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Latest Boston crime movie takes a few liberties with the local geography

Jon Voight at South Station

Aline Kaplan reports she liked Ray Donovan: The Movie, but chronicles all the ways it gets Boston geography wrong, like how Ray drives up from New York by way of the Zakim Bridge:

While this makes no sense geographically, I have to admit, that the Zakim Bridge with its colored lights is a lot more photogenic than anything along the Southeast Expressway.

Ed. note: There's always the Ho Chi Minh Gas Tank. But unless this is Ray's first ever drive up from New York, he might not wind up on the Expressway, either - he more likely would come up 84 and the turnpike; the drive on 95 through Connecticut and Rhode Island is just too awful for words, although you do get to see the Big Blue Bug in Providence. And, of course, where the Boston Globe used to be, back when Ray was its editor.

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with Bruce Willis (murder/mystery in the future where people have remote controlled robot avatars representing them in real life - good movie, lots of local shooting sites) did the same thing. At the beginning of the movie, the cops go to Worcester from Fort Point by way of the Zakim. Makes no sense but the bridge is impressive.

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My last year of college, I lived on Inman St. in Cambridge. They did filming there for the movie An Unmarried Woman. Of course we went to see it when it came out and were greatly amused that (a) they had Inman St. running one way the wrong way, and (b) Jill Clayburgh walked out of her Inman St. Cambridge apartment onto Beacon Hill. Such is movie geography.

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Yeah, The Social Network had a few of these. My favorite scene is where they go into the Winklevoss's 'final club' entrance, which they shot at the building where Aquitaine is on Trement St. in the South End (It's a quick scene, maybe 10 seconds of them walking down the sidewalk and into the door). But, IT'S NOT EVEN IN CAMBRIDGE? WHERE THERE NO GOOD BUILDING FRONTS IN CAMBRIDGE?

Anyways, movie magic!

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Two things I remember: Will on the Red Line in Dorchester, commuting between Southie and MIT; Robin Williams walking out of Bunker Hill Community College directly into the Public Garden.

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Murphy's Law to some very cool, location-accurate shots of the old South Boston Power Plant but then run around the corner and up to the roof of a multi-story building that clearly does not exist there.

If you like rubbernecking Hollywood film location shoots, the South End has been a fun place to live for the last 20 years. For just one anecdote, I came out my front door a few years ago to see a vintage 60s sedan with its doors removed for some interior shooting for American Hustle.

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All the "FBI Office" shots are done in the old Land Court room at the former Salem Registry of Deeds on Federal Street.

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Incorrect. The door they run out of at Murphy’s Law is the actual back door. Not the main entrance. And he chases the detective up to the top of 110k st. Boom, roasted

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But the stairs he goes up is the building on the easterly corner of L and East First, which though it is on L Street is known as 840 Summer. That internal stairwell is 840 Summer.

See 0:23 in - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YHJiDUOM8w

Gaffin - Don't you vet these anons and the disinformation they spread?

PS - "Casey A" is probably a struggling actor looking to be an extra thinking they will get noticed because 110 K is the location of Boston Casting. Keep trying guy, maybe if you turn your head just right we will see a glimpse of you in Free Guy 2. Then you are immortal.

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Driving over the Tobin on her way to Cambridge from California....

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Using interior shots of Grand Central Station as a stand-in for South Station was unforgivable.

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Good Will Hunting (I know he didn't direct, but Casey actually got the term Barney into the dialogue) - They actually drive over the Longfellow coming back from Cambridge, although Will would have not gone down the Ashmont line past the 3 deckers on Sydney Street nor over Geneva Avenue unless he had nothing else to do.

Gone Baby Gone - They say they are going to Chelsea. They drive over the Tobin and go to a back yard by the salt pile. You can tell by those Federal style houses in that area. Also, Ed Harris gets shot and actually goes across the street from Murphy's Law (Powerhouse Pub was such a better name) to the building on the easterly side of L and E. First. They do a scene set at Quincy quarries, they actually shot there.

The Town - The North End robbery chase makes perfect sense from an escape pattern and is shot as such.

Worst Boston scenes - Blown Away. Open Something About Mary level laughing by nearly everyone in the theatre when Jeff Bridges goes from Copley Square to the South End via Storrow Drive and apparently Belmont.

Also, Love Story was on the other night. There is a shot of them driving over the maze which used to be over City Square. What a nightmare of a streetscape.

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I recall reading a story in the Globe some years ago about a guy who went to a Bruins game with a buddy who for some reason ran onto the ice and was chased by the BPD. He escaped them and fled the building. When the writer got home to Southie he saw his friend sitting on the back stoop of the house where his family lived - it was the same house and stoop where Will is sitting when his buds pick him up in the movie.

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Let it be said, as someone who moved out of "Gawd's Country" just before they filmed in that part of South Boston, the area between D and Dorchester Street really did look that bad back then.

There was no set design needed.

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Back when Netflix had DVDs, I borrowed "The Town" and slo-mo'ed it so I could follow all the chase scenes on a map.

They reversed the one-way direction of Charter Street for the movie.

I work as a tour guide and actually was there when they filmed the Charter Street scene. I unloaded my group off the bus on Commercial Street and we walked up Foster Street to get to the Old North Church. Our walking route followed Foster, Charter, and Salem streets. While the group was in the church, I stayed out front on Salem Street. Suddenly I heard a loud noise coming from Charter Street, where we had just walked. They were doing a take for the movie and the "getaway car" was going at high speed on the street where we had been just a couplre of minutes earlier!

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Just the one block between Salem and Henchman (at least I used to when I lived there). If you don't, it's a looong drive to Commercial Street when you're looking for parking.

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How do you get from Newport to Roxbury?

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Besides my tour guide work, I'm active in a local club that's involved with Boston transit history (Boston Street Railway Association). Several years ago we got an email inquiry asking about a scene in "Field of Dreams" that shows a trackless trolley, presumably in Cambridge. The characters in the movie leave Fenway Park, then drive to another Boston-area location where a trackless trolley goes by their van. After some research, I determined that the trackless trolley scene was filmed in Dubuque, Iowa. That's a long drive from Boston to do in just one night!

And no, Dubuque never had trackless trolleys. It was another fabrication for the film.

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was the TV series Spenser for Hire which defied geography on a weekly basis, as I recall. One of my movie favorites is Robert Mitchum being driven to Quincy via the SumnerTunnel in The Friends of Eddy Coyle

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Nah.. the worst was Fringe.

Sure you could argue it was a different 'universe' but still.. geography would remain the same. They'd pop down to NYC or CT or over to BU like it was across the street.

Even what they showed of "harvard square"... wasn't even IN Cambridge. And in fact, in the 1985 sequences, the entire square would have been dug up for the subway construction (or wrapping up)

(Yes I know, it wasn't shot here but still...)

--

And if we're calling out stuff.. Cheers wasn't much better. I remember the first time I saw the outside of the Cheers bar. I was thinking Beacon Street was this wide street. I mean it is, but the TV show made it so much wider.

And we wont talk about the entire episode where Carla becomes a homeowner.. of a house at the end of a runway at Logan. Which logically would be at the end of 15R , which was the Neptune Road area. The last house to be moved outta there was in 1978 (GBH posted a video of this recently). This EP of cheers wasn't until '84-85.

I also feel like Diane was too old to go to BU. but that's another argument for another day.

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Yes took me too long to find Fringe in these comments. Set in Boston but filmed in Toronto I believe. One time they drove from Harvard to South Station in like two traffic lights, never crossing water at any point. Then when they get to South Station it looked like it was some tiny post office or something. Great show though, just took me out of the fantasy every now and again with these things.

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Yeah, it's actually 4 traffic lights from Harvard to South Station (Mem Drive, Soldiers Field Road, Leverett Circle, and Dewey Square).

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And we wont talk about the entire episode where Carla becomes a homeowner.. of a house at the end of a runway at Logan. Which logically would be at the end of 15R , which was the Neptune Road area. The last house to be moved outta there was in 1978 (GBH posted a video of this recently). This EP of cheers wasn't until '84-85.

Carla could well have lived on Bayswater Road in Eastie, just across from the ends of runways 4L and 4R. I had always assumed that's where it was because my father would sometimes take me there as a kid to watch planes land or take off.

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This - or 9/27 in Winthrop.

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In Cheers, a verbal but unseen distortion was in the cold open to one episode, when a friend of Sam's from the Symphony walks in for a quick beer.
A fun gag that requires checking cartographic sensibility at the door.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CABhYi-yAF4

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Conversely, the Spenser books (the early ones, at least) were very location-accurate. Real places, mostly real things in those places, real routes & paths between those places.

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i think there is a still from equilizer 2 where they labeled union park south end as washington, d.c.

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Don't get me started on the terrible Boondock Saints - nothing goes south quicker than Boston-set films shot in Toronto. First shot is an interior of what seems to be a Catholic church in which our heroes are praying. As they leave, the exterior shot appears to be that of First Baptist Church at the corner of Commonwealth and Clarendon. Yeesh.

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They do this to other cities as well. At the beginning of "When Harry Met Sally", Harry and Sally are supposed to be going from The University of Chicago to New York, and are seen driving the wrong way, because Chicago's skyline is much more scenic than that of Gary, Indiana.

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She talks about "the I-93" in an otherwise forgettable movie with Tom Cruise - in which he plays a guy too cheap to buy an actual Sox cap so he wears one of those generic "B" caps tourists can buy downtown.

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There were problems with geography in Ted too. John worked at a rental car dealership that is located by the Pike (Tremont and Marginal Rd). And he lived in a South End apartment/condo with Lori at Chandler and St Charles.

One day he freaks out because he's gotten high with Ted at their home and wants Ted to drive him to work so he doesn't drive high...but it's like a 5 block walk! Never mind that when Ted drives him, they (like Ray Donovan) end up having to cross over the Zakim somehow to get to the rental company 5 blocks away.

Later on in the movie, during the car chase, they leave Pine St in Chelsea and end up at Fenway. But not before going into the Big Dig (instead of just going through the Leverett to Storrow?)...but not like 93S off the Zakim...but the Ted Williams Tunnel under Fort Point Channel...and then somehow pop up at Dewey Square!

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Ted was another fav, especially since I live in Chelsea (during both filmings!).

My biggest thing was how clean Chelsea was. (Sorry folks, the street trash here in Chelsea is a pet peeve of mine.. throw yo trash away properly people!)

Usually near Ted's house is a whirlwind of trash since its gets nice gusts of wind from the off ramp from the tobin and everything just blows in that direction.

And Bellingham Square.. in the preview shows Ted and John walking away from the square along Hawthorn alone with the trees breezing. However in the background there's no trash, no street peeps sitting on the bus stop benches. No loud music. No buses. No cars. Just 1 or 2 stray people.

If I didnt know the location, I'd swear it was in downtown Winchester or some sleepy burb not some urban cityscape like it is in real life. Its like where is this alternative Chelsea and how can we bring it here?

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I made the mistake of watching part of one episode of Rizzoli and Isles. Turned it off in disgust when a character said they had to rush over to the South Side - sheesh!

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"Fuzz" with Burt Reynolds. I admit it's been a while since I've seen it but I have a memory of a foot chase through Haymarket ending up coming out of a long-closed subway entrance near the Prudential.

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Some samples.

Yes, a completely ludicrous movie (a key plot point involves "the mayor's mansion" and no, it's not in Roslindale), which, in a way, makes it kind of great.

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Im drawing a blank on the name but its about some girl who's going home to maine.. but she's driving across the tobin bridge in the wrong direction.

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If it's surprising to you that filmmakers took liberties with Boston geography, it'll blow your mind when you hear where they filmed Star Wars.

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You're nitpicking our nitpicking?

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That wasn't even the real Mos Eisley cantina, they filmed in Toshi Station to save money.

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They leave the cantina and turn left when everyone knows the spaceport is to the right.

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To be fair, it would have been hard for them to do otherwise, the B'rrrrn Consolidation's film tax incentives are very generous.

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That wasn't Toshi Station, that was JJ Foley's, back before the Herald moved out. Geez, get your wretched hives of scum and villainy straight, willya?

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Uncle drives from Quincy to Manchester by way of Swampscott?

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