Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Border War

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Alexander, and Rodrigo Santoro in The Last Stand

With The Last Stand (2013), director Kim Jee-woon makes a conditional success of a kind of film that defeated the Hong Kong directors in the mid-1990s: a big dumb action film with an intractable aging action star at the center. In this case, he's saddled with Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is admittedly a step up from Jean-Claude Van Damme, whose presence almost ruined the careers of John Woo, Ringo Lam, and Tsui Hark when they all made landfall in Hollywood two decades ago. It's also possible that the tightly controlled idiom of New Korean Cinema is less vulnerable to Hollywood derailment than the more freewheeling Hong Kong action films. Maybe.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Aimless in New York

Greta Gerwig and Mickey Sumner in Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's Frances Ha (2013) is a portrait of post-college/pre-rest of your life anomie. Anyone who has drifted through an aimless couple of years after college will recognize themselves in Frances Handley, though I imagine that most people who have gone through this kind of coming of age aren't the same kind of fuck-up. As quirky and occasionally sweet-tempered as this film is, it's a profoundly melancholy film, an effect compounded by its moody black and white cinematography.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Brittle Steel

A couple of years ago, DC Comics went through a big shake-up of their line of superhero comics. As happens when you have a universe shared among dozens of titles, their internal continuity had become so convoluted that they decided to hit "reset" on the whole thing. This happens from time to time in comics. DC, for their part, did it in the 1980s, too, and now they've done it twice in the movies, as well. Following the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman films (and the relative failure of Superman Returns back in 2006), we have a new Superman with a new origin story. Nolan is involved again, acting as producer and writer. The director is Zack Snyder, whose previous forays into geek territory have been successful and divisive in equal measure. The new Superman is Henry Cavill. The film studiously avoids using the name "Superman" for most of its running time, or even in its title. It's called Man of Steel (2013).

Note: as usual, here there be spoilers.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Where Eleven Films Have Gone Before

It's entirely possible that there's an interesting movie lurking inside Star Trek Into Darkness (2013, directed by J. J. Abrams). The movie frames a terrific moral dilemma early in its running time that serves as an overt allegory to the current security state of the world's major powers (especially Bush and Obama's USA). To wit, it gives Kirk and company an overtly immoral mission to engage in an extra-judicial killing, one colored by high emotion and a desire for revenge and excused because of the vague exceptionalism of "terrorism." Further, the movie TELLS Kirk that it's an immoral mission, putting objections into the mouths of both Spock and Mr. Scott in scenes that remind me of Robert McNamara's assertion in The Fog of War that "If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merits of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning. " But then the entire enterprise, if you'll pardon the pun, completely shits the bed. That moral dilemma would be interesting if this film wasn't so irredeemably stupid.

Nota bene: spoilers abound herein.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Notes from an Absentee Landlady

I haven't been blogging about film much lately. This is partially from blogging burnout. It's partially due to an extended period of depression and personal anxiety (I won't get into that here). Mostly, though, I just haven't been seeing any movies. This is a crucial element of blogging about movies, don't you think? I have in the past, I'll be using a couple of blogathons to jumpstart my blogging again. In the absence of a queer film blogathon this year, I'll retreat to classic film. The first one is the Dynamic Duo Blogathon, which is being co-hosted at Once Upon a Screen and The Classic Movie Hub. The other is the Barbra Stanwyck blogathon, being held by our old friend, Aubyn, over at The Girl With the White Parasol. Here are the relevant banners.