September 2015 Film Diary, Part 2


Short thoughts on all the other/newer movies I watched last month. Part 1 is here.

Force Majeure (2014), pictured above. Fault lines in a marriage are exposed during a close-knit family’s Alpen ski vacation. During a harmless controlled avalanche, the husband Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) flees in terror, leaving his wife and kids behind to get dusted by the cloud of snow. When Tomas denies that his moment of cowardice even happened, his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) is puzzled, insulted and beyond disillusioned. There are long discussions with a pair of uncomfortable friends, the children are terrified this means divorce, Ebba has a sudden desire to go skiing alone and discusses traditional roles with a woman who swears by open marriage, and Tomas dramatically breaks down, pouring out some embarrassing confessions (he cheats at games with his kids). Shame, inadequacy and lack of communication are examined from every angle, debates are had about how fair it is to judge people for what they do when they’re panicked, and the expectations and validity of gender roles are dismantled. The well-to-do guests at this resort never expected to face chaos and crisis, and the way they deal creates pathetically funny human moments in a complex drama.


The Quiet Ones (2014) Hammer film about a professor (Jared Harris) and a small group of his students (Sam Claflin, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne) retreating to a country estate to “study” and experiment on an orphan who claims to have contact with an evil presence and brings paranormal outbursts with her everywhere she goes. Professor is an arrogant skeptic, one student is an AV nerd brought there to document, all get into heated arguments about whether their work makes them the monsters, whether strange events are actually elaborate hoaxes, and it’s told through dizzying, frustratingly incomplete found footage. Enjoyed the atmosphere, steady tension, and mid-70s setting of this but it was painfully loud, and too dull and predictable a possession story to be memorable.  


The Maze Runner (2014) Confession time: I’m neither well-versed nor terribly interested in most YA franchises: never seen a Hunger Games or a Twilight movie, and went for this one simply because I couldn’t resist the idea of that giant maze in the wilderness with the regularly shifting walls and a bunch of amnesiac teens trying to get through and escape. Mostly bland cardboard characters spouting cliched dialogue, but looking at it just as a cheesy action sci fi, the sentient maze, the puzzle they had to solve to navigate it, the runners that have to come back before nightfall when the maze closes up, and the spidery steampunk monsters prowling therein, kept me fairly entertained. One teen (Dylan O’Brien) challenges the “rules” of the community to lead the way through, at which point the survivors discover they’re part of a grand experiment geared toward developing a cure for the apocalyptic virus that wiped out Earth’s population. 


Everybody Has a Plan (2012) Viggo Mortensen plays Argentinian twins: one is a dying beekeeper mixed up with murderers, and the other is a pediatrician who ruins his marriage by telling his wife he doesn’t want to go through with their plans to adopt a child. When the terminally ill brother comes to say his goodbyes, the doctor seizes the chance to switch out of his miserable life. It’s an overlong, plodding arty thriller, and doesn’t make nearly as much as it should of its concept or talented leading man.


Unbreakable (2000) With M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie The Visit coming out, I felt like rewatching what I remembered as my favourite and most underrated of his movies. Bruce Willis plays the only survivor of a horrific train wreck. The fact that he got through without a scratch attracts the attention of a comic art dealer Samuel L. Jackson, who’s convinced he’s found a real-life superhero. Jackson is so fragile he can hardly make a step without breaking bones, so logic led him to believe there must also be an unbreakable person out there for balance. The bitter, angry manipulative genius Jackson works on the sad underachieving everyman Willis until he has him believing he might actually have powers, a sixth sense for detecting evil and be destined for greatness. The acting was just as good as I remember, especially from Willis, who was understated and powerful. The signature Shyamalan surprise ending obviously wasn’t fresh to me anymore, and now I feel like it undoes the rest of the movie’s impact and intelligence. It’s melancholy, but I always liked this film’s reverence for comics as modern myth; that, the grit of placing heroes in the real world, and the great panel-style shots still hold up well, especially now that superhero movies are drifting toward being cartoony explody quipfests, when they should always aim toward the epic.  


Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (2014) Took a chance on this one because Rinko Kikuchi was great in Pacific Rim. She was riveting in this far meatier role, as an unfulfilled office girl who gets obsessed with the movie Fargo, takes it as reality, a “map” magically provided to direct her to buried treasure (namely that suitcase buried by Buscemi at the end). She’s likably odd, painfully awkward and stunted, and probably very nutty, and she leaves behind her depressing life in Japan to escape into movies and be a conquistador meant to plunder that spot in snowy Minnesota. Some ridiculous funny moments include her encounter with an American woman who tries to get her to read Shogun, and there’s a brilliant scene where Kumiko tries to steal an atlas from a library, gets caught by security and convinces the befuddled guard to tear out page 95 for her and let her go on her merry destiny. The snowy landscape (as in the above Force Majeure) is beautifully photographed, adding to the feeling that Kumiko is wandering into nothingness, in her absurd and tragic Don Quixote quest.


8 thoughts on “September 2015 Film Diary, Part 2”

  1. Great analysis. I’ve seen a number of these films, including the two snow flicks. I think you liked Kumiko more than I did, but I absolutely agree about the photography. It looked terrific. The same for FM, which I quite enjoyed. It was an interesting experiment to see how a seemingly well adjusted family unit deals with a near catastrophe.

    1. It really was an interesting experiment, liked the ending, how Ebba’s similar action flipped things, and also their friends–the couple–almost stole the movie by taking the debate “home” with them and trying to mediate. Really thought provoking and funny in places. Kumiko was downbeat for sure, but I liked Kikuchi’s performance a lot and it’s interesting how a movie was spun out of an urban legend and Fargo. Cheers!

  2. Interesting stuff. As you say, Unbreakable is a lot better than it’s generally remembered. After that, I think Shyamalan did indeed go downhill, although, unlike everyone else, I enjoyed his Lady in the Water (2006).

    1. I liked that one too. I remember reading that Unbreakable was meant to be a trilogy which would have been unique–a hero not based on a comic.

      1. I hadn’t known that. I wonder if the character would have been able to support a trilogy? Not sure.

        You’ve sold me, by the way, on Kumiko the Treasure Hunter.

  3. Yes, you’ve sold me too on Kumiko The Treasure Hunter. I can’t wait to see it!

    I tried watching The Maze Runner, and I gave up after 7.5 minutes. I guess I’m becoming impatient in my old age.

    1. If it wasn’t for my curiosity about that maze and the monsters within, I wouldn’t have made it through. Kumiko is really different but give it a try, can’t call it enjoyable, but definitely fascinating.

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