Movies in Theaters March 23rd, 2012
This weekend brings us the inevitable first mega-hit of 2012 (The Hunger Games), an Indonesian can of martial arts whup-ass just waiting to be opened and spill out all over the place (The Raid: Redemption), a 1950s melodrama about sad people having sex (The Deep Blue Sea) and indie bad boy Abel Ferrara musing about the end of days (4:44 Last Day on Earth).
A straight adaptation of The Hunger Games is a movie that can never be made; starving, scrawny kids forced to kill other starving, scrawny kids for the entertainment of the enslaved masses of a fascist society is a bit too much for Hollywood (and, probably, for mainstream audiences, whether most of them actually read the book or not). No, The Hunger Games has to be the new Twilight, a pretty n' polished PG-13 job with Taylor Swift on the soundtrack and starring one of young Hollywood's most relatively well-fed actresses (the curvy, gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence). And that actually might be for the best -- a pop art interpretation of Suzanne Collins' novel is probably the better way to go over a "faithful" (or an attempt at one, at least) adaptation; after all, it's already broken pre-sales ticket records (and will probably continue to hold that record until The Dark Knight Rises blows it and everything else out of the water). Get comfortable and at least mildly acquainted with terms like "Tributes" and "Districts" -- this one's going to be with us for quite a while.
The second collaboration between director Gareth Evans and star/choreographer Iko Uwais (following the kick-ass Merantau) is another showcase for the traditional Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat, a method you can bet will put bad guys on the floor faster than you can blink. A clever variation on the tried and true Die Hard formula (or a more claustrophobic Escape From New York), The Raid: Redemption focuses on a derelict apartment building that serves as safe house for the world's most notorious criminals, an ominous superstructure considered off-limits to even the bravest of police. An elite SWAT team is assigned to infiltrate the building under cover of pre-dawn darkness with a mission to take down a powerful drug lord; unfortunately, the tenant in question gets wind of the invasion and sets a trap, leaving the SWAT team stranded on the sixth floor of the most dangerous address on the planet. Bullets will only take you so far -- you've got to kick, leap and punch you're way out of this one! Sure, you've seen this kind of movie once or twice before, but the action sequences look to be top-notch indeed.
Love and stability is great and all, but one needs sex to truly be happy -- that's the moral (so to speak) of Terence Rattigan's 1952 play, The Deep Blue Sea, here given a lavish adaptation starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston (both earning some "serious drama" credits before embarking on more "summer movie" kind of stuff with The Bourne Legacy and The Avengers, respectively). Weisz plays the younger wife of a high court judge (Simon Russell Beale) who betrays her affectionate yet sexless marriage by embarking on an affair with a handsome pilot (Hiddleston), a reckless rogue haunted by the memories of WWII; after her tryst is discovered, she leaves her life of luxury and moves into a crappy flat with her lover, where she soon realizes that she may have made a grave mistake. The Deep Blue Sea is a hopelessly dated melodrama that would be rendered completely obsolete were it not the perfect showcase for two good-looking stars to writhe about in forbidden passion; even the film's poster can't wait for these two to take their clothes off and have Weisz make "I'm having an orgasm for the first time" faces.
Just the fact that an Abel Ferrara movie made in the past, oh, 14 years is actually getting a theatrical release is reason enough to check out the indie filmmaker's take on the end of the world, which reunites him with Willem Dafoe (star of his last film to get a theatrical release, 1998's New Rose Hotel). 4:44 is, in true Ferrara style, a down and dirty DIY vision of the apocalypse, focusing on a New York couple (Dafoe and Ferrara's latest female muse, Shanyn Leigh) who spend their last hours painting, having sex and Skyping their goodbyes from their Lower East Side apartment, surrounded by TV and computer screens that flash images of doom and salvation. This is, of course, Ferrara's own bittersweet valentine to a long-gone LES, a place of "true grit" that's now been reinvented as a new kind of no man's land, one filled with luxury apartments and five-star hotels (though one could say he's at least ten years too late to moan and groan about such a thing). As with all of Ferrara's work, 4:44 Last Day on Earth will be both fascinating and borderline intolerable; Paz de la Huerta and Natasha Lyonne are also on hand to bring the crazy.