Wednesday, February 01, 2023

This Week in Tickets: 23 January 2023 - 29 January 2023 (All Action)

Just a whole week of work going late and then me running down early, like can happen sometimes.

This Week in Tickets I probably shouldn't talk too much about my actual paying job online, but, man, sometimes you just have a week where you realize that something is a Rube Goldberg machine that crosses over itself and that you will just make a big mess if you try to start it halfway through. Wiped me out enough that I zonked out watching Plain Jane to the Rescue on Tuesday night, meaning I had to give it another go on Wednesday. A John Woo comedy should not be able to put me out!

The next night, I went downtown for Plane, even though I could have been seeing something nominated for Oscars or otherwise classy. Friday I stayed in and watched the first couple episodes of Poker Face. That Rian Johnson may have a future in motion pictures.

Saturday, after a day of errands, I stayed local to catch Assault on Precinct 13 at the Somerville on their 4K laser projector, filling in a John Carpenter blind spot. I've got a lot of those, actually, because Carpenter is one of many directors that I like and want to see plenty of, but I'm not going to do a deep dive unless the folks at local theaters make it really easy.

Then, on Sunday, I did another Film Roll and landed another figure in John Woo territory for Heroes Shed No Tears, decidedly more what I expect from Woo than Plain Jane was. Hopefully it's just a few weeks before I'm caught up enough with Film Rolls to really talk about that.

Quiet week; hopefully next will be busier. Follow me on Letterboxd for first drafts of all this nonsense.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2023 in AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, DCP)

If nothing else, you have to kind of admire how Plane is so committed to not screwing around that it omits an extremely obvious mid/post-credit scene. Like, you remember how Con Air did a quick flash to Steve Buscemi? Seems like you'd have one, but nah. Not needed, so not there.

That sort of straight-down-the-middle approach makes for a kind of dry action flick, enough that I wonder if it could have been better if the villains were either absent or more heightened, with the movie either just about surviving after the crash or the bad guys ludicrous enough that the audience can't believe this is happening on top of everything else. I wouldn't call the movie anything close to realistic, but it feels like the writers came up with the high concept and then gamed it out sort of reasonably: The bad guys would be pretty basic goons, no time for romance, nobody knows anybody else, etc. It's mostly executed ably, aside from a bit more shaky camera work than seems ideal, but it means the violence winds up feeling closer to "yeah, that's about right" than actually exciting.

Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, and the various familiar faces I couldn't put a name to are by and large pros, though, neither chewing scenery nor mailing their performances in. In a couple years it will just be one more line on their residuals, and they'll probably lose track of it compared to more interesting projects, but they've got nothing to be ashamed of.

Escape from Precinct 13

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 January 2023 in Somerville Theatre #1 (special engagement, 4K laser DCP)

Assault on Precinct 13 : 1970s Los Angeles :: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three: 1970s New York

Obviously, not a perfect comparison, but I do think John Carpenter kind of nails L.A.'s version of a city in decay, or at least the fear of it: Isolating sprawl, nobody trusts the cops but everybody is scared of everything around them, there's an infinite supply of gangbangers with unlimited ammunition. It's presented as just mundane enough to not seem entirely dystopic, but you can feel the paranoia in what should seemingly be the part of the movie where Carpenter should be softening the audience up so what happens next can come as a shock as the father and daughter drive to pick up their nanny: This is not a happy place.

There are times when it feels like Carpenter didn't have a whole lot more than that vibe, throwing stock characters together without doing a whole lot ot make them interesting, although he gets a lot out of a cast so nondescript that one person would end their career in Hollywood as a driver and another would have a documentary made about how she dropped out of the business just a few years later. There's not a whole lot that necessarily rings true about getting this group together and running without a whole lot of friction, but Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, and Laurie Zimmer play their characters with a confidence that implies they could have gone onto more high-profile things, but that wasn't in the cards.

Anyway, there's the overthinking of what is an action movie distilled down to the basics, although, boy, Carpenter was great at this right from the word jump. This is hIs second feature, and he's finding great shots all over the place, establishing a certain heightened viciousness that would serve him well as a horror filmmaker right off the bat, and finding a lot of ways to make what could be a very static situation feel like it's filled with and surrounded by danger. The way he uses the widescreen composition to show just how limited what the defenders can see through binoculars even as he's also used it to make the city feel big but empty is a guy who knows his tools right away.

Plain Jane to the Rescue Plane Assault on Precinct 13 Heroes Shed No Tears

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