My Week: January 28, '12

Jennifer's Body
Karyn Kusama, 2009
Good high school movies are immortal. In the time between the insolence of "Juno" and the maturation of "Young Adult", the name "Diablo Cody" was aural poison to me, and when I heard the star writer was combining forces with the dubious star of Megan Fox, it sounded like a nightmare come true. Falling in love with "Young Adult" encouraged me to give it a go, however, and boy had I been wrong. Oh, it's Diablo "Oh My Blog" Cody and her "crazy characters" to be sure, but something about the delivery here makes it all flow considerably smoother. Phrases like "You're lime green Jell-O" actually work - on quotable levels, even. And Fox? The role plays up the fleeting sensation's ostensible "bitchy popular girl" qualities, rendering negatives shockingly admirable on a performance level while creating a humorously metaphoric portrait of high school hierarchy and insecurity that reaches and cuts through what is overall a likewise hilarious, infectious, sexy and occasionally freaky flick. Like with Kirsten Dunst after "Melancholia" (to a relatively lesser extent, mind you), I guess I can't hate on Megan Fox anymore. Screenshots after the jump.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher, 2011
Just as I felt Fincher's last middling effort never really rose above being "that Facebook movie", the director's likewise middling "Dragon Tattoo" (or, as I like to call it, "D-Tat") never really rises above being "that shameless English-language cash-in we've already seen". The question is, have we seen it better than this? That's a tricky one; I hesitate to lean one way or the other. Personally, while I feel Fincher's film is more nicely shot overall, I'd venture that - with nothing against the wholly impressive and (perhaps inappropriately) sexy turn from newcomer Rooney Mara - Noomi Rapace is the superior Lisbeth Salander and that the original Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel, which I'm not even all that crazy about to begin with, carries a somewhat less slapdash pacing (the new, somewhat admirably Chris Cunningham-esque opening credits in particular feel totally shoehorned in). Maybe the better question is, should I really care? Is this story really so good it deserves such treatment, or is it just an obvious case of studio greed? I'm not so sure. Both films are entertaining enough to captivate for 2+ hours despite the repeated and incidentally all-important story, and are occasionally nice to look at (hence my inclusion of the screencap above, where typically I wouldn't provide as much for a film I was less than enthusiastic about). At one point I had hope for Fincher (that practically obligatory time in a male's youth when "Fight Club" is considered divine, though now I'd still never go as far as to deem it - or the Palahniuk source novel for that matter - anywhere near unessential), but I'm concerned after the downward (yet immensely popular) spiral charting "Panic Room" through "Benjamin Button" that his works have garnered themselves a serious case of hubris to go with a growing stigma of the money-grubbing studio circuit. All that said, just to clarify: I did enjoy this new "D-Tat", but it never quite shook the idea that I was wasting my time and money with conspicuously recycled product.

Further first-time viewings:

Underworld: Awakening - Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein, 2012
More a passable "B" movie that happens to star Kate Beckinsale's Selene as opposed to a true "Underworld" film, this relatively rude "Awakening" is not as bad a continuation of a good trilogy as last year's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides", though it does make many of the same missteps. Beckinsale herself has indicated that the production was strange as Len Wiseman & Co. are hardly involved (if at all) and on top of that most worthwhile supporting characters have been killed off. What results is a less significant and instantly forgettable chapter that introduces a tedious human contingent and all but ignores the important events of its priors while awkwardly dodging the fact that Scott Speedman didn't agree to return as vampire/lycan hybrid Michael. It's unfortunate such rich characters have been allowed to fall to this level of inconsequence, particularly at this moment we've been waiting to see the results of. That's not to mention the unnecessary (yet unobtrusive) 3D. Hard-hitting action dominates over the excess exposition that has always been the series' weak spot (and here details goings-on of the greatest ridiculousness yet), but lacks the style that made Wiseman's directorial entries so memorable ("Evolution", baby). Though not bad per se, it shares more in common with a straight-forward "Ultraviolet" than a feminine "Blade". If there is to be the inevitably (and lazily) teased fifth installment, bring back Wiseman or else things are looking qualitatively grim for everyone's favorite death dealer. You may, however, keep the new side characters (played by India Eisley, Michael Ealy, Theo James and a fittingly Bill Nighy-esque Charles Dance)... by the end of the picture they were somehow managing to grow on me, despite the fact that I've basically already forgotten about them.

Total: 3

Rewatches (3): Jennifer's Body (Kusama, 2009), Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010), Æon Flux (Kusama, 2005)
- Though I was never full-on in love with "Black Swan" (and consider it lesser in the generously relative terms of Aronofsky), upon my theatrical viewing I was thoroughly impressed by its many intricately interlocking layers and cinematography, from rapid-fire alterations between extreme close-up and first-person to the flowing dance sequences in general, all of which culminates dramatically in a forceful third act. Upon this much delayed second viewing on Blu-Ray... it just kinda feels goofy. Not bad, though. Not bad.
- How do movies like "Æon Flux" happen? I'm forgiving of the flick, because a meager portion of its source show's sheer brilliance is intact (IE self-cloning and burgeoning transhumanism), but overall it's cold and uninspired. I don't know how one can look at Peter Chung's "Æon Flux" television program - which is basically one of my favorite things ever - and come up with such a sleepwalky adaptation. One of these days I'll get around to drafting an article comparing the products (while at least acknowledging the PS2 video game that acts as a connecting piece, regarding the two as separate entities in the same continuity).

Episodic Television (1 Series, 1 Episode): High School of the Dead (Democracy Under the Dead - Streets of the Dead)
- I figured things would get more serious, but I didn't predict how quickly. Already I'm seeing what will surely become an affecting relationship between the two key protagonists, while the peril of the undead apocalypse is depicted here perhaps more effectively than I've seen in motion. Nothing will compare to Robert Kirkman's comic series "The Walking Dead" in that respect, but if anything, "High School" is doing a far more effective job than the television adaptation of that series. And hey, can't argue with fun references. We've already heard a Romero name drop (mispronounced by the ditzy nurse character, naturally)... and instead of Shell, was that a Shaun gas station? Yes, yes it was.

Rewatches (1 Episode): High School of the Dead (Spring of the Dead)

Video Games (New!): Kirby & the Amazing Mirror
- I've never been a Kirby devotee, but there's no denying the irreverent fun Nintendo's pink puff can bring to the platforming genre. The entirely connected labyrinthian lands of "Amazing Mirror" can be head-spinning at times as you realize what doors go where, how far back you're sent upon death and that you really should have strived harder to keep that rock helmet around because now you have to backtrack 15 rooms, but haplessly floating around and adopting the now-staple Kirby enemy abilities (my favorites are fighter and smash, but whose wouldn't be?) while discovering secrets and integral hidden paths is an undeniably good time-killer that in this case - the case of likely the best Kirby game I've yet encountered - should not see a finite end for some time.