Film Trio: 2 Bad, 1 Good

Three recent films, only one of which is of interest to people seeking a superior viewing experience.

The Love Punch offers okay performers, but a “madcap comedy” caper that is well beyond its sell-by date. Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson in 2014 must have been conceived as the same as Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in 1965. They aren’t. This movie is an exercise in time-warp wormholes. The caper the protagonists try to pull off is deeply criminal, obnoxious, and unlikely. Gaps in the script are big enough to form a conga line around the millions this must have cost. Not a glimmer of fun in 2 hours. About 80 reviewers saw it at the same time; not one laughed. Maybe the comedy gods have all run out of steam. Miss it.

Better, but not by much, is the dystopic rage-fest semi-sci-fi gore of Snowpiercer, which diverts with its climate-based plotline of a frozen world (the result of overzealous efforts to "cool down" a "too-hot" planet). The world is all-but frozen into stasis, and a perpetual-motion engine runs a vast train with the Earth’s remaining survivors around the snowy landscapes and mountainous icescapes. Like Elysium, last year, the grunts are in the back of the train (or back on Earth)  while the worthier privileged are up front near water and real food, real coats, real beds. Rebellion, revolution, dissatisfaction rives the back-people, while the front folks are imperturbable save for the slightest contact needed to scrape off the cutest young and raise them for the front folk. Some interesting set-pieces and perfs, including the  hilarious Tilda Swinton, unrecognizable but a feast of eccentricity to watch, Ed Harris as the soignée plutocrat's plutocrat, and the gorgeous dark-bearded Chris Evans as a very reluctant hero. Lots of unpleasant amputation action, blunt-force population-diminution, victims with dirty clothes and faces, grunge as a way of life. But unless you are a glutton for axe and gun-splatter, avoid. To be fair, some reviewers, fans of award-winning Korean Bong Joon-ho (The Host [2006]; Mother [2009]; Memories of Murder [2003]) were not turned off by all the violence and mayhem, as this is par for the course with Bong. (Tarantino, that understated maestro of idyllic serenity and uncomplicated amatory delights, considers Bong works “masterpieces.”)

Finally, a thinking piece that wraps up the adage that sometimes, people think they are doing good, but end up doing bad, Night Moves, directed by Kelly Reichardt, provides gritty evidence that environmentalist frenzy is sometimes not only loco, but productive of the much-ballyhooed unintended consequences. The film stars a sullen, sunken Jesse Eisenberg, the now-grown but excellent Dakota Fanning as his accomplice in crime-they-think-is-doing-the-country-a-favor, and the smug, interior helper in their misbegotten mission, Peter Sarsgaard. This small but powerful film does much better what Robert Redford last year (The Company You Keep) tried to communicate about the ill-advised radicalisms of the 80s and 70s, a film that was notable for bizarrely wrong casting choices and self-congratulatory (and uber-annoying) agenda-pitching. That movie tested the viewer’s resolve to sit through all the rubbish and misconceived do-goodism that was fundamentally damaging and fatally stupoid. Night Moves leaves the viewer shaken and jittery, as he or she realizes that under the surveillance-ridden society we inhabit, no one escapes without being, ultimately, found and punished, one way or the other. Absent official apprehension for a crime, we punish... ourselves.

Long after the film wrapped, audience members were still freaked by the intensity of the actors’ responses and the implications of the choices these people had made. While not a perfect film -- much of the film is quite dark, in keeping with the  story; one never stops feeling anxiety and fear for the main characters, from start to finish, though they are not all that nice a crew -- it is one of the strongest films of the year, so far.

Three recent films, only one of which is of interest to people seeking a superior viewing experience.

The Love Punch offers okay performers, but a “madcap comedy” caper that is well beyond its sell-by date. Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson in 2014 must have been conceived as the same as Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in 1965. They aren’t. This movie is an exercise in time-warp wormholes. The caper the protagonists try to pull off is deeply criminal, obnoxious, and unlikely. Gaps in the script are big enough to form a conga line around the millions this must have cost. Not a glimmer of fun in 2 hours. About 80 reviewers saw it at the same time; not one laughed. Maybe the comedy gods have all run out of steam. Miss it.

Better, but not by much, is the dystopic rage-fest semi-sci-fi gore of Snowpiercer, which diverts with its climate-based plotline of a frozen world (the result of overzealous efforts to "cool down" a "too-hot" planet). The world is all-but frozen into stasis, and a perpetual-motion engine runs a vast train with the Earth’s remaining survivors around the snowy landscapes and mountainous icescapes. Like Elysium, last year, the grunts are in the back of the train (or back on Earth)  while the worthier privileged are up front near water and real food, real coats, real beds. Rebellion, revolution, dissatisfaction rives the back-people, while the front folks are imperturbable save for the slightest contact needed to scrape off the cutest young and raise them for the front folk. Some interesting set-pieces and perfs, including the  hilarious Tilda Swinton, unrecognizable but a feast of eccentricity to watch, Ed Harris as the soignée plutocrat's plutocrat, and the gorgeous dark-bearded Chris Evans as a very reluctant hero. Lots of unpleasant amputation action, blunt-force population-diminution, victims with dirty clothes and faces, grunge as a way of life. But unless you are a glutton for axe and gun-splatter, avoid. To be fair, some reviewers, fans of award-winning Korean Bong Joon-ho (The Host [2006]; Mother [2009]; Memories of Murder [2003]) were not turned off by all the violence and mayhem, as this is par for the course with Bong. (Tarantino, that understated maestro of idyllic serenity and uncomplicated amatory delights, considers Bong works “masterpieces.”)

Finally, a thinking piece that wraps up the adage that sometimes, people think they are doing good, but end up doing bad, Night Moves, directed by Kelly Reichardt, provides gritty evidence that environmentalist frenzy is sometimes not only loco, but productive of the much-ballyhooed unintended consequences. The film stars a sullen, sunken Jesse Eisenberg, the now-grown but excellent Dakota Fanning as his accomplice in crime-they-think-is-doing-the-country-a-favor, and the smug, interior helper in their misbegotten mission, Peter Sarsgaard. This small but powerful film does much better what Robert Redford last year (The Company You Keep) tried to communicate about the ill-advised radicalisms of the 80s and 70s, a film that was notable for bizarrely wrong casting choices and self-congratulatory (and uber-annoying) agenda-pitching. That movie tested the viewer’s resolve to sit through all the rubbish and misconceived do-goodism that was fundamentally damaging and fatally stupoid. Night Moves leaves the viewer shaken and jittery, as he or she realizes that under the surveillance-ridden society we inhabit, no one escapes without being, ultimately, found and punished, one way or the other. Absent official apprehension for a crime, we punish... ourselves.

Long after the film wrapped, audience members were still freaked by the intensity of the actors’ responses and the implications of the choices these people had made. While not a perfect film -- much of the film is quite dark, in keeping with the  story; one never stops feeling anxiety and fear for the main characters, from start to finish, though they are not all that nice a crew -- it is one of the strongest films of the year, so far.