2011 Archives - Page 3 of 44 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Flowers of War (2011)

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It’s been a long few weeks.  I live in Ohio and, if you haven’t heard, the state was ravaged by a series of violent storms that left us without power for a few days.  My own power was off for a few days and I sweated through the heat but still lapsed into a rapturous mental decay where the sound of my kitty’s meowing was the most amusing thing in the world.  In hindsight, and if I had the capability, that delirium would have been the best and worst time to watch Zhang Yimou’s artistic failure, The Flowers of War.

Had I watched it in my delirious state I might have been able to go along with the violent mishmash of genres fighting for supremacy in the midst of the film’s dramatic interpretation Rape of Nanking.  This isn’t a bad state to be in, the first time I watched Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers I was running a fever of 103 and it was the perfect condition to watch that film.  But The Flowers of War would have hurtled my then delicate mental state into the midst of a beautifully photographed action comedy historical misery redemption drama with all the sense of self that description allows.

Then Christian Bale showed up in what appeared to be the host medium of an expatriate time-traveling Colonel Sanders.  It was then that I was certain if I had watched the film in my previous state it would have felt more like the product of a fever dream, and less a coherent vision.


Second Opinion: The Artist (2011)

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Longtime readers will know, it’s very rare for us to write about the same film twice.   The only other two films that we’ve written multiple reviews on are Sucker Punch (here’s my, Ryan, and Danny’s take on the film) and Hobo With A Shotgun (here’s my and Jacob’s take).  Both of these films were really divisive amongst us, but aren’t the kind of highbrow fare I thought I would be debating when I started writing about film this much.

Now there’s The Artist, a ridiculously well received film that made a load of cash worldwide and received a bushel of awards.  The reputation that preceded my viewing was one of, if not pristine classiness, than one of charming goodwill toward a time in film that is rarely ever revisited.  So this seemed to be another good time to go back and review something that we’ve already touched upon because a silent film being made and received like this isn't going to happen again in a long time.  The sad truth is this is not going to start a trend toward mass-marketed silent films, partly because their time has mostly gone outside of a dedicated niche and this whole film comes off more as a ploy masked in earnestness than a genuine silent film.

After shaking my head at The Artist I was left at a rare impasse, I actually disliked a film more than Danny did.  Oh King of Crumudgeons, I come for your crown.


Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

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It's a good thing the brunt of Machine Gun Preacher is such an aimless mess, otherwise this entire review would consist of paragraph upon paragraph lampooning Gerard Butler.

Have I tipped my hand too early?  Well, it's only because I'm following suit in the same spirit of the movie.  MGP makes the bold intention of reform and spiritual regrowth in the face of shadowy opposition firmly established in the opening act.  Less obvious is how the slaughter of a Sudanese family fits into the story of one biker's rehabilitation, but I tried to have faith in Marc Forster.

Forster, who has directed other great dramas like Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, and tipped a gentle hand at comedy with Stranger Than Fiction, should not have been tapped to direct a war-time drama.  If anything, the producers could have taken one look at Quantum of Solace and seen that action was not, perhaps, his forte.  Granted, MGS tries to look more at the character of Sam Childers, but even based on those results I'm not entirely certain what the movie really knew what to think of him.


Perfect Sense (2011)

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Question - how do you bring an audience to care about a romance in the throes of plot magic?  That mysterious, screenplay-dependent substance has long been the fuel opposites attract plot-lines since cinema sprawled into existence.  I love a good melodrama where the audacity of lovers goes against the machinations and sheer randomness of existence, but I have my limits.  There are films like Perfect Sense, which can't even build that honest attraction to begin with thanks to that plot magic that makes the film possible.

The lovers in question, a chef played by Ewan McGregor and a epidemiologist played by Eva Green, are already stretching the point of romantic credulity during their meet-cute.  He is smoking a cigarette and announces himself as a chef, which in the world of this film amounts to moving fast and talking loudly into an elastic camera while holding a fish.  The chef fares a little better than the scientist, whose screen time in her profession consists mostly of sitting around her improbably handsome scientist cohorts while intoning something bad is happening.

Yes, I would agree if everyone across the world is losing each of their primary senses in rapid succession over a course of a few weeks, something "bad" is happening.


Sleeping Beauty (2011)

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At this point in my career of film consumption and analytical regurgitation I'm pretty aware some films know I'm spying in on the lives of people who might otherwise wish to remain alone.  Some lives just want to remain closed books.  But here we are, peeking through cameras in tow by visionaries, visually articulating the facets of life reserved for closed doors and private ceremonies.  Voyeurism, since the dawn of film, has been a well known facet of the cinematic experience.

It seems we're entering a postmodern age of the voyeur, and Sleeping Beauty  further highlights the future.  It is obsessed with the way women work into our fiction, only in Sleeping Beauty we see the full effects in drama.  It's an example of the long con, a game where the director is aware of our status as voyeurs, we're aware of our voyeuristic tendencies, and the film plays off of both sides accordingly.

Now we have films where the movie does not play into a grotesque joke, greeting the possible voyeur with an tossed-off glance into the perverse.  Instead the punchline has become far more twisted, hinting at tumultuous sensuality behind the curtain with no clear gender roles, blaming both audience and participants alike for their role in the drama.  To be frank, I don't know or care who the joke is supposed to be on anymore, but if it means getting films as provocative as Sleeping Beauty than I'm fine with a little confusion about the cross-hairs.