Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quick Takes: "The Grey", "John Carter", "In Bruges"

"The Grey"
Directed by Joe Carnahan

It is so satisfying when a film goes up against typical expectations and proves them wrong to the deepest degree. It's been habit to treat Liam Neeson vehicles without any serious inclinations. Remember how stupidly fun "Unknown" turned out to be, even though it was still by most counts an awful film? "The Grey" is not in that similar situation. As a matter of fact, from the very first moment of the film, you are encouraged to treat it with the same heart and attention you're expected to bring to a Pixar film. We meet Ottway at a drought in his life, with implications towards an unfulfilled past and pessimistic current state of being. And then we get one of the most brutal and intense plane crashes in a while.

Carnahan doesn't stray away the brutal horror of the world they're in. The characters pitted against the wild aren't trained killers or badasses in any way at all. They are at first merely stereotypes, and I had a feeling that the film was about to head downhill. And then it didn't, and as the film goes on and the stakes get more highly raised against them, they shed the facades they've worn out in "the world", not to survive, but to live. There is a heavy distinction between the two. This film is surprisingly harrowing, and even had me crying on more than one occasion. Survival isn't important, but the human soul is. Liam Neeson is strong, but from my opinion it is Frank Grillo who really knocks it out of the park, particularly in one scene. You'll know it when it happens, and the film won't feel the same after.

"John Carter"
Directed by Andrew Stanton

Remember when I said that any Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation that isn't full of rape, fucking, and blood isn't done right? That statement's actually 100% true. In that light, Disney was absolutely the wrong enterprise to take on the famed science-fiction franchise "John Carter". How Andrew Stanton make up for the lacking violence? Apparently in emulating the films that emulated the Burroughs series. There's not an original or honest bone in "John Carter"s body, most of it drawn from "Star Wars" or "Avatar", and not in any of the good ways. Stanton attempts to build a real world out of Barsoom, rather than a piece of gritty genre entertainment.

So is all this to say that "John Carter" is absolutely no fun? Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. The Woola is played for laughs and adorable giggles, as are most moments from the film. You could almost say it's a children's film, until it suddenly begins to decapitate people. It makes absolutely no sense as a cohesive film, and it's even less motivating than that. To this moment, Disney has admitted to have lost $200 million on the film, and caused a massive dent in their own revenues. They dropped the ball in the worst way possible, and you can only be sad for that, and wish it hadn't even existed.

"In Bruges"
Directed by Martin McDonaugh

I am dearly looking forward to when "Seven Psychopaths" comes around the bend to theaters, but I am also cautious. After a debut as damn entertaining as "In Bruges", you are expected not to drop the ball too hard. It's a lot more than merely McDonaugh who makes this film fly. True, his script is fantastically acute in its planting of laughs and honest where other films would look for the easy route out. The ending doesn't encourage ease, but instead pushes for conflict. It's also the performances that work so well. Colin Farrell pulls an unlikely career best, Brendan Gleeson continues to push himself forth as a magnetic presence, and Ralph Fiennes is just a perfect screen villain, because his morals are so righteous. None of them is wrong, and that makes the film so right.

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