Friday, October 27, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 27 October 2023 - 2 November 2023

We're sort of getting out of spooky season and into Oscar season, I guess, although between the strikes and the concert movies and everything, it's a weird year.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's gets the "last horror movie of the season" slot, in which a man takes a job as a security guard at a Chuck E. Cheese-looking place where the animatronics are said to be far more than just vaguely creepy robots. It's at The Capitol, Fresh Pond, Boston Common (including Dolby Cinema), Kendall Square, South Bay (including Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill as well as on Peacock.

    Freelance is an action comedy which has John Cena as a former soldier reluctantly recruited to provide security for a journalist played by Alison Brie; director Pierre Morel made District 13 and Taken way back at the start of his career. It's at Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row.

    The Persian Version plays Boston Common, Kenmore Square; it's a comedy about a large Persian family whose sole daughter's pregnancy is discovered as they gather to support the father having a heart transplant - awkward because she's gay, but apparently a parallel for the youth of her take-no-prisoners mother in some respects.

    Amerikatsi, a comedy/drama about an Armenian-American who returns to the motherland only to find himself on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain and imprisoned, opens at Arsenal Yards after having played elsewhere a few weeks back.

    Gonna guess that the folks behind documentary After Death, playing Fresh Pond, Boston Common, South Bay, Assembly Row, aren't inclined to come up with "there's nothing, so live your life to the fullest" as an answer.

    There's an early-access screening of The Holdovers on Sunday afternoon at the Somerville, West Newton, Boston Common, and Kendall Square. Mexican drama Radical, starring Eugenio Derbez, also has early screenings Sunday. Monday's A24 horror show at Boston Common is Midsommar. The Taylor Swift "Eras" film has Halloween showings in addition to the usual Thursday-Sunday shows. Terrifier 2 returns to Boston Common and Assembly Row on Wednesday and Thursday, right after Halloween.
  • Anatomy of a Fall, a drama about a woman on trial after her husband dies from a fall and their blind son is the only witness, opens at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Assembly Row. Interestingly, the previews I have seen have been in English, although the film hails from France and is listed as primarily French and German, and the scenes in question don't look like times people would be speaking in their second languages, so it's possible the trailers are dubbed.

    The Coolidge's month-long Halloween programming comes to a close, with Hocus Pocus playing at midnight Friday, and Saturday offering a sold-out 35mm marathon centered around witches, including Rosemary's Baby, Suspiria '77, and The Blair Witch Project, and a Big Screen Classics double feature of Young Frankenstein & An American Werewolf in London on Tuesday, Halloween itself.

    There's also a kids' show of Coco on Saturday morning, although Day of the Dead isn't exactly Halloween, and a Science on Screen presentation of Death Becomes Her Monday night, although it's not exactly even horror-comedy. There's also Open Screen on Monday.
  • The Killer, a new thriller from David Fincher starring Michael Fassbender as an assassin apparently seeking revenge around the world after a botched job. It's at Landmark Kendall Square and the Coolidge, just a slightly bigger release than the usual Netflix movie, which is kind of a bummer, considering what a big deal Fincher used to be.

    On Monday, the theater has both the new animated film My Love Affair with Marriage with director Signe Baumane in person, with John Carpenter's Halloween also playing that night. Halloween itself has the film's first sequel, Halloween II, as part of the $5 Eighties Slasher series. Also $5 is McCabe & Mrs. Miller on Wednesday (part of a "Films that Inspired Alexander Payne" set).
  • Indian openings at Apple Fresh Pond this week include Hindi Air Force drama Tejas, starring Kangana Ranaut, Hindi mystery Sajini Shinde Ka Viral Video, and Telugu comedy Martin Luther King, whose connection to the American civil rights icon looks vague at best. Bengali drama Prohelika plays Sunday Leo: Bloody Sweet also stick around Fresh Pond (Tamil & Telugu) and Boston Common (Tamil).

    Vietnamese action film Bad Blood, with Kieu Minh Tuan as a former criminal turning to old friends to track down his kidnapped stepdaughter, plays Boston Common and South Bay.

    Makoto Shinkai's latest animated film, Suzume, has a return engagement at Boston Common (matinees only) this week; the Ghibli Fest selection is Spirited Away, playing Boston Common, subtitled Saturday & Tuesday, dubbed Sunday & Monday. Godzilla 2000 plays Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row on Wednesday.

    Zhang Yimou's pretty-decent (if censor-approved) thriller Under the Light continues at Boston Common. The Chinese adaptation of Bobcat Goldthwait's World's Greatest Dad plays out at the Liberty Tree Mall.
  • The Brattle Theatre is the main host for The GlobeDocs Film Festival, running through Sunday with post-film Q&As for almost every screening, including Erroll Morris on Sunday afternoon with The Pigeon Tunnel. There are also a number of streaming presentations.

    For Halloween, they have a special "Elements of Cinema" screening of The Howling on Monday, Evil Dead II on 35mm on Monday and Tuesday, and Donnie Darko on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they have a belated celebration of National Cat Day with a new restoration of Czech oddity The Cassandra Cat and better-known Japanese oddity House.
  • The Somerville Theatre and Julia Marchese present their 3rd Annual Halloween Hullabaloo with a long weekend of double & triple features: Friday's "Hardcore Horror" is Hellraiser & The Exorcist (both 35mm); Saturday's Demonic Haunts are Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (35mm), Mike Flanagan's Oculus, and Tobe Hooper's Poltrgeist (35mm); Sunday offers the Lesbian Vampire Delights of Daughters of Darkness & Blood and Roses (both 35mm) followed by Werewolves-a-Go-Go with An American Werewolf in London (4K) & The Howling (35mm); finishing up on Halloween (Tuesday) with Psycho & Alice, Sweet Alice (both 35mm). Saturday night also has a midnight show of Rocky Horror with the Teseracte Players (Full Body appears to be at Boston Common Friday/Saturday/Tuesday). In presumably non-scary material, they've got the 2023 Quality Ski Time Film Tour on Thursday.
  • The Harvard Film Archive has another entry in "Filmmaker, Guest Worker: Zelimir Zilnik's Expatriates" on Friday, The Most Beautiful Country in the World. Saturday has a reprise of Trenque Lauquen, Parts I & II. Sunday is James Baldwin day, with a the paired featurettes "Take This Hammer" & "The Negro and the Amerian Promise" in the afternoon and I Heard It Through the Grapevine 16mm in the evening. On Monday, they will screen Adachi Masao's REVOLUTION+1 followed by a live (though remote) conversation with the filmmaker.
  • The Regent Theatre has the classic 1922 Nosferatu on Sunday with a live score featuring Paul Bielatowicz and his band, plus special guests joining remotely on auxiliary screens. The "Midweek Music Movies and More" show on Wednesday is Elis & Tom.
  • The Boston Jewish Film Festival begins on Wednesday, with Remembering Gene Wilder at the Coolidge, while Thursday has the FreshFlix Short Film competition at the Brattle and Resistance - They Fought Back at West Newton. The Festival will continue at various venues next week and also have a virtual component.
  • The Boston Underground Film Festival curates a program of Spooky Shorts at The ICA on Sunday afternoon.
  • This week's Thursday Bright Lights show in the Bright Screening Room is Kim's Video, which tells the story of how Yongman Kim started an iconic New York City video store out of his dry cleaning business, but how the collection wound up in Italy before returning home to NYC. Free and open to the public, with directors David Redmon & Ashley Sabin on hand for discussion afterward.
  • The Boston Asian-American Film Festival and Boston Palestine Film Festival both have virtual programs available through Sunday.
  • The Lexington Venue has The Eras Tour and Killers of the Flower Moon from Friday to Sunday and Thursday. John Carpenter's original Halloween also plays Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema is the latest to bring back Hocus Pocus, also showing Killers of the Flower Moon, Eras (no shows Monday-Wednesday), Paw Patrol (Saturday/Sunday), Golda, Past Lives (Sunday matinee), Barbie (no show Thursday), and Oppenheimer (no show Sunday). They've also got the Sunday preview of The Holdovers, and are open all week.

    The Luna Theater has It Lives Inside on Friday and Saturday, Carpenter's Halloween on Saturday & Sunday, Nosferatu with Dylan Jack Quartet Sunday evening, and 2001: A Space Odyssey in UMass Lowell's Film & Philosophy series, with post-film discussion Thursday. No Weirdo Wednesday on the schedule.

    Cinema Salem has Carpenter's Halloween, and Hocus Pocus. The weekend's Universal Monsters shows are The Invisible Man (Friday), The Mummy (Friday), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Friday/Sunday), The Bride of Frankenstein (Friday), Dracula (Saturday/Monday), The Wolf Man (Saturday), and Frankenstein (Monday). The Crow plays Friday night, Miz Diamond Wigfall presentations of The Shining on Saturday which promise/threaten both drag introductions and "shadow performance", fan film Never Hike Alone 2 on Saturday afternoon, Freddy vs. Jason with stunt performer Douglas Tait on Saturday evening, and Night of the Living Dead on Sunday.

    If you can make it out Davers's Liberty Tree Mall, they've got Inspector Sun, an English dub of a Spanish animated film about a murder mystery played out by insects in a zeppelin.
  • The Alamo Drafthouse Boston is still not able to open yet (apparently, getting your movie theater inspected in Boston is a beast right now), but they're presenting two movie nights - Hocus Pocus at Fenway Park on Friday and Cabin in the Woods at Dorchester Brewing Company on Saturday.
Honestly not sure what the next few days look like, but I'm thinking about Bad Blood, 5 Nights at Freddy's, The Killer, Freelance, and The Persian Version. Amusingly, Anatomy of a Fall might be the one that hangs around best.

Monday, October 23, 2023

IFFBoston 2023½.02: Fingernails (and Foe)

I'd kind of opted against expanding the Letterboxd entry for Foe, what with it being a let-down rather than something to give whatever meager boost an "official" review gives it, but it wound up being such an oddly apt pairing with Fingernails that I decided to maybe give it another paragraph or two.

Both, after all, are films nominaly set in the future but featuring no cell phones or other evidence of the internet, which amuses me when I remember Stephen Soderbergh whining a few months back about how he hated making modern movies these days because having the internet in one's pocket makes it too hard to keep people from knowing things, which is sort of silly because, well, have you seen people in general lately? Or tried to quickly find something now that Google values ad revenue over usefulness and the internet is filling up with GPT-generated garbage? But, also, you can apparently just skip all this, because if sci-fi films feel free ignoring it, surely contemporary ones can too.

(I wonder, a little, if Soderbergh also laments how nobody smokes any more because of how useful that was in staging scenes.)

Of course, the science-fiction-ness of these two movies caused some bumps for me, as I am simply unable to watch this sort of thing without wondering what a given bit of world-building implies beyond the movie's tight focus, and get frustrated when a little thought reveals how contradictory various pieces are or how clearly it's being set up to prove the filmmaker's point. Both Foe and Fingernails have some interesting bits but the details don't work, and while some are able to just embrace the heightened reality in the spirit that's intended, I tend to figure that life is dealing with a whole bunch of aggregated details, and if you're just going to fudge those away, what can the story really tell you about the human nature it intends to explore?

That's at least partly, if not mostly, a me problem, but I do suspect that it causes these movies to land softer than they might, even if it doesn't set off alarms for everyone.

Anyway, welcome to IFFBoston 2023½! It's going to be a short-ish report, because out of the 12 movies shown, I got to four. I missed the first night because, on my way, I saw that it was sold out, and turned around to see Killers of the Flower Moon at the Somerville before Jonathan Richman took over the main room for the weekend. I dawdled too long after work to get to the first show of the second night, but made it for the second. It's not a huge deal; I've been seeing a fair amount of trailers for Eileen at both Kendall Square and Boston Common, although that's not necessarily any sort of guarantee these days (remember all those trailers for The Kill Room over the past couple months?). Fallen Leaves, meanwhile, was the latest from a filmmaker I've never really followed and described as a sort of thematic follow-up to his other work, so, eh.

More on the other three in coming days.


* * (out of four)
Seen 18 October 2023 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

I grow weary of art-house science fiction where the details aren't coherent but that's supposed to be okay because they ask big philosophical questions about being human, as if being human wasn't navigating a complicated world and the various details being thrown at a person. It's especially frustrating when the film has a weak twist near the end so that the audience doesn't have much time to contemplate its big ideas, or wind up finding themselves more focused on something else.

That's Foe, whose name suggests a thriller though the movie only occasionally cares to highlight any tension in its premise, and whose moments of world-building are kind of a waste of an effects budget for how little they matter. It is, far too often, boring even when it's not trying to avoid tipping its hand, and terribly unsexy besides: It's full of nude scenes where you can't help but notice how careful the camera placement is, and no real difference in energy between passionate and perfunctory sex.

It follows Hen (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal), a couple married seven years, living on the farm the latter inherited but not working it - there simply isn't enough water for anything but the hardiest of GMO crops - and growing consensus appears to be that humanity's future is in space. Outermore Corporation is building an orbital habitat, and is in a tight enough partnership with the government that they will be able to draft Junior. But that's some time in the future; in the meantime, their representative Terrance (Aaron Pierre) will be conducting interviews and otherwise observing Junior so that an "artificial human" replica can be created to make sure Hen's life can continue as normal.

This all makes no sense, of course - for all the talk of there being no water, Hen takes a lot of showers and there's no apparent efforts at conservation, space stations are far more fragile a human habitat than even a hostile Earth, and none of the rationale for creating these artificial humans rings true, especially since Hen and Junior apparently have no choice in it. It's a long litany of "why are you even doing this?" But arguably the biggest sin is that all of this doesn't say anything particularly interesting about Hen and Junior, or their relationship. Their backgrounds are blank enough that it's hard to see what Terrance is upending, and if Iain Reid's book had any interesting ideas about the ethics of creating the sort of clone Terrance describes, director and co-screenwriter Garth Davis doesn't find that of much interest for more than a moment or two. The revelation that allows everything to snap into place happens far too late to play out in anything but the most superficial, obvious way.

The movie's got Saoirse Ronan, so at least that role is in good hands, although I wonder if her being a known quality leads a viewer to centering her too much. Paul Mescal's Junior has the potential to be as interesting a character, but he's established early enough as "just kind of a jerk" that the angst about being potentially replaced can be played very well but not hit home. Aaron Pierreis just kind of around, equal parts sinister and curious.

It might be interesting to give the movie a second go to see what knowing everything reveals. At least, it would if this was a better movie worth another two hours of time. But it's not.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 October 2023 in the Brattle Theatre (Independent Film Festival Boston Fall Focus 2023, DCP)

On the one hand, I think you've got to have some pretty weird ideas about both love and biology for the premise of Fingernails not to feel like it's stretching its premise past the point where it's useful. On the other, Jessie Buckley is so dang delightful that I immediately went to look up what else she has been in. Get her in some romantic comedies that are as witty and quirky as this movie is at its best and ditch the faux-profundity that doesn't work.

She plays an elementary school teacher, Anna, who was laid off when her school shut down on short notice, and, though she winds up telling boyfriend Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) otherwise, she winds up taking a job at The Love Center, which not only administers the scientific tests that can determine whether two people are truly in love by running a test on their extracted fingernails, but offers classes to help couples deepen their bond before taking a test. She's instructed to shadow/work with Amir (Riz Ahmed), who has been creating new exercises based on romantic movie plots as scientific research, and it's not long before she starts to feel a spark. She and Ryan had a positive test early in their relationship, and not much has changed, but one can't help but wonder if maybe knowing that they are in love has allowed Ryan to start taking her for granted.

The movie works fantastically when it's a romantic comedy filled with sci-fi absurdity; director Christos Nikou and co-writers Stavros Raptis and Sam Steiner are especially good at finding goofy workplace humor bits that maybe would only show up at a place like The Love Institute, right down to Luke Wilson being a perfect little bit of casting as the boss - sentimental, optimistic, but also kind of sad. Just about every weird exercise at the Love Center meant to strengthen a couple's bond is enjoyably goofy, and making Ryan kind of a drip but not really a bad boyfriend allows for some deadpan moments at home.

There's really terrific chemistry between Buckley and Riz Ahmed, in large part because their characters don't quite seem like the perfect match, often caught a little unawares at something the other does but kind of delighted by it. Buckley practically glows at times, as she's meant to, with a wide smile and a way of curiously looking around but also focusing on the other person in a scene, but also seeming aware of when things aren't quite right. Ahmed's Amir is dryer, not quite as dry, smooth, and witty as he thinks, a smart fellow who gets a touch less composed the more time he spends with Anna. Jeremy Allen White hits the right tone as Ryan in terms of making him a man of his weird time and place but still kind of weird and not good enough; the way he takes Anna for granted because they're Certified In Love that feels more disappointing than mean, as it could.

The big trouble is that the film's built in such a way that its makers apparently expect the audience to take the weird premise of the Machine seriously, even when making big assumptions that require a little exploration. There are bits of it that seem like rich veins of satire - the idea that people will put themselves through literal torture to find love, that knowing something is true can make you lazy about it, or that people are essentially studying for the test - but the filmmakers seldom go for that. Instead, the counterintuitive test results get taken at face value, never leading to the idea that there's something in these relationships we need to take a closer look to see or hints that there's something off about the system.

The heck of it is, if they were keener on thinking their pseudo-science and world-building through rather than just taking it as what you need to tell this story, there's good material here: When the audience is wondering how the Machine can tell two people are in love with one another - as opposed to just individually in love - by looking at separate fingernails, talk about quantum entanglement. Really leverage that a lab test only gives you the data for one point in time more than the movie does. Or be really daring, and take the mentions that most results are negative but that an often indifferent couple like Anna & Ryan are positive to talk about what kind of love this thing is measuring and if maybe a powerful infatuation or a strong friendship may be more valuable, even if one doesn't call it "love".

indep There's some of that, but as with Foe, it comes too late to really be explored in depth compared to the time spent playing things out by the arbitrary rules that had been established. It leaves enough of the movie adrift to make one start wondering what they're even trying to say here, and why it's never as thought-provoking as the early going had been entertaining.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Under the Light.

Genuinely curious what the deal with this thing's censorship-related delays, because it's apparently been kicking around years. Did it talk more directly about how its corrupt public official made it as far as he did in its original version? Was the blackmail video not hilariously pixelated? Or was it just a small change that needed to be made but reshoots were tough during covid? One notes that this apparently running afoul of the censors didn't seem to slow Zhang down much; he's continued to make a movie a year, even during a pandemic. It's kind of odd that the censors don't seem to hold grudges, to me. Also, did the censor board change enough that the script that they approved about corruption was okay, but the finished film wasn't?

It's weird, but seems to have turned out okay; Zhang appears to have had the biggest hits of both Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, although Full River Red was a monster compared to this (FRR made something like $650M, while Under the Light will be in the $200M range). Interestingly, I just saw Variety tweet an article out about FRR being shopped, and I kind of wonder if someone like Sony Pictures Classics or the like might feel it's worth picking it up and then doing a release geared to English-speaking boutique-house people. I've talked about folks doing that a lot, and I don't know that it's really happened recently - I honestly don't know if it's happened since Lagaan, 20+ years ago - but I keep wondering about doing it every time I see something that feels like it could have a wider audience.

One other thing: No real reaction from the mostly-Chinese [-American] audience to the Silent Night trailer which heavily hyped John Woo as the director. Not that I'm sure he's necessarily that big a name anywhere now, but I'm guessing the trailer was attached to this movie in part because someone figured the one with a Chinese director would be of interest.

Jian ru pan shi (Under the Light)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 21 October 2023 in AMC Boston Common #11 (first-run, DCP)

Ir's been noted that this is the first present-day, city-set movie Zhang Yimou has directed in a long time, and it's certainly got him flexing different muscles visually, but there are a couple scenes early on that remind one that is not all that far of from his period pieces thematically. The scheming ministers are now businessmen and mayors, but they're still arranging marriages and adopting heirs, commanding secret armies, and creating vast spy networks, though much of that is now electronic. Maybe that's why it sat on a shelf while Zhang cranked out at least three other movies - you can't imply present-day China is too much like its glorious past.

As things start in present day (and fictitious) Jinjiang City, a bus has been hijacked by Kong Sanshun (Wang Xun), demanding to speak with Vice-Mayor Zheng Gang (Zhang Guoli) and get a message to the press, almost killing him before police technician - and Zheng's adopted son - Su Jianming (Lei Jiayin) notes that his bomb can be detonated remotely. Su is then invited to a dinner with Li Zhitan (Yu Hewei), billionaire head of the Jinwu Group and the city's richest man, apparently looking to recruit the son of his old rival Zheng, even as he plans his own retirement and hand-off to up-and-coming executive David (Sun Yi-zhou), who is engaged to his pregnant daughter Sha (Chen Tong). Jianming instead pushes to be the lead investigator on the bombing, digging into surveillance video with fellow technicians Li Juilin (Zhou Dongyu) - also his ex-girlfriend - and Sun Heyang (Xu Zili), although the three will soon discover that investigating motives and corruption is much more complicated than their usual job.

Audiences clearly enjoy this sort of backstabbing, as it's Zhang's second holliday blockbuster of the year to do this sort of mix of political and family intrigue (albeit with the settings separated by nearly 900 years). It's gleefully nasty as its two poles plot against each other while also being inextricably tied together. Yu Hewei's Liz Zhitan is seemingly happier to get his hands dirty, and some of the violence is delightfully brutal, even if the cops are not involved; he gets to establish his nasty bona fides early and Yu does nifty work in making Li someone who could be slick but seemingly prefers to drop his mask very quickly. Zhang Guoli's Zheng is that slick, and it's never entirely clear whether he's squeamish or just practical where violence is concerned, also handling the somewhat fractious relationship with Su well. Joan Chen Chong is also on the periphery of this group as Zheng's wife He Xiuli, and if she's only seen a bit early on, it's no surprise when she grabs a few scenes by the throat later.

Between them, these two create a tremendous mess for the trio of nerdy cops tasked with investigating just how all of this ties together (I sort of suspect that there is a certain amount of The Big Sleep "does it matter just who ordered whom to kill someone else?" going on here), as one thing leads to another and suspects seem to take great pains to make sure that they can be rubbed out before Jianming can use them to nail Li Zhitan to the wall. It's kind of interesting that the heroes in this picture are uncool techs, with all three bespectacled and Lei Jiayin in particular seeming to carry a bit more paunch than a movie star usually does; that, apparently, is the new dedicated worker aiming to keep the fat cats honest. Lei feels like a particularly unconventional hero, slumped from carrying a chip on his shoulder and a bit of envy, but still smart and a bit arrogant about it underneath his self-loathing. It does let Zhou Dongyu - a petite actress not far removed from playing a bullied high-school student to much acclaim in Better Days - play entertainingly against type as the sarcastic partner who probably wasn't going to let Jianming get away with much even before he dumped her, giving their scenes prickly chemistry that can go all-business as easily as it could become rekindled romance.

It's great to look at, of course, with the picture often bathed in colorful but harsh, overly bright light as Zhang trains a piercing eye on the present the way he might unearth the corruption in the past; tourist boats become blobs from all the golden light they throw off, and the blue lights atop police cars cut through the dark like lasers. But there's also something older and more primal here, even before the literally buried evidence comes to light: Elevated walkways around high-rise apartment buildings make it look like the old city has pushed its way up through the modern one, and the heroes are menaced by an old-fashioned ax gang as their phones are blocked and they struggle to charge one. Of course, sometimes it's more whimsical, as the score suddenly seems to quote Bernard Hermann as Jianming and Huilin dangle in a climax that would make Hitchcock smile, or a spry Zhitian reminds younger assassins that he is both smarter and tougher than they are.

It's a bunch of fun, especially when Zhang has the freedom to let audiences hiss at those in the upper class, whether by money or status, even if one can maybe see where any mention of how Zheng and Li were able to get where they were has been carefully excised (I suspect Joan Chen's wife from an implicitly well-connected family has some material on the cutting room floor). It may not be Zhang's best, and it is possessed of an unusually heavy-handed reminder that crime does not pay at the end, but it's an impressively messy and mean change of pace for someone who often seems to be aiming to play classy art houses outside of China.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 20 October 2023 - 26 October 2023

Last weekend was the first time in a while that I didn't wind up in a movie theater or festival. It was weird; I hope the kids had fun. So to make up for it, we're getting new films from Martin Scorsese and Zhang Yimou today, plus IFFBoston hitting us with a shotgun blast of the noteworthy indies rolling out over the next few months, and the second weekend of Taylor Swift's Eras Tour.
  • The big feature is Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese's grand western crime story of how the Osage people were fortunate to find oil on the land to which they were relocated and the men who conspired to take control, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, and Lily Gladstone, a whole brace of great character actor faces, and some late-inning co-stars brought in for when you start to feel the long runtime. It's pretty great and plays at the Coolidge, the Somerville (4K laser starting Monday), The Capitol, Kendall Square, Fresh Pond, Jordan's Furniture (Imax), the Lexington Venue, The Embassy, West Newton, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon/Dolby Cinema), South Bay (including Imax Xenon/Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax Laser/Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    Also opening wide is Dicks: The Musical, in which two young men discover they are long-lost identical twins (note: they are not played by the same actor or by twins), and plot to reunite their parents, with Megan Thee Stallion, Nathan Lane, Megan Mullaly, and Bowen Yang along for the ride. It's at the Somerville, Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Assembly Row.

    A new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost opens at Fresh Pond; this one's animated and has Stephen Fry voicing the title character, a specter frustrated by the American family that has moved into the home he's been haunting for 300 years. It's one of those British animated features where the animation looks iffy compared to the Disney and Dreamworks trailers but the voice cast is killer, featuring Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Freddie Highmore, and Toby Jones in addition to Fry.

    Soul Mates, which has Annie Ilonzeh & Charlie Weber on a blind date from hell after being put together by a service that means to test compatibility under pressure, plays later shows at South Bay.

    The Nightmare Before Christmas gets a Halloween-season rerelease at Boston Common (including RealD 3D), South Bay, Arsenal Yards.

    Back to the Future plays Boston Common, South Bay, and Arsenal Yards on Saturday and Wednesday (no Wednesday at Arsenal Yards). There are 60th anniversary screenings of The Birds at South Bay and Assembly Row on Sunday and Monday. Documentary Beyond Utopia, focusing on families that fled North Korea, plays Boston Common and South Bay on Monday and Tuesday. There are Crossroads "Global Fan Event" shows at Boston Common and Arsenal Yards on Monday and Wednesday. The week's A24 horror screenings at Boston Common are Under the Skin on Monday and Midsommar on Wednesday.
  • Landmark Kendall Square opens two things getting courtesy theatrical runs before heading to Netflix this week: Nyad stars Annette Bening in the title role, a former marathon swimmer turned sports journalist who decides to return to sport for one of its most daring feats - swimming from Cuba to Florida, without a shark cage - at the age of 60. Jodie Foster plays her coach, and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin direct, their first narrative feature after a number of terrific human-versus-elements features.

    The other is Pain Hustlers, which stars Emily Blunt as a woman who gets a job helping to move painkillers as opiate addiction becomes a full-blown epidemic; it also features Chris Evans, Andy Garcia, and Catherine O'Hara.

    Tuesday's $5 Retro Replay for 1980s slashers is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, so you can check Leatherface off the dance card. Wednesday also has a $5 show of Ace in the Hole, apparently not part of a series, but one doesn't really need an excuse.
  • Zhang Yimou's second major Chinese holiday release of the year is Under the Light, a rare contemporary crime thriller from the director, after sitting on the shelf for various pandemic and censorship-related reasons for long enough that Zhang made and released at least three other films in the meantime. It features Lei Jiayin, Zhang Guoli, Yu Hewei, Zhou Dongyu, and Joan Chen, no doubt looks stylish as heck, and plays Boston Common.

    Two Indian action films opened Wednesday - Leo: Bloody Sweet in Tamil at Fresh Pond (which also has Telugu screenings) and Boston Common and Bhagavanth Kesari in Telugu at Fresh Pond, Boston Common, South Bay, and Arsenal Yards - and Apple Fresh Pond gets four more from the subcontinent this weekend: Ganapath is a Hindi-language sci-fi action/adventure starring Tiger Shroff; Yaariyan 2 is also in Hindi and follows three cousins having misadventures in Mumbai. Ghost (playing through Sunday) is a Kannada-language thriller centered around an attempted jailbreak, and Tiger Nageswara Rao (also at Boston Common) is a Telugu action flick about an infamous 1970s robber (not to be confused with Tiger Shroff above or the forthcoming Tiger 3).
  • In addition to the big movies, The Coolidge Corner Theatre has plenty of Halloween fare, with midnights of Rocky Horror and Urban Legend (35mm) on Friday, plus Re-Animator late Saturday. The Big Screen Classics are M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense on Monday, Arsenic and Old Lace on Tuesday, and the 1942 Cat People on Thursday, with the first two on 35mm film and Northeastern University's Nathan Blake delivering a seminar before the third.

    For non-spooky fare, there's a Goethe-Institut presentation of German multiple-personality film Franky Five-Star on Sunday morning, with star Lena Urzendowsky participating in a post-film Q&A.
  • The Brattle Theatre hosts Independent Film Festival Boston's annual Fall Focus, highlighting some of the fall's more notable foreign/independent releases, with Fallen Leaves and Fingernails on Friday; Robot Dreams, Evil Does Not Exist, Kore-Eda's Monster, and Dream Scenario on Saturday; All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, Tótem, Perfect Days, and The Taste of Things on Sunday; and closing with Hayao Miyazaki's The Boy and the Hero on Monday. That one's sold out, but they play Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke on Tuesday, and there's a special screening of Aftershock with filmmakers Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee present to discuss their documentary about how Black women, in particular, are at risk of complications and death when pregnant because of gaps in the American health care system.
  • The Somerville Theatre pushes Killers of the Flower Moon and Dicks down a screen to accommodate Johnathan Richman's main stage shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, also bumping Stop Making Sense for the weekend except for a midnight show on Saturday. The main midnight on Saturday is Carny, which has Jodie Foster joining a traveling show with Gary Busey and Robbie Robertson. Dumb Money also returns Monday. Honoring Eric Bentley: A Centennial Tribute Concert, plays the main screen Wednesday, and there's a program of local horror shorts on Thursday with cast & crew on hand (though it's currently marked sold out).

    (Idle thought: They should have swapped the numbers of screens 2 & 3 during the remodel so they'd represent the sizes of the rooms in descending order.)
  • The Harvard Film Archive begins a new series - "Filmmaker, Guest Worker: Zelimir Zilnik's Expatriates" - on Friday with feature The Second Generation preceded by short film "For Ella"; Oldtimer plays Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, they have the restored I Heard It Through the Grapevine on DCP rather than their 16mm print; that evening's presentation also features James Baldwin, with three shorts under the title "James Baldwin Abroad". On Monday, they have a "From the Archive" presentation of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, a strange, queer entry from Georgian/Armenian/Ukranian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov when all three nations were part of the Soviet Union, on 35mm film.
  • The Regent Theatre has a "Psychadelic Cinema" show on Friday night, with films shot on Super-8 by Ken Brown in the 1960s for use in musical shows accompanied by Ken Winokur's Psychadelic Cinema Orchestra. Documentary Common Ground plays on Tuesday, with a pre-film musical performance by Cosmica and a post-film panel discussion. The "Midweek Music Movies and More" show is on Thursday this week, with "AKA Doc Pomus" followed by a brief panel discussion.
  • Go On, Be Brave screens on The Museum of Science's Omni screen on Tuesday evening, with documentary subject Andrea Lytle Peet in person for a Q&A about the film chronicling her aim to be the first person with ALS to compete in a marathon in all 50 states. She will also be present for a screening at Kendall Square on Thursday.
  • This week's Thursday Bright Lights show in the Bright Screening Room is The Tuba Thieves, a collection of stories dealing with hearing loss inspired by the theft of the big brass instruments from Los Angeles high schools. Director Alison O'Daniel will be on-hand, with the Q&A interpreted via ASL with the whole presentation open-captioned. Free and open to the public.
  • The Boston Asian-American Film Festival welcomes Lulu Wang to ArtsEmerson's Paramount Theatre (Bright Screening Room) on Sunday for a preview screening of her new streaming series Expats; six shorts programs are available to screen through Sunday.
  • The Boston Palestine Film Festival continues its virtual screening of five features and six shorts available through next Sunday.
  • The Lexington Venue has The Eras Tour and Killers of the Flower Moon from Friday to Sunday and Thursday. John Carpenter's original Halloween also plays Friday, Saturday, and Thursday.

    The West Newton Cinema gets Killers of the FLower Moon, keeping Eras (no shows Monday-Wednesday), Flora and Son (Saturday/Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday), Paw Patrol, Golda, Past Lives, Barbie, and Oppenheimer (no show Sunday). Open all week.

    The Luna Theater has It Lives Inside on Friday and Saturday, Stop Making Sense on Saturday afternoon, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on Sunday, and featurette "18 lus Soli" as part of UMass Lowell's Global Cinema series, including a Q&A, on Wednesday afternoon, with the Weirdo Wednesday show in the evening.

    Cinema Salem has Carpenter's Halloween, Hocus Pocus, and The Exorcist: Believer through Monday. The weekend's Universal Monsters shows are The Wolf Man (Friday/Sunday/Monday), The Mummy (Friday/Sunday), Frankenstein (Friday/Saturday/Monday), Dracula (Saturday/Sunday), Bride of Frankenstein (Saturday/Monday), The Invisible Man (Saturday/Sunday), and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Sunday).

    If you can make it out to Dedham (or live there), Scottish drama The Road Dance plays the Community Theatre. Irish/Finnish drama My Sailor, My Love moves from that theater to the Patriot Cinemas in Hingham.
  • Joe's Free Films shows an outdoors screening of Home Alone in Harvard Square on Friday night, and director Alex Winter on hand for a screening of his documentary The YouTube Effect in Wasserstein Hall at the Kennedy School on Monday.
Mostly living at the Brattle this weekend (but not sweating if most shows sell out before I get there because a lot will show up later), hopefully carving out time for Under the Light, Nyad, and Pain Hustlers during the week. Killers of the Flower Moon is also highly recommended.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 13 October 2023 - 19 October 2023

Of all the local theaters that closed during/after the pandemic, I would not guess that The Embassy in Waltham would be the first to re-open under new management, but to be fair, it's been in use as a gymnastics school and performing arts center for the past few months, and also had some screenings, so this weekend only marks its official return as a cinema. Because of those other uses, it's now a 2-plex rather than a 6-plex, but it's cool to have something in that neighborhood again!
  • It re-opens with Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, a concert film of one of the year's two hottest tickets (with Beyoncé's Renaissance getting similar treatment in a couple months). To keep it an event with the sort of crowds you'd see at an actual concert, it's only running three or four weeks, and only playing Thursdays through Sundays. It's almost everywhere, playing at The Capitol, Fresh Pond, the Coolidge, Kendall Square, the Embassy, Lexington, West Newton, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon/Dolby Cinema), South Bay (including Imax Xenon/Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax Laser/Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    The Hunger Games gets screenings at Assembly Row on Sunday to attempt to juice excitement for the upcoming prequel. Documentary What Is Love? plays South Bay and Assembly Row Monday. Boston Common has A24 horror flicks X (Monday) and Under the Skin (Wednesday). There are 10th anniversary screenings of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods at South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards on Tuesday & Wednesday, and 35th Anniversary shows of Beetlejuice on Wednesday on the Dolby Cinema screens at Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row. Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls, more fun than expected at Fantasia, plays Assembly Row on Thursday. Boston Common also has an early access show of Dicks: The Musical on Wednesday before the regular early show the next night.
  • Landmark Kendall Square has Foe, which stars Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal as a couple on an isolated farm when a possibly-inhuman stranger shows up with an unusual offer. They also open Joan Baez: I Am a Noise, which both follows the artist on a farewell tour and digs into her copious archives.

    The last leg of the Scorsese + DiCaprio series (before next week's new entry) is The Wolf of Wall Street, which plays for $5 on Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday. There's also a special presentation of Finding Her Beat, with documentary subject Megan Chao Smith there for a post-film Q&A, on Monday; the film itself is about folks in Minneapolis forming an all-female taiko troupe, though the art form had long been man-only in Japan. The $5 Retro Replay 80s slasher for the week is Child's Play on Tuesday.
  • Apple Fresh Pond has two new Indian films opening on Friday: MAD is a Telugu-language comedy about three dorm-mates at an engineering school, and Shot Boot Three is a family-friendly Tamil film about a kid and his new dog. Marathi-language family comedy Aatmapamphlet plays Saturday & Sunday.

    Thank You For Coming and Jawan continue at Fresh Pond through Tuesday. On Wednesday, a Tamil action-adventure about a chocolatier pushed too far, Leo: Bloody Sweet, opens at Fresh Pond (with Telugu screenings) and Boston Common (Imax Xenon on Wednesday), with Telugu actioner Bhagavanth Kesari also opening at Fresh Pond and Arsenal Yards Wednesday and South Bay Thursday.

    Chinese films Moscow Mission and Chang An continue at Boston Common for a third week. The Ex Files 4 hangs around a bit out at the Liberty Tree Mall.
  • An October Friday the 13th obviously calls for a double feature, and The Coolidge Corner Theatre has Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood & Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan outdoors at the Rocky Woods Reservation in Medfield on Friday night. Back in Brookline, the midnights are The Mist in black & white on Friday and a new restoration of The House by the Cemetery on Saturday.

    On Sunday, they present the Coolidge Award to costume designer Ruth E. Carter, with her participating in a post-film Q&A after Black Panther in the afternoon and a more broad-ranging discussion and presentation in the evening.

    During the week, they are well-equipped to handle the Swift-shaped hole in their schedule with Jeff Rapsis on the organ to accompany The Phantom of the Opera on Monday, a Big Screen Classic presentation of Coraline on Tuesday, a book reading of Lore of the Jack O'Lantern on Wednesday and a 35mm "Rewind!" show of Twilight on Thursday, because apparently 15 years is old enough to be considered retro.
  • The Brattle Theatre has documentary Godard Cinema from Friday to Sunday, covering, as one might expect, the life and work of Jean-Luc Godard, The presentation also includes Godard's last work, "Trailer of the FIlm That Will Never Exist: 'Phony Wars'", and plays as a double feature with a 35mm print of Godard's Vivre Sa Vie on Saturday & Sunday.

    From Friday through Monday (mostly late shows), they have the new restoration of Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy. Tuesday has an RPM Fest presentation, "Waiting for Snow", which features three short films by the late Michael Snow on 16mm film, and on Wednesday they team with the Museum of Home Video for "Ring, Ring: A Doorbell Cam Fantasia". Thursday is the first night if the Independent Film Festival Boston Fall Focus series, kicking things off with Thomasin McKenzie, Anne Hathaway, and Shea Wigham in Eileen.
  • The Somerville Theatre ramps up their spooky season shows with The Others in 4K from Friday to Sunday and locally-produced folk horror film The Sudbury Devil showing Friday evening, midnight Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. An Attack of the B-Movies double feature of A Bucket of Blood & The Bat plays Saturday afternoon and Tuesday evening. Early warning: If you want to see Killers of the Flower Moon on the Somerville's main screen opening weekend, hit the Thursday previews, because they'll have Johnathan Richman on stage from the 20th to 22nd.
  • The Harvard Film Archive finishes their Rita Azevedo Gomes with the filmmaker there in person for two screenings - The Sound of the Shaking Earth on Friday and The Kegelstatt Trio on Sunday. On Sunday, they have the first of three screenings of I Heard It Through the Grapevine, this one on 16mm film; it has director Dick Fontaine following James Baldwin through the South, visiting important places in the fight for civil rights.
  • Wednesday's "Midweek Music Movies and More" show at The Regent Theatre is One Hand Don't Clap, a documentary on the history of calypso and soca with a steel drum performance by Ron Reid before the show and a discussion with director Kavery Kaul afterward.
  • The Boston Asian-American Film Festival actually kicked off last night, but runs through Sunday at ArtsEmerson's Paramount Theatre (Bright Screening Room), with features and shorts programs through Sunday and six shorts programs available to screen through next Sunday.

    This week's Thursday Bright Lights show in the Bright Screening Room is also presented by the BAAFF; it's the terrific Past Lives, with post-film discussion to follow. Free and open to the public.
  • The Boston Palestine Film Festival has opted to postpone the in-person screenings that were scheduled to take place at the Museum of Fine Arts, but does have a five features and six shorts available on their site from Friday through next Sunday.
  • The Lexington Venue has The Eras Tour, A Haunting in Venice and Flora and Son from Friday to Sunday, with Eras also playing Thursday. They also have documentary Brief Tender LIght with filmmaker Q&A after the show on Monday; it's listed as the "2023 AIFF Kick-off", although it is oddly not listed on the Arlington International Film Festival site.

    The West Newton Cinema gets Eras and keeps Flora and Son (Saturday/Sunday matinees), Paw Patrol, Bottoms (Saturday to Wednesday), Golda, Past Lives, Barbie, and Oppenheimer. Open all week.

    The Luna Theater has Friday the 13th on Friday evening, because obviously, Stop Making Sense on Saturday, Beetlejuice on Sunday afternoon, a Weirdo Wednesday show, and opens It Lives Inside on Thursday.

    Cinema Salem has Friday the 13th all weekend, along with fan film anthology Never Walk Alone. Hocus Pocus and The Exorcist: Believer are the regular shows through Monday. Donnie Darko plays as Friday's "Night Light" show; there are Universal Monsters shows of Dracula, Frankenstein, & The Creature from the Black Lagoon Saturday, The Invisible Man & The Mummy on Sunday, Mummy, The Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, and Creature on Monday; Carpenter's Halloween plays Saturday and Monday; there's also a premiere part for Brix'n Mortar's music video "Hail the Wolf" on Saturday; two Teseract show of Rocky Horror Saturday night (Full Body at Boston Common); and Night of the Living Dead on Sunday.
Must say, for all that I've been reading articles about studios being upset at Taylor Swift and AMC doing an end-run around them, I'm not exactly seeing a whole lot of counter-programming for those of us who are basically hoping our nieces have fun but not getting in a room with 100 screaming teenagers, or offering special shows for Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday. I'll likely hit Foe, The Others and The Sudbury Horror, and maybe catch up on stuff like Bottoms, Expendables 4, and The Royal Hotel .

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Weird Weekend Part II: Chang An, Road to Boston, and Limbo

I spent the last few days chuckling to myself at Boston Common booking Chang An, because even for Chinese movies, a nearly-three-hour animated feature about two Tang dynasty poets seemed, well, kind of niche. Then, on Saturday night, I looked to reserve a seat for the next afternoon's show and pretty much the whole upper section was sold out. Chinatown, at least, was down for this, with a fair number of kids who didn't seem to get particularly squirmy. Go figure; I would have figured this was as hard a sell as you'd find this weekend, even to the local Chinese audience, but this is just more confirmation that I am not a Chinese-American person with a family that may want to learn more about the culture and thus have no idea what will be appealing to that group.

Next up after that was Road to Boston, which did not have nearly the same crowd, which surprised me a little bit, although I'd be curious to see how it would do closer to Patriot's Day, when the marathon is foremost in people's minds, as opposed to "as far from mid-April as the calendar will let you get". But, then, I suppose last weekend was a good time for it to come out in South Korea; it didn't have a million tickets sold like Dr. Cheon, but 870,000 in two weeks seems pretty good for a Korean film.

Most of the audience behind me was Korean-American, I think, and there were a lot of us staying through the end credits, with at least one camera flash as people presumably spotted their names and friends' names in the Korean text. Nobody local, I don't think, because the parts of the film meant to be set in Boston were actually shot in Melbourne. I'd be annoyed, but I seem to recall a lot of parts of that area that could pass for mid-Twentieth-Century New England, maybe part of why I enjoyed my trip there so much a few years back. They seem to have gotten a lot of the marathon details right, at least from what I've absorbed from 50 years living in New England.

(I like to sit up front, so I was unable to see the whole theater giving a knowing nod at a scene where the coaches look at the young running dashing up to a mountaintop shrine and say "boy, look at that kid go up that hill." "Yep, really good at going up hills, that one." "I hear there's a sort of heartbreaking story as to why…")

After that, dinner break, and over to the Somerville for its last show of Limbo, and I feel kind of weirdly guilty about waiting around after being so excited to see it not just playing the area but a theater that doesn't really book a lot of Asian films. I see they've got a Canto-Pop show scheduled for the main stage in late November, so I'm half-wondering if there may be more Cantonese-speaking Chinese-Americans in Somerville than there are in Chinatown, going by how well Mainland films are often attended compared to Hong Kong ones. Not that this was an "I'm the only guy in the theater who needs subtitles" situation; it might just be that the Somerville Theatre attracts a good crowd for people who like this sort of dark crime movie. Or it was a theater rental to get its VOD/UHD release a little extra notice and nothing to do with the local audience at all.

Kind of crazy to see it as a bookend on the day with Chang An, though - just the most noir-ish, scuzzy Hong Kong film possible after starting the day with a smoothed-out, moralistic CGI feature.

Chang'an san wan li (Chang An)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 8 October 2023 in AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, DCP)

There was a recent flap where certain American politicians grumbled about what soldiers shouldn't be doing which included mocking the idea of military people writing poetry, while this film may still have been kicking around theaters on the other side of the world before arriving in North America along with the mid-autumn festival hits; it celebrates a rich history or Chinese warrior-poets going back centuries in an epic-sized animated feature at least partially meant for children. It doesn't really do a whole lot to make the idea particularly interesting, unfortunately; it's the sort of history lesson that compacts a lot of big, messy facts about a turbulent period into a polished, easily-swallowed capsule.

It opens during the reign of Emperor Daizong, with aged regional governor Gao Shi (voice of Wu Junquan) facing an uphill battle trying to hold Fort Yushang from the forces of the An Lushan rebellion. Forced to fall back, he soon finds himself visited by a military inspector, Cheng Jianjun (voice of Lu Lifeng); surprisingly, Cheng's questions do not concern Gao's recent failures in battle, but poet Li Taibai - "Li Bai" for short - who was one of few to side with the rebels. Despite a second attack being imminent, Gao settles in to describe their entire intersecting histories to Cheng, going back 40 years: That's when Gao (voiced in flashback by Tang Tianxiang), a skilled spear-fighter from a heroic but impoverished house, mets Bai (voice of Ling Zhenhe), whose material comfort can net him no official status, coming as it does from mercantile sources. They become fast friends, although their lives only occasionally intersect, as Gao is by nature a military man and Li a libertine, but both become renowned poets even as the prosperous Tang Dynasty is beset by attacks and rebellions.

One should not necessarily expect too much of a film like Chang An (whose title refers to China's capital and seat of culture at the time, a place where both poets strive to belong); if it's a historical movie, it's grade-school history, where the aim is to use exciting battle action and impressive visuals to help cement what happened in what order. Why all this is going on is handwaved away to a certain extent; Gao is a loyal subject looking to match his grandfather's service, and is witness to various noteworthy incidents and people, but not particularly connected to the causes and effects of those events, beyond noting ambition and opposition to the stability provided by the Emperor. Indeed, as the flashbacks catch up to Old Gao, the film does not have Gao and Li debate how they have found themselves on opposite side, but shows Li being lectured by the boy who runs Gao's errands; he has learned his lesson well and is passing his exams.

Perhaps more frustrating, though, is that for a film that often links Gao and Li as poets and attaches great importance to the art, it seemingly has very little to say about poetry. It seldom if ever shows Gao or Li doing the work of composing a poem, never discussing how finding the right word and meter or cutting what isn't essential heightens the impact of what often comes off, as subtitled, as simply stating what the poet has seen (though English subtitles are likely the worst way to encounter the poetry of a tonal language like Middle Chinese); the craft and work of it is almost wholly absent. Indeed, the filmmakers note but somewhat avoid facets of this which could make Gao's journey as a poet more interesting: He's portrayed as having both a stutter and dyslexia, but is apparently able to simply grow out of them, and there's a pointed section early on where Gao, Li, and some of Li's friends, notably swordswoman Pei Shi'er (voice of Li ShiMeng) talk about talent and the privilege to hone or display it, but this is something that is raised as a concert but not much explored. Like battles, poetry is apparently just something that happens, without a lot of curiosity as to how and why.

(And, yes, there is something worth noting about this conversation happening in a movie that flashes the approval of the nation's film board at the start, along with the later lines that it is regrettable that various pets have fallen out of favor and find themselves starving, as if that is just some neutral rule of the world. There's also a conversation to be had about how this is the story of two men who are never shown to marry for love and whose first and last encounters involve ditching their shirts and wrestling, although it may be about how the filmmakers got that in rather than how they don't go any farther.)

It may not have much to say about the craft of poetry, but its filmmaking craft is fairly impressive. The natural and man-made environments are both impressively rendered, and the studios do a nice job of depicting how Chang'An or a landmark like the Yellow Crane Tower can seem grand and aspirational to the likes of Gao and Lee without overdoing the gleaming precious metals or extreme detail (though people are often rendered in a way that lands between whimsical hand-drawn caricature and stiff photorealism, more often blandly than grotesquely). Whether historically accurate or not, I like the way rooms full of "poetry boards" evoke bulletin boards more than galleries or libraries; it evokes modern social media in how missives are mixed and interacting, or how a poem's popularity can spread without the author knowing, like a post going viral. The grand action is well staged, possibly by the same visual effects houses that render flights of arrows for live-action epics, and the martial arts seems to use good reference or motion capture to evoke the same sort of thrill as an old-fashioned Shaw Brothers sword-versus-spear fight.

And, for a grandly-sized movie - at 168 minutes, I can't immediately recall a longer mainstream animated feature meant to be seen in one intermission-free sitting - it moves pretty well. There's maybe one joke about sticking to the point, but this did nice work of communicating the size of Gao's life without making the audience, kids included, particularly fidgety. It does roughly what I imagine it was set out to do - introduce a general audience, mostly young and Chinese, to a number of noteworthy figures - in capable fashion, even if the length belies that it's not much more ambitious than that.

1947 Boston (Road to Boston)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 8 October 2023 in AMC Boston Common #1 (first-run, DCP)

I'm curious how many North American cities Road to Boston opened in other than Boston itself; it's the sort of rousing sports movie that comes out often enough that you don't necessarily have to import more. After all, it's the sort that is pretty clearly less about sports than pride, but it's a fine example of the genre, one which knows how to let that drive the movie but let the characters, and ultimately the competition, be what the audience connects with.

In 1936, Son Kee-chung (Ha Jung-woo) won the gold medal for the marathon at the Berlin Olympics, but because Korea was occupied by Japan at the time, it was under the name "Son Kitei", and he was forced to leave track & field by the government for covering the Japanese flag with his laurel. Ten years later, Japan has been liberated (though still a "refugee country" under a United States military government), and his old teammate Nam Sung-yong (Bae Sung-woo), now a coach, wants to bring a team to the 1948 London Olympics, but there's a catch: Korea technically has no Olympic history, so will need to qualify in some other international event, such as the 1947 Boston Marathon. It's easier said than done: Government support is conditional on the disillusioned Son coaching, and the best potential recruit, Suh Yun-bok (Im Si-wan), is dirt-poor with an ailing mother, so feels running is frivolous. And that's before getting to the issues of raising the money to send the team to America, which includes a large deposit and the need for a local guarantor (Kim Sang-ho) to prevent such events from bringing in a flood of refugees, even if this trio are insistent that they want to represent Korea rather than become Americans.

This marathon is described as Korea's first chance to prove itself on the world stage as an independent nation, and for much of the film, director Kang Je-kyu and his co-writers are as focused on the moment as the competition: The "Republic of Korea", they note, is technically a new country, which makes it cash-poor but which doesn't mean it doesn't have history, and the filmmakers are wise to point out the burden that places on these athletes and the public at large: Son has never been able to properly take pride in his accomplishment, Suh may be too constrained by his present circumstances to become what Son should have been, and everybody knows that asking a bunch of poor people for money to compete in a marathon is tacky at best. Indeed, one of the things that's fascinating about the film, and which can seem like a plotting weakness at first, is that both filmmakers and characters seem to recognize that what they're getting at is something instinctual and only rational in hindsight, so instead of having a big speech about why a community, even a poor one, needs to support this kind of project, but sort of maneuver things into a position where people know they instinctively need this and that nobody else will make it happen but them. You talk up the benefits after they're revealed.

That works, in large part, because Ha Jung-woo's Son is not the sort of national hero who seems natural fit for the position, although Ha's crusty screen presence is fit for the job: Son's always got a chip on his shoulder, and Ha hits the line between where it's helpful and a problem, embodying how being that great at one thing kind of ripples through every other piece of your personality. Im Si-wan's Yun-bok is angrier, and he does a nifty thing where one maybe doesn't initially recognize he's laying it on a bit thick because he does, in fact, like running so much that he has to work at suppressing it. It thus falls on Bae Sung-woo to be the glue of the movie as Nam; he's got an easy way of bantering with Ha to sell the idea that these two are old friends and shows the sort of enthusiasm for the sport that otherwise might need to be unearthed. Kim Sang-ho is useful comic relief in the last act so that it's not entirely isolating, fish-out-of-water material.

(There are some highly entertaining Boston accents, although this may be the rare time that the "they talk like JFK there, right?" gambit works!)

The race almost functions as an encore, after the issues leading up to it are resolved - Suh and Nam actually doing well kind of feels like a bonus - but it's a heck of an encore. Kang has had the characters talk about running and shown the degree to which a half-marathon can reduce a person to nothing but full-body pain so that the audience has some idea of what to expect but still has plenty to discover, and while he filmed little or nothing in Massachusetts, they put together something that feels like this particular marathon, taking the story they were given and wringing everything he could out of it. The race, as sports often does, winds up distilling just who Son, Suh, and Nam are to their essences, and the cast and crew know that this is what the audience wants to see just as much as how well Suh does.

I readily admit, I like this movie a little more because the idea that this thing that feels super-local actually wound up being tremendously important to people on the other side of the world tickles me, with the movie going a little further to flatter Boston besides. Mostly, though, it's just a well-made sports movie, the sort that reminds us just why we love these silly-seeming activities.

Zhi chi (Limbo)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 8 October 2023 in Somerville Theatre #3 (first-run, DCP)

You've got to fudge the dates a bit to say that this is a return to form for director Soi Cheang after a detour into Monkey King fantasy - he actually made SPL 2 between his first and second Monkey King movies, and some more mainstream action flicks just before that trilogy - but the point is nonetheless compelling: After that detour into family-friendly action, he's got a hell of a lot of darkness stored up, and Limbo shows that he's got a real talent for it.

As the film opens in 2017, the Hong Kong Police Department finds themselves investigating a serial killer, or at least they think that must be the case: So far, they've only found the left hands of two women. Though up-and-comer Will Ren (Mason C. Lee Sun) is technically in charge of the investigation, he'll be leaning on veteran detective Cham Lau (Gordon Lam Ka-Tung) and his knowledge of the city and its seamier sides, as the killer seems to be preying upon those whose disappearance won't be noticed. The second victim was recently released from prison, which is when he discovers that car thief Wong To (Cya Liu Yase) is also back on the streets, sending him into a near-murderous rage. But with relatively little to work on, Wong To may be their best path through the underworld to whoever is doing this.

Cya Liu's Wong To may set some sort of record for taking abuse in this movie, and it's more horrific in its way than the serial killer elements. Those are random and monstrous, but at least unambiguously treated as such. Wong To may be a criminal, but she's a thief, and that she caused a deadly accident horrifies her. For all that Cham and Ren are hunting down a serial killer, much of the tension comes from the question of whether her need to atone can outlast Cham's desire for revenge. Liu is terrific, establishing Wong's street smarts quickly and letting Cheang do a quick turnaround as her guilt drives her, and they get that street smarts also means knowing when you are well and truly screwed. Gordon Lam, meanwhile, pivots Cham from an eccentric detective who nevertheless seems reliable to a man whose anger lets him tap into a vein of cruelty.

They are reflections of the world that they live in, a Hong Kong that looks slick when you are pulled way back but which is nothing but grimy slums in close-up, photographed in a harsh black and white, high-contrast digital sharpness that denies the audience shadows to hide the worst of the setting or letting grain soften it. Even when the camera pulls back, hovering to follow a tricky route or just providing an overhead view, it's phenomenal work, gasp-worthy imagery to make this a truly striking bit of noir.

And a nihilistic one; there's barely any motive to its crimes - the suspects played by both Fish LIew and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi are often pathetic as opposed to any sorts of masterminds - with Cham looking for revenge with impunity while the seemingly upright Ren is still looking to cover up when it looks like he might slip. Wong To doesn't so much become a heroine as revert to fight-or-flight, her noble intentions and capability as a crook who can mostly avoid violence to repeating "I don't want to die" like a mantra.

It's a cruel chase, but certainly a memorable one. The film has actually made its way to general North American release after Cheang's follow-up, Mad Fate, which is also a visually striking tour of Hong Kong's underbelly on the trail of a serial killer. This is Soi Cheang's wheelhouse and a hell of a ride.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Weird Weekend Part I: She Came to Me.& Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman

As I've mentioned in a couple other posts and on social media, It's kind of a wild weekend at the local multiplexes, and I suspect that's in large part because, with the Taylor Swift Eras concert film coming out next week, nobody wants to open anything big this week (aside from The Exorcist 4-ish, which moved to get one week on premium screens in its wake), but enough from September and before was fading quick enough that theaters had showtimes to fill, so a lot of random-seeming stuff is playing: Screwy romantic comedies, two from Korea, two from China, anime that would normally get one or two shows getting an entire (small) screen for a couple days at Fresh Pond even as it's full of Indian films…

Anway, I planned to get an earlier start on this, seeing Dr. Cheon Friday night, but it was way the heck out in Chestnut Hill, and apparently you've got to start at around 7pm to get to a 9pm show from my apartment, and I headed out at 7:15, and by the time all the slow zones, circumventing Haymarket, and "oh this is express now wait for the next" was done, I realized I wasn't going to make it and turned around to head back home, on the same slow train. Wasted night, but the MBTA has done worse to others than make them rearrange their movie weekends.

Once I got out there, I saw that the "SuperLux" had trimmed its operation down a bit since the last time I was there/the pandemic. Back then, there was no concession stand and there were people taking orders/delivering to every seat in the house, whether in the "SuperLux" or "LuxLite" section, with slightly different menus. Now, if you're in the former (which I usually am because the other one is way too far back for my taste), you're ordering at a concession stand and then picking up; in the latter, there's a kiosk by the door so they can bring your order to your seat (makes me wonder if the call buttons on those seats have been removed/deactivated). Makes sense; these are not big theaters and I used to think that they were crazy over-staffed for the relatively low-attendance shows that would draw me out there, and a lot of places have had to cut down on part-time staff, but it being a little less fancy makes that spot less tempting unless, as in this case, they've got something that literally isn't playing anywhere else.

Good pretzel, though, and I am kind of glad that you can get a proper large movie-theater soda now, rather than the 10-ounce restaurant-sized glass you used to get.

In between, I made my weekly comic run and asked the owner of the shop, a huge Springsteen fan, whether "Addicted to Romance" was a new song or not; he said it started popping up on his Spotify a week or two ago. Given that it was apparently composed for the end credits of She Came to Me, a deeply weird little movie, I'm penciling this down as the "random Oscar nominee you've never heard of" for 2022. Not a great song, but folks will nominate Bruce.

She Came to Me

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 October 2023 in AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, DCP)

She Came to Me is a much weirder movie than I expected, and given that I was expecting something sort of eccentric from the description, that's an impressive feat. By the time it's over, one almost has to conclude that filmmaker Rebecca Miller was so stumped with how to make an actual movie out of all these oddball characters and situations she'd come up with that she couldn't even decide on an aspect ratio.

The one it sort of revolves around is Steven Lauddem (Peter Dinklage), a composer who suffered a nervous breakdown after his last opera and is blocked on his current one. That breakdown led him to therapy with Dr. Patricia Jessup (Anne Hathaway), whom he married, though she is tightly-wound in her own way. Her son Julian (Evan A. Ellison) is dating precocious-in-many-ways Tereza Szyskowski (Harlow Jane). Her mother Magdalena (Joanna Kulig) happens to be the Lauddems' new cleaning lady, which is weird, but maybe not as weird as her husband Trey Ruffa (Brian d'Arcy James), a civil war re-enactor uncomfortable with his step-daughter becoming a woman. In the middle of this, Steven meets tugboat operator Katrina Trento (Marisa Tomei) at a bar, and that one-afternoon-stand helps bust his creative logjam - though he may have been wise to run, given how she says up front that she's had issues with being addicted to romance.

That's a bit of a sprawling ensemble, and it feels like it takes a while to introduce them all, and even longer to get the various groups bouncing off each other to start intersecting in interesting ways. It's worth noting that most of the marketing and descriptions of the film emphasize Steven, Patricia, and Katrina, which is the part of the story with a classic romantic-comedy plot and forms a nice little circle in ways that seem natural. The classic romantic-comedy take on this set-up would have Katrina meeting Patricia much earlier and having that triangle play out a lot longer rather than just completely throwing things into a spiral right away, then stepping back so that the kids can actually drive the action of the movie's later stretches. Miller has instead gone a much messier route, taking a bunch of zany characters that would happily populate a farce and then giving them real nervous breakdowns that make you feel bad about laughing at the weird situations, then wrapping it up with a genuinely bizarre finale built around avoiding statutory rape charges because Julian just turned 18 and Tereza is 16.

One does have to admire the cast giving it all, though. Peter Dinklage takes the moments when his character's sharp wit can emerge from a depressive cloud and savors them, while making that cloud feel oppressive. Marisa Tomei does a great job of navigating her working-class romance addict who can have trouble separating her good nature and her mental illness; she's able to make her recited history seem more like a life lived than mere backstory, and it makes Katrina more than a wild card dealt to Steven. Evan Ellison and Harlow Jane project this level-headed good nature that eventually makes you wonder if they're more mature than their parents or showing you how those parents naively made messes of their lives. And Anne Hathaway is so hilariously weird and high-strung as to eventually almost break through to tragic as she and Miller play with how her beauty seems to feed some sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder (though I suspect Miller is careful to never use those actual words).

I kid a bit about the aspect ratio thing, but it is weird that some scenes are roughly the old, squarish Academy ratio and others are widescreen scope, and it's not like the former is just the latter cut down, but leave empty space on the left and right or top and bottom depending on the shot (projectionists who pride themselves on proper masking are going to hate this movie). The changes are just noticeable enough to make you wonder if there's a reason, and then you're trying to figure out how the rest of the movie fits together and maybe frustrated that the rhyme or reason of it is just out of reach. Early on, it almost feels like Miller and cinematographer Sam Levy are trying to figure out how to frame scenes with Hathaway in heels playing off Dinklage without it seeming too much like she sees him as a child rather than a husband (although there's sort of some of it there) and eventually deciding they'll just use whatever works in the moment.

The whole deal with the teenagers in the back half of the movie is such a strange way for the film to ultimately go; for as much as it may be the best solution to the issue (though "where did that idea come from, Steven?" isn't an unreasonable reaction), there's something that could possibly be the core of a good story here: The film has established that both Patricia and Magdalena were young single mothers who were likely on the same sort of high-achieving path as Julian and Tereza, and it's interesting to ponder that they were similarly confident in their ability to handle it, a cycle of how recklessly naive even smart young people who know their weaknesses are, it overwhelms the rest of the story. Julia & Tereza's story may be Patricia's & Magdalena's, but it's not really Steven's and Katrina's. There's also a whole racial aspect of Trey's actions that winds up as just sort of vaguely there and mentioned, and the whole "switch from Union to Confederate and dress your wife and daughter in 19th Century garb" is all Miller does and she makes sure Tereza underlines it for the audience.

Which isn't to say it's not a good idea, and if it's executed in a somewhat ham-handed manner, it's because this is a group of people smart enough (and in Tereza's case outspoken enough) to notice and comment on it. A lot of the movie lands between clever and clumsy in that way. I can't say I didn't enjoy it, from the awkward conversations to the screwy operas, but I can't say Miller exactly finds where all this weird chaos is going, either.

Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman

* * * (out of four)
Seen 7 October 2023 in Showcase Cinemas Superlux Chestnut Hill #4 (first-run, DCP)

Dr. Cheon starts out as a fun take on "fake exorcist encounters something real" but quickly evolves into something more fun - a sort of swashbuckling contemporary urban fantasy - not wasting a whole lot of time on hand-wringing along the way. While doing so, it tends to follow the Guillermo del Toro model of not wanting to spend a first movie setting up lore and cliffhangers when you can jump to the final battle, and the only problem with that is maybe leaving the movie with a generic villain.

The movie wastes little time introducing its title character, Cheon Dong-sik (Gang Dong-won), and his "apprentice" In-bae (Lee Dong-hwi), although looks can be deceiving: In-bae is an electronics wizard who sets up remote controls and pyrotechnics under their clients' eyes, and Cheon, while the grandson of a grand shaman, is a trained psychiatrist looking to heal the hearts and minds of those claiming supernatural torment. He is, as such, tremendously wary when young Oh Yoo-Gyeong (Esom) shows up at their office offering $100,000 to remove the curse on her kid sister (Park So-yi). The thing is, Yoo-gyeong's claim to see ghosts might just be the real deal, and if that's the case, the team might be in over their heads. But even if they are, Cheon has to follow it to the end, because this might be the case he has been look for for almost twenty years, the one that leads him to the cult leader (Huh Joon-ho) who killed his grandfather and brother.

There's a lot to dig here, in part because the filmmakers recognize what's often unsatisfying about the twist where what had been a story about people being monsters reveals an actual supernatural explanation: The opening gambit gleefully swats away the idea of parents acting like their daughter must be possessed when she's actually just a teenager without making too big a deal of it, and even if Beom-cheon is an actual mage, it's not as if the dark forces he calls upon are more evil by nature or ambitious than he is himself. When a similar possessed-kid situation pops up with Oh Yoo-min, the filmmakers are nimble; that's when the movie starts to pick up the pace and quickly expands its world so that this isn't selling out any principle, staying enjoyably modern: Characters can look around and say this looks pretty trope-y without actually winking at the audience or disrespecting their own genre, and a running fight against possessed townspeople plays more as science fiction than zombies.

It does kind of make it the case that even if things aren't easy, they're maybe not challenging in an interesting way. The Dark Master has what he's doing down to a science, the moments where the hero maybe doubts whether he's up for this are very fleeting indeed, and supernatural mysteries have answers presented without a lot of resistance or are too readily treated as something that can be glossed over. The upside is that the cast plays the group in big, primary colors; Gang Dong-won gives Cheon the cockiness of a highly-educated con artist and doesn't entirely strip it away when it's time to show that he wasn't expecting this, while Huh Joon-ho has an uncaring sort of cruelty, earning the "Master" title with how easily many things seem to come and how smacking down dissent seems like second nature. Esom makes Yoo-gyeong feel like she's been seeing ghosts all her life but like she's a little intimidated by something on this scale and close to home.

And most importantly, the film moves - first-time director Kim Seong-sik has worked as an assistant to a lot of South Korea's top filmmakers, and he has clearly been paying attention. He and the visual effects crew work together well, even if there are a few scenes that look like they were shot Marvel-style in a big green room (or used the rear-projection that has lately come back into style). Unlike a lot of Korean filmmakers, he picks a tone and sticks with it, which does occasionally make the film seem a little conventional and predictable, but also lets it run a tight 99 minutes. It's aggressively non-bloated and more of an escapist supernatural adventure because of it.

As action-fantasies of this sort go, it's kind of slight, but I must admit to liking it a lot, in some cases for the common mistakes it doesn't make. This movie doesn't bite off more than it can chew but never just goes through the motions, either.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 6 October 2023 - 12 October 2023

With the only big new release this weekend looking not-great, it's worth looking at some of the other things that are holding down screens in theaters while they wait for Eras.
  • The Exorcist: Believer is meant to kickstart a David Gordon Green-directed trilogy of Exorcist sequels (much like his Halloween set) which ignore the other takes on the material, and has Ellen Burstyn returning to the series for the first time, although word from early screenings is it's not very good. It's at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, Jordan's Furniture (Imax), CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Imax Xenon/Dolby Cinema), Kendall Square, South Bay (including Imax Xenon/Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax Laser/Dolby Cinema), and Arsenal Yards (including CWX).

    The Royal Hotel looks more harrowing, if not the same sort of supernatural horror, with director Kitty Green reuniting with The Assistant star Julia Garner, who joins co-star Jessica Henwick as two American girls backpacking in Australia who take a job waitressing in a small-town pub with no easy way home, because they have clearly not seen Wake in Fright. It's at the Coolidge, Boston Common, Kendall Square, and Assembly Row. For more definitively demonic horror, there's Spain's When Evil Lurks, playing mostly-late shows at Boston Common, and South Bay.

    In more cheerful spooky stuff, Disney is re-releasing Hocus Pocus for its 30th anniversary; that's at Boston Common, South Bay, Arsenal Yards, and CinemaSalem.

    She Came to Me, playing Boston Common (at some odd times), is a romantic comedy starring Peter Dinklage as a composer with writer's block, Anne Hathaway as his wife, and Marisa Tomei as the woman he has a one-night-stand with.

    Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses has 20th anniversary shows on Sunday & Wednesday at Boston Common, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards (Sunday only). Ti West's X plays Boston Common on Wednesday.
  • Two recent short films/featurettes from Pedro Almodóvar, "Strange Way of Life" & "The Human Voice", play The Coolidge Corner Theatre, Kendall Square, West Newton, and Boston Common. The former is new, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal in a western about two former gunslingers meeting up again for the first time in years; the latter is from 3 years ago and follows Tilda Swinton as a woman waiting for a former lover who never arrives. That only gets one to about an hour, so there is also an interview with the director included.

    For spooky season, there are 35mm midnight show of Brad Anderson's Session 9 on midnight Friday and Robert Wise's The Haunting on Saturday, a Big Screen Classic show of Bergman's Hour of the Wolf (perhaps not strictly a horror movie but described as intense and surreal), a 35mm print of Little Shop of Horrors with optional seminar by Sophie Blum on Tuesday. There's also a Panorama show of Eva's Promise, a documentary about a teenager who promised to retrieve her brother's paintings when he was taken to Auschwitz, with a post-film discussion including a co-producer, the latest tribute to Coolidge award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, Do the Right Thing, on 35mm Wednesday, and a Cinema Jukebox show of Walk the Line on Thursday.
  • Landmark Kendall Square gets The Storms of Jeremy Thomas, in which the film producer is joined by director Mark Cousins as they drive from England to Cannes and discuss all manner of things along the way.

    The latest entry in the $5 Scorsese & DiCaprio series is The Departed, playing Saturday/Sunday/Wednesday. Netflix comedy Old Dads starring and directed by Bill Burr, gets a one-night preview on Monday rather than the full week some of the other films from the streamer have received. The $5 Retro Replay on Tuesday is the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Another six new ones from India at Apple Fresh Pond this week. In Hindi, there is Mission Raniganj, which stars Akshay Kumar in a story of an engineer who saved 65 trapped miners; Country of Blind, an adaptation of an H.G. Wells story about a mountain climber who discovers an isolated village of people who cannot see; and Thank You For Coming, about a group of friends reuniting for a sort of family dinner. In Telguu, there is Maama Mascheendra, an action movie starring Sudheer Babu Posani, Month of Madhu, in which a young American-born girl has a fight with her mother at a family wedding in Vizag which leads to a road trip with a man twice her age; and Rules Ranjann, a romantic comedy (the latter opening Saturday). 800 is a Tamil film starring Madhur Mittal as Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan. Chaaver is a Malayalam action movie. Kannur Squad and Jawan stay at Fresh Pond; Fukrey 3 continues at Boston Common.

    Fresh Pond also has anime Blue Giant on Sunday and Monday, about a teenager who aims to become the world's best saxophone player after seeing his first jazz concert. It also plays Boston Common, though for one show per day rather than a full schedule.

    Herman Yau's third action movie to hit local theaters in three months (and Chinese ones, for that matter) is Moscow Mission, which has Zhou Dongyu as a cop chasing down the perpetrators of a series of robberies on the train connecting Beijing and Moscow, including Andy Lau and Janice Man. It's some bid, dumb fun action at Boston Common. Also playing at the Common from China is Chang An, a king-sized animated film about Tang Dynasty poets Gao Shi and Li Bai, though it apparently takes some liberties. Wuershan's Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms hangs around Boston Common for a third week., and The Ex Files 4 looks to be more definitively playing out at the Liberty Tree Mall this week. Limbo continues through Sunday at the Somerville. Two Korean films play local theaters: Road To Boston is the new one from Tae Guk Gi director Kang Je-kyu, starring Im Si-wan, Ha Jung-Woo, and Bae Sung-Woo in the story of the first Korean runners to compete in the Boston Marathon after World War II in 1947, and plays Boston Common, which I guess is as close as you can get to the finish line these days. Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman, which stars Gang Dong-won as a fake exorcist who comes across an actually possessed girl, plays one show per night at Chestnut Hill.
  • The Brattle Theatre spends much of the week on "Queer Pride/Queer Wrath": Gay USA on Friday, Portrait of Jason (on 35mm), The Living End, and Paris Is Burning & The Queen Saturday, Desert Hearts & Saving Face (35mm) and Bound (35mm) Sunday, Chocolate Babies & Tangerine Monday, and Bad Education on 35mm Tuesday. The Queer Film Guide's Kyle Turner will be around for most shows Friday & Saturday.

    There's also an Indigenous People's Day double feature of Małni – Towards The Ocean, Towards The Shore & Lakota Nation vs. United States Monday afternoon. The latest GRRL HAUS Cinema program plays Wednesday evening, and Stop Making Sense continues for a second week, including a special open-captioned show on Thursday (it's also hanging around some other places).
  • The Somerville Theatre has a 35mm print of I Walked with a Zombie for their Saturday Midnight Special, a test-screening/premiere of She Who Dared with live orchestral accompaniment on Sunday afternoon, and the 1917 Mary Pickford version of A Little Princess with Leslie McMichael accompanying on the harp on Monday.

    Locally-produced thriller The Killers Next Door plays The Capitol Saturday night at 9pm
  • The Harvard Film Archive welcomes two guests this weekend: Documentary filmmaker Wang Bing will be on-hand Friday and Saturday, with featurette Man in Black on Friday and Youth (rather longer than a featurette) on Saturday. Director Laura Citarella will not be there for the first part of Trenque Lauquen on Sunday, but will participate in a post-film Q&A after Part II on Monday.
  • The Regent Theatre continues to host the Lonely Seal International FIlm, Screenplay, and Music Festival with shows Friday through Sunday - note that the Friday night concert by the Cowsills is not included in the festival pass and the afternoon panels/parties on Friday and Saturday are in the Underground space and overlap with the shows.

    On Wednesday, they have a "Midweek Music Movies and More" show of We Were Famous, You Don't Remember: The Embarrassment with filmmaker Dan Fetherston and band member Woody Glessmann on hand for a post-film Q&A. There looks to be at least another month of films in the series on tap for the fall.
  • This week's Thursday Bright Lights show in the Bright Screening Room is Every Body, with a pair of intersex activists and a pediatric/adolescent gynecologist from Boston Children's there afterward to discuss the documentary about how many IS folks are given involuntary surgery at a young age, among other things. Free and open to the public.
  • The Lexington Venue adds Stop Making Sense to A Haunting in Venice and Flora and Son. Open Friday to Sunday.

    The West Newton Cinema opens the "Strange Way of Life" package and keeps Flora and Son, Paw Patrol, The Creator, Dumb Money, Bottoms (Saturday/Sunday evening), Golda (no show Thursday), Past Lives (Saturday/Sunday/Monday), Barbie, and Oppenheimer. Open all week.

    The Luna Theater has CatVideoFest 2023 Friday evening, Rocky Horror with Teseracte Players on Saturday (Full Body Cast is, as alway, at Boston Common that evening), Plan 9 From Outer Space Sunday afternoon, "Jack on Film, Take 2", with Brian Hassett curating bits of every time Jack Kerouac has been portrayed on TV and film, on Sunday evening, a Weirdo Wednesday show, and their first presentation of Stop Making Sense on Thursday.

    Cinema Salem goes all-in for Halloween early, as one might expect, with Hocus Pocus and The Exorcist: Believer through Monday and plenty of Universal Monsters: The Mummy & The Creature from the Black Lagoon Friday; Dracula, Frankenstein, & The Wolf Man Saturday; Dracula & The Bride of Frankenstein on Sunday; and Frankenstein & Creature on Monday. There's also Night of the Living Dead on Saturday and Carpenter's Halloween Saturday & Monday, the original Friday the 13th with original Jason Vorhees Ari Lehman live in person Sunday.

    Out in Danvers, the Liberty Tree Mall has Plan C, a documentary about people supplying abortion mediation to those in states where it is banned, which I quite liked at IFFBoston this year. They've also got Shelter in Solitude, with Siobhan Fallon Hogan as a misfit death-row guard who forms a bond with one of her charges (Robert Patrick plays the warden, and the trailer didn't scream "comedy" to me although that's apparently the genre)
Yikes. Got ahead of the game with Moscow Mission last night, heading out to Chestnut hill for Dr. Cheon tonight, may try to marathon Stop Making Sense, Limbo, and I Walked with a Zombie on Saturday, hit Chan An and Road to Boston Sunday, and then maybe find time for The Royal Hotel, When Evil Lurks, Blue Giant, "Strange Way of Life", and maybe something else during the week.

Be kind of funny running myself ragged to see everything and then having the other theaters re-open, but all with the concert movie.