There is one profoundly profound bit of dialog in Noah, the new “Biblical” (I put that in quotes because, well, there have been some complaints about just how Biblical it really is, so, you know, don’t want to make the Big Guy upstairs angry cause, let’s face it, after seeing this movie, one thing is clear, when he gets mad, he gets pissed, know what I mean?…anyway), the new “Biblical” epic from writers Ari Handel and Darren Aronofsky, the latter of whom also directed.
At one point, Noah seems to really lose it and starts planning some rather terrifying and somewhat shocking actions that most people would suggest are not of the most Godly kind, to say the least. His middle son, Ham, states that he thought God chose Noah because Noah was good. Noah’s response is, no, God chose him because he could get the job done. Read the rest of this entry »
In a Russian village recently taken over by the Germans during World War II, six men are marched out to be hung for being part of the underground. One is pardoned. Assuming that the pardoned one must have been an informer, two Russian soldiers are sent to kill him. The one pardoned denies having done anything wrong, but can’t explain why he was released. It doesn’t matter. It’s gotten to the point where he’s not sure whether he wants to live or die as it is.
In the Fog is a story about a group of people trapped in a nightmarish situation that cannot have a satisfactory ending for anyone involved. Reminiscent in certain ways of Army of Shadows (Jean Pierre-Melville’s powerful story of French resistance fighters), all the characters are forced to make up their own morality as they go along because there are no standards to cover their situation. As a result the three men find themselves in both a literal and metaphorical miasma that is referenced by the title. It’s a harsh, unflinching and deeply moving story about a situation that most of us will never find ourselves in.
Written and directed by Sergei Loznitsa, with Vladislav Abashin, Vladimir Svirskiy and Sergie Kolesov as the three men.
I would truly love someone to explain this to me: Pacific Rim, which is filled with one-dimensional characters, bland actors, even blander acting, and even blander dialog, with a slip-shod script, a movie that has almost nothing to redeem it except some neat CGI (as if the producer/director/writer thought that’s all a movie is, instead of that being the least a movie should be), gets a 65% with top critics on rottentomatoes.com (72% all critics), while Red 2, a thrill ride of a movie with brilliant actors playing fun and vibrant characters, spouting witty dialog worthy of, well I won’t go Oscar Wilde, but I will go Noel Coward, in a clever plot and a story not dependent on special effects, only gets a 28% from top critics and a 39% from all critics? Maybe contemporary wisdom is wrong. Maybe it’s not the studios that are the problem here if critics can’t even tell the difference between a good blockbuster and a bad one.
Red 2 is a sequel to Red (okay, not much originality there, but still). As in the earlier one, a bunch of over the hill secret agents get caught up in some totally ridiculous set of circumstances whose purpose is not so much to make sense, but to give the audience a great time watching over the hill actors get to do things over the hill actors are almost never allowed to do (unless you’re Sean Connery). I won’t try to explain the plot except to say it’s as dexterous as a roller coaster at Six Flags and involves some sort of apocalyptic macguffin mumbo jumbo and a bomb planted in the Kremlin.
Many of the usual suspects are here. Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker are still working out their Nick and Nora Charles relationship while John Malkovich plays the part of the guy who is summed up with the old chestnut, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” (and having the time of his life doing so). Also back on board is Helen Mirren, channeling Julie Newmar by purring her way through her part as a hired assassin, whether she’s dumping acid on a dead body or shooting Russian soldiers while lying on a picnic blanket with her stocking foot curled up as if she’s having an orgasm. They are joined by newcomers of various generations, including Anthony Hopkins as a mad doctor; Catherine Zeta-Jones as Kryptonite (she plays a woman in lust with Bruce Willis and all involved carry this off without one reference to Michael Douglas, which may actually be the real miracle here); Byung-hun Lee (the great star of Korean films like I Saw the Devil and The Good, The Bad and The Weird) as a Bruce Lee type martial arts expert who owns his own plane; David Thewlis who traffics in stolen information, but has an Achille’s punt (that pun’s a bit obscure, but I’ll go with it anyway); Brian Cox as a Russian agent who has a foot fetish (but it’s Mirren’s foot, so who can blame him); and Neal McDonough as a fascist with the smile of a Neo-Nazi.
Directed by Dean (Galaxy Quest, which may explain a lot) Parisot and written by Jon and Erich Hoeber (who wrote Battleship, which doesn’t, though the source material, a graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, may).
The Conjuring is one of those horror movies like The Innocents and The Haunting about creepy crawly doings at a house in a remote location. A family made up of mother, father and five, count ‘em, five, girls move into a fixer-upper whereupon slowly, but surely, ominous things start happening, the sort of things that get so bad, the family feels compelled to call in demonologist experts Ed and Lorraine Warren (most famous for their investigation of the Amytiville Horror—oh, did I forget to mention that The Conjuring is based on a true story—well, that’s their story and their sticking to it).
The movie starts out rather well with some nice fun and wittily eerie scenes (one involving a hide and seek game that employs clapping). The house itself is a marvel of design and becomes a character in its own right (with gigantic basements and crawlspaces). And the family is headed by Lily Taylor and Ron Livingston, who give first rate performances (why, oh, why isn’t Lily Taylor given more to do in films).
Things get a bit harder to take seriously when Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the demonologists enter the scene. They have a totally different acting style than the others (they underplay to a fault, apparently to emphasize how every day the supernatural is to Ed and Lorraine—they have lines like demons can stick to you like gum on a shoe). They’re a bit stiff to the point that a few generations before this, they’d make perfect models for American Gothic. What also doesn’t help is that the movie takes place in the 1970’s and just one look at Wilson in his sideburns and polyester suit and Farmiga in her granny dress, and it’s hard not to let out an unintentional giggle or two (it was the ‘70’s; what did we know about fashion).
The movie has a nice build in the beginning (it doesn’t rush things as too many scare fests do); has its fair amount of frights; and there’s enough mood left over to feed an orphanage. But by the end of the movie, director James Wan and writers Chad and Carey Hayes go for broke and basically throw everything at the story except the kitchen sink (which kind of makes sense since, in the movie, the various demons throw everything at the characters except the kitchen sink). At this point, the movie becomes a fairly routine and pedestrian ghost story.
Perhaps what is most disturbing, though, is the idea that the witches killed at Salem (you remember them from history class, right) weren’t just poor beggar women or people who made enemies of the wrong people or an injustice grown out of sexual hysteria—no, according to the movie, the Salem witches were really, well, witches. Huh. Who’d a thought it?
Hitchcock the movie is something one might describe as having an identity crisis (which might be appropriate considering the subject matter). It’s a few parts mid-life crisis; a few parts artist at a cross roads; a few parts sexual obsession; a few parts middle aged love story; a few parts homage. In the end I’m not sure whether it holds together or whether everyone is so brilliant at their jobs, that they cover up the fact that it doesn’t really hold together. I strongly suspect the latter, but I didn’t really care. I was too thoroughly entertained to really worry about it. Whatever else it is, Hitchcock is a ton of fun and I’m not talking about Sir Alfred himself.
The basic storyline revolves around the great (in size and stature) director desperate to do something fresh and challenging after the success of the very commercial and lightweight North by Northwest. So, naturally, when his eyes land on a novel that everyone thinks is pure trash, what can he do but read it. And it has all the elements he is looking for: serial murders, grave robbing, incest, Oedipus complex, transvestitism, and most important of all…the chance to be the first director to show a toilet in an American film. And thus Psycho was born.
The title role is played by Anthony Hopkins. Except for the girth, he really doesn’t particularly look like the man himself. This was apparently a conscious decision. When he was put in the makeup, the less like Hitchcock he seemed (that’s one of the odd things about art—the more realistic it is, the less realistic it is). But when Hopkins opens his mouth and that stentorian voice carefully enunciates his lines in lugubrious wave after lugubrious wave, all you can see is Hitch.
Hopkins is supported by Queen Elizabeth II as Alma Reville (or Helen Mirren as she is more commonly known). The rest of the case is basically name that impersonation with the more memorable being James D’Arcy as a slightly more than effeminate Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson as a perky, hey, look at me, I’m Janet Leigh. Perhaps most surprising is Jessical Biel doing a very credible job as Vera Miles. Meanwhile, Toni Collette wears glasses and Kurtwood Smith reprises his role from That 70’s Show by playing the head of the ratings board.
The extremely witty script is by John J. McLaughlin. The extremely witty direction is by Sacha Gervasi (a bit far from Anvil: The Story of Anvil, perhaps—or perhaps not).