Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

GUMDROP (2012)
Interesting, cute short film about a robot actress in a casting session. Nice special effects. ***

Tom Cruise runs, jumps, and screams after a MacGuffin, but with more wit and flair than usual, thanks to a screenplay and director that take the time to plug actual people into one of these fun-but-dopey action flicks. Easily the best of the Mission: Impossible movies, balancing out the hard action, fast editing, stunts, and scenes of Tom Cruise endlessly proving how young and cool he's desperate for everyone to keep thinking he is with some nice character moments and some real humor. Director Brad Bird doesn't quite make a tongue-in-cheek flick, but he does approach it knowing that there's humor to be found in how preposterous the whole thing is. For my money, Jeremy Renner steals the show, and Vladimir Mashkov is wonderfully droll as a Russian intelligence officer. Could've used at least 80% more Ving Rhames, but adding Simon Pegg in a larger role was an excellent choice. Let's have them both the next time. Hell, leave Tommy at home and let's just have a Pegg-Rhames-led flick, honestly. ***1/2

Beautiful-looking drama about a woman torn between the unstable lover who fills her with passion and the husband who offers her stability and love but not warmth or desire. Ultimately I found it too remote to really get wrapped up in, but Rachel Weisz is excellent in the lead. ***

I loved this flick. Coming on like the bastard son of John Waters and Russ Meyer, this is a hilarious, nervy, intense, sleazy, wonderfully over-the-top movie. Matthew McConaughey, in possibly his best performance since Lone Star (remember how he was an actor once?), stars in the title role as a police detective/contract killer hired out by a desperate family who has discovered that mom has a $50,000 life insurance policy and wants the money as soon as possible. It's a sinister, masterful film, one that delights in manipulation and begins a simmer almost immediately, coming to a boil with savagery and depravity and... well, I'll never look at fried chicken the same way again. The kind of film I rarely see, and which rarely works when I do, but this was just amazing. ****

KAUWBOY (2012)
Here. ****

Delightful Ghibli film based on Mary Norton's Borrowers books, which I have never read. Beautifully animated, and I really liked that the story was about a brave young girl without having to hit us over the head with lessons about feminism, as I get really tired of in American films. Show, don't preach, it's far more effective. I also like the way the film uses quiet and stillness to its advantage. That's something else I tire of in American animation: it's unrelenting loudness. Just a fantastic, beautiful film. ****

This reminded me a lot of a fantasy movie from the 80s, and I'll always like that feeling. Not really a great film, but it has some wonderful visuals and made me interested in finally reading the Earthsea books. (I read A Wizard of Earthsea in high school, and I'd really like to read it again and continue in the series.) Nice score. ***1/2

Here. ****

AMOUR (2012)
Unsentimental, yet heartbreaking. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva star as an elderly couple enjoying their retirement. One day, Riva's health begins to fail, and what follows is a calm yet harrowing examination not of the decline of our bodies and the inevitability of death, but the revelations of the true nature of loving someone for their entire lives. There will come a time either when you have to watch the person you love most in the world deteriorate before your very eyes, or when you will be the one who deteriorates and has to see the heartbreak in the eyes of the one who cares most deeply. What writer-director Michael Haneke is saying with this film, I think, is that the character of our love is not in happily ever afters or kissing in the rain, but in the real intimacy of trying to make your significant other comfortable as their days tick to an end. Haneke observes in a way that is confrontational, but not aggressive. It's a sincere, uncomfortable, excellent film. It's bracing and, as I said, unsentimental. But it's not cruel; it's vital. ****

WEEKEND (2011)
Interesting, surprisingly uplifting movie about two men who meet, make love, get to know each other, and go their separate ways over the course of a weekend. It's really a sort of series of conversations, but it's interesting how, knowing there's a deadline on their time together, they become so willing to reveal themselves. It's not forced; it's friendly and organic and the dialogue is very natural. My favorite thing to watch in movies is people making a connection of some kind, understanding another person, and this film was a lovely example of how difficult making a connection outside of what we're used to can be. One of the men, Russell, is guarded, slow to trust, and not very open about his sexuality. The man he meets in a bar, Glen, an artist, is much more open and easygoing, and goes straight to uncomfortable personal questions. Glen doesn't do boyfriends. Russell doesn't like to talk about sex in such a straightforward manner. The two of them manage to draw each other out and change each other. It's beautiful to watch. ****

Eh. *


Devilham said...

Cowboys & Aliens was such a dissapointment. For some reason (and really, looking back, it was dumb of me) I thought it was going to be awesome, and it just was, as you said, Eh.

Oh well.

Autumn said...

I have to disagree with Arietty, I found it, bland and lacking in comparison to what I expect from a Studio Ghibli film. It doesn't help that the Borrowers series is one of my favorites from childhood and it's no closer to the book than the live action version is. But I didn't feel anything when I watched it. Disappointment, maybe, but that doesn't count.

Also Cowboys and Aliens. I wanted that to be awesome and it just....didn't make any sense. And things had to line up too perfectly for everything to work.

The Hobbit rocked me, I will not lie. I saw it in 2d (3d gives me brain hurt) and while I was confused about how they were going to stretch it into 3 movies, I see they added a lot. My husband says some of it is info from the Silmarillion and other things Tolkien has mentioned and some of it was just new. I thought it was great. Rivendell council scene? I loved it, especially catching Christopher Lee's expressions when they are talking about Sauron. And seeing Elrond so carefree and smiling. Riddles in the dark was perfect, I always love a chance to see Gollum argue with himself and it was extremely well played without being ridiculous. The only scene I didn't like was when the group was running away from the goblins. It was too perfect, it felt like a video game you've played a hundred times so you know where all the secret scenes are and are trying to beat your top score. And the Goblin King's death too, it was a bit too silly. But I loved everything else. And they could throw a cameo of just about anyone into those movies and I would cheer. I can't wait for the next one. That's my gripe, now I have to wait again...

SamuraiFrog said...

Devilham: Cowboys & Aliens had so much going for it, too, but it's like they had no idea how to make it work. Good ingredients in the wrong amounts and finished off blandly.

Autumn: I found Arrietty moving, but I've never read the books. I'd never even heard of them until that Jim Broadbent movie came out in the 90s.

That's my major gripe, too. Another year... Well, something to look forward to next Christmas.