In Lee Yoon-ki’s film, on encounters a more familiar couple in the form of a man and a woman who were former lovers. However, they reunite not out of a desire to rekindle their past love; they do so for a more practical reason. Hee-su (Jeon Do-yeon) finds Byeong-woon (Ja Heong-woo) at his habitual hangout one morning and insists on him paying back the several thousand dollars that he once borrowed from her. To try to repay this debt, together they travel by car to the various people whom Byeong-woon knows and from whom he may be able to get money. Those who have seen Lee’s most recent film, Come Rain, Come Shine (2011), will recall the extended sequence of the couple in the car that opens the film.
Death isn’t so much an act of creation, as it’s theorized to be in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, but a rather arbitrary continuance of the cosmic status quo. But really, the weight we assign to mortality is usually an emotional aggregate, the sum of our experiences dealing with the recently or soon-to-be deceased. Perhaps then, that “gravity” is more apropos a descriptor in communicating how it is we handle death, at least in regard to the passing of those we share intimate bonds with. Keeping with this interpretation we can see how empathy and grief tend to correlate with familial or social proximity, interpersonal links that form a sort of poignant force fusing us together.
With the release of This Means War, 2012 already has an early frontrunner for the top “award” at the annual Razzies.
It’s already a challenge to craft a romantic comedy that avoids cranking out the standard genre clichés, and while director McG throws everything he can at the screen in an attempt to distract the audience from the nonsensical script – everything from massive guns and high-tech gadgets – there’s no avoiding the fact that This Means War is yet another dud in his filmography.
Johnny Depp works a familiar, booze-addled angle in Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary, a mildly amusing but muddled yarn that evaporates from the memory as rapidly as a high-proof spirit. The film is based on an early semi-autobiographical novel by Hunter S. Thompson, and casts Depp in what is essentially a muted reprise of his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas role as stand-in for the famous gonzo journalist. The Rum Diary is also a muted reprise of sorts for Robinson, in that it sees the writer-director return to comedic material for the first time in 22 years, but fails to recapture the acerbic bite of his cult favourite ’80s efforts.
A look at the life of the wealthy Recchi family at a time of transition, Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love is a florid portrait of shifting social attitudes in Italian society, epitomised in the microcosmic world of this dynastic household. Headed by the aging Edoardo Sr, the family has built a considerable fortune in textiles over many decades in Milan. Joining the Recchis as their patriarch announces his retirement and successors, the film follows the developments which spring from the sudden change in the family pecking order.
Any traditionally animated film released these days seems automatically to carry with it a sort of simplistic reverie rooted in our inherent nostalgia for its form. Since the 1995 release of Toy Story, the rise of digital animation to the foreground of cinema has marginalised the delights of the hand-crafted imperfection of the cartoon. Almost 20 years later, it seems that traditional animation is once more gathering a larger presence; consider Disney’s spellbinding The Princess and the Frog, the first new cartoon in five years from a company who once produced them annually. As the films nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar since its 2001 inception attest, however, the resurgence in traditional animation has been born mostly from foreign countries, whose digital output has been far less prominent; indeed, of the nine non-American nominees in the category’s history, all but one have been cartoons (interestingly, the exception was a stop-motion animation).
“If you were the Mona Lisa, you’d be hanging in the Louvre” begins ‘Masterpiece’, the now-Golden Globe winning song by Madonna for her second directorial outing W.E. It’s a line which, in many ways, reflects the film itself: its writers doubtlessly thought it intelligent and interesting, but it’s ultimately meaningless, simplistic, and inherently unpleasant to behold. It doesn’t even seem to really mean anything: if anyone were the Mona Lisa, they’d be hanging in the Louvre; that’s where it hangs. The lyric might as well be “if you were a bag of peanuts, you’d be sitting on a shelf” or, to take it to a fatuous conclusion, “if you were an arbitrary inanimate object, you’d be fulfilling the function of said arbitrary inanimate object”. Is this supposed to say something about the subject of the song? Presumably, but the result is a flaccid show of moneyed production masking a vacuous void of any artistic merit. Playing over the closing credits, it’s a particularly fitting end to the film.
As a youth, Bart Tare (a young Russ Tamblyn) is sentenced to time in a reform school and, later, a stint in the military, after stealing a pistol. The aimless, gun-obsessed youth grows into an aimless, gun-obsessed adult (John Dall). His first day of freedom starts with time spent at a carnival with two former childhood pals and ends with him falling head-over-heels in love with an English sharpshooter named Annie “Laurie” Starr (Peggy Cummins). Their intense attraction is mutual and the two quickly wed and set out for a life spent robbing banks. Gun Crazy is an unfettered social commentary on gun worship in America. Based on a short story by MacKinley Kantor, the film crackles with barely contained energy, fuelled by the chemistry between Dall and Cummins.
The Artist is one of those movies that could easily become a holiday mainstay, with families gathering around to soak up its magical whimsy year after year, allowing it to put them in the spirit of the season. It’s not a holiday movie, mind you, but then neither was The Wizard of Oz – these are the kinds of films that speak to a pure, old-fashioned, soul-stirring, toe-tapping enchantment. In very simple, clear strokes, this is a film that will bring people together – a universal story of empathy and restoration, about the bittersweet journey to find one’s voice.
For as many commercial holidays celebrated, Garry Marshall seems to present an equally commercial film to accompany them. It began with 2010’s Valentine’s Day and has continued with this year’s New Year’s Eve. The franchise probably won’t stop until every American holiday is represented, including Veteran’s Day. I can’t tell what is more disturbing, the blatant exploitation of the ticket-holding masses or how the cast seems to grow exponentially with each film. If Marshall continues with this trend, he’ll soon be making two-hour slide shows of celebrities’ headshots.