Skyfall is the twenty-third Bond movie and the third featuring Daniel Craig as the priapic spy. It argues the superiority of field agents over computer nerds, HUMINT over SIGINT, the old school vs. the new kids on the motherboard. And for all the thumbs that it puts on the scales — the Aston-Martin ungaraged to save the day after the hackers are out-hacked, the shaking-not-stirring — it winds up making its case against the spy game in toto more than for either the jocks or the nerds. It’s ambivalent to the point of nihilistic. Continue reading “Movies. Monday Movies.”
Haywire is Steven Soderbergh at his leanest and most improvisational best. It bears a strong resemblance to The Limey, although it’s not as ambitious — as before, the director is working from a script by Lem Dobbs, although this time I get the sense that they are working more in concert than with knives drawn.
The story is a functional espionage thriller: Continue reading “Monday Movies Doesn’t Wear The Dress. Make Paul Wear The Dress”
If the first five minutes of Argo were shown in American high schools, we would not be talking about going to war with Iran. A quick scene-setting voice-over plainly lays out how the nationalization of oil resources by reformer Mohammed Mossadegh upset the United States, who backed a coup to install the brutal Reza Pahlavi as Shah. The Iranians rose up against the Shah, the U.S. allowed him in for medical treatment, and when student rioters took over the embassy in 1979, they demanded he be returned to them for justice.
The movie, based on a must-read Wired article by Joshuah Bearman, depicts the storming of the embassy, but leaves its hostages to tell the story of six lesser-known Americans, who escaped that day, hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador, and were eventually spirited out of Iran by CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck, who also directed). Mendez disguised them as the director, screenwriter and scouting crew of the Star Wars rip-off Argo. Continue reading “If Monday Movies Is Going To Make a Fake Movie, It’s Going To Be a Fake Hit”
Pitch Perfect spans the intolerable and the sublime. It’s the story of Beca (Anna Kendrick), a college radio DJ who prefers to keep to her headphones but reluctantly joins an a capella singing group when her professor father says she can only quit college and go to L.A. if she spends her freshman year just trying something. She hooks up with the Bellas, an all-female group whose ranks have been decimated after the lead senior flubbed last year’s championship by projectile vomiting out her “I Saw The Sign” solo. Continue reading “Monday Movies Sets Fires to Feel Joy”
I don’t think it’s helpful to call a work of art “pretentious,” but I do think it’s meaningful to call one “unpretentious.” Rather than open up an unnecessarily Bourdieuvian riff, let me put it this way: I dig a good B-movie. One of my favorites of the last decade was Cellular, a nimble kidnap thriller in which Kim Basinger is uniquely suited to slay one of her captors because she’s a seventh-grade biology teacher who knows her axillary arteries. Life-and-death stakes, a little broad comedy, car chases, never boring and never in bad faith.
Margin Call — A masterful, quiet drama about the first 24 hours of the financial crisis, and one of the rare films to use the word “capitalism” in dialogue. A high-rolling Wall Street firm executes a round of cuts, leaving skeleton crews in its various departments. As a manager in Risk Management (Stanley Tucci) gets the axe, he passes a thumb drive to his surviving junior, an MIT-trained engineer-turned-quant (Zachary Quinto). The thumb drive contains evidence of what we now all know — that this emblematic anonymous firm is leveraged far beyond value or reason, and that the piper could ask to be paid at any minute.
Continue reading “Monday Movies Spent $76,520 on Booze, Dancers, and Whores”
Robot and Frank opens with a sequence borrowed from Bottle Rocket: a robber breaking and entering into his own home. But unlike Owen Wilson’s Dignan, whose crime is in preparation for a more eventful life, Frank (Frank Langella) is helplessly reliving his adventures. Frank lives in Cold Spring, NY, five hours’ round trip from his barely-not-estranged son Hunter (James Marsden), and under the lengthening shadow of dementia. When Hunter brings him a helper robot, an affably clunky-looking white cartoon astronaut without a name (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, inhabited by dancer Rachael Ma), he proudly resists at first, but soon learns that the robot’s obedience to federal and state law is subordinate to its prime directive, to maintain his health, and if planning and executing heists keeps his mind sharp and his life purposeful, the robot is happy to learn the meaning of “case the joint.”
Continue reading “Monday Movies Needs Him. He’s Our Friend.”