Weekly Recap 9/16 – 9/22

9/16/12 For a Good Time, Call… (2012)

9/18/12 Chungking Express (1994)

“Some things need time to sink in.”

Quentin Tarantino loved Wong Kar-Wai’s breakout film so much he picked it up for distribution through his short-lived Rolling Thunder Pictures. Though debate persists as to why the film was such a box office disappointment in the U.S., Chungking Express might not have been a film for the masses. Period. That screen cap isn’t shoddy frame stopping on my part; the director is painting. The step-printed images are meant to be blurry. Wong Kar-Wai’s samples colors, melodramatic actors — some of whom are cloyingly romantic — 90’s urban soundscapes and low-lit street corners and back alleys, the dingy places where smuggling deals are made. Everyone dwells on the past. The seedy, midnight shroud is reminiscent of John Woo’s Hard Boiled, and that’s probably not a coincidence. Its structure and dissections of love — one on memory, the other, time — are less disjointed as they are deliberately segmented. There are thematic connections here of course, but any story links are fleeting, like a bump of strangers in the bustle of Hong Kong night life.

9/19/12 Haywire (2011)

In some respects, Steven Soderbergh’s commercial tryst from his experimental indulgence of, really doing whatever the hell he wants, feels influenced by what’s come before. I haven’t seen Magic Mike, but Haywire rejects the Bourne series and its influence on Hollywood fare. Haywire’s story isn’t nearly as essential: something about contracted killers hired out by Uncle Sam and something about a double cross. And really that’s all you need there. More importantly however, Soderbergh’s style is an affront to Greengass’ reviled/imitated shaky cam style from Supremacy and Ultimatum. You’ll find few quick cuts, and Soderbergh’s long takes and deep focus shots elevate routine chase sequences and an amazingly okay performance from MMA amazon Gina Carano. Couple that with its authentic fight sequences and David Holmes’s retro horn sex, and baby, you got a stew goin’!

9/21/12 Dredd 3D (2012)

I could go on about how much I loved Karl Urban’s perma-scowl, the film’s hyper-violence, Lena Headey’s smart villain, the intricate world building so foreign to most actioners, the script’s commitment to a simple premise, or the actual ingenuity of 3D in a film. But I won’t, because there probably won’t be another Dredd movie.

9/22/12 Magnolia (1999)

Is anything clear after only one viewing of a Paul Thomas Anderson film? Maybe I’m buying too much into the critical cult here. Or maybe I just didn’t care for the ridiculously sprawling and cumbersome Magnolia. Its daunting long takes put everything this side of Pulp Fiction and Children of Men to shame with their rigorous coordination. What is apparent is Tom Cruise’s Frank T.J. Mackey and his ability to be loathsome and fascinating and magnetic all at once. But PTA’s style almost insists upon itself here. Along with those long takes, Anderson’s original screenplay is impenetrable to tackle against its scope and massive runtime. From The Master stretching back to Boogie Nights, Anderson’s been fascinated with family issues and relationships, and I was certainly entranced, even with its trudging pace. PTA’s pre-millennium mass probably deserves a second take. I’m just not looking forward to setting aside another three hours anytime soon.

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