Sunday, May 10, 2015

Seen in April 

Duke of Burgundy, image via The New York Times

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One
The first third of this film has some of the worst dialogue and melodrama that you’ll ever see. Then at some point the story pivots to the action and big effects bits and it settles into its natural and entertaining rhythm. I still can’t figure any of it out and I find everyone’s motivations and the world which this tale is set a completely incoherent and confused jumble of possibilities but hey, J-law, right?

Horrible Bosses 2
If you liked the first one, this is for you. That’s not to say you need to see the first one to follow the second. I suppose they could’ve just named this Another Horrible Bosses Movie. Or More Horrible Bosses. Remember the Carry On movies? It’s like that. They weren’t sequels and no one cared. If you’ve never heard of this film before then I suggest you just continue on your uncontaminated way of life and remain pure and innocent.

Black Narcissus
A movie classic about a group of nuns who have set up a convent in remote, mountainous Nepal. It’s sort of up in the air if they’ve all planned to do good or if they were just running from a life they turned their backs on. It’s a little like “The Mission” for ladies. “There’s something about this place” is a refrain that excuses nutty and hysterical behaviour as the sisters slowly lose their resolve to the vistas and mountain air. I will say this, a couple of these Mothers of Mercy are sweet sweet honeys. There are several striking sequences that you will not forget for their beauty and tension. Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron stand out as does Sabu as a dandy of a bejewelled prince (or something) and let’s not forget Jean Simmons in “brown face” makeup as a rather intense local girl of unrivalled beauty. I thought this 1947 film would bore me to a deep sleep, but there was something brewing that keeps you watching.

Netflix’s new series based on the Marvel hero Matt Murdoch, the unnaturally gifted blind vigilante and lawyer of Hell’s Kitchen is less a Marvel Comic than “Frank Miller meets David Fincher”. The series has a certain cable-drama edgy maturity to it. There is much moodiness, extreme violence, blue language and just a little bit of sexuality that would make this rated M for Mature if it were a video game or R if it were a film. That’s sort of new. Despite all of the super-hero fantasy films and television, none of them are quite cut from the same cloth as Daredevil. There’s a reason for that. This is not really Stan Lee’s Daredevil. It’s much more Frank Miller’s vision of the Man Without Fear. Miller’s Daredevil was an unrepentant bastard, who had a rule to not kill assailants but somehow people died anyway. He lived in a crummy part of town, and was far more Ninja/Samurai than thug. The look of this series is grimy but not in the sort of sexy, wet pavement kind of way. It reminds me of Fincher’s Seven. New York, the un-Disney version, is soaked in water from dumpsters, and lit with green, phosphorous yellow and red neon. Interiors are poorly lit and even daytime street scenes are grey and cold. The heavy-on-strings score is atmospheric and omnipresent and I think might be the one thing that separates some scenes from shows like the Wire or Sopranos – it’s more melodramatic, which makes sense but sometimes the show walks a fine line between gritty reality and super-hero fantasy. So far they’ve been able to have their cake and eat it too. Yet, for me this is a lot more palatable than the bubblegum of televised series based on The Flash and Arrow. This is a departure for Marvel. There is still the trademark humour of recent Marvel productions but this is different than the operatic computer generated violent epics of the big budget movies. This is personal. Oh and it has a remarkable cast with stand outs like Vincent D'Onofrio (playing the Kingpin as he was meant to be played), Vondie Curtis-Hall as a grizzled journalist, Rosario Dawson as a streetwise nurse, and recently Scott Glenn appearing to do a great David Carradine impression as a ruthless mentor.
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