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And now for that other movie about fish people.

I think people will sleep on Cold Skin as it doesn’t seem destined for any kind of theatrical release. I was lucky enough to see it so while I often write reviews for films a lot of people are gonna see anyway, it’s nice to be able to write one for something a bit more obscure. I should really do this more because strong indie movies like Cold Skin are definitely out there and I see my fair share of them.

The trailer is a little unclear about what kind of movie you’re going to get. It’s mostly a horror movie, but a thoughtful one that deftly mixes unusual thematic ambition with a pretty deft fusion of both monster movie and gothic horror tropes. It’s a bit of a siege movie, too, with a lot of running time spent on fending off the assaults of a seemingly endless horde of violent monsters. But there’s more going on than that.

Cold Skin is also colonial narrative, sometimes skewing into allegory but often happy to be fairly straightforward and maybe even on the nose. It’s worth noting that as obvious as the allegory is, Cold Skin is never preachy or aggressive about its themes. It’s more contemplative, taking its time to arrive at the conclusions and ideas that the audience may already be on board with. This doesn’t mean it’s unsatisfying watching the events play out. Far from it. Partly this is because there’s a mostly subtle romantic through-line in the film that makes it a little bit like The Shape of Water. That film had different thematic priorities, but could be seen as an interesting companion piece. They both play around with horror tropes while also presenting narratives that are about how and why humans mistake the other as monstrous. In this case, it’s through the prism of colonialism, played out on a small scale on a deserted volcanic island somewhere in the remote waters of the South.

SPOILERS HO!

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The natural evolution of Jesse Ventura.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a weird sort of sequel. It liberally ignores the “canon” of its predecessor in many superficial ways, drops characters and icons we saw in the previous film without explanation, and often feels more grounded and as if it takes place in an entirely different world than the first one (which was much more science fictional). The result is something that I can only compare to two different versions of the same comic book character(s). John M. Chu proves he can do more than direct dance movies or follow Justin Beiber around, showing a flair for action and humor that lends itself well to this movie, but he also feels like a guy coming into an X-Men run two years after the last notable one.

This movie also has an interesting production history. There were several rumors going around when it was delayed (it was supposed to come out last year). The most popular rumor was that it had been delayed to bump up the presence of Channing Tatum and his character Duke. 2012 was the make year for Tatum and it makes a lot of sense that the studio would look at this fact and say “our movie needs more of this year’s it-guy”. I don’t know how much they added, but the official report was that the delay was really about a post-conversion to 3D. And here I thought these fuckers had realized what a bad idea that usually is. Fortunately in G.I. Joe 2, the 3D is actually pretty good and often cleverly used to punctuate the action choreography.

Anyway, as to whether or not this movie is any good… you’ll have to ask yourself whether you liked the first one or not. It’s definitely different, as this sequel is more grounded and less ridiculous (for the most part) than Rise of the Cobra. That being said, it’s still a cartoon action movie coasting on a somewhat thin coating of charm and violence. The first movie was more violent and more crazy than this one, and if that’s why you liked it (if you did) then you will maybe be disappointed by Retaliation. Of course, if you didn’t like the first one because of those elements, Retaliation will certainly seem like the better of the two. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this movie worth seeing? Depends how you feel about airship battles.

The Three Musketeers has been given a new coat of paint. It’s sort of the same coat of paint that Disney gave the pirates mythos but has more in common with what Guy Ritchie did with (to?) Sherlock Holmes. Did you like Sherlock Holmes, gentle reader? I was pretty meh about it, but I liked aspects. It’s hard to fully knock such a solid bromance, after all. On the other hand, The Three Musketeers lacks the scope and writing of the Pirates movies and nine tenths of the charm of Sherlock due to the absence of anyone of Robert Downey Jr’s caliber putting in a Robert Downey Jr performance. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t charming actors in Musketeers because they are. And they are even having a lot of fun throughout the movie. Unfortunately, there are many pieces that don’t connect and the movie sort of deflates after the first half, driving itself to a completely unsatisfying ending with the self-assured mania of Orlando Bloom’s (fairly awesome) Duke Buckingham.

If you know your shit, you already have a pretty good idea about the story. Basically, shit is a bit crazy in 16th Cent France. King Louis is incompetent and under the power of Cardinal Richelieu who has his own private army, personal assassin, and big plans for war and mayhem in continental Europe. The musketeers, of which there are apparently much fewer in this movie, have been decommissioned after they are double-crossed by ally Milady de Winter (Milla Jovavich who is not terrible for a change but not all that great either) and the aforementioned Buckingham. Together, the two dastardly villains steal the plans for a big ol’ steampunk airship from one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s secret vaults. This is after a pretty wicked three-way infiltration by the musketeers (my that sounds dirty) which introduces us to the concept that this is the same kind of “what if” technological Renaissance as posited by other recent successful properties like Assassin’s Creed 2 or Sherlock. So yeah, we’re down for airships. Read the rest of this entry »

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