Film Studies: This Week at the Movies

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In Focus: Haywire
January is one of the most dreaded months for movie-goers. It’s a time when studios dump some of the most uninspired, reviled, and just plain terrible movies in theaters just to make a quick buck. So, when the trailer for Haywire first emerged, there was reason to be skeptical. Sure, it’s from celebrated, but scattershot director Steven Soderbergh and boasts a stellar ensemble cast, but the trailer presents it as an unoriginal, high-octane thriller tossed out at random in the dead of winter.

Fortunately, the film manages to break free from its lowered expectations and is actually a smart and stylish action movie. The film stars former MMA fighter and American Gladiator Gina Carano—yes, you read that correctly—as Mallory Kane, a covert operative. She’s on the run and seeking revenge after her former employer sets her up as a murderer and enemy-of-the-state following a botched rescue mission. From the opening sequence that finds Carano beating the bejeezus out of Channing Tatum (a long-time fantasy for those unfortunate souls who actually paid to see G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Soderbergh relies heavily on sparse dialogue and vague narrative development interspersed with incredibly choreographed and intensely kinetic fight scenes.Carano proceeds to take a teenage prisoner hostage (played by Michael “Oh Yeah, It’s That Guy!Angarano)  and then flees the scene. Through a series of flashbacks, Carano explains to the disheveled teen why she’s being hunted by unknown assailants and how she was set up.

As a leading lady, Carano certainly holds her own. Her tough-as-nails, retribution-seeking character succeeds more so than most Hollywood starlets attempting the same (i.e. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez), and an impressive supporting cast featuring the likes of Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, and Michael Fassbender doesn’t hurt either. Though Soderbergh is the real champion of the film—mixing slick visuals, a pulsatingly addictive score by David Holmes, and a seamlessly perfect sense of narrative timing—Haywire is a ravishingly fun movie, much in the the same style of last year’s universally-adored genre films Drive and Hanna.


Also Opening: A Separation
An intimate and heartbreaking portrait of the domestic turmoils in an Iranian marriage, A Separation is a heavy Oscar contender for Best Foreign Language Film. So, go see it this weekend before the onslaught of “Hey, have you heard of this Iranian movie?” comes in February.

Recommended for: Separatists, foreign film lovers, compulsive Oscar gamblers.



Red Tails
The George Lucas-produced WWII film about the Tuskegee Airmen is supposedly the first in a planned trilogy, so you can either see it this weekend or wait until the inevitable “Special Edition” comes out which will feature a digitally enhanced Bryan Cranston and clarification as to who shot first, Cuba Gooding, Jr. or Terrence Howard.

Recommended for: Air and Space Museum Employees, non-racist WWII vets, Bryan Cranston enthusiasts.

Not Recommended for: Self-respecting Star Wars fans.



Underworld: Awakening
Like a bad herpes outbreak, these Underworld movies just won’t go away. The latest in the series (Fourth? Fifth? Is anyone keeping track?) once again finds vampire/leather model Kate Beckinsale battling werewolves for some reason or another. Because if there’s one trend that moviegoers definitely aren’t sick of yet, it’s vampires and werewolves.

Recommended for: Tweens needing their vampire/werewolf fix, that one kid you knew from high school who always wore black eyeliner and parachute pants, and shitty first dates.



Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer’s exploitative and controversial novel about a boy who loses is father in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, this film is a current front-runner for “Most Emotionally Manipulative Movie of All Time.” Granted, the film stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and it’s about 9/11, so you know a ton of people are going to see it anyways. Still… c’mon, people.

Recommended for: Jingoists, the easily emotionally manipulated, Tom Hanks’ rapping son.


Local Pick of the Week: The Divide
This post-apocalyptic thriller starring Michael Biehn and Rosanna Arquette was a huge hit at last year’s SXSW film festival. Landmark’s E Street Cinema brings the film to DC as part of their famed Midnight Madness film series.

The film screens Friday and Saturday night at midnight. Click here for tickets.