Wrath of the People Who Watched Wrath of the Titans

No surprise, but an actively-ugly and uninteresting film. But then, amidst the other British actors buying their vacation homes, BOOM! Edgar Ramirez pops up. Carlos the Jackal plays Ares, God of War! Alas, aside from me thinking that was so weirdly cool …. he just snarls and gets sucked into the vortex of shittitude.

Off the beaten path

I’ve seen so little at theaters–aside from some kidcentric dreck–and even my home viewing is more infrequent (and obvious, mostly releases everyone else has seen and commented on). I know you’ve missed me, and have had to console yourselves with Arnab and Chris’ respective updates on films Luc Besson produced, or John keeping us abreast of Jerry Lewis’ excellence, or Russian gangsters’ redirections to strange and new cyberlands. Well, rest easy. I’m back. And rather than sticking to stuff you’ve seen or are likely to, a couple of recs for interesting if imperfect films.
Continue reading Off the beaten path

What are you staring at?

Toward the end of Cristi Puiu’s Aurora the always unsettled and increasingly unsettling Viorel (played by Puiu) lopes into one of his daughter’s classes, disrupting a party rehearsal. He grabs her, to get her to leave with him, and in a prototypical long fixed take, the camera gazing at the action from just over and behind the head of one of the schoolkids, we watch a teacher try to make sense of what’s happening, try to get him to let the daughter stay for a bit, while Viorel with barely-suppressed agitation gets his daughter dressed, readies her backpack, responds curtly and then with a vague menace to the teacher. His eyes frequently dart to the side, catching the schoolgirl right below the camera’s gaze. He looks at her, he goes back to what he’s doing, he looks at her, he talks, he looks at her. Then there is one extended glare, a head-shift away with his eyes on the floor (as if afraid? ashamed? completely unable to fathom human connection?); when he pulls his head back up, he stares at her–and although the set of his mouth and the look on his face hasn’t really changed, the gaze now seems furious. In a low monotone he asks “What are you staring at?” She turns away.

We can’t. Aurora isn’t a perfect film, but it may have a perfect performance. The brilliance of that performance–the slow revelation of Viorel’s desperation, and the horror attendant therewith–doesn’t really come clear unless you engage the long, long, long, long 100 or so minutes before anything specific happens. (The film then goes on for another 80 minutes. Did I warn you that it’s long? It makes Police, Adjective seem like Michael Bay.) Continue reading What are you staring at?


Hokum. Lots of good actors, but c’mon. Hokum. If you’re going to watch one rousing hurt-men-using-fighting-to-heal from 2011, watch Real Steel, which relishes its loony cliches.

That said, I would happily watch another film, without mixed martial arts, that let Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte mix it up. (Tom Hardy is smothered in Brando sauce, so he doesn’t get much room to shine here.)


I had a little, happening to start what I expected to be 6 or 7 minutes of channelsurfing before opting for a book–and saw that HBO ran an early premiere of the new Milch/Mann track show. Full of hambone outsized sweaty scruffy performers and way too many introductions and a wee bit too much melodrama and an absolutely shit soundtrack, but with thickets of knotty, interesting Milchian prose and some invigorating thundering hooves and asses and flying dirtclods and three stables’ worth of great actors, most of whom showed promise but were a little hamstrung by the ham of their introductions… except Dustin Hoffman who pulls off a brilliant final scene and Dennis Farina who’s dialled it down below everyone else and commands your entire attention.

I am in. This already has me hitched, and with Nolte in the background and Michael Gambon and Joan Allen in the wings… it’s unlikely to snap a leg and fall flat.

Point Blank is not Point Blank

There is a new French action film. This is a category not unlike healthy fast food or Republican historian. It stars a guy with Barney Rubble eyes. His wife gets kidnapped, and there is a lot of running around. People are not what they seem to be! Or at least they aren’t to Barney, who is running so much he has trouble thinking. Why have so many of these recent French faux-llywood shindigs been so resolutely dull? At least Luc Besson has excess going for him.


So, Hong Kong is a long damn way from Saint Paul. I can never sleep on these flights, maybe grabbing 15 or 25 minutes here and there, although such dozes were made impossible by the barking snores–like a rhino, startled into scornful laughter–from the strange man next to me on the way home. I usually hope to retreat into lovable tripe, stuff I failed to see and only half-wanted to, but the selections were less attractive, and I opted for three films going and coming back. In reverse order, worst to best: Continue reading Plane