I went on a pretty good movie spree over the last few weeks, so I thought I would add my brief opinions on some of them. Spoilers here, so beware (more spoilers of tone than plot, though):
Tin Tin – B-
Mostly harmless. Spielberg not trying usually brings out his best.
Mission Impossible 4 – F
Terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible. Stupid, mindless, annoying, and decidedly second-rate action. Maybe objectively it was not the worst film of the season, but because I expect so much more from director Brad Bird, I give it an outright fail.
Sherlock Holmes 2 – D-
Basically Transformers, minus the robots — that is, senseless noise for two long, long hours. Not sure why I am not giving it an outright F … perhaps Robert Downey’s acting? Perhaps the occasional flash of creativity in a couple of action sequences? Maybe I have no taste? Anyhow, really, really bad.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – B
I really wanted to like this — John LeCarré’s spy novels are a great antidote to the mindless action of James Bond or 24. I quite liked the book, although not overly so (so I think I could watch the movie objectively). But in the end, I did not like it much. It ended up feeling way too disjointed and dull. George Smiley actually does talk and communicate, unlike in this movie, where he just stares into nothingness. Still, deserves a decent grade for not being a non-stop noise fest and having some thoughtfulness.
The Descendants – B+
After so many noisy action films, it was good to see a story with something approaching human characters and human emotions. But it was also pretty formulaic in its own way, especially the saccharine ending.
Drive – B
For the first hour of this movie, I thought it was a sure A. Then I thought it was probably an A-. But after the end, just a B. If a movie is called “Drive,” and the characters repeatedly talk about what a special driver the main character is, you kind of expect his driving skills will be a big part of the story, maybe even the finale. But a better title for this film would have been “Stab.” Anyhow, great soundtrack.
The Day He Arrives – B+
Yeah, it is not really a holiday film, but I just saw it so I’ll include it anyway. Hong Sang-soo really shines in black and white. As he said for Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (Hong’s first black and white movie, and still my favorite of his), black and white helps audiences concentrate on the story and not get side-tracked by less important details.* Regardless, it is certainly Hong’s best-looking film, with some gorgeous shots of Bukchon in the snow.
Being a Hong Sangsoo film, I guess a plot recap isn’t really necessary — people drink too much, hook up, have awkward conversations, patterns repeat, etc. If there is anything that makes The Day stand out, perhaps it is the surreality of the film, as characters swirl about without any sense of time really passing or events occurring. Is it one day we’re seeing, like Groundhog Day?
The snow adds to that surreality, as Hong’s filming style does not really allow for a lot of continuity — snow appears and disappears, seemingly at random. But that’s okay, because as in many HSS films, characters also appear and disappear at random. Actress Kim Bo-kyeong plays two different characters, also adding to the swirling sense of dislocation you get watching the movie.
Ultimately, though, Hong Sangsoo continues to disappear ever deeper into his own navel, and his films all suffer. The Day He Arrives may be one of his best variations — light, fun, and interesting — but it is still a variation on the same theme. After 12 movies, I would not mind if he tried some different themes.
*(Not that I didn’t get hopeless distracted by his locations anyway. I was so happy to see Hong return to that great Insa-dong fish restaurant, where so much of Virgin Stripped Bare takes place).