The action film must be one of the hardest for anyone to justify enjoying to him or her self on a moral level.  We can talk all day long about the technique and the artistry and, in the best cases, the moral depth that create a great action film, but at the end of the day, there’s always going to be that element of thrilling to the violence.  In a fashion, the closer to a realistic depiction of violence an action movie achieves, the farther away from its purpose it gets.  If you think of the brutal physicality and sad desperation in the fistfight-cum-wrestling match of a drama like All the Pretty Horses or the bathhouse finale of Eastern Promises, or even that moment in Saving Private Ryan where Adam Goldberg’s character kills the sense of war-action heroics by pleading with the German soldier not to slowly plunge a dagger straight into his heart, the last thing you feel is “fun” or “thrill” – the reality of violence is that it is generally a sad, ugly thing that represents the absolute worst in humanity.  Therefore, the more outlandish and choreographed and lovingly filmed and edited an action scene is, the better.  Many of the good ones have more in common with a Hollywood musical number than an actual fight.  Even the recent turn towards the more guttural action, like the Bourne films or Craig-era Bond rely heavily on swift editing and choreography to keep the fast-paced excitement going so it can be punctuated by a violent knock to the stomach.  It is on the level of thrills that the action scenes in Act of Valor and The Raid: Redemption hope to deliver, but due to the circumstances of each of the films, there is a drastically different effect on the viewer. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a relatively tedious, though not unfounded at all, cliché about Hollywood making market-tested films that appeal to x demographic by including x types of characters embodied by beautiful stars and putting them in romantic/funny/exciting/all three situations and BOOM:  Instahit.  It’s generally a lot more complicated than that, as there’s bound to be someone along the creative line who has a whiff of the artist about them, or at the very least actors who know how to work a script in their favour, and a director or an editor who can nurture that into something vaguely entertaining.  I don’t know know anything at all about the development or the production of McG’s This Means War, but if there ever was a film that played right into that cliché about clueless moneymen suits at the studio putting an entire movie together and creating exactly what they think a “successful” (not “good”, mind) product would be, this is it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Prometheus

June 20, 2012

All the anticipation, all clever viral marketing, and that stunningly awesome trailer have all led to this:  2012’s “yeah, but” movie.  Prometheus is one of those movies designed to flood the internet with endless debates amongst nerds and/or film critics – it’s a not-quite-prequel to one of the greatest science fiction and horror films of all time, co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, and directed by the ever dubious Ridley Scott, the director of two beloved masterpieces early in his career and a whole slew of middling-to-fascinating-to-downright-awful films ever since.  Big budget, an R rating, gloopy sci-fi horror and spaceships and a great cast and you have to wonder, is it any good?  Well, yeah, but… Read the rest of this entry »

Moonrise Kingdom

June 3, 2012

This contains spoilers – suffice it say that I thought this was very good indeed and you should definitely go see it. 

There’s a moment a little ways into Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom in which the young boy Sam (Jared Gilman), who looks short, gawky, and desperately uncool with his thick-framed glasses, walks out of a local children’s production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and through the backstage areas of the church where it’s being performed.  He finds his way to the dressing room, where a row of young girls dressed as birds are applying their make-up and preparing.  Looking directly at the camera, he asks, “What kind of bird are you?”  The girls turn around, and one starts to explain what they each are until Sam stops her mid-sentence and asks again, pointing directly at the camera and, it turns out, at one girl in particular: Suzy (Kara Hayward).  There’s an air of supreme confidence in the delivery, and Suzy’s reaction is to be instantly taken with him.  It feels like wish-fulfillment on Wes Anderson’s part – one imagines he would have loved to have taken young love by the throat and just gone for it the way Sam does – as well as feeling very reminiscent of Max Fischer in Rushmore, Anderson’s breakthrough film which was also about a boy determined to act with confidence.  Except, it’s different this time.  Where Fischer was vaguely absurd in his over-compensating manner and most could see through it, Sam is genuinely confident.  It’s a testament to just how good of a film Moonrise Kingdom is that we understand that confidence as a believable character trait and not just the wish fulfillment it might seem to be.  Read the rest of this entry »