My January in Review

As a resounding failure, last year’s attempt to log my monthly film viewing habits came to an abrupt halt when I decided to call it quits after January. For my second go-round, I’ve decided to stick with it and share with you the total number of films I’ve viewed during the month in question and pinpoint my five favorites while posting (mildly) informative blurbs about each. In regards to the past month specifically, I’ve recently embarked upon a director’s retrospective over at Reel Time, focusing primarily on one Wong Kar-wai as I set out to view each of his films in chronological order, so make sure to check out my full reviews of each film via the link provided. This aside, I found myself pleasantly surprised by my first two 2012 theater outings and even more so by a first-time viewing of one of 2011’s more elusive limited foreign releases. Enjoy, and as always, feel free to comment on anything you’d like!

Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1990)

As an above average sophomore effort, Kar-wai successfully blends his dreamy visual aesthetic with a story surrounding a rebellious womanizer, the women he simultaneously seduces and the ongoing search for his birth mother after discovering he’s been adopted. Thin yet compelling, Kar-wai deftly incorporates themes of love lost and subsequent heartbreak along with those of a more existential nature as central character Yuddy struggles to find his place in the world. All the while remaining engaging on account of how each individual is linked together in subtle yet increasingly significant ways, Days of Being Wild is essentially the precursor to Kar-wai’s later, more renowned cinematic endeavors. Full review at Reel Time.

Fallen Angels (Wong Kar-wai, 1995)

As a quintessential companion piece to 1994’s Chungking Express, Fallen Angels is largely comparable to its immediate predecessor in several noticeable aspects, yet the subversive nature of character Wong Chi-Ming’s line of work and the sexual tension that exists between him and his rarely seen partner are what make this indirect continuation of Kar-wai’s magnum opus stand out significantly. Dwelling on the auteur’s signature themes of inevitable heartbreak and loneliness to varying degrees, the film’s two disparate story arcs are deftly woven together as the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong is expertly captured by one of today’s most talented working filmmakers. Full review at Reel Time.

Haywire (Steven Soderbergh, 2011)

As another slight departure from Soderbergh’s typical fare, Haywire feels appealingly experimental in its portrayal of Mallory Kane (Gina Carano): a mercenary-for-hire and brute force to be reckoned with that’s recently been sold up the river by her shady employer Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). In order to clear her name, Mallory must uncover the truth both alone and with the help of an unwilling accomplice as she mercilessly beats her assailants within an inch of their lives one-by-one. Lem Dobbs’ often complex screenplay doesn’t opt for easy answers, and the raw presentation of the expertly choreographed action sequences, believe it or not, may not appeal to mainstream audiences, but Soderbergh’s discernible panache and a pulse-pounding score set the tone for this slick actioner that treads through familiar territory while maintaining its own identity.

Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)

Widely lauded as the contemporary masterpiece that catapulted Kar-wai into the realm of commercial success, Chungking Express tells the tale of two Cantonese policemen as they both struggle with losing their respective significant others, relying on their own peculiar coping strategies and prospective new female cohorts to dry their oceans of grief. Unashamedly addressing Kar-wai’s signature themes dealing with the complexities and unforgiving nature of modern day relationships, these tales exist independent of one another as they’re gradually interwoven and serve as testaments to Kar-wai’s penchant for streamlined yet engaging narratives and the visual panache that’s earned him a spot among the likes of so-called “visual storytellers,” ensuring that the entire experience is as much a film lover’s film as it is a prime example of Kar-wai’s budding prowess as an auteur. Full review at Reel Time.

The Grey (Joe Carnahan, 2012)

Those looking for nothing but Liam Neeson beating the living piss out of a pack of wolves will be sorely disappointed once they’ve laid eyes on Joe Carnahan’s latest, an astonishingly humanized take on a tried-and-true survival movie formula that prides itself on warranted brutality and heartfelt emotional sincerity. Under Carnahan’s watchful eye, The Grey remains a beautifully realized effort that has unfortunately fell victim to what I like to call the “January Release Effect,” meaning that it’ll most likely be forgotten in the coming months as bigger and assuredly better things loom not-so-ominously on the horizon. Make no mistake however, as this is most likely the singular early 2012 release that’ll make waves on the mainstream circuit, and if you haven’t already seen it, please do yourself a favor and enter the theater with an open mind, expecting nothing but a breath of fresh air within a previously hackneyed subgenre of filmmaking.

Total number of films watched: 9
Other first-time viewings
(in alphabetical order): Ashes of Time Redux (Kar-wai, ’08), Happy Together (Kar-wai, ’97), Point Blank (Cavayé, ’10)

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