Five movies

Matt was out of town and in anticipation of a long spring/summer/fall of reading, I indulged myself and watched five (5!) movies this weekend. In the interest of writing about something other than reading, here are five (5!) mini reviews:

1. Let Me In

In the DVD special features, the cast and crew don’t acknowledge the original, Swedish version of the movie (“Let the Right One In”) which is weird and a bit disingenuous because many of the shots/sets are taken straight from the original. Like the jungle gym-type thing in the courtyard of the apartment complex where Owen and Abby meet. Their apartments are clearly styled to be as close to the originals as possible. The hospital scene where Abby goes to check on her keeper is incredibly similar. Even small details like Owen’s parka, his stabbing of the tree, the way he wounds his tormentor at the lake etc… And the pool scene at the end is a slightly fancier version of the Swedish. That is to say: I liked this remake because I liked the original. I can’t really comment on it as a stand-alone project because it takes pains to resemble and in some moments replicate the original. Weird choice. The original was great, but Owen’s apartment looks like the apartment of a Swedish family–I mean, blue on blue cow (sheep?) wallpaper? I’m pretty sure that’s not something people do in Los Alamos. And everyone there is white? Why not just set the movie in Minnesota?

2. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The only way I could make sense of the last hour of this movie was to make the decision that the Swedish legal system is very different from ours, which would explain why illegally procured evidence would be admissible in court. I mean…the very thing she’s on trial for never even comes up. The judge is all “Welp, I guess since you were illegally committed to a mental institution fifteen years ago, we can just toss out the attempted murder charges from last month!” Yet another reason I am totally moving to Sweden. I’m sure this all makes sense in the book, but the last hour of the movie is a series of legal deus ex machinas which made me feel confused and frustrated. Noomi Rapace is generally awesome as Lisabeth Salander–I don’t think her American counterpart will be able to hold a candle–but she’s totally wasted in this movie. She spends 60% of it in bed recovering from brain surgery and 40% sitting quietly in a courtroom.

3. Never Let Me Go

I read the book many years ago, but from what I can recall, the movie is incredibly faithful to the text. It’s also very beautiful to look at. And incredibly depressing. I had the same feeling watching the movie as I did reading the book: there is something muted about the sorrow of both. On the verge of tears, but no actual crying. This is probably speaks to the control of Ishiguro (and the director) as a stylist. There’s very little melodrama, which I appreciate in a novel, but in a movie, I’m often willing to trade elegance for catharsis. I would have relished those tears.

4. Daybreakers

This was the happy surprise of the bunch. It was everything an action horror movie should be: exciting, internally consistent (except for the fact that the bad vampires seemed to immolate much faster than the good one), inventive, occasionally disgusting. It hardly even bothered me that we’re supposed to believe Ethan Hawke’s character, Edward, is 35 years old. The visual and sonic landscapes of the movie (signs and billboards and news broadcasts) did a lot of backstory work. I felt like the film trusted me to be of at least average intelligence, which is something of a miracle for this genre.

5. Frozen

I haven’t checked, but if the DVD jacket doesn’t actually say “Does for skiing what ‘Jaws’ did for swimming in the ocean” then I will eat my (bad) hat (Harry). This was a delightfully horrific little indie film that reminded me more of “Open Water,” in terms of story and structure, than “Jaws”. Three friends get stuck on a ski lift. That’s it and that’s enough. There’s one sort of glaringly huge improbability (which has nothing to do with skiiing and which I will not give away here), but the movie was so immediately engaging, I didn’t mind lowering my belief bar for a little bit. “Frozen” is one of those rare horror films that attempts character development. Sure, the characters are run-of-the-mill college students, so perhaps there’s only so much to develop, but they’re funny and sweet and I really, truly did not want bad things to happen to them. Plus–and I loved this–although the film was actually shot in Utah, it was set somewhere in New England (probably New Hampshire) and I’m pretty sure the characters were Salem State students. Lynch, the single pothead dude, does a wicked north shore accent and tells an equally wicked and familiar joke about New Hampshire girls that I’m pretty sure I remember hearing (in some, similar iteration) in college, probably from my townie friend Rich, which would mean it also had more anal sex in it than the movie version.

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