I’m going to attempt to keep these reviews short and sweet, partially by necessity, since it is going on a few weeks since I’ve seen them, and they’re no longer fresh in my mind.

The Unknown (2011)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

There’s a point perhaps half way through The Unknown in which the movie treats the audience to the car chase that is almost obligatory in a film like this, and I distinctly remember thinking–and perhaps I even commented to my wife–“this guy [Neeson’s character] is a damn good driver for a biologist.”

The point of me mentioning this is that in The Unknown, things are most definitely not what they seem, nor will you long believe that they are what they seem. But with that said, there’s a very good chance that the film will sneak the twist up on you. I didn’t guess it.

For the most part, it plays out a bit like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and so in a way, I think the viewer will want to believe there’s a sort of oblique explanation for it all that allows for certain favorable suppositions about the main character to remain true. And may I just say, damn–it’s difficult to talk about this movie at all without spoiling something.

I wanted to mention The Unknown on this blog at some point if only to impart to somebody who hasn’t seen it that some of the critical reviews on this film may have been misleading. I remember reading Ebert’s review, for example, in which he led me to believe this was going to be the sort of film that hinged entirely upon a ridiculously improbable contrivance that you had to simply take on faith in order to accept everything that followed. To be sure, it wasn’t that sort of film, at all. It made a surprising amount of sense, I would say. (In retrospect, I think I now know what Ebert was trying to say–and maybe it’s merely a function of how difficult it is to write a review of a movie like this–but the result was I got an entirely wrong impression about how this film was going to be constructed).

Naturally, it’s totally over-the-top, as most action films are, but that’s to be expected. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t the epic ass-kicking extravaganza that Taken was–honestly, it’s not really at all like Taken, so I’m only mentioning it because of Liam Neeson–but it’s worth a look. It’s well crafted and well acted with one exception to the latter point: January Jones.

I had no idea who this was. I thought from the name that she was some soft core porno actress or something, and honestly, that seemed to be the range of her acting. Meh.

Black Swan (2010)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

You know, there’s a reason you don’t see me reviewing a lot of artistic films on this blog. It’s almost utterly pointless for me to attempt to assign this a point rating, but I did it anyway just for the hell of it.

Well made? Surely. Intriguing? I think so. Enjoyable? Well, I’m not so sure about that.

This was a difficult movie to watch, and not merely owing to the elements of the grotesque, like a scene of Natalie Portman’s character peeling the skin back from her fingernail and off her hand or when Winona Ryder started shoving a letter opener through her face, or even for the uncomfortable eroticism, like the scene in which Vincent Cassel seduces the emotionally internalized protagonist and practically has sex with her on the dance floor.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to watch because it’s just frustrating. The line between fantasy and reality has been so blurred that it almost ceases to exist, and when the film ends, you’ll still find yourself wondering, “So how much of what I just watched actually happened?” But not in a good way.

Granted, this disconnection from reality is kind of the point of the film, but just the same, it didn’t totally work for me.

But, you know, you should watch this film if you want to see a scene in which Mila Kunis performs oral sex on Natalie Portman. Assuming you’re into that sort of thing.

 Second Opinions