The Master: Or: holy shit, is this really happening? I’ve been trained to expect Oscar-courting film-festival-beloved auteur events no earlier than mid-November, so I kind of can’t believe the Weinsteins are putting out Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, especially after its funding fell apart at least once over the course of the five years it took Anderson to follow up There Will Be Blood (itself five years removed from Punch-Drunk Love). Obviously, you want to see this movie; what you need to know is how. Anderson shot this thing in 65mm, and there are 70mm prints playing in all three of its NYC locations: the Village East, the Angelika, and the AMC at 68th Street. You may have noticed that two of those things are not like the other, and by “not like,” I mean “half the size of.” Actually, the Village East has one reasonably large screen, but the auditorium is weirdly structured (it’s mostly balcony), and they’re playing two 70mm prints which means that another, much smaller theater will be containing the film’s presumed majesty. The Angelika is even worse; they don’t have a single screen where I’d be eager to watch a movie in 70mm (or, really, at all, if there are other options). 68th Street also has the movie on multiple screens; apparently it has a 70mm print playing in its biggest non-IMAX auditorium at 12:45, 4:00, 7:15, and 10:30 (listed on Fandango as a “VIP room”)—and a digital version (which will probably be rolling out to more theaters over the coming weeks) for its other showtimes. That’s your best bet by far; I’ve had some sound issues at the theater, but if you want to see a 70mm movie on a screen where it actually matters that it’s in 70mm, the Loews Auditorium at 68th Street is close to ideal. If you want to hold out for actual idea in the form of the best theater in the city, the Ziegfeld is getting the movie next weekend. After that, the mix will only get more confusing as the limited number of 70mm prints results in plenty of digital substitutes.
Resident Evil: Retribution: To add to the Master confusion, if you walk up to the ticket counter and ask for a ticket to the new Paul Anderson movie, you might wind up seeing Resident Evil 5 instead (just kidding: if you walk up to the ticket counter and ask for a ticket to the new Paul Anderson movie, you will receive zero tickets and one blank stare). This is because, for the first time, the almost-identically named directors release movies on the same day, a perfect intersection of high and low culture that have the same name for some reason. I have seen every Resident Evil movie in the franchise’s 10-year history (except this one, because obviously it wasn’t screened for critics) and I could not pass a test on the events of any of them. Well, maybe if I was given a passing grade for a fragmented, impressionistic essay: Zombies. People get cut into cubes. Milla Jovovich, demurely naked. Then she runs down a wall, or maybe up. Clones, also demurely naked. A pile of Jovoviches. In the third one, a desert, and crows kill Ashanti. The crowd at 19th Street cheers, then gets into fights with each other. Ali Larter is there. Also Michelle Rodriguez. Not at the same time. Jovovich has two guns. Jovovich has two swords. Jovovich dodges things. Some rooms are all white and then some are grimy. Super zombies. More regular zombies. Umbrella corporation is bad.
At the same time, my imperfect memory of the previous Resident Evil movie (which usually ends with the promise of something cataclysmic in the next installment, only to more or less re-set to typical zombie-movie scale by the time said installment gets maid) does not really have an adverse effect on my enjoyment of whatever the newest Resident Evil movie happens to be at the time. They’re always positioned in the off-season, lacking the big-ticket goods for a summer (or, and oh man now I want this to happen, holiday!) release, but I can virtually guarantee that Resident Evil: Retribution will be more enjoyable than Battleship, Snow White and the Huntsman, Total Recall, The Bourne Legacy, or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Not exactly high praise, granted, but I saw all of those movies at press screenings, and Resident Evil gets another Screen Gems mostly-cold open (a handful of reviews turned up on Rotten Tomatoes before Friday). Then again, maybe this just makes the series more fiscally responsible; it’s almost certainly getting my 14 bucks this weekend.