My movie reviews this week include one film that was released in limited venues in 2011 but was just released where I live, and another film that fits into the mold of new releases for early January.
1. Carnage (2011)
Story: Two pairs of parents hold a cordial meeting after their sons are involved in a fight, though as their time together progresses, increasingly childish behavior throws the evening into chaos.
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly
Review: Though I have never seen Yasmina Reza’s 2008 play “Le Dieu du Carnage" ("God of Carnage") from which this film is adapted, I am very familiar with the work of Roman Polanski who is brilliant at putting his characters in tightly confined spaces until they eventually burst. This movie questions the veneer of human civilization, which is set in place by society to quench self-interest and rage. Though it begins with polite and civilized intentions, given enough time the ego will display its insecurities, arrogance and anxieties, its class resentments and domestic bile. The simplicity of the film is amazing (it basically has only four actors that never leave a Brooklyn apartment), the performances of the actors are brilliant (four of the best actors in entertainment today), and the comedic/sarcastic tone throughout the film coupled with its scathing message is clever and thoroughly entertaining. I left the film wondering how inhuman our humanity can be.
1. Contraband (2012)
Story: To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale
Review: Number one at the box office this weekend was Contraband, an entertaining and watchable heist thriller is a remake of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam and directed by that films star and reset in New Orleans. It's the type of movie that has a predictable ending, but like a roller coaster you ride it for the experience of getting there. For this it does a good job. Mark Wahlburg, like Liam Neeson, has that badass-yet-tender quality that fits his character in the film well. It was an enjoyable action movie if your in the mood for such a film, which I was when I saw it.