodger to play at a lower frame rate). The one Angela Schanelec film this weekend is a 35mm print of Orly (9pm Saturday), while the second shorts program in The Films and Videos of Richard Serra plays Monday evening, with a couple on 16mm film.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts continues the Boston Festival of Films from Japan, with The Island of Cats and Takashi Miike's First Love both playing on Friday and Sunday. There's also a nifty-looking show on Thursday, with "The Blunderwood Portable" showing the construction of an oversized Underwood typewriter sculpture, with a performance by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra and post-film discussion from the director and the featured artists
  • The Regent Theatre has two more screenings of Rolling Stone: The Life and Death of Brian Jones on Saturday and Tuesday, as well as a special matinee show of The Lorax to celebrate Tu B'Shevat, "The Birthday of the Trees", on Saturday morning.
  • Bright Lights continues its Spring series with The Dead Don't Die on Tuesday and All We've Got on Thursday, with the post-film discussion of the latter including writer/director (and Emerson alumnus) Alexis Clements. Both free shows are open to the public in the Paramount Theater's Bright Screening Room with post-film discussion from Emerson faculty.
  • In addition to the shorts, The Luna Theater has Breakfast at Tiffany's on Sunday, after that morning's surprise Magical Mystery Movie Club show, with Weirdo Wednesday also chugging along.

Silent Hitchcock, Oscar shorts, and maybe drilling down through the piles and piles of Blu-rays for me.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

This Week in Tickets: 20 January 2020 - 26 January 2020

I think that this is the first time my employers have given us Martin Luther King Jr. Day off in the fifteen years I've been there. Did I make much use of the extra time? No!

This Week in Tickets

Still, I had a pleasant day catching up on sleep and otherwise lazing around before heading to the Harvard Film Archive for Eve's Bayou, which probably was playing at the Webster Square 2-plex in Worcester or barely showed up in Portland, depending where I was when it was released, so I missed it. The 35mm print was gorgeous and I wish I'd been able to recommend this film for much longer. It's interesting that it does a lot of things well that I didn't particularly like in Lemmons's Harriet.

It was a busy work-week after that (plus, Thursday was set aside for Star Trek: Picard), so I didn't hit the theaters again until Friday, when I made my first trip to the Brattle for their early science fiction series, which kicked off with Mieles's "A Trip to the Moon" playing before H.G. Wells's Things to Come. A fairly appropriate way to start the series, in both cases, although the feature suggests that this whole sci-fi thing took practice.

On Saturday, I did a bit of Oscar catch-up by finally seeing Jojo Rabbit, which wasn't as bad as I feared, but which isn't really good, either. After that it was back up the Red Line for the HFA's Silent Hitchcock show, The Farmer's Wife", which is okay but makes one think that maybe straight comedy just wasn't Hitchcock's thing, because a director with that much talent should have been able to make that work with almost zero effort. After that, it was home, and Hugo, because when you see "A Trip to the Moon" on Friday, it's hard to resist the urge to rewatch this before the weekend is out.

Sunday was something of a repeat, just shifted up a few hours: Catching French Oscar nominee Les Misérables while it's still playing a couple of shows per day on the Coolidge's GoldScreen, the 66 bus back to Harvard Square for more silent Hitchcock - in this case, The Pleasure Garden - and then over to the Kendall for Color Out of Space, which was surprisingly busy for something kind of getting a token release. Folks around here apparently do like Nicolas Cage, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Stanley, or some combination of the three!

After that, more early sci-fi, which has dutifully been logged on my Letterboxd page, but that's next week's post.

Eve's Bayou

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 January 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (special presentation, 35mm)

Before getting to anything else, let me say that Kasi Lemmons impresses fast here. This is a flat-out gorgeous film, with lush detail that maybe you can get out of a digital camera now but certainly couldn't until recently, and even now you kind of have to use filters to put that character in. From the very start, it uses its setting and history to create the perfect atmosphere, one of heat and danger but also one where the young protagonist's belief in family mythology is both innocent and dangerous. It takes just moments to settle into a comfortable African-American community in 1960s Louisiana, no matter how far removed that may be from one's own background. It's also not long before one can see how Eve's innocence and petulance can be a dangerous brew.

(Coincidentally, I saw Little Women the night before and I suspect that they combine for a pretty good double feature on middle-child issues, and it's kind of amazng how naturally and easily the sibling relationships sort of line up)

Aside from just making a beautiful film, writer/director Lemmons builds something that's both impressively intricate but also with plenty of room for mystery. Between the weaknesses of human memory and the second sight that is allegedly passed down through Eve's family, there's a lot in this movie that could be on somewhat shaky ground, in terms of narrative, but Lemmons shows a real skill at making this something baked into the story without pushing it too far in the direction of fantasy. Things click into place throughout the second half of the movie, but without the push that supernatural gives feeling unfair. It's a Cassandra situation which basically means you can see disaster coming but can't prevent it, and that just makes the plot devices into local color.

It's sometimes a lot to lay on the shoulders of a child actress, but Jurnee Smollett proves to be up to everything Lemmons throws at her. Does it mean anything that she and on-screen sister Meagan Good both managed to carve out adult careers over the ensuing decades while other impressive child performers don't? Maybe not, as there's randomness to the process of growing up, but it at least means someone spotted talent. The film's also got one of Samuel L. Jackson's best roles, one that taps into his charisma without making a show of it the way many of his later movies would, letting him unite Louis's charm and weakness so as to make him tragic but not dour. Debi Morgan gets the sort of fun, showy role that would eventually be Jackson's specialty, and makes it a kick to watch without necessarily making it look like being this person is always fun.

I'd really love to see Lemmons and Jackson work together again; they seem to bring out the best in each other.

"Une Voyage dans la Lune" ("A Trip to the Moon")

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 January 2020 in the Brattle Theatre (Things to Come: The Birth of Sci-Fi Cinema, DCP)

Is there more to say about this than what I said before? Probably not; it's a pure fantasy and trying to read too much into its explorers defying the stuffy scientific establishment who present themselves as wizards or the way they just run roughshod over the native life they find at the moon likely says more about how shallow my knowledge of turn-of-the-twentieth century Europe than anything really clever.

Still, just look at this thing. Consider that it was made at the dawn of cinema, and feels both freewheeling and dense, a few minutes of fast-paced mayhem that had to be planned precisely. It's partly happenstance that the man in the moon with a rocket in his eye became the image that defines early cinema to people, but also wholly reasonable, as this is something that burrows directly into the imagination.

What I thought of a Méliès "Ciné-Concert" a few years back

Things to Come

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 January 2020 in the Brattle Theatre (Things to Come: The Birth of Sci-Fi Cinema, digital)

Time has been kinder to Things to Come than it might have been; a modern viewer can see an unfortunate believability in its villains and an arrogance to its utopian visions that were perhaps not intended at the time. The future we live in is strange and not what most envisioned, the types of progress that H.G. Wells and the filmmakers extolled has been revealed as a mixed blessing, and the film is lucky to be well-enough made that some of that emerges from the details.

Some things have come back around, though. The filmmakers' fears of an all-consuming conflict are likely darker than most in 1936 would allow themselves to imagine, and its idealized future feels real enough in terms of lived-in details, with one of he nicer bits of "grandfather explains old world to grandchild" bits. The anti-progress orator comes across as a strawman, but, well, look at 2020. The effects work shows some seams, but the design is nice and most of the execution is excellent.

It's dull, though, more so because there is often such bombast around the boring characters that the film cycles through, sometimes with the same actors playing descendants who don't differentiate themselves. There wasn't much like it at the time, so filmmakers likely had to go slower, but there's seldom the feel of a story being told, history being related, or a point being made, just a movie that lands slickly but uncomfortably between all the things it could do.

Jojo Rabbit

* * (out of four)
Seen 25 January 2020 in AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run, DCP)

This movie isn't as completely ill-conceived as it seems from the first few minutes, but Taika Waititi is awfully timid underneath the flamboyant surface. There's room in the world for comedy about how Nazis are ridiculous and laughable as well as evil, as well as stories about how kids can wind up under the sway of monsters (but hopefully find their way out), but this movie and its makers never seems to have the guts to acknowledge that there's cruelty as well as absurdity for more than a moment or two. It has a scene or two of bullying early that's supposed to last us the film, but otherwise doesn't wrestle with how there are actual human beings making decisions there. Stuff just happens and the most effort they put into finding reasons for that is to set up a situation where Jojo can't actually do anything.

The production is slick as heck, with screwy whimsy and snappy pacing. Director/co-star Waititi does what he does extremely well, even if it always feels misguided to do so. I suspect that the movie's best work is done by Sam Rockwell, and that watching the film a second time will reveal a more obviously deliberate history of screwups disguised as incompetent evil on Captain K's part. And while Thomasin Mackenzie doesn't have the material to work with here that she had in Leave No Trace, the film would probably completely fall apart without her. She makes Ella scared and angry but a survivor while at least hinting at who she was before all of this.

The Farmer's Wife

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 25 January 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (Silent Hitchcock, 35mm accompanied by Robert Humphreville)

You can sort of see the shape of The Farmer's Wife from the start - the handsome widower determines to remarry, but none of the eligible women he woos measure up to his devoted housekeeper - and as such it's kind of a surprise when it's basically him screwing it up by being an entitled jackass. It's the sort of situation you expect to see capsize due to being in over one's head rather than through arrogance.

Oh, this farmer got reason to think he'll have an easy time of it, sure - star James Thomas was handsome as heck (and maybe a bit young to be playing a widower whose daughter just married, although generations happened fast a century ago), and seems generally decent, so you can see why he would begin this process so confident. It's just that the means by which he screws it up makes one wonder why he doesn't also wind up pushing housekeeper 'Minta away. It's a weirdly classist way of building the picture - a landed gentleman can be humbled, but not so much that the lower classes lose their respect.

The film is generally likable, though, with Thomas and Lillian Hall-Davis playing well off each other, and a supporting cast that gets to be weirdly eccentric without becoming objects of ridicule. Director Alfred Hitchcock doesn't leave a huge impression on this silent movie, but you can see him in the way that the final act becomes a smoothly-running machine, where what's going to happen next is obvious as heck but he and his cast still put it together into something the audience can nevertheless find genuine.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 25 January 2020 in Jay's Living Room (watching discs, 3D Blu-Ray)

If you had to total up the movie I saw most often in theaters during the 2010s, I suspect Hugo would wind up on top. It wasn't just that I loved it, but that the 3D was amazing and I was pretty sure that I'd never get a chance to see it like that again, since I'd only purchased an HDTV a couple years ago and wasn't figuring to upgrade anytime soon. Flash forward the better part of a decade, I got the last model of 3D/4K sets made for the U.S., double-dipped to get this on a 3D disc, and then when seeing "A Trip to the Moon" again created the desire to re-watch his, popped it in.

It is still a pretty fantastic movie from the word go - I love how Scorsese is willing to just jump right into Hugo being kind of abrasive and damaged rather than having it emerge, how there's room for a lot of interesting characters, and how even the self-indulgent moments don't veer too far. The 3D cinematography is still amazing, too, although it's only one factor in how this film wows me even beyond being built out of things I love.

Original review from 2011

The Pleasure Garden

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (Silent Hitchcock, 35mm accompanied by Martin Marks)

I am awfully glad that the accompanist told us the trick to telling the two leading ladies apart (though they look very similar, their hairstyles are mirror images), because otherwise it would be pretty confusing in the early going. It's odd that Hitchcock doesn't play with that more explicitly, even considering that this is his first silent feature and he was working as a director for hire. Sure, it's easy enough to see the parallels anyway, but imagine if Hitchcock had so obviously been Hitchcock from the start!

With that in mind, it's easy to see The Pleasure Garden as more than it is, right down to an ending that's some classic Hitchcock "screw it, there's nothing left to say, let's just wrap it up". It's a script filled with stock characters that don't necessarily fit together that well, and even considering it was released in 1925, it seems like it should be a lot sexier than it winds up being. There are some bits I really like, showing what the director could do, most notably a pan across a row in the audience that shows a different sort of lasciviousness on each person's face, but unfortunately cuts away from the woman who looks bored. Like a lot of his earliest films, it's pedestrian material that at least reveals him as knowing how to use his tools like a good craftsman, if not yet an auteur.

The print projected was a restored 35mm print that included tints and twenty minutes previously thought lost, and looked nice indeed. I do wonder if there's more missing, or if the filmmakers were just impressively ruthless about ditching threads when they were no longer useful, as a lot seems to be built up as important but set aside once it's no longer important to Patsy's story.

Eve's Bayou
A Trip to the Moon & Things to Come
Jojo Rabbit
The Farmer's Wife
Les Misérables
The Pleasure Garden
Color Out of Space

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Color Out of Space

Hey, this is getting a second week at Kendall Square! Not surprising just in terms of it doing well for them - there was a good crowd when I went to see it Sunday night, and you don't exactly get a good crowd for anything on Sunday night - but it's kind of surprising; most theaters in the area played it as a one-night thing via Fathom (or something Fathom-like), and it's coming out on video just a month after its theatrical release, and most chains balk at anything less than a three-month window. Considering that the Kendall is not exactly the place you go for horror in general - and Richard Stanley, while kind of an interesting auteur, isn't really an art-house guy - that's a bunch of people turning out for it. I suspect that for a lot of them it's a Nicolas Cage thing bubbling up into theaters, but who knows, maybe there's a bigger Lovecraft fandom out there than I know.

Good for Stanley, too. I don't believe I've seen any of his movies - I've got a disc of Hardware that I picked up, and zonked out during the Fantasia screening of L'autre Monde. That latter experience was genuinely unusual, and there was a deep affection for Stanley from everyone there (and you really can't miss him when he comes to Fantasia either in support of a project or just to attend). He's a guy that I mentally put in the same category of Alan Moore and Alejandro Jodoowsky, creators who have an element of mysticism to them that's probably natural-but-cultivated, enough that it's sometimes more surprising than it should be when they turn out to be pretty good at just doing the work of actually making a film.

Color Out of Space

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2020 in Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run, DCP)

Color Out of Space is the first horror movie in a while to have me giving second glances to things I saw out of the corner of my eye between the theater and the bus stop, so if nothing else, I've got to give it credit for working on that purely visceral level. It's better than that, though; Richard Stanley's film genuinely gave me the creeps and I can only "yeah, but..." that in one or two fairly minor ways.

It starts off by referring to a more grounded bit of horror as Lavinia Gardner (Madeleine Arthur) does a sort of neo-pagan ritual to hopefully dispel the cancer that mother Theresa (Joely Richardson) has been fighting, before being interrupted by hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight) and returning home to her family's farm, deep in the Arkham, Massachusetts woods, where father Nathan (Nicolas Cage) is making a go of raising alpacas and brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) wanders off to get high with squatter Ezra (Tommy Chong). Youngest brother Jack (Julian Hilliard) already awake when a meteor crashes into the yard that night, glowing a strange color and seeming to assail the other senses as well. It soon starts sinking into the ground but nevertheless having an uncanny effect on the farm and those in it.

Stanley and co-writer Scarlett Amaris are adapting a story by H.P. Lovecraft, and while hardly the first, this is likely the highest-profile one to actually get made (Guillermo del Toro and Tom Cruise had a big-budget project fall apart shortly before filming). Despite Lovecraft's long-lasting influence and popularity, adapting him has often proved difficult as his strengths - the quality of his prose and its descriptions of terrors which the human mind cannot comprehend - are not an easy match for film, and that his conception of those terrors was likely rooted in a level of racism and xenophobia that raised eyebrows in the early twentieth century does not help. Stanley and company do what they can to see the story modernized but not awkwardly so, from making sure that the most decent and reasonable character is African-American to establishing Theresa's cancer as a way for the viewer to think of something invasive and mutating from the start. It is, perhaps, a little less abstract than the story, and less mysterious if only because there have been decades of pop-culture terrors brought to Earth via meteors since its publication, but it becomes a filmable movie that way, giving the cast room to show how this messes the characters up.

Full review on EFilmCritic

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Les Misérables '19

This is coming and going fast, huh? In and out of Kendall Square and Boston Common in a week, even though the latter suddenly had three extra screens to fill thanks to the Chinese New Year movies being pulled, and quickly down to two shows a day in the GoldScreen at the Coolidge after already starting in the Screening Room, despite actually picking up the Oscar nomination that a lot of foreign-film acquisitions like this are counting on to go wider. I know this seems to happen a lot with Amazon Studios movies, and I kind of wonder why this is, as even Netflix movies sometimes seem to hang around a bit more when they deign to put them in theaters. Is it just generally known that this is the only chance you'll get to see Netflix things on the big screen, while people know Amazon tries to play nice, so they get taken for granted?

At any rate, that made this matinee tight enough that I knew to buy my ticket the day before to get a seat in the 15-person room, which either got over-sold or had someone at the wrong show but unwilling to admit it. Fortunately, there's apparently a seat in the room that they don't sell (either because it's awful or for situations like this), so we all got to see the film. I will note that the usher called it "Les Miz" when asking us to check our tickets, and I kind of don't think you should shorten this movie's name that way. That's the musical, to the point where it seems odd when someone refers to that production by its full name, and not just because they're probably even less used to French pronunciation than I am.

Still, good movie, which probably has five shows left in the Coolidge's smallest room, but is still worth checking out even if it will likely be on prime a couple weeks after it leaves there

Les misérables

* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2020 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre's GoldScreen (first-run, DCP)

Les Misérables, France's entry for Best International Feature in this year's Academy Awards, is absolutely something that many viewers will have seen before, even if many American viewers may be a bit surprised by Paris's demographics, but it plays out well. That this is what happens is somewhat inevitable, since you can't really make a movie about poor people and minorities not trusting the police actually be shocking in this day and age; even a fiction filmmaker can just document or speculate upon the mechanisms by which the situation sustains itself or breaks down, hoping to make something that speaks to those who already understand and attracts the attention of those who might be persuaded.

So, the meat of the film starts with a familiar situation: Stéphane Ruiz (Damien Bonnard) is a cop who has just transferred to Paris to be close to his son, and on his first day is assigned to ride with Chris (Alexis Manenti), the unit commander who embraces the nickname "Pink Pig", and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), Chris's more laid-back partner who actually doesn't stick out like a sore thumb in a district where much of the population is poor, black, and/or Muslim. It is expected to by a quiet day - at 35 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit), people aren't inclined to come out and start trouble - and is, more or less, until members of a traveling circus start raising hell at a local market, claiming their lion cub was stolen. Issa (Issa Perica), a kid known for finding his way into trouble, is the one who was dumb enough to post about it on social media, and things get more explosive when another kid about the same age, Buzz (Al-Hassan Ly), is flying a drone when Chris's team chases Issa down.

First, though, Filmmaker Ladj Ly shows us people gathering in the center of town, following the World Cup as France makes an unexpectedly deep run, kids wearing the French tricolor as a cape and all cheering together. It's a scene where nothing particularly happens, but it's useful for setting the scene, reminding audiences who might not be aware just how many people of color live in and around Paris and even, specifically, how many of the athletes whose names people are shouting have commented that they are French when they win and African when they lose. I'm anxious for a second viewing to see just how many characters from later in the movie show up here so that Ly can show the ideal Paris, even as it is quickly revealed to be an illusion.

Full review on EFilmCritic

Friday, January 24, 2020

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 24 January 2020 - 30 January 2020

Well, this was going to lead off with Chinese New Year, but then some coronavirus shows up in Wuhan and suddenly all seven movies that were set to open in China for the holiday are just yanked from the schedule and a city larger than New York is basically quarantined. So we're mostly stuck with English-language stuff this week.

  • I'm not sure whether The Gentlemen has been in development so long that Miramax was a thing when it started or if the Qatari group that owns the library is actually making new movies. It's a return to gritty-but-witty gangster material for Guy Ritchie, with Matthew McConnaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Colin Farrell, and more, and plays at Kendall Square, the Somerville, Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Causeway Street, Fenway, the Seaport, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    Kendall Square and The West Newton Cinema also have The Song of Names, featuring Tim Roth and Clive Owen as a pair of foster brothers who met when one was rescued from the Holocaust as a child and separated when he (a talented violinist) disappeared before a performance. The Kendall is alone in picking up Color Out of Space, with Richard Stanley directing Nicolas Cage in an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft for a regular run. They also host the "Sundance Film Festival Live" presentation of The Climb, including the introduction and Q&A.
  • The other big-ish release this week is The Turning, which updates Henry James's The Turning of the Screw to the 1990s and stars Mackenzie Davis. It's at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Revere. There's also The Last Full Measure, detailing the thirty-year campaign for a war hero to be recognized for his bravery, featuring a heck of a list of character actors. That's at Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere. 1917 takes over the Imax screens at Jordan's furniture (and probably Boston Common, which was going to have Chinese movies playing).

    Fenway has Kholop ("Peasant"), a Russian comedy about the child of a rich family (Milos Bikovic) who wakes up as a 19th-century peasant, on Wednesday evening.
  • Apple Fresh Pond gets a new slate of Indian movies this week, starting with Hindi-language Panga, starring Kangana Ranaut as a champion Kabbadi player. It looks like they're playing Hindi-language Street Dancer 3 in 2D despite the title having a "D" after its name elsewhere (it actually follows the ABCD movies, but apparently another studio owns that trademark), while Telugu-language Disco Raja is actually more a sci-fi action thing than dance. To further confuse things, Tamil-language Psycho looks to have nothing to do with the better-known film by that name aside from involving a serial killer. There's another killer in Malayalam thriller Ancham Pathira, which plays Saturday through Tuesday. They also have English-language film John Henry, starring Terry Crews as a big ex-gangster with a hammer, once a night.

    Dominican comedy Los Leones (retitled "Que Leones" for the USA) opens in Revere, while Japanese animated fantasy Weathering with You picks up a screen at Fenway which will mostly be showing it dubbed into English, with Boston Common showing it subtitled.
  • The Brattle Theatre starts a year of science fiction programming with "Things to Come: The Birth of Sci-Fi Cinema", which includes some early and overlooked entries in the genre. Friday pairs namesake film Things to Come (made with H.G. Wells's involvement) with Georges Méliès "A Trip to the Moon", while Saturday has a silent-film double feature of Metropolis & Aelita: The Queen of Mars. Sunday is a "mad scientist marathon" featuring Frankenstein '31, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde '32, Island of Lost Souls, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein. Monday is Boris Karloff on 35mm day with The Man They Could Not Hang & The Boogie Man Will Get You, while Tuesday has a free "Elements of Cinema" show of The Day the Earth Stood Still and a 35mm print of musical Just Imagine, set 50 years in the future (from 1930). French silent L'Inhumaine is paired with short "Paris Qui Dort" on Wednesday, and it wraps with more 35mm mad scientists on Thursday as Mad Love and Dr. Cyclops play a double feature.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre brings back Pain and Glory for a couple shows a day on the GoldScreen, splitting that 14-seater with Les Miserables and Uncut Gems

    The 1988 remake of The Blob has Friday night's "midnight 35mm alien invasion" slot, with The Room on the other screen while The Thing has its last midnight show for a while on Saturday. There's a Soul Witness screening event on Monday evening and a Panorama presentation of No Small Matter on Wednesday, both of which will be followed with panel discussion.
  • The Harvard Film Archive continues "Find Without Seeking: The Films of Angela Schanelec", with "I Stayed in Berlin All Summer" (Friday 7pm with shorts), Afternoon (Friday 9pm), Passing Summer (Saturday 9:30pm), and Places in Cities (Sunday 7pm), all on 35mm film. There's a Weekend Matinee of Tito and the Birds on Saturday, before the first of two 35mm Silent Hitchcock restorations, The Farmer's Wife (Saturday 7pm) and The Pleasure Garden (Sunday 4:30pm). Monday evening, Benjamin Buchloch introduces the first of four programs feature The Films and Videos of Richard Serra, in this case shorts screening on 16mm film.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts ends the January calendar with more of the Festival of Films from Iran, including Untimely (Friday/Saturday), Orange Days (Friday), Just 6.5 (Saturday), and Old Men Never Die (Sunday). On Thursday, they get a head start on February's Boston Festival of Films from Japan with a free screening of Okko's Inn, including a DJ and koi kite making. Tickets must be reserved starting at 10am on the day of the screening.
  • The Regent Theatre has a number of film programs this week, starting on Friday night with Long Strange Trip, a four-hour beast of a documentary on the Grateful Dead. They've got independent horror Crypsis on Sunday afternoon and a screening of Fantastic Fungi with exhibits and post-show Q&A for those looking to learn more. It's back to music docs on Thursday, with the first of their three screenings of Rolling Stone: The Life and Death of Brian Jones.
  • Bright Lights starts its spring schedule on Thursday with a good one, Knives Out. As always, it's free to the public in the Paramount Theater's Bright Screening Room with post-film discussion from Emerson faculty.
  • The ICA appears to be getting a jump-start on the other places playing the Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts, with their first show on Thursday evening, and a schedule that implies we won't get to see the docs until just before the awards.
  • The Luna Theater has several shows of Parasite - one Friday, two Saturday, and one Tuesday, and one more of Uncut Gems on Saturday. Kubrick Sundays continue with a full-day slate of A Clockwork Orange, and there's a UMass Lowell Philosophy & Film show of The Outsiders on Monday. Plus, of course, the Sunday morning Magical Mystery Movie Club and Weirdo Wednesday.

I will mostly be living at the Brattle for the 1930s sci-fi, and haven't really started to figure out what I'll be doing with the time I was going to spend watching Chinese movies in Imax.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

This Week in Tickets: 13 January 2020 - 19 January 2020

Not a catch-up! What I actually saw this past week!

This Week in Tickets

Oscar nominations came out Monday, and though I probably should have done some catch-up - both for what was announced and what wasn't but might leave theaters quickly now that they aren't nominated for anything. But "I should" is tough and the new bus schedule combined with winter weather makes it trickier.

Still, Friday brought a new Makoto Shinkai movie to America, and Weathering with You is pretty darn good. Maybe not quite at the level of his best work, but if he's settling into a well-above-average groove, well, there's nothing wrong with that.

After a week of feeling kind of sluggish at work, I enjoyed some serious sleeping in over the weekend, mostly heading out to the Harvard Film Archive for the first couple programs in their "Silent Hitchcock" series: The Manxman and Champagne. Kind of liked the first, not so much the latter, looking forward to more this coming weekend.

The end of the second lined up nicely with getting back to Davis just in time to catch Little Women at the Somerville. I liked it well enough that I'm figuring that I'm going to have to go back and watch Lady Bird, even if it looked insufferable when it was out in theaters.

Probably not this week, but follow my Letterboxd page just in case.

The Manxman

* * * (out of four)
Seen 18 January 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (Silent Hitchcock, 35mm accompanied by Robert Humphreville)

There's a weird moment in Hitchcock's last full silent that demonstrates how relatively little silent films relied on their title cards, as characters' lips move a great deal and the audience fully comprehends that the lady is pregnant by way of a man other than her husband, but it appears to be something one does not say aloud in 1929. Hitch isn't dancing around it, eventually - maybe he thought he was being coy - but you see how he could.

That aside, it's a fine, simple melodrama that tails off a bit toward the end but manages plenty of sympathy for the whole cast of characters and never feels like it's rushing through a very thick book. Anny Ondra is sneaky impressive as the object of two men's affections, never losing Kate's inner clarity even as the film had her go from playful to shattered and miserable (she was also, I cannot help but note, extremely attractive and looks like she would fit in perfectly pulled ninety years into the future). There's not much to it that isn't predictable in some way or other aside from how Kate will sometimes quickly move in a straight line when you might expect a little more hemming and hawing, but those moments are sharply dramatic while the filmmakers have a wry but respectful handle on how to make the bits in between work.


* * (out of four)
Seen 19 January 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (Silent Hitchcock, 35mm accompanied by Martin Marks)

Well, I guess something's got to be Hitchcock's worst movie. I'm not entirely sure that this is it - there are films of his I still haven't seen and, of course, the one that's lost - but it seems likely. It's a screwball comedy plot that's never screwy or terribly sympathetic to the people caught up in that mania, acted out with a bunch of characters that may be recognizable 1920s types but just seem completely undefined a hundred years later. What, exactly, is the appeal of Jean Bradin's boy to Betty Balfour's girl, aside from him being fairly handsome, and what makes him so objectionable to her father (Gordon Harker)? Why should the older man she meets on a transatlantic crossing (Theo Von Alten) become more than just some random man?

There's probably a pretty good screwball farce to be found if one makes a bit of an attempt to answer those questions; Balfour is equally good at plowing through a scene with the momentum of the obliviously rich and pretty or pouting at being treated poorly by her lights, and the writers come up with some entertaining scenarios to drop her into. Hitchcock stages physical comedy as well as he does darker set pieces, and can wink at the audience as he does so: He knows that the audience knows he's shaking the camera to create the appearance of rough water, for instance, but that this knowledge makes both the people stumbling about and Betty able to walk through it in high heels like an old hand at sea travel even funnier. He knows how to use the big, multi-level set of a restaurant as a playground.

He and his co-writers just don't give themselves or their cast a lot to do with this skill. Hitchcock isn't bad at directing comedy - Mr. And Mrs. Smith is charming and his thrillers often contain big laughs - but he isn't the guy you want coming up with the jokes.

Little Women

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 January 2020 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, 35mm)

Not that I've got any idea what girls their age actually like, or if they've read the original book, but I'll bet that my nieces will eat this up. Mostly because they're smart, and it's a really good movie.

It is, from the start, vibrant in ways that both period pieces and adaptations of beloved novels often fail to be, energetic and funny and able to add details in every corner of something people are sure they know, from the ink stains on Jo's fingers to the precise but ramshackle design of every house in the film. It jumps back and forth between childhood and adulthood with grace and occasionally tries to overwhelm the audience with all of these people talking at once and never slowing down because, after all, they know each other so well.

And we do too. The four sisters are clearly family despite being very different, and the way Jo and Amy drive each other absolutely bananas seems very familiar, it not hurting one whit that Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh are two of the most talented young actresses working today. The way that writer/director Greta Gerwig handles these two really impresses, because Jo is the obvious center of the movie and Amy can be a piece of work, but Gerwig lets it feel like regular sibling rivalry rather than something bigger than life. I love the way Timothée Chalamet seems to be right on the line between kind of entitled and worth liking, believably in love with the whole family and the individual girls.

And then there's Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep… If there's any fault to the film, it's that it gets a little arch in some of its last scenes, maybe just a bit too impressed with how cleverly it plays with the novel's ending to make it a little more modern. That is very clever, though, and there's joy to it that matches the energy that the movie has throughout.

Weathering with You
The Manxman
Little Women

Monday, January 20, 2020

This Those Weeks in Tickets: 15 April 2019 - 5 May 2019

Just posted the pages for BUFF, so obviously the ones which include IFFBoston 2019 are next.

This Week in Tickets

This Week in Tickets

This Week in Tickets

This three-week period actually started off with heading out to another series, the Belmont World Film Festival, for Asako I & II on Monday, 25 April. It's a neat little movie in a neat little series (at a venue I kind of dig), although in some ways the thing I remember most is the guest talking about how it was weird, leading me to think that my idea of Japanese films being weird must be awful skewed, because this was barely odd. Or, alternately, she needed to see the anniversary screenings of Audition at the Brattle that weekend.

I didn't; instead, my next bit of Japanese film was finally making it through Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on Saturday, as the Harvard Film Archive had a subtitled 35mm print for one of their family matinees. Good, obviously, and I just hadn't seen it at the right time before. A much better choice than the thoroughly ill-considered new version of Hellboy than I saw later that evening.

The next evening, I would head to the Kendall for a split double feature of Little Woods and Wild Nights with Emily, liking them both, although the latter is the one that probably sticks in my head more, just because it is so unrelentingly odd and peculiar even as it is kind of ruthless in getting what it was going for across.

That was a good warm-up for IFFBoston, where did a (mostly) full schedule:

Posts for those were all over the place as I tried to finish writing BUFF up first but bumped things to the front of the line as they got released. And, yes, I did kind of wind up taking a day off, mostly because I got held up on the MBTA and sometime around Charles, I knew that I would not make it to the Coolidge in time for The Sound of Silence and decided to get off, watch Avengers: Endgame in 3D, and figure that the stuff that plays the Tuesday night shows at the Coolidge usually wind up getting regular releases anyway. Sadly, this turned out not to be the case for either movie playing there that night, but I'd at least get to see The Art of Self-Defense at Fantasia.

It's enough to make you want to do something else for a few days, but there's new stuff every week, and I hit Always Miss You and Savage on the weekend, even if they weren't exactly the two Chinese films I'd been hoping would open in Boston that weekend. Neither were particularly great, but there's at least something interesting in Savage that could have been really good but for the inevitable censorship.

I wasn't going to see them on back-to-back days, but getting out to Danvers to see Bolden is a tricky four-legged process if you use public transportation, so I had to divert on Saturday before finally making it on Sunday. On the one hand, not exactly a good enough movie to be worth that sort of day-eating effort; on the other, I'd been waiting almost nine years to see the dang thing after having it teased at the Apollo Theater in 2010, so I wasn't going to miss it on the one chance I had to see it on the big screen.

As you can see, it's especially important to follow my Letterboxd page during festivals, because they will just take forever to write up.

Kaze no tani no Naushika (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 20 April 2019 in the Harvard Film Archive (Weekend Matinee, subtitled 35mm)

Does it count as a rewatch if I've put the disc in the player two or three times and then nodded off before it was done? I swear, I've chosen the worst times to try and watch this movie before jumping all over the HFA's subtitled 35mm matinee.

Obviously, I should have seen this sooner; it's a downright terrific movie which establishes its science-fiction bona fides from the opening frames and is grounded in Miyazaki's particular environmental take on the genre throughout. Miyazaki draws no line between world-building and adventure, and sketches out a larger world casually, without ever losing his focus on the title character and her village.

It's obviously an early work - the animation is a little rough at points, the villains are sometimes a little too casually sketched, and there were more than a few comments from the audience about how much of Nausicaä's bottom we were seeing. It's almost never less than intriguing, though, and I likely would have been astounded if it had played Portland, ME/been a thing my parents would have brought me to when I was 11. It still seems like an insane practically out-of-nowhere achievement, and I'm mildly curious to know whether a shot early in the movie of Nausicaä walking to the forest from her glider inspired an iconic image from Akira, vice versa, or if they were pulling from the same source.

Avengers: Endgame

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 April 2019 in AMC Boston Common #8 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

Funny how the better part of a year gives me an odd perspective on this particular movie - maybe no longer so keenly caught up in the hype to praise it as effusively as I did back in May, but also keenly aware of how Disney's Star Wars guys didn't quite stick the landing to their grand saga the way the Marvel team did. It is, as I figured after a second screening, one of the most satisfying movies of the year even if it's not the best.

I think it obviously being a piece of corporate IP hides a bit of what it does well: It's a smart story about wrestling with failure, on a super-hero-sized grand scale, and a fitting final evolution for what Robert Downey Jr. has been doing as Tony Stark for a decade. The plotting is shaggy when it can afford to be and clever when it needs to be, and for all that the grand finale is a bunch of CGI craziness, it's built and scaled to a sort of perfection, getting the audience caught up in the fight for it to actually feel desperate enough before reinforcements show up that you forget that's a possibility, even though it's been the point of much of the movie, and almost getting there again so that the audience can go "oh, right, Carol" when she shows up. The audience whooped and applauded for that, and it's tough to blame them.

I'm sure that Disney and the other studios are all trying to plan something as big and loyalty-generating as Marvel's Infinity Cycle (or whatever we wind up calling this stretch of Marvel movies when they're knee-deep into something else five years from now), but it may be a one-time thing. At least it ended as well as it could.

What I wrote back in May 2019

Asako I & II
Asako I & II
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Hellboy '19
Little Woods
Wild Nights with Emily

IFFBoston: Luce
IFFBoston: Them That Follow & The Death of Dick Long
IFFBoston: Pizza, a Love Story & Not for Resale
IFFBoston: We Are Not Princesses, Ms. Purple, When Lions Become Lambs, In Fabric
IFFBoston: One Child Nation, The Pollinators, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, For the Birds

IFFBoston: Shorts Exeter & The Rusalka
Avengers: Endgame
IFFBoston: The Farewell
Always Miss You
Savage '19

This Those Weeks in Tickets: 11 March 2019 - 24 March 2019

Festival stuff gets drawn out, so the posts for the last night of BUFF 2019 (in March) got posted in July, and so I didn't have enough time to circle back around here at the time.

This Week in Tickets

This Week in Tickets

So this will just be another quick post to fill in some blanks. As you might expect from the previous post, I spent the next day on a plane back from Hong Kong, and from there it was back into old habits, although the first movie after getting back was in a different spot, as AMC booked Furie at South Bay rather than Boston Common. Maybe there's some sort of Vietnamese population in Dorchester?

I would have put Chinese movies aside, but two opened that weekend, More than Blue and The Crossing, and while the first has more or less fled my mind, the second was pretty darn good, and it was a different experience to "revisit" Hong Kong on-screen soon after being there.

After the second one of those, I headed down the C line to the Coolidge to catch Transit and Starfish, taking me right up to 2am or so because the latter had the director on-hand to talk about his film, what he was hoping for from Endgame, which made for a fun Q&A. I didn't quite love the movie itself, but I was certainly impressed by the effort.

Sunday afternoon was the annual Chlotrudis Awards. Folks had fun with their numbers, but I kind of wonder how it's going to go from now on. It's a small group that has in many cases embraced other interests and seen fewer films, so a couple of people really liking something at Provincetown or a Netflix film getting a broad release could skew the voting.

The one unfortunate movie-related downside to my vacation was not getting to see Apollo 11 in Imax, although I was still happy to see it at the Somerville on Monday and enjoyed the heck out of it. The next night it was off to the common for Triple Threat, a sort of all-star selection of action guys from Asia and the direct-to-video worlds that isn't great but does its thing pretty well.

After that, the Boston Underground Film Festival took me through the weekend, with an Opening Night of Hail Satan? and Clickbait; Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records and The Girl on the Third Floor on Thursday; Tone-Deaf and Mope on Friday; the "Bucket of Truth" comedy shorts, Nightshifter, Knife+Heart, and A Hole in the Ground on Saturday; and Assassinaut, the "A Lot Like Life" animation block, Canary, Happy Face, and The Unthinkable to close it out on Sunday.

By my standards, I did pretty well getting that festival written up in a mere three months, though quick reactions were my Letterboxd page at the time.

The Crossing
More than Blue

Apollo 11
Triple Threat
BUFF: Hail Satan? & Clickbait
BUFF: Industrial Accident & Girl on the Third Floor
BUFF: Tone-Deaf & amp; Mope
BUFF: Bucket of Truth, Nightshifter, Knife+Heart, A Hole in the Ground
BUFF: Assassinaut, A Lot Like Life, Canary, Happy Face, The Unthinkable

Sunday, January 19, 2020

This Those Weeks in Tickets: 25 February 2019 - 10 March 2019

It's January 2020 and I just realized I left some big holes in this part of the blog, including this one. Not a lot of movies seen while I was on vacation, but a lot of tickets purchased!

This Week in Tickets

This Week in Tickets

As you may remember, I spent much of February doing marathons and catch-up for the Oscars, and by the time it was done, I had a couple of things I wanted to see on the big/3D screens ahead of vacation. Alita: Battle Angel was kind of what it was inevitably going to be with James Cameron trying to make the movie for years, never getting it to work, and finally hiring Robert Rodriguez to just get it done: A knockout visually, full of pretty capable action, but the story is just barely good enough. Crying shame more people didn't see it like this, because it's made for the giant screen. A couple days later, I hit How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World in 3D because DreamWorks movies are absolutely built for that, and this is a pretty good one regardless.

After that, it was onto a plane and to the other side of the world, seeing Hong Kong in person less than a week after taking in so many movies from the place. It's a long flight, but it was snowing when I left and beautiful when I arrived, and the street where my hotel was located was just Hong Kong as heck, looking lived-in with dried fish merchants and a tramway. I did get more frustrated by public transit than usual that first evening, and kind of dropped right away.

First order of business on Saturday was taking a tram up to the Peak, which is kind of surreal, in that it feels like the city has included roller coasters into its public transit (or at least, the creaky ascent part), and then you can actually look down on skyscrapers. After that, I spent the afternoon in Hong Kong Park - including their amazing aviary, which includes some birds I could swear were built by Jim Henson - before visiting the Man Mo Temple and the News Museum.

Sunday's activities started at the relatively nearby Sun Yat-Sen Museum and Museum of Medical Science, which were interesting if not quite so extensive an education on their very Chinese subjects as I might have benefitted from. After that, I went down to Central Pier, which included the very cool Maritime Museum and a nice little observation wheel, which I went on because that apparently is a thing I do when traveling now. The Museum included an exhibit on trade between China and the Northeastern United States, which was pretty cool to see as a New Englander.

Monday took me back to the pier so that I could get on a ferry and cross the harbor and see the exhibits and the Museum of History and Museum of Science, located right across the street from each other. The latter had a pretty terrific display of antique timepieces on loan. At the end of the day, I climbed aboard the Dukling above and watched the nightly laser-light show, which illuminates the skyscrapers in impressive fashion.

Tuesday, I took the cable car to Ngong Ping, and I've got to admit that I was a little surprised that the "cable car" that Google Maps included in my directions was a skyway rather than what they call a cable car in San Francisco. It was neat, but, boy, was the guy in line directly in front of me also surprised and not happy. Heck of a way to start a long day of walking around, being in awe at the Big Buddha and the ornate temples, with a detour out to the Tai O fishing village before coming back to see the Wisdom Path.

Wednesday wasn't exactly a bust - no day which allows me to walk around on restored vessels like the Alexander Grantham fire boat can really be called a bad day - but it was pretty rainy, the Hong Kong Film Archive didn't have a whole lot on offer that day/week, and another museum was closed for renovations. I bailed to see a movie, and practically the only thing playing was Captain Marvel, which I absolutely could have seen at home, although they're much more enthusiastic about 3D there than they are here. I did wind up going to the wrong place after buying a ticket online, but they were cool about refunding it.

Thursday started out nice, with a walk around Golden Bauhinia Square, although the Noonday Gun didn't fire when I showed up. After that, I went to the restaurant in the Blue House for lunch and made my way to the Police Museum, which is at the top of a hill (like several other stations converted to museums), and Hong Kong isn't kidding with its hills. If Google tells you that the walking directions and the bus directions take roughly the same amount of time, take the bus. I got off to look at the King Yin Lei mansion, although this was not one of the rare days when it was open to the public.

I spent a lot of the next day on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, and I maybe should have joined an official tour; I got turned around and probably wound up a few places I shouldn't have been, as it winds through a residential neighborhood and the line between traditional halls (like Tak Tak Hall above) that tourists can look over and neighborhood shrines can be kind of hard to catch if you don't read Chinese. Nevertheless very interesting, and I had fun making my way to the Railway Museum and Tai Po Market later that day.

Saturday, I actually did spring for a tour, because that's kind of the only way you're seeing the GeoPark. We left from Sai Kung, a fishing town with a ton of massive seafood restaurants where you can either buy fish straight off boats and have the chefs work their magic or just point to the actual fish you want to eat. I must admit, I was kind of intimidated by these places, which really aren't set up for single tourists who don't speak Cantonese. The trip around the Geopark was pretty nifty, too - saw lots of great rock formations.

Sunday was my last full day and, man, I was all over the place in Kowloon, seeing the Avenue of Stars, the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, the Tin Hau Temple, the Temple Street Night Market - where, yeah, I found a video store and loaded up with ten Blu-rays that I wouldn't have to pay shipping on to get home - and where I finally see an actual Hong Kong movie in Hong Kong, when I stumbled upon the Broadway Cinematheque and saw they were playing Three Husbands, the latest (at the time) from Fruit Chan, and probably more representative of his work than the action movie that opened later in the year. It was Hong Kong as heck, and a fine way for me to wrap my time there up.

As a result, write-ups for a couple of these movies have been confined to my Letterboxd page since March, which shouldn't happen again, but just in case...

Alita: Battle Angel

* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 February 2019 in AMC Boston Common #2 (first-run, digital Imax 3D)

It only takes a few pages of the Battle Angel Alita manga to understand both why James Cameron was set on making it his next movie for some twenty years and why it took him forever to pound it into something close enough to filmable that he could give it to Robert Rodriguez, who can at least get a movie made without torturing himself over it not being perfect. This manga was probably unfilmable in technical terms when he started and building the tech exposed what a mess the story was.

And, boy, is this thing not perfect; it's half a story that keeps half of what's going on out of reach, but worries enough about backstory that it can't quite zero in on how Alita is a teenager with no experience but ironclad certainty of her indestructibility, and how she's got to learn her vulnerability. There's meat on that bone, but the film can't quite grab it. To be fair, there's a bunch in there about building your own identity and body that I didn't catch until I heard the film was popular in the trans community.

Still, it's a lot of fun. There's a spiffy cast, and between Cameron and Rodriguez, you've got two people who live this big 3D stuff and don't feel the need to compromise on the crazy cyberpunk visuals. The action is fast and fun and violent as heck, built in ways that defy normal human movement but still look real. For better or worse, it's Battle Angel Alita, or as close as American filmmakers can get.

Captain Marvel

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 6 March 2019 in UA MegaBox BEA Imax (first-run, digital Imax 3D)

It's a bit of a shame that Carol Danvers didn't get her movie until superhero films in general and the Marvel house style in particular got common enough that we can look at this and just see another smart-aleck hero in an outfit made a little more practical for the movie than it was in the comics, fighting an enemy who threatens the entire world but who can be despatched in one big, 3D-friendly fight at the end followed by some Avengers business. It's an good example of that, but I begrudge nobody saying "another?"

But it's got Brie Larson, who puts just enough chip on Carol's shoulder and builds the sort of foundation where she can go from "pushy alien" to rediscovering her humanity without a hitch or a lot of talk. She's also got a nifty crew, from an authoritative but playful Annette Bening to Samuel L. Jackson revealing the sidekick hidden inside his Nick Fury, along with an especially delightful Been Mendelsohn and Lashana Lynch selling the reunion with her best friend perfectly.

It's really cool to see Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck get to play with the big budget, never letting the movie bloat (perhaps to a fault at times) and making some fun choices. And I suspect it will unpack well with future viewings, as viewers have a chance to note how everyone (except maybe the Rambeaus) is both adversary and ally as Carol rediscovers herself and how to trust, or how perfect her finally cutting loose is at the end.

Yes, it's Another Marvel Movie feeding into Endgame, but it does that thing really well and stands on its own for those just coming to the party.

Alita: Battle Angel
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
The Peak
Maritime Museum

Ngong Ping
Captain Marvel
Alexander Grantham
Blue House
Ping Shan
Sai Kung
Tin Hau Temple
Three Husbands