In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Monday, November 4, 2013

About Time

Shattuck Cinemas

(Previously reviewed.)

In the recent past, the Shattuck was cash only. Now not only do they accept plastic, but they have two ticket kiosks in the lobby. If there is no line at all, it's faster to conduct a transaction with a box office attendant; but if there is at least one person in front of me, it's faster to use the kiosk. Their kiosks are unusual in that just before I confirm that I want my tickets, it gives me a heads up about how full the theater is right now (46% full,in tonight's case). This is helpful information, as it might scare me off the movie if I'm warned that I'll end up with a bad angle, and at a minimum it tells me whether I should rush to secure a seat, or if I have time to visit the bathroom or concession stand.

As it turns out, 46% full (or it might have been 46% of seats remaining, I forget) is pretty full. My girlfriend and I were still seated to one side and fairly close to the screen in one of the larger Egyptian themed auditoriums.


A black-and-white ad for Tanqueray gin features a smooth, good-looking bartender mixing drinks to a rotating cast of characters throughout the evening; passing his fellow bartender's number to a lady in waiting; throwing out an obnoxious patron; cheering up a sobbing bride; disrupting the game of a bragging pool player; and generally being charismatic, professional, and admired. At evening's end, he makes his way to some other bar, where he relaxes at a piano and has a drink of his own. Doesn't make me want to drink gin, but it does make me want to hang out with this guy.


Blue Is the Warmest Color (Trailer 1)

Two young women meet, fall in love, and perhaps fall out of love. The women look like they’ll have a magnetic attraction, but it’s difficult to tell, because as with most foreign language films, the trailer is too timid to have non-English dialog with subtitles, instead wasting much of its time with quotes from various reviewers and personalities. This makes for an uninformative trailer, but has spoiled little of the film. This trailer is notable for being the first I’ve ever seen where the film advertised is rated NC-17.

Saving Mr. Banks (Trailer 1)

Smooth talker Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) tries to convince Mrs. P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to allow his studio to adapt Mary Poppins for the big screen. Travers doesn’t approve of Disney’s free-spirited ideas about her character, and Disney can’t seem to figure out what makes Travers tick. But don’t worry, the trailer will explain everything for you in great detail, and I assure you, by movie’s end the Poppins will get made and the two artists will be fast friends.

The Book Thief (Trailer 1)

During World War II, an orphan is taken in by an older couple who pretend to be her parents, while they also hide a young man from the Nazis. Has there ever been a Holocaust movie that wasn’t dramatic and gripping? Let’s just assume the same will be true here, and focus instead on the nuances. First, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson will be excellent. Second, having German characters speak English with German accents is annoying. Third, the narration is unnecessary.

How I Live Now (Trailer 1)

Saoirse Ronan falls in love with a boy in the Irish or English countryside, but war breaks out and separates the two. I’m intrigued by what war the film will concoct to keep them apart. Ronan has a perfect record of performances in the six movies I’ve seen her in, and she looks just as convincing and watchable here. The trailer, however, is discordant, overlaying peppy rock music to what should be tense chases and melancholy scenes of destruction.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

About Time

In high school, my classmates and I scoffed when our history teacher, not much older then than I am now, told us he wouldn't want to be our age for anything in the world. Today at a birthday party for my friend's five-year old, another friend told me of a survey in which centenarians (he had to tell me what that was) were asked, if you could be any age again, which age would you want to be? And the resounding answer was 70: old enough to have figured it all out, retired, have kids and grandkids to enjoy, but still young enough to be healthy (they'd live another thirty years, after all). I'm finally old enough to get it: each day is better than the last, and I don't want to ever go back.

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), an awkward redhead in search of a girlfriend, is thick as thieves with his dad (Bill Nighy), mother (Lindsay Duncan), and sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), but has trouble making other friends. One day his father sits him down to reveal a family secret: the men in the family can travel in time. All they must do is clench their fists in a dark place and think intently on the moment in their own life they want to travel back to, and presto magico, they're back in the body of their younger self, able to change their own history. Tim's first thought is to use the ability to gain wealth or power, but his dad cites examples in their family tree where those goals didn't turn out so well. Tim's dad uses his ability for something much simpler and more personal; inspired, Tim decides to use time travel to get a girlfriend.

After moving to London, Tim dines at a concept restaurant (like in When in Rome) in which he is led into a pitch black room to enjoy his food and company without benefit of sight. He hits it off with the nearby voice of Mary (Rachel McAdams); by evening's end they've exchanged numbers, flouting the age-old rule that a romantic comedy keep its lovers apart until the end. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray uses repetition to his advantage to win over Andie MacDowell. Similarly, Tim recovers from a few social flubs with Mary by repeating encounters until he gets it right. But unlike Murray's manipulative Phil, Tim is well-meaning (mostly) and in general doesn't screw things up. With its romance on track, the film is free to explore deeper territory.

Time travel movies typically fall into one of three camps. The first is a moral tale, showing us that by attempting to change the past we'll only ruin the present, and we should just be happy with what we've got (see The Butterfly Effect). The second is a lesson in determinism, showing that no matter how hard we try to reshape events, they will converge unavoidably into our familiar present, so again we should just be happy with what we've got (see 12 Monkeys). The third, usually in lighter movies (see Back to the Future) but not always (see Deja Vu) argue it's okay to change something major, so long as you really really want to.

About Time, written by Richard Curtis (Notting HillLove Actually), takes a more nuanced approach, with each timeline differing from the other in non-qualitative ways. In one timeline Friend A is happy, but in another Friend B is happy. Now that Tim has seen both, how can he in good conscience choose one over the other? A typical comedy would find some perfect third option, but this one punishes and rewards Tim with consequence. The film so invests us in Tim's relationships with Mary, Kit-Kat, and his dad, that for several scenes, time travel disappears altogether. It resurfaces at important moments in Tim's life, a proxy for the big decisions we must all make, and how we envision each of the possible outcomes and try to shape our future accordingly. Tim's decisions are heartbreaking and delightful, and by film's end, we are counseled on how to better our own lives with a little time travel of our own.

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