Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Jacket

Oooh, more wacky time travel. Having just read The Time Travelers Wife, this was more than I expected. Adrien Brody is a recently returned from the gulf war (1991 version) veteran who gets mixed up in a bad situation and sent to an institution for the criminally insane. While there, his treatment leads to episodes of time travel, where he goes forward a few years to enlist the help of Kiera Knightly in finding out about what actually happened to him back in "the present". This is quite well done, making us think about time loops, cause and effect, and how to jump out of loops. I also appreciated the portrayed true confusion and altered mental state that returning from combat results in. Perhaps this is because I am in the middle of reading Naked in Baghdad by Anne Garrels and recently read Baghdad Diaries by Nuha al-Radi. Both of these books give insight into the gulf wars from the Iraqi point of view and raise non-combat mental trauma of citizens in war. So I have war trauma on the brain and this film gave a particularly interesting (to me) perspective.

4 stars (out of 5)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I liked the first Hellboy, perhaps because it surprised me a bit. It was light hearted, action hero based, and yet irreverent and a bit disgruntled. This sequel held to that same standard. Ron Perlman plays the title character and again nails it. He is good, bad, a bit of an immature kid, a bit angry and true superhero when it comes down to it. The story follows him and his buddies helping to prevent ancient royalty from re-animating a robot army and destroying humanity. In addition, we get Guillermo del Toro's brilliance in creature creation again as the crew spends some time in the Troll market. I wonder if that guy just sits around imagining crazy creatures. I hope he gets lots of free time to do more because you could just sit around and "people watch" what he makes and that would be an entire film.

4 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pulp Fiction

I finally saw it. This film that has been talked about as a game changer for film, for violent characters, etc. Eh, it was alright. I can see why it broke ground 20 years ago. But now, it is a pretty good buddy-gangster film, with some idiosyncratic touches. Travolta and Jackson are hitmen for the mob in LA. While they are ruthless, they are also a bit bumbly and faux-metaphysical. At least today, it feels manufactured. I do like the nonlinear editing that Tarantino put together, telling the story out of sequence and putting it back together in a seamless and very pleasing final product.

3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kick-Ass 2

The first film was good, maybe because it was surprisingly so. We pick up right away, with Kick-ass inspired "superheros" roaming the streets, keeping things safe. Hit Girl has hung up her stars having lost her father. Kick-ass convinces Hit Girl to train him for real, they become an item and a team, get in over their heads, lose faith, lose family, etc. Again, this is a case of kids (and adults) with a fantasy understanding of superheros crushed by the onset of reality. But this is a fantasy film, so the fantasy of course wins out. So was this film good? In spite of the the fact that chronologically it is a sequel, it seems to be, in fact, the same film. Same moral dilemmas, same gimmicks, same ending. So it was OK, but I have this crazy idea that you should actually expand and improve a film if you have a chance in a sequel. No cinematic risks were taken here, and no cinematic rewards will be granted.
3 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


In this film, Mickey Rourke plays an accomplished and well regarded professional hitman whose main clients are mob bosses. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a punk-ass, petty criminal who imagines himself more gangster than he could ever be. These two get mixed up in a job of eliminating some witnesses to a murder and their methodologies (professional vs amateur) clearly cause conflict along the way. This is not a good film. Rourke makes it bearable as he portrays the cold, yet matter-of-fact assassin. Ben Kingsley in You Kill Me was much better.
2 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke plays an aging professional wrestler ("The Ram") who is still traveling and performing on the small circuit. He is struggling to find purpose in his life beyond wrestling, or more realistically, to envision that there is any possible thing he could do besides wrestling. He clearly sees the sadness of his own existence, and clearly sees how poor his decisions have been in his personal life. And even so he does not see it within himself to choose differently. Rourke is outstanding, carrying all the weight of a lifetime of glory and angst simultaneously. Tomei offers the same great performance in basically the same life role, but with her profession being a night club dancer. Not a happy film, but a great look into lives.
5 stars (out of 5)

The Monuments Men

Historical fiction is usually interesting to me when it is something that I had no idea about previously. In this aspect, The Monuments Men was excellent. The idea of a group of arts minded men volunteering in WWII with the sole purpose of tracking down and saving from destruction the many works of art stolen and stashed by the Germans is fascinating. Unfortunately, this film takes that fascination and squashes it. It feel self important, and does not bring the drama or the tension I would expect in a war zone. There are scenes which I should have felt this. But I didn't. Instead, I was taken back to the docudrama films I saw in the 8th grade. So great idea, great story, (very) flat execution.
2 stars (out of 5)