Short Takes: February edition

The Promised Land

Set in the mid-18th century in Denmark The Promised Land unfolds as a tale of vengeance between the common man and landed gentry.

The always amazing Mads Mikkelsen plays a retired Army officer who seeks land under terms of the king. If he can successfully grow crops on the desolate acres he can achieve a title.


Standing in his way, illegally by the way, is the local nobility who mistreats his indentured labor. Both Mikkelsen and Simon Bennebjerg as the cruel and sadistic Frederik de Schinkel are based on real character from Danish history although how accurate the movie is to historical fact I cannot say.


There are also depictions of native inhabitants referred to as “tater” and low on the caste scale. It’s not a coincidence that Mikkelsen achieves his farming goal by introducing potatoes into the country.


After several back and forth conflicts the film explodes with violent retaliation and retribution. The Promised Land unfolds in a grand manner. Opening Friday, February 2.

Argylle

Mathew Vaughn resorts to formula and makes one of his weaker films. Despite overwhelming production design and a cool look Argylle never quite gels.


Layer Cake and Kick-Ass remain his two best films. Argylle is the kind of movie that seems like a parody of a Mathew Vaughn film, only it’s directed by Vaughn.


There’s a sequence that mirrors the “church massacre” scene in the first Kingsman movie only shot with a PG-13 mentality and color coded like it’s a Gene Kelly musical.


The lead player of the ensemble cast Bryce Howard is sewn together from the characters of Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone and Gena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight.


At least Vaughn has the chutzpah to use “Now and Then” the latest Beatles’ (and no doubt their last) song as bookends to the mayhem on display. There is a post credit scene that ties the action into the greater Vaughn myth. Opening Friday, February 2.

Dario Argento Panico

Solid documentary tracing Dario Argento’s career with interviews from family and directors as well as Argento past and present. Panico is bracketed with scenes of the famed Italian writer/director checking into a hotel to write his latest film.

In between are clips of young Argento being interviewed on the set of one of his ’70s movies. Talking heads include Gaspar Noé, his daughter Asia, Guillermo del Toro, and Nicholas Refn.

If you’ve never heard of Argento its a great primer; if you’re familiar with his films it puts a lot of pieces into place. Panico premieres on Shudder streaming channel Friday, February 2 and also plays in New York City as part of an Argento retrospective at the IFC Center.

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