Friday, June 30, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 30 June 2023 - 6 July 2023

I know that roughly nobody reading this likes 3D as much as I do, but it's kind of nuts DreamWorks's new animated movie is apparently not coming out in the format, as Katzenberg was a huge proponent and they always used depth extremely well, and I swear I saw a preview for Indiana Jones in 3D, but no sign of that either.
  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the big weekend opening, an odd duck in that neither Steven Spielberg nor George Lucas are particularly involved, with James Mangold directing Harrison Ford as the globetrotting adventurer archaeologist roped into one last adventure circa 1970 as a group of neo-Nazis seek an artifact that Jones denied them during the war. It's at the Somerville (presumably-4K laser projection), Fresh Pond, Jordan's Furniture (Imax), West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon & Dolby Cinema), Kendall Square, South Bay (Imax & Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    For the younger set, there's Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, which amusingly flips the Little Mermaid script to say krakens are heroic and mermaids are villains, with Ruby a secret princess who just wants a normal life. It's at The Capitol, Fresh Pond, West Newton, Boston Common, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards.

    Sound of Freedom is a based-on-a-true-story action flick that stars Jim Claviezel as a vigilante looking to rescue kids from human traffickers (is this really the best Mira Sorvino can do?), opens Monday at Boston Common, South Bay, Assembly Row.

    Kung Fu Panda has matinees at Boston Common Saturday and Wednesday. There are previews of Joy Ride at Boston Common South Bay, and Assembly Row on Saturday (except South Bay) and Wednesday nights before it opens next week.
  • Documentary Every Body, which follows three intersex people how have decided to live outside the closet and pressure to conform to a gender binary, plays Landmark Kendall Square, the Capitol, and Boston Common.

    The Kendall also plays Dunkirk as part of their Christopher Nolan series on Wednesday.
  • Telugu-language action flick Spy, which opened Wednesday, continues at Apple Fresh Pond. They also get Hindi romantic comedy Satyaprem Ki Katha (also at Boston Common), Tamil thriller Maamannan, Telugu comedy Samajavaragamana, and Punjabi comedy Carry on Jatta 3.
  • With the Fourth coming, The Brattle Theatre has their annual vacation series - "Vacation Nightmares" this year, with the uncut Infinity Pool playing Friday to Monday, Monsieur Hulot's Holiday Saturday & Sunday afternoon, Nobuhiko Obayashi's House on 35mm Saturday & Sunday, An American Werewolf in London on Saturday, Jaws (the reason for the season) Monday afternoon and Tuesday the 4th, Hitchcock's second The Man Who Knew Too Much on 35mm Monday, a Jordan Peele double feature of Get Out & Us on Wednesday, and a pairing of The Lost Daughter & Swimming Pool on Thursday .
  • The Museum of Science adds "Jane Goodall - Reasons for Hope" to its Omnimax rotation starting Saturday, alternating showtimes with "Everest". They've also announced that Oppenheimer will be playing Fridays & Saturdays for its first three weekends of release (shame they don't have their old film projectors).
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre keeps the same schedule, more or less. They wrap Pride month with a midnight show of Rocky Horror on Friday (apparently no shadow cast, though Full Body is at Boston Common as usual earlier). Atomic Blonde also plays midnight on Friday, and then at 11pm on Saturday you can strap in for the full four-film John Wick Marathon, which is one way to not have to worry about getting back home after the late show. Monday's BIg Screen Classic is Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Samurai Summer continues with Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha on 35mm film Wednesday, and there's a Cinema Jukebox show of A Hard Day's Night on Thursday.
  • Indiana Jones has the big screen with the laser projector at The Somerville Theatre most of the week, but yields to Dirty Dancing - with a post-film dance party upstairs at the Crystal Ballroom - on Thursday.
  • Just a bit of "Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro" for the holiday weekend at The Harvard Film Archive, with The Munekata Sisters (Friday), Walk Cheerfully (Saturday), and The Only Son (Sunday), all on 35mm film and Walk Cheerfully featuring live accompaniment by Martin Marks, because it's silent.
  • The ICA will be playing "In Their Own Words", a short film program presented in conjunction with their Simone Leigh exhibition, for museum visitors on Monday.
  • The in-person portion of The Roxbury International Film Festival is finished, but opening night film The Honeymoon and six short packages can be streamed through Sunday as "RoxFilm@Home" presentations.
  • The Regent Theatre has sing-along presentations of 1776 playing Friday evening and matinees on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On Sunday, they've got D.O.A., a remake (the third!) of the classic film noir starring John Doe, with Doe, director Kurt St. Thomas, co-star Tony V, and special effects guy Jimi Simmons doing a post-film Q&A.
  • The West Newton Cinema has Hannah Ha Ha, a locally-shot independent drama about a woman living a quiet life in a small town, with filmmakers present for the shows on Friday and Saturday. They also pick up Indiana Jones and Ruby Gillman to join Asteroid City, Elemental, Spider-Verse, You Hurt My Feelings (no show Thursday), Super Mario Brothers (Sunday to Tuesday matinees), and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (no show Friday). Open all week!

    The Lexington Venue is open through Monday plus Thursday with Asteroid City and Past Lives.

    The Luna Theater looks to be taking the holiday weekend off until Weirdo Wednesday and Sanctuary on Thursday.

    Cinema Salem has Indiana Jones, Past Lives, Asteroid City, and Elemental through Monday. There's also a "Summer Rewind" show of Dazed and Confused on Thursday.

    If you can make it out to the Liberty Tree Mall, they've got Prisoner's Daughter, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and starring Kate Beckinsale & Brian Cox
  • Outdoor screenings per Joe's Free Films include Encanto at City on the Hill Church on Saturday and Footloose at Lincoln Park in Somerville. I guess the Boston Harbor Hotel isn't doing their series this year.
Indiana Jones, obviously, on the Somerville's spiffy screen. No sleep Saturday for 8+ hours of John Wick. I'll also catch up on No Hard Feelings and The Blackening, maybe catch a goodie or two at the Brattle, and I've also got a ticket for a Red Sox game.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The Procurator

I can be kind of a broken record talking about why I'm very impatient for the various theaters in Boston that have shut down due to the pandemic and parent-company bankruptcy - the North Station ArcLight, the Showplace in the Seaport, and the Regal in Fenway - to re-open under new management (AMC and Alamo, respectively, have committed to the first two), and it's not so much that I want to go to them. It's because, with those 40 or so screens gone, Boston Common and Kendall Square have been shouldering much more of the blockbuster load, which has been less room for conventional foreign/indie stuff to play the Kendall and less room for Asian, independent genre, and other such things to play Boston Common.

Which means, of the various Chinese and Korean films to have U.S. releases in June, The Procurator got lucky - its U.S. release was slated for the week after The Flash and Elemental didn't do as well as one might have hoped, with the former on track to tank even harder in its second week, meaning theaters had some extra screens. So The Procurator gets four shows a day, better than any other Asian film has managed recently.

And, if my Sunday-evening show was any indication, it was awful quiet; I was the only one there until just before the trailers started to run, when maybe one or two others showed up, and there were a few others who popped in looking to theater-hop but retreated when they saw it was Chinese. I don't think Sunday night was particularly unusual, either; I'd done a fair amount of checking the app over the weekend and never saw another seat reserved.for a showtime. It's not surprising, although oddly ironic; despite being a release from China Lion, who pioneered releasing Chinese movies day-and-date or soon enough after their release in Beijing that pirated DVDs couldn't beat them across the Pacific, this came out two months after its Chinese release and I suspect that anyone in Chinatown who wanted to see it has seen it.

I joked, seeing how empty the place was, that this quiet reception was probably not selling AMC on opening One More Chance this weekend, which ticked me off. Yeah, it's been sitting on a shelf for years, but it's Chow Yun-Fat! Who doesn't enjoy watching Chow Yun-Fat in movies? But I suspect that had very little to do with it - they're going to need all the screens they can get for Indiana Jones this weekend, which doesn't leave a lot of room for other things to squeak in the way that they could this week. Maybe that will change once there are fancy screens a couple T stops away again; I just hope that happens soon.

Jian cha feng yun

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 25 June 2023 in AMC Boston Common #15 (first-run, DCP)

Is a courtroom drama something you can really do in China, given the restrictions placed upon filmmakers there? Technically, yes - The Procurator exists - but is it going to be exciting? Not particularly - what makes this kind of movie suspenseful is the possibility that the system isn't going to work, and this film doesn't make it feel like that's possible.

It opens with Xia Wei (Wang Likun), a respected history professor at Liuching University, accused of murdering Chen Xin (Bao Bei'er), a loan shark who had raped one of Xia's students (Liang Songqing) days earlier. Procurator Li Rui (Johnny Huang Jingyu), who had already been investigating Xin for other matters, is assigned the case, but he and partner Zhang Youcheng (Wang Qianyuan) find some things that don't quite add up. Meanwhile, Xia's husband Hong Junshan (Feng Shaofeng). one of the richest men in Liuching, hires Tong Yuchen (Bai Baihe), a former colleague of Li, for the defense, although he does not mention that he and brother Qiming (Su Suke) have been financing Chen's nightclub.

Co-writer/director Alan Mak Siu-Fai looks for ways to inject something into what looks like an open and shut case, with the most consequential probably being Xia's fuzzy memory, although that is seemingly more for the audience than the courtroom for all that the attorneys mention it. Aside from that, everything winds up too tightly plotted, without any room for even the slightest of red herrings, and attempts to make the title character interesting fall flat. He's just so dedicated, but not in a Western loose-cannon way, and a set of flashbacks to Li asking Tong out is painful to watch even without considering that Tong apparently quit the procurator's office at some point after being hit on by a colleague; maybe the dialogue sounds snappy in Mandarin, but the English subtitles are astonishingly stilted. And while "don't say a damn word" is good legal advice, it prevents the movie from getting into the melodramatic core until almost the end.

There a metaphor, somewhere, in the subject of Xia's classroom lecture about the "elegy stone", which must be broken to rob a grave but which can never be sold, because having one is tantamount to a confession, but Mak and co-writer Peng Zhao never quite find a modern analog for that sort of persistent evidence. Indeed, it winds up primarily used literally. There's also something more than a little gross about how the rape that started winds up being little more than the thing that uncovers The Real Crime. There are a few other interesting parts - Chinese films are often better at integrating social media into a story than Western ones, and this film is no exception - but other that fizzle. Consider a scene where the key to a storage locker gets a stylized shot , and the following scenes don't show Li puzzling out where it is, but just ripping some apparently very flimsy lockers apart. It's such a weird missed opportunity, and not the only one.

The film features a fine ensemble but never finds a center for it. Johnny Huang is playing the title character and Li Rui actually does some decent detecting, but the script delegates too much of it and is often afraid to give him too strong a personality - he's amiable, but not quirky, driven, or deceptively lightweight, and Huang can't do more than make him pleasantly average. The same goes for Bai Baihe, usually a highlight but given nothing to do here. Wang Likun feels like she should be the star as Xia Wei - Xia is connected to every point in the story and Wang always communicates that she cares, but the script spends a lot of time keeping her from acting. Feng Shaofeng and Wang Qianyuan know the assignment and are never boring, but the film needs more.

It's a movie that has all the pieces for a good crime story and murder mystery, but for whatever reasons, Mak can't put them together in their best arrangement. Instead, he seems to take the most direct path from A to B when the genre demands it be sneakily circuitous.

Film Rolls, Round 17: The Girl Most LIkely To… and The Mobfathers

It doesn't happen often, because I've got a bad habit of starting a movie at 10pm, but sometimes it works out that the dice choose both ends of an evening's double feature.

In this case, Mookie rolls a 4, which brings him to The Girl Most Likely To…, a TV-movie that, at 64 minutes, seems like it would be pretty short for even a 90-minute timeslot in 1973, although seeing that it was apparently broadcast on Election Night makes me wonder if the network knew it would be interrupted and wanted something that wouldn't run into the wee hours.

Rolling an 8 gets Bruce into the most recent Hong Kong section, landing on The Mobfathers, which also isn't exactly epic-length, so there was plenty of time to watch this before lights-out.

So, do good things come in small packages?

The Girl Most Likely To…

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 January 2023 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

It's always a bit weird to see folks one first encountered as supporting character actors in their middle age as young sex symbols, as is the case with Stockard Channing here. It's especially peculiar given that her voice didn't really change that much between this first credited role and when I started seeing her in supporting roles and on television twenty-odd years later. On top of that, the Joan Rivers dialogue she's given never really sounds like it's coming from a young person, because I suspect that even when she was in her twenties, Rivers had the soul of a veteran borscht belt comic.

As a result, there's a lot about this movie that seems kind of off from 50 years down the line, even before you get to the overt sexism that drives so much of the story (it's not that this is unrealistic, but that even people making lame excuses is more interesting to watch), or the fact that folks pushing/over 30 playing college-aged characters really defied belief in 1973. The nut of it, of course, is not bad at all - Miriam Knight (Channing), a hard-working, smart, and witty but plain-looking college girl, is tormented by her roommate (Susanne Zenor) and said roommate's boyfriend (Larry Wilcox), underestimated by her professors, and taken for granted by the family friend she's expected to marry (Warren Berlinger), until a disfiguring auto accident requires reconstructed surgery, and she's reconstructed into something quite conventionally attractive, apparently so unrecognizable that she's able to get quite close to everyone who treated her badly as she seeks revenge, with the detective on her trail (Ed Asner) expressing a certain sort of admiration.

It's maybe unfair to ask this film to be more than it is, a comedy made for American network television five years before the release of Halloween and the subsequent slasher boom (heck, Bob Clark hadn't even made Black Christmas yet); it sometimes feels as though Rivers, co-writer Agnes Gallin, and workman TV director Lee Philips are trying to put a new twist on a genre that doesn't properly exist yet. Remade today, this would have a better chance to be a vicious little horror movie where the jokes served as an extra twist of the knife, although it could still wind up as the same kind of arch thing where the jokes feel casual even if they're tied up in violence. The kills themselves are often elaborate slapstick abusrdities, ridiculous ways to die which reduces the force of their irony a bit.

It is, at least, not a bad way to be introduced to Stockard Channing; she's got the right sort of youthful optimism to start, comfortable throwing off those Rivers wisecracks in a way that shows Miriam is fun and clever but knows she can't afford to show people up with it. Of course, pre-surgery Miriam is still Stockard Channing and the make-up doesn't quite make her different enough to sell her as unrecognizable, and she's not quite at the point where one buys casually homicidal as a reaction to discovering that people are just differently awful. Amusingly, there's some "she just can't write men" going on here; while Susanne Zenor's Heidi has a ring of truth in her awfulness, the guys are boringly one-dimensional, and even Ed Asner can't do much with a fundamentally ridiculous detective.

This movie is what it is and maybe all it can be given the time and millieu. It's at least just good enough to remember, while what are surely many other attempts to do something smilar haven't even made this TV-movie's small ding in pop culture.

Suen lo chor (The Mobfathers)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 January 2023 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Hong Kong Blu-ray)

What an odd mix of personalities this has - Chapman To is capable of playing a ruthless gangster (he's terrifically fierce in G Affairs), but it never seems to come naturally to him here, so this film always feels like it's going to veer off into a comedic direction, while Herman Yau's direction is pure B-movie get-a-good-enough-take-and-move-on, preventing the film from having a coherent personality. It's not quirky enough to work as a spoof of Election or the like, but it's also not the sort of movie that can stand alongside those, either.

It's a familiar story: Chuck Lam (Chapman To Man-Chat) is a triad underboss just out of prison who mostly tries to get jobs done without a lot of fuss. He's the presumed heir apparent to the ailing godfather (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang), with Wulf (Gregory Wong Chung-Yiu) and "Coke" (Tony Ho Wah-Chiu) also in the mix and old friend Luke (Philip Keung Hiu-Man) counted on for support. Of course, in a situation like this, there are lots of folks looking to take advantage of a situation in flux. Meanwhile, Chuck's son is having difficulty in elementary school and it's tough for a mobster to find time to deal with that and act like a normal person in parent-teacher meetings.

There's kind of a fun movie to be made about a guy being sort of overwhelmed by his duties as both a mobster and a father, and the English-language title kind of makes me wonder if that was originally a bigger part of the movie before Yau apparently became enamored of this as a metaphor for how so much in Hong Kong organizations is opaque right up to the top, or just found the mob storylines more interesting. The trouble with that is that To is at his best, in general and in this movie, when he's playing an everyman in an off-kilter world, and when that becomes real life-and-death stakes, it becomes precarious, and Herman Yau isn't the sort of filmmaker who threads needles. He's the sort of filmmaker that cranks things out and then moves along to the next one. And, fine - there's worse things in the world than a Hong Kong crime movie descending into violence! Unfortunately, Yau and company make the decision to go with over-the-top CGI blood as stuff goes down, and it doesn't match the grounded crime storytelling mode that the film has shifted to or the type of comedy it's used to that point, between Chuck's breaking the fourth wall or juxtaposing the gangland violence with the ordinary.

Perhaps it's a more compelling gangster story, or political metaphor, if you're actually from Hong Kong; I got to the end and couldn't help but wonder what all that was about.

A quick night which lets Bruce build a bit of a lead back up:

Mookie: 61 stars
Bruce: 62 ¾ stars

Next up: More from relatively recent Hong Kong! You can tell it's relatively recent because that lean indicates there's something missing at the end.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 23 June 2023 - 29 June 2023

Last week, the studios had a couple big movies not meet expectations, but the big release this week is a tweener that targets boutique houses as well as multiplexes, so there's a bit of room for weird stuff to opportunistically squeeze through.
  • That big release is Wes Anderson's Asteroid City, which apparently packs just about everyone you might want to see in a Wes Anderson movie into 105 minutes of families and locals being stuck in a small desert town once something very strange happens. It's got both main screens at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Somerville Theatre, Kendall Square, Lexington, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row.

    Midnights at the Coolidge this week are a 35mm print of Django Unchained on Friday and a new restoration of Lady Snowblood on Saturday. There's a Goethe-Institut presentation of We Are Next of Kin - a true-crime story told from the perspective of a kidnapped man's 13-year-old son - on Sunday morning. There are two Big Screen Classics on 35mm this week, with Monday offering Charade and Thursday featuring What's Up, Doc?, with a pre-film seminar by Jake Mulligan. Samurai Summer continues with 35mm prints of Three Outlaw Samurai on Tuesday and Kuroneko on Wednesday.
  • The more mainstream opening this week is No Hard Feelings, a comedy with Jennifer Lawrence as a young woman hired to pull their introverted son out of his shell before he goes to college, with every step of the way raunchier and more embarrassing. It's at Fresh Pond, Boston Common, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yard, and Chestnut Hill.

    God Is a Bullet plays Boston Common and South Bay; written for the screen and directed by Nick Cassavetes, it stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a detective who sends himself deep undercover to infiltrate the cult that murdered his wife and kidnapped his daughter, with Jamie Foxx, Maika Monroe, and a few interesting folks in the cast (note that it's long and is apparently only playing weird times). Boston Common also gets The Last Rider, a documentary about Greg Lamond's 1989 run at the Tour de France.

    Past Lives, already playing the Kendall and Boston Common, expands to the Somerville Theatre and Assembly Row.

    Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, has matinee shows at Boston Common on Saturday and Wednesday. The Room screens at South Bay and Assembly Row on Tuesday. Documentary Every Body plays Boston Common on Thursday; not sure if it's a one-off or night-before shows There's an encore show of the 2023 Grateful Dead: Meet-Up at the Movies at Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Assembly Row on Saturday, featuring a 22 June 1991 show from Soldier Field.
  • Two new Indian movies open this weekend: 1920: Horrors of the Heart, a Bollywood/Hindi horror movie in which a young girl plans the use the ghost of her father for revenge after his suicide plays Apple Fresh Pond, as does Dhoomam, a Malayalam action/adventure (I think). Spy, a Telugu-language thriller, opens at Fresh Pond on Wednesday. Adipurush continues at Fresh Pond in Telugu (3D) and Hindi; it plays Boston Common in Hindi and Telugu. Neither location specifically specifies English subtitles, although I'd bet on them at Boston Common more than Fresh Pond.

    Chinese thriller The Procurator, directed by Hong Kong veteran Alan Mak and starring Bai Baihe and Johnny Huang, opens at Boston Common.
  • The Brattle Theatre has a weeklong tribute to Ryuchi Sakamoto, a beloved Japanese film composer who has also had notable appearances in front of the camera. The presentations include Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (35mm Friday/Saturday), The Last Emperor (Saturday/Sunday), The Sheltering Sky (35mm Sunday), The Handmaid's Tale (35mm Monday), Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (Tuesday), Derrida (Tuesday), Tony Takitani (Wednesday), Snake Eyes (35mm Wednesday), The Revenant (Thursday), and Ryuchi Sakamoto: CODA (Thursday).

    The Brattle will also be host to a free Elements of Screening screening of Gaslight on Monday and present Safety Last! outdoors at Starlight Square on Thursday.
  • In addition to the aforementioned Asteroid City and Past Lives, The Somerville Theatre also has the newest 4K restoration of the original The Wicker Man, this one done for its 50th anniversary, playing it on the 4K laser projector in the big room through Tuesday before sending it downstairs on Wednesday and Thursday. The main room also hosts the final film in the 70mm/Widescreen festival as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World plays in 70mm Ultra-Panavision on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, while Enter the Drag Dragon plays at midnight on Saturday. Another independent film, addiction drama Stay Awake, plays downstairs on Tuesday. Note that the previously-announced secret double feature on Wednesday, intended to close out the F— the Nazis series and launch their new membership program, seems to be off.

    You Hurt My Feelings moves up Mass Avenue to The Capitol.
  • It's all-Ozu-on-35mm, all-the-time at The Harvard Film Archive as "Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro" rolls on for another week, with The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (Friday), Record of a Tenement Gentleman (Saturday), The Munekata Sisters (Saturday), There Was a Father (Sunday afternoon), A Hen in the Wind (Sunday evening), and Early Sprint, with the latter print brand-new and said to be especially gorgeous.
  • Tuesday's Harrison Ford movie at Landmark Kendall Square is Clear and Present Danger; Wednesday's Christopher Nolan selection is The Dark Knight.
  • The Roxbury International Film Festival continues with films, meet-ups, and panels at Hibernian Hall, The Museum of Fine Arts, Northeastern University's Blackman Auditorium, and elsewhere, with Blackman hosting the Closing Night event on Wednesday, a conversation with Kasi Lemmons and screening of Eve's Bayou. Wednesday also kicks off the "RoxFilm@Home" presentations, with a number of films available to stream through the next weekend.
  • The Regent Theatre presents Heaven Stood Still: The Incarnations of Willy DeVille on Thursday, including a Q&A with the director Larry Locke, producer Christian Cioe, and other guests.
  • The Lexington Venue is open through Sunday plus Thursday with Asteroid City.

    The West Newton Cinema opens Asteroid City and keeps Those Who Remained (no show Wednesday), Elemental, The Flash, Spider-Verse, The Little Mermaid, You Hurt My Feelings (no show Thursday), and Super Mario Brothers (Saturday morning), also bringing back Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (Saturday/Sunday/Wednesday afternoon). Closed Monday.

    The Luna Theater has Sanctuary Friday and Saturday evenings, Chunky Shrapnel Saturday afternoon, Tangerine all day Sunday, and likely a Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem opens Asteroid City and holds over Elemental, The Flash, and Spider-Verse through Monday. There are also late shows of Harold and Maude on Friday and Rocky Horror on Saturday (which is also at Boston Common that night as per usual).
  • Joe's Free Films has an outdoor double feature at Dawes Field in Cambridge on Tuesday, with The Secret Life of Pets before sunset and Top Gun: Maverick at dusk.
This weekend's plans are Elemental in 3D, No Hard Feelings, The Procurator, and maybe God Is a Bullet; might even head out to the place in Chestnut Hill for something since I've got Fandango codes to use up. I'll probably try and hit Asteroid City when it's on Somerville's laser projector, and may pick up some semi-random stuff at the Brattle where it fits.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Film Rolls, Round 16: X Y & Zee and A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die

When "season two" happens post-Fantasia, I'm going to make a much more earnest attempt to keep up with what the score is rather than just calculating it as I do the posts. Or maybe at least do the posts much more quickly, so that I know that we're getting to an exciting period:

Exciting enough that this round started just two days after the previous one, at least. Mookie rolls a six, landing on X Y & Zee, which got purchased as part of the Twilight Time going out of business sale, although IMDB seems to indicate that the original title is "Zee and Co." and shows a comma in the alternate title that isn't on the box. Both titles kind of feel like they're straining for hipness, to be honest.

Bruce gets a chance the next night, rolling an eleven and reaching A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die!, which is kind of close to what he had last round, in terms of audience.

I'd started to try and do This Week in Tickets again at this point, so I've got some rough draft material for these. Let's see how the boys did!

X Y & Zee (aka Zee and Co.)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 3 January 2023 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

X Y & Zee is a feature-length soap opera, although I suppose you can dress it up a little by calling it "Sirkian melodrama" or the like - an invitation to gape at beautiful, privileged people, getting caught up in their scandalous lives while standing far enough removed to find them distasteful. In this case, Robert Blakeley (Michael Caine) and wife Zee (Elizabeth Taylor) have a marriage that seems advantageous but not particularly loving, with Robert openly scoping out young widow Stella (Susannah York) at a party. Perhaps sensing that this girl is more of a threat to her position than the ones before, Zee moves to sabotage it in every way that she can without appearing to be some square stick-in-the-mud, to the point of befriending and even flirting with her.

Watching X Y & Zee, two things struck me:

(1) Susanna York's Stella is just too good to have to put up with either of the other characters' nonsense, and not just because the character seems nice and isn't revealed to be scheming; for all that one does get lonely in her position, it's hard to see why she's so readily seduced, given that she's pretty and apparently bright enough to have other suitors. She can do so much better than Michael Caine's obvious cad!

(2) Speaking of Michael Caine being an obvious cad, what was the point, in the 50 years since this film came out, where he stopped taking roles where he was clearly a nasty piece of work from the start? These days, he'll occasionally play a guy who is revealed to be a villain, but even then he's still kind of avuncular and charming until the mask is pulled back, and even then, they tend to keep playing it as him being egocentric rather than revealing a classic Caine bastard. Maybe it's just how he aged, but there was something thrilling about how vitally hard-edged he could be.

Robert and Zee being different sorts of monsters - him an obviously nasty piece of work who can make that appear as confidence and genius, her a product of the right schools whose favor looks like generosity - is part of the nasty fun of it, though, even as we're meant to have a modicum of sympathy for Zee, who is aging out of being a guest who turns heads at parties and has neither the appeal to replace it nor another means of stability should Robert leave her. Writer Edna O'Brien and Brian G. Hutton don't seem particularly interested in teaching a lesson or having any of these three solve a problem; it is, for better or worse, mainly observation of how when this sort of marriage curdles, a man has more opportunity to move on to something more pleasant than a woman.

na ragione per vivere e una per morire (A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die!)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 4 January 2023 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

Speaking of enjoyably hard-edged leading men, James Coburn will always be one of my favorites; he always feels like he's enjoying himself in these spaghetti westerns in a way that the anti-heroes played by, say, Clint Eastwood don't. Maybe it's the luck of being less iconic - Eastwood became an avatar of the genre and played mysterious figures while Coburn was always a specific guy who could work in an ensemble if that was what was needed.

Here, his Pembroke has a very particular background that serves as the lynchpin to a story that exists in the overlap between the western and the wartime adventure: Disgraced by surrendering his command, Pembroke convinces his jailors to let him lead a team of deserters and criminals condemned to hang anyway, hoping to earn their loyalty by pitching it as a heist, with millions in gold hidden with the fort in a place only he knows. Not that his team outside one member (Bud Spencer) seems particularly concerned with whether he lives or dies even before then.

Director Tonino Valerii and his co-writers take their time getting Pembroke and his team to the fort, but don't string it out too much, because the group can't be too whittled down when they arrive. It's enough to keep the audience worried about Pembroke getting shot in the back while also establishing that he's a mean and cunning cuss, getting tension and cohesion just where they need to be before introducing José Suárez and Telly Savalas as the new leadership of the fort, suave and polished in the way Pembroke isn't but also not exactly scanning as Confederates, and thus almost more detestable as seeming mercenaries.

At this point it becomes a heist film, and one that is probably anachronistic for 1862, between the Gatling guns and security that has electric wires alerting them of attempts to break in. At this point, though, one may not particularly care; Valerii and company often seem to be taking all the best parts of a thousand years of heists and compressing it into one location - this place is built into the environment as is just and proper for a western, with that environment including what functions as a natural moat and drawbridge, with what feels like a twentieth-century security system to be defeated. It winds up mixing the western, war, and crime/caper genres deftly, with all the violence one might want from the genre and a chance for Coburn to peel back a layer of this character and make the whole thing messily emotional even as it's threatened to just be moving pieces around.

It's still kind of tight, but Bruce got the sort of movie I enjoy more, and extends his lead a bit:

Mookie: 58 ½ stars
Bruce: 60 stars

Apparently I forgot to take a picture, but that one with Bruce and Mookie just about in the same place says it all, right? Next up: An actual single-night double feature!

Friday, June 16, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 16 June 2023 - 22 June 2023

This is probably the average weekend when school gets out, but it doesn't look like theaters' hours are expanding on top of there being more stuff coming out.
  • The first of three DC Universe films coming out this year, The Flash, plays The Capitol, Fresh Pond, Jordan's Furniture (Imax), West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon & Dolby Cinema), Kendall Square, South Bay (including Iamx Xenon & Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill. It appears to adapt Flashpoint, in which Ezra Miller's super-speed hero travels back in time to prevent his mother's murder and winds up in a timeline that has been butterfly-effected into having no Superman, General Zod invading, and Batman an older hero (played by Michael Keaton). On the one hand, Michael Keaton, on the other, the preview threatens us with two of the little creep in the lead at once.

    Disney & Pixar, meanwhile, present Elemental, which posits a world populated by the avatars of the four elements - earth, air, fire, and water - and has young people from the latter two groups meet and fall in love, which is obviously tricky. It's at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema, shows in Mandarin), South Bay (including RealD 3D & Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including RealD 3D), Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    Also opening is The Blackening, a slasher spoof that takes the cliché that the Black person in these movies and asks what happens if the whole group is Black and the killer is maybe racist on top of that. It's at the Coolidge, Boston Common, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards.

    The family matinee at Boston Common this week is Paw Patrol, playing Saturday and Wednesday mornings. There are sneak preview screenings of No Hard Feelings at Boston Common (Saturday), Assembly Row (Saturday) before its regular Thursday previews/Friday opening. Mad Heidi, the latest grindhouse-inspired update of a public domain story for kids, plays at Assembly Row on Wednesday. Two separate BTS solo project movies - SUGA: Road to D-Day and j-hope in the Box play Boston Common on Saturday and Sunday (not at the same time!); album art documentary Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) plays Boston Common on Tuesday; and the 2023 Grateful Dead: Meet-Up at the Movies is at Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Assembly Row on Thursday, featuring a 22 June 1991 show from Soldier Field.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre picks up Blue Jean, which stars Rosy McEwen as a gym teacher in 1988 England who retreats further into the closet as the Tories prepare laws stigmatizing LGBTQ folks, despite a new student bringing her double life to a head. (They also have The Blackening.)

    Midnights at the Coolidge feature 35mm prints of the 1989 version of The Punisher (starring Dolph Lundgren) on Friday and John Woo's The Killer (one of the two famous heroic bloodshed flicks starring Chow Yun-fat) on Saturday. Sunday afternoon features a special screening of Dealing with Dad (in association with the Brookline Asian American Family Network and The Boston Asian-American Film Festival) with director Tom Huang and others on hand to talk about his film about a family that finds their father laid low by depression is actually more pleasant than his usual demanding self. Samurai Summer starts on Tuesday with a 35mm print of Sanjuro, continuing Wednesday with the Takeshi Kitano Zatoichi. Thursday's Rewind! show is a 35mm print of Jawbreaker with an afterparty down the street at Parlor.
  • The big release from India this week - the only one! - is Adipurush, the most expensive film ever made in India, an adaptation of the Ramayana that plays Apple Fresh Pond in Telugu (including 3D shows), Tamil, and Hindi; it plays Boston Common in Hindi and Telugu. Neither location specifically specifies English subtitles, although I'd bet on them at Boston Common more than Fresh Pond.

    Anime Suzume continues at the Coolidge, subtitled. Anime Lonely Castle in the Mirror, a fantasy adventure from Miss Hokusai and Birthday Wonderland director Keiichi Hara, plays Wednesday (subtitled) and Thursday (dubbed) at Boston Common, Assembly Row.
  • The Brattle Theatre offers three films that seem too recent to need restorations, both because I can't be old enough for stuff that played while I was an adult to have degraded and because, geez, haven't we gotten better about archiving them so they won't? Drylongso is a 1998 story of an Oakland art student documenting the way Black men seem to be dying at a horrific rate, and plays Friday through Monday. Party Girl, the 1995 film that wound up being Parker Posey's big break as the title character who gets a job as a librarian, plays Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Tuesday. A newly restored director's cut of Gregg Araki's The Doom Generation plays Friday through Tuesday. With one screen, you've obviously got to find which date/showtime works for you.

    On Saturday and Sunday, they have the now-traditional Father's Day screenings of The Shining, this year on 35mm film. On Wednesday they attack the summer solstice in similar fashion with Ari Aster's Midsommar. On Thursday, there's a Bicycle Film Festival presentation of feature documentary The Engine Inside.
  • The Somerville Theatre continues the 70mm/Widescreen festival with Phantom Thread on the big reels Friday, an IB Technicolor 35mm print of My Fair Lady on Saturday, and IB Technicolor 35mm print of The Big Country on Sunday, and that 70mm print of Tenet they advertised for something like seven months before the pandemic (perhaps actually one that had been set aside for them, as projectionist David Kornfeld says it gives no signs of being run before).

    They also have an "Off The Reel, onto the Dance Floor" show of Rock 'n' Roll High School, with a post-film Prom upstairs at the Crystal Ballroom, on Saturday; Wigstock: The Movie plays at midnight on Saturday. Jazz funeral documentary City of A Million Dreams: Parading for the Dead in New Orleans plays Tuesday, followed by a discussion with director (and author of the original book) Jason Berry. Wednesday's "F— the Nazis" show is a 35mm print of Inglorious Basterds, and Thursday's twin bill comes from director John Flynn, with 35mm prints of Rolling Thunder & The Outfit. In between all that, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. and The Master Gardener move in for second-runs
  • The Harvard Film Archive continues "Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro" with mostly silent weekend, with benshi Kataoka Ichiro there to narrate from Friday to Sunday and accompanist Robert Humphreville there through Monday. Films include Passing Fancy (Friday), Dragnet Girl (Saturday), A Story of Floating Weeds (Sunday), and Days of Youth (Monday). Tokyo Story (a talkie!) plays Sunday afternoon; all films screen on 35mm film.
  • Tuesday's Harrison Ford movie at Landmark Kendall Square is Blade Runner 2049; they also start a Christopher Nolan series on Wednesday with Inception.
  • The Roxbury International Film Festival begins Tuesday with pre-film parties before Squeeze at Hibernian Hall, which also hosts Covid-19 & Community and Black. Narratives in Boston Black Queer and Trans History on Wednesday. The official Opening Night is at The Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday, with documentary short "Welcoming the Embrace" looking at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in the Common and The Honeymoon a South African comedy. Both will have post-film Q&As They also curate a program of short films playing at The ICA on Monday morning in conjunction with their Simone Leigh exhibition, free with museum admission
  • The Regent Theatre has Fiftieth Anniversary sing-along shows of Jesus Christ Superstar on Wednesday and Thursday with cast members Ted Neeley, Bob Bingham, Kurt Yaghjian, Robert Iscove, and David James there for introductions and post-screening meet & greets.
  • The Lexington Venue is open through Sunday plus Wednesday and Thursday with Super Mario Bros. (no show Wednesday), You Hurt My Feelings, About My Father, and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. They also show teen comedy The Country Club (about young golfers in a junior tournament) on Wednesday, a couple days before it hits streams.

    The West Newton Cinema opens Those Who Remained, which appears to be a Hungarian Holocaust drama getting a post-pandemic rerelease. For more conventional offerings, they pick up Elemental and The Flash, keeping Spider-Verse, The Little Mermaid, You Hurt My Feelings, and Super Mario Brothers (Friday-Sunday afternoons). Closed Monday.

    The Luna Theater once again has King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard concert documentary Chunky Shrapnel on Friday, and then it's the first local showtimes for Jaws, all day Saturday and Sunday, and a Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem brings in Elemental and The Flash alongside Monica and Spider-Verse through Monday. Bound and My Own Private Idaho once again play Saturday & Sunday, and on Thursday they host the Panorama Film Festival, a short film fest created by queer & trans youth.
  • Joe's Free Films shows two at Goethe-Institut this week, with Nico on Wednesday and two experimental shorts with director(s) in person on Thursday (reservations required for the second). The Coolidge brings a 35mm projector to the Rose Kennedy Greenway on Wednesday with Egyptologist Laurel Bestock introducing the 1999 version of The Mummy.
Ugggh I don't wanna head out to the Coolidge past when the T runs but The Killer on 35mm. I'm also looking to catch Elemental in 3D, The Blackening, at least one benshi-narrated Ozu, The Longest Day, Tenet, Party Girl, Drylongso the Thursday double feature... Man, I hope my company gives us Juneteenth off, just for a few extra slots!

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Film Rolls, Round 15: (De Niro + De Palma) x 4 and House of Cards

Since there's (currently) a five-month lag between me doing this and me writing it up,.I've been very curious to see just how this evens things out.

Mookie with the 20! It's his second, and exceptionally fortuitous because it lands him on the box set Arrow put out a few years back of the early comedies Brian De Palma made with Robert De Niro, and a real chance to make up some ground, because that's three movies, even if they're probably not great, and a chance to pick something good to go with it. The idea is to try and keep thematic, so I figured I'd go for another De Palma, initially not realizing that De Niro was in The Untouchables, which was on the "recent arrivals, have seen" shelf in a spiffy new 4K edition. So that was the rest of December sorted, with Untouchables finishing the year.

(It's kind of odd that the pair's paths only crossed again that once after those early films, given that they both spent the 70s/80s/90s in the same adult-focused crime/drama space. Is it a case of Hollywood being bigger than one may think or some friction?)

The year then starts with Bruce rolling a 9, squeaking just landing on a box set of his own, and landing on House of Cards.

A potentially interesting selection - but probably not enough to keep distance ahead of Mookie. Let's see!

The Wedding Party

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

Brian De Palma may have still been in film school, or just graduated, when he contributed his part of The Wedding Party, and I'm mildly curious as to which part is his. The silent-movie slapstick? The portion where the groom's buddies are trying to get him to sneak out for a bachelor party? Or the seemingly contradictory material where they're trying to get him back after getting cold feet and connecting with the bride's little sister. None of it seems particularly like De Palma, but then, neither of the two other writer/directors made enough that one can use their styles to rule them out.

Not that it particularly matters, of course; the final result is what we've got to look at and that's just as all over the place as one might expect. You can sort of see what the trio (De Palma, Wilford Leach, and Cynthia Munroe) are going for, with groom Charlie (Charles Pfluger) initially eager to get married and be part of this large family that he'd never had before the whole thing becomes overwhelming, with visits from three exes played by the same actor (Richard Kolmar) not exactly helping in that regard. The preacher who will perform the wedding (John Braswell), is concerned that the groomsmen (William Finley & Robert De Niro) don't get into any sort of hanky-panky down at the tavern.

The big problem, beyond the stuff that kind of goes hand-in-hand with super-indie production, is that the filmmakers never really sell the transition from Alistair & Cecil trying to help Charlie escape to them trying to get him to the church on time. The whole back end of the film kind of collapses as a result, because for all that the bits with Charlie and Phoebe in the back half is maybe the most interesting part of the film, the middle is too slapdash to feel like everything would invert but just entertaining enough that we can't just throw it away. We can see why Charlie would flee, but not necessarily why his friends would stop him.

Sixty years on, it's kind of amusing to see who made it big and who didn't - of the directors, De Palma had a nice career, Wilford Leach (the others' film school professor) appears to have spent much of his time in theater, and Cynthia Munroe seems to vanish from the film world, as does star Charles Pfluger, though he's not bad at all. It's hard not to keep one's eye on De Niro now; he gives a more level performance than William Finley (who would pop up in De Palma's films every once in a while). Jill Clayburgh plays the bride, who really doesn't have much to do, though it seems like she'd be a bigger part of Charlie's angst.

The silent-comedy bits are fun, if odd fits with the rest of the movie, and one can see where the filmmakers are going most of the time. They are just very raw and learning as they go, not quite putting it together yet.


* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 December 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

Much of Greetings was apparently improvised, tied together with a few repeated songs on the soundtrack, and like The Wedding Party notable fifty years later because it's Brian De Palma working with Robert De Niro before they hit it big, with the first-billed "star" someone who would not appear in another movie. It's more of an ensemble picture, though, and one can almost see De Palma and co-writer/producer Charles Hirsch zeroing in on De Niro as the one who could break out.

All three of the main characters are New Yorkers, just out of college, and, because it's 1968, subject to the draft, which they talk about avoiding by making themselves sound like racist anarchist communists on their intake. In the meantime, Paul (Jonathan Warden) goes on a series of computer dates; Lloyd (Gerrit Graham) becomes obsessed with the JFK assassination; and Jon (De Niro) matter-of-factly makes the jump from "aspiring filmmaker" to voyeur.

It's a flimsy sort of story, but this is the sort of film that is meant to be flimsy, a slice of life in an uncertain time with young men who can't particularly make any plans for the immediate future. Given its improvised nature, De Palma's most important role may not be as writer or director but as editor, getting these three sets of episodic stories to form some sort of whole even when they aren't crossing over. He finds a rhythm to this thing that doesn't necessarily make the bits reliably funny but does keep scenes moving to get them to a punchline that, while it may or may not deliver fully, is there and recognizable as a joke. De Niro is obviously the standout in the cast, often dry enough in his delivery that Jon actually being a weirdo can be kind of unnerving, while Gerrt Graham plays the opposite end of the spectrum, off the deep end early and blundering along. Jonathan Wisdom doesn't really carve something out in the middle of these two extremes, and his computer dates never really find the right balance between "this futuristic system is laughable and inhuman" and how he's a screw-up himself.

Paul's story is also poking at the future while the other two are reacting to the present, and that every single person is apparently on "the apps" kind of sets those scenes apart in terms of being dated. I sort of suspect that Greetings works better as a time capsule now than it did as something contemporary at the time; It's messy and amateurish, with no room to perfect a scene or setting, and goes off in weird directions, but it's also filled with uncertainty that is not paralysis. It's an example on how focusing on very specific strange cases can sometimes say more than finding the average situation that has the best story, especially when the times are chaotic.

Hi, Mom!

* * (out of four)
Seen 15 December 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

It's not the case that Brian De Palma never did comedy again after these three with De Niro and the Tommy Smothers vehicle that followed them, but once he showed he was really good at thrillers, he was doing them more or less full-time. As he should; he's really good at them, and the primary take-away from this movie is that comedy maybe isn't this guy's thing.

It's a sequel to Greetings, with De Niro's Jon Rubin back from Vietnam and picking up where he left off, trying to get paid for his voyeurism by calling it filmmaking but taking other entertainment-adjacent jobs to pay the rent and sort of leading one of his favorite subjects on about his true intentions. It's interestingly eyebrow-raising to see De Palma doing this, given the material that would define much of his later career; as much as he's acknowledging and unveiling his own fascination with this sort of behavior here, he and De Niro never really shrink from Jon being a kind of creepy weirdo, even if there's also a lot of "awkward guy who doesn't know how to interact with people properly after the war" there.

On the other hand, the film is also highlighting a lot of what De Palma does not do with the rest of his career - not just comedy, but social satire around racial issues. The last act of the film involves gleefully putting bougie white folks paying for an artistic experience through the sort of police brutality and profiling that Black folks get, and, man, is De Palma kind of not the guy to do this, even if he is genuinely outraged (and there's no reason to suspect he isn't), nor is De Niro's character the guy to center. It's a balancing act between spoofing the complacent white folks who want to consume art that says they're better than this and the radical artists who do their cause more harm than good, and the enthusiasm of De Palma and producer Charles Hirsch has them stepping on a lot of rakes.

Hi, Mom! is frequently a pretty funny movie, but where Greetings survives as an intriguing look back at the era's uncertainty, this one feels like the filmmakers defining themselves by trial and error all at once, and hitting more errors than you might expect.

The Untouchables

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 31 December 2022 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, 4K Blu-ray)

As mentioned earlier, it's kind of weird that it would be another 15+ years before De Palma and De Niro worked together again, and never again since, even though being one of Scorsese's regulars didn't keep the latter from working a lot. And De Niro's part, Al Capone, sort of winds up being a glorified cameo, a chance to orate and play to the balconies rather than seeming like he's really sparring with Kevin Costner's Elliot Ness.

It sort of takes a while to reveal that this is kind of the point; that while Costner's group is "untouchable" in terms of being immune to corruption, Capone is untouchable because he's risen so high and so integrated himself into Chicago's power structure, and Ness isn't exactly an unstoppable force compared to Capone's immovable object. For a while, the movie seems to be coasting on De Palma's exceptional craft and a bunch of entertaining supporting characters - Sean Connery won an Oscar for this and he's terrific, of course, but Charles Martin Smith and Andy Garcia fill out the team well enough to remind you this was a TV series and if Paramount took a fourth run at the franchise, they could do worse than try to build this sort of ensemble. Billy Drago is a great Frank Nitti. But Costner is kind of boring for a fair chunk of the movie, a flatter affect than usual, at least until it clicks that it's not Capone that's a threat to corrupt Ness, but Malone - that he loses more and more of his soul as he buys into Malone's perspective as law enforcement as war with no rules. He becomes a more effective cop, but maybe not a better one. De Palma, writer David Mamet, and others don't necessarily have an answer for that.

The filmmakers don't really wallow in that, though, creating a bunch of impressive action beats that impress the heck out of the audience while also being distributed in such a way as to make sure that the methodical nature of the police work isn't smothered by the rest (we all know that Capone was brought down by the tax code, and that's got to be part of it). It's a gorgeous-looking film staged meticulously, with a great Ennio Morricone score. For this watch, it's fun to check back in with De Niro and De Palma to see what they've become since their early years, and while this isn't typical, it's still plenty fun.

House of Cards '68

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 1 January 2023 in Jay's Living Room (off the shelf, Blu-ray)

Look through a Kino Lorber sale - either the big one or the ongoing "while supplies last page" - and you'll find a lot of movies like House of Cards - thrillers that never became classics, and were probably never going to, but were probably a lot of fun for their audiences at the time: Shot internationally, starring guys like George Peppard (who, between Breakfast at Tiffany's and The A-Team, was kind of a budget Lee Marvin type), giving work to European stars who might like to get some Hollywood money and letting guys like Orson Welles slum it a little because they're international draws. They're kind of forgettable, meant to do okay in a lot of places, play on TV, and be a line on résumés or a title in parentheses when folks go to their next job.

But they can be pretty entertaining, as this one is, a shaggy right-person-in-the-wrong place story in which Peppard's expatriate drifter Reno Davis is hired by a widow (Inger Stevens) to provide a masculine/American example to her son, only for it to be revealed that the family she married into is part of a Nazi cabal, leading them to flee to Rome with the help of some of Reno's disreputable friends in the hope of freeing the boy being held hostage and exposing the conspiracy. It's a mess, story-wise - the screenplay apparently excises the tarot cards containing a list of conspirators that gave the original novel its name - and both Peppard and Stevens were good-looking, amiable screen presences but not the sort of star that can overwhelm the story's absurdity.

On the other hand, everyone involved is very capable, including director John Guillermin, who was the equivalent of a dependable pulp writer, and keeps things moving, letting the cast show some charm but being occasionally vicious when called for. He makes good use of locations in Paris, Rome, and various other European locations for action that still look solid fifty years later. It's not necessarily a great movie, or one that you need on a shelf, but it would be fun to have show up on TV throughout the 1970s.

Mookie makes his move! How's it look?

Mookie: 56 stars
Bruce: 57 stars

And just like that, this is a game again.

Friday, June 09, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 9 June 2023 - 15 June 2023

This weekend is insane in terms of repertory stuff playing Boston on film, one of the biggest "don't you people talk to each other? How am I supposed to watch all this?" line-ups in recent memory.
  • IFFBoston Closing Night film Past Lives opens atLandmark Theatres Kendall Square and Boston Common; it's a terrific little film about a Korean emigre who reconnects with the boy she had a crush on as a kid twice - once online, and once in person.

    The Kendall's Harrison Ford series continues with Blade Runner (The Final Cut) on Tuesday.
  • Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the latest in Habro's soft-reboot of the series, set in 1994 and featuring the Autobots teaming up with Maximals and two Brooklyn underdogs to fight the Terrorcons, the advance party for Unicron. Real Surfer/Galactus vibe here, honestly; has it always been that way? It's pretty fun and plays at The Capitol, Fresh Pond (including 3D), Jordan's Furniture (Imax 2D/3D), Boston Common (including Imax Xenon 2D/3D, Dolby Cinema, and RealD 3D), Kendall Square, South Bay (including Imax Xenon 2D/3D & RealD 3D), Assembly Row (including RealD 3D & Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    Boston Common has $5 shows of Chevalier and A Thousand and One this week for Juneteenth.

    Minions: The Rise of Gru has matinee shows at Boston Common on Saturday and Wednesday. Hairspray has 35th Anniversary shows at South Bay and Assembly Row on Sunday and Wednesday(that makes it the original). Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90 plays Boston Common on Sunday and Thursday There are early previews of The Flash on Monday at Boston Common (Imax Xenon) and The Blackening on Wednesday at Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row.
  • The Brattle Theatre has the latest official edition of Noir City: Boston, presented with the Film Noir Foundation and with Foster Hirsch introducing many of the films. Friday night's program is a double feature of Cry of the City & The Naked City; Saturday afternoon has a triple feature of He Walked by Night, Hollow Triumph & The Spiritualist (aka The Amazing Mr. X), all on film; Saturday evening is a twin bill of The Big Clock (35mm) & Call Northside 777; Sunday afternoon pairs Sleep, My Love (35mm) & Unfaithfully Yours; Sunday evening offers Sorry, Wrong Number & Larceny (both on 35mm); and it wraps on Monday night with Raw Deal. $95 gets you a seat for all 12 movies.

    They fill the week out with The Cramps and the Mutants: The Napa Street Tapes on Tuesday, a special member event on Wednesday (which makes me wonder if I missed an email), and a Pride Month show of All Man: The International Male Story on Thursday.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre appears to be warming up their 70mm projection so that they're ready for Oppenheimer next month, showing Boogie Nights in that format on Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; Lawrence of Arabia on Sunday afternoon; plus Jordan Peele's Nope on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday.

    Midnight shows this weekend are First Blood on Friday and the first Denzel Washington The Equalizer on Saturday. Monday's Big Screen Classic is Bong Joon-Ho's The Host (which probably makes a good double feature with the early show of Nope). There's Open Screen on Tuesday.
  • The Somerville Theatre also continues their own 70mm and Widescreen Fest with The Wild Bunch on 70mm Friday, The Dark Crystal on 70mm Saturday & Sunday, The Longest Day on 35mm Sunday, Fall of the Roman Empire on 35mm Monday. There's also their latest Attack of the B-Movies double feature, Beach Girls and the Monster & Teenagers from Outer Space, on Saturday afternoon and Tuesday evening, Polyester as a midnight special on Saturday, a F— the Nazis twin bill of Kelly's Heroes (35mm) & Dead Snow on Wednesday, and a James Caan 35mm double feature on Thursday featuring Thief & Misery.
  • Four from India arrive at Apple Fresh Pond on Friday: Takkar is a car-centric action movie with both Tamil and Telugu showtimes; Vimanam and Intinti Ramayam (through Sunday) are Telugu dramas; and Por Thozhil is a Tamil serial-killer thriller. A restoration of 2001 Telugu film Narasimha Naidu plays Saturday night, and Hindi comedy Zara Hatke Zara Bachke is held over from last week.

    Vietnamese action-comedy Lat Mat 6: Tam Ve Dinh Menh (aka "Face Off 6: The Ticket of Destiny") continues at South Bay. Anime Suzume continues at the Coolidge, subtitled. This week's Ghibli Fest show at Boston Common is Kiki's Delivery Service, playing Sunday (dubbed), Monday (subtitled), and Wednesday (subtitled).
  • The Harvard Film Archive begins their summer session this week, with much of it dedicated to "Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro", which includes all 50-ish extant films by the Japanese master, most on 35mm film, including everything this weekend: Late Spring plays Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, Tokyo Story plays Saturday evening, I Was Born, But… plays Sunday evening with Robert Humphreville accompanying the silent film, and Early Summer plays Monday evening. This is going to stretch into mid-August!
  • The Museum of Fine Arts and Wicked Queer has a pride-month screening of The Watermelon Woman on Friday evening.
  • The Regent Theatre shows concert film Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90 on Sunday and Wednesday; it also plays Boston Common on Sunday and Thursday.
  • The Lexington Venue is open through Sunday with Super Mario Bros., You Hurt My Feelings and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

    The West Newton Cinema also holds steady with Spider-Verse, The Little Mermaid, You Hurt My Feelings, Guardians, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, Air, and Super Mario Brothers (Saturday/Sunday afternoons). Closed Monday.

    The Luna Theater once again has King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard concert documentary Chunky Shrapnel on Friday and Saturday; Teseracte players doing the Rocky Horror Picture Show thing Saturday night (Full Body Cast is at Boston Common as usual); But I'm a Cheerleader on Sunday; Little Richard: I Am Everything Thursday evening; plus a Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem opens Monica and keeps Spider-Verse, The Boogeyman, The Little Mermaid, and You Hurt My Feelings through Monday. They have a 10pm show of Wild at Heart on Friday, Bound and My Own Private Idaho on Saturday & Sunday; and the original Cat People on Thursday.

    If you can get out to the Liberty Tree Mall, they're the only place in the area with drama Mending the Line.
  • Joe's Free Films has two outdoor movie listings this week: A League of Their Own at Boston Landing on Wednesday and Summer of Soul at Starlight Square in Cambridge (reservation requested) on Thursday.
I am planning to live at the Brattle through Monday, catch the Caan films at the Somerville on Thursday, and maybe do a little catch–up in between.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 2 June 2023 - 8 June 2023

Well, apparently the place at South Bay is open again. Wonder what that was about!

(And now there's no showtimes listed for the Imax screen at Assembly Row. Weird!)

  • The week's big opening is Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the first half of a two-part sequel to Into the Spider-Verse, with Spider-Man 2099 (voice of Oscar Isaac) leading all the spiders of the multiverse and clashing with Miles Morales and the friends he made in the first. It's at The Capitol, Jordan's Furniture (Imax), Fresh Pond, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon & Dolby Cinema plus showings in Tamil/Spanish/Mandarin), Kendall Square, South Bay (including Imax Xenon & Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill. Surprisingly, there was no 3D version of this made, even though that was a part of what made the first so eye-popping.

    Also opening is The Boogeyman, a Steven King adaptation that more or less offers what you'd guess from the title. It's at Fresh Pond, CinemaSalem, Boston Common, Kendall Square, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards.

    Boston Common has matinees of League of Super-Pets Saturday and Wednesday. K-Pop concert "Suga - August D Tour 'D-Day' in Japan" will stream live(?) at South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards on Saturday night. Raiders of the Lost Ark gets a couple shows at South Bay Sunday ahead of the upcoming Dial of Destiny. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts has an "Early Access" show at Boston Common (Imax Xenon), South Bay (Dolby Cinema), and Assembly Row on Wednesday before the usual Thursday night previews.
  • Sanctuary opens at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Somerville, Kendall Square, and Boston Common this week; it looks to ride a line between dark comedy and thriller as a dominatrix (Margaret Qualley) attempts to get a cut of the money her client (Christopher Abbot) will make after a promotion, claiming he can't hack his new job without her services, even as he tries to sever their relationship.

    Midnights at the Coolidge this weekend are two action classics on 35mm: The Raid on Friday night and Leon: The Professional on Saturday (and it's apparently The Room week on Friday as well). On Sunday, they have "A Very Wes Anderson Afternoon", a mini-marathon of Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Monday offers both a Big Screen Classic showing of My Cousin Vinny with Odie Henderson leading a pre-show seminar and a Panorama show of documentary Americonned with director Sean Claffey and several subjects on hand afterward. The Godfather: Part II plays Tuesday and Crooklyn on Wednesday, both with special guests, while Thursday's Cinema Jukebox show is a 35mm print of The Bodyguard.
  • The Brattle Theatre has Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game from Friday to Tuesday, presented in a new 4K restoration of the 1959 reconstruction of the original cut. They'll also be showing a 35mm print of Enys Men over that stretch, the creepy shot-on-film isolation-horror movie should look even better in that format after playing at BUFF.

    They will also be unloading some of the various posters, books, Blu-rays, T-shirts, and other stuff that a movie theater accumulates on Saturday afternoon in a special jumble sale. On Wednesday, they have a special presentation of documentary The Automat (with director Lisa Hurwitz in person) and the automat-set Easy Living on 35mm afterward. On Thursday, they pay tribute to Prince with a double feature of Purple Rain & Sign O' the Times, the latter on 35mm.
  • Big week for Indian film at Apple Fresh Pond: Friday sees openings for Hindi divorce comedy Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, Telugu action-drama Nenu Student Sir! (through Monday), Telugu comedy Pareshan (through Monday), Tamil thriller Kather Basha Endra Muthuramalingam (through Monday), Tamil superhero movie Veeran, and Punjabi sports story Medal. They also have 2018: Everyone is a Hero again, although this time in a Telugu dub.

    Vietnamese director Ly Hai's latest action-comedy Lat Mat 6: Tam Ve Dinh Menh (aka "Face Off 6: The Ticket of Destiny") plays at South Bay. I don't believe "Lat Mat" is anything but a brand name, with this movie about a group of friends trying to retrieve a winning lottery ticket after the one holding it died suddenly not actually having anything to do with the others in the series.

    Anime Suzume continues at the Coolidge and Boston Common, subtitled. Shin Kamen Rider has an encore show at Assembly Row on Monday evening.
  • It's 70mm and Widescreen Fest time at The Somerville Theatre, kicking off (as is becoming traditional) with their 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey on Friday & Saturday, with Geronimo: An American Legend on 70mm Sunday evening. Other special programming includes Saturday's midnight show of Escape from New York (on 35mm), a new 4K restoration of Italian comedy Una Vita Difficile (which apparently never had an official US release) on Monday and Tuesday, and a 35mm "F— the Nazis" show of The Blues Brothers on Wednesday.
  • Landmark Theatres Kendall Square mostly goes with the mainstream openings this week, but kicks off a Harrison Ford Retro Replay series on Tuesday with Air Force One.
  • The Lexington Venue is open through Sunday with Super Mario Bros., You Hurt My Feelings and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

    The West Newton Cinema adds Spider-Verse to The Little Mermaid, You Hurt My Feelings, Guardians, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, Air, and Super Mario Brothers (Saturday/Sunday afternoons). Closed Monday.

    The Luna Theater has King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard concert documentary Chunky Shrapnel on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings; How to Blow Up a Pipeline Saturday afternoon; Little Richard: I Am Everything Saturday evening; Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Sunday; plus a Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem opens Spider-Verse and The Boogeyman, holding over The Little Mermaid and You Hurt My Feelings.
  • Joe's Free Films has its first outdoor movie listing of the summer season, with Encanto playing at Tufts on Friday night as part of Reunion Weekend.
Looking to catch Spider-Man on a fancy screen, plus Sanctuary, maybe some of the giant-film goodness at the Somerville, and I really should see The Rules of the Game and some of the other one-offs…