Age of Consent (dir. Michael Powel, 1969) – Trying to catch up, so it’s gonna have to be another one of these; machine gun style rather than the usual fire hose style…and definitely quantity over quality, with the exception of this first one. Age of Consent, that classic of the great Brit Michael Powell’s, is lent some theatrical legitimacy by virtue of its casting: James Mason and Helen Mirren. Powell gives Mirren’s young girl character secondary but strikingly strong point of view here. While engagement with Mason was unavoidable (and not only because of his “producer” status) given the nature of the narrative, the young model grows a little out of her naivete while remaining constrained by her environment. There was more here, originally, but it’s been a few weeks.
Me, Myself & Irene (dir. Farrelly Brothers, 2000) – It had been awhile, and it was on TV, so what the heck. The Farrellys are addicted to shock comedy, and usually to its companion, the buddy film. This one veers away from the latter, probably because Jim Carrey was through sharing the spotlight at this stage in his career. Music is used effectively as an interior musical soundtrack to Charlie/Hank’s transformations but Carrey’s performance draws more attention to itself than it does to intended comedic effects. The film doesn’t seem to mind its inherent contradiction: nature/nurture. Charlie’s upbringing and general social treatment in life lead to his schizophrenia (or split-personality), while “his” black sons remain quite stereotypically urban despite being reared by a (very) white male parent. But whatever, this is one of the few things that makes the movie funny.
Zombieland (dir. Ruben Fleischer, 2009) – Probably the American answer to Shaun of the Dead, and somewhat admirable. It’s being commented upon that Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera are the go-to guys for affable, impotent American male youth, and this feels true. This is about location and rules, law and space. As the last semblance of the living, the survivors take on the names of their hometowns while, interestingly, doing their darnedest to eat (Twinkies) and play (amusement park). The unique edginess of the film seems coincidental with the popular outlook these days: fatalistic hedonism, or, society’s going down the tubes so I’m going to go live it up.
Wedding Crashers (dir. David Dobkin, 2005) – The buddy comedy reaches new levels of (attempted) legitimacy by casting Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson at their peaks, then adding Christopher Walken and Jane Seymour. While Vaughn steals the show, he’s given a run for his money by the up-and-coming Bradley Cooper, who plays the most insane-funny bad guy since the principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This is all bros-before-hos, of course, with Isla Fischer and Seymour constituting the only non-boring, non-judgmental females in the film…and they’re both clinically nuts. This one follows the formula, albeit more effectively than your average Starsky and Hutch or Envy-type fare.
Mission: Impossible – 2 (dir. John Woo, 2000) – Pure nostalgia, for some of us. Apparently this is loaded with John Woo trademarks, but who knows. Overt yet vacant symbolism makes this quite apropos for MST3K. As Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, of course) descends into the bowels of the enemy compound on a note-so-remote island off the coast of Sydney, he buddies up with a lone dove surrounded by filthy pigeons. I’m not making this up. There are too many vantage points from which to attack this allegory, so we’ll just choose one: why is Hunt identified with the avian symbol of peace and life when he proceeds to unload round after round of ammunition on his pigeon-like enemies? Maybe it’s for a greater cause, but peace this is not. This Mission: Impossible movies are about the star image of Cruise, more than anything. But if there’s a flow to the three we have thus far, it’s moving into what could be considered a more “human” direction. The first film is about computer hacking, with a little biblical verbiage thrown in. The sequel is about the body, biological warfare, and (of course) the use of the female body as the petri dish for transporting a killer virus. (She, by the way, is so incessantly punished and generally put-back-into-her-place that no female agency exists here at all. She’s a thing to be used, which is ironic, since Tom Cruise is such a tool.) The third film gets very personal, with a psychotic super-bad guy who gets off on being pure evil kidnapping, holding ransom, and nearly murdering Hunt’s new woman (this time, wife). Seeing as the villain in the first film is a middle-aged woman, the fact that women become major factors that only propel the subsequent narratives by virtue of their powerlessness is quite fitting and natural.