171-173: ParaNorman, Cosmopolis, Skyfall

171: ParaNorman

With ParaNorman, animation company Laika has made themselves a force to be reckoned with. After the flawed, but charming Corpse Bride and the downright awesome Coraline they have shown that they can tackle grown-up while simultaneously entertaining young and old alike. ParaNorman fits perfectly within that description. This story about a young boy who can see the dead wandering around is a touching story about being different and embracing that ways that make us unique and interesting. It goes to places where you never thought it could go. It plays with your expectations and several times gives the audience something to think about. All the while we are treated to beautiful animation, perfect pacing and hilarious comedy. The pacing comes to the for when we are treated to quiet character moments followed by raucous action fun and never do the transitions feel jarring. The comedy is everywhere. From tiny moments between Norman and the ghosts to the zombie invasion in the village that suddenly takes a turn for the unexpected. I loved ParaNorman from start to finish. In fact, I felt this would be a special movie when I watched the first trailer. Highly recommended and a certain contender for my top ten for 2012.

172: Cosmopolis

David Cronenberg is more and more removing himself from the type of movies we have come to know him for. No more body horror for him, but something that resembles psychological horror. Earlier this year I watched A Dangerous Method, which was not a movie I could get behind (for whatever reason). Now it is Cosmopolis, a movie that I want to like so bad, but am having a hard time doing so. Cosmopolis, based on a novel by Don DeLillo, is about a young man who wants nothing more than a haircut. The problem is that his regular barber shop is on the other side of Manhattan and the streets are about to be overrun by protesters who want nothing more than to lynch our hero. This is because he is a very wealthy and successful investment banker and that makes him a prime target for them. On top of all that he sees his empire crumble in front of his eyes during the day. It is a strange journey on which he almost never leaves his limo and meets several people he has conversations with.

I stress this last bit, because most of Cosmopolis consists of conversations of the highest sort. Like A Dangerous Method, you really have to keep your attention with the film or else you will lose chunks of relevant (and sometimes not so relevant) dialogue. I like these kinds of movies where dialogue plays a big part, but it usually takes me a couple of viewings to grasp the whole picture. Can I recommend Cosmopolis? That’s a difficult question. It all depends on your willingness to have your ears do more of the work than your eyes. For the most past I like the direction Cronenberg has been going in the last few years (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises are brilliant movies), but I also wish he would once in a while go back to the more outlandish subjects he tackled in movies like The Fly and eXistenZ. Who doesn’t love some freakish body horror every so often?

173: Skyfall

James Bond has never been a slam dunk for me. I can appreciate the action sequences and the strange situations Bond finds himself in on a regular basis. But there always is a nagging resistance in the back of my mind that prevents me from loving these movies the way a lot of other people do. This new incarnation has been up and down for me. I liked Casino Royale, but that was more due to the bold turn the series took. I was stunned that I was incredibly bored by Quantum of Solace. Now we have the third Daniel Craig James Bond movie, titled Skyfall, and it falls somewhere in between these two earlier installments. I liked Skyfall, I truly did, but I constantly got the feeling that we have seen it all before. How many times have we seen a list of secret agents get into the wrong hands? How many times have we seen people hacking into computers to get their way? How many times have we seen the bad guy be captured (willing or not) to hedge some nefarious scheme? It has all been done before. Maybe this is because Bond has been around for fifty years by now and the stories run a little thin after all that time. As a spy thriller there is a lot to like about Skyfall. It is fast paced, funny at times, and full of drama that doesn’t actually involve Bond. As an entry in the Bond continuum I must this is one of the better entries, but as a movie in the free world among other movies I don’t count this as a great movie.

Advertisements

144: A Dangerous Method

I am sure there is an interesting movie to be found in A Dangerous Method, but an affinity with the field of psychoanalysis is a must to find it. I don’t have that affinity. I have never been in therapy or have never felt compelled to pick up the works of Jung or Freud. It is like watching a baseball movie like Moneyball when you know nothing about the game and are not interested in it at all. That is how I felt about A Dangerous Method.

That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the craft that made A Dangerous Method possible. It is a very skillfully made movie that goes into a lot of material with extreme care. At the center of the psychoanalytic vortex that David Cronenberg created are Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung and Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein. These people are considered to be the bedrock of psychoanalysis. Their discussions revealed a lot of insight into the human psyche, insights that to this day continue to influence everyday life. These discussions are often riveting, while I don’t always follow what these people are talking about. They are played with verve by the principal players. Especially Fassbender and Mortensen are fascinating to watch. A small role for Vincent Cassel lights up the screen as well. Knightley I had the most problems with. She is competent, but I had a hard time getting past her faux Russian accent.

In the end A Dangerous Method left me cold and perhaps this was intended. The psychoanalytic field is supposed to be devoid of emotion so the therapist can objectively treat his or her patient. In that light it isn’t all that surprising that A Dangerous Method didn’t pull me in as other examples of Cronenberg’s recent work has done, namely Eastern Promises, which was a perfect movie. There’s a lot of talking, but it never let me in to show me its secrets and I suspect it never will.

> IMDb