Archive | December 2011 RSS for this section

90- Tucker and Dale vs. Evil [3.0]

Tucker and Dale are two best friends on vacation at their dilapidated mountain house, who are mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of obnoxious, preppy college kids.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil takes a good comedy of errors premise about an hour too long. This film would’ve worked much better as a short, and its only saving grace are Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk as the titular characters. They’re both better actors than the material they’re working with, but they play Tucker and Dale as if they were involved in a better movie.

89- Win Win [6.0]

Centering on a beleaguered attorney and part-time wrestling coach who schemes to keep his practice from going under by acting as the legal caretaker of an elderly client.

Win Win is a sweet movie that, if you’re willing to be uncynical, makes you believe that people are good at the core. That’s not to say that Win Win is a sappy or melodramatic film, but rather, that it explores the possibility of selflessness and charitably we all potentially possess.

88- Revanche [7.0]

A happily married couple becomes unlikely friends with a man whose life has been marked by chaos and violence.

Revanche is a slow but strong meditation on guilt and grief. Johannes Krisch doesn’t say a lot throughout the film, yet shows so much in the way in which he carries himself. I’d be interested to see more of director Götz Spielmann’s films.

87- Cyrus [4.5]

John, a middle-aged lonely divorced guy who, as the film opens, gets dragged to a party by his remarried ex-wife– who remains his best friend. After a few clumsy, drunken passes at a variety of women, John encounters Molly, an attractive single-mom who finds John’s social awkwardness appealing. They hit it off, and quickly begin a tender new relationship.

John C. Reilly is great at jumping back and forth between drama and comedy choices, and even playing somewhere between the two genres. That’s the kind of role he has as John in Cyrus, and yet, the performance didn’t work me. If anything, the standout for me in the film was Jonah Hill in the titular role. Though he falls into typical Jonah Hill mode later in Cyrus (albeit in a more subtle fashion. The writing required it somewhat anyway), the young actor plays an emotional damaged, if not manipulative character very well.

86- Hanna [9.0]

Hanna is 16 years old. She is bright, inquisitive, and a devoted daughter. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a soldier; these come from being raised by her widowed father Erik, an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of North Finland. Erik has taught Hanna to hunt, put her through extreme self-defense workouts, and home-schooled her with only an encyclopedia and a book of fairy tales.

This story may have been told in some fashion before, but I doubt it’s been done as well as it is in director Joe Wright’s Hanna. (What a wild departure for a director that has Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and The Soloist on his resume.) Between the astonishing fight scene choreography by Jeff Imada (who worked on the Bourne films) and an incredibly vibrant soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers, Hanna is not your typical revenge film.

I was pleased that Hanna didn’t delve into heavy-handed emotional territory, nor strictly stay in the realm of over the top action movies. Instead, Joe Wright found a middle ground where the audience can become invested in Hanna’s story without questioning if the violence on display is excessive. If anything, the nature of what Erik teaches Hanna are defensive/survival techniques, and the violence is almost an integral part of the overall story.

My only slight issue was with Marissa, as played by Cate Blanchett (who strangely wavers in and out of a Southern twang despite usually pulling off a very believable American accent). All of her scenes with other members of the CIA are performed fairly stilted and cold, but I imagine that’s done on purpose (it also serves as a good parallel to the relationship between Hanna and Erik). Even still, though she isn’t necessarily a two dimensional antagonist, I wish Marissa’s story went a little deeper.

Hanna kept me on the edge of my seat throughout its entire run time and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a good blend of action, sci-fi and ass kicking female protagonists.

85- Bellflower [4.5]

Follows two friends as they venture out into the world to begin their adult lives. Literally all their free time is spent building flame-throwers and weapons of mass destruction in hopes that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang “Mother Medusa”.

Bellflower may be one of the first times in which I started off loathing a movie in the first act, then became heavily engrossed in the second, only to throw my hands up in frustration for the third. Director/writer/actor Evan Glodell and his crew are a talented bunch, but Bellflower is all over the place.

Thematically, the fractured narrative works, but the “gotcha” sequence towards the end is downright annoying. I’ll leave it at that as I shy away from big spoilers in my brief reviews, but if you end up loving Bellflower, email me and I can go into depth with what I found problematic.

As a final note: this question doesn’t need to be addressed in the vast majority of movies, but what the heck do any of these people do for a living? I would’ve been satisfied with someone at least mentioning going to work. Considering what occurs throughout Bellflower, I don’t believe the question to be a matter of semantics.

84- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 [6.0]

In the epic finale, the battle between the good and evil forces of the wizarding world escalates into an all-out war. The stakes have never been higher and no one is safe. But it is Harry Potter who may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice as he draws closer to the climactic showdown with Lord Voldemort.

Enjoyment of Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is largely contingent on your relationship to the rest of the series. As someone who has seen all of the films but hasn’t read the books, I found Part 2 to be a satisfying conclusion to the Harry Potter series. Light on character development (granted, it’s the eighth film) and heavy on action, the vast majority of Deathly Hallows takes the film into darker territory than its predecessors. This has been the logical progression from one film to the next, and a welcome one due to the stakes that J.K. Rowling set up from the beginning. With the exception of some shoddy CGI (boy, does that dragon scene look bad) and laughable aging in the epilogue, David Yates deserves praise for his work on one of the better Harry Potter films (though I still enjoy Prisoner of Azkaban the most).