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

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