Every Thursday, TMINE reviews two movies, carefully avoiding infringing a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick
Last week, Orange Thursday didn’t happen, mainly because I was working. However, I had put the work in to find two movies to watch. I was only partially successful, however.
I had originally attempted to watch Atomic Blonde (2017), but I switched that off after half an hour on the general grounds it was unbearably bad.
So then I tried to watch 47 Ronin (2013), as Keanu Reeves has been having something of a revival of late and I fancied seeing what else he’d done relatively recently.
Turned out, that was even worse.
Still, that was two half-movies, which qualifies under Orange Thursday rules as one movie.
And I’ll tell you all about all of them after the jump.
Κυνόδοντας (Dogtooth) (2009)
A couple and their adolescent son and two adolescent daughters live in a fenced compound. The children have no knowledge of the outside world; their parents say they will be ready to leave once they lose a dogtooth, and that one can only leave safely by car. The children entertain themselves with endurance games, such as keeping a finger in hot water. They believe they have a brother on the other side of the fence to whom they throw supplies or stones. The parents reward good behaviour with stickers and bad behaviour with violence.
A Lynchian favourite
David Lynch says Dogtooth is one of his favourite recent films and you can see why, since it’s all about the horrors lurking behind the seemingly normal houses of suburbia. It’s all hugely surreal and is in no way supposed to be taken literally.
In common with The Favourite and Lanthimos’ The Lobster, this is a movie that starts off with a fabulous premise, which it uses to great effect initially, followed by a second half of noodling around with that premise without doing much with it, followed by an open-ended conclusion. The film’s ultimately a metaphor for all the stupid rules and incorrect ideas about the world with which parents fill their kids’ heads, except here made explicitly obvious and stupid.
Much of the first half is daftness of the parents’ misnaming and mischaracterising things. Ordinary things such as pencils and the sea get different definitions or names; meanwhile, the children are told that aeroplanes are as small as they seem in the sky and cats are vicious predators that will kill them.
It’s all very silly and all very metaphorical, with the film ultimately showing that familial culture can’t survive exposure to the world, or its own members wanting to see that world for themselves.
The film’s also quite clear that parents don’t necessarily do this maliciously but because they believe what they’re doing is right and for their children’s benefits.
Also in common with Lanthimos’ other movies is a weird formality and stiltedness. Dialogue is delivered blandly and passionlessly and even when it’s not about armchairs, it’s hardly naturalistic. There’s also a hint of Blue Remembered Hills, as the ‘children’ are all clearly played by adults.
However, completely different to his English-language films is the sheer amount of sex and nudity on display, including incest. There’s also plenty of violence, including violence against women, and a hint of gore, too.
Again, the message it imparts isn’t exactly subtle, so we get it pretty quickly, and the second half of the movie is just more of the same, suggesting that Lanthimos could have spent his run-time a little more wisely.
Nevertheless, it all adds up to a reasonably powerful movie, one that has a stronger, more direct message than most of Lanthimos’ follow-up movies, even if ultimately it also has only that one big message to reveal.
I enjoyed about half of it, and you might, too – assuming you’ve a strong stomach.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
In November 1989, just days prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, MI6 agent James Gascoigne is shot and killed by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin, who steals The List, a microfilm document concealed in Gascoigne’s wristwatch that contains the names of every intelligence agent (on both sides) active in Berlin.
Ten days later, Lorraine Broughton, a top-level MI6 spy, is brought in to be debriefed by MI6 executive Eric Gray and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld about her just-finished mission to Berlin. The plot jumps between the debrief room and flashbacks to Lorraine’s time in Berlin.
I wanted to like this. 1980s set. Spy movie. Berlin. Brilliant, I thought.
But it wasn’t long before I realised that as with Polar, a terrible directing crime was being committed. Directors: learn. Simply because something is based on a graphic novel, it doesn’t mean you have to make your movie like it has been, too.
That aesthetic kicked in almost straight away and was annoying, but not terrible.
However, soon the crimes began to add up. First, there was Charlize Theron’s accent, which was supposed to be English. It wasn’t. It really wasn’t.
Then there were the desperate attempts to make it all as 80s and as German as possible by throwing Nena’s 99 Luftballons et al into the mix, including references to Sinead O’Connor (“an Irish singer”).
Then there was the bad German, although that could just about be excused coming from James McAvoy.
I think it was at the point where I realised they were obviously not going to be filming much in Berlin, but had instead taken a departure to Hungary and were pretending it was Berlin that I decided to give up.
You should, too.
47 Ronin (2013)
In feudal Japan, Lord Asano rules his province with fairness. However, jealous Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) fears that the shogun favors Asano over him and hatches a plot that ends with Asano’s ritual suicide.
After Asano’s death, his samurai, led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), are forced to live as outcasts. Oishi wanders for several years but realises that he must turn to Kai (Keanu Reeves), a mixed-blood warrior he once rejected, to help him and his ronin comrades take revenge on Lord Kira.
The story of the 47 Ronin – aka 47 Chūshingura – has been filmed countless times in Japan. Countless. Here’s just the ones that IMDb lists as the default:
And you can expand that out to 27 titles if you look harder, but that’s not even scratching the surface, really. It’s not quite King Arthur or Sherlock Holmes, but it’s getting there.
So I wanted to know what Keanu would do with it.
Apparently, Lord of the Rings, because it’s about 10 seconds before it’s apparent this is going to be all about demons, CGI and 3D chase scenes.
Plus Keanu being his most wooden.
I didn’t really get far enough in to even review it more than that. It made my eyes bleed.
It might make yours bleed, too.