With a few really solid films floating around theaters these days, and Kaia's visit approaching faster than Michael Phelps on 'roids, I opted to avoid seeing anything in theaters until Kaia actually arrived so we could pick n' choose. Since I was stuck in repairing the closet and getting everything back together, the alternative to heading out with friends, etc., was to manage a couple films between cleaning, organizing and all that other stuff that I usually leave to other people :-D
So after the fiasco that was Harsh Times, I opted for a double-feature this weekend, in between bouts of cleaning and closet organization (and avoidance of Facebook's inevitable virus infection that nailed a dozen or so friends, each of which apparently have hidden video of me in a compromising position (like that's the first time I've heard that).
So...the double-feature. First, and foremost, a film that most people heard about is "Dan in Real Life," a drama starring Steve Carell, along with a talented ensemble, including Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, John Mahoney, Dianne Wiest and Emily Blunt. It's another in the vein of "The Family Stone" -- which is to say it's got humor, sadness, awkwardness and angst -- mixed with tension, embarrassment, conflict and resolution all rolled into one Hallmark-friendly package.
It's a nice, solid movie; but inasmuch as most of us have crazy families -- at least in part -- do we really want to be allowed into someone else's crazy family weekend? Whether it's a love story or a story about how life -- whether as a married couple or as a widower/single parent -- it's very difficult to watch this film from start to finish without wondering why you're peeking in on someone else's occasional misfortune. It's sort of like having to walk a mile in someone else's shoes and realizing after two steps you shouldn't have bothered. I can't bemoan having watched this film but I couldn't help but wonder why they bothered getting Steve Carell, who is comedy gold, to do a morose, sort of depressing story about life when his gift is comedy which makes you laugh until your sides hurt.
The other film I saw is 2003's "Oldboy," a Korean film that won Palmes D'or that year, awarded by a panel headed by Quentin Tarantino. This film is presented in Korean with subtitles and, at two hours long, is a bit difficult to follow but well worth the effort.
The main character, Dae-su Oh, is a drunken idiot who takes much of his life -- and his wife and young daughter -- for granted. Suddenly, he finds himself imprisoned in something more like a hotel room than a cell, and he begins to try and figure out who has done this to him, and why. He spends fifteen years in this makeshift prison, and he plots his escape and revenge.
This film is gritty, visceral and -- at times -- downright repulsive -- but it's the kind of thing you sit through and experience like an early AC/DC album. Not every moment is easily absorbed but you'll be riveted nonetheless. And the tenets of revenge and redemption intertwine in a very clever, disconcerting manner against the oddly juxtaposed dichotomy involving and between hunter and hunted. This was a heavy duty almost modern-day re-telling of The Count of Monte Cristo, with a lot more in-your-face violence and a lot more power. It felt a bit longer than its two hour running time, and it was difficult keeping track of the actors (there's the passage of time and the language problem to consider, like in many Japanese horror/thrillers). However, it was worth watching and it should be available through many Sundance On-Demand channels. I won't ruin any more of the story or the surprise, but I do recommend seeing the film, from start to finish, making sure it's available for repeat viewings if/where applicable.