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1134604 - Zero Dark Thirty

Jessica Chastain carries the film admirably.

Zero Dark Thirty is a problematic and frustrating film. It has been critically received from every end of the spectrum: pernicious, propaganda, subtly subversive, and the best movie of 2012 for those who saw it before it went wide. Everybody seems to have weighed in, even the head of the CIA. He warned people that this movie endorses torture and this is not accurate to the events it depicts; in other words he says torturing people didn’t work but this movie seems to be saying that it did. The use of torture and its efficacy clouds the real issue of its morality.

I could watch a movie like Zero Dark Thirty and be okay with its fucked up (mixed) messages. If we grant that the movie does pretty much endorse torture and draws a fairly straight line between its use and the demise of Bin Laden, what does this actually do to the quality of the movie? Well, if it was 24 the answer would be “not much”. I mean, we can consider the level to which torture has become a staple of American fiction (everything from The Vampire Diaries to Far Cry 3) on a sociological level and what this implies. We can consider the implications of this, both moral and psychological, and how perhaps Zero Dark Thirty is a reflection of a very muddy and complicated relationship between society and what is perhaps one of the ultimate moral compromises imaginable.

I prefer the latter way of looking at it, and this forces me to deal with the movie on that level. I can’t wave away what it’s doing and saying because it’s ostensibly “fiction”. It purports to be more, its opening scrawl claiming a past-fantasy level of veracity by saying that it is based on the firsthand accounts of the people involved. The key words there are “based on” and the amount of room within those simple words, room to get away with lying for the sake of a good story in most cases, is huge. I don’t claim to know how accurate Zero Dark Thirty is and I don’t really care. There’s thematic content here that deserves analysis beyond nitpicking accuracy or dismissing the whole thing as torture-porn or ‘Murica chest-thumping. Zero Dark Thirty is not, whatever you might say about it, the same kind of thing as Act of Valor.

And it’s complexity is probably what’s so frustrating about it. So let’s get into it. Read the rest of this entry »

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The perfect image to sum up a movie. But not this movie.

The line of dialogue with which I title this review is ironic, as I often try to be when using this gimmick. The reason why it’s ironic will be obvious to most people who see this movie. For those who haven’t (or, y’know, don’t get irony) the reason is that there’s nothing new about John Carter. The problems this raises are manifold. First there’s that the movie is based on a series of books written like 100 years ago by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the guy who created Tarzan. Those books influenced generations of science fiction writers and that influence has appeared on screen before. This makes John Carter familiar in a way that is perfectly manageable, and may even be a boon as it allows some room for a fresh spin that will appeal to modern audiences. But this was apparently not a priority for the Pixar alums, spear-headed by Andrew Stanton (his entire Pixar resume can be summed up as movies that are good stories told well, the opposite of what John Carter is), who made this movie. Unfortunately, there’s also the influence of the “me too” McEpics that are churned out year after year. John Carter has all the same problems that plague similar movies like Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia, or last year’s abysmal Conan the Barbarian remake and thus the familiarity takes on another, even more damning dimension.

What the above amounts to is that John Carter is an exceptionally boring movie. You’ve seen all this before and the only difference now is that we’re supposed to believe this is Mars and that the Na’Vi are now green and have four arms. I have to respect that mileage will vary in regards to the tolerance people are going to have for this shit. I know most people will suck this same pablum up over and over and never demand anything fresh or exciting from their McEpics. Even when you can get them to acknowledge that this shit is derived from a misfire of the imagination, and will in turn negatively impact the imaginations of the audience, they just suck that shit down some more. It’s maddening. Still, this is an Evan McCoy review and I’m going to get into more specific reasons why John Carter is the first truly awful movie I’ve seen in 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t let cool images like this fool you. The crazy space opera stuff is just so much window dressing.

I pride myself on trying to find cool quotes, or at least apt ones, to fit my reviews. The quote I chose this time is a chastisement against what I view to be the thing Green Lantern is the shortest on. There is some sense of scope, and there’s certainly imagination involved in creating the planet Oa or the creature Parralax, but most of this is owed to the comics. I’m hard pressed to give the filmmakers much credit for translating the work of others and doing such a piss-poor job of making even that work, let alone adding anything to the proceedings.

Green Lantern is a by-the-numbers movie. Yes, superhero movies have progressed to the point where there’s a template of bland genericness which seems to be a combination of samey origin stories, daddy issues, and what worked in Iron Man. We get it already, Hollywood, these movies are hip to the fact that they are about ridiculous guys in tights with unlikely names. At the same time, a movie that was much more earnest than Green Lantern yet had many similarities in apparent scope and context is Thor, which is by far the better movie. Read the rest of this entry »

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