Saturday, May 12, 2018

Three Films Make A Post: Rest in Beast!

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016): As a package, I enjoy this second outing of Tom Cruise as murderous serial “hero” Jack Reacher as at least nominally directed by Edward Zwick, a bit more than the first one. Cruise is still a pretty bad choice as an actor for the title role, his macho posturing looking routine rather than convincing, and the suggestion of anything more than that going on with his character clearly beyond his abilities to portray, but at least he’s working as an actor more than as a star, so he’s actually watchable instead of annoying the hell out of me.

Otherwise, this is a perfectly competent big budget action movie. As a surprising bonus, it gives female lead Cobie Smulders some agency and most of the time even portrays her as Reacher’s equal in inhuman competence (atypical for the genre as well as the Cruise). Clearly, it was a good idea to shove off the whole getting threatened/kidnapped shtick on (gasp!) another female main character, as played by Danika Yarosh.

Urban Legend (1998): Because I have a bad memory, I revisit this entry in the 90s post-Scream teen slasher wave every couple of years, always sucked in by the seductive set-up of a slasher operating by imitating urban legends, and forgetting the sad fact of the film’s execution. The leads are pretty dreadful: Alicia Witt clearly attempts to portray every possible human emotion by pouting and/or widening her eyes, future Exxxtreme Joker Jared Leto doesn’t actually seem to do more than to just show up, and only Rebecca Gayheart is at least willing to entertain by chewing a bit of scenery. The script is dumb, obvious, and has no idea what to do with the great set-up, while Jamie Blanks’s direction is as slick as it is uninvolving. Please, future me, read this before you watch this thing again.

Pokot aka Spoor (2017): Jacqueline-of-all-trades Agnieszka Holland’s return to making films in Poland – with her daughter Kasia Adamik co-directing (collaboration being her forte seems to be the main throughline in Holland’s extremely interesting and surprising career as a filmmaker), and comes up with an arthouse sort-of crime movie that works as an eccentric character portray of an aging woman (Agnieszka Mandat), an angry rebuttal to a way of life, a rant about animal rights, and about half a dozen other things. Holland and Adamik manage to bind all of these threads together in a somewhat leisurely, sometimes highly peculiar (in the best way, because this peculiarity feels absolutely individual and personal) manner that unearths thematic and emotional connections between things you wouldn’t expect to make any sense together at all.

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