Recently Beheld: July 21-27th, 2014

Dogtooth (2009)

This contemporary parable puts one family under the microscope as we observe the experimental and damning parenting of one Greek family. Part M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and part depraved domestic drama (think von Trier or Haneke), this film will no doubt disturb, delight and divide whoever dares to see it. The film was championed on Filmspotting upon its U.S. release and I remember them joking about getting t-shirts made that would read something like "I survived Dogtooth." Well, I'm waiting for mine to arrive (medium, please) and my mind is expanded, if not a bit more scarred, as a result.

Affluenza (2014)

Director Kevin Asch and screenwriter Antonio Macia (Holy Rollers) team up again for this modern re-weaving of The Great Gatsby circa the 2008 financial crisis. The film is set in Great Neck, New York where the filmmakers have clearly spent part of their lives. We're taken into the lives (namely the backyards, country clubs and bedrooms) of a select few young adults. This is a coming of age film that skirts the ceremonious "high school drama", probably because the parents are more childish than they are. Ben Rosenfield stars and it is apparent that he has a rich career of his own ahead of him.

Lucy (2014)

Nothing could have prepared me for the lunacy and stupidity of Lucy, and I mean that as a high compliment. Essentially, a National Geographic documentary is spliced into a Far East action thriller before turning into an episode of Cosmos. It follows the eponymous woman who becomes a drug mule against her own will only to discover a radical chemical evolution within herself. Lucy was leagues of fun, though in hindsight the logic of everyone's choices involved is just as mind-blowing as the visual channel-changing velocity that Luc Besson (now 55 years old) is demonstrating at this point in his career.

American Psycho (2000)

Director Mary Harron gives American Psycho the feminine touch it desperately needed to be consumable. Our hand is taken by a Wall Street wolf whose unnerving narration puts us in his headspace from the very beginning to the very end. At night he lives the life of a serial killer and we fall along into the spiral of  psychopathy. Christian Bale is as mesmerizing as he is terrifying in the lead role. The film's cult status is palpable, making this somewhat of A Clockwork Orange for our day.

Hercules (2014)

Hercules surprised many over the weekend of its release in that it wasn't as tired and generic as it sounded to be. I was excited to see it since I first heard about it, primarily for the involvement of Dwanye "The Rock" Johnson who rises to the role as his usual charismatic self. What I wasn't expecting was an interesting treatment on the making of a legend and how that can challenge the faith of his followers and that of the man himself. There's hearty meat on this action film's bones and the battle sequences themselves, while very familiar, are so well handled that it can satisfy those who care less about the thematic depth offered. It seems that all involved were acutely aware of the semi-serious piece of entertainment they were crafting. This is one of Brett Ratner's best films? Yeah, it is.

In Summation:

Parenting. Or the lack thereof. In Dogtooth and Affluenza it's likely that the kids would be better off without the influence and inherited legacy established by their mothers and fathers. Lucy, before taking the steps that will put her on an irreversible course of action, calls her mother in the film's closest moment to an emotional scene. What would we say to our own parents if our minds were an open door and we had a perfect recollection to draw from. Not much parenting to be found in American Psycho, though clearly Patrick Bateman could have used more hugs growing up. In Hercules we see the namesake's brief stint at fatherhood and the tragic way in which it was taken from him. The parent figures in the rest of the film are rather black and white, but it is the taste of this role that keeps the central hero motivated throughout.

For more Recently Beheld, check out last week's serving.

Also, check out my Letterboxd Diary for all the films I've seen this year.

Share your thoughts on any of these films or what you watched last week in the comments below!