This time: The Raid 2, Frozen, The Zero Theorem, Anchorman 2, Charade, The Ipcress File
The Raid 2 [Trailer]
The Raid 2 has the same pull-no-punches fight choreography as the original Indonesian action hit The Raid: Redemption, while effectively adding more locations and a larger plot with decent acting. The director successfully sets a new bar for badassery with his characters. The problem is that the brutal action sometimes made me feel a bit.. guilty?
For example, two henchmen (henchpeople? henchfighters?) named in the credits as "Hammer Girl" and "Baseball Bat Man" are particularly effective and ruthless with their eponymous weapons of choice, but I found it hard to root for them when they were basically just beating the crap out of poorly-matched opponents. The movie works better when the hero character takes on a crowd (so you can root for him), or when the hero fights these henchmen (so it's a fair fight).
The original Raid was about a police raid in a single apartment building, with an economy of story that worked quite well. The sequel expands this into relatively derivative gangster epic, but the characters are memorable, and the acting effective. I rather liked Arifin Putro's spoiled, hot-headed son of a mob boss character. Even though the story was nothing new, he did a good job of showing the range of this tragic villain.
Finally, I should add that, while Hammer Girl is an example of an awesome and non-sexualized female character, nearly all the other women in the film are sex workers of some kind, and there's a scene of non-graphic but disturbing violence against one of them. I'm sure there's a lot of sex work and violence against women in organized crime, but since gangster movies inherently celebrate gangsterhood to some degree, I feel there's usually a certain salacious quality to such scenes, even if they're purporting to condemn the abuse. It's time to move on.
So in short, The Raid 2 had a lot of sweet, ass-kicking action that I found a bit hard to enjoy because some of it bothered me emotionally and morally.
Surprisingly subversive Disney movie that challenges the traditional Disney storylines about love at first sight and all that. Good female role models, reasonably complex characters, and quite hilarious at times!
I went into this not knowing anything at all about the plot. If you haven't seen it yet (probably only possible if you have no kids), I recommend skipping ahead to my other reviews and seeing it cold (no pun intended).
So yeah, I went in not knowing that Elsa wasn't the protagonist, so even that was a surprise. I like that Anna is empowered but without necessarily being a tomboy like Mulan. I was expect Elsa to get coupled up by the end of the movie, and I was glad to see that didn't happen, either. In fact, I'm pretty sure Elsa is Disney's first unmarried Queen who isn't a villain? Imagine that!
Of course, while watching the movie, all these politics were only at the back of my mind, because the story was engaging. Oglaf the snowman sidekick was quite funny, too.
Between this and Wreck-It Ralph, Disney Animation has been impressing me lately. I look forward to Big Hero 6!
The Zero Theorem [Trailer]
This is the latest movie by Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame, who made 12 Monkeys and Brazil. Sadly, it doesn't live up to his best films. It's basically about Christoph Waltz as a Qohen, a worker bee, trying to find meaning in life, occasionally helped by Melanie Thierry's manic pixie dream prostitute.
Zero Theorem is at its best when Qohen ventures outside, and animated commercials follow him, hawking the virtues of such institutions as "The Church of Batman the Redeemer". Alas, most of the movie is just of him moping about, with not much happening.
In a way, many of us can likely relate to days of wanting to just hole up, miring in existential depression, but Zero Theorem doesn't really reveal any particularly new insights.
Perhaps that's in fitting with the theme, that there is no point in anything anyway. But then, what's the point in watching this movie?
There is one other bright spot, and that's the therapy A.I., played by Tilda Swinton, always a delight. So I think the best tagline for this movie would be, "At one point in this movie, Tilda Swinton raps!" :D
(Trailers would just spoil jokes, I imagine. If you've seen the original Anchorman, expect more of the same.)
I went in with low expectations, and was surprised to enjoy it as much as I did. The quasi-mocking of sexism and racism still falls a bit flat for me because I feel it's as much celebrating the stereotypes as condemning them, but the absurdism is great!
My question is: Why is there no Brick and Chani spin-off movie yet? They were by far the highlight. Every line from Brick was hilarious.
So to overanalyze it, I think Brick is so lovable in part because everyone else in the crew is, well, a pretty awful person, really. The only innocents in the whole cast are Steve Carrel's Brick and his new counterpart Chani, played by Kristen Wiig, and so they are really the only truly sympathetic characters in the main cast.
Charade [Fan Trailer]
Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant star in what might be the first thriller-romcom? Hepburn's husband is dead, a cast of unsavory characters thinks she knows where a stolen stash of money is, and Grant is helping her out… or is he? They've got great chemistry with witty quips, and the suspense isn't bad, either.
Interestingly, the IMDb trivia page says Grant was worried that their 28 year age difference might make him seem too predatory, so the writers gave all his more aggressively flirty lines to Hepburn instead, and that made it work better.
The Ipcress File
(No trailer link because the trailer is terrible and mis-represents the film)
Young Michael Caine! As a British secret agent! But this is very much the anti-Bond. Instead of casinos in rivieras and fancy gadgets, we have lots of talk about filling out forms and grocery shopping. There's even a cooking scene where a famous chef provides stunt hands for vegetable chopping! (Would you like your carrots diced or shredded?)
That said, there's still plenty of suspense and intrigue, just with a low level burn, as inter-departmental rivalries threaten to get in the way as scientists are kidnapped and agents are killed.
One thing Palmer does have in common with Bond is a love for repartée, and Caine clearly could've made for an excellent Bond, in a different movie.
I can't believe I hadn't seen this before. Its more realistic take on spy work is a clear inspiration for, say, the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or perhaps procedurals like The French Connection. There are sequels that I look forward to seeing now, though they seem to be hard to get ahold of in the US (since they're old British films).