Tag Archives: Alamo Drafthouse

Mother!

I wonder if I’ve reviewed a Darren Aronofsky movie before? I know I’ve seen one, so… oh, hey, I could check![1] And, there it is. Black Swan. Which a) I liked quite a bit, and b) I successfully predicted Natalie Portman’s best actress Oscar for that one. Go me!

To get it out of the way: Jennifer Lawrence is not going to win an Oscar for Mother! This is not a slam on her acting ability in general (which in fact is long since demonstrably solid), nor her performance here; it’s just not the kind of movie that I expect to be an Academy darling. It’s also not the kind of movie I can say virtually anything about. Here’s the blurb from imdb: “A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.”

That is an incredibly accurate description of the movie, that leaves aside the… I was going to say rising tension, but it’s more like ratcheting dread. A thing I thought during the first half of the movie that I still agree with now: Lawrence is basically portraying an introvert’s hell.

The surreality grows on a logarithmic scale (which to be fair is certainly a similarity to Black Swan), and I think I have no way to predict who might or might not like this movie. Me: it was nothing like what I expected, and I think its writer/director is entirely too impressed with it, but all the same, I thought it had its charms. (For one thing, both Lawrence and Javier Bardem were solid leads, despite what I said earlier about acting awards, and Michelle Pfeiffer was nearly perfect.) Mary, on the other hand, loathed it. So, y’know. Watch at your own risk?

Super annoying-to-me coda to this review: I saw the movie on Wednesday night, in a moderately exclusive Alamo Drafthouse preview showing. And then I’ve been so busy working that I couldn’t review it until post-release. Which is at least only today, instead of a week ago like usual. But: argh!

[1] Okay, inside baseball: yes, I realized I could check before I typed that faux realization, BUT, I realized it after I asked the question. So that counts, right?

It (2017)

I feel like maybe It should have had a name that will make its sequel in a year or so make more sense. Because, as is, it seems like it will appear to be a sequel, while in actuality it will be the second half of a coherent whole. I mean really, now, It 2? I hope not!

This is what you came here for, right?

But seriously, I think it may be broadly known among the readership here that It, by Stephen King, is my favorite book. I even, unjustifiably, like the ABC miniseries from lo these many years past. Sure, it’s under television guidelines, but it tried very hard to be a faithful adaptation. All the same, the idea of a multi-part cinematic version struck me as a pleasing idea, something I could maybe point to as “yeah, that’s why I like this book so much” without expecting someone to put in the time investment of a doorstop horror epic.

Mostly: this is that movie. It could have used another 45 minutes or so to breathe and allow the kids to be small town kids on their own for the summer, give an idea of what the oppressive horrific atmosphere was taking away from them. (And to allow some of the references to be built into the plot instead of just there to make sure ItFan117 was satisfied that their pet reference got made.) But all in all, it definitely did what I wanted, and I’m excited to see the second half. Hell, I may even watch this one again, but since I still haven’t seen The Dark Tower yet, that feels hard to justify.

That said, I do have some real complaints, and they are not the result of my pet fanboy moment being missed or misrepresented. Unfortunately, they are kind of all huge spoilers. So, I’ll put them in the comments.

Last thing: the acting / direction of those kids was seriously good.

EDIT: Having now posted my spoiler complaints in the comments section below: seriously, do not click through or read those unless you want third act plot destroying spoilers. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Thing that is awesome: I saw a Guardians of the Galaxy double feature on Thursday! Thing that is less awesome: it always takes me forever to review premiere style movies. Like, to even have time to start. I am typing this Sunday, and I will post it Sunday, but I didn’t start until Sunday, which as you know is three days after Thursday. I don’t know why this always happens, but it always does. I might as well not even go to premieres, for all the good it does anyone else! …although I still get to see it early, so that’s nice.

In a nutshell: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the platonic ideal of a comics movie. It requires you to have seen the original, yes, but since the original was full of origin stories that people didn’t already know by heart, that’s not so bad. And then it’s off to the races, with… basically a lot of cool and hilarious stuff that I can say nearly nothing about, because it would all be spoilers. Even the thematic discussion is a no go. Except to say, trust me that yes there’s a heaping helping of theme. And lots of cool old characters, and some cool new characters, and a teaser for the future that I don’t see how they can pull off right, but then again, if you’d asked me five years ago (or five days ago!) if they could pull off what they did in this movie, I would have said no, that’s way too stupid to ever work. So I’ve clearly been proven wrong, and I’m once again excited for the next thing!

I should say, the music is not as good as last time.

Blair Witch

mv5bmji0nteymja3nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwodk5otu4ote-_v1_sy1000_cr006481000_al_Did you know that The Blair Witch Project came out seventeen years ago? That is a long time! And yet, here we are with a sequel[1]. And, uh… that’s kind of all I have? Which is bad. But the thing is, you saw the first one, right? Blair Witch is that movie, seventeen years later. Is there a documentary? Yep. Do they go into the woods? You betcha! Are there weird stick figures and creepy little piles of rocks? I think you know.

I mean, this is how you make a horror movie sequel. Same people[2], same plot. (This, I maintain, is why people didn’t like the other sequel. Different people, different plot. Also: Halloween 3.) But then they did the other thing that good horror movie sequels manage, which is to bring in more information and make things make more sense than they did before. So, long story short: if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. If you hated the first one (which I know a lot of people did, especially people who get motion sickness), you will still hate this one. So, y’know. Check in with the 1999 version of you and see what’s up.

[1] Technically, there was also a sequel sixteen years ago, but a) a lot of people incorrectly dislike it and b) more relevantly, this sequel ignores the one from 2000, so I will too.
[2] Okay, it’s Heather’s younger brother, who always wanted to know what happened to her, but same family basically counts as same people.

Ghostbusters (2016)

MV5BMTU0OTQ5NDMzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUxODMxOTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,673,1000_AL_I actually saw two movies on Thursday prior to departing for a camping trip. As usual, I have squandered my chance at a timely review of a new release movie. This happens with such reliability that this can probably never be my actual job? No, I’m kidding, there are much better reasons for that outcome than lack of timeliness. Still, though, I’m here now, so let’s talk.

Ghostbusters, right? There’s been a lot of chatter for months about this movie, mostly along feminist lines. On one side of the divide are people complaining about an all female cast of main characters taking over the reins of a major nostalgia franchise. On the other side are people who want to slap the smirk off the first group of people, because, Jesus, how is this a thing someone can justify complaining about in 2016? (I, uh, may have an opinion in this race.) For my part, my complaint from the start has been, why is this a reboot? Why not a next generation sequel? This complaint, while I have not really let it go after the fact, was never enough to keep me out of the theater.

Anyway, though, the outcome? I’m gonna stay away from plot, because you know what’s up. Four women in New York with unlicensed nuclear reactors strapped to their backs are out to solve a ghost problem. Anything less would be impossible for you to know, and anything more is best saved for the theater. But was it worth it? I have mixed feelings.

See, on the one hand, they drew so very heavily from the nostalgia well. Yes, I loved the movie unabashedly, but it’s not really easy to tell if I’ve been puppeted into feeling that way. On the other hand, and I think this is key: every moment that I walked out of the theater laughing about and already quoting back and forth with my friends was a moment that was new and fresh to the new characters. I hope it passes the test of time, and I hope any potential sequel is neither a pale facsimile of this one nor a tired retread of a plot that already exists. Because I really want to see it again already. I know for a fact there are jokes and sight gags I missed; and more importantly, I want to get some of those lines down solid, because I wouldn’t be surprised to be throwing them around in casual conversation 30 years from now, just like I do with the old lines today.

Captain America: Civil War

MV5BMjI3ODEwMTA0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg3MDczNzE@._V1__SX1859_SY891_I saw the latest Captain America movie on Friday morning, with the intention of getting a spoiler-free review up quickly. It was going to reflect on the difficulty of setting up a scenario in which the good guys could get into serious fights over matters of policy and morality without turning some portion of themselves into bad guys, and then acknowledge that I felt like it was done quite well, such that I empathized most strongly with the apparent wrong side of the debate in reality while also admitting that of course in context I would pick the apparent right side. Then it was going to slyly approve of the many characters brought into the conflict, the various ways this was done, and how plausible each such character’s position was. Not to mention how great it is to have a movie series with enough depth as to be able to do that without stretching to 4 or 5 hours, because we know these people from more than what was shown on this particular screen today.

Also, I might have praised the venue, with its history of awesome pre-show perks and (although I missed it) a secret menu whereby you order something they used to serve with a previous Cap movie by whispering “Hail Hydra” to your server.

But right after the movie I had to pick up an engagement ring that I had been waiting on for rather a while, and then later in the afternoon my oldest friend (from the age of 12!) died from complications due to cancer, and then on Saturday I was at a renaissance fair getting engaged, and by now everyone who would read this has seen the thing themselves, so I guess I won’t bother to write a review after all.

If I’m wrong, though, it was really pretty good, and you should go ahead and see it.

Much Ado about Nothing (2012)

MV5BMTgxNjQ0MjAwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjI1NDEyOQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Legend has it that when Joss Whedon was filming The Avengers, he was forced by union rules into a two week break. During that break, he decided to adapt, direct, and score a Shakespearean comedy, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. (Okay, technically, probably only the principle photography happened during the fortnight and the rest came before and/or after, depending on what would make sense. But I have no way of knowing it didn’t all happen during his vacation, so!) It being the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death, the Alamo Drafthouse has been showing lots of adaptations lately, and Monday night, off we went to sup on the fruit of this legend.

Despite my utter lack of qualification to review Shakespeare, I’m kind of forced to by circumstance. The acting is as good as you’d expect[1], and the direction was modern and noirish, both of which displayed some… well, I can’t tell if flaw is right, but it probably is, and that’s my English Lit degree focussed on mid-millennium British masters bias showing. So, let’s say, displayed some flaws in Bill’s work and then see if I prove my case.

Much Ado about Nothing has two plots. In the first and far superior one, two acid-tongued frenemies reunite after the fellow of the pair returns from campaigns abroad, and their friends trick them into either falling in love or admitting their real feelings for each other[2]. As far as I’m concerned, this story has no problems and is basically 100% hilarious. In the second story (which contrary to my ordering appears to be the main plot of the thing and the source of the title), the prince sets up his best friend with their host’s daughter after the friend has fallen in love at first sight, but the prince’s bastard[3] brother arbitrarily decides to interfere in the pre-wedding proceedings.

That story… well, first it does the “we love each other after five minutes because we’re both so very pretty” thing that Shakespeare parodied in Romeo and Juliet, only this time he plays it straight, which while not a story-breaker is certainly an odd choice. But then when John the Bastard enacts his evil plan to make it look like the host’s daughter bangs random people on the verandah every night, the prince’s friend doesn’t just break up with her, he publicly humiliates her at the altar. Which, you know, some people are assholes, and that’s fine. But her father joins in on the humiliation, and that’s less fine, although I’m forced to acknowledge that virginity in the 1500s was more important than family, however insane that sounds.

But least fine of all is that she wants him back and everyone sets about proving her innocence to win him back. I mean, the innocence, sure, but she wants him back??? That’s too skeevy, even for the 1500s.

But okay, that’s Shakespeare and the 1500s, and what can you do? It’s central to the plot, and however delightful Benedick and Beatrice are, whether in banter or askew courtship, there’s not enough there to fill both reels. The biggest failure was Joss’s alone. At the big wedding scene in the finale, the prince’s friend (now penitent and set to marry the host’s other female ward by way of apology for embarrassing the first daughter unto death[4]) says that he’ll marry whoever he’s been asked to marry, even “were she an Ethiope”, while the camera lingers on a black lady standing nearby, who we had never seen before and, the movie ending some five minutes later, were certainly never to see again. And it’s like, I get what he was going for, “look how uncomfortable this line that Shakespeare wrote is, you guys!” But it just didn’t work. I can’t really explain why, scenes that were far worse have worked far better for me[5], but after my gasp of shocked laughter acknowledging what Whedon had pointed out, I couldn’t really agree that it was worth the scene existing.

But these are, if not nitpicks, certainly neither of them enough to detract from how wonderfully presented the so-called backup plotline was. Lovely film, would watch again.

[1] I mean, yes because they’re all Whedon alums, but also because it’s Shakespeare. I assume it’s that people won’t submit slipshod quality if it’s the bard rather than that his writing is so good, people are forced to be better actors.
[2] Reader’s / viewer’s choice, really. Take your pick.
[3] Bastards are evil by virtue of their ungodly births. It is known.
[4] Because, 1500s. JFAM, the past, what is wrong with you?
[5] Tropic Thunder springs frequently to mind. “What do you mean, ‘you people’?” “…what do you mean, ‘you people’?!”

The Witch (2015)

MV5BMTY4MTU2NjMyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzUwMDk4NzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_For reasons not known to me, The Witch was brought back into broad release this weekend, and I finally managed to find company to see it on Monday night (extremely late, but that’s what 5 hours of energy in a tiny bottle are for). It’s a thin movie, lacking quite a bit in plot and premise, but extremely meaty on execution. All of the actors were solid and believable, even when their motivations or reactions to what was happening around them bewildered me, and the young twins were just incredibly creepy.

In case you don’t know anything at all, this is a moody 17th century piece about an isolated family dealing with a number of severe setbacks all at once, as the last dregs of harvest season threaten to give way to winter. They may or may not (but definitely will) suspect deviltry and witchcraft is behind the string of ill fortune, and then… but, like I said, it’s a thin movie, so any “and then” I could follow this up with pretty much completes the film.

Between the lingering shots of the small farm and the forbidding forest beyond it, the total isolation, and the spare, screeching soundtrack, it feels like horror by way of the ’70s art film scene, or maybe Kubrick if he’d ever made a movie where every single shot failed to contain an onion’s worth of hidden meanings. Other than an ending that outstayed its welcome, I have basically nothing bad to say about this self-described New England folktale. Mood, acting, and cinematography can carry a thin plot a long way.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

MV5BYmQ5MWI1ZGMtZThkYi00YTFmLWEzMjctNmJmNDliMzg0MTdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1__SX1859_SY893_After I got off work on Valentine’s Day, we went out to the Alamo for a third time to see My Bloody Valentine, because I am nothing if not romantic. And to my surprise, although I saw the remake some years back, this is a movie I’d never seen before.

The plot is as follows: Twenty years ago, some miners were trapped in a collapse in the Canadian mining town of Valentine’s Bluffs, because everyone was busy at the annual big deal Valentine’s Day dance and forgot to check methane levels I think? One of the miners survived, went crazy, and killed a bunch of people the next year at the same party. So they’ve never held that party since, but hey, it’s been twenty years and there’s a new generation of horny post-teens who would rather drink and party than honor the dead of the past, and even the old people are thinking, hey, it might be nice to get back to what made our town great. Only, there’s a note from Harry Warden (the insane killer miner in the gas mask) saying, “Hey, bitches, you hold a party, I go back to killing everyone, just like old times!”

After the movies takes ten minutes or so to establish that summary, it commences to being an ’80s horror movie, so I think more or less you know what’s up from here. Important differences, though: the teens are actually grown-ass adults instead of being teens, with jobs (mostly down the mine) and actual relationships. I mean, they’re barely more than teens, but the difference shows, what with adult conversations that extend further than the “which of us will bang next?” you might get from, say, Friday the 13th. Then again, the prankster jerk is just as much of a teenager as ever, so maybe the differences aren’t as vast as all that after all. And there are certainly plot holes wide enough to drive a mine cart through.

Like I said, I think you know what’s up from here. Ultimately, I think I liked the remake better? But I appreciate that someone behind the camera wanted to make a serious movie that happened to include an insane murder miner instead of a horror movie. Not all dreams can come true, of course, but effort matters.

Majo No Takkyûbin

MV5BOTc0ODM1Njk1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDI5OTEyNw@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_The second outing of the weekend was to catch the one Miyazaki movie playing this month at the Alamo Drafthouse that I both had not seen and could fit in my schedule[1]. Hence, Kiki’s Delivery Service, about a 13 year old girl sent out on her own to make her way in the world for a year, in the traditions of her people. Who are witches, I should probably add.

Based on the vehicles and architecture, and other clues, I’m guessing that the never specified timeframe for the film is in the late 1950s or early ’60s, and I’m also assuming the locale is Japan. The latter is more strongly implied than the former, but neither is by any means definitive. For most of the movie, I assumed the point was mostly to showcase the gorgeous animation and soundtrack, via long, contemplative shots of Kiki flying across the countryside on her broom, or walking through her new city, and that the job (she delivers things for people, as you might expect) and relationships she was forming were mostly beside the point.

But then my mental jokes about making a 13 year old run off and earn her own living were translated seriously onto the screen, as she quickly lost her [Japanese phrase that means joie de vivre] in the humdrum grind of using her heritage and passion as a means of keeping herself fed and housed. From that turning point and throughout the final act, the story turned into more of a meditation on whether and how she could come back to herself and find her happiness, and now I think the movie is a love letter to post-war Japan, unsure of herself and finding her footing after a resounding defeat.

But maybe it’s just a feel-good movie about a witch and her sarcastic cat. That’s cool too.

[1] The only other one I’ve actually seen was the only other one that matched up schedule-wise, sadly. (Mononoke.)