Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Movies I Watched Recently

A few quick reviews of movies I watched in the theater or on DVD over the last two weeks. I wrote these quickly, so they might have a couple cliches or lame phrases in them.

Children of Men - This is a really incredible movie about finding hope in a hopeless world. We recognize the protagonist, Theo, immediately. A former radical who has transformed into a cynic, convinced that nothing matters. It's a character we've seen before, and we know that his faith will somehow be restored by the end of the film. This character always seems to appear when we need him--in the darkest days of WWII as Rick from Casablanca, in the disillusioned 70's as Han Solo--and maybe the Theos of the world have never needed so badly to have their faith restored as now.

Children of Men takes place 20 years in the future, in what could best be described as the dark future we all fear is going to come about. Terrorism and totalitarianism continue to feed off of each other, fear and paranoia battle with cynicism and apathy for emotional supremacy. But the final, crushing detail is that people have become infertile, unable to produce babies, an ultimate extension of the idea that the end of humanity is inevitable, that this is the last generation.

So when Theo finds himself escorting a pregnant woman across an impossible gauntlet to safety, we find that hope, in the form of a newborn baby, a ship called Tomorrow, or a decision by a man to simply not give up the fight, springs eternal, even in this dark, dark world.

Alfonzo Cuaron does some amazing things in this movie, in particular two complex action sequences that are done in incredibly long shots. But they're not the kind of flashy sequences that we saw in The Black Dahlia. In fact, if I hadn't read hints about them beforehand, I may not have even recognized that they were single shots. But they lend a sense of immediacy to the sequences whether they are noticed or not--they put you right there in the most hopeless pursuit scene ever put on film, and convince you entirely that what you are seeing is not just a thrill ride.

Charlotte's Web - The second half of our New Year's Eve double feature, and it's everything it ought to be. Probably much better than the animated version from the 70's (which I can't remember much about), it's sweet, touching, funny, cute, and strikes the exact right tone for this story.

Apocalypto - Saw this last weekend, and I really liked it. It's basically an action movie set in an incredibly harsh, ruthless world, a world that James Bond or Bruce Wayne would not last five minutes in. Mel Gibson has a great eye, and I certainly liked this much, much more than Braveheart. This is sort of the opposite of Children of Men--instead of hope, it's a movie about doom, and doom is in the air through the entire running time.

The Descent - Scariest horror movie I've seen in ages. So many horror flicks have characters doing incredibly stupid things because the writers can't think of a better way to keep them in danger. In The Descent, characters make very bad decisions that ensure the danger of themselves and their companions because it makes sense for their characters to make these decisions.

The Breakup - Surprisingly good, brutally honest and occassionally hilarious anti-romantic comedy. Jennifer Aniston continues to be a criminally underrated actor.

Fearless - This is a really good movie. I wouldn't rank it as Jet Li's great masterpiece, but I do think it's a legitimate addition to the canon of martial arts films, a great way for Jet Li to cap off his career (if he is indeed serious about doing that).

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