Monthly Archives: February 2015
The increasingly subtle Clint Eastwood continues to astound me with his film craftsmanship. You could say that his entire career, as actor and director, has been a progressively thoughtful exploration of violence and the effects of violence, the unseen costs of violence, and the lingering consequences of violence. In American Sniper, he’s made a film so well that pretty much everybody in the country completely missed the point of it. It’s an astoundingly disturbing portrait of how an environment of continuous war dehumanizes not only the people we send to fight it, but the people who cheer them on from the distant homeland, far removed from the day-to-day realities of that war. The problem is that the reaction to the film has proven that the film’s point is on target, if you’ll excuse the expression. In a way, the popularity of the film in certain hawkish circles is as eloquent a statement on how disconnected the people are from the realities of the violence committed in their name; similarly, the wave of disgust for the film in more left-leaning circles demonstrates a distinct inability to process any commentary less subtle than a sledgehammer – small wonder when what passes for ‘politically incorrect’ these days is the decidedly bland non-personality Bill Maher. I have no doubt that in years to come, when it can be viewed outside of the entrenched partisan ideologies that have misdefined it, American Sniper will be seen as one of the most insightful anti-war films ever made, a chilling exploration of the dehumanization society suffers through publicly-approved slaughter.
First comic book movie of the year that I’ve seen: Kingsman: The Secret Service, which was a pleasant surprise for February, where studios send crappy movies off to die unnoticed deaths. It’s a fantastic concept that’s so obvious that it seems odd nobody ever did it before, and a surprising commentary on money, class, aristocracy, elitism, and that peculiar habit people have of thinking that other people are expendable towards their noble goals. It’s not as smart as Kick-Ass, by any means, but it is a fun ride and a fantastic spy film.
I also feel vindicated in thinking, back in the day, that a “James Bond, Jr.” movie would totally have worked. It helps that the cast was a parade of awesome British actors who would never be chosen to be James Bond getting to be James Bond:
> Colin Firth, who gets to unleash in one of the most spectacular orgies of violence I’ve ever seen on screen… But Bond? Naaah. Call him when you’re ready to do another Harry Palmer film, though, definitely. Or when you’re ready to do a new “Avengers” (or possibly a new “New Avengers“).
> Jack Davenport: Okay, granted, everybody likes this guy, and he very rarely seems to get to be Super-Awesome Action Guy, so it was fun seeing him in full-on James Bond/Jason Bourne mode. I doubt that (Darkman nonwithstanding) anyone suspected that Liam Neeson would have a run as Super-Awesome Action Guy, either, though, so it’s not too late for Jack. Maybe as our new Simon Templar? He’s got the charm.
> Mark Strong: Are you trying not to be the bad guy all the time, Mark? Remember, the last time you tried to be a spy on the side of the angels you got yourself shot. Bond is probably forever out of your grasp, but a Bond villain, on the other hand…. Now we’re talking.
> Taron Egerton: He’s very young, obviously, but I don’t see it happening. Loads of personality, though – He’s your working-man’s hero, more John McClain than James Bond. What would the British Die Hard series be? Snuff It? Bollocks!? Brown Bread? Not ‘ardly, Mate?
Of course Michael Caine was already Harry Palmer, so no regrets there. And he used to bring Batman his tea, which has to count for something. Also, Sophie Cookson was great, but we already have an Emma Watson, thank you very much.
I also marvel at Samuel L. Jackson’s ability to own roles that he’s been miscast in, like the philanthropist tech billionaire planning on yadda yadda yadda it doesn’t really matter anyway except a lotta people gonna die… It really should have been somebody half his age, but that’s the magic of the man, isn’t it? No matter who he plays, he’s Samuel L. Jackson, and that’s always worth seeing. Surprisingly, not a single ‘motherfucker’ that I can recall. You’re slipping, Sam. Still, his handi-capable assistant/assassin Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) was pretty much born to play this part.
Also: MARK HAMILL!
With Kick-Ass, and now Kingsman, I wonder why studios are so skittish about that R rating on comic book movies. Granted, I’d never want to see an R rated Batman movie, or Spider-Man, or anything like that, but some comic books fit the R rating perfectly, and Kingsman is one of them. Deadpool is another, and it’ll probably get the PG-13 rating so as not to taint that most precious of cash cows, the X-Men franchise. But it could, and should, frankly, be R rated. Of course, then there’s the OTHER problem, which is when studios DO try to make an R rated comic book movie, what they actually do is make a PG-13 movie and cram as much blood and gore into as possible, as if upping the graphic violence count is a fair substitute for writing a decent screenplay. Punisher: War Zone springs to mind, although what the heck – I still stand by that movie, warts and all.
Here’s your run-down:
So many dead bodies you can’t count ’em all.
Multiple colorful explosive decapitations.
Implied off-screen ass-fu.
Four stars. Christopher Chance says check it out.