Will wonders never cease! It’s a sunny Saturday! In honor of the occasion I thought that I’d postpone the sad family history story I promised last week and bring you up to date on a few of the movies I’ve watched lately. It’s a pretty eclectic group that probably reveals something about my mental state, but I’ll leave conclusions up to you. Here they are briefly and in no particular order.
1, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass (sequel to Unbreakable and Split)
Shyamalan brought the characters together nicely and held my interest right up until the end, which he fumbled rather badly. It is usually difficult to resolve plots that regularly defy the laws of physics and nature. Horror and Superhero movies suffer from this problem a great deal. Glass proved no exception to that rule. The solution? Deus ex machina in the form of a secret society. Ugh. Otherwise, I liked it and thought the performances were excellent.
2. Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert
Ostensibly a biopic of Gertrude Bell’s travels, encounters, and romantic liaisons in the Near East through World War I, Queen of the Desert felt more like a well-funded, beautifully shot Hallmark movie than a historical drama about a brilliant and intrepid intellectual. Nicole Kidman was woefully miscast as Bell, who by all accounts was rather sturdier than Kidman’s breathless performance suggests (btw, I’ve got nothing against Nicole Kidman, who is a fine actress. She can’t help being frail and lady-like). Robert Pattinson, another fine actor, looked the part of T.E. Lawrence, but could do nothing with the terrible script. As you can see from the photo, it’s a lush film full of lovely textiles, and it even attempts to recreate scenes from photographs and written sources (often to unintentionally humorous effect), but it does a terrible disservice to the people it depicts. It is never exciting, often inexplicable (why is she there? who are these people? why should we care?), and worst of all, the viewer gets no clear sense either of Gertrude Bell herself or the Near East. (If you’re curious, you can read my brief post about the real Gertrude Bell here).
3. Katherine Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Although sold as if it were an action movie about Seal Team Six (type the title into Google image and you’ll see what I mean), the film mostly involves Jessica Chastain searching obsessively on the computer and doggedly arguing with her dapper male bosses at the CIA.
While it intimates that women (there are others besides Jessica) did all the brain work while the men golfed or got grubby torturing and killing people, I liked it. It wasn’t particularly heavy-handed. The movie is matter of fact and remarkably devoid of cheap political shots, melodrama, sex, and graphic violence. It also reminds us that it often takes years and years of painstaking research, observation, and dangerous intelligence gathering to set up one hour of kinetic Seal Team action. Bigelow is most comfortable filming the daily grind; her action sequences did not work as well and her take on the Seal Team culture — the banter, muscles, beards and dirty t-shirts — seemed forced and artificial (Chris Pratt, I mean you). Nevertheless, Zero Dark Thirty is definitely worth a watch.
4. The Silence, a Netflix Original rip-off of A Quiet Place (okay, I couldn’t find anything else to watch), starring Stanley Tucci and Miranda Otto.
Spelunkers accidentally release millions of ferocious, flesh-eating bat-like creatures that have somehow lived and multiplied underground for eons undetected and without light or an obvious external food source. And guess what? Once they’re out, they attack anything that they can hear. Since the creatures can’t see, as long as Stanley and his family are quiet, they’ll survive. The family all know sign language because the daughter is deaf, so that’s a plus. This movie has more plot holes that a piece of paper that silverfish have feasted on. It even has human antagonists in the form of an apocalyptic cult, whose members have cut out their tongues to make no sound (one can scream without a tongue, but never mind). The cult leader wants the teenage daughter as “a breeder”. What boggles the mind is that all of this has happened in a matter of days (weeks at best). Food supply is never a problem and despite an ingenious scene in which Stanley saves his family by turning on a loud chipper-shredder, no one ever does that again or thinks of other ways to turn sound to their advantage. I did not hate myself for watching the whole thing, but I came close.
Well, that’s how this DP has been wasting her life lately. I think it’s time to hit the books. Clearly, I’ve exhausted Netflix and Amazon.
Have a wonderful weekend and choose wisely!