Dave’s Cinema Digest 2012 – Week 48

No post last week because between the holidays and a load of heavy-duty housework going on, I didn’t have the time to watch any new movies. But I’m back in business this week so let’s get this thing going with…


Moonrise Kingdom (2012)


Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are in love. They’re twelve and live on a small island off the coast of New England where everybody knows everybody. Knowing that their respective families will not approve of their relationship, they decide to run away and live together in the wild. They aren’t gone long before they have their parents, the town sheriff, social services, and a whole scout troop after them.

Ah, young love. How stupid. Normally I hate movies where foolish youngsters fall madly in love. Not because I hate love but because it’s always treated so darn seriously and my cynical, bitter old mind knows it’s just dumb kids with a crush that’ll be over shortly after graduating from High School when they inevitably move away from each other to colleges in different states even though they’ve promised to write each other, those letters become less and less frequent until they’ve moved on to someone else (or many someones) and completely forgotten each other much like I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. Oh yeah. Stupid kids in love. But with Wes Anderson at the helm directing two delightful and hilarious 12 year-olds, the whole thing feels so whimsical and innocent that my brain just can’t scoff at these kids. The hyper-realistic, fairy tale nature of the film puts us exactly in the same headspace as Sam and Suzy where anything is possible and the world is practically overflowing with wonder and adventure. It reminded me of what it was like to be a kid and have that boyhood crush that makes your heart ache and feel like you could take on anyone no matter what they say and… Goddammit, I’m in love.


Life of Pi (2012)


Piscine “Pi” Patel (Suraj Sharma) is having a bad day. He’s lived and loved in India for 16 years, growing up in his family’s zoo. That is until his father tells him the family is moving to Canada and the animals have to be sold. So the Patels and their animals load up onto a Japanese cargo ship and set sail. On their way across the Pacific, they get caught in an enormous storm that sinks the boat. Pi then finds himself alone at sea on a lifeboat, surviving not just the elements, but also a stowaway: the not so friendly tiger named Richard Parker. No, this isn’t an Indian version of Calvin & Hobbes.

It’s been a good year for thematically and cinematically ambitious, challenging movies. First we had the much-maligned but (in my opinion) fantastic and sumptuous Prometheus, then the impressive and incredible Cloud Atlas, and now we get Ang Lee‘s gorgeous and heart-wrenching Life of Pi. I have no qualms about calling Life of Pi the most beautiful looking film of the year. It is frequently stunning to look at which is all the more impressive considering it mostly takes place on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. I don’t want to talk too much about the story because I think it’s something you just have to experience for yourself but there are parts that will absolutely rip your heart out like Mola Ram. First timer Sharma is fantastic as Pi and really carries the film almost entirely on his shoulders. I left the theater desperately wanting to talk to somebody about the film and I’m still thinking about it days later. It’s an incredibly powerful film and it must be seen on the big screen so do yourself a favor and go immediately. Then come back and talk to me about it.


Red Dawn (2012)


One day, North Korea decides it would like to invade the greatest country on Earth: The USofA. One of the places they take over is Spokane, Washington: home of the blue-eyed, brilliantly white-skinned, US Marine Thor Jed (Chris Hemsworth); his dopey, equally white brother Loki Matt (Josh Peck); and Matt’s super-white, blonde-haired, American-made-Mustang-driving girlfriend Toni (Adrianne Palicki). With Koreans raining down from the sky, the brothers escape to the nearby woods to regroup with a handful of other all-American, attractive high-schoolers. But these kids aren’t going to let those unAmerican squinty-eyes take away their God-given, rightfully fought-for freedom because this is ‘murica, dammit! So the young patriots arm themselves up with guns and explosives and go to war.

Killing people is easy. At least that’s what I learned from this movie. All it takes is a quick montage and you’ll be ready for slaughterin’. These teenagers, with no prior training or mental repercussions, are able to easily take down trained soldiers. Actually, I shouldn’t be surprised because the Koreans are pretty inept at this whole invasion business. They allow the citizens of Spokane to basically go wherever they wish, allowing the kids to get in and out of the city without any trouble whatsoever. And there’s no clear plan that I could discern. Nor could I discern just how much time is passing. The movie seems to be rushing to finish itself and the action is largely indiscernible. Perhaps the film’s greatest failing beyond its flippant and lazy attitude about kids killing people, is its insistence at offing every ethnicity but Caucasians. We start the movie with nine kids, four of which are black or Latino. Guess which ones get killed. That’s right. Every single one of them. And then there’s that whole thing where they changed the bad guys from Chinese to Korean in post-production (that is, after the film had been shot) because nobody’s gonna know the difference, right? There’s also a definite “let the men handle this” vibe throughout. When the boys go infiltrate a building, the girls stay behind to fire rockets from a safe distance. When characters are killed, it’s the girls who have the mental breakdown. The only bright spot in the film is Hemsworth who has the charisma and gravitas to not make this a completely bad film. Counteracting him at every turn though, is Josh Peck who is absolutely godawful. I thought actors had to, you know, emote and stuff. Anyway, Red Dawn is a complete waste of time and the movie should have stayed shelved or better yet, not made at all.


Nitro Circus: The Movie (2012)


The Nitro Circus is a group of danger loving, adrenaline junkies who revel in putting themselves in dangerous situations. They double-back-flip dirtbikes, wreck cars, and jump between two forty story buildings on a souped-up big wheel tricycle. Comparisons between them and the Jackass crew are easy to make but there is one crucial difference as one of the Jackasses explains in the movie: In Jackass, the stunts are designed to fail, with Nitro Circus, they have to succeed or they will almost certainly die. It’s too bad that they then spend most of the movie showing the group failing practically every stunt with approximately zero deaths (one notable exception occurs when a guy gets seriously injured while flipping a car). There are only a couple stunts here where they must get things right but they don’t do a very good job of hyping the danger. I actually had a really hard time remembering more than a small portion of their stunts even though I saw it just yesterday.

The framing device of this movie is the opening of Nitro Circus‘ live show in Vegas. They try to sell it by having multiple people tell you that you can’t really get a sense for how truly dangerous these stunts are until you see them live. So, why are we watching this movie again? Unfortunately, these people are probably right. With better direction, the stunts could have been much more exciting than they end up being. The other problem with the film is that the team’s chemistry just isn’t that strong and it comes across as Jackass lite even down to the funny, overweight guy. All they’re missing is a dwarf. The stunts that these people do are certainly dangerous and could be thrilling but they seem to be working very hard to keep you at arm’s length from everything. Which is odd considering it was shot in 3D.


Keyhole (2011)


Keyhole may be the most bizarre adaptation of Homer‘s The Odyssey ever made. A gangster by the name of Ulysses (Jason Patric) holes up in his house with a group of gangsters and a whole host of ghosts. Police are gathered outside but that’s not what concerns Ulysses. Rather, he drags along a blind young woman and his son (whom he doesn’t recognize) around the house, searching for his wife (who has her father chained up nude to her bed) and encountering the many ghosts that inhabit the house.

If you’re coming into a Guy Maddin movie looking for one of those things called “a straightforward plot” you obviously don’t know who Guy Maddin is. Where most of his films seem to have been plucked straight out of the silent film era, this is more like an insane noir film out of the 50s. It is also a ghost story not unlike a nightmare that David Lynch might have after taking a lethal dose of LSD. Nothing that anybody does or says makes any sense or follows logically from anything previous. The best way I can describe it (and it’s still not a great way) is as a surrealist, noir, horror, comedy. If this sounds like your cup of tea then you are one bizarre individual and I celebrate that fact. Like all of Maddin‘s films, it has a uniquely handmade feel as if he just found an old camera, got a bunch of friends together in his house, and decided to make a movie without the benefit of a budget. I don’t mean this as a knock against the film because for the most part, the style suits him and the film. However, there are times where I wasn’t sure that I was actually watching a college student’s class project gone horribly wrong. These moments were few and far between though and I was able to get over them quickly. I don’t know for sure what was going on or why or how or who or even when; but I do know that you’ll be better off by not asking those questions. Just allow the quirky and surreal imagery to wash over you and invade your brainspace.


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