Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Film Week

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

NON-STOP (2014)
Liam Neeson plays a sky marshal on a transatlantic flight who starts receiving text messages from someone threatening to kill one person on board every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired into a numbered account. Once the messages start, the movie takes place in more or less real time, with Neeson's marshal getting more and more desperate about finding the person manipulating him, until the passengers begin to suspect that he's really hijacking the plane. Surprisingly tense thriller. It didn't look like much in the previews, and I only watched it because it premiered on HBO this weekend and the wife and I weren't doing anything else that night (except waiting for the fantastic Mel Brooks special that aired immediately afterward), but there are some passages that really work and a very intense sequence involving the plane's landing. When it works, it really works. Better than Taken 2, at any rate. ***

Didn't this movie have the weirdest marketing campaign? Not the shit show that some critics would have you believe, but not one of James Franco's or Seth Rogen's best pieces of work, and I love me some Franco and Rogen. Franco's actually quite good in this, playing off of his weird public persona as an insincere, insecure talk show host who goes to North Korea with his producer (Rogen, purposely underplaying it where Franco is purposely overplaying it) to interview Kim Jong-un. ("It's like Frosty Nixon!" Franco's character excitedly says.) Randall Park is quite good as a nuanced Kim, and he's where the movie hits a really good streak. It would be easy to make Kim a cartoon monster, but the movie plays with elements of his humanity to make the inhumane elements that much more inhumane. It never rises quite to the level of satire it wants to, but it's a funny little movie that, unfortunately, raised everyone's expectations because of the whole hacking/see it for patriotism/because censorship and terrorism thing. I saw it on Netflix. It was funny but not great. Not one of the better works these guys are capable of putting out. So, I'm just saying, you know, if maybe someone at Sony thought the movie was completely middling or outright bad and maybe saw the hacking as an opportunity to create a mystery around The Interview knowing that any dumbass will see a movie when it feels like their patriotism is at stake, and that gave them an excuse to bypass the theaters and go straight to digital without damaging their relationship with a couple of high profile actors whose movies tend to make money, maybe creating the illusion that North Korea was so incensed over a comedy that doesn't have the satirical bite it thinks it does would be one way to create a sense of duty in certain kinds of easily manipulated people to spend money and maybe pretend there was a victory over piracy. Like I said: weirdest marketing campaign. ***

I've wanted to see this movie for 25 years, and now that I have, I'm almost wistful that I'll never be able to experience it for the first time again. This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Harry Dean Stanton, in the greatest of his performances, walks out of the desert and reconnects with a family he has abandoned, including a young son. As he tries to remember how to participate in society, he soon decides to take his son and search for the wife he ran away from (Nastassja Kinski). There's not much more to it than that, but the movie--directed by Wim Wenders, written by Sam Shepard and shot beautifully by Robby Muller--is more interested in genuinely exploring the emotions here, the anguish and loss and loneliness of the situation, than in making something false and predictable. Roger Ebert said the film doesn't need any gimmicks because "it fascinated by the sadness of its own truth," which is as perfect a statement as I could imagine to describe this movie with. This is a beautiful movie. ****

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Wow, I haven't seen Paris, Texas since it first came out! Should see again...