DVD Mini-Reviews: Holy Motors, The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2, The Impossible

In an effort to catch up on some of my recent rentals, here’s a new batch of DVD mini-reviews:

Holy Motors [2012]
Holy Motors [dir. Leos Carax]
Holy Motors has to be one of the strangest films I have ever seen, and boy, does it know it. Here is a film that is spliced together as something resembling a series of vignettes, each one bizarre in its own way. The film revolves around one man, Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant), who rides around in a limousine throughout Paris while occasionally stopping to perform in increasingly weird scenarios. While riding, he puts on makeup, changes his costume and grabs the props needed for his next performance. One early scene has him dressed in a motion capture suit in which he simulates sex with a similarly dressed female. Another scene, arguably the movie’s most popular (see photo above), involves Mr. Oscar dressing up as a deformed leprechaun who terrorizes a photo shoot and seemingly falls in love with a supermodel (Eva Mendes).

As the film jumps from scenario to scenario, it’s difficult to make sense of it all. In fact, I still have no clue as to what exactly the film was about. For those expecting a clear narrative, this one is bound to aggravate. Some scenes work better than others, but if you’re willing to go along for the ride, this is one worth taking. It’s certainly one of the most unforgettable movies I have seen. 8/10

The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2
The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2 [dir. Jay Oliva]
The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 ended on a cliffhanger that perfectly set up its sequel. Here we have the Joker back to his old ways, feigning sanity in an effort to appear on a talk show from which he escapes. He begins terrorizing Gotham, prompting the 55-year-old Batman to attempt to put an end to his games once and for all. Meanwhile, the President (a caricature of Ronald Reagan) has contacted Superman and requested that he force Batman into ending his vigilantism by any means necessary.

These two storylines are paid off in huge ways, as the battles between Batman and the Joker (and later Superman) rank among the best moments of either film. This is actually a rather dark movie, as Batman slips into a form of brutality that is unheard of from him. Peter Weller once again does a fantastic job voicing the Dark Knight, and Michael Emerson, while no Mark Hamill, is a highlight as the Joker. The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2 make for a great double feature, especially for those who may have been disappointed by Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to the live-action trilogy. 8/10

The Impossible
The Impossible [dir. Juan Antonio Bayona]
The Impossible tells the true story of one family caught in the middle of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 230,000 people. The film impeccably captures the devastation and chaos of this natural disaster, and the scene showing the tsunami’s arrival is downright frightening. This is a beautifully made film, but I had a hard time getting over one especially glaring issue: the movie is focused on one white English tourist family.

Nevermind that hundreds of thousands of locals were killed in this awful tragedy; in the film, they are portrayed as merely being there to help the white tourists get medical attention and reunite their families. It also doesn’t help that the film changed the real-life Spanish family that this story is based on into an English one. This begs the question, why are films so afraid to place minorities in their lead roles? This is especially frustrating here because The Impossible is a good film otherwise. The blame can’t be placed on its actors. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are tremendous — I have no complaints with Watts’ Oscar nomination for her performance — and newcomer Tom Holland is a real highlight as the couple’s oldest son. If you can get over the “whitewashing” factor, this film is worth a look. 7/10

Have you seen any of these? What did you think of them?

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23 thoughts on “DVD Mini-Reviews: Holy Motors, The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2, The Impossible

  1. Fogs' Movie Reviews says:

    Sad you couldnt get past the “whitewashing” in “The Impossible”. That family had an incredible story to tell. I dont think it minimized the tragedy in any way… there were several points where it imparted the scope of what was going on. They changed the lead families ethnicity, but it doesnt diminish the story, for me, its still powerful.

    Meanwhile, Holy Motors is the biggest WTF movie I’ve ever seen. I couldnt even review it after I had watched it. Let me ask, how can you say “I still have no clue as to what exactly the film was about.” and give it an 8/10? (especially since you never give 10/10s, LOL). I understand where you’re coming from, but isnt a primary requisite of a movie to make sense on some level? I mean, I didnt get it either, but it bothered me that everyone was raving about it even though they had no clear grasp of what the hell it was supposed to be saying…

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      I’ll agree that The Impossible still told a powerful story; I just didn’t like the emphasis it placed on this wealthy white family. [SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE IMPOSSIBLE] After they are reunited, they get on a plane and fly back to their mansion in the U.S.. Wait, what?? What about the hundreds of thousands of locals who are *still* recovering from this? I dunno, it just bugged me that they focused on just this one family who managed to escape and go back to their rich lives. [END SPOILER]

      As for Holy Motors, I don’t think a film necessarily has to make sense for it to be compelling. Even though it’s difficult to decipher its true meaning (if there is one), I still found the film to be very entertaining. Truthfully, you’re line “I couldnt even review it after I had watched it” is exactly how I felt, hence why I am just now doing a “mini” review two months later. 😉

  2. ruth says:

    I haven’t seen The Impossible but I hear ya about the ‘whitewashing’ thing. I don’t know why they had to change the ethnicity, to be honest. In any case, it’s one of those films that I feel is REALLY tough for me to watch as the subject matter about the tsunami might hit too close to home for me.

    Btw, Holy Motors is perhaps THE strangest films I have ever seen, ahah. That said, I appreciate it for what it is, a surrealist cinema. Like you said though, it’s an intriguing ride and I enjoyed some of the scenes (and the musical segments). I’m GLAD you decided to review it and give it a high score even if you didn’t fully ‘get’ it (I gave it a 4/5 too). We don’t always have to ‘get’ every film we see, I mean a lot of Euro indie films are perhaps inherently bizarre, but it doesn’t mean it can’t move us in some ways.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Ruth, I can imagine how hard it would be for you to watch The Impossible. Even with its glaring issues, it is a beautiful, heartbreaking film. It’s one of those movies where you know exactly what to expect; the question is, is it something you want to put yourself through?

      And well said on Holy Motors. Sometimes it’s nice to see a movie that is just so far out there and different from the norm. I’ve never seen anything like it, and at the very least it’s bound to produce fruitful discussions with everyone who’s seen it.

  3. SDG says:

    I thought you’d seen Holy Motors before. It definitely was the weirdest movie of the last year. Loved Denis Lavant’s work in it. On couple of occasions, he fooled me if he was playing a role or back to being Oscar. Despite all the craziness of his characters, there were enough moments for me to connect with his character.

    I am with you on The Impossible as well. I might have been OK with them focusing on white family, I am sure they had it just as bad as anyone else there but their Insurance company paid for a private plane to get just them out of there. Now did they have it just as bad?

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Wow, you have a good memory, SDG. 🙂 I did see Holy Motors a couple months back but am just now posting my mini-review of it. Agreed on Lavant — that was an incredible performance.

      And YES, you nailed it about The Impossible! I think that’s what bothered me the most, that they were able to fly away and get on with their lives so easily. The fact that they had a private plane makes it pretty clear that they weren’t as bad off as the others. If only everyone could be so fortunate.

  4. keith7198 says:

    Great write-up my friend. I have to say I just don’t understand the “white” objection that many have when it comes to The Impossible. It didn’t bother me at all mainly because I didn’t think it exploited or downplayed what anyone else went through. This story was restricted to this family and I didn’t see a problem with it. It’s almost saying that we have to choose a certain race for this movie to work. Honestly color never occurred to me when watching this. But a lot of people see it different and its been a fascinating discussion.

    And then there’s Holy Motors. This movie drove me nuts. There were a couple of sequences that I felt were pretty good. But as a whole I had a hard time making it through it. At the end I was just left thinking “what was the point”? But I do have to say I loved the accordion jam session. 🙂

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Hi Keith, you’re right in that there have been some great discussions about The Impossible. As I mentioned to SDG in another comment, I think what bugged me most was that they managed to escape the situation relatively easily compared to the others. Hundreds of thousands of people died from this tsunami, and countless more were injured, lost their homes, etc. Sure, the mother in the film got banged up, but they were able to hop on a private plane and go back home. It just didn’t feel right to focus on this one tourist family when so many others were affected even more.

      As for Holy Motors, well, I can see where you’re coming from on that. I thought I was doing a good job keeping up with the story, but a couple of the scenes in the middle really threw me for a loop. Still, I was entertained, and that accordion jam session was pretty great. 😀 Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts on these!

  5. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    Besides the glaring problems that come associated with “white washing” a film, The Impossible didn’t quite hit me on an emotional level, at least not to the level I was expecting. I think it’s all connected though. I feel that by placing this well-to-do family in the middle of this chaos in a foreign land made it a little less poignant and harrowing. I feel a stronger film would have been made with a cast that more closely resembled the true Spanish family, or why not, dish that altogether, and focus on one of the many disadvantaged local families whose lives became even worse or difficult as a result of the tsunami.

    I’m still looking forward to watching Holy Motors as I’ve heard/read a plethora of interesting things about the film. The issue with me is that there’s a part of me that tells me I would enjoy a lot more in the theater, in front of a big screen, so I’ve been patient so far, trying to wait for a screening in either the Gene Siskel or the Music Box Theater. The sad part is that I’ve already missed a couple of showings and I might not get the chance anytime soon. I’ll probably end up getting it on DVD/Blu-Ray after all.

    Nice mini-reviews Eric!

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Hi Niels, I completely agree with you on The Impossible. This is a film that could connect with people worldwide, so why bother changing the main characters to a white English family?

      With Holy Motors, I wanted to catch it in the theater, too, but missed it during its Music Box run. I bet it would be fun to see/hear everyone’s reactions to it, but the experience still holds up well to a DVD viewing. I would love to hear your thoughts on it when you do check it out.

  6. Chris says:

    Holy Motors, it seems to be a very polarizing film. It was a unique and unpredictable ride, that I’m happy I was able to take. Though I struggled to actually care about what was happening to the main character.

  7. Alex Withrowa says:

    Really glad you dug Holy Motors, I loved the strangeness of that damn movie. Nah, didn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but it’s a unique vision, which I’m always happy to entertain.

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