Archives for posts with tag: willem dafoe

Action movies that don’t go for it are such a disappointment. John Wick is not that kind of disappointment. It’s also very few other kinds of disappointment. This is a film that sets out its stall very early and then follows through completely. If you’re not sold in the first twenty minutes, stop. But if you are, keep going.

In the world of John Wick, contract killers have their own demi-monde, with stylish safe zone hotels and absolute codes of conduct. This may be more or less true; I wouldn’t know. I doubt that their concierges are quite as perfectly anticipatory of guests’ needs. It also seems unlikely that they all have such careful (but various) taste in interior décor: Wick’s house is all cool greys and straight lines, where one of his rivals lives in warm neutrals and rounded cushions. Both are extremely pleasing.

Of course, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) doesn’t want to be a hitman, and has successfully quit. But then his beloved wife dies, and somebody steals his car and kills his dog.

This dog, man. It is a very, very cute puppy, and I think I knew that it would be killed, but I still couldn’t believe it. Even I would probably come out of hitman retirement if he were mine and someone hurt him, and I’m not one of those slightly alarming people who couldn’t give a damn when a person in a movie dies but just can’t watch Marley & Me.

As you’ve surely sussed out, John Wick decides to make a comeback and proceeds to kill everyone. With élan. And extreme prejudice. And often a knife.

Director: Chad Stahelski
Rating: R
Length: 101 minutes
Score: 4/5

The set-up of Daybreakers is this: ten years ago, humans were infected with vampirism. Now the vast majority of Earth’s population consists of vampires, and the food supply, obviously, is dwindling quickly. Starvation, in vampires, causes regression to a Nosferatu-like state, which is a) gross and b) not societally sustainable. In cities awake only at night, above networks of tunnels (Subwalks), there is a desperate race for a viable blood substitute.

Enter our hero, Ed (Ethan Hawke), a hematologist vampire working on this project. His evil boss (Sam Neill, whose character’s name I forget because it’s not Vassily Borodin) is concerned with profits, either from his blood farms or from the substitute, emphatically not caring which. Ed’s brother (some young Kiwi) is a weirdo soldier in the Vampire Army, and there is some sibling tension.

But Ed is not evil. Ed refuses to drink human blood, Ed helps humans escape from the Vampire Police, Ed really wants to save humans generally. Ed does not, you will be shocked to learn, have sensitive facial hair. Anyhow, he meets some human resistance fighters, Willem Dafoe drives American muscle cars, there’s an attractive lady (Claudia Karvan as Audrey) and an attractive vineyard, yadda yadda yadda fight the powercakes.

An unsubtle critique of capitalism and warning about possible food crises, this movie is nonetheless not terrible. At least two unexpected things happened, and the world-building is well executed. Willem Dafoe is appropriately crazy and Sam Neill is delightfully Mephistophelean. The only real problem I have is the body horror. Sure, you need some, but this…is a bit much, especially in an otherwise suited, fedora’d, stylish world. Which I’m sure is the point, but I still don’t have to like it.

Stray observations:

  • The vampires mostly wear hats. Like, the kind of hats we stopped wearing when JFK did. I don’t know why, because the hats don’t protect them enough from the sun and are worn underground. Style, I guess.
  • Audrey is capable and no-nonsense, not having to be rescued over-much. In fact, she begins by shooting Ed. Could be worse.
  • There is a predictable but still deeply unpleasant rape-analogue scene. It is, in fairness, largely essential to the plot.
  • Everyone in this movie except for Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe is a Kiwi or an Australian. Nonetheless the action occurs in the US, because, sigh, we are the capitalistic and militaristic goons who would create this world. I would like to see the same premise in Australia or New Zealand, mostly, I admit, for the laughs.

Director: The Spierig Brothers
Rating: R
Length: 98 min.
Score: 2/5. Clever, but too gross.

This movie is basically Love Actually but sadder and more French. I had an actual post but managed to hit the backspace in the wrong field and so that’s all you get for now. Maybe I’ll update later.

Edited: Right, okay, I’m now less annoyed, and fortunately I remembered not to close the TextEdit window with my notes in it.

The framework of this movie: each of twenty directors gets five minutes and Paris. You get roughly what you’d expect out of these; in the Coen Brothers’ contribution, Steve Buscemi gets beat up in a métro station. There’s only the most half-hearted attempt to relate the stories to one another, and I think maybe I wish they’d not bothered. Anyway, I’ve seen more irritating love letters to Paris, and at least this one puts it out there with its title.

Since the movie is a bit fragmented, I’ll move straight to the stray observations. I won’t treat each vignette, because some of them are just too predictable and unmemorable (Gus Van Sant, I’m looking at you).

  • Unlike Love Actually, this film has people who are actually poor or desperately unlucky, not just amusingly bohemian Kris Marshall. Unsurprisingly, this is sad. In fact, one of my notes just says: “sad immigrant from Lagos oh my god so sad.”
  • A horrible French child with a pea-shooter annoys Steve Buscemi as well. The horrible French child is the best part of that sketch.
  • Juliet Binoche sure has a face for tragedy.
  • Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer visit Oscar Wilde’s grave in Père Lachaise. She accuses him of being humorless, although this is not true (his offering for that brilliant man’s last words–“Bury me under something ugly”–made me laugh out loud), because what she wants from a man is that he is so hilarious that he quotes Wilde all the time. I submit, honey, that you might be doing it wrong, romance-wise.
  • I hate mimes. And I know everyone hates mimes, but there’s a reason for that.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is appearing in a period drama. I’d laugh, but I saw Hysteria, so it just isn’t funny.
  • When you hear English in a French film, it sounds slow and stilted. Native English speakers sound as though they have some sort of aphasia. It’s not quite as painful as a sudden American in a British movie.
  • I did not expect Olga Kurylenko to be my first doubled actor.

Director: Everybody ever; or: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardieu, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant
Length: 120 min.
Rating: R, for not a lot of reason except maybe the swearing in the Coen Brothers bit
Score: 2/5? I found exactly one vignette touching (“Place des Fêtes”), a few pretty, and the Gurinder Chadha one (“Quais de Seine”) cute if fairy-tale. I’m not mad at it.