28 February 2011

Drive Angry 3D

Drive Angry

Okay, I’ve got 15 minutes until Chuck starts. Let’s see if I can pinch this out in time to watch more dumb.

Nicholas Cage is a desperate, erratic man. He’s made a ton of movies, some of which are good, and lots are really bad. I haven’t actually seen many of the latter category, fortunately. Unfortunately, however, although this film appeared to be one of those movies that would transcend badness into insanity and therefore some kind of quality, it was largely Nic’s restrained performance that kept the movie from becoming actually entertaining.

It’s not all bad; Amber Heard is really hot, and William Fichtner once again proves that character actors are totally badass, completely upstaging Cage in pretty much every scene they shared. I’m not a very big car nut but I guess the whole classic muscle-car thing was pretty cool. There was a small bit where satanic cultists were put in their pathetic place which I enjoyed, and the action tended to be okay.

All that aside, it was a dumb movie that appeared to know it in most of the scenes, but unlike Piranha 3D, made several futile efforts to be serious. This was most evident in Cage’s performance. His lines were delivered in his most boring voice, often quite badly. Not once did the fantastically insane Cage of Bad Lieutenant ever surface; it was always a sad sort of “I’m totally more badass than everybody here” kind of demeanor, which is just lame. I don’t give a crap that he escaped hell to avenge his brutally murdered daughter’s death, he’s goddamned Nic Cage. To make matters worse, the 3D in the title means that everything looked like crap, because live-action 3D almost never works, and the CGI bits didn’t mesh well at all.

It’s a bad movie. William Fichtner was really the only quality in the whole thing, but he wasn’t enough. It’s just bad.

21 February 2011

Let the Right One In


So this will be my third post on this story. I’ve been doing very little reading for the last several years, but I loved the movies that were made from this work so much that I felt it necessary to find out if they really stacked up to the source. It turns out that both movies were pretty faithful, the first more than the second, but both left out quite a bit of story, most likely because a film that did everything in the book would probably be shunned by most civilized audiences.

The most glaring omission from both movies is the truth of the relationship between Eli and Håkan, who is often referred to as her “father” by people who can’t see the subtext. When I saw the first film I assumed he was a long-time protector/familiar of sorts with a romantic connection to Eli. Let Me In sort of confirmed this assumption, but made it seem a bit more innocent somehow. It turns out that Håkan is a straight-up pedophile and was only recruited by Eli a short time ago, after he had been outed as the pervert he was. There are many portions of the book written from his perspective; he sees Eli as some sort of god/goddess, but also as a sex object that remains slightly out of reach, much like the young boys who hold his fancy. His violent ventures are efforts to endear himself to her and gain sexual favors. Some of his mental narration is pretty disgusting really. Also, the movies both remove his character entirely after his “death,” whereas in the book he continues to have a part, although not in the same way; again, pretty gruesome.

The second biggest difference was handled much better in the original film, but still not as explicitly as in the source. Eli is not a girl. She says this in both films as I recall, but it’s easy to assume she just means that she’s a vampire; there are a couple of frames in the first movie that expand on the line, but it’s easy to miss and also ignore. In the book, Oskar eventually starts referring to Eli as “he,” but I think I remember he doesn’t always stick to that pronoun, as it’s hard to make the distinction when faced with his/her outward appearance. The theme of homosexuality is much more pronounced, but it never becomes the major theme; that remains friendship.

There are a few other characters who are given more of a focus, like Oskar’s friend Tommy who was dropped entirely for the theatrical versions as I recall; it was a bit hard for me to care about him given this fact, but his storyline definitely got more interesting near the end. Lacke and Virginia, the star-crossed lovers from the bar, are both given larger roles, but following the same general story arc from the first movie. The policeman Staffan seems to be who the cop from the second is based on, although there isn’t really a whole lot of correlation between the two. Oskar’s bullies are humanized a bit more.

Eli his/herself seems much more like an adult than portrayed in the movies, although he/she claims that she still feels like a twelve-year old even though she’s over 200. It may be a fault of the translation from Swedish, which was evident in the American movie, but the dialogue between children never really felt quite natural; it might be intentional I suppose. This is not a natural relationship.

As expected, it’s a really good book. I think I may have enjoyed watching the first movie more than reading this, but I can only attribute that to the love the filmmakers had for it.

20 February 2011



Back in 2008, a movie starring Liam Neeson called Taken was released, and everybody kept comparing it to The Bourne Identity. It did follow some of the formula, the whole moving around foreign countries and lots of hand-to-hand combat with the occasional car-chase scene. It was a pretty good movie though, and really the same comparisons could be made to a lot of other action movies. It seems somebody got the wrong idea out of Taken’s success though, and figured they’d milk the Bourne formula with Neeson for all it’s worth.

At first glance, and for about the first half of the movie, Unknown seems more like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Instead of having amnesia, Liam appears to have been completely replaced by another man, taking his wife, his job, and even his scheduled speech at a bio-technology summit. He of course has no ID to confirm he is who he says he is, as it was conveniently lost. He almost gives in to the thought that he might be insane, but his memories are so vivid that he just can’t accept it. His suspicions are confirmed after a shady guy starts tailing and trying to kill him. After a bunch of chases, death and almost-romance, we finally get to the reveal. I am going to spoil this so if you’re actually planning on going to see the movie you should skip the next paragraph.

Turns out he’s an assassin. This is revealed to him with almost the exact same dialogue as in Bourne Identity. The guy who’s taken his life was his backup, and his wife is actually his partner in the whole plot, so she’s in on it. He soon starts remembering who he actually is, but seemingly doesn’t become the same man again, instead deciding to take down the very mission he had been heading up until his accident. There isn’t really much reason given for this turn of conscience, whereas in Bourne it was rather plainly and emotionally explained. It just made me angry really.

Aside from all the second-rate mimicry, it’s just not that great of a movie. January Jones is of course gorgeous, but her acting here is pretty robotic, not giving me much hope for X-Men: First Class. Neeson himself is just himself, his deep and manly voice just not conveying the emotion I would be expecting in his situation. Diane Kruger is okay as a facsimile of Franka Potente’s character from Bourne Identity, but much like Mila Kunis in The Book of Eli, she latches onto Liam’s character rather quickly and strongly without any really convincing reason. There were lots of Hollywood-style car explosions that wouldn’t actually happen, a little bit of shoddy CGI, and lots of those up-close shaky-cam fight scenes that have been plaguing action movies for a number of years now.

Most of the reviews I’ve read for this so far have been more forgiving than I am. Even as I was walking from the theater discussing it with my friend, I said it was “an okay movie.” As I’m writing this though I can’t help but think of it as a failure.

13 February 2011

Winter’s Bone


I’m not sure this one ever really got a wide release, and I didn’t know about it when it was making the rounds anyway, so I just now managed to get it through Netflix. Aside from The Kids are Alright it’s the only Academy Award for Best Picture nominee I hadn’t yet seen for last year. I’ve managed to learn very little about the movie itself, and went into it with only a vague notion of the plot; a female protagonist with a mission related to either vengeance or finding her father, something like that. In that sense it seemed a lot like the premise of True Grit, but after watching Winter’s Bone I don’t think I can really make any comparisons between the two.

This movie is depressing. It’s set in some sort of redneck community composed of loosely blood-related, broken people amidst a cloud of drug manufacturing and murder. Our hero Ree, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is informed that her father really needs to show up in court for his trial relating to his chosen profession of crank-cooking, or else their house and land will be taken away for his bond. Ree takes it upon herself to find her estranged father, along with her duties of caring for her young brother and sister and their despondent mother. It seems wherever she turns someone is telling her to leave well-enough alone; apparently her dad got in a bit over his head. Still, she presses on.

Almost all of the characters in this movie are ragged, despairing people in a world of fear. Counter to the modern world of equality, in this corner of the country women are inferior and must do what they are told by men. There are several instances where Ree is not permitted to even speak to the men she seeks to question, instead speaking through their wives as proxies. Her repeated attempts to get information from them often results in getting smacked or worse. She never lets this defeat her though; she’s the strong female lead. Even when facing the patriarchal redneck king-pin she doesn’t waver, and eventually she reaches some sort of success in her mission.

There’s a pretty big theme of family ties, as would be expected in this sort of setting, but it’s not a happy sort of theme at all. I certainly wouldn’t want to be related to these people. Still, it’s not quite as bad as what I saw in Deliverance, and some of the characters redeem themselves a bit later in the film. Like I said though, it’s depressing. There’s definitely not enough of an uplifting conclusion to get an Oscar. It’s well-filmed and well-acted, even on the part of the kids, and it seems more like a real story than the two biopics in the running. Can’t say I enjoyed it very much though.