Friday, March 02, 2012

Seen in February 

Gina Carano in Haywire, image via the A.V. Club

This month was all about the ladies. The crazy, crazy ladies. Beyoncé may have sang, "if you liked it you should've put a ring on it", but for some of these gals, "someone liked it and wanted to put a bullet in it." But any film about a crazy lady is also a little bit about the men that done 'em wrong. Both sides are represented. You decide who won.

There are two kinds of period costume dramas; the kind with lousy teeth and the kind with perfect teeth. This is the dirty teeth kind. Set in Elizabethan England it tells the fictionalized account of the life and political machinations of the "true" author of Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and poetry – the Earl of Oxford, or something. There was something rushed yet dull about it.

The Three Musketeers
There are two kinds of period costume dramas; the kind with lousy teeth and the kind with perfect teeth. This is the perfect teeth kind. Hollywood has a lot of fun making swashbuckling period pieces with a sort of anachronistic fantasy, "steam punk" version of history. War ship dirigibles in 17th century France? Why isn't this more fun? I don't know. It should have been. Maybe the young dashing male lead was too pretty. Maybe there should've been some bodice ripping? I watched it trapped on an aircraft – you shouldn't suffer the same fate.

Margin Call
Another insider dramatization of the day the music stopped on Wall Street on the dawn of the financial crisis of 2008. It's well acted with the likes of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, and Jeremy Irons but lacks some of the tension of other films. Despite that, it feels more personal some how. The quietness of the script and lack of speechy dialogue reflects the shock of what the analysts were seeing and the resignation of the firm's soldiers in what they are tasked with doing. You feel their exhaustion and disgust that the executives have chosen their scapegoats and thus their own security. Capitalism is broke and we're watching it crash, like when you knock a glass off the counter, you watch it fall but are helpless to do anything about it.

Ninth Gate
I thought this was going to be a travelogue about how many gate changes a business traveller makes before finding his flight and meaning in his life. Unfortunately Johnny Depp plays a extremely rare and cool rare book collector who has been hired to authenticate a 16th century book reportedly co-authored by Lucifer. Ugh. Pass. I have no idea what made me watch this? Satanic influence at work no doubt. After watching this wreck by Roman Polanski, I fully endorse his extradition to the United States to serve his conviction for sexual assault on a minor.

Latter day Woody Allen film with Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansen set in London. Johansen is Sandra Pransky, an American in London who, while taking part in a magician's act (played by Allen), is visited by the spirit of a dead journalist and tells her about a huge scoop. Not much to recommend here except for the surprising mildly humorous chemistry between Allen and Johansen. It did make me wonder why Johansen hasn't made one of those silly rom-coms that Rachel Macadams and Kate Hudson always seem to be in? Or maybe she has and no one noticed?

Steven Soderbergh's "action" thriller is a straight-up special-ops type thriller. An agent has been betrayed by her bosses and then aims to set the matter right, by left-hook or by crook. The difference is the lead is the striking (in more ways than one) real-life MMA professional fighter Gina Carano. Her art is fighting not acting. Yet her beauty and athleticism hold our attention. Despite the roster of actors, like Michael Fassbender, Ewan MacGregor and Michael Douglas, surrounding Carano, I suspect most people would be disappointed by this film. It's a bit of a throwback for letting us see the action instead of the frenetic editing style of the Bourne series and as creative as the fight scenes are the film just lacked… I don't know, that mysterious element we might call "juice"?

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method
After seeing Michael Fassbender choked to submission betwix the thighs of the alluring Gina Carano in Haywire I then saw him deliver a serious thrashing to the behind of one Kiera Knightly. Fassbender plays Carl Jung, a once devote follower of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), whose desire to further his own ideas of psychoanalysis causes a break between himself and his mentor. Jung does successfully treat a troubled patient, Knightly, using Freud's methodology but once well, he beds her. I think the critics liked Knightly's performance but were cool to this movie but I enjoyed it. I think if you read the script you'd think I was crazy but watching Jung and Freud intellectually joust (joust you say? With penile poles perhaps?) was surprisingly engaging especially as the concerns and controversies they discuss are still being argued 100 years later. Freud essentially created psychological therapy and Jung's dream analysis influenced not only an entire area of study psychology but an art movement to boot. The ideas of these two men were in some ways the beginning of the modern and perhaps, secular age.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
John Krasinski's ("Jim" of the American version of The Office) adaptation of the David Foster Wallace's book of the same title. The film interweaves interviews of men talking about their thoughts, ideals and desires of women and the personal experiences of Sara, a beautiful grad student researching the impact of Feminism on men — she is the one conducting the interviews. Men, it is well established, are pigs but that doesn't mean they don't have feelings. This is a very appropriate film to follow A Dangerous Method. You'd have to watch them to know what I mean. It feels a little staging but Krasinski tries his best through editing and jump cuts to keep things moving along. Many "types" of men are on display here; the Lothario, the creep, the masochist, the loner, the adoring husband but for me there is one man, who sums it all up by discussing his disgust, his love and his respect for his father. That scene pretty much did me in. Dr. Freud, are you in?

Hard Candy
Ellen Page's break out role as a mature 14-year-old who entices a 32-year-old photographer who she believes to be a pedophile. Let taut psychological thriller begin. Is he? Does that make what she does right? It's hard to believe anyone, let alone a 14-year-old, would have the wherewithal to carry out such a plan but maybe in the back of your mind that's the very thing that frightens us about teenagers. They have intelligence, ingenuity and physicality of adults but like criminals, lack the power of reason. It reminded me of Oleanna with torture. Or one of the Saw films? You can't stand to watch but you can't stop.

Sherlock Series 2
The BBC modern update of the classic detective with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as his blogging sidekick Dr. Watson. Doesn't disappoint and highlights both the glamour and grit of London. I love this series even if it borrows much from the CSI series of shows and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock movies.

24/7 Flyers Rangers
HBO's finely crafted and carefully considered 4-part documentary series that follows two NHL teams and their convergent paths toward the outdoor classic New Years Day game. This series has all the melodrama, wit and insight that other sports such as baseball and football have received for years. But 4 episodes is about right as the formula for the series shows fewer and fewer surprises and the athletes themselves are much more self-aware in front of the camera than you'd like and definitely don't want to appear unguarded — they've got their armor on much to the detriment of the project.

A simple boy meets girl story or really girl masochist meets boy sadist. There might be something flippant about treating this subject so lightly but when seen after A Dangerous Method, there is some insight into the condition whereby someone receives pleasure, relief, or release from pain. I'm not sure Secretary is true to the actual behaviour of S&M enthusiasts but it's more about two people with "deviant" or unusual sexual proclivities finding each other and realizing the only normal you need to be is your normal. Except for Coprophilia - that sh*t is messed up.

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