Tag Archive | 9.0

109- Beginners [9.0]

Imaginatively explores the hilarity, confusion, and surprises of love through the evolving consciousness of Oliver. Oliver meets the irreverent and unpredictable Anna only months after his father Hal has passed away. This new love floods Oliver with memories of his father who – following 44 years of marriage – came out of the closet at age 75 to live a full, energized, and wonderfully tumultuous gay life.

What a beautiful, moving film. Beginners is an ode to many things– second chances, grand realizations, and finding true love. Sounds awfully cliche, doesn’t it? Director Mike Mills infuses his screenplay with such wonderful little moments that you can’t help but be bottled up by the stories of all that are involved. Beginners is occasionally cute, but not on a false indie film way; rather, the sweetness of discovering or uncovering a crucial part of one’s life is portrayed in a whimsical, if not occasionally frustrating light. I feel as if this film may be unfortunately pigeonholed as a “cancer film” or a a “gay film”, and while those are parts of Beginners, it’d be deceitful to make it that simple. Beginners is a movie worth celebrating because it touches on moments so universal and makes it all feel very truthful at the same time.

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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.

79- Warrior [9.0]

Haunted by a tragic past, ex-Marine Tommy Conlon returns home for the first time in fourteen years to enlist the help of his father to train for SPARTA, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts history.

In some regards, Warrior is trapped in by the conventions of the sport film genre. Between a tournament with high stakes and an underdog tale, the easiest point to make is that you’ve seen a movie like this before. It’s with the astounding acting across the board and touches of a well written family story that separates Warrior from a lot of other sports films (I’m looking at you, The Fighter. I know I’m in the minority on that one, but it just did not work for me nearly the way this film did).

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton turn in the finest performances of their careers (and that’s really hard for me to write as I’m still haunted by Hardy as the titular character in Bronson). The performance that I imagine will stay with me for a while is Nick Nolte as their father. Forget everything you’ve read about the man in papers over the last decade: Nolte can still act amongst the best of them and really deserves recognition for his work here.

It’s unfortunate that this film didn’t do much better at the box office, as it should certainly be up for best picture of the year. Props to Gavin O’Connor for getting past the cliches and creating something terrific, along with getting some remarkable performances out of his actors.

25- Four Lions [9.0]

Four Lions tells the story of a group of British jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point. As the wheels fly off, and their competing ideologies clash, what emerges is an emotionally engaging (and entirely plausible) farce.

The Dr. Strangelove of this generation. How could a film about jihadists possibly be this funny? Even with broad anti-US rhetoric and a handful of political statements, Four Lions somehow manages to avoid igniting a conversation about the War on Terror and the various viewpoints involved. Instead, it shows that, regardless of what nationality brings it about, nuclear annihilation could very well come at the incapable hands of some really, really big idiots.

21- A Single Man [9.0]

A story that centers on an English professor who, after the sudden death of his partner tries to go about his typical day in Los Angeles.

For his directorial debut, fashion designer Tom Ford employs a divisive visual aesthetic that I found to be gorgeous. The desaturated photography looks not unlike that which you’d find in a highly stylized fashion advertisement. Colin Firth really pulls you into George’s depression. This was the performance he should have won an Oscar for. If you’re ever lost a lover, beware: A Single Man might feel all too real.