Black Swan

Last weekend we watched a lot of movies. Not sure why, but it probably had to do with some seriously cold San Francisco winter weather.  Ok, first up we saw Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.   A psychological thriller set in a ballet company doesn’t exactly sound like the basis for a fast-paced film, but it definitely delivers that!   It was fantastic!   My buddy James made a comment that he felt this film was a companion piece to his earlier film The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke.    High-brow vs. low-brow to be sure, but both are excellent looks into the lives of obsessive performers in their respective fields.  Check it out.

Then we watched a bunch of stuff on Netflix.  First up is a British film about rising youth & drug violence in urban London: Harry Brown – starring the always great Michael Caine.   He plays an aging former royal marine/pensioner who finds out that his best friend (roughly the same age as he) is brutally murdered by youth gangs in his neighborhood.   Some people have compared it to Clint Eastwood’s Gran Turino, but other than having two senior citizen tough guys – that’s about where the similarities end.  Harry Brown shows us a slice of what drugs and crime have done to people in rougher London suburbs and a man who wants to get revenge for his friend when the police don’t seem to be willing  or able to help.   (Gran Turino was about a retiree dealing with the growing distance from his own family and finding a new one  with “strange” foreginers who move into his neighborhood. )   I loved this film. If you like Michael Caine or British crime films you should check it out.

Next up is a sci-fi thriller called The Surrogates, based off of a graphical novel.  It was a bit cheesy and I didn’t care for some of the art direction, but overall it’s a decent piece of science fiction dealing with issues of self-image vs. corporate/media/commercial notions of beauty, and letting technology go too far.  I like Bruce Willis in movies where he plays low-key determined people.   James Cromwell and Ving Rhames are also here in sizable roles.  While not great, it certainly wasn’t bad.  Not a must-see but entertaining.

Finally, I watched an artsy-viking movie called Valhalla Rising starring Mads Mikelson, who played the villain Le Chiffre in the James Bond flick Casino Royale.    I really, really wanted to like this movie.   Mikelson is fantastic – especially for a character who doesn’t utter a single word throughout the film!  The rest of the cast are solid English, Irish & Scottish actors and a bunch of Tibetan guys playing Native Americans!  I am not joking!   The premise of the film is what attracted me, and the actors do a good job with they got.   The few moments of action were fast, bloody and brutal. As savage as the idea of a one-eyed Viking sold into slavery to fight other slaves should be. The big problem with this movie is how slow it was.   The director decided to keep every long brooding shot of characters against the hills or the sky.  I’m talking about 2 – 5 minute shots. This was  intermixed with weird blood-colored premonitions and visions One-Eye has, and some short tense scenes of dialogue where you think people are going to get disemboweled if someone doesn’t apologize and sit down.    30 minutes of this film could’ve easily been edited out and we would have been left with a much more cohesive story.   Just skip this.   To the director Nicolas Winding Refn, i give you a very unhappy face rating:      =(

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