Saturday, May 27, 2017

Three Films Make A Post: Ruthless invaders. A defenseless planet. And a daring band of space adventurers fighting to save it.

Eyewitness (1981): This film by Peter Yates is a weird one: part thriller, part dubious romance, full of fantastic actors being fantastic (William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer and James Woods in their prime are certainly nothing to sneeze at), there’s also text and subtext about the way the personal and the political intermingle that never quite comes together coherently, and a load of scenes of stuff that seems completely incidental to plot, characters or theme and just hangs there dragging things down.

When the film is good, it is brilliant: the first attempts of Hurt’s character to get closer to his long-time crush TV news reporter Weaver are pathetic, creepy and even sweet in equal measures; some of the suspense scenes are taken right out of the Hitchcock handbook in the best possible way; and an American film actually talking about class is always to be praised.

Too bad that the bizarrely sugary ending seems to forget everything that was ambiguous, creepy or actually difficult in the proposed relationship between Hurt and Weaver, and that the film again and again stops in its tracks to run off in perfectly useless directions.

Shoot ‘Em Up (2007): Made in the same spirit as the Crank movies, but less annoying and with an actor (Clive Owen) instead of a persona in the lead, this one holds itself exactly to what its title promises. Then it adds an obsession with carrots (you will believe you can kill a man with a carrot), eye mutilation (also eye mutilation by carrot), a Monica Bellucci who is totally wasted in her role as lactating prostitute (hey, I didn’t write the movie, so don’t look at me) yet still awesome, Paul Giamatti eating all of the scenery (yes, even yours), and action scenes that reach from the absurd to the hilariously insane. Oh, and the right kind of rock music, too, because every act of cartoon violence is improved by adding “Ace of Spades” to it.
It’s stupid fun in the best way, says this carrot.

Sing Street (2016): This John Carney film about a young guy  growing up poor in 1980s Dublin finding self respect and love, talent and hope when he founds a band to impress a girl does sound a bit too friendly and nice on paper, but in practice, Carney is a sharp observer of human ambiguities who can show the lies his characters tell themselves without looking down on them. Not looking down at his characters is one of Carney’s strengths in general: this is a director who lets his young characters say youthfully pretentious stuff, knows it is youthfully pretentious, but neither makes fun of them nor nods at them from a distance, taking their dreams seriously even though they aren’t his dreams anymore. Carney’s a bit of a music specialist, so it’ll come as no surprise that the music’s great too (and this is a musical in anything but name, and not just in the music video daydream scene) while also being the sort of music these characters in this time would believably make.

There’s so much genuine sympathy and warmth on screen here, only the most cynical will not to moved and charmed.

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