Tag Archive | 7.5

115- 21 Jump Street [7.5]

A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.

Once again, Jonah Hill continues to surprise me. From Get Him to the Greek to Moneyball and now 21 Jump Street, Hill is turning in one stellar performance after another. Credit also goes to Channing Tatum (who was thoroughly impressive years earlier in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, who carries both the humorous and emotional scenes with ease. 21 Jump Street is frequently laugh out loud funny and though the third act gets a bit chaotic, it was certainly much better than I had anticipated.

108- Take Shelter [7.5]

Curtis LaForche lives in a small Ohio town with his wife Samantha and six-year-old daughter Hannah, who is deaf. Money is tight, and navigating Hannah’s healthcare and special needs education is a constant struggle. Despite that, Curtis and Samantha are very much in love and their family is a happy one. Then Curtis begins having terrifying dreams about an encroaching, apocalyptic storm.

One’s exposure to depression, be it how it has effected someone they know or themselves, likely will play heavy into their emotional attachment to Take Shelter. The end of days looms heavy over the entire film, with a fairly simple parallel of Curtis’ (Michael Shannon, in my favorite performance of his thus far) crippling fears of life to the apocalypse. Though Take Shelter tackles these big ideas, it does so in a non-bloated fashion, thanks largely in part to the heavy focus on Curtis and his family; moreover, the whole thing feels rather minor despite the large scope.

For what I imagine is a rather small budget film, some of the awful CGI is forgivable. What I could have done without is the excessive amount of dream sequences, as the pattern became successively more easy to figure out, thus causing a loss of intensity that the earlier sequences had. All is forgiven for the crushing sequence in the storm shelter. Though one could argue the crescendo of Curtis losing it came a scene or two prior, Michael Shannon has a vulnerability so raw in the shelter that I can’t remember a finer performed scene in years. (Also, keep an eye on the lighting of that scene, which was really something special.)

Large parts of Take Shelter might not work for some. There were certainly elements I could’ve done without, but between the powerhouse performance given by Michael Shannon (with tremendous support by Jessica Chastain) and the execution of the third act, I’d certainly recommend giving Take Shelter a viewing.

98- In the Loop [7.5]

The run-up to war makes for curious rivalries and uneasy alliances in this political satire. Simon Foster is a minor minister of international development with the British government who, in the midst of a radio interview, casually tells a reporter “war is unforeseeable.”

In the Loop moves at a breakneck pace, as one poor political decision spirals into another, leading to war. Like most successful political satires, this black comedy balances humor with preposterousness so outlandish that it’s frightening to realize these instances may have very well happened. The vile thrown between constituents and council is biting, and the snappish dialogue never falters. I was a bit disappointment with the maudlin music towards the end, as I don’t believe it was necessary to underscore the events unfolding. Regardless, In the Loop is a well executed, witty satire that is occasionally quite nasty.

96- Hunger [7.5]

The final months of Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army activist who protested his treatment at the hands of British prison guards with a hunger strike, are chronicled in this historical drama.

A large part of the first hour of Hunger is virtually silent, with sparse dialogue occasionally thrown in. It is in a seventeen-and-a-half-minute single shot scene between Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham that the film explodes. This Guinness world record-breaking scene is not done in a gimmicky fashion. An ideological debate occurs that gives the viewer an insight into what Bobby Sand’s rational was in opting for a hunger strike. Though neither him nor the priest get particularly loud, the conviction with which they deliver their different perspectives make for an incredibly electrifying scene. Fassbender delivers yet another amazing performance, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors of his generation.

75- Hugo [7.5]

The astonishing adventure of a wily and resourceful boy whose quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father will transform Hugo and all those around him, and reveal a safe and loving place he can call home.

Without any doubt, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is the best use of 3D I’ve seen. The opening tracking shot is so magnificently put together that I began clapping in an empty theater. Hugo is superbly shot and always a pleasure to look at, but falls flat over its perhaps too long runtime. Anytime Sacha Baron Cohen appears on screen the film grinds to a halt. At first I had thought his character to be taking place in his own movie, but thematically, he ties in well.

Chloe Moretz is quite a puzzle to me. She’s a very talented young actress, and at least appears wise beyond her years. But for some reason, it feels as if she’s phoning it in for this movie. (And yes, I do believe it’s okay to criticize a child actor- especially one this capable, who should have a long career in film.) Every time there is a big emotional scene, Moretz sells emotion in a way that doesn’t resonate. If anything, it really goes to show just how good Asa Butterfield is as Hugo.

Hugo serves as a nice companion piece to The Artist as films that show appreciation for both the early days of film and film in general. Here’s hoping that in coming years, we get more truly original movies so that we no longer need to look back with nostalgia to the good old days and instead have something to blow us away in the present.

73- The Muppets [7.5]

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary and Mary from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds.

More than anything, The Muppets is a pleasurable film to watch. With an abundance of self-referential material and fourth wall breaking, screenwriters Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller took a wise approach in acknowledging how The Muppets aren’t relevant anymore.

I especially enjoyed some of the angles that director James Bobbin shot the musical numbers. Though there’s a fair amount of the usual crane shots for those type of sequences, he also opted to make those scenes feel original. Brent McKenzie, his cast mate on Flight of the Conchords, provides the soundtrack with some very Flight-esque arrangements (including the woefully out of touch Amy Adams solo number in the diner).

I laughed quite a few times and had a big smile on my face for most of the movie. That’s what I like in getting to spend a little time with The Muppets.

70- The Fall [7.5]

A psychologically complex tale of a hospitalized paraplegic with a curious knack for storytelling. Unable to free himself from his sterile confines, the immobile patient’s deepest fears form the basis of a dark story that he shares with his young companion — a little girl who visits his room as she recovers from a nasty fall.

The Fall is a special film. Equal parts A Princess Bride and Big Fish, this fantastical story is directed by the visionary Tarsem who weaves together a heartwarming story of two physically damaged hospital patients. Catinca Untaru gives one of the great child performances, and her lack of understanding of English makes it all the more impressive. The Fall drags at times and can be accused of being indulgent (from what I understand, it’s an incredibly divisive film) but is still worth a viewing if not only for Tarsem’s unique imagery.