WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 6

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews as we delve into my sixth WWW:

1) Far North:
As the title suggests, the film takes place in some unspecified icy region, where Michelle Yeoh's character makes a life for herself, using whatever means necessary to survive along with the young woman she's raised since infancy. Conditions are brutal and food is scarce, but as flashbacks eventually reveal, she's endured much worse. Their lives change when the enigmatic Loki, played by Sean Bean, enters the picture. Against her instinct, Yeoh takes him in and three soon becomes a crowd. It's a quiet little character study with some interesting twists, ruined only by an implausible ending. I can understand what led a character to the action that was taken; I just can't buy that it worked within the confines of this type of movie. It's not a bad watch for a slow afternoon.

2) Let the Right One In:
This Swedish film is a dark and beautiful look into the life of a very lonely young boy who faces the unrelenting torture of bullies from his school. His life changes when he meets a vampire who encourages him to fight back even as she becomes his first crush. The boy lives with his mother in the apartment adjacent to the one the vampire moves in to, along with a father figure whom I inferred to have been her guardian for most of his life. No one else notices or understands what the boy is going through, and it's tragic. He's well on a psychopathic road to being pushed Too Far, while the vampire deals with troubling emotions and her own basic need for survival, which motivates the actions she takes and the bonds she reluctantly forms. The boy eventually learns her secrets, of which she possesses more than one, and it doesn't matter. It is the story of loneliness and kindred spirits, of dark yet satisfying conclusions. My only regret is that already we're getting a remake. Two years? Really, America? It's getting a little ridiculous, but I guess it's cheaper and easier to adapt an existing story and make money off a remake than it is to start from scratch. I still don't like the trend.

3) I Love You, Man:
Paul Rudd doesn't strike me as the sort of actor who can carry a lead role. He's a great supporter in comedies, but I can't see him as a protagonist. I wasn't a fan of his after the first movie I saw him in, The Object of My Affection, in which he plays the gay friend of a pregnant Jennifer Aniston, whom she falls in love with and tries to “convert”. It was kind of pointless, but I reluctantly had to admit to my girlfriend that it was better than Beverly Hills Ninja, the film we walked out of to sneak into the Aniston/Rudd one. Rudd redeemed himself for me a few years later with his extended guest stint on Friends, and since then he's been a lot more watchable. He did a good job as one of the leads in Role Models, and did so again here alongside Jason Segel, another actor I wouldn't consider for a lead role, although I've yet to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In I Love You, Man, Segel plays a carefree bachelor whom Rudd befriends. Rudd realizes after proposing to Rashida Jones that he has somehow never formed any strong male friendships in his life. His quest to find a best man leads him to Segel just when he's given up, and a “bromance” ensues(I really hope that term doesn't become backwards compatible and applied to “buddy” movies like Lethal Weapon or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Segel is a big kid hanging out in his “mancave” playing drums or guitar and jamming to Rush, sort of the grown-up version of his Freaks and Geeks role. Rudd is nervous in his initial bonding with his new friend, as someone would be on a first date, and this results in some funny awkward phone messages and nonsense nicknames like “Jobin”. At times he overdoes this joke, and he tries too hard to make “slappin' the bass” a catchphrase; that's not happening. But the two eventually get comfortable with each other, and in the end it all makes for a nice story and a decent comedy, enjoyable all around. These supporting comedic actors may be on the road to lead roles after all. If Seth Rogen could do it, then anything is possible. Hell, I never liked Rush, and by the end of the movie I kind of did. I still can't get the music out of my head...

4) The Wrestler:
The first film I saw Mickey Rourke in was The Rainmaker. I see him as the craggy tough guy from Sin City or Domino before the pretty(but sleazy)-boy from Diner or Nine 1/2 Weeks. The Wrestler may be his best “craggy” role yet, as he fully immerses himself into the character, past his prime and still pushing in the ring, taking on supermarket work and autograph appearances to pay the rent on his shoddy trailer. The movie doesn't pull any punches, and though wrestling may be scripted and choreographed, we find that that isn't quite the same as “fake”. Rourke actually took a razorblade to his forehead during one fight scene for the authenticity of the things these guys do to satisfy the audience's need for blood. Wrestling is more like watching professional stuntmen. They really are whacking each other with chairs or taking staple guns to one another. Marissa Tomei, whose body is in phenomenal shape, plays the aging stripper/confidante with whom Rourke's character falls in love. There's one anvil-icious but forgivable reference to The Passion of the Christ in his conversations with her, and one bit of ‘90s bashing when he talks about how Cobain ruined music. I agree that the ‘80s were awesome but disagree that the ‘90s weren't, but then the point is to show how these two characters live in the past, in their best years. We stay with Rourke the majority of the time, and the two main relationships are that with Tomei as well as his estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood. It's tough to see the things Rourke's character goes through, but you root for him with each glimmer of hope that he might turn things around. Ultimately, there's only one thing he knows, and one thing he's always been good at even as he's screwed everything else up in his life. It's a sad but powerful performance, and a great film.

5) Tales of the Black Freighter:
This is an animated adaptation of a story-within-a-story from Watchmen, which didn't make it into the film. In the original comics, in the parallel ‘80s world in which costumed heroes were real, comic books focused on other genres, such as pirate tales. Throughout Watchmen we see bits of this particular tale, which has symbolic and thematic ties to the main story, from a Rorschach pattern being formed by blood on a sail to a man keeping his raft afloat with the bodies of his dead comrades, which parallels the sacrifices one of the Watchmen is willing to make in the name of good intentions. The Black Freighter is a bloody story, narrated by Gerard Butler(of b13fotographica fame), in which a man beset by pirates seeks to reach his home before they do and save his wife and children. Edgar Allan Poe would almost certainly be proud of the tragic irony that results from madness and good intentions, and the film pulls no punches in staying true to Alan Moore's twisted vision. The story works perfectly fine on its own and I don't think the main Watchmen film suffered without it, and the DVD contains an additional mock ‘80s news program, complete with old commercials, that deals more specifically with the subject matter of the main film. Just as Tales of the Black Freighter was sprinkled throughout the main story in the comics, we also got excerpts from “Under the Hood”, in which the original Nite Owl chronicled the early days of superheroes in the Watchmen universe. The DVD version of Under the Hood basically expands upon the opening credit montage of the film, as the reporter interviews the first Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, and other first generation superheroes. Nostalgic die-hard comic book geeks will definitely appreciate this approach to the transition from the Golden Age to the Silver Age in a world where costumed heroes exist. Just as these tales added to the original graphic novel, so too does this DVD make a great companion to the film.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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