2012 Written by Lem Dobbs
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Why is the hallway all lime green all of a sudden?
Versatile director Steven Soderbergh has a cinematic talent and creative desire that he will work in almost any genre at any level of funding. Soderbergh also has a realistic view on his output, he knew he was in a creative funk at one point (and used one of his own films to help inspire him to greatness) and knows he will get jaded at film directed again, so is setting his eyes on becoming a painter. But before critics with even snootier voices begin tearing into his work, it’s still our time! Haywire is Soderbergh’s action spectacle, a femme fighter basher that gives us some great fights. Continuing Soderbergh’s trend of using nontraditional actors, MMA fighter Gina Carano making her major film debut (she was previously in the DTV flick Blood and Bone, was an American Gladiator as Crush, and is featured in the video game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 as Natasha).
Oh, honey, that’s not how you apply foundation!
Opening with an on the run Mallory Kane meeting Aaron at a diner, Kane quickly ends up beating him up, as he’s assigned to take her in. Now in a stolen car, she relates her tale to her hostage Scott, letting us into her recent escapades in Barcelona and subsequent betrayal in Ireland. Though fleeing from every law enforcement branch in the country, she remains calm and collected while trying to evade her pursuers.
Haywire‘s greatest strength is the choreography, but unfortunately I’ve seen things that may Haywire look like a snooze in the park. Haywire does excel at showing just how brutal violence is, especially physical violence in close quarters. Mallory Kane battles several men in claustrophobic situations, either trapped or led to an isolated area. Kane doesn’t back down from the fights, either out of a sense of desperate survival or a sense of duty to track the one man who escaped the raid on a hostage situation.
I’m just gonna take a big smoke on my phallic symbol…
Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) – Our heroine, former marine, and private military agent who goes on the run when she’s framed for murder and flagged as wanted. There is lots of looking and slightly squinting eyes by Gina, it is called acting. It’s probably even a method acting, under the great Franz von Lookensquint.
Aaron (Channing Tatum) – Fellow agent who also works for Mallory’s employer, is sent to go get her when she goes on the run.
Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) – Kane’s former husband and her employer, though she’s leaving his business.
Paul (Michael Fassbender) – British agent who is teamed with Mallory in Ireland…where’s she’s betrayed. Will turn out to not be a big fan of ladies’ thighs…
John Kane (Bill Paxton) – Kane’s father. The two aren’t close, he’s retired military and spends his time writing long military fiction. It is unknown if any of his books are about bughunts.
Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas) – Spanish agent who doesn’t like Kane and her team playing in his pool. There is more going on than that, though…
Hi, yes, I recently bought your Automatic 2000 garage door opener, and I think there may be a problem…
2012 Written by Zoe Kazan
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Ruby Sparks is Manic Pixie Dream Girl meta as fuck. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”, then you probably don’t read a lot of reviews written by indie writers who pretend they’re the only people who watch bad cinema. Which is good, your life is measurably better! But as a crash course, these Manic Pixie Dream Girls are chicks from indie films who who up and are all perky and adorkable and inspiring, oddly attracted to the bland and uptight male protagonist for reasons unknown, and then leaves by the end of the film for greener pastures, leaving the bland male slightly less bland and uptight. Manic Pixie Dream Girls run wild with their weirdo skirts and dresses (always paired with bright tights of mismatched colors), wild hair and giant blue/green eyes. Ruby Sparks asks the questions “What if a writer was able to create a Manic Pixie Dream Girl wholesale? And she’d do whatever he told her to?”
Stories of creating the perfect woman have been around since the earliest days. Most of those tales have the not so nice undercurrent that the woman’s ability to decide her fate does not exist. Heck, even in many Manic Pixie Dream Girl films, the girl has to be the source of inspiration and change for the hero. That’s her role, and maybe when the whole thing is over she’ll get to be happy, but they’re specifically made not to be happy unless they are fluttering from place to place like a butterfly.
Zoe Kazan not only looks the MPDG part, she has one of the required names, and she even wrote the script. But Zoe Kazan isn’t a MPDG, she’s a real person, a human being with hopes and dreams and drives and freedom. The exact things Ruby strives for, Zoe Kazan becomes the enemy and destroys it from within, by pointing out the absurdity as the fantasy woman is both torn down and built into a real person. It seems natural that Ruby Sparks was written by a woman, such as the fact that it deals with real relationship issues while only barely touching all the sick weirdo perv stuff Calvin could be making Ruby do.
Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) – A brillaint writer, you probably have heard of him and read his book. But ten years later, Calvin has yet to produce another novel and has a hard time writing anything. Until he dreams about a girl…
Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) – Just your average girl who appeared out of thin air when Calvin wrote about her. Makes me want to dig up my childhood stories about fried chicken invading the world to see if I can make it happen.
Scotty (A dog whose name I did not catch) – Scotty is a dog who needs to use the potty. Often. And he pees like a girl and is afraid of strangers. The dogs flaws make Calvin even more self-conscious.
We all knew there would be a Puss in Boots movie the second the image of Puss with his giant cute eyes became a computer desktop background months before Shrek 2: Dark Territory hit theaters. And while the Shrek series has been on a rocketship to planet Crap, Puss in Boots manages to be more entertaining than any Shrek sequel. And I’m not just saying that because I liked the film and saw it for free at an advanced screening. In fact, I had a bad time at the theater until the film started, thanks to some awful customer service that guaranteed I’ll never buy concessions there again. But the humor was good enough to calm my nerves and even get me happy again.
Puss in Boots is a spinoff of the Shrek films, but manages to feel somewhat independent of the Shrek universe while still being a part of it. There are still fairy tale elements running around, but the desert environments, Mexican flavor, and wild west inspiration give us a different spin. We follow our familiar character, Puss in Boots, as he has a prequel adventure that is both a story of its own and an origin story (done in flashback.) The decision to not make it a direct origin story, but to start from a familiar place and then go backwards before heading forwards was the right one. We already like Puss in Boots, and don’t need to be sold on liking him. The flashback to his childhood instead is plot related, making it feel important and not just filler.
Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) – Our title kitty is the solo hero this time out. And gives us some much-needed awesomeness on full throttle. Puss in Boots was always awesome, and he’s still awesome when the spotlight is shone on him.
Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) – The famous feline thief you may have heard of, but if you haven’t, it’s only because she’s robbed your memory. The greatest thief eve becomes the love interest for our feature.
Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) – Puss’s old pal who turned to a life of crime and roped Puss into it. Now reformed, he’s trying to recruit Puss into one last big score, robbing the goose that lays the golden eggs.