Often I wonder if there has been any serious study of the similarities between the modern theater and, for example, ancient traditions of meditation. I also suspect there is a subtle bias - or perhaps an overt one - against cinema, in modern intellectual circles. Cinema is seen as passive, unsophisticated, unchallenging, puerile...
Come to think of it, I bet these things are related. I think cinema is criticized as anti-intellectual because there is a lack of good analysis of its purpose and appeal. When I go to the movies, I'm totally aware that the dialogue is bent into a story arc and the actors are just pretending, and that there's no way a car can simultaneously fall into a river AND explode. Nevertheless I find in each chain of shots some interesting observation to make about the way things are in "the real world".
Anyway, I'm rambling. Here's a hard-nosed review of all the stuff I saw on one ticket.
The lead actress is clearly an astounding athlete, and it was fun to watch her various acrobatic takedowns and jump-kicks and showy wrestling moves. It helped to make up for her limited range as an actor, something that the director had the good sense to play to when constructing the tone of each scene.
The plot was coherent but it seemed to pass in a blur, towards an ending that felt anticlimactic. There was no real resolution between "the bad guy" and "the good guy". They had been former lovers, or at least that's what I thought I saw early in the film when the man was trying to open the woman's apartment with the keys on his own keying and discovered that she'd changed the locks. Despite this intimate past, they barely had a conversation at the end of the film. He went running, she chased him, she beat the crap out of him, and that was it. Roll the credits.
Even though the main character was an obvious movie trope of "female badass", she did seem to be in actual danger every now and then, taking a bad fall or failing to land a punch. She showed visible bruises, but they always evaporated in less than 24 hours. I'm glad I didn't pay full price for this, instead splitting one ticket across six films, which comes out to about a buck fifty per film, which is about what I might pay for a rental, if I weren't a low-down filthy pirate.
I saw this first because it was all action, and made a nice warm-up.
This turned out to be the most thought provoking film of the day, which surprised me. It reminded me of Seraphim Falls, and not just because that was another film with Liam Neeson in it. The bleak tone and the episodic structure felt similar. The ending was pleasantly ambiguous and managed to switch a lot of our perspective around with a one-second reveal shot, which was clever.
Aside from the narration, the script is composed entirely of bickering amongst the survivors of an accident, and it draws some skin-deep parallels between them and the animals that are hunting them. Audience members get a few good beats in the editing to ruminate on what kind of pack animal they might be. I reckoned I was most like the man who fell in the river: Comfortable in the middle of the pack, motivated to make people cooperate, motivated to save people, but clearly opinionated about who should be in charge to best serve that end. What does that make me in corporate land? A middle-manager? Hmm.
Also, the wilderness is awesome, even if the wolves depicted are rather unnatural. When this comes out on blu-ray I'll rip the wolf howls out of the foley track and mix them into something, I'm sure.
Man On A Ledge
The reviewers were right; the plot was more holes than plot. Nevertheless I was kept interested for the full running time, so "mission accomplished". Always nice to see Ed Harris, of course, though he looks a bit ... dehydrated in this film, for some reason.
When ya get right down to it, this movie was not worth seeing. Snappy dialogue from supporting characters and a lot of impossible to believe MacGyverisms didn't cut it for me.
Sometimes I think that Mark Wahlberg could be replaced with a wooden post, in almost every role he plays, with no ill effect provided you bolted a pair of big beefy arms onto the post. Every other actor in this film - especially Ben Foster - was more fun to watch than Mark Wahlberg, even though he was at the center of it. Perhaps the director just wanted a big neo-macho wooden post upon which to rotate everyone else, and everyone who could have put some personal flair into the role - like Colin Farrell or Jason Bateman or even freakin' Mel Gibson - was busy.
The plot was nasty and blurred the line between good guys and bad guys way too much for us to care at the end that the alleged good guys were now filthy rich. The only concession to their goodness that we are shown is that they refuse to deal in drugs, only counterfeit cash. Thanks guys; you're true-blue heroes.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This was meant to be a potboiler, and had some nice ensemble acting. I missed the first 3 minutes, and lacking that, I felt adrift in a mélange of confessions and interviews and interrogations delivered in semi-random order, winding all around upon itself before pointing at one dirty dealer slightly dirtier than all the other dirty dealers.
Seriously, though: The order in which we are shown the pieces of the plot is geared mostly for tonal convenience and not for any sort of meaningful reveal. I call that not good enough.
Gary Oldman seemed to enjoy playing the role of a geriatric turtle poking out of a suit, wearing more pale makeup than most teenage vampires. ... But there's only so many long held shots of his face, stuffing the entire theater screen, that an audience can take in two hours before settling into a dreadful malaise. It crept over me about ten minutes into the second hour, and my mind drifted to a criticism of the film even as I was still watching it.
Every one of the films I saw today failed the Bechdel test, but this one failed it the most shamefully, when one of the two women with lines in the script gets gruesomely murdered as a capper to act II. I mean, yes, even Haywire failed the test, and that movie had a female in the lead role, but if you're going to bring in a romantic interest, and give her a story and a soul, only to kill her stone dead on-screen as a cheap jab at "atmosphere", well... Shame on you.
I guess if I gave a crap about the novel it was based on, I'd give a crap about this movie. Or maybe if it wasn't number five of the day, I would have been able to enjoy the slow-burn approach employed by the director. Sorry, no. Too much of Gary Oldman poking out of that suit like Mr Turtle licking his way to the center of a Tootsie-Pop.
I would like to pause here to reflect that five of the six movies I saw today featured men brandishing and shooting guns as part of the plot. I live in West Oakland for crap's sake, and I hear gunfire outside sometimes. But if the movies are any indication, I should be wading knee-deep in a river of loaded guns every time I walk to my car. I should be waking up in the morning to find my potted plants buried in heaps of guns, because it rained guns again last night.
Dear screenwriters: If you even mention a gun anywhere in your script, you need to admit that you are bored, and probably need another line of work.
The Woman In Black
For about an hour a half, we enjoy the spectacle of Mr Radcliffe wandering around the same five rooms of a mansion and occasionally straying to the edge of the frame to conveniently open up some space behind him, graciously allowing some random demon and/or mouldering item from the prop department to spring into our faces with an accompanying "SCREEECH" noise as though someone keeps flinging hot coffee into the orchestra pit.
I knew what I was in for when I walked in here, and I was amused to find it was like one of those rhymes you sing while jumping rope. The ghost is in a room, in a mansion, near a graveyard, in a forest, on a hill, in the mist, by the sea, at the end of a road, past a little village, tacked onto a distant train station. To light up every single peg on the Spooky-meter, it would just need a hedge maze and some pirate loot. To get any more remote, it would have to be sci-fi and involve rockets.
There wasn't much to the plot. The moral of the story appears to be: Don't help ugly ghosts, they'll just kill you for your efforts. Go with the pretty ones instead - they're, like, heavenly or something.
Again, good atmospheric sound effects, which I am sure to steal later on this year.
And now, I am totally movied out!