Sunday, March 31, 2024

Back Home

Just me for Back Home last night, which isn't necessarily surprising, as it came out in Hong Kong last September, and even if you presume that streaming services and people no longer having machines to play bootleg DVDs has diminished piracy to the point where it's not a major concern, this is way past the point where you'll be seeing much about it in any media you follow. Presuming that exists; I don't know where people get that sort of movie news from any more. It seems to be how distributor Illume works, and I'm kind of lcurious if it's working out for them.

As for the movie itself, it's apparently part of a new-filmmakers initiative in Hong Kong, and I think we've had a few more come over. It's no longer quite so much the case as it was a few years back that Hong Kong filmmakers don't work in Cantonese unless they have something Hong Kong-specific to say, I was actually kind of surprised by the number of comments on Letterboxd about it having a lot of pointed commentary! I suppose I've been trying to impose that sort of take on movies a bit likely - sometimes, to paraphrase Freud, an umbrella is just an umbrella - because it can be kind of too-easy for me as an outsider to try and force a movie into the one frame of reference I have about What's Going On There Now and sound like a fool. But, I suppose, even if there wasn't an umbrella that shows up, there people cutting out tongues and looking to leave town probably adds up to something!

On the other hand, it works pretty well as a horror movie even if you don't entirely get that particular bit of context, not a bad appetizer for Exhuma if you'd like a warm-up in terms of things starting just kind of weird before getting wild.

Back Home

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 March 2024 in AMC Causeway #3 (first-run, DCP)

The basic idea behind Back Home is a pretty basic hook for a horror movie - traumatized person returns to where the thing he repressed happens and soon finds it overwhelming him - but it is, of course, what you do with this material that matters. For quite some time, it looks like writer/director Tse Ka-Ki (credited in English as "Nate Ki") isn't doing enough, and I'm not entirely sure whether the last act is making up for lost time or everything clicking into place.

Our homecomer is Lai Heung-Wing (Anson Kong Ip-Sang), "Wing" for short, who went to live with his uncle in Canada as a child and is still there, twenty years later, until he gets a call saying that mother Tang Wai-Lan (Bai Ling) is hospitalized after an apparent suicide attempt - the doctor says her comatose state is like her soul has already left her body, and, also, her tongue is gone. Not knowing how long he'll be there, he settles into his mother's grimy apartment - the same one she lived in when he left, with the elderly couple who run a stall selling items for burnt offerings (Tai Bo & Helen Tam Yuk-Ying) recognizing him. He soon discovers that the little kid who lives next door, Yu (Wesley Wong) is seeing ghosts the way he used to when he lived there, that the entire seventh floor is unoccupied and has been for years (a rarity in crowded Hong Kong), and that his mother's attempted suicide was neither the first. It also won't be the last.

If nothing else, Back Home is dripping with good scary-movie atmosphere, in pretty much every way that it can be: It's got phantoms that manifest as shadows so dark as to seem two-dimensional (other than solid-white eyes) on the one hand, and colorful paper constructs whose design is just abstracted enough to make a mockery of reality on the other, even before getting to the little paper people inside something you know exists to be set on fire. That bit sticks in one's head just enough that Tse circling back around later is surprisingly effective, and he also makes use of the mother's apartment and the building around it being just the right state of run-down to create an appropriate sense of desperation but also left enough room for both the seventh floor and what's going on in broad daylight to be creepy in other ways.

There's also a nice performance from Anson Kong, another member of the Canto-pop group from which The Moon Thieves drew much of its cast; he manages to make Wing seem shrunken and timid as a result of what's happened to him without being pushed to the side by the bigger performances from Bai Ling and others. I'm curious as to how Canadian he reads to Hong Kong audiences here, especially since part of what I liked about Wind, from an American point of view, is that he also frequently doesn't seem sure if something's weird or he just no longer fits in.

I suspect that this movie's biggest problem is that it counts down from seven days but does not have seven days' worth of stuff to do - it had me cranky and impatient and wondering why this guy doesn't just check into a nice, non-haunted hotel for roughly half its length. Once it gets down to two or three days left, though, I found myself squirming and saying stuff was fucked up in a good way, seeing how it fit together just well enough to see the shape of what's going on, at least enough to be creeped out

Maybe it makes more (or less) sense to folks from Hong Kong. For me, it kind of lands in the gap between where I enjoy the clever and meaningful construction and where the assorted scary stuff gets my skin crawling such that it doesn't matter why or how, but I kind of like what it's going for regardless.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 29 March 2024 - 4 April 2024

If you don't have plans for Easter, the local independent theaters are each offering a lot of movie for just one ticket. But if you want a more conventional sort of big…
  • ... there's Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, with Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Godzilla, and King Kong reuniting with Godzilla vs Kong director Adam Wingard (whose longtime collaborator Simon Barrett co-writes) to apparently spend more time exploring the Hollow Earth and face a new monstrous threat. It's at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, Jordan's (Imax 2D0, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Dolby Cinema 2D & RealD 3D), Causeway Street (including RealD 3D), Kendall Square, the seaport (including Dolby Atmos), South Bay (including Imax Xenon 2D/3D, Dolby Cinema 2D & RealD 3D), Assembly Row (including Imax Laser 2D/3D, Dolby Cinema 2D & RealD 3D), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    In the Land of Saints and Sinners features Liam Neeson as a former gangster whose past has come home to roost in the form of a revenge-seeking Kerry Condon, with Ciaràn Hinds as the cop trying to keep the small town in which he lives from exploding. It's at Boston Common and Causeway Street. Asphalt City features Tye Sheridan as a New York City paramedic being mentored by grizzled partner Sean Penn (with Mike Tyson as their boss?); it's at Boston Common.

    Late Night With the Devil , gets a full slate of shows at Boston Common and Causeway Street and expands to the Seaport, South Bay, and CinemaSalem.

    A number of Blumhouse films return to Boston Common, Assembly Row for the weekend, with Sinister Friday, The Purge on Saturday, Ouija: Origin of Evil on Sunday, Insidious on Monday, The Invisible Man '20 on Tuesday.

    Hate to Love: Nickelback, has an encore Saturday afternoon at Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Assembly Row. They Shot the Piano Player plays Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening at Boston Common. Someone Like You, in which a man seeks out a woman who came from the same IVF batch as his best friend and falls in love (romantic or icky depending on your temperament) plays Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row from Tuesday to Thursday<./LI>

  • Landmark Kendall Square also has three boutique-house openings this week. Carol Doda Topless at the Condor gets the most showtimes, looking at how in 1964, Ms. Doda became America's first topless dancer and didn't hide that her breasts were augmented. About Dry Grasses, a movie from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylon about an art teacher apparently stuck in Anatolia, has fewer times in part because it's epic-length. It shares a screen with High & Low: John Galliano, a documentary about a notable and volatile fashion designer.

    Tuesday's New Hollywood presentation is Serpico.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre is officially a six-plex now! Screens 1 & 2 are the ones that have been there for decades, 3 & 4 are the tiny rooms added in the last decade or so, and 5 & 6 are the new rooms somewhere in between. They bring in One Life and Immaculate to fill things in, and also open Ennio, a documentary on film composer Ennio Morricone, for one show a day on screen #6 (it's also at the Lexington Venue).

    March's video game midnights wrap up with 35mm prints Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on Friday and Silent Hill on Saturday. Sunday offers another chance at the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy on 35mm in their extended versions, while Monday has a print of Duck Soup for the Big Screen Classic. On Tuesday, they start the April "What's the Score" series with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - one of Morricone's most famous, appropriately enough - with optional seminar beforehand with musician James Heazlewood-Dale, continuing Wednesday with a 35mm print of the original 1933 King Kong. On Thursday, they wrap the Debra Granik retrospective with her documentary Stray Dog.
  • Indian movies turn over almost completely at Apple Fresh Pond this week! Hindi movie Crew stars Kareena Kapoor, Tabu, and Kriti Sanon as an airline flight crew involved in a caper/heist thing. The Goat Life is the first Malayalam-language movie I can recall getting to the mainstream multiplexes, starring Prithviraj Sukumaran as a "guest worker" who winds up in the middle of Saudi Arabia herding goats; it also stars Jimmy Jean-Louis, whom you may remember as "The Haitian" on Heroes and other Western productions, and also plays Boston Common (with both Malayalam & Telugu screenings). Telugu-language comedy Tillu Squared features Sidhu "Starboy" Jonnalagadda as a guy who lands in the middle of a murder mystery, while Yuva is a Kannada-language action movie about a gang war at an engineering school (which seems unlikely, but maybe they're different in India). Also, Swatantrya Veer Savarkar plays Friday to Monday after one show last week; Telugu action movie Legend has a tenth-anniversary show on Saturday.

    Hong Kong horror movie Back Home stars Anson Kong Ip-Sang as a man returning to his childhood home after having grown up in Canada and once again finding that he can see ghosts; it's at Causeway Street. Mainland Chinese film YOLO continues at Causeway Street and Boston Common.

    Musical drama A Fragile Flower opens at South Bay, with Vietnamese pop star Maya as a singer who faces challenges during her rapid ascent to the top of the charts. Vietnamese romance Mai continues at Causeway Street and South Bay.

    Korean thriller Exhuma continues at Boston Common and Causeway Street.

    Japanese films hanging around are Perfect Days at the Coolidge, Kendall Square, and Luna Lowell (plus one show at the MFA), with The Boy and the Heron still at Fresh Pond and West Newton - apparently it's had a "re-release" but just never left those places.
  • We sort of need a portmanteau word for these bookings where The Alamo Seaport in particular shows a movie a couple times on its opening weekend but not for more enough to really call it a run. Rungagemtns? Or just old-fashioned playdates? Anyway, this week, it's Lousy Carter, with David Krumholtz as a not-particularly-popular university professor told he has months to live, playing Sunday evening and late Monday afternoon.

    Elsewhere on the rep calendar, there are Time Capsule shows of Clifford (Saturday/Monday/Tuesday) and Forrest Gump (Sunday/Monday), plus preview shows of Dogman (Wednesday for Victory Members), The First Omen (Wednesday), and Sasquatch Sunset (Thursday).

    Man, imagine being told your new movie was booked in a theater but they'd be playing it fewer times than revival showings of Clifford.
  • The Brattle Theatre has more of Cinema Ritrovato On Tour this week, with the famed repertory festival from Bologna bringing a number of highlights of the 2023 edition stateside, many recent 4K restorations that show off the Brattle's new projector. Entries include Fists in the Pocket (Friday), The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Friday), A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (Saturday), a "Cinema's First Nasty Women" program (Saturday), Caught (Saturday), Fear and Desire (Saturday), Joe Dante's The Movie Orgy (Sunday), Hyenas (Sunday), and Memories of Underdevelopment (Sunday). Note that The Movie Orgy is free - first-come-first-serve with no advance tickets - but it's also a five-hour mashup, so maybe you've got to be as obsessive as Joe Dante for it! Not part of the festival, but still a recently-restored classic, is the monthly Stop Making Sense show Saturday night.

    Midweek, they have a tribute to recently-deceased character actor M. Emmet Walsh, featuring Straight Time (35mm Tuesday/Wednesday), Blood Simple (Wednesday/Thursday), Blade Runner (Final Cut Wednesday/Thursday), and Calvary (Thursday). Double features of the non-Blade Runner movies Wednesday & Thursday.
  • The Somerville Theatre and IFFBoston present Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros for two shows on the main screen Sunday, which takes up the day because it's a four-hour Frederick Wiseman deep dive into a great French restaurant (hopefully whatever folks get from the concession stand won't feel too disrespectful). Monday's "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" double feature is The Killers & Deception (the former in 4K and the latter on 35mm film), while Tuesday features the rescheduled double feature meant to open the series, a 35mm Veronica Lake twin bill of This Gun for Hire & The Glass Key. Wednesday's MGM/Columbia pairing is the 1925 Ben-Hur & Desert Bride, the former on 35mm film and both (I believe) with Jeff Rapsis on the organ. Thursday's Smooth Cinema show is a 35mm print of Running Scared

    The Capitol has Scarlet Street for Capitol Crimes on Friday & Monday and Thelma & Louise for "Good for Her!" Saturday & Tuesday.
  • The Harvard Film Archive begins "Chronicles of Changing Times: The Cinema of Edward Yang", a retrospective of one of Taiwan's most notable directors, with two shows that are already sold out - Yi Yi on 35mm Friday and A Brighter Summer Day on Saturday, as well as A Confucian Confusion on Sunday. The former two will screen again the first weekend of May.

    Also on the schedule are a second screening of Jean-Pierre Bekolo's Aristotle's Plot (35mm Sunday) and their new 35mm print of The Conversation (introduced by Steven Biel) on Monday.

    Joe's Free Films also shows a half-dozen other free specialty film screenings at various locations on the Harvard campus between Tuesday and Wednesday; RSVP required in most cases (information on the calendar).
  • The Museum of Fine Arts has two films from their "Festival of Films from Japan" this week, with Blue Giant (also part of "Created Worlds: Animation from Around the Globe") on Friday evening and Perfect Days on Thursday (though it's marked as sold out).
  • This Monday's Belmont World Film presentation at Fresh Pond is The Old Oak, director Ken Loach's final film, which centers around the titular pub in a decaying mining town where Syrian refugees are being settled. Jeff Thielman of the International Institute of New England is the guest speaker.
  • The Midweek Music Movies and More show at The Regent Theatre this Wednesday is The Arc of Oblivion, with a pair of local archivists on hand to introduce & discuss this film about how records are kept and the filmmaker's attempt to build an ark in Maine. They also have an outdoor short film program, The Kendall Mountain Film Tour 2024, on Thursday.
  • Stopmotion is this week's Thursday Bright LIghts in the Bright Screening Room of the Paramount Theater, with director Robert Morgan visiting for a Q&A.
  • Dune: Part Two in The Museum of Science is sold out on Saturday, but there are seats for Friday and the next two weekends.
  • The Lexington Venue has One Life (Friday/Saturday/Sunday), Ennio (Friday/Saturday/Tuesday/Thursday), and Problemista (Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Thursday).

    The West Newton Cinema picks up One Life and Problemista, continuing Cabrini, The Zone of Interest (Saturday/Sunday), Kung Fu Panda 4, Dune: Part Two, American Fiction (no show Thursday), Wonka (Saturday/Sunday), The Boy and the Heron (no show Thursday), and The Holdovers (no show Thursday). Closed Monday and Tuesday this week. They also host Boston Jewish Film's presentation of Between the Stone and the Flower, with documentary subject Genie Milgrom present to talk more about embracing her Jewish heritage on top of her Cuban/Catholic one.

    The Luna Theater has Perfect Days Friday and Saturday, Metropolis on Sunday, a Weirdo Wednesday show, and Late Night with the Devil on Thursday.

    Cinema Salem has Late Night With the Devil, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Godzilla X Kong, and Glitter & Doom from Friday to Monday, apparently the only local(ish) theater where the "fantastical romance" built around the music of the Indigo Girls is playing.
Already reserved tickets for GxK (and, honestly, kind of wish I had time to re-watch the MonsterVerse beforehand), will probably hit Back Home and In the Land of Saints and Sinners, plus a couple at the Brattle, maybe figure out how to catch up on some other stuff (Love Lies Bleeding, Mai, Ghostbusters) around hitting Somerville double features all week WIsh I could trust Fresh Pond to have English subtitles on Crew, because that looks fun.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024


Like I said in this week's Next Week, the Underground Film Festival was this weekend, and would normally eat all of my time - well, not all my time; I'll usually skip the music video package and sleep in during the Saturday Morning cartoons when that was a thing (I guess Ms. Janisse is busy with other things these days), scaping back a little time to write or do the weekend grocery shopping or other errands, but Exhuma dropped in the Boston area this week, and who ever knows if it will last until Thursday night, the next potentially free date what with all the good rep stuff?

So, early day, and worth it - this isn't quite The Wailing, but it's got a lot of the same vibe of the haunting being way more than anyone expected, even if it's not quite so chilling. It's also a really fun cultural change of pace when you've got Immaculate this week and The First Omen in early April, on top of what really feels like a lot of Catholic-themed horror of late.

Pamyo (Exhuma)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 23 March 2024 in AMC Boston Common #11 (first-run, DCP)

I think it was Grady Hendrix who wrote that Korean films seldom clock in under two hours even when 95 minutes would be the most appropriate length, but sometimes, as with Exhuma, that can work to the movie's advantage. Once you've been in a theater for around an hour or so, you lose track of time, so a movie could be right about to end or have another hour to go, and that's why writer/director Jang Jae-hyeon can effectively show you one pretty good horror movie and then after wrapping it up, reveal that there's a bigger, weirder movie buried underneath it, appropriately enough.

This one, for instance, begins with shaman Lee Hwa-rim (Kim Go-eun) and her partner Yoon Bong-gil (Lee Do-hyun) hired to come from Seoul to Los Angeles to examine a baby who has not been able to stop crying since he was born. She soon deduces that the same malady is also plaguing the father, Park Ji-yong (Kim Jae-chul) and grandfather Park Jong-soon (Jeong Sang-cheol) - a "Grave's Calling", which she describes as an ancestor having a tantrum such that their cries reverberate down the family line. The solution is to return to Korea and relocate the body to a more auspicious resting place or cremate it, for which she will need the help of geomancer Ki Sang-duk (Choi Min-sik), who specializes in finding gravesites, and Ko Yeong-geun (Yu Hae-jin), an undertaker once trusted to shroud the President. This is, of course, somewhat unusual; it only gets more so when Ji-yong requests they cremate the entire coffin without opening, contrary to accepted practices, Sang-duk declares the gravesite a poor location for what turns out to be an unusually ornate casket, and a freak rainstorm (or is it?) requires them to postpone the final cremation.

Part of what makes movies like Exhuma fun in a way that a lot of religious-horror movies aren't is that they, at least initially, start out in this supernatural-but-grounded place, where things like Hwa-rim's explanation of a Grave's Calling both has this sort of spiritual resonance but also a sort of unstated practicality to it, because of course an adult like Ji-yong is going to try and explain it away while a baby just cries. Sang-duk and Yeong-geun idly talk about how South Korea's growing population and small size is making it harder to find good gravesites, and how maybe Hwa-rim adding a mark-up to the consulting fee between them and the Parks. Like a number of folks who have recently made great horror films in this part of Asia - stuff like Na Hong-jin's The Wailing, Tetsuya Nakashima's It Comes, Cheang Pou-soi's Mad Fate - Jang Jae-hyeon finds a way to take things that are somewhere between amusing superstition and sincere belief and work in two directions, making both the potential victims and the defenders easy enough to relate to that the audience has a foot in their world but also going big, because there's no reason an angry ghost cannot move from South Korea to California in an instant.

And then things get nuts.

As mentioned, there's more going on than just this ghost, and it's not entirely what's been implied earlier, although Jang has built his movie so that you can flow from one piece of the film to another even as things reconfigure enough to be something else altogether, to the point where one is almost surprised that the film didn't end earlier with the inflection point being a mid-credits sequel tease. The back half of the movie is wild, taking a big leap after being relatively grounded to start, but Jang has brought the audience along and has a solid enough core, augmented by a few other colleagues and allies, that the audience is ready to take that extra step with them. The grander scale, however, still has a similar aesthetic, as opposed to bringing in a bunch of obvious CGI monsters or visions of hell: The evils this group faces are still of this world, and perhaps even humanity, just writ larger.

Choi Min-sik and Kim Go-eun are not quite an odd couple, since they wind up part of a larger team and often working separately, but they're entertaining in how the represent opposite poles here: Choi's Sang-duk is not quite laid-back, but there's a comfort to his expertise, a grandfather-to-be who is probably close to the end of his career except that geomancy hasn't necessarily let him build up a retirement fund, and an easy banter with Yoo Hae-in as Yeong-geun; Kim Go-eun's up-and-comer has more attitude to her, a prickly certainty that pairs with Lee Do-hyun's quieter Bong-gil that suggests a close bond there. Early on, they can come off like competing con artists who have different ways to approach the marks, but also play matter-of-fact believers as the film evolves in that direction.

Ehuma is not quite two movies in one, but it's close, and an especially impressive value for the folks who go in not aware of just how much weird haunting they're going to get.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 22 March 2024 - 28 March 2024

Not only is it BUFF weekend, but there's some good BUFF-adjacent
  • The Boston Underground Film Festival continues through Sunday at The Brattle Theatre, with local film package "The Dunwich Horrors", Off Ramp, Sleep, and the "Trigger Warning" shorts on Friday; music video package "Sound + Vision", Tiger Stripes, "Friendship Is Magic" shorts, The Becomers, In a Violent Nature, and Infested on Saturday; wrapping with shorts blocks "How You Living?" and "Sometimes Always", With Love and a Major Organ, Omen, and Boy Kills World on Sunday.

    After that, from Monday to Wednesday, is Polish animated film The Peasants. It's from the makers of Loving Vincent, a rotoscoped adaptation of a thousand-page novel about an independent-minded girl in a small village (it also plays Boston Common Sunday afternoon/Wednesday evening, and all week at the Dedham Community Theatre). There's also a free "Elements of Cinema" show of Ratcatcher on Tuesday, while Thursday is the first night of "Cinema Ritrovato On Tour", with a new 4K restoration (for its 100th anniversary!) of Charlie Chaplin-directed drama A Woman of Paris and Thelma & Louise.
  • Having played BUFF on Wednesday, Immaculate opens at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Causeway Street, Kendall Square, the Seaport, South Bay, and Assembly Row. It's a nicely-mounted "virgin American nun in a foreign land is somehow pregnant" movie starring Sydney Sweeney that some folks in the preview audience liked a lot more than I did. The Sunday evening show in the Seaport has a live Q&A with director Michael Mohan.

    Late Night With the Devil probably would have played BUFF with a different release schedule, but it's a pretty terrific little horror movie presented as the special Halloween episode of a 1970s talk show including what happened behind the scenes during ad breaks, with David Dastmalchian as the host trying to compete with Carson by bringing a possessed child and her caretaker on. It's at Boston Common and Causeway Street.

    The big opening, though, is Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the latest legacyquel brings Egon Spengler's daughter and grandkids back to New York where they must come together with the original team and some new folks to fight a monster who can make one's blood run so cold you freeze to death, further sliding it toward an "adventure with jokes" franchise versus "comedy with effects". It's at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, the Embassy, Jordan's Furniture (Imax), CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including Dolby Cinema), Causeway Street, Kendall Square, the Seaport (including Atmos), South Bay (including Dolby Cinema), Assembly Row (including Imax Laser & Dolby Cinema), Arsenal Yards (including CWX), and Chestnut Hill.

    The third Pixar film which went straight to Disney+ during the pandemic, Luca, plays Boston Common. Love Lies Bleeding, already playing the Coolidge, the Somerville, Kendall Square, CinemaSalem, Boston Common, Causeway Street, the Seaport, and Assembly Row, expands to Fresh Pond, the Lexington Venue, and South Bay.

    There's an AMC Scream Unseen preview on Monday at Boston Common, Causeway Street, Assembly Row. Public domain cash-in Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 plays South Bay, Assembly Row Tuesday to Thursday and Boston Common (Wednesday/Thursday). The weekly A24 return to screen is Ex Machina, playing Wednesday in Imax at Jordan's, Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row.
  • Exhuma has been a big hit in South Korea, featuring Choi Min-Sik in a story of strange things happening around a grave being excavated. It's at Boston Common and Causeway Street.

    Vietnamese romance Mai, featuring Phuong Anh Dao as a woman looking for a new start, plays Causeway Street, South Bay; it is, apparently, the biggest box-office hit of all time in its native country.

    It's mostly very short runs for the Indian films opening at Apple Fresh Pond this week. Telugu-language fantasy comedy Om Bheem Bush is booked through Thursday, while Hindi-language biographical drama Swatantrya Veer Savarkar plays Friday night, Malayalam-language thriller Anchakkallakokkan plays Saturday and Sunday, and Marathi-language family film Amaltash plays Saturday only. Shaitaan is held over at Fresh Pond and Boston Common, with Yodha also continuing on the Common.

    Chinese film YOLO continues at Causeway Street and Boston Common.

    There's a Rascal Does not Dream double feature at South Bay, Assembly Row on Sunday (subbed) & Monday (dubbed), with two short features (Rascal Does Not Dream of a Sister Venturing Out & Rascal Does Not Dream of a Knapsack Kid) playing back to back. Also playing from Japan are Perfect Days at the Coolidge, Kendall Square, and Luna Lowell; and The Boy and the Heron still at Fresh Pond and West Newton.
  • The Alamo Seaport has one show a day of Riddle of Fire (two on Wednesday), a throwback to 1980s movies set in the present day where three kids set out on adventures that range from getting the newest gaming console to finding special eggs for a secret formula. The rep calendar has the re-release of Kumiko The Treasure Hunter on Sunday and Thursday, Only Lovers Left Alive on Sunday/Tuesday/Wednesday, and The Crow on Monday & Tuesday.
  • The Embassy in Waltham is the easiest place to see documentary William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill, a documentary looking at Shatner's eventful career and life, right up to traveling to low earth orbit (and apparently being less awed than most) in his 90s, playing Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday. It's got more extensive bookings at some of the more far-flung multiplexes, but those are some hikes on the bus.
  • The Somerville Theatre has multiple double features this week! "Attack of the B-Movies" is on Sunday afternoon this time around, with Beyond the Time Barrier & Not of This Earth. The Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid series has a second chance to start on Monday (there were apparently print issues last week) with two from Billy Wilder on 35mm film, Double Indemnity & The Lost Weekend. They also kick off "A Tale of Two Studios" saluting MGM & Columbia's 100th anniversaries, starting in the silent era with HE Who Gets Slapped & The Blood Ship, the latter on 35mm film, and both accompanied by Jeff Rapsis. Just one Yacht Rock movie on Thursday, with FM on the main screen.

    The Capitol picks up Italian Oscar nominee Io Capitano, and also continues their rep series: The Friday/Monday Capitol Crimes show is David Mamet's Heist (with a heck of a cast including Gene Hackman, Danny Devito, Delroy Lindo, Ricky Jay, and Rebecca Pidgeon, with The Long Kiss Goodnight doing "Good for Her!" on Saturday & Tuesday, plus the monthly Disasterpiece Theater VHS-fest on Monday..
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre mostly keeps the same line-up as last week, though it's worth noting that Dune 2 is no longer playing on 70mm film there. Repertory programs include a couple midnight movies inspired by video game aesthetics, with Sucker Punch playing Friday and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on Saturday, both on 35mm. For kids, The Mitchells vs the Machines plays Saturday morning Sunday's marathon presentation of The Lord of the Rings extended editions on 35mm is sold out, but they'll be doing it again on the 31st. Monday's Big Screen Debut is The Virgin Suicides on 35mm, with Lesley University professor Ingrid Stobbe offering a pre-film seminar; there's a National Night of Science on Screen presentaiton of Werner Herzog's Theater of Thought, with neural engineer Polina Anikeeva (interviewed in the film) there to introduce it; Nobuhiko Obayashi's House on 35mm Wednesday, and a Big Screen Classic show of The Third Man on Thursday. Also on Thursday is Leave No Trace, with director Debra Granik in person.

    And, at some point during this week, you're going to have to start lining up and getting your tickets in the back, because the new expansion is opening! Wednesday has the first listings of "MH5" and "MH6" on the website, with screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Wizard of Oz in the new rooms (though they appear to be sold out except for the 4pm Oz). It's going to be very exciting seeing what a couple more screens at the Coolidge will mean for the moviegoing options here!
  • Landmark Kendall Square is mostly opening the mainstream releases this week (part of why we need those two new screens at the Coolidge), but has a "New Hollywood" presentation of Nashville on Tuesday and music doc Hate to Love: Nickelback on Wednesday (also at Boston Common, Assembly Row).
  • The Harvard Film Archive welcomes 2024 McMillan-Stewart Fellow Jean-PIerre Bekolo' this weekend; he will be present in person for Q&As after Aristotle's Plot (on 35mm) Friday and Miraculous Weapons on Saturday, also introducing Le Président on Sunday. On Monday, they begin their Martin Rejtman series with a 35mm print of Rapado, preceded by his short film "Shakti".

    Joe's Free Films also shows The Last Human, a documentary about the discovery of some of the earliest traces of life on Earth in Greenland as well as contemporary life there, playing the school's Geological Lecture Hall with director Ivato Frank on Saturday, Soup & Ideology with director Yang Yonghi at the Tsai Auditorium Tuesday & Wednesday, Rock Paper Grenade with director Iryna Tsilyk at the Tsai Auditorium Tuesday, and Two Poets and a River at the Harvard Art Museum on Wednesday. RSVP required in most cases (information on the calendar).
  • Immersive Documentary 32 Sounds plays the The ICA on Friday and Saturday evenings in its "live cinema" form, with director Sam Green providing live narration and JD Samson performing live music.

  • Belmont World Film begins their annual International Film Series on Monday with The Queen of My Dreams, a coming of age film split between two time periods, finding parallels between the youths of a Canadian girl and her Pakistan-born mother. Writer/director Fawzia Mirza will Zoom in for a Q&A after the film
  • The Midweek Music Movies and More show at The Regent Theatre this Wednesday is A Table of Our Own, a documentary on the intersection of the Black community and psychedelia.
  • Bright LIghts has King Coal in the Bright Screening Room of the Paramount Theater on Thursday, with director/Emerson grad Elaine McMillion Sheldon on-hand for a Q&A. I quite liked this look at how coal mining is so central to life in Appalachia as to almost be a religion when I saw it at IFFBoston last year.
  • The Museum of Science has Mad Max: Fury Road on the Omnimax dome as part of its Woman's History Month celebrations on Friday & Saturday nights, with Dune: Part Two extended a few weekends after that (the last weekend of March is sold out, but there are seats for April 5th/6th/12th/13th).
  • The Lexington Venue is open Friday to Sunday and Thursday with One Life, The Taste of Things and Love Lies Bleeding..

    The West Newton Cinema has one last presentation of the Oscar Live-Action Shorts on Sunday and also picks up Cabrini. Poor Things, The Zone of Interest (Saturday/Sunday), Kung Fu Panda 4, Dune: Part Two, American Fiction, Wonka (Saturday/Sunday), The Boy and the Heron (no show Thursday), and The Holdovers are, as they say, held over. Closed Monday.

    The Luna Theater has Perfect Days Friday and Saturday, Little Shop of Horrors on Saturday, Charade on Sunday, and a Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem has Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Dune: Part Two, and Love Lies Bleeding from Friday to Monday. There's a Night LIght show of Bruce Lee's The Way of the Dragon on Friday, and they are also one of the venues for the Salem Film Festival, running through Sunday with films and events at CinemaSalem, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Park Service.
I am obviously living at the Brattle through Sunday, although it seems like I'll have to make a side trip to see Exhuma because I'm not sure I can count on it being around next weekend and I want to do Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Peasants, HE Who Gets Slapped, The Blood Ship, and A Woman of Paris. I guess it's a good thing I saw two of them in Montreal and have an early opening on Saturday!

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Boston Underground Film Festival 2024.01: Immaculate and Fatal Termination

Understand, I'm not complaining that an underground film festival isn't somehow chaotic, but the first day of BUFF this year was oddly frictionless: I purchased my pass and reserved my movies via the Brattle's website on the first days they were available, so there was no "go into the crowded Brattle lobby to pick up your physical pass, back in line for the box office to get tickets for the movie, third line to be seated" scrum at the start; I wound up just being able to walk in and take a seat up front. Then there was like a whole hour between the end of one movie and the start of the next.

I gather that was because a Zoom Q&A with the director of Immaculate fell through, which is a bummer; that might have been interesting and there were folks who vocally liked it a lot more than I did. But, no worries, I've checked and it looks like most of the weekend will be the "barely time to clear out and re-seat" BUFF that we've come to know and love!


* * (out of four)
Seen 20 March 2024 in the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground FIlm Festival, laser DCP)

Immaculate is pretty much exactly the generic religious thriller that it looks like, the sort with a central idea that seems worth pondering but has probably been done a lot, and this take doesn't have a whole lot that makes it jump out. Any doubt as to how it's going to go put to rest about 15 minutes in when the nice-seeming priest says he studied biology before becoming a man of the cloth, and after that, it's just ornamentation, but not too much, just some red-veiled nuns and a little more blood than you'd maybe expect.

We get the first glimpse of those nuns in an opener that suggests something like this has happened before, and then see Cecelia (Sydney Sweeney) arrive in Rome, a young novice about to take her vows and work in a convent dedicated to housing nuns who are dealing with dementia. She doesn't speak much Italian, but is nevertheless devout, convinced God saved her from death in a frozen river for a reason. Fortunately, Father Sal Tedeschi (Álvaro Morte), who recruited her, is happy to translate, and while both the Mother Superior (Dora Romano) and the icy Sister Mary (Simona Tabasco) seem to disdain the pretty young American, the rebellious, somewhat cynical contemporary in the cell next to hers, Sister Gwen (Benedetta Porcaroli) quickly becomes a fast friend. But when she is discovered to be pregnant despite an intact hymen…

Well, at that point it should be interesting, but not much actually happens for a long stretch, and then it's it seems kind of half-effort, what's the most obvious course a person could take without making it particularly sharp. It doesn't have to be this way, and I suspect that at some point it wasn't: The film is short enough and has enough potential hooks to interesting ideas to make me wonder if it was cut down from something longer and more interesting, that maybe had some lines drawn between this project and parishes like Cecelia's closing, or Gwen's comments about this being what men do, or even finding a sharp irony in how there's a visiting obstetrician and ultrasound machine because convents used to be where inconveniently-pregnant teenagers were stashed. All this subtext is there to be inferred, sure, but, with no details to dig into, no pointed barbs at institutions or traditions, and barely any acknowledgment that Cecelia has been violated. It's like the filmmakers decided to hold back lest they offend any Catholics, but this story isn't interesting unless you're willing to do that.

It doesn't help that Sydney Sweeney's Sister Cecelia isn't really anything, never seeming particularly lost or desperate enough to believe to make her journey interesting, so for much of the movie she functions more as a straight man to the more defined characters of the other young nuns played by SImona Tabasco and Benedetta Porcaroli, who at least have some personality. Álvaro Morte plays Tedeschi in a way that I suspect might look better on a second run through - an early scene or two that plays as friendly may come off as more "older man preying on naive young woman" later (or, perhaps, for those who know the signs better first-hand) - but comes across as bland here: We know the part that he's got to play, but it's not a particularly twisted or grand take on it.

It means the inevitable finale and its last note intended to shock are staged well enough but don't have much impact behind them, because who is Cecelia before all this? Writer Andrew Lobel, director Michael Mohan and the crew have enough of a mean streak that the squeamish will occasionally turn away from the screen, and they've got some nice locations to shoot at, but are more grim than inventive, and ultimately everything is so contained and abstracted that neither the grandeur of the plot nor the admittedly intense manner of shooting the finale, full of tight focus on Cecilia as she stumbles through the dark and pushes her way through a rebirth of her own, truly raises the tension.

Maybe there's an interesting director's cut somewhere that the studio was too timid to release, but who knows if we'll ever see it.

Chi se da feng bao (Fatal Termination)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 March 2024 in the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground FIlm Festival, laser DCP)

If you've heard of Fatal Termination, it's likely because of one particular clip that's been shared online quite a bit, an absolutely unhinged bit that has a five-year-old girl dangled from the side of a moving vehicle by her hair while her mother tries to rescue her my smashing her way in through the windshield. That insane car stunt just looks even more horrifically irresponsible in a new 4K restoration., but it's certainly a good indication of what sort of lunacy awaits during the rest of the film.

Like a lot of Hong Kong crime movies, the plot is very messy, the better to give a bunch of people reason to fight. Here, a middle-eastern terrorist (Dan Mintz) is looking to smuggle weapons from the Philippines to Lebanon via the Hong Kong airport, and corrupt customs official Robin Wai Loong (Robin Shou Wan-Bo) immediately sees a chance to redirect them to local gangster Ko Mok Fu (Phillip Ko Fei) and demand ever-increasing bribes for their release, with employees "Small Devil" (Cheung Chi-Tak) and Billy (Cheung Kowk-Leung) doing the actual work on the ground. HKPD Detective Jimmy (Simon Yam Tat-Wah), reluctantly partnered with the more by-the-book Lau (Lau Dan) is already on it, so Wai opts to throw suspicion on another officer, Miu Chun Fan (Michael Miu Kiu-Wai), whose sister Moon (Moon Lee Choi-Fung) and brother-in-law John (Ray Lui Leung-Wai) also work at the airport, and former cop John has an old enmity with Ko.

It maybe takes the movie a while to really find the groove it's looking for, and not always successfully, as it barely has time to show that Moon Lee is in the movie while it reiterates how Jimmy is an intense rule-breaker while Lau is laid-back and they're sure they won't mesh two or three times. It's oddly careful about getting its pieces set up to be knocked over later while still seeming frantic and overheated. Perhaps the somewhat slow start is necessary to make sure the audience isn't completely lost when the double-crosses and frantic action piles on at an ever-increasing pace, but it's ultimately worth it as director Andrew Kam Yeung-Wa and writers Lee Man-Choi & Pang Chi-Ming burn what they've built down in short order.

The sheer recklessness of everyone involved leads to some eye-popping action - not just that infamous car stunt but a number of impressive chases and double-crosses, with action director Paul Wong Kwan having a darn good eye for how a very busy melee can work, and a few martial-arts bits that might make one wonder just what Moon did for a living before she settled down to be a wife/mother/security guard. Moon Lee is great as always - she gets the Jackie Chan "stand back and watch her work" treatment while others like Simon Yam (more hot-headed than the cool guy from Bullet in the Head, but still surprising for those used to the more buttoned-down authority figures that would dominate his later career) - and it's not hard to imagine an alternate world where she had Michelle Yeoh's career; both are dancers who translated their physical skills to action, but Lee's tomboy enthusiasm seemingly didn't give her the big roles that the more regal Yeoh got (even ignoring some horrific on-set injuries).

The finale, especially, is as operatic as anything John Woo has ever done in his heroic bloodshed movies, but unlike Woo's grand bullet ballets, this final fight is fueled by chaos, with a seemingly unlimited supply of weapons giving Ko, Wai, Moon, and John seemingly endless fuel to express their rage, and Jimmy not exactly the sort of cop who de-escalate things. By the end, there's really no goal but violence as opposed to it being the only way through to a better end, and the way people keep somehow surviving just means this might never end because there can't be any satisfaction.

It's a nasty, nihilistic little action movie that opts to be high-energy and bright, rather than all dark and artsy. You can put yourself above the simplistic story or be appalled at the child endangerment, wondering how nobody got killed or seriously injured, but also grudgingly accept that these guys are pretty good at turning violence into exhilarating entertainment.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024


Last of the big Chinese New Year movies, possibly the biggest to release over there, although I kind of lost track of how they were doing at the box office after a while, because, heck, I don't read stories about American box office these days, instead going with a loose "how long has it hung around?" metric. I guess it did well in China dn it's doing well in Americas, as it's on its second week of two screens in Boston.

Anyway, it's a fair movie, but a couple things sort of got me thinking about lacking a bit of context on certain things. For instance, I went into this one knowing it was a remake of 100 Yen Love, and while it's been a while, I didn't particularly remember its main character being particularly overweight as opposed to just slovenly and lazy, and I spent time grumbling to myself about the fat suit, in part because I haven't seen Jia Ling in much of anything and didn't really know that her actual build was closer to what we see at the start of the film than the end - apparently, she gained 20kg before filming and shed 50kg during, which strikes me as an insane Christian Bale stunt (or perhaps more like Tom Hanks in Cast Away) - but, anyway, it's worth noting that Jia is a famous comedian in China, famous for something I don't even know the definition of ("crosstalk" comedy), so the local audience would have seen her at the start and thought something else.

The period where she drops the weight/tones up is scored with Bill Conti's Rocky theme, and aside from the other issues with using that music here, which I'll get into in the "proper" review, I did immediately find myself wondering - did Rocky get released in Mainland China, back in the day? I can't imagine a lot of Hollywood releases were playing the People's Republic back in the 1970s and 1980s, which means that music is probably not embedded into the pop-cultural firmament the way it is in America such that it instantly conjures up particular associations. Does it simply scan as good music for a training montage to a Chinese viewer? Or, alternatively, has it been used in the Creed movies, which maybe did get released there? Anyway, I suspect that it's a joke that hits differently depending who is seeing it.

Kind of related, in the opposite way: In one of the later episodes of Monsieur Spade, which I watched a few days before this, Clive Owen's Sam Spade refers to "kung fu", and I wonder: Would Sam Spade, retired in the South of France in the early 1960s (yes, this is absolutely my thing), know the phrase "kung fu", which I don't think became particularly well-known until about ten years later, when the David Carradine show arrived. But! He also mentions "that Kato shit", which also seems anachronistic, but The Green Hornet had debuted as a radio show in the 1930s, and given that Monsieur Spade basically uses the timeframe of the most famous production of The Maltese Falcon, Sam would probably know that character. And even if those serials didn't mention "kung fu", he was a San Francisco private detective, whose work presumably took him to Chinatown on occasion. So maybe that's a Tiffany Problem thing, where a thing we figure to be very modern, whether you're talking about the name Tiffany, a white American dude knowing about "kung fu", or Rocky being known in China, goes back further, but hits weird when used in proper historical context.

It's a silly digression, I guess, but that's part of what you have to reckon with when watching movies, like YOLO, that are huge elsewhere and play as a pretty mainstream: It's coming from a different place, and you've got to have that in your head.

Re la gun tang (YOLO)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 15 March 2024 in AMC Causeway Street #3 (first-run, laser DCP)

The debut behind-the-camera feature from YOLO writer/director/star Jia Ling, Hi, Mom, was an enormous hit in China three years ago, but so far as I can tell has not had a North American release, whether on disc or streaming, despite having a fairly universal premise even if the details are relatively specific to 1990s China. Sony appeared to figure that her follow-up had somewhat wider appeal, giving it a wider release than any of the other five Lunar New Year movies that came out here. They're probably right about that; this isn't necessarily great, but it eventually works as a crowd-pleaser capable of transcending borders.

Based on Japanese film 100 Yen Love, YOLO kicks off with 32-year-old Du Leying (Jia), who has been living above her family's convenience store without doing much since college, and if it wasn't bad enough that cousin Doudou (Andy Yang Zi) was trying to recruit her for the reality show she works for where people beg for jobs, her boyfriend Shanzi (Qiao Shan) has just knocked up her best friend Lili (Li Xueqin), who would nevertheless like Leying to be maid of honor at the wedding to help them save face, and divorced sister Ledan (Zhang Xiaofei) and their parents want her to cede the apartment her grandmother left her so that her daughter Xizi can be in this school district. She walks out and finds a new place and job as a waitress at a barbecue restaurant; that place is next to a boxing gym, where one of the coaches (Lei Jiayin) seems to be interested in her for more than boosting his member-recruiting numbers. Things seem to be looking up - at least, until things start to spiral badly enough that Leying fanatically commits herself to boxing training, wanting to just get one win for once in her life.

For as bad as things sometimes seem to be for Leying, I wonder how many people will see her storm out of the family home with a suitcase and have a decent new apartment and a job that will pay for it by the end of the afternoon and wonder how bad things could really be. I don't remember 100 Yen Love particularly clearly - it has been nearly 9 years since I saw it - but that film seemed a bit more committed to its desperation, though not despair; a sense that the world was keeping Leying's analog Ichiko down as much as her own choices, and a sense that there was still further to fall. That isn't really the case for Leying for much of the film, in part because of how much Jia holds back to make a final montage hit with more power as she reveals just how much Leying is dealing with.

What JIa-the-writer/director does means Jia-the-actress has to work a bit harder, and when she can find a happy medium between the petulant side of the character that is mad at the world and the timid side that's afraid of it, she can absolutely carry the movie, and has to, because even at his best, Lei Jiayin's trainer Haokun is more eccentricities than complementary character. It is impressive that she carries a lot of the same characterization forward to the second half of the movie where she's worked herself into fighting shape, with a chip on her shoulder around the people who had mistreated her and her self-doubt manifesting itself as a feeling that all she has done will become meaningless if she fails once. It's a bit unfortunate that she doesn't get much chance explore how her remade self affects her relationship with other characters - the early scene between Leying, Lili, and Shanzi is fine cringe comedy that doesn't get much chance at an upending; she plays off her mother at the start and her father toward the end; and her non-Haokun coaches weren't much of a factor in the first half - but when she's on, she's on.

It's worth noting that the physical transformation Jia made to play Leying, as depicted during the credits, is kind of nuts: She gained 20kg (about 45 pounds) before shooting started and then lost 50kg (about 110 pounds) mid-film, presumably shooting the training montage in real-time, which seems like a crazy thing when you're just acting and don't have the additional stress of everything else that goes into making a movie, but she pulled it off. She also does a terrific job with the big match, considering that you only have to look at the opponent played by former pro Zhang Guiling to know that Leying is likely just as outmatched as the other characters have been saying, so the story the fight tells might be very different from the standard.

(A little thing that bugged me during the movie: The training montage is scored to Bill Conti's Rocky theme, and… Is it allowed to just use music from another movie for the exact purpose it was originally used for? I mean, I know, it's technically "allowed" given that MGM licensed it, but usually when a movie does this, it's done with irony or subversion or the like. It seems a bit like that for a moment here, but eventually, no, it's just using Rocky music for Rocky things, which seems like a breach of etiquette of some sort.)

YOLO does not exactly pull its punches, to go for the obvious cliché that it will happily embrace, but it does seem to be a bit less than what it could be as it tries to have a triumphant finale without bogging the audience down in just what makes it so triumphant until the last minute.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 15 March 2024 - 21 March 2024

As much as I am looking forward to seeing Love Lies Bleeding this weekend - it looks cool! - I'm also looking forward to two months from now, when it leaves theaters, and neither listings nor posters cause the Elton John song to play on repeat in my head. It's led me to look up "love lies bleeding" and discover that both the film and song are likely named after a flower, though, so that's fun.
  • So, might as well start with Love Lies Bleeding, which features Kristen Stewart as a woman managing a gym owned by her gangster father (Ed Harris), her eye turned by a new-in-town bodybuilder (Katy O'Brien), even as the FBI is poking around >it's at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Somerville, CinemaSalem, Kendall Square, CinemaSalem, Boston Common, Causeway Street, the Seaport, and Assembly Row.

    Video game midnights at the Coolidge are Nintendo-themed, with The Wizard on Friday and the original live-action Super Mario Bros. on 35mm Saturday (The Room also plays late on Friday). There's also a kids' show of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids on Saturday morning, while Goethe-Institut presents Born in Evin with director and subject Maryam Zaree, who learned as an adolescent that she was born in an Irani prison after the rise of Khomeini. On Tuesday, they screen Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on 35mm with a pre-film seminar by Kyle Stevens, while Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death the Big Screen Classic on Wednesday and Winter's Bone the next film in the Debra Granik retrospective on Thursday. Thursday also has the first instance of Dune: Part Two moving upstairs and playing digitally rather than on 70mm film.
  • Arthur The King is the more conventional wide-opener, with Mark Wahlberg as an adventure racer who, on his last race, encounters a Very Good Stray Dog who helps and becomes a symbol of his team. It's at Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Causeway Street, the Seaport, South Bay, Assembly Row, Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill.

    More peculiar is The American Society of Magical Negroes, which makes the trope literal, with Justice Smith assigned to make a software developer's life easier, because white tears cause Black trouble. It's at Boston Common, the Seaport, South Bay, and Assembly Row.

    Also opening is One LIfe featuring Johnny Flynn and Anthony Hopkins as the same man at different points in his life - as a young man rescuing Jewish children from the ghettos in WWII Czechoslovakia and as a retiree wondering what became of them. It's at Boston Common, Causeway Street, The Embassy, and the Lexington Venue.

    Knox Goes Away is the second film that Michael Keaton has directed, and in both he plays a hitman, in this case one suffering from early-onset dementia, and his one last job appears to be getting his son (James Marsden) out of trouble. Nice cast, including Marcia Gay Harden and Al Pacino. It's at Boston Common and South Bay.

    Boston Common also has a surprising number of showtimes for Snack Shack, which looks for all the world like a throwback comedy about teenagers hanging around the community swimming pool; interestingly, it's directed by Adam Rehmeier, who made the more hard-edged Dinner in America. The Prank, also playing at Boston Common, looks edgier, with two students spreading a rumor online that their physics teacher (Rita Moreno) is a murderer after failing a test.

    Documentary Bad River also plays Boston Common; it's a documentary by Mary Mazzio about the Native people in Wisconsin attempting to prevent the contamination of Lake Superior.

    Labyrinth has an encore show at South Bay on Sunday. The Matrix plays 25th Anniversary shows on the Dolby screens at Boston Common, South Bay, and Assembly Row on Wednesday. Hal Needham-directed BMX film Rad plays Thursday at Boston Common, South Bay.
  • Landmark Kendall Square opens Netflix release Shirley, starring Regina King as Sherley Chisolm, America's first Black Congresswoman, with the late Lance Reddick and Terrence Howard in supporting roles. They also give the mostly-matinee treatment to Shadya, with Amir Ebrahimi as an Iranian expatriate in Australia fleeing an abusive husband.

    Tuesday's New Hollywood film is Jaws, which if they were really clever would be the last film in the series.
  • The Brattle Theatre has one roller coaster ride of a week coming up, starting with a free screening of Blackwaters on Friday afternoon, with a post-screening panel.

    After that, they present "Still Walking: The Cinema of Hirokazu Kore-Eda", including After Life (Friday/Saturday), Still Walking (Saturday), Broker (Saturday), Air Doll (Saturday), and Shoplifters (Sunday), and Monster (Sunday). Kore-Eda will appear in person at many shows (several marked as sold out), and is the special guest at the annual Chlotrudis Awards on Sunday night.

    Horror oddity Messiah of Evil returns on Monday & Tuesday in 4K (the theater installed a fancy 4K laser projector during renovations a week or so ago). That's a fair lead-in to The Boston Underground Film Festival, which kicks off Wednesday with a preview of Immaculate and a restoration of Fatal Termination (a Hong Kong actioner with Moon Lee and an infamous car chase; Thursday features Strange Kindness, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, and Femme, with the festival continuing through Sunday.
  • It's a relatively quiet weekend for Indian film at Apple Fresh Pond, with only three new releases. Yodha (also at Boston Common) kind of looks like Hindi for "Passenger 57", with Sidharth Malhotra as a security expert who may be hijacking a plane or may be being set up, with some engine failure thrown into the mix. Also playing in Hindi is Bastar: The Naxal Story, which chronicles an uprising in 1910 Chattisgarh. They also open Telugu-language horror movie Tantra Telugu drama Sharathulu Varthisthai plays out at the Liberty Tree Mall.

    Shaitaan returns to Fresh Pond on Sunday, and is also held over at Boston Common; Gaami and Manjummel Boys return Monday.

    Chinese film YOLO continues at Causeway Street and Boston Common.

    The End of Evangelion plays Boston Common Sunday and Wednesday. Three other movies from Japan are still around but dwindling this weekend, with Oscar-nominated Perfect Days at the Coolidge, the Somerville, Kendall Square, the Embassy, the Lexington Venue; Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba - To the Hashira Training is down to South Bay; and The Boy and the Heron still at Fresh Pond and West Newton.
  • The Alamo Seaport seems to finally be showing a full schedule, including 9pm shows, although none of French horror film The Animal Kingdom three screenings (on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday) are late ones. The rep calendar has more 1994 films, namely Pulp Fiction (Friday/Sunday/Tuesday) and Crooklyn (Saturday); there's also The Fugitive (Sunday/Tuesday), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Sunday Movie Party/Tuesday), the 2018 Suspiria (Tuesday), and an early screening of Riddle of Fire on Wednesday.
  • The Somerville Theatre picks up Perfect Days and Love Lies Bleeding, brings back Oppenheimer for 70mm matinee screenings on Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and is still keeping Hundreds of Beavers around. They also start their spring rep series of "every movie mentioned in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" with a 35mm double feature of This Gun for Hire & The Glass Key on Monday. On Thursday, they begin "Smooth Cinema: Movies with the Yacht Rock Sound" with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on 35mm film.

    Over at The Capitol, The Maltese Falcon is the Friday/Monday Capitol Crimes show, while "Good For Her" has a double feature of Midsommar & Pearl on Saturday and Tuesday.
  • The Regent Theatre has two local rock docs this weekend: The Dogmatics: A Documentary plays Friday night, with "Boston's House Band", as they were called back in the 1980s, on-hand to perform a set afterward. On Sunday afternoon, they play Rock n' Roll Outlaw - The Ballad of Myles Connor; Connor was said to be Boston's first rock star, who also masterminded 30 museum heists, and will be at the screening..
  • Spring break is over, so The Harvard Film Archive begins showing films again o Monday with Jean-PIerre Bekolo's first, Quartier Mozart, in which a young woman is turned into a man by a local witch, hangs out with a bunch of other guys, and it pushed to make time with the daughter of a local cop. Bekolo, the year's McMillan-Stewart fellow, will be in town to introduce films next weekend.

    Also: Today (Friday) is the last day to stream their "Cinema Before 1300" lecture, although I don't imagine it will be offline forever.
  • Bright LIghts also returns with a free Thursday screening of The Persian Version in the Bright Screening Room of the Paramount Theater, with co-star Niousha Noor on-hand for post-film discussion.
  • The Boston Baltic Film Festival is still streaming films through Monday.

    Boston Jewish Film continues to stream its "2024 Musical Roadtrip" series through Thursday.
  • The Museum of Science looks sold out for its last two showtimes of Dune: Part Two, on the Omni screen this weekend , but still appears to have seats for Mad Max: Fury Road on the 22nd & 23rd.
  • The Lexington Venue is open Friday to Sunday and Thursday with One Life, The Taste of Things and Perfect Days (no show Thursday).

    The West Newton Cinema has last call for the Oscar shorts (Documentary Saturday, Live-Action Sunday, Animation both days), brings back Poor Things and The Zone of Interest (Saturday/Monday/Tuesday/Thursday), and also shows Kung Fu Panda 4, Dune: Part Two, Driving Madeleine (Sunday), American Fiction (no show Wednesday), Migration (Saturday), Wonka (Saturday/Sunday), The Boy and the Heron, and The Holdovers (no show Tuesday/Wednesday).

    The Luna Theater has Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Friday and Saturday, Blade Runner (Final Cut) on Sunday, and a Weirdo Wednesday show.

    Cinema Salem has Kung Fu Panda 4, Dune: Part Two, Love Lies Bleeding, Oppenheimer, and Stopmotion from Friday to Monday.
So, can one fit Love Lies Bleeding, Knox Goes Away, The Animal Kingdom, YOLO, Shirley, The Maltese Falcon, This Gun for Hire, The Glass Key, and Quartier Mozart in before BUFF? No, Monday alone is brutal, and if you want to fit any of the oddities at Boston Common in, you're basically not doing anything else over the weekend.

Friday, March 08, 2024

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 8 March 2024 - 14 March 2024

Here's a "maybe there's some falloff from the big debut, or maybe stuff doesn't get an Oscar boost, but let's not chance the prospects on something really big on it" slate of releases.
  • I'm kind of surprised DreamWorks didn't release Kung Fu Panda 4 a month ago for Lunar New Year, but apparently it's not Chinese enough to play there during the blackout period. This one appears to skip the Furious Five to have Jack Black's Po team up with a fox voiced by Awkwafina to face a Chameleon (Viola Davis) with the techniques of his vanquished opponents. It's at the Capitol, Fresh Pond, West Newton, CinemaSalem, Boston Common (including RealD 3D), Causeway Street (including RealD 3D), Kendall Square, the Seaport (including RealD 3D), South Bay (including RealD 3D), Assembly Row (including RealD 3D), Arsenal Yards, and Chestnut Hill..

    If you're taking kids to the movies, remember - Imaginary is not the cute-looking imaginary friends family adventure (that's IF), but the Blumhouse horror flick where imaginary friends are putting kids (and the grownups who abandoned them) in terrible danger! It's at Fresh Pond, Boston Common, Causeway Street, the Seaport, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Chestnut Hill.

    Cabrini gets a bigger release than this sort of "inspirational" picture usually does (it's from the director and studio behind Sound of Freedom), with Cristiana Dell'Anna as an immigrant in the 1890s who takes it upon herself to serve New York's hungry, with John Lithgow & David Morse the more notable folks in the supporting cast. It's at the Capitol, the Embassy, Boston Common, Causeway Street, South Bay, Assembly Row, and Arsenal Yards.

    Freud's Last Session returns for matinees at Boston Common. Based on what's scheduled starting Monday, the folks programming that theater seem to be betting pretty heavily on Poor Things and Oppenheimer at the Oscars.

    Labyrinth plays Boston Common, South Bay, and Arsenal Yards on Sunday. There's an AMC Screen Unseen preview at Causeway Street, Assembly Row on Monday. Love Lies Bleeding has a non-mystery preview at Boston Common on Wednesday.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre hasn't opened the new wing yet, but their site has changed how they display screens - the Screening Room is now Movie House 3 ("MH3") and the GoldScreen Movie House 4 ("MH4"), so it's a little trickier to pick up when stuff is playing on the smaller screens, like Problemista.., which features director Julio Torres as a Salvadoran immigrant trying to thread the needle between "can't get a visa without a job" and "can't get a job without a visa" in New York, hoping Tilda Swinton's gallery curator can help him out. It also plays the Kendall, Boston Common, and the Seaport.

    The Coolidge's video game midnights continue with Sonic the Hedgehog on Friday and the surprisingly fun Street Fighter on Saturday. Dune monopolizing the main screen means rep is limited to Open Screen on Tuesday, a Big Screen Debut presentation of Wanda with Kaj Wilson offering a seminar before the film on Wednesday, plus a Cinema Jukebox show of Monterey Pop and the first leg of their Debra Granik retrospective, feature debut Down to the Bone, on Thursday.
  • I think the last Lunar New Year movie to arrive stateside is YOLO, a remake of Japanese film 100 Yen Love with writer/director/star Jia Ling as the woman who leaves the family home after an argument and takes up boxing after being attacked; Jia, you may recall, had the surprise Lunar New Year hit a few years back with Hi Mom!, a time-travel comedy that still hasn't made it stateside. The new one plays Boston Common and Causeway Street. Pegasus 2 also continues at Boston Common, with Article 20 remaining at Causeway Street.

    Another six new Indian films at Apple Fresh Pond this weekend: Shaitaan is Hindi-language horror movie with Ajay Devgn, and also opens at Boston Common. Gaami a Malayalam quest into the unknown. Telugu action movie Bhimaa has a city cop sent to investigate a case at a small town temple; Telugu romantic comedy Premalu has Naslen as a young man torn between two women. Hindi-language film Mahayogi: Highway 1 to Oneness sure looks like it and writer/director/star (subject?) Rajan Luthra are trying to sell something. Those open Friday; Kannada-language comedy Ranganayaka plays Saturday and Sunday.Manjummel Boys is held over at Fresh Pond and Article 370 continues at Boston Common.

    Three movies from Japan hanging around theaters this weekend, with Oscar-nominated Perfect Days at the Coolidge, Kendall Square, the Embassy, the Lexington Venue, CinemaSalem, and Boston Common; Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba - To the Hashira Training at Boston Common, Causeway Street, the Seaport, South Bay, and Assembly Row; and The Boy and the Heron still at Fresh Pond and West Newton.
  • Very limited showtimes for They Shot the Piano Player at Landmark Kendall Square - it plays daily at 4:10pm, plus earlier shows on Saturday and Sunday - which is a shame, because the new film from the makers of Chico & Rita looks kind of nifty, another music-focused animated drama for grown-ups, this one featuring Jeff Goldblum doing the voice of a reporter investigating the disappearance of a jazz pianist in 1976 Buenos Aires.

    Tuesday's New Hollywood flick is the original version of The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen & Ali McGraw and directed by Sam Pickinpah.
  • The Brattle Theatre has a digital restoration of Martha Coolidge's Not a Pretty Picture from Friday to Sunday, and takes the opportunity to showcase a few of the directors' other movies on 35mm. Valley Girl on Friday night and separate shows of Rambling Rose (including post-film chat with Strictly Brohibited) and Real Genius.

    For the rest of the week, they have the latest "Columbia 100" series with "Some of Columbia's Best (Picture Nominees)": It Happened One Night on Sunday afternoon, a double feature of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (35mm) & Born Yesterday Monday, a double bill of The Big Chill (35mm) & The Last Picture Show Tuesday, Sense and Sensibility & Little Women '19 (35mm) Wednesday, and a 35mm print of The Social Network on Thursday. There's also the member-even Oscar Party on Sunday night and an RPM Fest presentation of "Another Horizon: Stephanie Barber" at 9pm Thursday.
  • The Alamo rep calendar has more 1994 films, with The Little Rascals (Friday), Pulp Fiction (Saturday/Sunday/Wednesday Movie Party). They also have Time Bandits on Saturday, an "On Cinema at the Cinema" special on Sunday, Nimona as part of a "World of Animation" focus on shapeshifters Monday, a Love Lies Bleeding preview with livestreamed Q&A plus an Orlando as part of the Tilda Swinton series on Tuesday, and Pi on Thursday (3.14).
  • The Somerville Theatre holds Hundreds of Beavers over for a second week, and I'm weirdly proud of my neighborhood for this.

    The folks at The Capitol have Bonnie & Clyde for Capitol Crimes on Friday and Monday, plus "Good For Her" shows of Basic Instinct on Saturday and Tuesday.
  • The Embassy plays Inundation District on Thursday; it's a new documentary by David Abel & Ted Blanco about the folly of building a new neighborhood on landfill in the Boston Seaport area as waters rise from climate change. It does not play at the Alamo Drafthouse in said neighborhood.
  • ArtsEmerson and presents two documentaries this weekend: Rally on Friday profiles Rose Pak, a tremendously influential 1970s San Francisco reporter and activist, in association with Boston Asian-American Film Festival; Dawnland on Saturday afternoon details the abduction of Native Children and the Maine/Wabanaki Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
  • The Regent Theatre has the 9th annual "No Man's Land" program of female-centric outdoor films on Friday night and the first Midweek Music Movies & More show in a while, The Job of Songs, on Wednesday evening.
  • Joe's Free Films shows a screening of Kafka Goes to the Movies, along with readings from his diary and panel discussions, on Saturday afternoon. RSVP required.

  • The Boston Baltic Film Festival continues for another week or so online, with what looks like 12 features, a television series, and 4 shorts to stream.

    Boston Jewish Film launches a streaming "2024 Musical Roadtrip" series on Thursday, with four documentaries from around the worldavailable for eight days.
  • The Museum of Science looks sold out for its last two weekends of Dune: Part Two, on the Omni screen, but will have Mad Max: Fury Road on the dome on the 22nd & 23rd.
  • Probably the last week for Oscar-Nominated Shorts, with the Kendall and West Newton showing Animation and Live Action more or less all week, with West Newton also having the docs Saturday & Sunday. The ICA has Animation and Live Action on Saturday; The Somerville has Animation (Saturday/Sunday); Luna Lowell has Live Action (Saturday), Documentary (Saturday/Sunday), and Animation (Sunday); Cinema Salem has Animation (Friday/Saturday/Monday), Live Action (Friday-Sunday), and Documentary (Friday-Monday).
  • The Lexington Venue is open Friday to Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday with The Taste of Things and Perfect Days.

    The West Newton Cinema opens Kung Fu Panda. Still playing are Dune: Part Two, All of Us Strangers (Friday-Sunday), the Oscar Shorts, Driving Madeleine (no show Sunday), American Fiction, Migration (Firday/Saturday), The Boys in the Boat, Wonka (Friday/Saturday), The Boy and the Heron (no show Thursday), and The Holdovers.

    The Luna Theater once again has The Zone of Interest evenings Friday to Sunday, with the Oscar Shorts Saturday.& Sunday afternoons, a Weirdo Wednesday show, and a free UMass Lowell Philosophy & Film presentation of The Matrix Resurrections.

    Cinema Salem has Kung Fu Panda 4, Dune: Part Two, the Oscar Shorts, and Perfect Days from Friday to Monday. They also have a Night Light show of Belladonna of Sadness on Friday, All the President's Men on Saturday, and Pi on Thursday.
Is The Zone of Interest, American Fiction, and two shorts packages possible before the Oscars on Sunday? Maybe, but if I'm as lazy as I have been… Anyway, Nimona is not, but I've already got a ticket for that Monday, Somehow, They Shot the Piano Player, Shrek 4, and YOLO will be in there too.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

This Week in Tickets: 26 February 2024 - 3 March 2024 (Slow Week)

Very slow new release weekend, very lazy get-out-of-the-apartment mid-week.

This Week in Tickets
This week kicked off with one of my favorite Boston-area moviegoing experiences, the kind of disreputable movie at a fancy institution. In this case, it was Cotton Comes to Harlem at the Harvard Film Archive. In this case, it was shown in conjunction with the University's Houghton Library, which has acquired star Godfrey Cambridge's papers and has some of them on display in the lobby. He was a writer and journalist as well as being an actor, and the slide-show before the (very fun) movie was interesting.

I believe there was some weird train nonsense that made getting to things harder during the week, but I forget which color of weird train nonsense it was. Then on Friday, scheduling was weird/off, so both the big releases got hit on Saturday - Dune: Part Two as the afternoon matinee in 70mm on the Somerville's main screen and The Moon Thieves that evening, which was a pretty good day at the movies.

Sunday's train nonsense was definitely the Red Line - I came up just short of the one meant to get me to Kendall Square for some Oscar shorts and the next one wouldn't be for fifteen minutes, too late - so I wound up getting groceries and then catching Anatomy of a Fall at night, so I at least got a little Oscar catch-up done.

This week promises a little more on my Letterboxd account, although short packages probably won't be on in and Sunday's Oscar night, so I'll be watching that.

Cotton Comes to Harlem

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 26 February 2024 in the Harvard Film Archive (Godfrey Cambridge, 35mm)
Available to rent/purcase on Prime and elsewhere, or on DVD at Amazon

Cotton Comes to Harlem is just top-shelf pulp filmmaking from Ossie Davis, the sort where you maybe expect to cut it a little slack for its pioneer status but instead find a movie that feels like something more assured and confident in how its genre works than a lot of later Blaxploitation films. The term didn't exist yet, but it is that, and maybe a top example of the genre.

It's adapted from one of a series of books starring two Harlem NYPD detectives, "Grave Digger" Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) and "Coffin Ed" Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques) who, from their nicknames, are likely not known for de-escalation and bringing suspects in quietly. To start, they're assigned to watch a rally by Reverend Deke O'Malley (Calvin Lockhart), and ex-con running Johnson is certain is a scam as he convinces neighbors to invest in his Back-to-Africa program. The event is robbed, and O'Malley's people are nearly as aggressive toward the cops as the crooks during the chase. The guys decide to surveil Deke's girlfriend Iris (Judy Pace), though he opts to shack up with his late second-in-command's wife Mabel (Emily Yancy). During the chase, a bale of cotton falls from the robbers' van, and neighborhood character "Uncle Budd" (Redd Foxx) picks it up, not knowing that the stolen $87,000 is inside and everyone is looking for it.

It's worth noting that the initial car chase is kind of terrific, not just because it's the sort of old-school chase that is quite frankly terrifying if you think about it, just cars that are all sharp metal speeding through streets where one shouldn't be going that fast, without modern crumple zones or airbags, gunshots that feel like every stray could kill a bystander, etc. It's in the classic "do more, say less" mode that it reveals a lot of the story without spelling it out (it's very clear that Deke is in cahoots with those robbing him but also not something Grave Digger and Coffin Ed can present as certain), great storytelling on top of great stunts. At the other end, there's a climax where a curtain falls in a way that's maybe more symbolic than the movie really merits, but is too good to not do. Davis and co-writer Arnold Perl know the power of the image and will do all they can to let it elevate a B-movie filled with secret passages, broad characterization, and maybe a little more nudity than is strictly necessary, at least a little.

The comedy at times gets a little broad at times, but it's notable that Davis and company already have their leads kind of cracking jokes about the sheer number of slogans and comments on authenticity that various activists are using, at the time even as they're doing it (consider the earnest performer talking about how she has to do something important that speaks to Her People toward the start and how that winds up being burlesque in the end). It kind of feels like the sort of self-aware thing that comes at the end of a cycle, tweaking the things that had gotten so serious over time, rather than at what's arguably the first blaxploitation film, but, then, sometimes things do start out that way and have it stripped out only to get more sophisticated later.

Also, the Archive had a gorgeous print of a great-looking movie - Colors really pop when everybody's outside during the daytime, and there's a sense of Harlem being both kind of run down and on the way up that the palette and Gerald Hirschfeld's cinematography really heightens.

Dune: Part Two

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 2 March 2024 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, 70mm)
Not streaming yet, but where to watch when it is

Like its predecessor, Dune: Part Two is absolutely impeccable as a "just look at this thing" epic, especially on the Somerville Theatre's 70mm screen, chock-full of absolutely astounding feats of design, cinematography, and every other technical element of making a movie. It may not be the best possible realization of Frank Herbert's book, but it will certainly be daunting for someone considering another adaptation 20 years from now (as that appears to be the cycle we're on).

Although, speaking of Astounding (or was it Analog by then?), you can kind of see the original serial structure here, I think, as a lot of the focus changes suddenly around the midpoint, and it's bumpy, in part because director Denis Villeneuve and co-writer Jon Spaihts compacted a novel that took place over about five years to one that doesn't quite last the length of a pregnancy. That not only robs of the series's first creepy little kid, but it means that the Fremen seem a little more credulous about Paul's Chosen One status, and his eventual turn more forced than tragic. There's also a sense that the filmmakers are a bit wobbly on how they deal with prophecy and mysticism, not quite hitting that sweet spot where there's human frailty driving the sci-fi plot devices. The royalty, eugenics, and propaganda the story rails against work too well.

Crazy good cast, at least. Timothée Chalamet does a really nice job of making a character who is such a product of a weird environment as Paul into someone a viewer can genuinely connect with before turning on the afterburners, and while I'm not sure I've yet seen Zendaya in the role that makes one sure she's this sort of single-name superstar, one can certainly see where she's capable of being that actress. Rebecca Ferguson is a force, and it feels like it's been too long since I've seen Christopher Walken in anything.

And, did I mention it's gorgeous? They seem to have refined a lot of things that were only pretty good the first time around, such as the Harkonnen planet and royal family; there are more cool details to their standard black-leather bad guys this time around, and whoever came up with the black fireworks deserves some sort of raise.

So, yes, I'm looking forward to Dune Messiah (or Dune: Part Three, if they go that route), whenever they get around to that.

Anatomie d'une chute (Anatomy of a Fall)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 3 March 2024 in AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run, DCP)
Available to rent/purchase on Prime and elsewhere and for pre-order on Blu-ray at Amazon

Anatomy of a Fall is a pretty darn good movie, but I think it's also the sort of movie that benefits from being the sort of thing that writers, actors, and other folks who really appreciate such things love. It's got a script full of ambiguity and chewy dialogue that actors and critics quite reasonably fall in love with, often enough to forgive when it gets a little too caught up in those things, even before the story itself is centering writing as so crucial. It wants you to know it's clever, and that it mostly is doesn't always help when it's maybe too clever by at least a little bit.

The first half is great, at least, sort of brilliantly uncomfortable in its depiction how opaque and being part of a police investigation must feel from the inside, placing the viewer right in the middle of what could be a suicide, murder, or accident, with director Justine Triet and her co-writer Arthur Harari at once presenting it as a mystery that leaves room for the victim's wife Sandra (Sandra Hüller) to be culpable but also highlighting the tension of being in her position and knowing that an inquiry is necessary but possibly dangerous rightly or wrongly. It's full of tension, with her lawyer Vincent (Swann Arlaud) trying to work this case with detachment and her son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) possibly convincing himself that she couldn't have done it. It's here that the stuff that often unnerves during courtroom dramas - the way that every kind of evidence, from eyewitness to forensic, is far more subjective than believe - plays out.

Once the film jumps forward a year to the trial, the second half can't quite avoid how much fun this stuff is for writers, actors, and lawyers, and that's before you get to the a recording being entered into evidence that is a performer's dream for just how many words it contains about just laying out the facts of a relationship and the grievances within, no matter how convenient the whole thing is, and how Triet and Harari are putting "Sandra is complex and maybe difficult to like even if she is innocent" out from. Then they pin the whole thing on Daniel being a kid who is so absurdly perceptive in retrospect that it stretches belief. Add that to the combativeness and insinuations from the prosecutor that are barely pushed against (folks used to American courtroom dramas and courtrooms are going to wonder if French ones are really like this a lot!), and the natural, discomfiting situations of the first half are replaced by a lot of people trying just a bit harder than they seemingly have to.

On balance, I think the upsides of this setup outweighs the pitfalls that the movie happily springs, and by a fair amount. It's never less than compelling, and for all that one can easily point out how the second half isn't quite so interesting as the first, Triet is pretty darn good at walking right up to the point where you roll your eyes but not quite getting there. Actors and critics don't go for this just because they're self-interested, but because there's so much good work that can be (and is) done with it.

Spare thoughts: First, everyone saying that Messi deserves all the awards for Best Supporting Animal is correct - he is just an extremely good dog. Second, this look at the French legal system does nothing to shake me of the idea that trial by jury is like democracy - the worst possible way to arrive at a fair result, except for all the others. Cotton Comes to Harlem Dune: Part Two The Moon Thieves Anatomy of a Fall