Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday Night Movie Reviews: October

Ah yes, it's Friday Night Movie Review time again, where we deliver unto you bite-sized movie reviews of the flicks we've been watching the last four weeks. You may well notice this is actually going up on Saturday night but 'Saturday Night Movie Review Because We Were Recording the FP Podcast Last Night' doesn't really have as much of a ring to it. Do you listen to the podcast? You should. It's certainly...something.

Join us below the cut to check out what Vanessa, Jeff and Jacinta have been watching this past month.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) by Vanessa

Pans Labyrinth is the kind of film that I always heard was good but never really had the opportunity to watch. This month I made the time to see it and it was magnificent!

Pans Labyrinth is a Spanish film by now famous director Guillermo del Toro and follows the story of a young girl named Ofelia and her family, living in a the early Francoist period where small pockets of rebels are still trying to get away from the new fascist government. Apparently del Toro made himself very sick working on it and one can see how that would be the case. I could talk forever about this film, I certainly talked about it for a long time with my partner after watching it, but this isn't really the place for that discussion.

For this review let's just say that Pans Labyrinth is an adult fairy tale told through a child's eyes. As Ofelia struggles to understand how her mother could be marrying the absolutely abhorrent Captain Vidal and to navigate a world that she does not understand, she finds herself part of another story; the kind that she prefers, a fairy tale. She follows a fairy into the Labyrinth where the Captain and her family are staying. Inside she meets an old Faun who tells her that she is the lost Princess Moanna of their underworld who ran away to the surface, forgot who she was, suffered and died. The King of the underworld had said that she would return, though she would look different. The Faun gives Ofelia tasks to perform to prove that she is not completely human and is fit to return as their princess. As Ofelia attempts these challenges with mixed success, the world around her becomes scarier and scarier. Indeed, even the faceless Pale Man chasing her in one of her challenges is nothing compared to her mothers strife in the real world, the brutality of the Civil War around them and the Captain.The fairy tale world seems dark and foreboding but far more inviting.

The film boasts some of the best heroes and monsters I've ever seen. Ofelia is absolutely stunning in her bravery, facing giant evil toads in caves and a dying mother with equal courage. Captain Vidal has to be one of the scariest bad guys of all time! The brutality with which he treats everyone in the story is particularly upsetting because those kinds of men in war are more real than fiction. Mercedes, Vidal’s serving woman and spy for the rebels is a constant friend and protector for Ofelia and displays bravery and strength. Doug Jones playing both the faun and the old Pale Man is masterful. His ability to convey both terror and warmth is without compare and will stick with you throughout the film and beyond. I have so much respect for actors who play those kinds of creatures with little or no recognition.

The end of the film can be interpreted many ways, the most simple of which is directly the way it is told. However, my interpretation, which is perhaps the dominant reading, is far more sinister. We all like to believe that fairy tales have a happy ending, but life isn't like that and happy endings are open to interpretation. Personally, the end of the film just made me really sad. Sad for Ofelia and what she lost, for what Spain lost and the traumatic times that were to come but overwhelmingly because of the idea that Ofelia actually lost her fantasy world. That even the happiest of endings and victories are not what we had hoped and that ultimately, while her bravery was real, her salvation was not.

Prometheus (2012) by Jeff

I spent much of the summer watching all the non-AVP Alien movies. While I liked Alien, LOVED Aliens, tolerated Alien 3, and want to pretend Alien Resurrection never happened, I was very excited to get to Prometheus in spite of a lot of the critical drubbings and fan angst over the film. After all, the previews made it look like a sci-fi opera, and I'm an unabashed Damon Lindelof fanboy, so why not?

The film works on a few levels, most notably for me because it's not a sci-fi horror film like the rest of the franchise. Instead of going for horror tropes and gags in s sci-fi setting, it allows the plot itself to organically create its own flavor of creepy and scary. Instead of being about how they can make the aliens scary, or how they can make the humans inhumane, it's about best laid plans and taking the classic Alien trope of smart people doing incredibly stupid things and making it make sense.

The mythology, as well, is expanded in a beautiful way with this movie. While I feel as if the story behind Alien was taking a back seat in favor of more action-packed stories, Lindelof was smart to put the actual tales of the franchise front and center. It makes for a more robust series on a whole.

Finally, I really liked the casting choices across the board. I'll watch Idris Elba in anything these days, but it's the first time in recent memory I've enjoyed Charlize Theron in anything and Noomi Rapace was also really great. The real winner, though, is Michael Fassbender, who plays the Mandatory Creepy Robot to perfection, which is something that didn't really happen well in the previous films.

While it wasn't without its flaws (why would you taunt a creature you never met? How on earth do you run after getting a c-section?), it's definitely one of the best things I've seen this year and probably my favorite film of the franchise. If you've been holding off, don't wait much longer. My only regret was not seeing it on a giant screen.

Ninja Assassin (2009) by Jacinta

There is something so incredibly joyful about watching a ninja action movie with ultra clunky dialogue that sounds like it’s straight out of 1987. K-Pop beefcake Rain stars as Raizo, a defector from his clan who is trying to atone for past sins by killing a whole bunch of clan members and helping Boring White People do Police Things. Okay, so not all the boring people are caucasian, but it’s much easier than saying Boring White People And That One African American Lady.

Ninja Assassin is massively gory, in that gleefully sick manner where you’re watching the top of someone’s head being lopped off with a samurai sword and wondering how they’re going to up the ante in the next scene. Even though the effect is a mix of choreography and CGI (a lot of CGI), it doesn’t make it any less impressive. It goes without saying that all scenes with the Boring White People are total rubbish, and the only ones worth watching are the ones with the Awesome Asian Ninjas. If you choose to skip the White People scenes you won’t be missing out on too much (though you will be bypassing some pretty hilarious dialogue). As a little bit of trivia, one of the guys who wrote this, wrote the story for Thor. Not the screenplay, obviously, just the story. Would have been nice to see the Warriors Three beating the crap out of some Ice Giants ‘Ninja Assassin’ style, but sadly it was not to be.

Is this a good movie? No. But is it an entertaining movie? Absolutely. It is more or less ‘Ninja Porn’, where a lacklustre story used to string together what the audience is really there to see. The money shots. The money shots are very very good, and there are far worse ways to spend an afternoon than watching this awesome gore-fest.

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