Tag Archives: Mark Strong

[Review] – Zero Dark Thirty

6 Jan

Zero Dark Thirty

Title: Zero Dark Thirty
Year: 2012
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, Frank Grillo, Edgar Ramirez, Harold Perrineau, Jennifer Ehle, James Gandolfini
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language
Runtime: 157 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 95

Finally I get to watch Zero Dark Thirty. Let me tell you something out front, I don’t intend to get into any of the hot topics that have been surrounding this movie, at least not spend the whole review talking about. I won’t talk about whether it’s pro-Obama, or whether it’s pro-torture, or whether it got improper access to classified information. On the one hand I don’t think I’m really classified to talk about those things with any kind of credibility (though, obviously, that hasn’t stopped most people with an internet connection to do so) and on the other hand I’m here to talk about the merits of Kathryn Bigelow‘s latest as a film. And as a film this is an undeniable masterpiece.

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[Trailer] – Zero Dark Thirty

11 Oct

Not much has been heard about Kathryn Bigelow‘s upcoming Zero Dark Thirty, probably due to the fact that they want to wait until after the election is done to really get the promotional ball rolling but for good measure we’ve now gotten a new trailer which you can watch below.

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[Teaser] – Zero Dark Thirty

6 Aug

Watch the teaser for the highly-anticipated Zero Dark Thirty after the cut.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

25 Dec

Title: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Year: 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writers: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, based on the novel by John le Carré
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik
MPAA Rating: R, violence, some sexuality/nudity and language
Runtime: 127 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic: 87

That Gary Oldman hasn’t even been nominated for an Oscar is pretty hard to believe. The man is one of the best working actors, beloved by peers, critics and audiences alike and he hasn’t gotten any kind of recognition by the Academy. The performance he gives in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy should be enough to earn him at least a nomination, even though after being snubbed by the SAG and Globes it looks as though he’s a darkhorse contender for the fifth slot, but hell, even if no recognition comes from the Academy, his performance is still one of the year’s very best, in a film that’s also amongst the year’s elite, an espionage film that’s really smart, intricately plotted, acted by some of the very best British actors, and masterfully directed by Tomas Alfredson in his first stab at an English-language film after breaking out with Let the Right One In in 2008, which was my eighth favorite film of that whole year, how skillfully he gets this whole thing together, bringing out a sense of vivid paranoia as he starts putting together this intricate puzzle, is just amazing to watch, he just knows how to create a gripping atmosphere.

The film is, of course, an adaptation of John le Carre’s classic 1974 spy novel of the same name, which had already been made into a seven-part television series with Alec Guiness taking on the role of George Smiley back in the late seventies, and it’s really neat to be back in this world, and to now have Mr. Oldman wearing the iconic glasses, every little thing about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy feels exactly like it should, the images, the sounds, everything is just right. What’s great is that Mr. Alfredson and his cast and crew never underestimate us as an audience, they give it to us thinking that we’re smart enough to keep up with it, and yes, you’ll have to pay attention to this film in order to really get into it, but trust me when I say it’s well worth it. Not to mention that he really keeps true to the spirit of the novel, he doesn’t try to make stuff in the film ring true in today’s world, he’s just comfortable in showing us the world Mr. le Carré designed, a precise moment in time during the 20th century in a world that was ran by men, always knowing how to thicken his atmosphere for a chilling effect.

It’s that bleak atmosphere that keeps the pulse of this one beating a really steady pace, and it’s part of what makes you watch this film so intently, it’s what makes those quiet conversations so damn compelling to watch. George Smiley, unlike what his name would suggest, isn’t a guy that doesn’t smile all that much, he sits around, observant, waiting for his enemies to come to him or make a big mistake and make it easy for him to catch them. The whole film is incredibly intriguing, there are mysteries within the mysteries, and it’s all plotted like an expertly-made labyrinth for us to try and follow. The head of The Circus, which is the name given to the MI6 here, a man called Control who’s played really well by John Hurt, is under the impression that there’s a mole within the agency’s elite members. Control, along with Smily, however, botches up a mission in Budapest and the two are let go. Smiley is then later taken out of his retirement, brought back into the fold, undercover, with the task of finding out who that mole is, who’s selling them out to the Soviets. Consider this, the main suspects of being the mole are played by Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds and David Dencik. Like I said, this is a dream cast.

The whole world presented in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is all about the secrets and the lies and where loyalties lie. This obviously isn’t a seven-part series like the one the BBC did over three decades ago, but Mr. Alfredson is a brilliant director, using the two hours he got to perfectly represent the novel, using great imagery, the great faces and body language of his actors to say things that would normally take minutes of dialogue to express, it’s his attention to the little details, and the talents of his amazing cast that make this one not miss a single beat and spell out a truly remarkable story. And then there’s Mr. Oldman, one of the finest working actors, playing a lead character who doesn’t utter a word until nearly twenty minutes into the film, playing Smiley in a brilliantly nuanced way, showing us so much just with his eyes and his voice, it’s a masterclass in acting, and the fact that he got such an unbelievable team of co-stars to spar with is magnificent, the scenes in which he gets to trade off lines with Mr. Firth are a marvel to watch.

What’s great is there’s always something going on this film that we don’t know about, spies spying on spies, with Smiley working under tips provided to him by a rogue agent named Ricki Tarr, who’s played by Tom Hardy, an actor that’s headed for greatness, and with the help of one of the agents in Circus he can trust, Peter Guillam, who’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the guy in charge of playing the titular character in Steven Moffat’s Sherlock for the BBC. Like I said, there are only great, great actors in this film.

What’s great is that while it’s obviously incredibly fun to watch the whole labyrinth unfold bit by bit, paying attention just to keep up, it’s also amazing what goes on behind the actual spy stuff the plots gives us, a tale of men that find themselves lonely and desperate in a really dark world. It’s incredible to see what living a life like this can do to someone, to men that love their country and that are consumed by secrets in a world in which knowledge means power, secrets that they can’t even utter to themselves for fear of having them heard.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is amongst the year’s very best films, my tenth perfect grade of the year, a film that will make audiences try hard in order to keep up with the many twists it takes, and if you cant’ keep up with the many characters and events then you’ll get lost and not really enjoy this one as much. But trust me, make the effort to keep up and you’ll see that Tomas Alfredson has expertly crafted one of the best espionage films of the past couple of decades, it’s one of the finest directing works of the year. The cast is all brilliant, igniting every single scene and making you really interested in this whole thing, and at the center of it all you have a screen icon, delivering a masterfully understated performance, playing a hero that isn’t really all that likable and not really doing all that much to humanize him, just playing him to perfection, showing us that he deserves that long overdue invite to the big dance.

Grade: A+

The Guard

24 Aug

Title: The Guard
Year: 
2011
Director: 
John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: 
Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating: 
R, pervasive language, some violence, drug material and sexual content
Runtime: 
96 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
95%

 

In Bruges was my fourth favorite film of all 2008 (behind only, in order, The Wrestler, Synechdoche, New York and The Dark Knight), it was a truly masterful film, written and directed by the insanely genius playwright Martin McDonagh, it boasted probably one of the best screenplays of the past decade, full of sensational one-liners and situations and a love for perfectly used curse words, and a couple of superb performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. I have recommended that film to pretty much everyone I’ve had the chance to, and more often the not they thank me like crazy for it. Now, that undying love I have towards In Bruges is what embedded in me some pretty high expectations for The Guard, a film produced by Mr. McDonagh and written and directed by his brother John Michael McDonagh, and that also had Mr. Gleeson in a starring role and that looked to be a cousin to In Bruges insofar as it seemed to be another masterful black comedy with all kinds of perfect uses of the word “fuck” in great Irish accents.

Now, The Guard ultimately really wasn’t as amazing as In Bruges was over three years ago, but it’s still just so tremendously dark and witty, with all of these terrific crime sequences punctuated by a razor sharp comedy that make you quickly realize this has the McDonagh gene pool all over it, and that’s something I really can’t get enough of. And, really, Mr. Gleeson is a damn fine actor, and he’s becoming a McDonagh staple now it seems after starring in In Bruges and his turn in Six Shooter, Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-winning short film from 2004, but yeah, this guy is just a fantastic actor who just knows how to own a role, his body becomes as much part of a character as the lines and circumstances, he really gets in it, and sells the role to you. And in here he stars as Sergeant Gerry Boyle a garda who’s in charge of patrolling Connemara, a district of the west coast of Ireland.

Boyle is this policeman who we learn all we need to know about in the opening scene, as he witnesses a high-speed crash on a coastal road and then rapidly proceeds to check the victim’s clothes for drugs he can then transfer to his own pockets. This is the sort of law enforcer Boyle is, he gets high on stashes of criminals, he orders up prostitutes in his day off, not because he’s a bad guy, but because in such a quiet town there’s really not a lot of crime to go around, and he needs something to cut the monotony of his life with. And that whole boredom makes the events of the next day pop out even more, as Boyle and another young police officer find a the body of a young man with a bullet in his head and the number “5 1/2” smeared in his blood on the adjoining wall. The young officer says it’s probably a serial killer who only half-killed one of his victims (showing that in Connemara police officers probably learn most of their craft from films) but in fact it’s something bigger, a crime wave tied to a drug ring operation through the area that the FBI is actually investigating. And to coordinate the investigation with the local authorities the FBI sends over Agent Wendell Everett, played by Don Cheadle.

Mr. Cheadle by the way is another seriously dependable actor who has also been quite terrific in past roles, and his casting in this film is as much a stroke of genius as Mr. Gleeson’s, because those two really couldn’t be more different from each other, and that’s the whole point of this film. You see, for one, Boyle doesn’t want someone partnering with him, he drinks on the job and he fears that will keep him from that, not to mention that the guy, if not a racist, is certainly incredibly naïve about black people, and has no sensible tact when approaching Everett whatsoever, his opinion of him being based apparently on whatever he has heard about black people on stereotypical TV shows.

And it’s really great what Mr. McDonagh does with the whole culture clash, he makes fun of the local people, for sure, makes them seem ignorant, but also uses them to make fun of Mr. Cheadle’s character, who can’t really move forward with the investigation of his own because the locals don’t want to speak English to him and instead reply in Gaelic. That’s what pushes him to team up with Boyle, a man who says racism is part of his culture, and that’s really when The Guard, as good as Mr. Cheadle is, really becomes a Brendan Gleeson show. The way Mr. Gleeson plays Boyle is just sheer perfection, his comments, coming from a splendid script, are delivered by him in a way that have you doubting if Boyle is just this really dumb and ignorant guy, as they come with enough hints of wit that you have to think that maybe he’s the most intelligent guy in the room and the only one who really knows what the hell he’s doing.

The film has a lot of formulaic elements, that’s for sure, good cop/bad cop, a guy who’s out of his element, a relationship that didn’t want to happen in the first place, those are all familiar themes in these kind of movies, but the script makes all the familiar things seem fresh. Seriously, this is just really awesome writing which often has characters engaging in a conversation that’s just so wonderfully done and full of black humor delivered by some of the very best that’s impossible to look away. Again, this really isn’t as great as In Bruges, but it’s still a remarkably good film, you just have to sit back enjoy and prepare yourself to laugh out loud many times as Brendan Gleeson shows you how it’s done.

Grade: A-

Green Lantern

29 Jun

Title: Green Lantern
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Martin Campbell
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg, with story by Mr. Berlanti, Mr. Green and Mr. Guggenheim, based on the comic book by John Broome and Gil Kane
Starring: 
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Clancy Brown
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Runtime: 
114 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
26%

 

Ugh. That about sums up my overall experience with the Green Lantern movie. No, it’s not the worst film of the year, not even close, but as a comic book fan who’s extremely fond of this character, I sure as hell was thoroughly disappointed. Seriously, this is a character I adore, he might even be my favorite DC Comics staple, or at the very least right up there with Batman, and other than Spider-Man he may just be about my favorite comic book character ever. And yet what we got here is a film that had a huge budget but that did absolutely nothing with it, totally squandering the incredible opportunities embedded within the deep comic book mythology available in favor of just this very noisy and badly written spectacle in which you just know every penny available was spent in the effects and not to flesh out the story.

And look, even the effects with the $200 million budget and everything actually look very flat, add that to the fact that the writing was just plain bad, the direction totally uninvolved and the fact that Ryan Reynolds’ charm was just put to basically no use and you have a film that, while certainly more than fine to kill an afternoon with, still doesn’t even get close to achieving its full potential, and I was left feeling very disappointed by what they did to one of my favorite superheroes, and I want someone to reboot this franchise now. I won’t hate on it that much because there were still a couple of good things, but I just need to vent my frustration about those good things not being plain awesome, and not being nowhere near enough of them to begin with.

In the past I have talked a lot about my dislike of screenplays written by a team of more than two people, I generally dislike every single thing that comes out of such a conglomerate, and while there certainly have been some exceptions to that rule in the recent past (like last year’s Love and Other Drugs or How to Train Your Dragon, for instance), this one just isn’t. And what’s worse is that it’s not as though the four guys who contributed to this one are any bad, you have Greg Berlanti, known for his television work in quality shows he spearheaded like Eli Stone and Jack & Bobby, then you have Michael Green, a collaborator of Mr. Berlanti’s on some of his shows and a comic book writer, Marc Guggenheim, who much like Mr. Green has worked on those TV shows before and also writes comic books, and Michael Goldenberg, who adapted the fifth Harry Potter movie. So, you see, I had high hopes for this script, it had a blend of a guy who had successfully adapted a popular property before, two guys who had experience in the comic book world and certainly knew about the mythology, and a guy who had created TV shows that were all about character development. And yet they got together and created this thinly-written work that I just can’t see anyone liking. Again, a team of more than two to write a screenplay is usually not the brightest move.

On the one hand you have Hal Jordan here on Earth, the character played by Mr. Reynolds, who’s a pretty damn good test pilot for this crazy fighter jets who he flies next to Carol, played by Blake Lively, who’s actually the daughter of the man who makes these jets. But at first what happens on Earth really isn’t all that important, because the real critical stuff is happening in a whole other part of the universe, in which the Green Lantern Corps have been created to combat Parallax, the evil alien trying to envelop the universe in evil. A member of the Corps is then sent to Earth, so as to a find a worthy human of joining their group, but after a dangerous journey across the galaxy he barely makes it to Earth, and dies soon after entrusting Hal with the green ring and green lantern, which he’ll soon enough find out are tremendously powerful, but will have a hard time knowing to trust and trying to access that power.

And of course trying to really cram this all up in a two hour film would be difficult, because you obviously can’t buy Hal being so chill as he understands and takes in all the stuff the green lantern can do, but this is a movie that can’t afford him not getting it real fast, and it really does try its best to explain the logic behind it all, but you just know it’s only doing that so that it can then zoom ahead and create some expensive special effects sequence. And that’s really all that you get after that first part of the movie is done, a very expensive and green lights and sound show, but that’s not even nicely done because the stuff that Hal creates with his will and the ring just look silly a lot of the times, and you can’t really buy into all the supposed seriousness of the task at hand.

I won’t go on longer about this one, because I feel like we already should have known what to expect, and it’s on me feeling disappointed because I held out some hope for this character because I love him. But yeah, it’s not like we got world-class acting or dialogue with any real substance, we’ll get our villains, our PG-13 appropriate kisses and our special effects showcase, but not much more. But I don’t really know if I’ll recommend this one to you, probably not, I mean it would be somewhat recommendable for those initial scenes in deep space because the CGI there is pretty kickass, but once the CGI has to adapt itself to a bit more rules of logic when the movie gets back to Earth, the results aren’t even that great, no matter how immense its budget. And, again, this is a film with Ryan Reynolds that didn’t really let him turn on the charm like he has before, and that’s the guy’s greatest asset, so there’s that. I hear that Warner Bros. is already thinking about a sequel, even though they’re obviously seeing the results of this one, both critically and commercially, as a disappointment, and I would love for them to scratch that idea, but not give up on the character. This superhero deserves better, and so do we.

Grade: C+

The Eagle

24 Mar

Title: The Eagle
Year:
2011
Director:
Kevin Macdonald
Writer: Jeremy Brock, based on the novel by Rosemary Sutcliff
Starring:
Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Denis O’Hare
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, battle sequences and some disturbing images
Runtime:
114 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes:
38%

 

Channing Tatum gets around quite a lot, and I’m still not sure as to whether I like him or not. After coming out big in 2006 thanks to Step Up the guy has definitely spent most of his time building up his tough guy image with films like Stop-Loss, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the aptly titled Fighting. And he’s also tried to show range by playing Pretty Boy Floyd in 2009’s Public Enemies, a role he actually did a real fine job at, not to mention trying to establish himself as a heartthrob with last year’s Dear John, and trying to show his comedic side with this year’s The Dilemma.

So yeah, the guy has been around since he first exploded into the scenes with that dance flick, and, like it or not, the guy’s not going away any time soon, as he has three further flicks lined up for 2011 (one of which is Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire which may turn out to be pretty awesome), so yeah, he’s working his best to keep himself present in your memories.

But yeah, that’s the thing, many people seem to already know if they like this guy or not, they’ve gotten wide enough a sampling of him to form their opinion. I’m not part of that group of people, I’m not sure I dig his style and look and charm at all and I can’t help but think the guy hasn’t headlined a film I’ve graded better than somewhere in the C-range (Public Enemies was a solid B+ film but he had a supporting role there). And The Eagle won’t be the exception.

I mean, The Eagle is good enough, it won’t bore you, but you won’t necessarily come out of it calling your friends and telling them they ought to check it out as soon as possible, you’ll just tell them it was okay, because that’s exactly what it was. And what’s more is that I could have seen it turning out somewhat better than okay, and the fact that it didn’t turn out that way lies substantially on the shoulders of Mr. Tatum, who’s work here is totally uninspired.

I mean, the story itself isn’t that mindblowing, but as another action/adventure flick it will make do just perfectly, it just needed solid direction and good acting from its two leads to realize its potential. And even though Mr. Tatum’s co-star is amazing, because Jamie Bell pretty much always is, the bigger role was his, and he disappointed. As for the direction, well, it wasn’t horrible, but considering it was coming from the guy that has given us The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, two really well made and acted films, it came as a disappointment of sorts, his hand not as sensible as it has been in the past.

The film will no doubt draw comparisons to last year’s Centurion, a film I gave a strong B- to, and that was a film I at least found myself liking, and that was pretty much entirely because of how good its lead actor was, and marks the difference between these two films. I’m not saying Mr. Tatum should be as good as Michael Fassbenber, because Mr. Fassbender is just insanely great at everything he does, but he just needed to bring it to the shooting, something he evidently didn’t. Just because you’re all bulky and some teenage girls like you doesn’t mean you can play brooding and appealing in auto-pilot, Mr. Tatum.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate The Eagle, not even close, but I just thought it could have turned out way better than it ultimately did. An R-rating would have given it the chance to have more explicit actions scenes, and they don’t necessarily have to be as gruesome as the ones in Centurion were, but they would have upped the ante to proper heights.

And it also would have given them the opportunity to add some much needed sexuality to the film. I mean, this is a film all about men, and even though Centurion, to continue the comparison, was too, that one at least had the Olga Kurylenko character to amp up the sexuality. This one needed a character like that, we only see a few women in this one, and while some of them do throw wanting looks towards Mr. Tatum they are no real characters, and the film quickly reverts itself to the position its mostly in, which only focuses on the men on screen.

I won’t go ahead and tell you the story you’ll witness, if you watch the two-and-a-half-minute trailer on YouTube you’ll know everything you really need to, I’ll just tell you that The Eagle, though far from bad, is pretty forgettable. There are themes of loyalty and courage here, yes, and that’s all good and nice, but so many other issues go by unexplored. Go see The Eagle if you like these sort of films, I guess, but it will only work to reassure you that Mr. Tatum is at his best when he’s fighting on-screen, and not acting.

Grade: C+

The Way Back

16 Feb

Title: The Way Back
Year:
2011
Director:
Peter Weir
Writers:
Peter Weir and Keith R. Clarke, based on the novel by Slavomir Rawicz
Starring:
Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, violent content, depiction of physical hardships, a nude image and brief strong language
Runtime:
133 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.5
Rotten Tomatoes:
76%

 

Peter Weir is a master at filmmaking, the Australian director has maneuvered his way smoothly through many genres and styles, his Dead Poets Society is amazing, The Truman Show is a thing of beauty and he got a seriously stellar performance from Jim Carrey in it, and then came 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, an awesome film that also happened to have been the last one he made until this one, seven years later. And much like his last effort, The Way Back has an appropriately epic feel to it to go along with some very fine performances from really capable actors. My problem with it was that, though grand in scale, the emotional complexities were too underdeveloped for me to really feel for the characters here, and when you’re in such a huge two-hour-plus ride you really need that involvement to get through it without having it feel tiresome.

And that’s really the problem with The Way Back, that it’s very long and that, even though it’s incredibly well made and acted, it, at times, feels as though it drags on because there isn’t as much emotional weight to keep you fully involved. The visuals may be really amazing, and they are thanks to cinematographer Russell Boyd, a frequent collaborator of Mr. Weir and an Oscar winner for his work in Master and Commander, but that’s just it, the movie many times feels far more invested in its gorgeous views than in its dramatic substance.

And I’m really not dissing The Way Back, it’s really a very very good film, I just wanted it to be a huge epic and get Peter Weir back to the Oscars (he’s been nominated six previous times), while the only nomination it got was for Makeup (it qualified for the 2010 Oscar crop, but it got its release in 2011 so I’m counting it as an ’11 film). But yeah, even though it feels too long at times, and not as invested in the emotional subtleties of it all, this is still one very solid film, done exquisitely well by a guy who knows his craft, and who loves observing people against some very intense and special situations.

I wanted to grade The Way Back somewhere in the A-range, maybe a strong A-minus, but it will definitely fall a bit short from that, because, a year from now, I doubt I’ll remember this one all that much. And considering this is supposed to be this very epic look at survival and enormous issues within, that’s quite a letdown. I want to congratulate Mr. Weir and his crew for actually making this film, because the production values are simply superb, and the fact that a film this huge and ambitious found a home and financing is really fantastic, but the overall product, though great to look at, isn’t all that great to ponder at once you’re done with it.

If you can put aside that considering the amazing story it told the film itself should have been far more epic itself, you’ll find yourself watching a pretty amazing film. One in which the story is of escapees of a Siberian prison, making their way 4’000 miles through, to freedom in India. Yes, that’s how huge the scope is in The Way Back. A helluva journey with endless possibilities of death in many ways, but, really, that’s kind of it. And yes, that huge journey with countless chances of starvation and injury is compelling stuff, no doubt about that, but there’s way too few character development here for it to propel itself to sheer greatness.

The four main cast members are all excellent. We have Jim Sturgess as the one I guess we’d call the leader of the pack, Janusz. Then we have Ed Harris, who’s seriously amazing, as an American who goes by the name of Mr. Smith. And finally we have Colin Farrell, a Russian guy named Valka. These are the three main escapees we meet in the journey, but along said journey we also get to meet Irena, a young woman who has escaped from a collective farm near Warsaw and joins them. Irena’s played by Saoirse Ronan, who turned heads in her breakthrough Oscar-nominated role in Atonement, and who continued to be great in the otherwise so-so The Lovely Bones, and who continues to be incredible here, a streak that she probably won’t break once she reunites with her Atonement director, Joe Wright, for this April’s awesome-looking Hanna, alongside Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett.

I’ve heard claims that the story on which this is based isn’t actually true, as the film says it is, and if it really isn’t it wouldn’t matter much to me. I mean, if it were true it would probably actually be a bit too unbelievable, and no matter the case Mr. Weir and his cast and crew were still crazy committed into translating the true (or maybe not) tale to the screen, which is what counts. I don’t really care that much in the case of The Way Back if the story is true or not, I just care that it’s well done, and this one really is. Yes, there could have been a lot more dramatic and emotional complexities, but this is still a pretty darn good film and you should definitely go watch it.

Grade: B+

Robin Hood

17 Jul

Title: Robin Hood
Year: 2010
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Brian Helgeland, based on the story by himself, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Kevin Durand, Mark Addy, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content
Runtime: 140 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%

In press junkets or interviews we heard time and time again that this Robin Hood was completely different from the ones we had seen before, that Russell Crowe had nothing to do with Sean Connery, that Cate Blanchett had nothing to do with Audrey Hepburn, and that, it turns out, was exactly right, this version of Robin Hood is unlike any version we’ve seen before, it’s a prequel, Robin Hood isn’t the folk hero who stole from the rich to give to the poor yet, we just see Robin lead an uprising, forming an army to fight off the French, which, as we were told in the trailers, is what will build his subsequent fame.

This is indeed action-packed, and there’s a helluva lot of CGI action sequences that look great, but I just think we should have seen the story we all know, when instead the movie ends and tells us that that was how the legend began, but seriously, we should get the legend and not the prologue to it, we know the legend, that’s how we fell in love with this character, this telling isn’t bad, it’s just not that great, Mr. Crowe gives it his best but that’s just not great enough, and as for Cate Blanchett who plays Maid Marion, well, firstly let me just state that, to me, Ms. Blanchett is one of the five greatest living actresses, but Marion isn’t a maid in this story, this is all set before that, and as such this is a completely different character, and because of that she’s played differently, and that threw me off, I loved the Maid Marion character from all the past films, this one I liked because it was played by Cate Blanchett, but that’s about it. When this film was still in the speculation stages the many names that were thrown around for this character included Scarlett Johansson, Emily Blunt, Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet among others, Sienna Miller was actually cast at one point I believe, and from that all I can say is that actress-wise we would have always had a great Maid Marion, it’s just that without the “Maid” part of her title, I didn’t feel I knew her.

And there’s nothing bad with introducing characters in new ways, I just didn’t love what they did to them this time around, I mean, it’s extremely well-done, the action is shot really well and the violence is quite cool, we’ve come to expect that from most Scott/Crowe collaborations, but I will say that I would have probably liked the film more had it not been named Robin Hood, sure, naming it that gave them a whole lot of better marketing options, but it also gave the audience expectations, expectations that weren’t necessarily shattered, but rather, I would say, they were avoided, and you can’t do that when you have such a heavy name as your title.

The film is a bit too long, that’s also very true, but I didn’t mind that much, I just liked it that we were given one seriously beautifully photographed film and a very intelligent actor in the lead role, yes, I have my troubles with the film and I have listed them above, but they’re mostly troubles with what this film did to the Robin Hood name, but as a stand-alone outing, this one, for me, worked well, plus, there’s a scene in which Will Scarlett says to Little Jon that he should never go for the most beautiful girl but instead go for the more plain-looking one, he uses the exact same words Russell Crowe’s character in A Beautiful Mind used when describing his theory to get girls, I thought that was a pretty genius nod to a previous film of this one’s lead actor.

Grade: B

Kick-Ass

12 Jul

Title: Kick-Ass
Year: 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, adapting form the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating: R, strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use – some involving children
Runtime: 117 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

This was one of the films I was anticipated the most this year, the buzz surrounding it was surreal, and, when the moment of truth came, I actually found myself loving Kick-Ass just as much as I first thought I would, which is saying a whole lot, and I love it when films live up to their hype for me. I am a huge huge fan of the comic book, and I relate to the main hero so much it’s unbelievable, and I’m obviously not alone in saying that, after all, what teenager doesn’t dream to be a superhero?

Kick-Ass is outstanding, really. Yes, it’s hugely violent and the best violence in the film is done by a pre-teen girl, but that’s part of what I love about this film, because it tackled that by being calculating, and by being really self-aware, and that’s a quality these type of films all need and most lack, a film like this needs to know what it is and not pretend to be something else, even if the pretension is accidental. The aforementioned pre-teen girl is the best part of a film with a lot of great parts, she’s played by Chloë Grace Moretz, and she kills people and she uses so much cuss words in such great ways she would have looked right in place in Pulp Fiction or some other cool Tarantino film, and yes, talking about Tarantino films I guess this one does have a bit of Kill Bill in it.

Moretz is Hit Girl, who learned her superhero skills from her daddy in what has to be one of the best parenting role models ever in film, her dad (Damon by day, Big Daddy when kicking ass) is played by Nicolas Cage who in this film does what he does best, which is to give a hugely entertaining, high-octane, no holds barred performance, and he rocks the shit out of Big Daddy, he’s just great in this one, both Mark Whalberg and Daniel Craig were considered for this role before he got it, and while I like those two actors as well, this film wouldn’t have been nearly as great had they gotten it. Plus, Nicolas Cage is a huge comic book fan, like, seriously huge, and the influence of comic books is incredible in this movie, that’s another thing I love so much about it, Big Daddy talks like Adam West’s Batman, the Red Mist characters quotes the Joker, there are references to Watchmen and The Spirit and to a Robin comic and the obligatory use of the “great power comes great responsibility” quote form Spider-Man, albeit implying that with no power comes no responsibilities.

The movie starts with Dave Lizewski, played by Aaron Johnson a British actor who’s pretty good at concealing the accent, he is the aforementioned teenager who we all relate to that wants to become a superhero, he goes online and buys a costume, adopts the film’s name as his superhero moniker and goes to street to fight crime and subsequently goes viral on YouTube, then he gets the attention of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy and the attention of Frank D’Amico, the millionaire villain of the story who has a teenager himself, who’s played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who will then adopt a superhero personna himself to try and impress daddy.

I really like the directorial style of Matthew Vaugh, too, a British filmmaker who also adapted the screenplay form the comic book along with Jane Goldman, he really knows how to do this stuff really well, the grotesque violence while at the same time not making it dark and keeping it light and funny, and he also deals really well with the complexities of his characters, especially when we dig into the backstory of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, it’s a great and emotional ride this one, and it works so well because Cage and Moretz have ridiculous chemistry, it works so well in fact, that I doubt anyone liked the main storyline, that one being Dave’s, better than this one, because this is what makes the film stand-out, the discovery of a seriously bright young star in Moretz and the enjoyment we get of seeing Cage rocking the shit out of roles, this guy has been in bad movies the past decade, but when he’s good he’s seriously good.

The sequel to Kick-Ass has already been greenlit, and I can’t wait to watch it, what I can’t wait to watch either is whatever Chloë Moretz does next, and according to her IMDb page that includes, excluding the sequel to this, the Let The Right One In American remake, a Martin Scorsese film, a Seth Gordon film, roles alongside the likes of Sam Worthington, Jessica Biel and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and this one compilation of comedy shorts that has an unbelievable cast and which I actually didn’t knew about before writing this but that sounds pretty damn orgasmic. But, seriously, I loved Kick-Ass, and I enjoy it time and time again when I rewatch it, many critics have been negative about it, many people have complained about Moretz and the violence and swearing seen from a pre-teen, she was eleven when she filmed this one and used the word “cunt” among many other expletives all too freely and awesomely, but to me that just added to the fun of it all, I fucking loved her kicking the shit out of them cunts.

Grade: A