T2 Trainspotting

April 2, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

So, in my last review (which I just wrote earlier today), I stated that there was a “general dearth” of good films in theaters right now. Well, that me can fuck off because I could not have been more wrong. From the first moments of T2, I knew I was in for a treat. As you may recall, 1996’s “Trainspotting” started with Ewan McGregor’s running feet as he evaded the police. This time, we also start with his running feet, only now they are on a treadmill. And, thus, we are told instantly what the tone, drive and humor of this film will be. Again and again, we are reminded of that earlier movie in more and less subtle ways. So often, in fact, that I cannot begin to list them all. But here are some of my favorites: that opening sequence; Spud exploding fluids out of a different orifice; Renton’s amazing “Choose Life” rant; a dirty toilet; Renton slamming his hand on the hood of a car with a shitting eating grin; and the music. Director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”) teases us with the faintest sounds of the original. We get an acoustic, instrumental version of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” over the opening credits. Another, ever-so-faint acoustic version of Pulp’s “Mile End” plays for just a minute. And, back in his childhood room, Renton puts needle to vinyl and we are treated to just 3 beats of “Lust for Life.” It’s too much for Renton but it’s also too late because we are all going down the nostalgia rabbit hole together. And that is the true brilliance of this film. It is ostensibly the story of all these men 20 years later, trapped in middle-aged regret and uncertainty. But this isn’t really a film about Mark Renton’s nostalgia or Begbie’s or Simon’s. This is really about Danny Boyle’s nostalgia and Ewan McGregor’s and mine and yours. Sitting in that theater, watching these characters remember and retell their youth against the backdrop of the slum towers they grew up in (now marked for “Safe Demolition”), I realized that Boyle is actually telling another, more vital story. In the modern world of meta-narratives, this film is really about us, the viewers. It is designed to pull us back again and again to when we first saw the film. Image after image, reference after reference, was designed to take us down that rabbit hole of nostalgia with them. These men, who were in their 20s the last time around, now grapple with middle age and confusion about who they are and what their lives mean. Boyle taps into that and I was as drawn back to my youthful self, just as those characters were. “Trainspotting” was all frenetic energy, wild abandon and impotent rage. T2 is so much more introspective and replaces rage with wistfulness and a self-aware acceptance. We all grew up in the intervening years and became a little wiser and less sure of ourselves. That these characters aged with us feels exactly right to me.

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Life

April 2, 2017 at 10:08 am | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment
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The late-winter doldrums (between last year’s Oscar bait in January/February and the blockbuster season, starting in May) can always be a bit lean. Occasionally, we get a few independent gems during this period. Films that were too small to justify a release during busier times of the year (“Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring” would be a classic example). Or we might get riskier films that the studio is afraid might flop (like last year’s “Deadpool”). This general dearth is what has brought me to the rather ironically named “Life.” I could have chosen this or “Ghost in the Shell” but, as one of my friends put it, at least this one has Ryan Reynolds. That really wasn’t quite enough, though. This space horror takes place entirely on the International Space Station as 6 astronauts do battle with a rapidly growing space flower. I’m sure that’s not how the studio would want to describe this alien but this ain’t no capital A Alien. While clearly an homage to Ridley Scott’s horror/sci-fi classic, this film lacked virtually everything that one had: atmosphere, escalating tension, real terror and (oh yeah) an actually scary monster. This film’s see-through, “Little Shop of Horrors” knock-off was kind of hard to find frightening. It also didn’t help that I kept thinking of ways they could have killed the thing if they were just following any reasonable protocols. Like, why the hell wasn’t the lab with the unknown alien life form in it attached to an airlock? The film also had a painfully slow build up. It took 40 minutes to get to any action. That’s a lot of time in a film that’s only 1:45 long and seeing the crew members joke with each other and talk to cute kids didn’t make me like them or care about their deaths. The film ended with a haunting twist ending that was neither haunting nor much of a twist. Who didn’t see that coming? I was also really bugged by the fact that they seemed to keep calling the Japanese crew member Cho, which is a Korean name. That drove me crazy. Well, it turns out they were actually calling him Sho (apparently the character’s name was Sho Murakami, which is Japanese). But I am still going to bitch about it because that’s what type of movie this was. It really is a shame to waste a simple, vital name on such an inert movie; “Life” was, in the end, utterly lifeless.

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