Recent movie roundup

Last night, I watched Push, which I wanted to enjoy more than I did. It’s a colorful look at Hong Kong, if nothing else, but the plot is such a terrible muddle. I think my opinion falls somewhere between Roger Ebert, who wrote:

“Push” has vibrant cinematography and decent acting, but I’m blasted if I know what it’s about.

And Tasha Robinson, who wrote:

The subject matter is propulsive adolescent fun all the way, with a pop sensibility, some nifty costume and set design, and a lot of special-effects-powered showdowns—but the execution reaches for a broader audience, one so unfamiliar with the genre tropes that it needs the assiduous extra explanation, plus time to ponder each new development. The resultant moderate pacing has its appeal; it turns Push into an ambling, broody concoction along the lines of Strange Days. At times, a more aggressive editor would help immensely. At others, Push explores its brutish future Hong Kong with a patience and sense of milieu that seems cribbed more from Wong Kar-wai than Doug Liman.

Robinson is a lot more forgiving of the movie’s faults, which stem largely from its script (front-loaded with unnecessary exposition and never truly resolving anything), but also from a sometimes confused, or at least over-stylized, visual sense. The movie is often very pretty, but it’s not always clear what that aesthetic is in service of. The location shooting in Hong Kong is, at first, one of the movie’s biggest strengths — it’s a truly exotic and vibrant city, rarely seen like this from the ground-level up, and so it’s almost its own character in the film — but by the end it seemed increasingly less organic to the story, more style than substance. The climactic action at the stuff-that-looks-cool-when-it-explodes factory just serves to drive this home.

And it’s a shame, because there’s a genuinely interesting story, with some decent world-building, lurking around the edges. It’s not a good movie, but I can’t shake the feeling that it could have been.

Then this afternoon, I watched The Time Traveler’s Wife with a couple of friends. I thought it was a decent, if unremarkable adaptation of a book that, while entertaining, didn’t really cry out to be adapted.

I liked that it addressed my main quibble with Audrey Niffenegger’s book — which I just finished reading a couple of weeks ago, actually — which was that its title was a bit of a misnomer. The book is less about the time traveler’s wife, Clare, than about the time traveler himself, Henry. While the book offers significantly more detail from both of their perspectives, I rarely felt like Clare emerged as a fully developed character in its pages, at least not outside of her undying love for Henry and their strange relationship. I liked both of them, but I felt that I got to know Henry better. Maybe it’s due to Rachel McAdams — I think she and Eric Bana are well cast, and I agree with Roger Ebert that they “have a pleasant chemistry, and sort of involved me in spite of myself” — but this Clare seems like more of a person to me.

Ultimately, I think I liked the book better, and I think it handled its underlying conceit more ably than the film. But the film is reasonably entertaining, and I’m not sorry I saw it. Maybe that’s damning it with faint praise, but it isn’t half bad.

But I think we can all agree that this is a pretty odd choice for a wedding song. Don’t get me wrong, I think Broken Social Scene do an interesting cover of the song, but even if you don’t know its history or anything about Joy Division and Ian Curtis’ suicide, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” hardly seems like the sentiment for a first dance between husband and wife.

Of course, it does kind of make me want to re-watch 24 Hour Party People

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