Archive for US movies

The Talented Mr Ripley

Posted in Books, Crime, Movies with tags , on June 9, 2012 by Cara Marie

So, my flatmate was telling me the other day about seeing The Talented Mr Ripley, and then walking out during the scene where Tom bludgeons Dickie to death in the boat.

Which is fair enough – it’s an unpleasant scene. (Patricia Highsmith is very good at blunt, horrific, everyday violence.) But it’s not the one that disturbed me.

That’s the one at the end, where Ripley murders his would-be lover, on the chance that he could expose him. My mind wouldn’t let that rest. How could he have done that? I didn’t want to believe it. I thought about getting the book out the library, hoping it would have a different ending. I didn’t dare, because I knew I wouldn’t.

This was when I was maybe fourteen.

Earlier this year, I read The Talented Mr Ripley for the first time. (I’d read some of its sequels and other Highsmith books before.) And I braced myself.

Only …

Tom Ripley never murders Peter at the end of the book. Peter is but barely in the book.

It was both a relief and a letdown.

*

There is a moment, in the book, where Ripley thinks that the same thing that happened with Dickie could happen with Peter. And, he doesn’t want to go there again. And he doesn’t.

But in the movie he does. And it is all the more awful when the same thing does happen – because Peter, unlike Dickie, really does like Ripley back.

*

The movie begins and ends with a sense of regret. ‘If I could rub everything out, starting with myself.’ Whereas in the book …

But supposing they got him on the fingerprints, and on the will, and they gave him the electric chair – could that death in the electric chair equal in pain, or could death itself, at twenty-five, be so tragic, that he could not say that the months from November until now had not been worth it? Certainly not.

Ripley is wary of being caught, but as the book ends, he has not been. He’s got away with, is no longer under suspicion, and is a good deal richer to boot.

As the movie ends, Ripley is no longer under investigation, yes, and he is a good deal richer also – I assume (it’s not made explicit, but it certainly sounds to me like Mr Greenleaf is saying, I get it, you two were totally in love, it’s cool, you can inherit his money, I reckon he would have wanted that.)

But, he is a murderer and he cannot go unpunished. So when there is someone who loves him – well, it’s inevitable that Peter should maybe find out about the impersonating Dickie thing, maybe realise, and that Ripley should have to kill him for it. Ripley has horrible marks upon his soul, see; he can never be happy.

(God, that scene at the end. It is bloody heartwrenching, and my brain does not want to reconcile it.)

But the Ripley in the books can be. He can set aside his guilt and go on to lead a long and interesting life. Which might lack poetic justice, but it’s certainly less traumatic, and less predictable.

Honestly, to have spent so much of the book bracing myself, and that was not even in it. God, Anthony Minghella, why?

Failed scary movie night

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Science fiction with tags , on December 31, 2011 by Cara Marie

The theme of our latest movie night ended up being ‘107 minute long films’ – Cargo and Pathfinder.

Cargo is a German sci-fi movie, set after environmental devastation on earth means everyone is living in space stations – except for those lucky few who have the money to go to Rhea, a newly settled and terraformed planet. Our heroine is a doctor who’s taken a job on a cargo carrier – four years there, four years back – and who is trying to save the money to go live with her sister on Rhea.

The film starts off feeling more like a horror movie – and L thought the last act, where it turns out not to be, brought it down, but that was the part I liked best. The ‘things are not what they seem’ here is not a horror trope but a sci-fi one. Maybe not an especially original one, but it was still a pleasant surprise.

The shots of the ship in space were fabulous – the effects and the set were just generally really well done. The character interactions on the other hand seemed a bit off – maybe it’s a cultural thing but even little introvert me expects people to talk more! There are some scenes where certain people don’t say anything and it just makes no sense why not.

It’s a slow film, but held my attention far more than the comparatively action-packed Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is set during the attempted Viking settlement of the Americas. During an initial raid, a young boy who refuses to kill some of the village children is left behind to die; instead, he’s taken in and raised by the villagers.

Years later, the Vikings return, and I don’t really need to summarise this plot because I bet you know exactly what happens. Why did this movie need to exist? I don’t know. The only redeeming feature is that Karl Urban spends a lot of time shirtless. Okay, and there’s some nice scenery. The trees are very nice.

I’d thought this movie might be stupidly entertaining, but it didn’t really manage it. The action sequences weren’t even very good: difficult to follow, and the whole thing is so dark you can barely see what’s going on anyway. Pathfinder is no good even for mocking.

Some unlikely ninjas

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Superhero with tags , on June 16, 2011 by Cara Marie

The theme for our last movie night was ‘unlikely ninjas’. We tried to mix it up with a movie about train terrorism, but sadly James Bond plus Professor X does not equal awesome. Not that ‘unlikely ninjas’ necessarily equals awesome either …

7 Mikroi Kommandos

This is a Greek movie from the 1980s. A group of Nazis are set upon invading a small village, and have rounded up all the men and taken them prisoner. It is up to a group of children, lead by the grandson of the head Nazi’s arch-enemy, to save the village!

This is an extremely low-budget movie. There is not much in the way of acting going on, although the head Nazi is delightfully over-the-top; and the villagers amusedly unimpressed. The Nazis are all addicted to ouzo. There are impromptu drunken dance routines. It ends up being very funny, and I think some of that was even intentional.

Still, I can’t help but feel that’s an hour and a half of my life that I’ll never get back. I like a certain level of competency in my films. (In which case, why I am watching things L downloads, I have no idea. Clearly, it’s masochism.)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

S commented that this film was far better shot than it deserved. This was quite a relief after 7 Mikroi Kommandos. It was also nice to watch a film that realised it had to develop the characters of its heroes before you reached the half-way point.

I think it probably worked better in the eighties. The references are definitely dated; on the other hand, watching people fight in turtle costumes cannot be boring. The crushing on the journalist lady was a little weird, but I guess even mutant turtles are aware of what society considers attractive. Sad for them though, because reciprocation was never considered. Maybe in the later movies they get to have angst about that.

One day I may even find out. L bought the blu-ray box-set, and it’s very impressive. It’s done up like a pizza box! The blu-rays are pizzas! Oh, the novelty!

Wanted

This wasn’t part of a movie night. Sometimes I watch stupid things all on my own. I’m sure this can’t be the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen, but it is pretty high up there.

I almost thought this was going to involve ninjas too, but then I realised I was just on the wrong audio track. Instead it is just a guild of assassins, who pretty much have superpowers except the movie never discusses that these are superpowers. Everyone could shoot bullets along curved trajectories, if only they didn’t let those damned ideas about physics get in their way.

James McAvoy is our hero, and he is really a bit of a loser. This is so he can admonish the audience at the end of this film – because he stopped being a schmuck (I have never felt so not a part of the target audience). It only took being bet up an awful lot to get him there.

The first half of the film was fairly tedious. Partly because it takes McAvoy a while to get his act together and start shooting things,but also because the film uses a ridiculous amount of slow-mo. It doesn’t make the fight scenes more exciting, it just interrupts the flow, an excuse to show off their fancy cgi. And funnily enough, I don’t watch action movies for the fancy cgi.

But around the half-way point, the movie crosses above the ridiculousness threshold, and I stopped being annoyed by these things.  It might’ve been the point where they started blowing up rats. And physics schmysics; McAvoy sells the curving bullets. It was very satisfying watching him turn into a badass.

I’m not sure I was meant to laugh so much – but then, there’s no way this movie was made with a straight face. Right?

God, I hope not.

How many Jet Lis is too many?

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Science fiction with tags on April 4, 2011 by Cara Marie

The One is a very fluffy sci-fi martial arts movie. By fluffy I mean light: what it promises us is Jet Li fighting Jet Li, and everything else is just an excuse to arrange that. The plot is esssentially the same as Peter Gross’s arc on The Books of Magic: there is a multiverse, and in that multiverse there are thousands of Jet Lis. So what happens when one Jet Li kills another?

It turns him evil, and he proceeds to jump through the universe, killing his other selves and getting more powerful each time. (Thus giving us an excuse for CG!) His ex-partner tells him, you know the theories of what’s going to happen, you could destroy the universe. Evil Jet Li says, tell me the other one.

“You become a god.”

“I like that one.”

Me too. Luckily there is still one Jet Li left to defeat him, and prevent catastrophe!

It is a very silly movie. But fun: I enjoyed evil Jet Li very much. And I liked the sense of backstory: he used to be a time agent, and the first self he killed was an accident. I want to know who the campily dressed woman was who helped him escape. I want to know how long it took his partner to realise he’d cracked. Good Jet Li wasn’t quite as interesting!

I was a bit disturbed by (skip) the idea that if you’re grieving from the death of your wife, the answer is to send you to another universe where she’s still alive and never met you! Wee bit skeevy, that. Also thought the morgue workers discussing porn was unnecessary, although Li popping out the body bag and telling them to shut up was quite satisfying.

Other than that, it’s a solid popcorn movie, and not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.

Kato is more awesome than you

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies, Superhero with tags , , on January 27, 2011 by Cara Marie

The Green Hornet was a ridiculous amount of fun. I know nothing about the Green Hornet’s history; here he is a rich guy whose father has just died, and who decides to use his fortune to enable the awesomeness of one Kato, who was his father’s mechanic.

Britt is mostly useless, despite being the titular hero; this is a source of conflict. While he improves over the course of the film, it is more morally than in skill: Kato remains more awesome than him. Probably also a better person.

I enjoyed the action a lot. While the stylisation of the visuals leading up to the fight scenes didn’t entirely work for me – it felt like trying too hard – watching Kato kick ass did. Britt provides most of the comedy element, being really not that competent at the ass-kicking. And I think they get the right balance between the action and comedy.

Really, the film is just Kato being awesome. That is Britt’s reaction to him: not only does Kato make a perfect flat white, he is a superlative mechanic and an amazing martial artist? Britt is basically, omigod, be my best friend.

Which happens. But Britt has to deal with being jealous of Kato, and Kato has to deal with Britt often being a condescending jerk. Kato is the one with all the know how, but Britt has the money and the name. (They both have awesome costumes.) It doesn’t really make for an equal relationship. And, funnily enough, the epic buddy fight scene doesn’t solve everything! Although it is fun to watch. Even Kato almost drowning doesn’t solve everything, maybe because Britt is so bitter when he rescues him.

Britt is often a jerk: to Kato; to Lenore, who both the boys fancy but will not have either of them (she is, however, happy to accept the role of mastermind behind it all). But the movie doesn’t condone his being a jerk, and he does manage to improve himself over the course of the film.

I was pleased with Lenore’s character (though she is admittedly the only female character of any importance to the plot). She’s smart, and there’s the sense that there’s a backstory there that we aren’t seeing, which she isn’t telling. The boys both crush on her (and how nice is that, when she’s older than them both), but she is not there as a love interest. She chooses who she will or will not go out with; if they piss her off, she will be angry; she will work with them, but on her terms. I felt a lot of affection for her.

I am sorry that the evil DA plot actually got wrapped up in this movie: maybe it was necessary to resolve Britt’s feelings about his father, but I would have liked them to have kept Scanlon around – stuck with Chudnofsky as the villain for this movie, and left Scanlon for the next one. (I am hoping there is a next one!) I enjoyed his interactions with Britt a lot, both when he was reaching out to him and when he was trying to manipulate and kill him. I would’ve liked more of that, to have his arc stretched into a more long-term antagonism.

I do find myself increasingly uneasy about casual violence. There were some scenes that made me uncomfortable – for example, when they’re in a car chase with the cops, and the result is a crash that I don’t think those police officers are going to survive. Which doesn’t bother Britt and Kato, and presumably isn’t meant to bother us, but cartoon-violence just doesn’t work for me anymore. I would’ve appreciated more effort not to kill bystanders. And I know, it’s not meant to be all Dark Knight serious business, but gosh, couldn’t they have just got away?

But I guess that’s kind of something that’s implicitly problematic in a light-hearted superhero movie. Iron Man dealt with it by making sure that we saw Tony regularly rescue the bystanders caught up his mayhem, which doesn’t feel any more honest.

I do feel like The Green Hornet is in some ways a reaction to Iron Man. Fantastic Fangirls has an excellent blog post, ‘Race, Gender, and The Green Hornet‘ (two things that shouldn’t be implicitly problematic in superhero stories but feel like they are) which compares it to Iron Man; I don’t think I would be surprised if the opposition was deliberate. The rich white guy doesn’t get away with everything. The reasons for people’s anger aren’t brushed off.

Sure, there’s stuff wrong with the movie. A lot of people seem to have hated it, which I don’t entirely understand, but okay. I still adored it: it’s fun, it does well by its characters, and left me with the thought that was so awesome. Which, really, isn’t that what you should come away from a superhero movie thinking?

Not stalagmite, stalactite

Posted in Action/adventure, Middle fiction, Movies, Science fiction with tags , on January 17, 2011 by Cara Marie

Belated write-up of our last movie night. I don’t know why I am more inclined to write up movies than books – maybe because with movies I’ve had more of a chance to discuss them and formulate an opinion in the first place?

Starcrash is an Italian film that apparently is meant to be a Star Wars rip-off, only no-one involved has seen Star Wars. And they didn’t have the budget. It’s awful. S really enjoyed it, but I sometimes fear he is turning into a parody of himself.

Acting-wise, there was the outrageously OTT villainy; there was the guy with fewer expressions than Castiel and no excuse; there was Christopher Plummer and his quiet dignity who was completely out of place, poor man. Also David Hasselhoff, who was the love interest, but the woman honestly had more chemistry with the robot.

‘The’ woman because there is only one. Also the line, “it’s time for some robot chauvinism”.

I felt like crying after that. They had threatened me with more Roger Corman films, see. To explain why that is so terrible, it includes films like Humanoids from the Deep, which has the tagline: ‘They’re not human. But they hunt human women. Not for killing. For mating.’

But thankfully S took pity on me and we watched Cliffhanger instead. He might have awful taste himself, but he is actually pretty good at picking what I will like. Cliffhanger is a Sylvester Stallone movie set in the mountains! So it is an action movie with lots of nice rocks to look out. I may have done some geeking. (And I’m pleased to see I was correct in picking there were actually two different mountain ranges involved.)

The movie starts with equipment failure on a rock-climbing expedition, which is a pretty good way to get my attention. It’s a nail-biting scene, that doesn’t end well for the hero. The movie proper starts a year later. Stallone has run away, abandoning his wife (but don’t worry, they’ll be reconciled!) and his job, and when he returns, the one thing he doesn’t intend to do is go mountaineering. Too bad there’s these people that need rescuing after their aeroplane crashed …

Too bad they’re actually all criminals!

Something I found amazing was just how often bullets hit their targets in this movie. Movies these days make gunfire just seem not that dangerous. It was refreshing. After all, isn’t it more satisfying when our hero can succeed despite their enemies being decent shots?

There are some excellent set pieces (impaled on a stalactite! hanging off a helicopter hanging off a cliff!) and it’s just a really well-constructed action movie. I do recommend it.

Spoilery observation: (skip) There’s a scene where there are only three baddies left, and one of them is about to renege on the plan. Head villain wants to get out of this alive, so he kills the [female] pilot so that he’s the only one left to fly them out. S pointed out that this was actually a clever way of getting rid of her without tainting Stallone’s character. Because apparently it’s not done to have the hero brutally kill a woman.

L went on to wonder how come it wasn’t okay to kill women in an action movie when they did it all the time in horror. I wish it had been a rhetorical question but I don’t think it was. L should really know better.

After that I quickly suggested we watch Gremlins, least they get any more unsavoury ideas. And fell asleep during all the gremlin-y hijinks (we had a late start, on account of spending like an hour looking through all S’s DVDs … that’s a lot of DVDs). It was duller than I expected, or possibly there was just too much set-up for two in the morning.

One terrible movie out of three is … not that bad, really.

The Losers

Posted in Action/adventure, Movies with tags on January 14, 2011 by Cara Marie

I finally saw The Losers, I am so behind. It was a lot of fun; I wasn’t expecting to laugh as much as I did. Spoilers …

Movie night write-up

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Junior fiction, Movies, Science fiction with tags , , , , on December 21, 2010 by Cara Marie

We started off with Serenity, because L’s family have bought a new tv and he wants to show off his blu-rays. It was a positive start to the evening. My favourite moment is still Mal railing against the idea that you can “make people better”. Probably because that was such a theme in the sci-fi I read as a kid: that your society would constrict you and guide you to be how it wanted, and to prevent that is something worth dying for.

Okay, so the results of the Miranda experiment are a little more fatal than those in the books I’m thinking of, but they stem from the same desire.

While I am speaking of abominations, we followed up Serenity with Transformers. People who watched this as a child think of it with a fondness I cannot understand. They also rave about the soundtrack. Which I suppose was okay, but really, as far as I can tell the movie was simply an excuse to kill all the old Transformers and replace them with new ones. It is action scene after action scene, and it is utterly boring.

It is no wonder L has no respect for the personhood of robots, having grown up on this. He did comment that you would never see this kind of violence in a kids’ movie about people.

The Descent, on the other hand, I liked a lot. Horror movies often don’t do much to freak me out: it turns out what you do is stick in some spelunking and scenes that hit my fear of heights and I’m ready to jump. This wasn’t true for everyone.

It was kind of sad that this was a horror movie, because (though the horror is signposted) the first half is very much an adventure, focusing on the six women, their physical strength, competence and determination. The women think they’re exploring one cave system, but the leader, Juno, has taken them to another, unmapped and unnamed. So when a tunnel caves in behind them, they don’t know if there’s any way out. I would have been quite happy if it had stayed an adventure story; I enjoyed it as a horror, but it didn’t feel as fresh.

Juno, the one who got them into trouble, is my favourite character, because she’s so recklessly ambitious.* She hasn’t told them where they’re going, and their rescue plan has been filed for the wrong location, but they are experienced and prepared. Even with the cave in, the accidents, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have got out alive except for spoilers!

The Fall

Posted in Movies with tags on December 5, 2010 by Cara Marie

Alexandria is a little girl in hospital with a broken arm; while there she meets Roy, a stuntsman who has broken his back. Roy, for his own reasons, begins to tell her a story; the film moves between their reality and the story being built between them.

I love how this movie talks about stories: not just constructed by the author, but by the recipients’ own experiences. So while Roy thinks one of the characters is an American Indian, that’s not what we see, because that’s not the story as Alexandria understands it; she’s bringing her own knowledge to the table.

And I loved the feeling of the story sequences, which came closer to reflecting how I dream than any dream sequence I’ve ever watched: the way things move seamlessly between landscapes The visuals are stunning (I do think it was worth getting the blu-ray). The colours are amazing, as are the ways links are drawn between different scenes. I do fear that English teachers’ would have a field day with this movie: whilst one could examine the symbolism, and what each of the falls mean, and and, I would rather not. That’s not what I’m in it for.

Perhaps because of the visual emphasise, it was actually quite hard for me to watch; I have trouble sitting for movies that aren’t fairly fast-paced. But it was worth it. The ending of the story is gutting, even as Alexandria forces Roy to change what he’s imagined. In the real world too.

Achievement: bad movies

Posted in Action/adventure, Comedy, Horror, Movies with tags , , , on November 23, 2010 by Cara Marie

It is a bad sign when you have a movie night and the most entertaining movie you see is called Frankenhooker. And after that we were really too drained by the awfulness of it all to go on. Too bad: I actually fancied seeing Calamari Wrestler and Yo-yo Girl Cop.

We first watched a Thai movie, Spirited Killer 2: Awakened Zombie Battles (actually about the fifth in a series). It’s a martial arts horror comedy … I think. Plot? Let me try and figure it out …