The Official Review Thread of 2011

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Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:10 pm

HANNA

It's not often that the realistic (relatively speaking) performance of the hero/heroine in an action movie steals the film away from the theatrical, show-stopping villain, but damned if the impossibly luminous Saorise Ronan doesn't pull it off. Not because it's a performance for the ages, but because it is so committed and so physically demanding - not to mention her screen presence so striking - that you can't help but cheer her on, not only for the sake of the movie but for the remainder of her career as well. In the category of ridiculoulsy athletic kick-ass heroines, she may end up being Angelina Jolie's successor.

Which is only apropos, because a). story-wise the film is pretty much a remake of Salt and b). Joe Wright's filmmaking is every bit as committed and physically demanding, but to far less purpose. You want virtuosity? Hanna will tickle your stimuli. Every frame has been been futzed and tinkered with - both visually and audibly - that it feels like he's aggressively insisting he's a great filmmaker with something to prove, as if he feels spurned. And he may well feel put upon. After receiving the dreaded "Best Film, but no Best Director nod" treatement from the Academy for Atonement, and then in '08/'09 watching helplessly as The Soloist's release date got held over from year-end Oscar contention into the wasteland of March the following year, he must've had enough. Rather than be pigeonholed as a stuffy director ruining good books, he wanted to be in the pantheon of the greats, and so - like Oliver Stone with Natural Born Killers - he gives it everything he's got. Multi-framing, quick cuts, contemplative long-shots, a bit of Soderbergh, a little Gilliam, a touch of Clockwork Orange, and a whole lot of Chemical Brothers (whom I prefer to Trent Reznor, I've decided). The result is a midnight movie and it should be approached in that spirit, probably with a few bong hits in your system.

And I really dug it, at least while I was watching. But it doesn't sit so well once the film ends, because the film also has a standard spy-action backstory that's played here as a "shocking revelation", a seriously unresolved story point, a fey villian, a few wince-worthy directorial miscalculations (such as the book-ending title cards) and Wright's typically mannered humor. (In his mind, jokes must be obsessively chorographed in order to come across.) And, curiously enough, for an action film there's really not much action. The film plays more like a mystery, with an undertone that something momentous is about to happen - an explosion, a chase sequence, a reveal - which never really comes until much, much later. And when it finally get there... shrug. But I won't deny that it's absurdly enjoyable for much of the way, a momentary pleasure. But if Joe wants to show he can play with the big boys, he needs far more substantial material to lavish his excesses on.

Oh yes, one more reason why Ronan steals the film from the main villian. It's because the main villian is played by Cate Blanchett, who's glib and facile. She comes off as an actress playing a villian, rather than inhabiting one and she's every bit as calculated and unspontaneous as Wright's approach to humor is. They're a perfect match, unfortunately.




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Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:51 am

RIO
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Jake T. Austin (voices).
Dir: Carlos Saldanha.

I was forced to see this in 3D because it's the only screening available and apart from the price, it wasn't so bad since it was animated and there's a lot of flying scenes which 3D enhances rather than detracts. As for the film itself, it has plenty of charm. The voice cast is pretty great plus the animation is gorgeous (the carnivale sequence in particular is spectacular). However, it does not, excuse the pun, soar to greatness. It's a nice little entertaining animated feature. Nothing more, nothing less which is really its only problem.

Oscar Prospects: A decent shot at Animated Feature and Original Song (there's a bunch of them).

Grade: B-

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Postby Greg » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:28 pm

Mister Tee wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:
Damien wrote:IFC on demand is a godsend. To got down to the IFC center is $4.50 subway and 13 bucks for the movie.

OMG! The subway costs $4.50 or $2.25 each way from one point in Manhattan to another?

Yep -- with the threat of another bump to $2.50 before long.

I saw on the MTA web site that a one-month-unlimited-mileage pass is $104. So, I would think one-way and two-way passes are mostly for tourists and not residents.
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Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Apr 03, 2011 5:46 am

SOURCE CODE
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden.
Dir: Duncan Jones.

This is an intriguing high-concept sci-fi thriller where a man takes the identity of another man in the last 8 minutes of his life in order to thwart a terrorist plot. It's kind of like Groundhog Day played as a thriller. It MOSTLY works. The actors pretty much sell the crazy premise. I have yet to see Duncan Jones' other notable work, Moon but based on this, I would say he is an intriguing filmmaker. The ending, however, kind of made me scratch my head. I don't think it worked completely.

Oscar Prospects: Extreme longshot for Original Screenplay and Film Editing.

Grade: B

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Postby Damien » Sat Apr 02, 2011 11:24 pm

Of God And Men (Xavier Beauvois)

A truly lovely film. Meditative but as it probes subtly and clear-eyed into the day to day lives of, and interaction among, a group of monks in a monastery in Algiers, it is also extremely incisive about such qualities as courage, faith, spirituality, kindness, friendship – basically the gamut of human nature – and becomes absolutely mesmerizing. And despite its contemplative aura, the film is fraught with tension, making it more exciting than any summer high concept action film. It’s perhaps a smidgen too low-keyed and becomes slightly repetitious, but by the film’s conclusion, you completely and absolutely know these men. And what great visages these actors possess! There’s one incredible scene where Beauvois’s camera lingers in close-up individually on the face of each monk as they engage in a communal moment of self-reflection, and it is as beautiful and haunting a sequence as I’ve scene. This is a work of great humaneness and humanism. ANd way too subtle and understated to have been nominated by the Academy for Best Foreign Film.
8/10
===========================

Winter In Wartime (Martin Koolhoven) Holland's Foreign Film entry a couple years back and just now being released in the States, the movie starts off well enough, with an interesting – if conventional – rendering of a Dutch village under Nazi occupation. But then as our young teenage hero helps a downed RAF pilot, the film veers into more and more melodramatics until it essentially becomes a Boys Own story, a juvenile adventure and not a serious film as all, In fact the clichés and melodramatics get so pronounced and so wild that I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen the Germans tie the kid to a railroad track.
5/10
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Postby Reza » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:54 pm

Mister Tee wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:
Damien wrote:IFC on demand is a godsend. To got down to the IFC center is $4.50 subway and 13 bucks for the movie.

OMG! The subway costs $4.50 or $2.25 each way from one point in Manhattan to another?

Yep -- with the threat of another bump to $2.50 before long.

Best to start early..............and walk instead.

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Postby Mister Tee » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:40 pm

Big Magilla wrote:
Damien wrote:IFC on demand is a godsend. To got down to the IFC center is $4.50 subway and 13 bucks for the movie.

OMG! The subway costs $4.50 or $2.25 each way from one point in Manhattan to another?

Yep -- with the threat of another bump to $2.50 before long.

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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:39 pm

Damien wrote:IFC on demand is a godsend. To got down to the IFC center is $4.50 subway and 13 bucks for the movie.

OMG! The subway costs $4.50 or $2.25 each way from one point in Manhattan to another?

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Postby Sabin » Sat Apr 02, 2011 8:41 pm

Source Code (Duncan Jones)

For roughly the first thirty minutes or so, I thought we were in for one of those early-in-the-year under-appreciated genre flicks that puts the inevitably bloated summer fare (and Oscar pretenders) to shame with unpretentious entertainment value. For said thirty minutes or so, I was having a great time. I was kept dependably disoriented as the clues were coming slowly into light. And like far too many Hollywood films these days, this confidence is utterly botched shortly after when somebody in some form of power-position questions whether or not the fatalistic direction the film is headed is a problem, and subsequently tonal shifts are Frankenstein-ed into the narrative in ways that don't entirely work. What should have been a straight forward entertainment has become a compromised chore.

I don't want to penalize it too much, but like Duncan Jones' other feature Moon it tackles the nature of identity very engagingly for the first thirty minutes or so, then less so onward. I'm not sure which film I like more. Both are frustrating for different reasons. Source Code might be better, if only because it's the most frustrating kind of bad film...the kind that genuinely does mean well in a very dumb way. It is a lesson in why Philip K. Dick and Frank Capra don't mix. Why this lesson needed to be taught, I couldn't tell you.

It's not worth it to spend much time on Source Code. It would make for a reasonably engaging rental.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:15 am

I have no problem with potboilers in theory. Once in a while I'll get a major studio production jones, and a solid, formulaic potboiler is just what I'll need at that moment. The problem is, they mostly stink.

There's absolutely no reason to see The Lincoln Lawyer in a theater, but it's diverting enough to catch it on the TV on night. It's the typical "sleazy, street-smart, workaday lawyer who finds a conscience" formula, but it's a reasonably entertaining entry. As usual with these sorts of films, it's more fun watching Matthew Mcconaughey effortlessly barter and wheedle around in the back of his office (that is, his Lincoln town car with a license plate reading NTGIULTY) during the first 30 minutes than when the case he's encumbered with takes on serious dimensions. Visually, it's busy and flashy if occassionally effective, with some terrible editing choices - one scene literally felt cut off in the middle, leaving my wife and I to whisper if there was a mistake with the print. Again, it's television fare, with racial and social subtexts simply begging to be addressed but always skirted. Still, on television's terms it's enjoyable enough, and - especially during the courtroom scenes - it's blessedly quiet. McConaughey, his skin now looking like a lizard's, is a little too much in love with his sing-song delivery (is this the new affectation in movie actors?). But Ryan Phillipe keeps getting better. He knows he's never going to outgrow his callow, privileged demeanor or his callow, pinched voice, so he finds new ways to utilize both. He was born to play the spoiled momma's boy. I knew he'd finally find his calling.
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Postby Damien » Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:52 pm

Mister Tee wrote:And by "dry season" I mean strictly in mainstream terms. There's almost always something at the art house. But, as I say, I'm hesitant to fork over the cash. (May well watch Certified Copy on Time Warner, though, as the price is better)

IFC on demand is a godsend. To got down to the IFC center is $4.50 subway and 13 bucks for the movie. So you're saving 10 dollars seeing it at home, and even more if Mrs. Tee watches, too.

(I get discount tickets for AMC/Loew's theatres -- I'd hardly see any Hollywood movies at the theatre otherwise.)
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Postby Mister Tee » Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:51 am

Damien wrote:But if you want to see Bradley Cooper (or is this the Liam Neeson, those two movies conflate in my head), in action who am I to say you shouldn't spend your 2 hours and 13 bucks thusly?

Welll, here's the thing: it didn't cost me 13 bucks. Since I have Costco tickets for Sony theatres, it cost me $7.50, which I already spent months ago when I bought the tickets. And in a tight environment, handing over that already-spent coupon is a lot more appealing than spending full price at the Lincoln Plaza, even though there are movies there I might rather see.

And by "dry season" I mean strictly in mainstream terms. There's almost always something at the art house. But, as I say, I'm hesitant to fork over the cash. (May well watch Certified Copy on Time Warner, though, as the price is better)

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Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 9:28 am

LIMITLESS
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth, Tomas Arana.
Dir: Neil Burger.

This is a film that has a concept with a lot of rich and intriguing ideas which could've had more substance but the script opts instead for easy (and silly) popcorn thrills. The result is an entertaining film that's very well made but could've easily have been more. It's a shame since Bradley Cooper IS pretty good in the lead and shows that he does indeed has what it takes to carry a film. Great supporting work from Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro as well.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B-

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Postby ITALIANO » Sat Mar 26, 2011 3:27 am

Damien wrote:Of God And Men -- a beautiful, very special and deeply spiritual film.

Yes, it's certainly spiritual in the deepest sense of the word (and maybe that's why the Academy ignored it).

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Postby Damien » Sat Mar 26, 2011 2:07 am

Mister Tee wrote:I'll risk scorn by saying I pretty well enjoyed Limitless. It's strictly popcorn, with some silly plot turns, but its premise is intriguing enough and it moves along quickly. I know some here have no taste whatever for potboilers like this (Damien, certainly, and Sonic usually turns his nose up, as well). But for those just looking for anything diverting during this dry season,

You should have walked a few blocks farther south to the Lincoln Plaza and seen Of God And Men -- a beautiful, very special and deeply spiritual film.

And I'd hardly call right now a dry season -- there is a plethora of interesting movies at the art house, most particularly the new Kiarostami.

But if you want to see Bradley Cooper (or is this the Liam Neeson, those two movies conflate in my head), in action who am I to say you shouldn't spend your 2 hours and 13 bucks thusly?
"Y'know, that's one of the things I like about Mitt Romney. He's been consistent since he changed his mind." -- Christine O'Donnell


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