Add to Queue #67: She-ninjas

Media | A2Q Archives | A2Q #67 | December 2, 2008

Featured Titles

Wanted / La Femme Nikita

I was speaking with a coworker the other day about Transporter 3. He surprised me by saying that he wasn’t interested in it. When I pressed him on this ludicrous statement, he told me that he found the last Transporter movie to be too over-the-top. This surprised me, as he was a big fan of Wanted. “Come on! Wanted is a movie about superheroes whose power is being really good at shooting. The Transporter series is basically a superhero film about a guy whose power is being really good at driving.” Unlike my friend, when I see Transporter 2 and watch as Frank Martin manages to remove a bomb from the bottom of his car by driving the car off a ramp, spiraling perfectly beneath a hook conveniently left in place by a construction crew, snagging the bomb which explodes as the car completes its spiral and lands perfectly, I think that’s awesome.

But back to Wanted. Some of my snarkier peers in the film press have suggested that this is a movie starring an Angelina Jolie looking to cash a paycheck. Personally, I haven’t found much merit to that particular criticism in quite a while. This is, after all, the woman who starred in Taking Lives, an exploitative serial killer film that finds her crying naked in the bathroom after realizing she’s slept with someone whose hobby is cutting peoples heads off. (An act that comes across more ridiculous than disturbing, despite being shown in graphic destail.) Still, I haven’t gotten sick of watching Jolie act, whether it’s in genre pulp or Oscar-bait. She alone is absolutely reason enough to check this film out; if that’s not good enough for you, the stylish, effects-heavy direction of Timur Bekmambetov (of Russian sci-fi cult classics Night Watch and Day Watch) ought to pique your interest.
[[image:vs081202_lafemme-wanted2_copy1.jpg:La Femme Nikita / Wanted:center:0]]
Meanwhile, another — and unquestionably superior — film about a female assassin also arrives on Blu-ray this week. Classic thriller La Femme Nikita was remade in America a while back as Point of No Return, but don’t hold that against it. Directed by Luc Besson at the height of his career, the original follows the story of a woman named Nikita, a dead-end drug addict who is offered a chance at redemption after being sentenced to death: earn clemency by becoming an assassin for the government. This hugely influential French film is notable for its stylish action, its complex themes of redemption and trust, and its fantastic acting. Jean Reno appears in a small role as a “cleaner”, sent in to fix a hit gone bad, a short sequence which led not only to Besson’s film Leon (also known as The Professional in its initial US release) which starred Reno as a shy hitman who makes friends with a young Natalie Portman, but was also paid homage to in Pulp Fiction with Harvey Keitel’s character as the cleaner. If you’re someone who likes action movies even a little bit, this film is required viewing.

Also Released

[[image:vs081202_bd-wrapup.jpg:Blu-ray Wrap-up:center:0]]
So much good stuff! It pains me that I don’t have the time to give each of the notable releases the attention they deserve, but, well, working retail during the holidays limits your free time, and when you have one day off a week to spend with your wife and your pets, they get sort of upset if you spend it all in front of the computer nerding out about Casablanca. I have heard really good things about the image quality on the transfer, and I’ve been meaning to rewatch this movie which easily justifies its treasured status among movie geeks. (And let’s all be thankful that the rumored remake starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez never materialized.) Early on in Add to Queue history, there was a bit of controversy when I stated that movies based on the short stories of Stephen King were rarely any good. (In reference to 1408, but also true of The Mist, Sometimes They Come Back, Secret Window, Night Flier, Trucks, The Mangler, et al. “B-b-but Shawshank Redemption!” One King fanboy even saw fit to start a vitriolic thread about me on a popular internet forum, which was locked before I could properly defend myself, which would have been easy: Shawshank Redemption, like Apt Pupil, is notbased on a King short story, but is instead based on a King novella! Regardless of all that, Shawshank Redemption is that rare treat, a movie based on a King property that is better than the source material. (Contrary to what some believe, I am a big fan of the man’s books). In fact, other than the Kubrick version of The Shining, I can’t think of another King adaptation that shares that special status.

As a segue, King once wrote an episode of the X-Files, which sees both of its theatrical adaptation hitting Blu-ray this week. As a fan who started with the series in its first broadcast season, I was there when the show was at its peak. I saw every episode of every season in an era before BitTorrent and time-shifting DVRs — and, this being before Wikipedia, I also collected all the print episode guides to sit on my shelf and use as reference. I knew entirely too much about X-Files lore, and on the day when the first movie hit theaters, I seriously considered getting a tattoo of an ouroboros, which was the same tattoo the character Scully from the show had. Unfortunately, the release of the first movie marked a steady decline for my first television obsession, and it was never the same afterwards. I was relieved when the show finally ended, and it pains me that its legacy is as a cautionary tale for the Lost production staff on what not to do. I missed the new movie when it hit theaters despite my strong desire to see it: it did not play at the local theater, and by the time I could make plans to travel out of town to see it it was no longer showing. I’m looking forward to finally catching up with it on Blu-ray. I know it can’t possibly recapture those halycon days, but it’ll be nice just to sit and see Mulder and Scully interacting again.

Thanks for reading Add to Queue, Levi’s round-up of this week’s US home video release highlights. Sorry, rest of the world. Region locks are the industry’s way of saying they still don’t understand the Internet. Cover art courtesy of Amazon. . Follow me on Twitter. Add me to your PSN or XBL friends list: VsRobot. You can also e-mail me at levivsrobot [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks for reading!

19 thoughts on “Add to Queue #67: She-ninjas

  1. If I remember right, Keitel also played Reno’s own role in Point of No Return. So the Pulp Fiction part was a dual callback.

  2. @sarcasmorator: Oh yeah! It’s been so long since I watched PoNR that I completely forgot about that.

    @Parish: That header is gorgeous! Way better than the garbage I cobbled together.

  3. Adding La Femme Nikita to ye ole Netflixe Queue. I remember seeing the TV show on USA in my youth and, er, not liking it at all… but I’m going to give teh film a chance because I’m older, wiser, and, hey, it wasn’t made for US cable TV.

  4. @Kayma: You won’t be disappointed! The movie is considerably better than the USA network series. (Kind of like saying Hemingway writes better books than Stephanie Meyer)

  5. The Transporter films are certainly over the top, but that doesn’t mean tearing a bomb off the underside of your own car isn’t awesome. As far as Angelina being a reason to see Wanted, now that it’s on DVD/Blu-Ray I can’t really disagree with renting it and taking a peek. The movie is profoundly stupid but I don’t regret watching it. It may be style-over-substance but the style is still impressive at times.

  6. I’m not sure if I’ll benefit in the long run from seeing Wanted, but it was entertaining. Does anyone else think the frequent slow-downs/halts in action kind of contribute to the comic booky quality of it? I mean that whenever the action slows to a crawl or a complete stop, it tends to be at times when there’s a striking shot set up that looks like a comic book panel. But then, I said this to my wife and she totally disagreed…

    The Casablanca cover looks great, as if it matters!

  7. Agreed that La Femme Nikita is required viewing. Casablanca ranks up there with my favorite movies of all time, and that has nothing to do with the huge crush I have on Ingrid Bergman.

  8. I just registered the fact that the Blu-Ray release of The Day the Earth Stood Still also happens this week. That is also required viewing (especially in light of the impending release of the likely terrible remake).

  9. As a fellow ex-X-Phile, I have to advise against watching the new movie. It’s fucking awful. It’s like one of the more boring MotW episodes. The only reason to give it a watch is for the utterly surreal scene where Moose and Squirrel are reading books together in bed like an old couple. This is coming from a person who had all the episode guides up to Season Six, so try to trust me on this one.

    Personally I thought the most consistently excellent season of the series was the one immediately after the first movie – Season Six, with its giant psychedelic mushrooms and Bruce Campbell and Mulder dressed as a Nazi ala Raiders – but Season Seven was mediocre at best, and as for the final two, well, they don’t exist and never happened.

  10. I loved the heck out of X-Files, but I stopped watching TV around the time the movie came out. I happened to catch a few episodes of the last portion of the last season, though, and man was I glad I quit watching when I did.

  11. @Brooke – Maybe it was residual disappointment after the movie, but I remember beginning to feel like the bloom was off the rose starting in Season Six. One of these days I’m going to watch the whole series again (minus the seasons that “didn’t happen”) and I’ll give Six a fair shot. I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast.

  12. Angelina Jolie is pretty much a good reason to see any movie she’s in. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t recall any movies off the top of my head where it felt like she was just cashing a check, no matter how terrible the movie itself was. She has a certain… sincerity, I guess, in her acting.

  13. “at the height of his career”? He still had The Fifth Element left in him at that point, and that’s a fantastic film. Come on, man.

  14. @Alixsar: I’m still a big fan of Besson, so please don’t take that as a slam. I think Leon and Nikita are his two best films, but that’s not to say I’m not a big fan of Fifth Element or The Big Blue.

  15. @vsrobot: I felt the same way originally. Then I came back and watched it after a two-year hiatus and realized it probably had more good episodes in one sum lump than any other season.

    … Or maybe I just can’t resist the siren call of a season with Michael McKean and Bruce Campbell as guest stars and my judgment is being clouded.

  16. Yo, I think Transporter 2 is classic, so I was super hyped to see Transporter 3. I got a mega ton of heartbreak. Transporter 3 is quite boring and unimaginative.

    In my heart, Crank is the true Transporter 3.

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