Saturday, November 15, 2014

Not Reviews Exactly, Just Revisiting Some Films

The comics did arrive today, mostly. Plus a couple I didn't ask for I'll have to send back. I suppose I appreciate his desire to be thorough (or his attempt to anticipate) by sending me some Harley Quinn stuff (that scratch and sniff annual and the Future's End tie-in), but no thanks. Anyway, we'll get to the comics starting Monday.

To other matters. I've been going through my DVD collection, rewatching films I haven't in awhile. Mostly I've been trying to decide whether to keep those films or not. It's 50/50 at this point. All of them have flaws, it's a matter of whether the flaws overwhelm the things I like. Crank 2 doesn't have enough of the strangeness I enjoyed in the first film (even with the fight at the power substation where Statham and the guy he's fighting transform into kaiju versions of themselves), and too often the vulgarity stops being funny, and just seems crass (the first film also did this, but much less frequently, which is why it stays).

But it's fun to rewatch them and see things I either didn't notice, or had forgotten about.

The American: I think I appreciated the long shots of the scenery much more this time around. It seemed so obvious his handler was setting him up. Why would you send Jack to a small town in rural Italy, where a lone American likely sticks out like a sore thumb, if you want him to lay low? Especially a small town with so many narrow paths to navigate? I do enjoy those sequences a lot. It's like he's in the maze of the Minotaur, with all the high walls of the homes around him, the overlapping passages, the odd lighting at night - orange here, green there. I did think a lot of the women looked very similar, hair color aside. I got confused for awhile, thinking the woman he'd fallen in love with was also the one he was building the gun for. You know, that she was posing as someone working in a brothel, the way he pretended to be a photographer. It was weird, but with all the duplicity and false appearances, I didn't think I could rule it out. That doesn't turn out to be the case, but I can't decide if the film was deliberately making the female characters look similar, to illustrate something about Jack, or if it was just chance (and some peculiarity of my mind).

Chronicle: The high point is still Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery. He's does an excellent job playing someone who is legitimately a nice guy, but doesn't quite get that being friendly and popular isn't quite as easy for everyone else as it is for him. That not everybody can take friendly laughter so easily. He really wants to be friends with Andrew, but he can't quite understand him, and Andrew can't just toss aside the things that hold him back. I do appreciate that having powers doesn't automatically make everything better for Andrew, even if I still thought it was tired having the isolated outcast guy be the one who goes nuts and starts abusing his power. The parts where they're messing around, trying to learn how to use their powers were entertaining.

Daredevil: This was the director's cut, which is longer, but maybe ties things up a little neater. I still don't think it's a good film, but certain parts are enjoyable. I like several of the performances. The late Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin. Favreau as Foggy is maybe a little too klutzy, but on the whole, I think he plays Matt's less idealistic, but still hard-working and loyal best friend well. Colin Farrell isn't playing Bullseye as I would normally picture the character, but he plays an interesting character, at least. I'm less sold on Affleck and Garner (I don't think Elektra got enough development), but I don't think either did a bad job. It just doesn't come together somehow. Maybe because Matt and Elektra's relationship wasn't built sufficiently, and it needs to be so that their battle (and her subsequent death) have emotional impact.

Haywire: I had completely forgotten about the RANDOM DEER INTERFERENCE during the driving in the snow. So I got to crack up laughing over that again. I like the soundtrack, but it feels out of place somehow, like it's better suited to a film from the '60s. The thing is, plotwise, this is basically one of those detective stories where the private investigator is the fall guy, just filtered through a current day scenario - private contractor doing dirty work for some national security branch. But most of those guys playing P.I.s couldn't do the kind of stuff Gina Carano does. Don't recall Robert Mitchum doing a lot of flying jump punches, or choking dudes out with his legs. So maybe it's the action sequences, or the fact the movie isn't shot in a high-contrast style with lots of shadows or anything like that. I like the movie, and I like the music, they just don't always mesh. Strange. Enjoyable, but strange

The Heroic Trio: OK, I watched this just a couple of months ago, but I wasn't sure about keeping it. So, watch it again. Still wish the film had a bigger budget, or at least the opportunity to be made a few years later. You can see the struggle between what the movie wants the characters to be able to do, and how effectively they can show those characters doing those things. So a lot of extreme close-ups on projectiles so you don't have to show their actual path through the air, and then cutting back to a longer shot showing the end result - bullet cut in half, baby kept from going splat by pinning their swaddling to a wall, whatever. 

In the version of the film I have, Anita Mui's character is Shadow Fox, which is a pretty cool name. But in at least one other version, her character was Wonder Woman, which fits in certain ways. The parallel I noticed the most was that her husband is a highly successful and dedicated cop, who figures out part way through the film his wife is actually a well-known masked vigilante, and he's totally cool with it. He's not threatened by her being faster or a better fighter, or her being able to successfully battle people he can't match up against. And he doesn't try to ask her not to go rescue the missing babies. Heck no, he trusts she can do it and encourages her. And there's a bit at the very beginning of the movie, where they're looking at a prospective home, and some punk tries to steal their car. The detective casually leaps out a 2nd story window, and lassoes the thief out of the car with some vines that were growing up the side of the house. She casually remarks to the realtor that that's why she married him. So she recognizes how good of a guy he is, and she loves him for it. So it's reminiscent of how Diana and Steve Trevor's relationship has often been portrayed over the years. I don't know if director Johnnie To was a big fan of DC's Wonder Woman, or if it's just a happy coincidence, but it was something I didn't notice the first time through.

That being said, Maggie Cheung's character Mercy is still my favorite. She's kind of spastic, vain, and a little dishonest, but she's still a good person when you boil it down, just not to the point she's ready to throw her life away for a noble cause. I did find it interesting when she's arguing with Michelle Yeoh's character, as she talks about how after escaping the bad guy's influence, it still took her 10 years to become a normal person. Then she says, 'Not even that', suggesting she knows she's still affected by the training and horror he put her through. It's a rare totally serious moment for her in the film, but that helps it have an impact.

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