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Movies can make you feel things

New January releases: Patriots Day, Julieta, and more

Patriots Day: Mark Wahlberg brandishes his finger gun and takes aim at your heartstrings
Patriots Day: Mark Wahlberg brandishes his finger gun and takes aim at your heartstrings

A lot of critics liked Patriots DayThe Boston Globe‘s Ty Burr being a notable exception. I didn’t much care for it. Peter Berg’s dramatization of the Boston Marathon bombing and ensuing manhunt started to lose its hold on me almost from the first, with its farcical interrogation of a poorhouse dope who confuses supercop Mark Wahlberg by calling the iron used as an assault weapon a “smoothie.” Ha ha! Because it makes things smooth! Wotta maroon!

Movie

Patriots Day *

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Having lionized American Navy SEALS in <em>Lone Survivor</em> and American working men in <em>Deepwater Horizon</em>, director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg turn the spotlight on American police officers, taking the Boston Marathon bombing and the massive manhunt that followed as their occasion. It’s a gutsy move, what with that case’s suppression of Miranda rights, its request for citizens to “shelter in place” while police combed the region for the Tsarnaev brothers, etc. But the film seems comfortable with all that, and also with removing the pesky question of motive from its prime movers: it’s enough that they’re bad guys who did a very bad thing and must be brought to justice. That approach might have worked in a super-sized police procedural (and it <em>is</em> super-sized, starting with the recreation of the crime scene inside an enormous warehouse), but Berg has something more in mind. Something that includes an out-of-nowhere speech from Wahlberg about fighting the devil with love, because “it’s the one weapon he can’t touch.” That also includes testimonials from the real-life participants about being “ambassadors for peace” instead of victims of violence. That takes care to cast a wide net over a broad range of characters in its attempt to capture the bombing’s enormous impact. Given all that, it’s a shame that such a key dramatic element slipped through. These days, even Bond villains get a backstory.

Find showtimes

It’s a bullshit moment engineered for audience response, much like the (much) later scene when a woman refuses a SWAT commander’s order to retreat from a firing position and he politely acquiesces because nobody messes with Boston Strong. Much like Wahlberg’s bum knee, which exists simply to put his wife in jeopardy when she heads down to the marathon’s finish line to bring him a different brace.

Movie

Julieta ***

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Midway through director Pedro Almodóvar’s lovely treatment of guilt and its attendant sorrows, the titular character pays a visit to her parents in their new home on a small farm. Mom is failing in mind and body, and Julieta is quick to determine that Dad is getting more than help from the pretty live-in assistant. “Be a bit more generous and understanding with me,” he pleads, but Julieta can’t get over her resentment on Mom’s behalf — <em>even though she herself had a one night stand with a man whose wife was in a coma, and conceived her daughter in the process</em>. The ensuing estrangement proves karmic, and the moral of the story is clear: watch out for morals. They corrode the aforementioned generosity and understanding, leaving us lonely and bereft. (They may corrode other things as well: the only woman who actually advocates thwarting desire is also the only one who is not thoroughly gorgeous, and she’s miserable to boot.) It’s a seductive claim, especially given the director’s ravishing visuals and deep sympathy for the suffering souls in this amorality tale. You may have to narrow your vision a bit to accept it, but goodness gracious, what a view.

Find showtimes

Nearly the whole movie felt designed to elicit responses. I don’t know if that makes it exploitative, but it definitely makes it manipulative. Now and then, the manipulation was so effective that it overrode my critical faculties — say, when an officer stands guard over the covered body of a bombing victim in the hours before the crime scene can be cleared. But more often, it left me annoyed at Berg & Co. for their hammy treatment of a genuine catastrophe. And while the appearances by the real-life people involved in the story at the end of the film are compelling, they don’t really fit with what’s come before, which makes their inclusion feel like one more attempt to wring emotion from an audience that has already had its denouement.

Movie

One Piece Film: Gold **

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You don’t have to be a fan of the enormously popular manga/anime series starring a band of super-powered pirates to understand this largely self-contained feature film about their encounter with a gold-obsessed potentate/entertainer and his floating nation/party-zone. But you may need to be a fan to enjoy it. Everything but everything is inflated to the point of bursting — conversation, character, bodies, buildings, and oh yes, the big, bold, blatant message about gold: the way it arouses, blesses, controls, corrupts, deforms, destroys, and generally infects everyone it touches. Except, surprisingly, the diminutive daredevil whose principal goal in life is to become King of the Pirates. Sure, pirates have booty in their job description, but he’s more interested in having fun with his buds, eating well and copiously, and triumphing over impossible adversity through sheer willpower (and magic). The whole thing feels like an excellent example of its type, even if its type is adolescent fever dream. Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto.

Find showtimes

All that may be part of why I was so pleased by Julieta, which did much more to earn its interior twinges. (Though I can’t really argue with Reader critic Duncan Shepherd’s assessment of director Pedro Almodóvar in his review for Volver: “He shows nary a trace of the erstwhile ‘bad boy,’ nothing now but a good, good boy, devoted to mothers in particular, reverential of females in general, the Spanish George Cukor.”) And why I was able to be generous with One Piece Film: Gold, which was positively gleeful about its emotional extremes.

But nothing, alas, could make me be kind to Ben Affleck’s gangster pic Live By Night. A real misfire, that one. It’s a pity, because while the story elements were hoary, at least it wasn’t a reboot or a sequel or a nostalgia grab or schlock horror or just plain awful. You know, like so much January fare. (See video below. Language alert!)

Video:

F**k You, It's January! (2017)

On a possibly related note, we were unable to review Monster Trucks, Sleepless, or The Bye Bye Man.

Scott, meanwhile, had some luck with this week’s entries at the Digital Gym: both the young mommy-soldier story Alias Maria and the ex-con drama Hunter Gatherer proved worth his while. Maybe cinema isn’t gone, Misters Scorsese and Scott. Maybe it’s just smaller and more scattered.

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Patriots Day: Mark Wahlberg brandishes his finger gun and takes aim at your heartstrings
Patriots Day: Mark Wahlberg brandishes his finger gun and takes aim at your heartstrings

A lot of critics liked Patriots DayThe Boston Globe‘s Ty Burr being a notable exception. I didn’t much care for it. Peter Berg’s dramatization of the Boston Marathon bombing and ensuing manhunt started to lose its hold on me almost from the first, with its farcical interrogation of a poorhouse dope who confuses supercop Mark Wahlberg by calling the iron used as an assault weapon a “smoothie.” Ha ha! Because it makes things smooth! Wotta maroon!

Movie

Patriots Day *

thumbnail

Having lionized American Navy SEALS in <em>Lone Survivor</em> and American working men in <em>Deepwater Horizon</em>, director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg turn the spotlight on American police officers, taking the Boston Marathon bombing and the massive manhunt that followed as their occasion. It’s a gutsy move, what with that case’s suppression of Miranda rights, its request for citizens to “shelter in place” while police combed the region for the Tsarnaev brothers, etc. But the film seems comfortable with all that, and also with removing the pesky question of motive from its prime movers: it’s enough that they’re bad guys who did a very bad thing and must be brought to justice. That approach might have worked in a super-sized police procedural (and it <em>is</em> super-sized, starting with the recreation of the crime scene inside an enormous warehouse), but Berg has something more in mind. Something that includes an out-of-nowhere speech from Wahlberg about fighting the devil with love, because “it’s the one weapon he can’t touch.” That also includes testimonials from the real-life participants about being “ambassadors for peace” instead of victims of violence. That takes care to cast a wide net over a broad range of characters in its attempt to capture the bombing’s enormous impact. Given all that, it’s a shame that such a key dramatic element slipped through. These days, even Bond villains get a backstory.

Find showtimes

It’s a bullshit moment engineered for audience response, much like the (much) later scene when a woman refuses a SWAT commander’s order to retreat from a firing position and he politely acquiesces because nobody messes with Boston Strong. Much like Wahlberg’s bum knee, which exists simply to put his wife in jeopardy when she heads down to the marathon’s finish line to bring him a different brace.

Movie

Julieta ***

thumbnail

Midway through director Pedro Almodóvar’s lovely treatment of guilt and its attendant sorrows, the titular character pays a visit to her parents in their new home on a small farm. Mom is failing in mind and body, and Julieta is quick to determine that Dad is getting more than help from the pretty live-in assistant. “Be a bit more generous and understanding with me,” he pleads, but Julieta can’t get over her resentment on Mom’s behalf — <em>even though she herself had a one night stand with a man whose wife was in a coma, and conceived her daughter in the process</em>. The ensuing estrangement proves karmic, and the moral of the story is clear: watch out for morals. They corrode the aforementioned generosity and understanding, leaving us lonely and bereft. (They may corrode other things as well: the only woman who actually advocates thwarting desire is also the only one who is not thoroughly gorgeous, and she’s miserable to boot.) It’s a seductive claim, especially given the director’s ravishing visuals and deep sympathy for the suffering souls in this amorality tale. You may have to narrow your vision a bit to accept it, but goodness gracious, what a view.

Find showtimes

Nearly the whole movie felt designed to elicit responses. I don’t know if that makes it exploitative, but it definitely makes it manipulative. Now and then, the manipulation was so effective that it overrode my critical faculties — say, when an officer stands guard over the covered body of a bombing victim in the hours before the crime scene can be cleared. But more often, it left me annoyed at Berg & Co. for their hammy treatment of a genuine catastrophe. And while the appearances by the real-life people involved in the story at the end of the film are compelling, they don’t really fit with what’s come before, which makes their inclusion feel like one more attempt to wring emotion from an audience that has already had its denouement.

Movie

One Piece Film: Gold **

thumbnail

You don’t have to be a fan of the enormously popular manga/anime series starring a band of super-powered pirates to understand this largely self-contained feature film about their encounter with a gold-obsessed potentate/entertainer and his floating nation/party-zone. But you may need to be a fan to enjoy it. Everything but everything is inflated to the point of bursting — conversation, character, bodies, buildings, and oh yes, the big, bold, blatant message about gold: the way it arouses, blesses, controls, corrupts, deforms, destroys, and generally infects everyone it touches. Except, surprisingly, the diminutive daredevil whose principal goal in life is to become King of the Pirates. Sure, pirates have booty in their job description, but he’s more interested in having fun with his buds, eating well and copiously, and triumphing over impossible adversity through sheer willpower (and magic). The whole thing feels like an excellent example of its type, even if its type is adolescent fever dream. Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto.

Find showtimes

All that may be part of why I was so pleased by Julieta, which did much more to earn its interior twinges. (Though I can’t really argue with Reader critic Duncan Shepherd’s assessment of director Pedro Almodóvar in his review for Volver: “He shows nary a trace of the erstwhile ‘bad boy,’ nothing now but a good, good boy, devoted to mothers in particular, reverential of females in general, the Spanish George Cukor.”) And why I was able to be generous with One Piece Film: Gold, which was positively gleeful about its emotional extremes.

But nothing, alas, could make me be kind to Ben Affleck’s gangster pic Live By Night. A real misfire, that one. It’s a pity, because while the story elements were hoary, at least it wasn’t a reboot or a sequel or a nostalgia grab or schlock horror or just plain awful. You know, like so much January fare. (See video below. Language alert!)

Video:

F**k You, It's January! (2017)

On a possibly related note, we were unable to review Monster Trucks, Sleepless, or The Bye Bye Man.

Scott, meanwhile, had some luck with this week’s entries at the Digital Gym: both the young mommy-soldier story Alias Maria and the ex-con drama Hunter Gatherer proved worth his while. Maybe cinema isn’t gone, Misters Scorsese and Scott. Maybe it’s just smaller and more scattered.

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