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Film Log #1 February 10, 2012

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood, Oscars.
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THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (David Fincher, 2011)

This is the Fincher of Benjamin Button—epicurean, long-winded, and predictable—armed with such skill in creating a deceitful sweep that bores as much as it hypnotizes. He makes it clear that length is permissible as long as the characters onscreen are mystifyingly troubled, willfully suggesting that Erika Berger, Holger Palmgren, Dragan Armansky, or Millenium, whose head office and staff members are crucial elements in the book, are of little use as far as movie spectacle is concerned. His ability to deliver has been put to test by the structural complexity of the material, made even harder by Larsson’s lack of restraint. But Fincher, with a flashlight in hand, lets the flames glow in every corner, acknowledging the prosaic quality of the book by translating it into frosty visuals, and even frostier characterizations by Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. The trilogy has attracted film producers not because of its subject (men who hate women, how new!) but because of its lead character, Lisbeth Salander, and the challenge of portraying her onscreen. Mara makes some impressive nuances, her offscreen presence in particular is wisely calculated, but her case falls into the category of the whole not being greater than the sum of its parts. Craig complements her a lot, and she heats his beef very well. Fincher makes the bedlam less chaotic and struggles when the third act comes in, losing his grip when the detectives find the missing piece. The opening credits and the use of Enya are by all means brilliant, but the sight of Craig’s butt crack is the most nerve-racking moment in the film. B-

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- GHOST PROTOCOL (Brad Bird, 2011)

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol opens up in all sorts of unexpected directions and the type of mess it leaks works surprisingly well because Brad Bird allows the action sequences to breathe, the buildup and follow through providing some sort of polish, punctuating the series of over-the-top stunts and the exhilarating sheen they produce. There are dangerous edges, most of which are served as desserts and appetizers, but they are in fact the meatiest aspect of the movie—the impossibility of the mission addressed rather than ignored, making the sketchy minutiae throttle even to the unimpressionable. Stress is written all over Tom Cruise’s face, and it’s not a tiring sight to look at. Like a drowning man rising to the surface for the last time, he is unmoved by anything, unfazed by an almost non-existent threat, and unimpressed even by the Burj Khalifa or an impending sandstorm. Paula Patton fits the part, Jeremy Renner does some hilarious stretches, and Simon Pegg is uncontrollably smart and funny. So who needs meat and potatoes when one is caught like a deer in the headlights? B+


HAYWIRE (Steven Soderbergh, 2011)

In this age of expensively-made movies that rely heavily on unnecessary noise and dizzying visual effects, a film like Haywire feels like a joke, and holy shit what a good joke it is. Steven Soderbergh shows again his penchant for multi-character narratives, and though he’s working on a very conventional story, he still manages to tell it adventurously, one that looks so old-fashioned even its disruptive flashbacks still seem rational. Soderbergh toys with the storytelling, moving to and fro as the main character, an undercover agent played by martial artist Gina Carano, seeks the truth about a mission that eventually puts her between a rock and a hard place. The movie reaches its peak whenever Carano finds herself in a fight. All the running and boxing and thumping provide a sense of frightening reality in her dilemma, the exchange of blows sounding brutally raw and authentic, the lack of blood making it even more startling. Too bad these sequences are just few—Soderbergh should have made them the movie’s main attraction—but props go to Carano for kicking all the guys’ arses. She even shoots a steamy Michael Fassbender in the face. Blimey! What a man-eater! B+


DRIVE (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)

For a crime movie, Drive doesn’t feature gripping car chases—the ones in it don’t even come close to the terrifying road pursuit in James Gray’s We Own the Night—but it has Ryan Gosling, and girls know that his presence makes a huge difference. He delivers a fine performance, all right, but it’s an aspect of the film that most people tend to overrate. He is a charmer, but with that lick-worthy, puppy face it is hard to believe that he works as a stuntman, mechanic, and getaway driver all at once. Although on second thought, it’s completely possible that he drives the wheel with his dick, or he punches every suspicious-looking guy he sees in the elevator. He’s the movie’s windshield wiper—once he’s on, the landscape becomes clear. The old-school neon-bright opening credits set the tone for the film, which are probably meant to downplay the melodrama, but several elements of the film (the use of slow-motion and somber ambient music) emphasize it even more. The movie mixes genres that glorify men in heist movies, B-movies, westerns, and revisionist forms of them, especially in the amount of explicit and implicit details given to Gosling’s character. Everything about Drive is driven by tastefulness: orgasmic for arty moviegoers but distressing for people looking forward to flirting with Gosling’s abs. B  

THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick, 2011)

Never in his forty-year career as a filmmaker has Terrence Malick preferred the easy way. Like Kubrick and Pynchon, he’s a slow burner, and The Tree of Life, his fifth feature film that had its early roots after the release of Days of Heaven, reveals more of himself than he might have intended, details that could have added to the film’s divisive and polarizing nature. Given the landscape of world cinema nowadays, it’s one of those art pieces that’s almost impossible to make, both in financial and ideological terms, because which producer would gamble on filming compassionate dinosaurs and beautiful jellyfish? With the exception of Godard, who among the legends of the 60s and 70s is still alive to partake in mindblowing existential sports? The film can be interpreted in innumerable and immeasurable ways, so terrifying that it feels like a summation of many things from the world and beyond, a Moebius strip of ideas containing the totality of nothing and everything, and Malick, owing to his overwhelming talent and humility, allows his audience to take a look at the instrument he created, something that provides a microscopical and telescopical view of humanity. What do you see? What do you not see? What do you feel? What do you not feel? Are moviegoers too comfortable with parsimony that The Tree of Life is regarded as some sort of insult, a movie whose all-encompassing knowledge and spiritual ambition become its bane? A-

Comments»

1. jayclops - February 10, 2012

Nice!

2. Richard Bolisay - February 11, 2012

Thanks, Jay!

3. Epoy Deyto - February 11, 2012

“Everything about Drive is driven by tastefulness: orgasmic for arty moviegoers but distressing for people looking forward to flirting with Gosling’s abs. ”

boom!

I once commented at an online forum on Tree of Life, and said that I see the film as a family drama, and approached it as such, an Italian told me that it’s very filipino of me. hehe. proves it’s almost universal approach.

4. jayclops - February 12, 2012

You’re welcome!

5. Richard Bolisay - February 12, 2012

actually, the thing i like most about tree of life is that it can be approached in many ways. it’s difficult to watch at first, but it pays off once it connects with you. it’s emotionally consuming.

6. ayerarguelles - February 13, 2012

yeba! wala lang, hehe

7. Richard Bolisay - February 13, 2012

naks, may napadaang artista sa blog ko! may utang pa ako sa ‘yo, ayer haha. pacencia cookies.

8. Jervis - February 16, 2012

informative post po. so far fav movie ko sa mga na mentioned u ay ang Drive.. Ryan Gosling….

9. tey - March 9, 2012

sobrang i couldn’t agree with you more sa tree of life. it is very very emotionally consuming!

10. Spartacus Fan - March 23, 2012

Among mentioned film, A Tree of Life is the best. Just like what that person above me said “it is very very emotionally consuming.” I had hard time going to sleep after i watched it, it keeps me thinking.

11. Lady Vacuum - April 10, 2012

nice post po. astig. haha. mga cool movies.

12. Pageant-expert - April 28, 2012

Nice Movies. I personally love The girl with a dragon tatoo. :D

I love reading your posts, they’re like sunshine on a grey, rainy day.

keep on writing!


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