23 January 2012



I think I saw the trailer for this in theaters twice, and both times my reaction was “Hm. Maybe.” It had the trappings of yet-another-action-movie but felt a little bit different; it seemed to have some of the personality of The Bourne Identity, which is something I value very highly. It turns out it’s directed by Steven Soderbergh, who most recently put out Contagion, which I didn’t like that much, but he’s also made a whole bunch of very good movies. You’ve probably seen a bunch of them. I think this is his first pure action movie, and he made a great choice for the star; former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano.

It’s a very simple story. Mallory Kane (Gina) is a contract badass, and through an unfortunate turn of events she gets betrayed and marked for death. Her story is told partially by her to a random guy from a diner while driving his car in order to not die. That’s about it, and that’s cool. Simple stories can be great as long as they’re well executed and the rest of the film is made with attention to quality, and I think that’s been done here.

Gina is not an accomplished actress, but Soderbergh did a great job of making her look like one as well as he could. She doesn’t have a lot of lines. Her acting is largely physical, much like Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive, except there isn’t much in the way of subtlety here. She just kicks ass all over the place. The ass-kicking is often filmed in ways your don’t often see in action films these days; wide, steady shots, few quick cuts, and lots of pretty complex fight choreography. Even the gun battles are given an almost panoramic feel. It’s just nice.

The score I’ve been told sounds a lot like Ocean’s Eleven, but of course I don’t remember that at all. I probably liked it though, because I liked it here. It’s very jazzy, at times sounding like something from a James Bond movie. I don’t remember anything particularly orchestral anywhere. Really cool atmosphere.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to have such an awesome cast too, with the meteoric Michael Fassbender, the recently-redeemed (in my eyes) Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglass, and even Channing Tatum in his first good role ever. Everyone performs admirably, and much less annoyingly than in Contagion.

Really the only bad thing I can say about this movie is that Gina’s not that great at delivering her lines convincingly 100% of the time. She’s just not really an experienced actress. Damn fun to watch though.

20 January 2012

Concert Review: Ghost at The Rock N’ Roll Hotel, 2012-01-19


Ancient Wisdom hails from Austin, Texas, and in keeping with the rest of the night, play a pretty hard-to-pin-down sort of sludge/rock/doom. They were definitely interesting to watch as the frontman is also the drummer, but doesn’t sit on a throne; rather, he hits the bass drum with his left hand and the rest of the stuff with his right, producing a pretty slow, tribal sort of beat. As is the case with most drummer-singers his vocal stylings are a bit rough, especially since he’s opted out of the growls. They rock pretty hard though.

Blood Ceremony1Blood Ceremony was a real treat. They’re not the first female-fronted metal band I’ve seen live but definitely the prettiest one. Also the most interesting due to the flute. Put that thing through a PA and it pierces your very brain in twain. They play traditional doom, very Black Sabbath influenced from what I could tell. All four of the charismatic Canadians seem to be very capable on their instruments and laid down a ton of gripping riffage. I’ll be checking them out further.

2003_hr_mu-ghostGhost of course was the reason I bought the ticket. They were the breakout act of the year in 2011, brought to most people’s attention by the main dude behind Darkthrone. I hear them described as Mercyful Fate-like all the time but I consider their Opus Eponymous to be miles better than anything I’ve heard from them; King Diamond’s voice is something I just can’t get into. Also their songs are just devilishly catchy. Their stage presence is incredibly entertaining what with all their silly costumes and antics, and “Papa” really has a handle on interacting with the audience while maintaining the character. It’s really like watching a play with face-melting sounds coming out of it than attending a metal concert. One of the highlights of their set was their cover of Here Comes the Sun, which I expected might be an encore but ended up somewhere in the middle; the actual encore was strangely omitted.

It was a fantastic night. The venue was nice enough, a bit smaller than Black Cat or Sonar, but the stage was pretty well elevated and the sound was good for the first two bands; Ghost’s mix sounded pretty muddy for a lot of their set unfortunately.

17 January 2012

The Artist


As I tend to start pretty much everything I write with some mention that I haven’t seen much of something similar to the thing I’m writing about, I have to say that I haven’t seen much in the way of silent films. Probably nothing full-length at all really. I should get on that probably. Due to this omission I’m probably not quite the intended audience for this movie, but in the end it didn’t really matter that much.

So this guy’s a really big silent movie star. Then sound starts happening and he unintentionally creates the embodiment of this new, hateful (to him), technology in the love interest lady with the fake beauty mark. Most of the movie after that point is a telling of his decline from grace and whatnot, with a pretty great little metaphorical dream sequence in the middle.

It’s a bit similar to what I can remember from Singing in the Rain, except without all the songs and talking and whatnot. Almost every possible measure is taken to make it look like a genuine silent movie; it’s black and white, the (limited) dialogue is pretty much exclusively shown on text frames, and the film is shown entirely in a 4x3 aspect ratio. The only thing that’s missing really is the horrible film-grain and defects. Again, I haven’t seen enough of the real McCoy to say that’s really a prevalent thing, though; it’s just the mental picture I have of it.

Of course an important thing in a movie like this is the score, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it. Can’t really remember anything as usual. I’ve seen a couple headlines here and there about borrowing from Vertigo or something, but I’ve not seen many Hitchcock films either so I can’t vouch for that. Whatever.

The acting is good, and hammy enough to evoke what it’s going for. John Goodman is great even when you can’t hear his mouth-noises, and the leads pretty much nail it. The dog is the best though. Best Supporting Actor right there.

I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t give it Best Picture or anything but that’s probably what’s going to happen. Nostalgia and all that shite.

08 January 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Fincher)

Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


I really love the Swedish adaptation of the novel. The Lisbeth character is magnetically dark while maintaining a real humanity, and while the story may admittedly not be the most original or innovative thing ever, her plights and interactions make for some very engrossing viewing. I don’t think it was at all necessary to make an English-language version of it, as the first one was a perfectly well-made film, but if David Fincher wants to do it then sure, whatever man.

Much like for Let Me In, Matt Reeves’ re-adaptation of Let the Right One In, I’m not going to re-summarize the story; it’s the same. There is very little in the way of divergence. I haven’t read the book though (as usual), but I don’t plan on it. I’ve heard from a bunch of people that it’s boring. I think I’ve got the gist anyway. The only difference that really registered with me was how Lisbeth and Mikael’s relationship develops and ends up; although I did feel a bit cheated at the end of the Swedish one, I think I preferred it to how it happens here. This conclusion does seem a bit less like a cliffhanger though; maybe they were covering their asses in case the response fails to merit sequels. Maybe I’m making stuff up.

Aside from that, all the differences are in the filmmaking. It’s a Fincher movie, so it’s really tight. I can’t say I’m familiar enough with his stuff to pick out any signature elements or anything though. I’ll have to re-watch it, but I think the Swedish version was filmed pretty much just as competently as this one. Trent Reznor’s back again after winning an Oscar for The Social Network, and while the score isn’t that noticeable most the time, once in a while it sticks out in a subdued sort of way (except for Immigrant Song, which knocks my pants off). I thought the dude with the NIN shirt was pretty funny. Another awesome thing for me music-wise was the Ulver tune in the background of the tattoo-parlor scene. No one else in the theater noticed though, I’m fairly certain.

Rooney Mara’s performance is of course the clincher here. It’s obvious she put a lot into the role. She was one of the very few actors who actually tried to use a convincing Swedish accent, and she’s barely recognizable from her appearance in The Social Network. Still, I think it might have been a bit less of a problem for her than for Noomi Rapace in the nude scenes, as her body is considerably more smokin’. In the end though I prefer Noomi’s take on the character. It might just be because I’ve seen the movie so many times, but she just came off as perfect.

Daniel Craig is fine. It’s a pretty bland role. That dude from AMC’s The Killing book-ends the movie pretty great with his one line and worried looks. They should’ve gotten Milton from Office Space to play Lisbeth’s guardian instead of that Jack Black-lookin’ guy.

I liked the first one better. Still very good though.