REVIEW: Hanna

Hanna
Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Seth Lockhead, David Farr
Starring:, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett

It’s only three months into the year, but Hanna is current favorite. Hooking me from the first frame, it’s a hyper coming-of-age action film that’s simultaneously unbelievable and identifiable.

Hanna is the latest film Joe Wright, who’s previous cinematic ventures leave you wondering how he came to be in the director’s chair. Pride and Prejudice and Atonement (also with Ronan) are period dramas, and The Soloist is a modern-day drama. Wright handles the material well, and ends up with a fun, smart film.

Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan) is a 16-year old girl who has lived all of her life secluded in a small cabin with her father (Eric Bana), who has trained her to to survive: “Adapt or die” is a repeated warning. At the beginning of the film, Hanna is faced with a decision which will impact the rest of her life. A decision that will bring her in contact with a woman named Marissa (Cate Blanchett), question her very existence, and the struggle to survive in the world at large.

The film is a well-constructed jumble of action and drama with an art-house flourish. The pace, rhythm, and editing style feed off of each other’s energy, and appropriately adapts from scene to scene. Wright is clearly a fan of long one-take shots (See Atonement), and this shows up in a killer scene with Eric Bana that brutally plays out on the screen. However, the scene where Hanna encounters a plethora of sounds she’s never heard before near the beginning of the film felt overtly bombastic and should have been toned down. The recurring theme of Hanna experiencing new sensations is, aside from the one scene, handled well with profound impact.

In an interview with KBPS, Joe Wright says,

It’s very much a fairy tale. I wanted a kind of atmosphere to the film that was difficult to pin down. It doesn’t quite happen int he real workd but it’s not an all out fantasy.

The fairy tale aspect works really well for the film. It’s impressive how fairy tales influence the characters, story, and setting, but don’t dictate everything. It’s a subtle influence that increases with the film.

The talent is great in this film, especially Cate Blanchett and Tom Hollander as the villains. They brought some great nuances that made their characters stand out and define who they were. Cate’s original encounter with Hanna (seen in the trailer) plays much creepier in the actual film with her reactions to what’s going on. Hollander’s recurring whistle and jaunt add to his eerie persona.

Also impressive was the lead performance by Saorise Ronan, who revealed a lot about her character from her rapt curiosity. Hanna reminded me of Peter Seller’s character Chance in Hal Ashby’s film Being There, where he plays a character who has never left the confines of the residence where his father is the butler. Where Hanna has learned everything she knows from books, Chance learns from his television set. (Granted, Chance isn’t a trained assassin. Parallels have to end somewhere) :)

If you’re looking for a smart popcorn film, Hanna is the one for you.

 

 

 

 

Spirit Awards Predictions

Best Feature

Daniel: Black Swan
Joseph: The Kids Are Alright

Best Director

Daniel: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Joseph: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)

Best Actor

Daniel: James Franco (127 Hours)
Joseph: James Franco (127 Hours)

Best Actress

Daniel: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Joseph: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel: Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright)
Joseph: John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)

Best Supporting Actress

Daniel: Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone
Joseph: Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone)

Best Screenplay

Daniel: The Kids Are Alright
Joseph: The Kids Are Alright

Best First Screenplay

Daniel: Obselidia
Joseph: Jack Goes Boating

Best Cinematography

Daniel: Black Swan
Joseph: Black Swan

Best First Feature Film

Daniel: Get Low
Joseph: Get Low

Best Foreign Film

Daniel: The King’s Speech
Joseph: The King’s Speech

Best Documentary

Daniel: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Joseph: Exit Through the Gift Shop

CONTEST: UnScene #2

It’s time for another week of UnScene, the game where the characters are removed from a scene and you have to guess what movie it’s from.

The three frames from last week were from Say Anything, A River Runs Through It, and Stand By Me.

Again, the point goes to the first person to correctly guess the movie (multiple guesses are allowed) and the person with the most points at the end of the month gets a FREE DVD.

Week Two:

Leaderboard:
joem18b: 1 point
Jess: 1 point

Weekend Warrior

Friday’s coming, and we all know what that means: More movies coming to your local theater.

Writing about which movies to watch / avoid each weekend can be a frightfully dull exercise in the mundane, so let’s spice this sucker up. Each week there will be a post about the new movies on the block, and why you should rent something else instead of watching it.*

In Theaters: Takers
Skip It: It has Hayden Christensen.

On DVD: Ocean’s 11
Watch It: We’ve all seen Soderbergh’s version, so why not watch the original for a change? You can’t go wrong with the Rat Pack.

In Theaters: The Last Exorcism
Skip It:  I’m tired of all these generic Romcoms in theaters these days.

On DVD: Annie Hall
Watch It: Back in the day, comedies didn’t have to JUST be banal attempts at humor. You could have a good story AND humor. Whoa, right?

* Some opinions voiced in this post should possibly definitely maybe not be taken seriously.

[Trailer] 127 Hours

Remember that little film Slumdog Millionaire from a few years ago? Director Danny Boyle is at again, but this time with a true-to-life tale starring the talented James Franco.

The official synopsis for 127 Hours is both overly congratulatory and wordy, so here’s my 127 second version:

James Franco gets his arm pinioned by a rock in a Utah canyon and is trapped there for 127 hours.

All snarkiness aside, I’m excited to see this film. Danny Boyle is a great director, and Franco is an actor who has the right amount of charisma and roughish charm to pull this role off. After watching the preview, I wondered if 127 Hours’s narrative structure would be more like Ladder 49 or Gus Van Sant’s mesmerizing Gerry. My guess would be on the former, citing Slumdog Millionaire as an example.

I am a little turned off by the back-patting in the trailer and synopsis, however. I can’t remember another preview that praised the director so much. (If I want to see to see endless internal praise I’ll watch Pixar’s behind-the-scenes documentaries) It’s not that Boyle doesn’t deserve the praise, but that’s not what I’m interested in seeing in a trailer; just give me the story.

What do you think? Am I making a big deal about nothing? Can this story be told well on screen?

127 Hours will be released November 5, 2010.

[Trailer] Black Swan

Black Swan is the latest film from director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), and just barely missed the cut in my post about upcoming Fall / Winter films.

Synopsis:

A psychological thriller set in the world of New York City ballet, BLACK SWAN stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a featured dancer who finds herself locked in a web of competitive intrigue with a new rival at the company (Mila Kunis).

I’ve heard about Black Swan before watching the trailer, but nothing substantial. I had no idea how dark and creepy it would be. Natalie Portman & Mila Kunis are excellent choices for the roles; I think they will be great. I have to wonder if Aronofsky was influenced by David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.
Black Swan has a limited release date of December 1, 2010.

Fall / Winter 2010 Lineup

Summer’s almost over, and with its end comes the obligatory post of things to come. But first, let’s take a look back at 2010.

Living in a small town, I’ve sadly missed out on quite a few of the non-mainstream films. The theater year started off with the lackluster The Book of Eli, and Alice in Wonderland. Both are films that had a wonderful visual style, but didn’t follow through with the story.

She’s Out of My League, a film that I was persuaded to watch, was surprisingly entertaining. It succeeded at remaining consistently humorous and kept up its pace well. The same can’t be said for Date Night, which had the makings of a great comedy, but didn’t seem to let the lead actors take over more.

And speaking of surprising movies, how about Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood? I may be in the minority on this one, but this is a really good film. The previews didn’t work, but the film does. Comparisons to Michael Curtiz’s magnificent The Adventures of Robin Hood were expected and many, but one has to realize that Scott’s version is both a prequel and a different take on the myth.

The rest of the Summer? I’ll save that for another post.

Here are the 10 films that I am most excited to see in the following months (in alphabetical order)

Another Year (trailer)
December 29, 2010
Written / Directed by Mike Leigh
Starring Jim Broadbent & Lesley Manville

Conviction (trailer)
February 24, 2011
Written by Pamela Gray
Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Starring Hilary Swank & Sam Rockwell

The Fighter
December 10, 2010
Written by Scott Silver & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Mark Wahlberg & Melissa Leo & Christian Bale & Amy Adams

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I (trailer)
November 19, 2010
Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe & Emma Watson & Rupert Grint

Never Let Me Go (trailer)
January 14, 2011
Written by Alex Garland
Directed by Mark Romanek
Starring Keira Knightley & Carey Mulligan & Andrew Garfield

The Social Network (trailer)
October 1, 2010
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Jesse Eisenberg & Andrew Garfield

Somewhere (trailer)
December 22, 2010
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Stephen Doriff & Elle Fanning

The Town (trailer)
September 17, 2010
Written by Ben Affleck & Peter Craig & Aaron Stockard
Directed by Ben Affleck
Starring Ben Affleck & Blake Lively & Jeremy Renner

The Tree of Life
November, 2010
Written / Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Brad Pitt & Sean Penn

True Grit
December 25, 2010
Written / Directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges & Hailee Steinfeld

What movies are you looking forward to? What movies did I forget that HAVE to be on this list?

The Way We Get By

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The Way We Get By
Directed by: Aron Gaudet
Written by: Aron Gaudet

The Way We Get By is a fantastic documentary by writer/director Aron Gaudet. It is about three older people and what they’ve gone through in the last five years as the self-appointed welcoming committee for American troops as they return to native soil. The film is predominately set in the Bangor Airport in Bangor, Maine, and the homes of the welcomers.

The Way We Get By is a short documentary that was made for the long-running PBS television series P.O.V. It’s a film about nothing, and yet, everything. By that I mean that the stories don’t seem to be as heavily influenced by the director as other documentaries might be. And the many themes that come across in the film (loss, loneliness, family, spirit, etc.) are universal themes.

The style presented in the documentary keeps these stories fresh and interesting. There’s an amazing rhythm from story to story that keeps it going. One style in particular reminded me of David Lynch’s on-going Interview Project, which centers around individual stories. The similarity lies in the edit, where the interviewee’s audio track is dubbed over a different shot, trying to capture the right emotion for what is being said.

Each person in The Way We Get By is a dear soul, and I instantly connected with William, Joan, and Gerald on an emotional level. There’s so much pathos here. Heck, the preview itself had me tearing up. I found one line from Gerald to be especially poignant. When asked why he was doing what he was doing, he replied, “Be nice to somebody and that makes you feel nicer. That’s the only way you can deal with it.”

I loved seeing the different attitudes and opinions of the greeters as well. I love how these people, even the ones who don’t support the war, are there to support the troops regardless of their stance. That in mind, I wouldn’t call The Way We Get By an anti-war film. Rather, I think anti-loss would be a more fitting term.

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NetFlix Recommendations

twitter

@berutt recently posted the following on Twitter:

Looking for some suggestions for my Netflix queue. Documentaries, cult classics, comedies, non-fiction. Any suggestions?

Rather than inundate Twitter with several recommendations (140 characters just doesn’t cut it sometimes), I decided to properly respond by hammering out a quick response here. Not only will I be able to more accurately pick some films to recommend, but hey, it’s an excuse to write more. :)

Taking the genres listed into consideration, here are several films that deserve to grace anyone’s NetFlix queue:

Salesman
Dare I say, the perfect documentary? Salesman and the Maysles Brothers opened my eyes to the beauty of documentaries, from their fascinating subjects to their fly-on-the-wall style of filmmaking. (And if you like this, go ahead and add Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens as well)

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Another documentary that I fell in love with. It’s easily one of the most suspenseful documentaries I’ve ever seen, and is assembled well.

Plan 9 From Outer Space
Regarded by many as the worst film ever made, this cult classic, directed by Ed Wood, is a treat for the cinema masochist.
And as an added bonus, do your self the favor and watch Ed Wood after wards. Ironically, I consider it to be Tim Burton’s best film and Johnny Depp’s best performance.

Arsenic and Old Lace
Everyone needs to have a little fun now and again, and Frank Capra’s no exception. This off-the-wall dark comedy is an instant classic with many memorable moments.

Raising Arizona
The Coen Brothers wrote and directed. Need I say more? And Nicholas Cage’s performance is good.

The Fisher King
A fantastic film from Terry Gilliam. I’d say more, but I’d rather not ruin the experience.

What NetFlix films would you recommend?

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PDQ Reviews (6/9)

RKO

Title: RKO 281
Directed By: Benjamin Ross
Starring: Liev Schreiber / James Cromwell / John Malkovich
PDQ: Tells the story behind Citizen Kane. The casting is genius, but the story was too bland and already covered.

Love

Title: Love and Death
Directed By: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen / Diane Keaton
PDQ: A fun, epic romp with Woody Allen. (You might want to watch The Seventh Seal first)

Cassandra

Title: Cassandra’s Dream
Directed By: Woody Allen
Starring: Ewan McGregor / Colin Farrell
PDQ: More in the style of Match Point than Allen’s earlier films. Not much going for this cautionary tale.