Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Film Rolls, Round 3: Lorenzo's Oil, Perfect Strangers, and Come Drink with Me

Bruce has a slight lead over Mookie, 11 stars to 10¾, and it's a race.

Mookie rolls first:

A three, which gets him back into recent Western movies and Lorenzo's Oil

And how does Bruce respond?

A 20! Per the totally arbitrary rules, this means the next thing watched from the "new arrivals I've seen before" gets credited to his score, and that turned out to be the new Arrow Blu-ray of Come Drink with Me, but only after I finally get to see the original Perfect Strangers.

So let's see how they did!

Lorenzo's Oil

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 11 March 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

Lorenzo's Oil sticks out in George Miller's filmography as his only feature that is not a fantasy of some sort, although it's paradoxically a film that he is particularly suited to make as a trained medical doctor. The end result is in some ways surprisingly conventional but also unique, a tightly-internal story that benefits greatly from the meticulous attention Miller otherwise brings to large-scale action and animation.

It's simple enough - Italian-born diplomat Augusto Odone (Nick Nolte) and his Irish-American wife Michaela (Susan Sarandon) learn, upon returning to Washington from an African posting, that five-year-old son Lorenzo has a deadly neurological condition, eventually narrowed down to be adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), which is so rare that not only is it often misdiagnosed, but there is little serious work being done on treatment. Lorenzo is not expected to live to see his tenth birthday and the community around the disease is mainly focused on palliative care, but the Odones choose to immerse themselves in research, with a sympathetic researcher (Peter Ustinov) assisting with science and Michaela's sister Deirdre (Kathleen Wilhoite) offering support on the home front.

On the one hand, a viewer wouldn't necessarily recognize this as being from the man who made the Mad Max series, but it's surprisingly of a piece: Miller makes sure that the viewer can feel the wheel turning, grinding the Odones down, with every time the film fades out and then in with a new date listed on screen playing like an ominous countdown. It's a long-ish movie but one that is good at increasing the weight by steadily piling pebbles on the viewers' backs rather than large weights that require a large shift in storytelling. There are moments of tension in the based-on-facts story that sometimes seem designed for a film, but others that are random enough to feel like details of a life that doesn't have to fit the script.

What's often most interesting is the way that Miller and co-writer Nick Enright handle the concept of citizen science, even if they don't ever actually use that phrase. Stories like Lorenzo's Oil are often formulaic in how they tell tales of an uncaring medical/scientific orthodoxy and parents who know best because of their gut instincts, but this one takes care to show that the Odones are meticulous on top of being emotional and personally invested Miller may not have practiced for a decade before making this film, but he seemingly the material enough to not take shortcuts or to depict being methodical as inherently cruel. Without making the comparison directly, it becomes very clear that the Odone's are not the same as people who go in for anti-vaccine woo, even if they do seem relatively reckless compared to the establishment.

Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon hold the movie down well. It's a bit odd to hear Augusto's Italian accent coming from Nolte, but there's something Socratic yet humane about the way Nolte delivers his lines, where you can recognize the diplomat and the father in conflict, laying things out for both the folks sharing the screen and the audience. Sarandon has the more conventional mama-bear role, but handles it well, and I love the devotion Kathleen Wilhoite gives Deirdre, a heightened riff on someone who loves her sister and nephew dearly even though siblings can often be more hurtful than strangers. It doesn't hurt at all that there are a couple of folks who will become stalwart supporting actors in the cast of fellow parents of ALD kids - Margo Martindale, warm and empathetic but well aware that this ends in heartbreak, and James Rebhorn, precise and involved as an activist leader because it gives him some measure of control over something devastating.

So, no exploding vehicles or talking animals. But still a precision-crafted George Miller film, and as such pretty terrific.

Perfetti sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 March 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Hong Kong Blu-ray)

I've effectively already reviewed this film twice, back in 2018, when Korean remake Intimate Strangers (here's the rest of the review on the Wayback Machine in case EFC never comes back) and Mainland Chinese version Kill Mobile hit theaters. I was expecting to see more, but the Mexican version never played Boston-area theaters and neither the Spanish version directed by Alex de la Iglesia nor the French version from Fred Cavayé that interested me are easily accessed, before you get to any of the 17 other adaptations made in the six years since this received its Italian release in 2016. I strongly suspect that the only reason we haven't seen an American one is that it landed with the Weinsteins just before that empire collapsed.

After three of these, I find myself a bit sad that the movies don't seem more localized, beyond China erasing one character being gay and Samsung dropping some hefty product placement into the Korean one. It speaks a bit to the sturdiness of this original script that there wasn't really a surprise to be found here on my third go-round, even three-plus years since seeing the remakes. It's a solid premise and has plenty of soapy twists that make for a good split of comedy and melodrama. Interestingly, my favorite characters remain the same across versions - here, Benedetta Prcaroli as the youthful newcomer to the group and Giuseppe Battiston as the genial but closeted bear - and I can't deny that that the gags still work even if you know what's coming. The eclipse still seems like an element that the movie doesn't really need.

I'm glad to have seen the root of this, although I do hope that I find de la Iglesia and Cavayé have put more personal stamps on it when I see their versions. Heck, I'd still like to see an American one, or some where they've got reason to take even greater liberties than they did in China.

Come Drink with Me

* * * (out of four)
Seen 17 April 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Arrow Blu-ray)

Huh, I appeared to enjoy this a lot more when I saw it at the 2014 Films at the Gate (full review on The Wayback Machine in case eFilmCritic is gone for good), which just goes to show you what sort of a boost this sort of high-energy action movie gets from being seen with a crowd who's into it versus at home when it's kind of late, even with the new Arrow disc probably looking better than whatever the folks in Chinatown were projecting.

Perhaps this also indicates that this sort of Shaw Brother action movie, with its formality and dance-like action, is a bit less of a novelty for me at this point. It is, nevertheless, still a lot of fun, with Cheng Pei-pei an arresting star with a bit of chip on her shoulder and somewhat aristocratic bearing and Yueh Hua a nice complement as a more earthy potential ally, facing off against a brace of enjoyably cruel villains. And even if Hong Kong and director King Hu would build upon this in terms of technical proficiency and slicker choreography, Hu and company can still stage a heck of an action scene.

… And where does this leave us after Round 2?

Mookie: 14 ¼ stars - not bad at all.

Bruce: 17 stars - that second film keeps it from being as tight as it could be.

Reset the board, and here's the sitch:

Bruce has taken the lead in more ways than one, and it looks like it might take multiple rounds for Mookie to make up the difference.

Recent & Decent: Men and Montana Story

I'm not quite going to punt the theatrical/festival stuff I've watched over the past few months - I still want to say a little more about some of the things I've logged on Letterboxd - but the past few months have had me re-evalulating what I want to use various spaces for, especially since eFilmCritic has been down for neary three months and it's fairly clear that it's not going to lead to anything like being able to ditch writing SQL to write about movies. That's kind of why this blog has mostly been a place to organize my thoughts about next week lately, with a few detours. But I still want to have the best version of what I think under my own name and give myself room to go a little longer, add images, and maybe make the blog more explicitly biographical.

Which brings us to last week, when a couple movies I'd been looking forward to came out right when I'd planned a vacation to Chicago to see my brother and my sister-in-law, carefully scheduled for when I could see the Red Sox play a series against the White Sox and also catch a game at Wrighley Field. Fortunately, Matt & Morgan were looking forward to seeing Men, and it gave me a chance to check out the city's famous Music Box Theatre. I scheduled it so that I'd have Memorial Day to decompress after coming home (in part because they had their own thing going on Sunday), which was handy, because while I'd skipped Montana Story at IFFBoston because it was clearly going to play theaters, it didn't last despite the fact that there's not a lot much better than watching Haley Lu Richardson hold down a movie. One week and out at the Kendall, and a two week booking at Boston Common where they weren't going to let it have screens that could be showing Top Gun. It's still playing at 11am through Thursday, but the holiday was necessary to get to that.

I must admit to being a bit surprised how basic the Music Box is, at least if you're going to a weekday matinee. Nothing unusual and cool at the concession stand, the main room decent but not striking like other venerable independent houses. There's a lounge (but I don't drink) and you know there's a 70mm projector in the booth, but I suspect that it's more fun when it's busy. Meanwhile, getting back from Chicago on Sunday night means that you might be sluggish getting to a literal matinee on Monday morning.

Anyway, here's my Letterboxd. I tend to think of it as rough drafts for here, composed on the ride back from the theater, but sometimes it's as much as I've got.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 May 2022 in the Music Box Theatre #1 (first-run, DCP)

In some ways, Men is a bit of a step back from the grand, abstract nightmare of Annihilation for writer/director Alex Garland - it's such a tighter, more grounded premise - but he gets the same sort of effect: An uncanny nightmare where you can almost see some sort of logic behind the madness but are still unnerved by a world that won't make easy sense.

It's a genuinely odd film in so many ways. Its central gimmick - that all but one of the men that newly single (by one means or another) Harper encounters is played by the same actor as her AirBNB host - feels like something that should be acknowledged within the movie itself, especially since his face really doesn't fit on the snotty little tween, but it's not, and it leaves one to wonder whether this place itself is weird, whether it's in her head, or if it's illustrating something for the audience. On top of that, there's weird English pagan stuff to seemingly provide method if not meaning, and a gross-out climax that also doesn't seem to fit any theme Garland was playing with over the rest of the movie particularly well. The whole film walks the line between unnerving and just frustrating - more often the former, but it does occasionally raise the question of just what Garland is trying to accomplish.

Not that he necessarily needs to be trying to accomplish any specific thing; there's some value in a horror movie just trying to freak its viewers out and letting them find the parts that scare them a bit more because they resonate. Heck, a story is arguably not horror if it's too easily grasped and attributed to some sort of metaphor; horror maybe has to unnerve you at a gut level that the rational mind can't deal with, and that's always been Garland's thing, from Sunshine (where he and director Danny Boyle disagreed on whether proximity to the Sun's raw power leads on to find God or find the idea of God inadequate) to the unknowable aliens imitating Terran life in Annihilation. To a certain extent, he's asking just why men are like that here, with every repeated face a variation on the same underlying issue, and each layer seeming to be the same thing in a different package, and all the rest weird details maybe fitting in some other way (are the dandelions sperm, or is that too much?).

It's put together nicely, though, with a couple terrific stars in Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear. My brother noted Buckley's Harper seems to go sort of dead toward the end as she's put through the wringer, but it seems a bit more specific than that, like she's pulling herself in so that she can get through this ordeal without damage. Kinnear does a neat job of playing variations on male awfulness, finding different ways to make his characters mostly oblivious to how self-centered they are. The film is filled with beautiful settings that Garland allows the audience to sit in and enjoy while giving himself room to go giallo when necessary, from the deep red of the house's interior walls to how an echoing tunnel is a fun toy until disorientation become dangerous. The sound design is terrific, and the gross-out moments build impressively to become icky character bits.

The part of me that defaults to decoding art that has clearly had so much attention to detail would like a few more one-to-one mappings, I must admit, but being given all that can prevent my skin from crawling, and I can't deny that Men creeped me out more than a movie that's all clear metaphor would.

Montana Story

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 30 May 2022 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, DCP)

Montana Story is a pretty straight-ahead film that benefits from solid performances by its small cast, with both Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson doing a fine job of making their characters feel like they've got some miles on them despite half the point being how young they are. Cal and Erin haven't really had enough time for the injuries of everything that led to the worst night of their lives seven years ago to scab over or give them perspective, and on top of making their simple reactions raw, it focuses the story in a way that more dramas perhaps should, by arguably eliminating stakes. There's no transaction or end goal visible here - Erin doesn't need to forgive her brother or admit that some part of her loves her father in order to have a healthy relationship with another man; it's just about being able to live with themselves.

Filmmakers Scott McGehee & David Siegel and Teague do nice work early on, both before Erin shows up and for a while afterward, at making him interestingly at odds with himself. His appearance and demeanor suggest he belongs in this environment, but there's not actually much good ol' boy to him when he gets a moment to himself. Erin's testy entrance and constant attachment to her mobile phone suggests the young woman who outgrew this place, but she seems to belong whenever she's actually doing something. She's probably more country than her brother with the denim wardrobe and oversized belt buckle, but she's been running away.

I like the way that the setting often needs to be unpacked a little, and to a lesser extent how they're willing to give the audience a push in a certain direction by having the characters discuss something without sounding authoritative, like the wide-open spaces never really represent freedom. The first time the camera really widens to give a vista a big-screen moment, it's to consider the characters' ambivalence to what that means - an abandoned copper mine is obviously striking in one way, and Owen sees it as beautiful in another, but they are both well aware of the cost, even if ecological issues mostly play out on car radios. There's an American flag in the middle of a number of shots of the homestead, but that particular version of the American Dream is collapsing from the rot at the center - it was always an image their father wanted to project rather than the reality, and after his stroke he's no longer going to be able to prop it up. It's probably no coincidence that the family is cushioned by an African nurse and a Native housekeeper, for that matter; folks like the comatose father were never as independent as they pretended.

It's a small piece, and one that doesn't really contain hidden truths, but it communicates well.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Film Rolls, Round 2: Steel and Lace, Havana Widows, and I've Got Your Number

When we last left this silly experiment, Mookie: was leading Bruce, 8 ½ stars to 5 ½ stars as both landed on box sets. I have not actually abandoned it, but the writing has gone kind of slow. But let us continue!

Your roll, Mookie!

5! Just enough to jump to the next part of the board and Steal and Lace

And how does Bruce respond?

That 8 helps catch up a little, hitting a DVD double feature from the Warner Archive Sale.

And how are the movies?

Steel and Lace

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 4 March 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

Grading on a curve? Maybe. The thing about a movie like Steel and Lace is that at least a few parts of it are better than they have any right to be, given that this thing was shot for video and is clearly built around what the practical effects team can do, and the hints of a little unexpected ambition make it better than expected. It's not really a good movie, but one can see the good movie trapped inside it and wonder what would happen if there was a little more studio support or money or someone with more talent at the helm.

It's pretty simple high-concept stuff - talented pianist Gaily Morton (Clare Wren) is raped by Daniel Emerson (Michael Cerveris), and after he's acquitted, she commits suicide but appears to return from the dead, targeting Emerson and the four hangers-on that alibied him. In fact, her engineer brother Albert (Bruce Davison) has built an android in her image and pointed it at those he blames for her death, leaving a trail of bodies for a detective (David Naughton) and his crime photographer ex-girlfriend (Stacy Haiduk) to follow. Pretty basic rape-revenge stuff, with a sci-fi angle that lets director Ernest Farino and writers Joseph Dougherty & Dave Edison go big.

And go big they do - this may be nasty exploitation whose courtroom scene look like they were filmed in a hotel conference room, but the kills are impressively splattery, all the more satisfying for how they are by and large visited upon those who deserve it. Farino had a long career in visual effects before this movie (his directorial debut) and it's been much of his work since, and he knows both what he can get away with at this budget and how to handle things on set to get that done quickly and have a little more time all around. The action is by and large not complicated, but built for impact.

And somewhere underneath, there's something not half-bad going on with the story. The dialogue is terrible and none of the cast really manages to sell it, but Clare Wren does fairly well articulating a quietly growing sense of self and discomfort with the idea of extending her targets beyond those responsible for Gaily's death, and the writers are quite aware of just where Albert is not entirely different from Emerson et al; his android isn't a real recreation of his sister, but a simulation that makes him feel comfortable. It's messy, and you wonder what someone capable of really good trash would make of it, but it's not awful.

Havana Widows

* * * (out of four)
Seen 5 March 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, DVD)

It's kind of fun to imagine how you might remake Havana Widows today, because while so many of the details feel like they might change (and not just because Havana isn't exactly a playground for zany New Yorkers any more), it's the sort of farce that is able to get the audience on its wavelength quickly - it's barely an hour long, after all - and zip through a bunch of goofy scenarios without feeling particularly rushed.

It has a couple of sassy blonde dancers, Mae (Joan Blondell) and Sadie (Glenda Farrell) getting stiffed on their pay but inspired by a former colleague who has come back from Havana with a rich new husband. They just need some stake money to get there, which comes via Herman (Allen Jenkins), an on-again/off-again boyfriend of Sadie's, who himself has taken it from his gangster boss. Once there, they target a rich-looking fellow (Guy Kibbee) for blackmail, except that Mae becomes genuinely fond of his ne'er-do-well son (Lyle Talbot). Can they do it before the hotel evicts these girls posing as rich widows who are behind on their rent, or Herman and his boss come looking for their money?

Maybe the Depression setting makes the gold-digging more palatable, especially considering that Sadie and Mae seem so much brighter and more deserving of the comfort money can bring than the various men they encounter and woo. In any event, director Ray Enright and writer Earl Baldwin make light farce out of what could be a nest of vipers, with everybody just likable enough that one enjoys seeing them stay about a step ahead of trouble that they probably deserve. One thing leads to another in rapid-fire fashion without feeling particularly rushed, with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell making a fun pair - pretty, sassy, sharp without being really mean, seeming to fall into their complementary roles with ease, playing off each other and the various folks around them with style. It's full of fun bits and supporting characters who maybe have one joke apiece but can milk it for all it's worth.

For some reason, it's second-billed on the Warner Archive DVD - maybe the shorter length makes it more the B movie than the A picture in a 1930s double feature - but it's a fun little trifle that holds up, and it might be fun to see some of today's funny ladies take a run at this sort of thing.

I've Got Your Number

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 March 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, DVD)

The 69-minute bit-of-everything movie is a lost art for a lot of reasons, although it seems like the sort of thing that streamers might find a reason to bring back, because they've got a lot of the same incentives to crank out a lot of movies that don't need to be big enough to justify a special trip out (or can be part of a double feature), maybe putting folks under contract to do three or four light popcorn flicks a year. They haven't though, even though they could probably use a catalog full of movies like I've Got Your Number that aren't exactly special but which are enjoyable and good for a night's entertainment for a nickel (or a buck, or whatever the pro-rated cost of your Prime subscription is).

For being so short, it's got a fair amount going on, with telephone line workers Terry (Pat O'Brien) and Johnny (Allen Jenkins) responding to service calls, crossing paths with hotel switchboard operator Marie (Joan Blondell), who loses her job because an ex is in the mob, and then helping her get a new job where said ex has an idea how to use her as a dupe, but fortunately the smitten Terry has an idea of how to use his skills to prove her innocence. It is, by twenty-first century standards, not exactly legal, but it's at least novel for 1934.

Director Rey Enright and screenwriters Warren Duff & Sidney Sutherland compact all that well enough that there's room for all of that to happen, for scenes showing enough about the phone company's operations that the last-act hijinks make sense, and to introduce enjoyable (if stock) supporting characters like Eugene Pallette's boss, frustrated at Terry's antics in a way typically reserved for police captains and newspaper editors, and Glenda Farrell's fake medium. Pat O'Brien is probably the lead in terms of driving the story, but it's not hard to see why Joan Blondell is top-billed; she sort of pushes her way to the front with her confident New York accent while still being enough of the good girl to be taken advantage of and accept a little help. It's the sort of movie that doesn't have a lot of memorable moments, but it sure gets the job done while it's going and never wears out its welcome.

… So, where do we stand after Round 2?

Mookie: 10 ¾ stars - respectable, except…

Bruce: 11 stars - a decent double feature is a good way to make up ground.

Now we take the viewed movies out, reshuffle the movies, and here we are:

Moving everything after the double feature back one pulls Mookie back into the first box, but both ready to jump ahead fifty years with a good roll.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 27 May 2022 - 2 June 2022

Rejoice, Bostonians - for the first time in 2+ years, you will once again be able to watch movies in a furniture store! It's only on the weekends at this point, and I've got no idea how much harder it's gotten to get to Reading or Natick on the T, but remember, those are genuine Imax screens an the one in Reading is the spiffy laser projection.
  • Most of the big screens will be going to Top Gun: Maverick, the long-inevitable sequel with Tom Cruise returning to one of his best-known characters assigned to train the next generation of hotshot pilots for an apparently very generic mission. It's at the Somerville, The Capitol, Fresh Pond, Jordan's (Imax), the Lexington Venue, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon & Dolby Cinema), Fenway, Kendall Square, South Bay (including Imax Xenon & Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax Xenon & Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), the Embassy, and Chestnut Hill.

    There's also The Bob's Burgers Movie, because that's the sort of long-running animated somewhere-between-mainstream-and-cult series where you do that. It's at the Somerville, Fresh Pond, West Newton, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and the Embassy.

    Fenway and South Bay have 45th Anniversary screenings of Smokey and the Bandit on Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Boston Common and Arsenal Yards have The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on Thursday.
  • New Indian films include Hindi action thriller Anek and Telugu comedy F3: Fun and Frustration, both of which play Apple Fresh Pond and Boston Common and appear to be holdovers from last year. Hindi-language horror-comedy Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 sticks around at both places. The local "#EncoRRRe" screenings of Rise! Roar! Revolt (aka RRR) on Wednesday are at the Coolidge and Boston Common.

    Anime Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko, which I wanted to catch as part of Fantasia last summer but couldn't, has a "fan event" on Thursday at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, and Assembly Row. It's a comedy about a family on a fishing boat from the director of Children of the Sea.
  • The Somerville Theatre has Gaspar Noé's Vortex, a sharply-made but tough-to-watch chronicle of an couple succumbing to age and dementia, in their micro-cinema evenings from Friday to Sunday, with We're All Going to the World's Fair playing a matinee there Saturday.

    They also have voice actor Eugene Mirman on-hand to introduce the 8pm show of Bob's Burgers on Friday night, with a special after-party upstairs in the Crystal Ballroom afterward. There's even more burger-related cinema with a 35mm print of Good Burger playing at midnight on Saturday. Wednesday's "Crime Pays Double" feature is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang & The Ice Harvest, both on 35mm film.
  • The Brattle Theatre continues "Reunion Week" of mostly-35mm anniversary screenings with The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant on Friday; Good Burger on Friday and Wednesday; Princess Mononoke (digital/subtitled) on Saturday and Thursday; Frenzy and Monsieur Verdoux on Saturday; the original versions of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Solaris (digital) on Sunday; The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (digital) and Selena on Monday; Super Fly on Wednesday; and The Lady from Shanghai on Thursday.

    Music documentary Freakscene: The Story of Dinosaur Jr. plays Tuesday.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre for the most part streamlines their lineup down to Everything Everywhere All At Once, Downton Abbey (including a Saturday masked matinee), and Men, but they've got full rep schedule, starting with midnight shows of Thinner and Drag Me to Hell on Friday and Saturday respectively, both on 35mm. There's also a 35mm print of Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Monday Big Screen Classic, with Carrie on 35mm for the last "Mom!!!" show of May on Tuesday. Wednesday has them hosting the local "#EncoRRRe" screening of RRR (aka RRR) on screen one and local documentary Hello, Bookstore with filmmaker A.B. Zax and subject Matt Tannenbaum there to answer questions. Thursday has another big screen "classic" with The Valley of the Dolls
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square is mostly keeping things around or bumping them for Top Gun, but they do squeak one last "May Is for Mothers" selection in on Tuesday, with John Waters's Serial Mom.
  • The Harvard Film Archive has another few weeks of "Forgotten Filmmakers of the French New Wave". This weekend's offerings are Snobs! (35mm) and Sentimental Education on Friday, The Long Absence on Saturday, and a shorts program of "Machorka-Muff", "Les enfants désaccordés", and "The Crimson Curtain" on Sunday.
  • The Museum of Science continues to run Doctor Strange on Friday and Saturday nights through next weekend, and will switch up to Jurassic World: Dominion after that, with a special dinosaur pre-party on opening night. Tickets are available for "Third Thursday" film screenings presented by the Woods Hole Film Festival on June 16th, July 21st, and August 18th.
  • The Lexington Venue has Downton Abbey: A New Era and Top Gun: Maverick from Friday to Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema opens The Bob's Burger Movie and Top Gun: Maverick, keeping Downton Abbey: A New Era, The Automat (no show Monday), Doctor Strange, The Duke (Saturday-Monday), The Bad Guys, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Saturday-Monday).

    The Luna Theater has Petite Maman on Friday and Saturday evenings, Stanleyville on Saturday afternoon, Everything Everywhere All at Once on Saturday and Thursday, The NeverEnding Story on Sunday, and the Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem has Top Gun: Maverick, Downton Abbey, and Men from Friday to Monday (Monday's matinees captioned).
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes. The film program at the MFA is still in limbo.
Heading home on Sunday, I'll probably try and catch Top Gun on a big/loud screen, the last show of Montana Story I can make on Monday, RRR on Wednesday (but I hate missing the 35mm crime), and Lady Nukiko on Thursday.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Hong Kong Saturdays: Revolution of Our Times, Angel, Blood Ritual, Hard Boiled, Nobody's Hero, The Magic Crane, Devil Hunters, and Man on the Edge

One doesn't really plan for things to wind up this way, but it's kind of cool when it does: Three Saturdays, three different sorts of Hong Kong movies, in different locations and with different perspectives.

First up, I was mildly surprised to see just how packed Revolution of Our Times was at the Capitol, seemingly with a lot of expats and otherwise interested parties, which is interesting because there aren't usually big crowds for HK movies when they play near Chinatown, compared to Mandarin-language ones, and it makes me curious just how the Chinese-American community is spread out in the area - is it a different group in the suburbs?

At any rate, it's a pretty strong doc - someone who has been following the story even a little closer than me probably won't learn a lot new, but it's got a focus on specific procedural elements that's nonetheless immersive. There's some irony to that as a Hong Kong film fan - apparently even independent young documentarians know how to shoot and present action better than anyone else in the world - but it's valuable. The protests in the SAR don't really need an explainer at this point, but something to bring the emotion of it home. The movie does that, right down to the unlikely manner in which many talked about the possibility of an independent Hong Kong. It seems unlikely to me - even if they could get recognized, the Mainland could easily dam up the supply of fresh water - but shoot big, right?

The next weekend was a road trip to New York City for a marathon that had originally been scheduled for January but got pushed out for Covid reasons (though I'm not sure April was any better or whether the perception had just changed). As is traditional, I cut things too close and the Red Line did not do me any favors getting to the bus terminal, but at least this time the bus I was meant to take was canceled and the lot of us were placed on the next one. There was some hustling involved in getting to the Anthology Film Archives on time , but I got a decent seat, said hello to Fantasia buddy Paul Kazee, and watched six Hong Kong flicks, some of which apparently never even made it to LaserDisc back in the day, although one (The Magic Crane) got a Hong Kong BD release right around the time they were booking this and sits on my shelf.

Sadly, there is apparently no 1:30am train or bus to get back home after these things any more (or maybe I've usually taken them Sunday night/Monday morning rather than 24 hours earlier), so there was a lot of trying to find a comfortable place to hang around Madison Square Garden before catching a bus home at 4:30am. There really aren't any such spots.

Then the next week, there was a Hong Kong movie playing Boston Common, and contrary to what I say is typical above, it wasn't a bad crowd at all. What did have me curious was how the HKMovie app still on my phone from a trip there a few years back didn't mention Man on the Edge at all, even though theaters were re-opening there after a long Covid-induced shutdown. It was easy to supposed that this was seen as a Mainland movie that HK wasn't particularly interested in, but the posters I saw on another site indicated it's an iQIYI original, though it doesn't seem to be on the American version of the service. It explains the line the film was trying to walk in terms of trying to be a Hong Kong film palatable to Mainland tastes/requirements, although it's kind of amusing that it would apparently get a theatrical release here, but not in its home territory.

The streak would break the next week, but will be picked back up soon enough, as there is a ton of HK material on my shelf, enough to rearrange the game board a little.

Si Doi Gaak Ming (Revolution of Our Times)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 2 April 2022 in the Arlington Capitol Theater #1 (special engagement, DCP)

As with a lot of current-affairs documentaries, I wonder a bit to what extent this is going to be watched by folks who need the primer versus those who know the broad strokes of the material and maybe want some more details, or just to make a statement of support (and maybe raise some money given that this appeared to be that sort of special event). Given how this is the sort of documentary that's broken into chapters, it's probably got a good future (in the near-term) as something that can be broken into three 50-minute chunks by a streaming service.

The filmmakers - some credited, some understandably anonymous - are necessarily bounded by time, from the point where the Hong Kong protests started in earnest in mind-2019 to when Covid-19 started to hit and street protest became even more fraught, if not impossible. It's not good for the activists, since even if they were never going to make progress, that gave Carrie Lam and the Mainland-dominated government another means to push the opposition out of sight. The bounds do help them solidify Revolution as a narrative, though; movements ebb and flow, and even by the end of this documentary you see people taking on new roles or even fleeing to Taiwan. The bounds keep the filmmakers from losing the plot.

And that they maintain it is a bit of a miracle, as so many of the subjects are committed to anonymity and thus either obscured or portrayed by actors, with details occasionally withheld so that participants are harder to identify that it takes a little extra effort to give the audience personal connections. They're canny in how they do it, digging deep where they can with less-anonymous subjects and keeping regular tabs on others so that they stay familiar even though they're not exactly recognizable. It's important, because it's a way to forge connections with the Hong Kongers even if you can't see their faces.

What's perhaps most fascinating, and which has been since the protests started, is the impressively organized way in which the protestors have gone about their business. Protesters have traditionally been at a disadvantage compared to their entrenched targets, but the folks here are impressively organized and specialized, treating the pro-democracy movement as a campaign rather than just an in-the-moment reaction, and putting together footage that feels like war photography, especially in later segments depicting the occupation and siege of two college campuses in the later segments.

As much as the filmmakers are clearly in the corner of the protestors to the extent where they're occasionally talking about independence for the region, which doesn't really seem practical - they are also mindful of what the locals are up against. It's interesting that both the police and Lam aren't portrayed as sadistically evil, but the bland front of a steamroller. There's talk about Xi in Beijing as having an "Emperor's mentality", but he's kind of far-off and abstract. This film doesn't exactly present and snatch hope away, but one does get the dynamic: Hong Kong's got spirit and righteousness but China is just big enough not to care.

Tian shi xing dong (Angel, or at least that's what the print said)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 9 April 2022 in the Anthology Film Archives Courthouse Theater (Hong-Kong-a-Thon Part III, 35mm)

Angel is kind of a dopey girls-with-guns movie, but stick around for a marathon and you can see how this sort of thing could be much dopier. As with a lot of Hong Kong movies, it is almost all about the action, to the point where every piece of the story tying those sequences together is something they told the actors but didn't really write into the script much. So they hit that hard - the script really does nothing to establish a connection between Saijo and Moon, but that's what happens in these movies, so Moon Lee is going to make sure the audience gets it. That sort of "what the movie needs right now" also means that even the good guys will go from stealth to massacre in fifteen seconds, and the whiplash can be intense.

But with the right folks, bits can work out fairly well, and Moon Lee is a charming heroine who throws herself into action with abandon, while Yukari Oshima is ready to chew all the scenery as the villainess on her way to going toe-to-toe with Lee and the other "Angels". It's not exactly top-tier Hong Kong insanity - you can sort of see where the Golden Harvest films of the same period are just a little slicker and thus get all the jaw-dropping and less of the snickering - but it's good enough that you can see why Angel was repackaged under various names like "Iron Angels" and "Fighting Madam" to try and get it to hit.

Xie luo ji (Blood Ritual)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 9 April 2022 in the Anthology Film Archives Courthouse Theater (Hong-Kong-a-Thon Part III, 35mm)

The makers of Blood Ritual sometimes don't seem to know how best to deploy their mean streak. There's a great giallo-esque opening that mines a bunch of atmosphere by mostly focusing on the cute red shoes of its fleeing cult victim versus the dark multiple pairs following her (making the nudity that the filmmakers eventually cut to a little more tackily exploitative), a genuine sense of unease when one of the investigating cops turns out to be compromised by "evil religion", and a darkly funny bit where the rich target of a PI's investigation sheds clothes as she walks upstairs the her jacuzzi, the maids quickly cleaning up after her, as good a depiction of the impunity of the powerful as anything a classier movie has done. At the other end, the final fight is punishingly violent: See it in a theater, and you can just sense the folks in the auditorium who came for some sleaze squirming in their seats.

And then, in between, there's a lot that wants to be a romantic comedy with Norman Tsui Siu-Keung as a good-natured ex-con who makes a bad first impression on Gina Lam Choh-Kei's nightclub singer but winds up renting her parents' spare room (those parents, by the way, are played by Ng Man-Tat and Susan Yum-Yum Shaw!), leading to a lot of next-level "he/she treats you like shit because he/she likes you!" stuff. It seems like something obligatory and awkwardly coexisting with all the murder, especially since the main pair are, until enough of the cast is killed off to dump things in their laps, on the periphery of the crime story.

It's a mess with a few folks in the cast who could do and/or have done better, to the extent that I wonder if Gina Lam was some sort of Cantopop star (she gets a showcase number and has the charisma to suggest bigger things, but had a very short film career). Mostly, there's some impressively gnarly violence to make it memorable. It eventually starts to feel like this is a script that could have used a few more drafts, but it was done for a studio trying to make more movies a year than is really wise. It could have been not just nasty little thriller but a genuinely creepy one with a little more polish, but Category III movies from minor studios don't get that.

Lat sau san taam (Hard Boiled)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 9 April 2022 in the Anthology Film Archives Courthouse Theater (Hong-Kong-a-Thon Part III, 35mm)

See, this is why you don't privatize medicine - when you focus on profit, it attracts shady investors, and then the mob is using the new hospital they funded to store illegal goods like black-market weapons, and that eventually leads to Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Phillip Kwok Chung-Fung, and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang shooting off millions of rounds of ammunition around people who are already sick and injured, and whose health improves in that situation? Nobody's, except whoever owns the competing hospitals with trauma centers.

Anyway - John Woo's last Hong Kong movie before coming to Hollywood is a bloody masterpiece of macho melodrama and over-the-top violence, a ringer in the middle of a day of less-known Hong Kong cinema. Which is pretty much what I thought fifteen years ago.

Qing yi wo xin zhi (Nobody's Hero)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 9 April 2022 in the Anthology Film Archives Courthouse Theater (Hong-Kong-a-Thon Part III, 35mm)

It's oddly reassuring to know that it's not just Hollywood that has weird standards of personal attractiveness, as this film's Liu Wai-Hung is a generally decent-looking guy who nevertheless gets mocked for his appearance despite the fact that there's plenty of reason to avoid his character for being a weirdo. He wants to be a cop, to the extent that he'll act the vigilante while giving someone a ride in his cab or being an overzealous mall security guard, and also has no idea that the woman he's "seeing" is transparently exploiting him for what tiny amount he has, before finally winding up alongside a blind girl who he doesn't realize is the sister of one of the gangsters that basically run the shopping center. The man's oblivious but awfully self-righteous, and it makes this one of those movies that lives right in the peculiar spot between farce and a sort of psychological horror.

In part, that may be because the folks involved are just a bit off from where they might be best used. Director Kuk Kok-Leung would eventually do solid behind-the-scenes work as a line producer for Johnnie To and writer Tsang Kan-Cheong would become one of Stephen Chow's main collaborators, but they sometimes don't know what to do with their semi-delusional anti-hero here, twisting the story from him being kind of unnerving because he's pathetic to just acting as an everyday hero in over his head, which I guess is another sort of "wanting to say he's ugly and off-putting but not really making him that way". Kathy Chow is pretty and likable as Jane, despite this being the sort of movie where the male screenwriters don't leave a lot of gray area between her childlike innocence and the nasty bitch who uses Leung Gun, plus she plays the part more as someone who has just lost her sight as opposed to someone who has been blind all her life and knows how to live like that.

Leung's misadventures eventually grow stranger and more perilously misguided, but there is at least an odd sort of danger to them that's both self-inflicted and not entirely his fault. That sometimes means that there's an exploding car that comes across as impressively random, both in how that maybe should have been a small fire at most and the way everyone seems to shrug off that two people must have died like it was nothing. It's a weird little movie that never exactly makes sense, though it never exactly seems impossible, either.

Xin xian he shen zhen (The Magic Crane)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 9 April 2022 in the Anthology Film Archives Courthouse Theater (Hong-Kong-a-Thon Part III, 35mm)

This movie feels like a three-season TV series crammed into one 100-minute movie, by turns transforming itself from a comedy about guys from a tiny martial-arts school finding themselves in the middle of a messy situation to a zany wuxia fantasy to a whole different kind of melodrama, and for as much as it can give a viewer whiplash, there's something fun to that. All these modes are different facets of the same genre, and you'll see bits of one in another, as comic relief or explanatory backstory, but writer-producer Tsui Hark and director Benny Chan instead opt to just twist the whole thing from one shape to another, bringing the same characters along. There is just So Damn Much in here that it's almost no big deal that the crew can't really create a version of Pak Wan-Fai's Crane that's good enough to show the audience all of at once.

It's a ton of fun, though, with a great cast - I'd already been looking to grab more ANita Mui movies on disc, so getting this sprung on me was a treat, with Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Rosamund Kwan to boot. It's the sort of absurd mythical-martial world where mountains float and people fight in mid-air, but the filmmakers are good at making one bit complex and another easy to hand-wave without the clash being a problem. Plus, it's got the best production values that a circa-1993 Hong Kong fantasy can give you - slick as heck in spots if straining in others, but the latter never feel inept as opposed to just not having the money they do in California.

it's weird and never slows down to let you stop and question whether any of this makes any damn sense at all - and, honestly, what more does one want from this sort of action fantasy?

Lie mo qun ying (Devil Hunters)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 9 April 2022 in the Anthology Film Archives Courthouse Theater (Hong-Kong-a-Thon Part III, 35mm)

Devil Hunters is infamous for damn near killing its stars in its big action finale, and I can't help but wonder if that's part of the reason why so much of the rest is so frantic in how it barrels forward and skips a fair amount of explanation: How much of the script did they have to do without because Moon Lee was in the hospital and couldn't shoot? Probably not that much - it's not like this sort of girls-with-guns movie necessarily made a whole lot of effort to be coherent in the first place - but the churn is sure something, especially considering that I saw this at the end of a marathon and am thus worn down enough to not be sure if Lee was just playing one sister or both, or if an actress showed up again after her character was killed.

it's entertainingly chaotic, though, pushing forward like crazy and having just enough tying things together to get to the next bit before the action goes way over the top (if these movies are to believed, the HKPD of the 1980s and 1990s used hand grenades way more than I can ever imagine is justified for police work). Moon Lee is someone I didn't really know before this event and now I'm trying to see how much of her kind of B-level career I can scrape up on disc; she energizes the movie on her first appearance tussling with Sibelle Hun in an amusement park and the movie never really slows down after that, You may be thrown a bit watching this one, but it's unlikely you'll be bored.

Bin yun haang ze (Man on the Edge)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 16 April 2022 in AMC Boston Common #4 (first-run, DCP)

Man on the Edge has all the markings of a classic Hong Kong gangster movie - it's in Cantonese, is loaded chock-a-block with brotherhood and betrayal, and can get impressively violent when writer-director Sam Wong Ming-Sing feels like it, plus a cast that features Richie Ren Xian-Qi, Simon Yam Tat-Wah, and cameos by the likes of Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and Karena Lam Ka-Yan. And yet, it never quite feels like one of those films. It's chaotic where it should be precise while Wong seems to be looking over his shoulder in all the places where he should let 'er rip.

The core of it is pretty good, though, with Ren as Lok Chi-Ming, a veteran of the street just released from prison because he took the fall for Yam's Boss Cheong. Cheong is looking to retire, and he's got three underlings who would like to take his place with the Triads, the sort who are brothers like Lok and Cheong on the surface but keenly aware there's only one space opening up. What few realize is that Lok has agreed to go undercover for Inspector Lam (Kevin Chu Kam-Yin), but soon finds he's in contact with Inspector Ching (Alex Fong Chung-Sun) instead, while Ching's investigation is being hampered by thact that HKPD Chief Superintendent Richard Harrison (Gregory Charles Rivers) is corrupt as hell and looking to continue controlling the colony's heroin trade even after the handover.

Like a lot of attempts to do old-school Hong Kong crime these days, this film is set in the years before the 1997 handover in part because it just wouldn't do to say that there is still crime and corruption in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region now that Beijing is in charge, and one gets the impression that Wong, a former member of Jackie Chan's stunt team, is acutely aware of the lines that one doesn't cross if one doesn't just want to have this movie show in front of the billion-person audience to the north but maybe get a chance to direct one of the blockbusters they make up there. The film doesn't exactly stop dead and is kind of mild as far as tacked-on "crime does not pay" scenes go, but there's effort to pin crime and other issues on the British and Thai suppliers, and a fair amount of talk of not leaving HK or eventually coming back.

On the flip side, the action can sometimes feel surprisingly messy for being directed by someone with a stunt background, closer in and cut up more than a movie actually made in 1994 would be. It's not bad, compared to an American or Mainland flick, and Wong can get some good results when he's got some room to work; this movie has a nice example of one of my favorite hyper-specific types of action sequences, the chase across multiple boats in a marina. It certainly doesn't hurt that there are enough extra characters hanging around that an action beat will often end with a coup de grace that leaves at least one fewer, reshuffling things a bit.

If nothing else, the main cast is an enjoyable group to watch, different flavors of world-weariness, with Ren's Lok more resigned than the typical crook trapped between two loyalties while Simon Yam often seems just on the border of letting one forget that Cheong is a gangster through his charm but having something else just underneath. I confess to not necessarily getting the meaning behind Sammo Hung's Master Kam reciting divinations from some sort of Chinese tarot, but he and the other guest stars of a similar age give off the right vibe of being so powerful and entrenched that they seem almost like lovable institutions but also stuffy and in the way of the angry young guns.

All in all, Man on the Edge isn't really a bad movie, but by its nature it seems to highlight a style and genre of film that more genuinely can't be made again than many which are given that tag. You can get all the ingredients, but the environment is too different.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 20 May 2021 - 26 May 2022

There's a part of me that wants more things like this weekend's big opening to get all the blockbuster accouterments it does - the multiple screens, the special previews, etc. - but I kind of also wonder if the big hit for grownups could be something less nostalgic for the British aristocracy-y.
  • That would be Downton Abbey: A New Era, in which the gentry and servants on the one hand rent the mansion out to the producers of a film and on the other. It's at the Coolidge (including a Sunday "masked matinee), the Capitol Fresh Pond, the Kendall, Lexington, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Dolby Cinema), Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards, the Embassy, and Chestnut Hill.

    Also opening is Men, in which a young woman goes on her first vacation since being widowed, only to be menaced by various men, all of whom seem to have the same face. It's at the Coolidge, CinemaSalem, Kendall Square, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and the Embassy.

    The newly-restored "Director's Edition" of Star Trek: The Motion Picture plays on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, and Arsenal Yards (Sunday only). Twenty One Pilots: Cinema Experience has an encore Saturday afternoon at Boston Common. Arsenal Yards has Snakes on a Plane on Monday. Baseball doc Facing Nolan plays Fenway, South Bay, and Assembly Row on Tuesday, looking at Nolan Ryan through the eyes of the hitters who have batted against him (no idea if that includes Robin Ventura). There are "early access" shows for Top Gun: Maverick on Tuesday at Boston Common (Dolby Cinema), South Bay (Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (Dolby Cinema), and Arsenal Yards (CWX), with "AMC Investor Connect" shows at Boston Common, and Assembly Row on Wednesday.
  • Also opening at The Coolidge Corner Theatre is Emergency, in which three college students of color find themselves in potentially deep trouble when they find a white girl passed out in their room, because they know they aren't getting the benefit of the doubt. It also plays Kendall Square. Lux Æterna, One of the two new-ish Gaspar Noé films which played Boston Underground this year plays upstairs for midnights on Friday and Saturday, with Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg on a film set telling stories of witches and movies they've made about them as the situation grows more chaotic. It's 52 minutes (with, fair warning, a lot of strobes), so odds of catching the T back home are pretty good if that's an issue. Feature-length midnights are RoboCop on Friday and Dredd on Saturday. Monday's Big-Screen Classic is a 35mm print of A New Leaf, with Elaine May writing, directing, and co-starring as a wealthy botany professor wooed by Walter Matthau's wastrel who has spent his inheritance. The "Mom!!!" shows are The Graduate on Tuesday and Mildred Pierce on Wednesday, while the "Rewind!" show on Thursday is a 35mm print of Josie and the Pussycats, with an afterparty at Parlour.
  • IFFBoston entry Montana Story opens at Landmark Theatres Kendall Square and Boston Common, featuring Haley Lu Richardson as a woman returning home to meet her brother and dying father, a tense situation given their father's past abuse. The Kendall also opens Pleasure, in which director Ninja Thyberg follows a would-be porn star played by Sofia Kappel through her attempts to break into the industry in Los Angeles. The Kendall also has the last of their "May Is For Mothers" flicks, Mommie Dearest, on Tuesday.
  • The Brattle Theatre opens Il Buco for a limited run from Friday to Monday, in which Michelangelo Frammartino contrasts the building of Europe's tallest building in the North of Italy with the descent into the continent's deepest cave in the South. It splits a screen with a restoration of Rude Boy, which blends a roc-doc about The Clash with the life of a (fictional) fan. The theater is closed Tuesday, but after that they start the annual "Reunion Week" of anniversary screenings tied to the Harvard Alumni returning to the square. Wednesday features a 35mm print of Out of the Past (75 years) as well as Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (25 years), while Thursday includes The Hot Rock (50 years) and Office Killer (25 years). It continues through Thursday the 2nd, and this is not the year where they start having 100th anniversary screenings (sure, there won't be any actual alumni from the class of 1922, but are there a lot of 97-year-olds in the audience, really?).
  • Hindi-language horror-comedy Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 opens at Boston Common, as does Dhaakad, starring Kangana Ranaut as a super-spy tasked with eliminating an arms dealer played by Arjun Rampal; that one also opens at Apple Fresh Pond. Fresh Pond also picks up Jungle Cry, with Abhay Deol and Emily Shah as the inspirational coaches for a high-school rugby team, and Tamil-language crime flick Nenjuku Needhi, featuring Udhayanidhi Stalin as a renegade cop fighting caste-based discrimination. Fresh Pond also holds over Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Sarkaru Vaari Paata, and Don, and has Banladeshi family film Rickshaw Girl on Saturday and Sunday.

    Egyptian comedy Another One continues to plays Fenway, while Vietnamese horror film The Ancestral sticks around at South Bay.
  • The Capitol is back to being open seven days a week, and the offerings include IFFBoston selection Hold Your Fire, an impressively tense documentary about an extended hostage situation in 1972 Brooklyn which is in many ways where modern hostage negotiation started. Director Stefan Forbes will be on-hand for the 7:30pm shows on Sunday and Monday.

    The Somerville Theatre has We're All Going to the World's Fair down in the micro-cinema from Friday to Saturday and a full brace of repertory material: There's a Michael Mann twin-bill of Heat & Manhunter, both on 35mm, on Friday; westerns The Wild Bunch (70mm) & Vera Cruz (35mm) on Sunday; local productions from the 48-Hour Film Project on Monday & Tuesday; a 35mm "Crime Pays Double" feature of Kubrick's The Killing & John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle on Wednesday.
  • The Harvard Film Archive has more "Forgotten Filmmakers of the French New Wave": The Unvanquished (aka Have I the Right to Kill?) and a 35mm print of A King Without Distraction on Friday; Adieu Philippine on Saturday; Jean-Daniel Pollet shorts "Mediterranean", "As Long as You Get Drunk…", and "Gala" on Sunday; and The Last Vacation on 35mm Monday.
  • Belmont World Film has finished their main series, but they'll be running encore streams for the next few days, with Bootlegger available to purchase/start through 7pm on Friday, with Tom Medina available for the next 24 hours, Zero Fucks Given for 24 hours starting at 7pm Saturday, The Man in the Basement from 7pm Sunday, and Vera Dreams of the Sea starting at 7pm Monday.
  • ArtsEmerson continues their two streaming programs through the weekend, with 50-minute dance presentation "Within These Walls" and "Pandemic Communities" both available through Monday.
  • The Regent Theatre welcomes Bill Plympton to present several of his shorts and the feature Demi's Panic on Sunday evening; I contributed to the Kickstarter and wish I could make it. They also have their annual "A-Town Teen Film Festival" on Wednesday, featuring movies made by Arlington high-schoolers and an awards presentation.
  • The Museum of Science continues to run Doctor Strange on Friday and Saturday nights; with tickets available for "Third Thursday" film screenings presented by the Woods Hole Film Festival on June 16th, July 21st, and August 18th.
  • The Lexington Venue has Downton Abbey: A New Era, Petite Maman and The Duke from Friday to Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema opens Downton Abbey: A New Era and The Automat, joining Doctor Strange, The Duke (Saturday/Sunday/Wednesday/Thursday), The Bad Guys, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, The Rose Maker (Saturday/Sunday), Sing 2 (Saturday), and Encanto (Saturday). No shows Monday is apparently just the new schedule.

    The Luna Theater has Everything Everywhere All At Once on Friday and Saturday evenings, Stanleyville on Saturday afternoon, The Goonies on Sunday (though they don't list EEAAO co-star Ke Huy Quan in the featured cast), and the Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem has Doctor Strange, Downton Abbey, and Men from Friday to Monday (Monday's matinees captioned). They've also got their first special presentation in a while, with Miz Diamond Wigfall hosting a viewing party of Mean Girls on Friday
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes. The film program at the MFA is still in limbo, but Jordan's will be re-opening the Imax screens at their Natick and Reading stores on weekends starting this Friday with Top Gun: Maverick.
I am heading out to Chicago to visit my brother & sister-in-law, see the sights, and watch some baseball, so who knows if I'll see any movies this week (although there's an evening or two where I'll check out the Music Box)

Friday, May 13, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 13 May 2021 - 19 May 2022

It's the week after a Marvel behemoth, so folks are going to mostly stay out of the way, but that makes what does come out just a little more interestingly random.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre gets to run their 35mm print of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness for another weekend, but they also get two new releases: Happening is a possibly-too-timely drama in which a struggling student tries to obtain an abortion, a procedure that was illegal in 1963 France. It also screens at the Kendall, Boston Common, and the Embassy. The Coolidge also has documentary The Automat, which looks at the cafeteria-style restaurants where one purchased items from individual coin-operated cupboards and boasts a new song written and performed by Mel Brooks. Director Lisa Hurwitz will be on-hand for the 2pm show on Sunday.

    The After Midnite crew makes its first trips to the Rocky Woods of the summer season, with Friday the 13th Parts II & III on Friday the 13th (yes, the back of the double feature is in 3D!) and a campout double feature of The Burning and Cabin Fever on Saturday. If you can't get out there, they have two of Takashi Miike's more noteworthy bits of madness: Dark musical comedy The Happiness of the Katakuris on Friday and a 35mm print of the one that really put him on the map internationally, Audition, on Saturday.

    In addition to the Automat event, Sunday also has Gothe-Institut selection Chess Story, about a lawyer who becomes obsessed with the game after he's thrown in jail for not assisting the Nazis in 1938. Monday's Big Screen Classic is La Dolce Vita, Tuesday's mother-from-hell is John Waters's Serial Mom, with a 35mm print of Bong Joon-Ho's Mother on Wednesday, while Thursday features a "Shakespeare Reimagined" presentation of Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing on 35mm film.
  • I never saw the first take on Steven King's Firestarter, but it's telling that this new version's trailers reference superhero stories as much as anything when it seems like a comparison one would have avoided making 40 years ago. Zac Efrom, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, and Sydney Lemmon star, Keith Thomas directs, and there are some interesting folks behind the scenes - music by John Carpenter (among others) and cinematography by Karim Hussain. It's at Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and on Peacock.

    Family Camp, in which two rival fathers over-compete during summer vacation, looks like an Adam Sandler thing but it's actually from internet sketch guys; it plays Boston Common.

    There's another Abba: The Movie Fan Event at Boston Common and Fenway on Saturday afternoon. Arsenal Yards has Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on Tuesday. In addition to the usual Thursday sneaks, there is a Downton Abbey: A New Era "Early Access" show at the Kendall, West Newton, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill on Wednesday. Twenty One Pilots Cinema Experience (an extended cut of last year's "Livestream Experience", I think) plays Boston Common andFenway on Thursday.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square opens Sundance hit On the Count of Three, whose description says it follows two best friends played by director Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbot on the last day of their lives.

    They, too, continue a "May Is for Mothers" series, with Rosemary's Baby on Tuesday. Take Me to the River: New Orleans plays on Wednesday, with Martin Shore following up his 2014 documentary on Memphis with one that looks at the legendary music scene in NOLA.
  • The Brattle Theatre has the new restoration of Dennis Hopper's Out of The Blue, a spiritual sequel to Easy Rider which he rejiggered to feature teenage co-star Linda Manz. Manz also co-stars in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, which plays in 35mm on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, while Hopper's Easy Rider plays Wednesday and Thursday.

    The DocYard has their final show of the season on Monday (and the year, as there will not be a fall session), with Nuclear Family, which looks at how the same land has hosted nuclear missiles and native lands Directors Erin and Travis Wilkerson will dial in to discuss afterward.
  • Hindi-language comedy Jayeshbhai Jordaar opens at Apple Fresh Pond and Boston Common, featuring Bollywood action star Ranveer Singh cast against type as a bullied man trying to look out for his wife and daughter. Action movie Sarkaru Vaari Paata is in the Telugu language and features Manesh Badu in the middle of a banking scheme; it opens in the same places. Fresh Pond also picks up Gujarati-language comedy Kehvatlal Parivar (through Sunday), Tamil-language action-comedy Don and Kannada-language mystery-comedy Avatar Purusha (through Sunday). CBI 5 returns starting Sunday.

    Egyptian comedy Another One plays Fenway, featuring Ahmed Helmy as a social worker who feels he is getting lazy, while Vietnamese horror film The Ancestral is at South Bay.

    CGI sports anime Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis (Decide) plays subtitled matinees at Kendall Square from Friday to Sunday, while Ponyo is this month's Studio Ghibli Fest entry at Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards on Sunday (dubbed), Monday (subtitled), and Wednesday (dubbed). Eureka: Eureka Seven Hi Evolution (which is apparently different from the Eureka Seven: Hi Evolution production from a few years back) plays Boston Common on Tuesday (dubbed) and Wednesday (subtitled).
  • The Somerville Theatre brings back the Slaughterhouse Movie Club on Friday, with a drag & burlesque pre-show before they run a 35mm print of Gore Verbinski's The Ring. On Saturday and Sunday, they pull out their 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey, then play Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins on 35mm film on Monday and Tuesday for those who didn't get enough (or couldn't stay up late) at the Coolidge over the weekend. Wednesday's Crime Pays Double selection is a Walter Matthau double feature of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Charley Varrick, both on film.
  • The Harvard Film Archive continues "Forgotten Filmmakers of the French New Wave" with America as Seen by a Frenchman (Friday), Witness in the City (Friday), The Doll (35mm Saturday), Moranbong (35mm Saturday), A Game for Six Lovers (Sunday), and Enclosure (Monday).
  • Belmont World Film has their final show of this year's series on Monday with Agnieszka Woszczynska's Silent Land, in which a Polish couple on vacation in Italy witness an accident that shakes them to the core. This one screens at Arsenal Yards on Monday with a post-film discussion and discounts at a Mediterranean restaurant beforehand.
  • ArtsEmerson streams two programs this week, with "Within These Walls" a 50-minute dance piece inspired by U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island State Park in San Francisco Bay and the Chinese Exclusion Act, while "Pandemic Communities" examines how marginalized people often bear an excess burden from these events, whether today or one hundred years ago. "Walls" is available from Friday evening, "Communities" from Saturday evening.
  • The Regent Theatre screens shorts made by local teens in a "Documentary Bootcamp" on Wednesday afternoon. Looking ahead to next week, animation legend Bill Plympton will visit with a program of shorts and the feature Demi's Panic on the 22nd, and I'm kicking myself because I contributed to the crowdfunding campaign but will be out of town.
  • The Museum of Science continues to run Doctor Strange on Friday and Saturday nights; they've also booked the summer's three "Third Thursday" film screenings presented by the Woods Hole Film Festival.
  • The Lexington Venue has Petite Maman and The Duke from Friday to Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema sticks with Doctor Strange, The Duke, The Bad Guys, Fantastic Beasts (Friday-Wednesday), Sonic the Hedgehog 2, The Rose Maker (Saturday/Sunday), Sing 2 (Saturday/Sunday), and Encanto (Saturday/Sunday). No shows Monday.

    The Luna Theater has Everything Everywhere All At Once on Friday and Saturday, Stanleyville (an interesting if sometimes meandering oddity from last year's Fantasia festival) on Saturday and Thursday, Labyrinth on Sunday, and the Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem has Doctor Strange, Petit Maman, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and The Northman from Friday to Monday (Monday's matinees captioned).
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes. The film program at the MFA is still in limbo, but Jordan's is selling tickets for when they re-open the Imax screen with Top Gun: Maverick.
Can I swing the midnights? Probably not, no. But I'll certainly get back to 13 Assassins, the Matthaus, a Red Sox game, Much Ado About Nothing and maybe The Automat.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 6 May 2021 - 12 May 2022

Folks, Sam Raimi's first feature in nearly a decade comes out this week, and it's a big ol' Marvel movie.
  • That would be Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness, in which Benedict Cumberbatch's Strange must deal with the barriers between worlds breaking down, presumably in part because of what happened in Spider-Man: No Way Home, with the assistance of Wong, the Scarlet Witch, and Miss America Chavez. It's pretty much everywhere - the Capitol (including RealD 3D), Fresh Pond (including 3D), the Coolidge (in 35mm), West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon in 2D & 3D/RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema), Fenway (including RealD 3D), Kendall Square (including RealD 3D), South Bay (including Imax Xenon in 2D & 3D/RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax Xenon in 2D & 3D/RealD 3D/Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill. It even plays the Omni dome at the The Museum of Science, with shows on Saturday the 7th and on Friday and Saturday for the next four weeks.

    For one-offs, Arsenal Yards shows Air Force One on Monday evening. Boston Common and Fenway have a "Fan Event" of 1977's Abba: The Movie on Thursday.
  • Even the boutique places are mostly keeping things Strange, but Landmark Theatres has a couple other new releases. Out in Waltham, The Embassy gets Operation Mincemeat, with Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen as two World War II intelligence officers with a daring plan to distract the Nazis from a forthcoming invasion. It also drops on Netflix.

    In Cambridge, Kendall Square has The Will to See, co-directed by war reporter Bernard-Henri Lévy, follows him as he tours the ongoing centers of conflict in the world today. They also continue the "May Is for Mothers" series with Mildred Pierce on Tuesday.
  • The folks at The Coolidge Corner Theatre got their hands on a 35mm print of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but it will only be running through Sunday. It's a clever booking - uniquely them, get a lot of people in over the weekend, and then free up the off-hours for the repertory shows. This week that includes Tales from the Hood at midnight Friday, Snoop Dogg and Pam Grier in Bones at the same time Saturday, a Big Screen Classics show of In the Heat of the Night on Monday, Mommie Dearest on Tuesday, and a 35mm print of Friday the 13th on Wednesday - with the next two at Rocky Wood on, well, you can figure out the date. The theater appears to be dark on Thursday.
  • Hindi-language comedy Mere Desh Ki Dharti opens at Boston Common, featuring Divyendu Sharma and Anant Vidhaat Sharma as two engineers who have misadventures in rural India. Apple Fresh Pond opens Telugu adventure Bhala Thandanana and drama Ashoka Vanamlo Arjuna Kalyanam on Friday. Indian holdovers include Hindi thriller Runway 34 at Fresh Pond and Boston Common and Tamil romantic comedy Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal at Fresh Pond.

    Anime Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis (Decide) plays Boston Common (dubbed/subtitled) and Kendall Square (subtitled) on Thursday; it's an adaptation of the popular manga and a relatively rare anime that is primarily CGI, presumably so they can do motion capture of the sports. Boston Common still hangs on to anime Jujutsu Kaisen: 0, with all subtitled shows.
  • The Brattle Theatre has the new digital remaster of David Lynch's Inland Empire through Thursday, which should be interesting, as David Lynch shot this at something like DVD resolution. It says "only in theaters", so you may be waiting a while to see this remastered version at home.

    They als show Psycho for Mother's Day on Sunday (a lot of folks do that now, but they were ahead of the curve). The DocYard presents What We Leave Behind on Monday, with filmmaker Iliana Sosa on hand to discuss the film she made of her 89-year-old grandfather building a house for his children in Mexico after spending decades riding the bus to visit his children and grandchildren in Texas. They also have documentary This Much I Know to Be True, following musicians Nick Cave and Warren Ellis as they create and perform their two most recent albums on Wednesday; it's also at Boston Common and Kendall Square.
  • The Somerville Theatre picks up The Northman and brings back Everything Everywhere All at Once after being given over to IFFBoston for a week, and in addition to live shows, offers a meta-movie double feature of Being John Malkovich (35mm) and JCVD on Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday's "Crime Pays Double" offering up 52 Pick Up (35mm) and The Way of the Gun, while Thursday has two by Abel Ferrara - Ms. 45 (35mm) and The Addiction In addition to a couple screens of Strange The Capitol also picks up The Duke and Everything Everywhere All at Once, which is the first time in recent memory something has been at both this mini-chain's theaters at the same time.
  • The Harvard Film Archive is going to have a print program available soon, with the first couple months of the summer devoted to "Forgotten Filmmakers of the French New Wave". This weekend's entries are James Blue's The Olive Trees of Justice (Friday), Jean Rouch's Moi, un Noir and The Human Pyramid (both Saturday), Guy Gilles's Love at Sea (Sunday), and Marcel Hanoun's A Simple Story (Monday). Curator Jean-Michel Frodon will introduce the films on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Belmont World Film its last online segment of the year, Vera Dreams of the Sea, through Monday, when director Kaltrina Krasniqi will join an online Q&A to discuss her drama about a woman fighting to retain her home after her husband's suicide.
  • The Regent Theatre has a free screening of The Plastic Bag Store: The Movie, which is apparently a bit more than just pointing a camera that the stage show examining how plastic does not degrade over time with puppetry. It's on Wednesday night, and will also be available to stream.
  • The Lexington Venue has Petite Maman and The Duke from Friday to Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema adds Doctor Strange to The Duke, The Bad Guys, Fantastic Beasts (Friday-Tuesday), Sonic the Hedgehog 2, The Rose Maker (Sunday/Wednesday), Sing 2 (Saturday/Sunday), and Encanto (Saturday). No shows Monday

    The Luna Theater has Everything Everywhere All At Once from Friday to Sunday, Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché on Saturday and Thursday, and the Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem has Doctor Strange, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and The Northman from Friday to Monday (Monday's matinees captioned).
  • For those still not ready to join random people in a room for two hours, theater rentals are available at Kendall Square, The Embassy, West Newton, the Capitol and Somerville, The Venue, CinemaSalem, and many of the multiplexes. The film program at the MFA is still in limbo, but Jordan's is planning to fire the Imax screens back up at the end of the month!
I've already got two tickets to Doctor Strange, because odds are 35mm and Imax 3D shows will be in short supply after the weekend. I'm also looking up to catching up with The Northman and Petite Maman, as well as at least 52 Pick-Up at the Somerville.