This Week in Geek (16-22/11/15)


Got a few DVDs, two for a December project (you'll see), Salt and A Most Wanted Man, and two others, The Hobbit 3 Extended Edition and Justified's final season.


At the movies: Experienced through 5-year-old Jack, Room is, in a sense, a prison movie. Jack was born in a small shed, a single room, where his mother has been kept captive by a disturbed man for several years. Much of the film is spent in that room, discovering Jack's world, before his release makes that world explode. It's a well made film that doesn't feel it needs to overexplains things. The point of view is distinctly Jack's, so it makes sense that certain things are not commented on in his presence. Sometimes, you hear the words from the novel, and I wish I'd heard more of that music. Strong performances and a lot of truth in how characters would behave in these extreme situations, especially Brie Larson's damaged "Ma" (but the kid is very engaging too), give this some potential for the awards season.

DVDs: The Raid: Redemption was a brilliant and relentless action film out of Indonesia. The Raid 2 follows right from that film, but isn't quite as brilliant. A lyrical, still opening shot makes it clear it will not have the original's pace. Instead, the heroic cop Rama is sent undercover in the criminal organization responsible for his brother's downfall, and so the scope is greater in both space and time (and kind of stunts). Problem is, we lose sight of Rama half-way through the overlong film (action flicks like this shouldn't be 2½ hours long). The first half is quite good, with the brand's trademark hard-hitting action, real emotion and tension, and black comedy. Once the gang war hits, while I'm quite happy to see some of the "super-villains" the film spawns, a lot of that drops into the background along with Rama, and you start to get impatient with it. There are just too many characters whose back story must be served, and in fact, many villains are better served than our hero. The ending is a mirror of that whole second part, with no real satisfaction for Rama or for the audience, because by then, the movie is about the wrong people. The DVD features a good commentary track from director Gareth Evans who explains his decisions, and a decent 10-minute making of.

Michael Douglas spent a good portion of his career playing ordinary office guys falling prey to circumstance, but Falling Down takes the idea to an extreme. On a hot Los Angeles day, he goes postal, and we track his journey to his daughter's birthday party, and his spiral down the drain of madness. In a sense, it's about First World anger, and an escapist fantasy about a man who won't take it anymore and takes a stand against the rudeness of the modern world. It's also about mental health and how precarious it is, how one man is destroyed by it, while another, a cop played by Robert Duvall, uses his soulful humanity to resiliently endure even worse things. Those are two things that make this film still resonate today. The story should make you feel uncomfortable and I believe it does. Douglas' "D-Fens" is neither good, nor bad. You feel for him, but also find some of the things he says and does distasteful. You may start wondering where the film's politics are. On whose side it is. And part of it is Joel Schumacher's "big budget" direction, as if D-Fens was an ordinary Joe living in an action movie world, and this is what happens when he gets his hands on a weapon. The slick cinematography and Hollywood gunplay seem to glamorize a man's nervous breakdown, and once again, you wonder what the movie thinks of its subject matter. But I think that's part of its interest. Our own relationship to violence, real, imagined, repressed, fictional and otherwise, is examined. Are close or far are we from D-Fens' state of mind? The DVD has a commentary track that edits together lots of interviews with cast and crew, and a 15-year anniversary conversation with Michael Douglas about the film.

The Wolf of Wall Street was a polarizing film when it came out a couple years ago, but I liked it enough to buy a copy. Sadly, the DVD has no extras. Regardless, watching it a second time, I think I liked it even more than I did the first time. The House of Cards-style narration, the comedy cuts, the POV jokes, the whole energy of the film... It's just hilarious. You don't normally think of Martin Scorsese as a comedy director, but I wish he'd do more with the genre. It seems to allow him some great flights of directorial fancy, at times on the order of Edgar Wright's work. And yet, it's still a Sorsese film - the rise and fall of a criminal, with all the decadence that normally involves. Except it's white collar crime, and how satisfying is it to see that kind of corporate crook get the mickey taken out of him? At three hours, the movie did seem a bit long in the theater, but sitting at home, the problem evaporates. Part of it is the obvious use of improvisation in many scenes, and letting the actors play around. What makes you restless in one venue, is perfectly enjoyable in another.

Another movie that's still great on second viewing is the Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy tribute to the great espionage films, Spy. Especially after the troublingly lackluster Spectre, Spy shines by GETTING IT. Hell, it has a better Bond theme than Spectre does! Sure, it's a comedy, with some broad moments, but also clever ones, smart plotting, and a fun and competent protagonist. Love Allison Janey and Jason Statham too. The DVD I have isn't the extended cut, and I'm sure I'm happy about that. When comedies get extended, it fills 'em up with air, the jokes fall flat, and the comic tension is drained out of it. I'm nevertheless happy with the package, which includes a commentary track by Feig and McCarthy, a picture gallery, and four (four!) outtake/gag reels showing cutting room floor moments both onscreen and off.



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