Hey, here are some movies I’ve seen lately. I have some thoughts about them:
Martha Marcy May Marlene: I’ve wanted to see this movie since it got such rave reviews at Sundance in 2011. I finally watched it over my spring break, and I’m really glad I did. Martha deserves all its good reviews. The story of a young woman who returns to her sister after having spent time with a cult in rural New York, Martha is deeply unsettling. I can’t believe this was Elizabeth Olsen’s first major film. She’s ridiculously good in this, and I feel a little upset that she didn’t get an Oscar nomination for her work. John Hawkes is really good here, too, as the cult’s charismatic and terrifying leader. No surprise there; Hawkes is one of the best character actors out there. The ending is famously frustrating, but I actually thought it ended on a perfect note. I recommend this one.
Young Adult: I am one of those people who hates Juno. There are those who love it and those who hate it, and I am firmly in the latter camp. I think the actors are great, and there’s a few really wonderful moments in that film (that scene in the hospital between Ellen Page and J.K. Simmons being a particular highlight), but Diablo Cody’s dialogue makes me want to punch kittens. Luckily, every single review of Young Adult I encountered mentioned that Cody had dialed down the cute factor for her latest film. Also, it has Patton Oswalt, who is funny, and Charlize Theron, who I really like. I enjoyed Young Adult a lot, particularly the scenes between Theron and Oswalt (who is really, really good here; that guy doesn’t get enough credit for actually being a talented actor). I’m not sure this is a film I will go back to very often, as many scenes are incredibly uncomfortable (Theron is playing a highly unlikable character), but I also think it’s worth checking out. Also, it totally gets the weird vibe that small towns now have, with local dive bars and fast food chains coexisting in the same place at the same time.
Real Steel : Yeah, that’s right. I am as open to movies about fighting robots as I am to movies about cult victims. My audio bible, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, actually did an entire segment about how not-bad this movie is. And they were totally correct. Is it silly and cheesy and playing to the unwashed masses? Definitely. Is it entertaining as hell and really well-paced? Yes! Are the robot fights incredibly awesome? Yep yep. If you are looking for a fun time, I actually think you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s surprisingly engaging. Also, it has a father-son redemption arc. You guys, Hollywood knows my sweet spot.
John Carter: My friend Meg and I saw this in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon during spring break. We had the theater completely to ourselves, which increased our enjoyment of this cheesy little spectacle by about 75%. John Carter is already being held up as one of the biggest flops in some time, which I think is a shame. Like Real Steel, it’s silly but entertaining as hell. I can’t say I regretted sitting there watching it once during the entire screening. Oh, who am I kidding. This movie has Taylor Kitsch (aka Tim Riggens, the sexiest boy in Dillon, Texas) in it. And he’s shirtless for like two hours straight. Male gaze, I dare to subvert you.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: I am a big David Fincher fan (I’ve previously mentioned my obsession with The Social Network on this blog). I’m fascinated by the look of his films, particularly the strange coloring. His movies always look like bruises – dark but with that sickly green creeping in. The walls always look a little dirty; everyone’s skin a bit yellow in the shadows. When I watch Fincher films, I always smell chlorine for some reason. I mean that as a compliment. It makes me feel on edge and yet dulled at the same time. Fincher doesn’t make warm films, but they always feel hot, like something rotting in a warm room. Even in the frigid Swedish landscape, Fincher manages to make me freeze and sweat at the same time.
Okay, enough about Fincher. What about this particular film? I have absolutely no interest in reading Stieg Larsson’s books, and in this case, I’m glad I didn’t know much about this particular story before going into this movie. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next, so I managed to be riveted to the screen for most of the movie. That being said, I really felt like it was a half-hour too long. And this has nothing to do with the movie, but I hate that those two characters hook up by the end. That is not an organic relationship in any way whatsoever. Watching this basically confirmed that I won’t be picking up the Larsson books anytime soon. I actually liked the movie itself a great deal, mostly because of the excellent casting (Rooney Mara is really good), Fincher’s unflinching direction, and the creepy Atticus Ross/Trent Reznor soundtrack. If you can handle the rough material, then I think it deserves your attention.
P.S. I have to admit I had trouble handling some of the scenes in this movie. For some reason, rape scenes always over-affect me, so I had to actually leave the room and take a breather after that scene. Same with the fate of that poor cat. I actually find animal cruelty to be even harder to deal with than depictions of rape.
P.P.S. Those opening credits are so weird! And yet so intriguing. I’ve long loved that Led Zeppelin song, and I love the way Karen O. interprets it here. This version is going on my Spotify account!