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This Means War (2012) review
02/17/12 at 07:36 PM by EvilButters
McG hasn't really been seen in the director's chair since Terminator Salvation hit theaters back in 2009. Audiences were split as to whether they actually enjoyed Salvation or not as critics hated it and the movie failed to make back its budget in its domestic gross. So what's the logical next step after doing a movie about the nuclear holocaust and the ongoing war between humans and humanoid machines? You could probably guess the action bit, but the romantic comedy part would probably throw you off.

This Means War is the story of FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) two CIA agents who are two of the best agents in their field. FDR and Tuck are partners and best friends, but come to a gentleman's agreement when they both start dating the same woman named Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). Both FDR and Tuck begin falling for Lauren and not only begin breaking the rules that they set for one another, but use whatever means necessary to keep Lauren in their good graces.

This Means War throws you right into one of FDR and Tuck's missions right from the start. The main issue becomes how dizzying the camera work is. The action hits extremely hard and is incredibly fast paced, but you have a difficult time actually following just what is transpiring in these quick cuts let alone trying to keep your wits about you. This is kind of odd since I wasn't a fan of Terminator Salvation, but felt like one of its strongest qualities was how the camera always seemed to be in the right place during the action. Maybe McG decided to regress back to his Charlie's Angels mindset for This Means War.

The action heavy romantic comedy is dragged down by annoying girl talk. Lauren and her friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) do nothing but whine and complain about their lives the entire movie while also revealing they're basically the most promiscuous girls around. This Means War paints this picture of women that they all date multiple guys at once and will put out just to try and make a decision. It's pretty demeaning to women in general. Between Lauren and Trish's talks of the size of a man's private parts or a lightning round involving sex, every inch of dialogue between them is unbearable right from the start. Meanwhile, FDR and Tuck have quite a bit of immature bickering between one another as well. It becomes borderline homophobic at times and just feels very third grade for nearly half of the film. The second half becomes a little easier to digest and the highlight comes when FDR mocks Tuck's British accent.

The storyline is very imbecilic, as well. Using the gadgets, technology, and basically every ounce of intelligence of the CIA to try and win over a woman is just asinine. The actual mission, which is certainly more interesting than the love triangle you're forced to endure, isn't even second fiddle. It's more like the third or fourth subplot of the movie. The FDR/Tuck/Lauren love triangle being the primary, FDR/Tuck's friendship falling apart being the secondary, Lauren trying to mull things over with Trish being the third, and Tuck trying to be a stand up family man the fourth. So that would make the actual mission the fifth subplot of the movie. How lame is that?

This Means War does get a little less irritating as it progresses. The jokes get slightly less offensive and Tom Hardy still manages to be the best part of the movie. While Reese Witherspoon has to make it a point to try and jiggle around while wearing horrible clothes and singing off key and Chris Pine attempts to be the biggest womanizer he possibly can, they still manage to squeeze in Tom Hardy being a complete bad ass. The paintball scene is one of the highlights, but the most original aspect of the movie comes in one of the first (of many) dates Tuck has with Lauren. He takes her to a carnival and at the end of it takes her on the trapeze. It's actually really cool and would be a really fun first date for anyone.

This Means War is a frustrating and awful excuse for entertainment. Its humor is lame and offensive in the way that it insults all of mankind by how stupid and immature it is, its plot is horrible and insulting, and Reese Witherspoon will test every last ounce of patience you possibly have. This Means War gives you the impression that women are easy and that if you've got enough game then everything works out for the best. While it does have a few moments that try to make up for how terrible it really is, This Means War still can't shake the fact that its spewed excrement into your face for over an hour and a half.

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Tags: This Means War, review, comedy, action, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy
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Red Tails (2012) review
01/20/12 at 09:55 AM by EvilButters
Over twenty five years after the fact and Maverick has become a drunk who makes hasty decisions under the influence, Goose has become a bit more reckless and still puts women before anything else, and Iceman's role has been reduced significantly as his smug arrogance is only felt in a handful of lines. What's that you say? Red Tails isn't the urban retelling of Top Gun? Well, you could have fooled me. It's not that it makes much difference though. No matter how you look at it, Red Tails doesn't really have much of anything to offer.

At the peak of World War II, African American pilots are considered the lowest of the low. They're considered to be incapable of performing their tasks to their country to the fullest and are given leftover missions that don't even qualify as scraping the bottom of the barrel. The Tuskegee training program is no different as the entire squadron is mostly reduced to shooting down trucks, trains, and perhaps a cow every now and then. That is until Colonel A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) succeeds in letting the higher ups give his men a chance and they take full advantage of the opportunity.

Red Tails feels really cheesy as soon as that quote is shown in the opening scene. The movie has a $58 million budget, but it certainly doesn't feel that way considering the opening credits. The amalgamation of planes ripping through the sky and tearing each other to pieces feels like a distraction or a cover up for the rest of your senses. Try to pay attention to the credits, how plain they are, and how cheap they look. That along with the score that feels like it was ripped straight out of a stereotypical action film from the 90s doesn't really seem like the type of tone they were going for here. The acting isn't much better as stiffness and monotony seem to be what they were aiming for. The Tuskegee airmen do begin to get a bit more comfortable in their roles as the movie progresses. David Oyelowo takes Lightning the furthest as far as Easy's (Nate Parker) squad goes, but they certainly seem their best in the face of tragedy. Terrence Howard has a few great moments, as well. Specifically his "highest expectations" scene he shares with Joe "Lightning" Little. But it isn't enough to save a second-rate film.

The script is very dry. I don't mean dry humor I mean about as pleasant as trying to listen to somebody with a mouthful of saltine crackers. It feels so stale and again contributes to that 90s atmosphere I mentioned earlier. Keep an ear out for the Americans and how third grade they sound. The dialogue along with the monotonous tone spread out amongst every actor in the film makes everyone come off as a robot. "These cows are armed," is a line that's actually used in the movie. There are a few lines that are almost decent. Winky's (Leslie Odom Jr) line where he says, "Every time I close that canopy I feel like I'm closing the lid to my own coffin," is surprisingly good. It gives the momentary belief that things may turn around, but they never do. Smokey's (Ne-Yo) "colored" conversation at the bar is the most amusing thing Red Tails has to offer, as well. There are many lame attempts at humor that just make you groan. Black Jesus is perhaps the worst joke of all, considering how things turn out for Deke (Marcus T. Paulk).

I was expecting Red Tails to at least offer a fair amount of eye candy, but the special effects weren't really all that impressive at all. There's a train explosion early on in the film that's been shown in nearly every trailer and TV spot. It's pretty much on the same scale as the train crash in Super 8, but it isn't nearly as spectacular. That's kind of weird considering Super 8 was $8 million dollars cheaper than Red Tails when it comes to its budget. What ruined it for me was that sloppy zoom-in effect that's relied on as a crutch the entire movie. The Tuskegee airmen will be in the midst of a heated air battle with the Germans. The camera would pan up to try and capture the action, but it would zoom-in (or out on a few occasions) nearly every time to try and show you who should be keeping track of. It just came off as sloppy camera work to me, as if they didn't have the proper camera placement for the scene and tried to adjust it accordingly. There are several things that don't really add up in the movie either. One of the main ones for me was that at one point, Easy tells everyone that there's no time to celebrate a completed mission and to return to base because they're low on fuel. But can you guess what they do in the very next scene? They showboat and celebrate. Not listening to your superiors and still getting praised for it is an overbearing theme in the movie, as well.

George Lucas fought for 23 years to get this made, but after viewing it you'll more than likely be convinced that the man has grown senile over the years and that retirement from Hollywood is the best thing for him. The turnout for the screening was insane and you can bet that Red Tails will more than likely make a killing at the box office, but there's no way in hell it passes as a good or even decent piece of cinema. Amateur cinematography, a boring script, terrible acting, and the fate of certain characters being extremely predictable (you can guess Lightning's fate around the time things start getting serious with Sophia), Red Tails is the equivalent of a stand-up act that gets booed off the stage. It is just awful. I was left wishing the entire movie was just Cuba Gooding Jr lifting a pipe to his lips, pulling it away, and pretending to smoke the entire film. If it was just those clips strung together with no dialogue and that dubstep track from the TV spot in the background, I could have at least gotten a good laugh out of it.

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Tags: Red Tails, review, action, adventure, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, George Lucas
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The Flowers of War (2012) review
01/19/12 at 02:56 PM by EvilButters
I'm really weird when it comes to war films. I have a fascination with both horror and extremely violent films in general, but tend to mostly not care for films that revolve around war. It's not that they're bad or unwatchable, but none of them have ever really made me think they're worth owning or watching again. Chinese and Japanese war epics seem to be a bit different as I adore films like The Last Samurai, Mongol, and The Warlords. The Flowers of War is in a similar vein as those three films yet is also incredibly different in comparison.

Yimou Zhang is a director that's pretty much made a name for himself as a director with his incredible use of color. Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower are all lush, vibrant, and just visually brilliant. The Flowers of War is almost completely devoid of color. The battlefield is littered with shades of brown and gray until someone is shot and blood sprays into the air or trickles to the ground. The only real use of color comes in the form of the round stained glass window and the elaborate dresses the prostitutes wear. This adds for some incredible and dynamic shots seeing warfare on their doorstep through a multicolored filter and broken glass. Two prostitutes eventually escape with the intent of returning, but there's this amazing one-take sequence of their attempt of coming back to the church and their colorful dresses play a big part. That scene along with a few others was slightly reminiscent of Children of Men.

The evolution of John Miller (Christian Bale) is something wonderful. When he first arrives to the church, he's money hungry, a drunk, and a womanizer. But being around the students at the church and the group of prostitutes brings out the best in him. That sounds awkward, but it makes sense after seeing the film. There are a few wandering shots that show Bale standing or sitting alone in the church. They're fairly brief, but those images stick with you. The Chinese soldier that drops off Pu Sheng and returns one of the student’s shoes is one to keep an eye on, as well. Without spoiling too much, his strategy is nothing short of amazing.

As you can probably imagine, The Flowers of War does touch upon some extremely vicious and barbaric acts that are difficult to watch. It is based on the Rape of Nanking after all. The sequences of violence are necessary, but aren't for those of you with weak stomachs. Children are stabbed and shot while prostitutes are raped and brutally murdered. Then there's all the bloodshed from the war going on. It's pretty intense, but the message the film offers makes it all worth it.

The Flowers of War is almost a war masterpiece, but there are several things that stand in the way of making it just that. The main one being that nearly every female character in the film will irritate the holy hell out of you for the entire two hour and twenty minute duration. Every prostitute but Mo (Ni Ni) has a voice that's the equivalent of scraping fingernails against a chalkboard, but there's a group of them so multiply that by twelve. Not only that, but they make stupid decisions. Risking your life for a cat or strings for your instrument seems kind of fruitless at this point, wouldn't you say? Then there's the group of students at the church that do nothing but cry, be spiteful towards the prostitutes, and hold grudges. Were they imperative to the story? Of course, but their stupid actions will only help you cheer for their deaths at the same time. There are also two musical numbers that feel out of place. Both are great concepts on paper, but they feel clumsy in their execution. And to be honest, I'm just glad the phrase, "No Mo," wasn't uttered at all in the film.

Despite featuring some of the most annoying and idiotic female characters of recent memory, The Flowers of War is an emotional journey with a heartfelt message. As John comes clean about a lie he told Mo earlier on in the film, Mo replies, "Sometimes the truth is the last thing we need to hear." That quote fits so perfectly with the tone of the film. Christian Bale delivers a spectacular performance as watching the evolution of John Miller through the duration of the film is nearly as great as the maneuver they pull off. Often brutal yet frequently beautiful, The Flowers of War is one of the few war films that is not only thoroughly enjoyable but is capable of maturing into one of the most selfless acts imaginable.

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Tags: The Flowers of War, review, drama, history, war, Christian Bale, Yimou Zhang
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War Horse (2011) review
12/23/11 at 03:30 PM by EvilButters
I was one of the people not anticipating War Horse before actually seeing it. I joked before the movie started that if it wasn't a mash up of "Mister Ed" and Saving Private Ryan, then I'd be extremely disappointed. But I was also unfamiliar with the original novel and play, so who was I to judge? The only logical thing was to give it a shot anyway. If you want to be taken seriously as a critic, then you have to try and see as much as you can even if you don't think you're going to enjoy whatever you've just sat down to see. The final result is something visually beautiful that is completely blinded by an overdose of melodrama.

Ages and ages ago when the show was still relevant to people other than white trash and rednecks, there was this episode of "Jerry Springer" where a man came on the show wanting to marry his horse. The horse was on stage with him and the man even kissed it at one point. Not like a peck on the cheek. Heavens no, this was like a full blown sloppy tongue everywhere type of kiss. This was all that came to mind seeing how Albert and his horse Joey were so close in the film. To make matters worse, the very first shot of the film shows Joey being born but before you realize a mother horse is giving birth it kind of looks like two guys giving a horse a red rocket, which immediately brought Cartman training the pony in the Scott Tenorman Must Die episode of "South Park". So a minute and a half into the movie and I'm practically laughing like crazy for all the wrong reasons.

This horse Joey is the star of the film though. We follow him as he is too wild to tame until a boy named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) steps in, bonds with him, and they accomplish the impossible together. That relationship drives the rest of the film. Joey is eventually trained and begins plowing fields before being sold to a soldier to try and save Albert's family's farm. We then follow Joey's adventures in World War I as he goes owner to owner, serves each side of the war, and is even owned by a young girl and her grandfather at one point. But Albert is convinced him and Joey will be reunited again and will stop at nothing to make that happen.

Do you ever see an actor or actress in a film for the first time and remember that actor or actress as that particular role for the rest of their career? That issue came up a lot in this film. Albert's parents included the guy who went crazy in Session 9 (Peter Mullan) and the woman who groped a tiger in Red Dragon (Emily Watson, bonus points if you also remember her as the woman who was burned alive in Equilibrium). Their landlord was Remus Lupin from Harry Potter (David Thewlis) and the soldier who bought Joey was Loki in Thor (Tom Hiddleston) whose major was the guy assisting Gary Oldman's glasses in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Benedict Cumberbatch). The list is endless. The weird thing though is that none of the performances really outshine any of the others. They're all fairly solid, but none of them really compare to Joey who seems to take on human characteristics at times and is able to say so much with something as little as a look over his shoulder.

War Horse is very much a Steven Spielberg film. It wants and practically begs you to realize this throughout its duration. So much so that it's crammed down your throat on countless occasions. The film looks exceptional. There's beautiful scenery, everything is so rich and green, and the cinematography is pretty breathtaking. Everything else kind of falls by the waste side though. The events depicted in War Horse have to be so dramatic and when it's not it's so corny that it makes you want to barf. The wire cutters scene illustrates this point to perfection. World War I could have ended with something as simple as a conversation over a horse and wire cutters. Who knew? Oh, and apparently every German has a pair of wire cutters on them at all times. That's sure to come in handy, hm? It certainly does seem like you're watching a horse run around aimlessly the majority of the film, as well. "Maybe the horse will explode," I said. "Step on a landmine or something." Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

War Horse does feature a strong cast, an incredible horse, and fantastic cinematography. It unfortunately also shuffles with feeling too long, dripping with melodrama at all times, wrestling with corny dialogue, and being easy to predict from very early on. War Horse is basically a big budget Lifetime movie revolving around a boy and his horse. If you're trying to decide which of the two Steven Spielberg films you should see this year, The Adventures of Tintin is definitely the adventure you should choose to take.

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Tags: War Horse, review, drama, war, Steven Spielberg
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Blu-ray review: Rushmore (1999)
11/21/11 at 01:23 PM by EvilButters
Rushmore is a fantastic film for many reasons. As someone who lives in Houston, it's still amazing to think that a big portion of Rushmore was shot here. This little independent gem was more than likely your introduction to both director and Houston native Wes Anderson and actor Jason Schwartzman and what an introduction it would turn out to be. Anderson would go on to continue giving us quirky yet extremely heartwarming films while Schwartzman evolved into a very talented actor and worked with Anderson on several other occasions. Once you hear Bill Murray say, "Yeah, I was in the @#$%," you know you're in for something special. Rushmore is just what every comedy, independent or otherwise, should be.

The love triangle between Max Fischer (Schwartzman), Herman Blume (Murray), and Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) is one of the things that makes Rushmore so good. Each character brings out the best in the others while their flaws only seem to strengthen the performances of those around them. Max is devoted to so many activities and clubs around Rushmore Academy that he finds himself on the verge of expulsion from failing grades, Ms. Cross is still grieving her husband who only passed a year ago, and Mr. Blume is one of the richest guys around, finds himself in a failing marriage, doesn't know how to act around people, and has a drinking problem. The rivalry that develops between Max and Herman is just extraordinary. Nearly any scene featuring Bill Murray is incredible anyway, especially the hospital scene where he shows up with flowers and rides with Max in the elevator. The restaurant scene where Max is drinking and confesses his love to Ms. Cross is really exceptional, as well. Mostly because all three of the of the main cast have the chance to shine.

There's this sense of quirkiness to a Wes Anderson film that you can't find anywhere else and that's its charm. Anderson also has a knack for picking some pretty memorable soundtracks and knows how to make a scene look better than it should, but his writing is what stands out the most. Flawed people and unusual dialogue and situations; that's a Wes Anderson film at its core. Maybe that's why his movies are so easy to relate to since nobody is perfect and everyone finds themselves slipping up from time to time.

There's just something about Rushmore that speaks to you whether you relate to one of the characters, love Bill Murray, or have a thing for independent film. It's awkward and touching when things get heavy and hilarious and lighthearted when things are more laid back. It's well-written, you actually care about these eccentric characters, and the performances are top notch all around. Rushmore is one of those films you just have to see; you HAVE to. It's the type of film that latches onto you and never lets go while you're more than willing to let it stay as long as it's willing to stick around.

Rushmore isn't loaded with special features, but there is some really great stuff in what is included. The Making of featurette and MTV Movie Awards Shorts are the must see features. The Making of "Rushmore" is the lengthiest (around seventeen minutes) and is mostly just a brief behind the scenes documentary shot by Eric Chase Anderson, Wes Anderson's brother that includes interviews and a rundown of the cast. The EPK (Electronic Press Kit) was shot for something like five months, when most films shoot them in a matter of days. When you consider that bit of information, it's kind of surprising that the footage they shot wasn't used to make a full-length documentary. The MTV Movie Awards Shorts are brief (three segments, each about a minute long, and a thirty second introduction), but are just fantastic. The shorts are theatrical adaptations of films from 1999 including The Truman Show, Armageddon, and Out of Sight. If you liked Max's plays in the film, you'll enjoy these.

Other special features include cast auditions, a film to storyboard comparison, storyboards, an episode of The Charlie Rose Show Featuring Wes Anderson and Bill Murray, the theatrical trailer, an image gallery, and audio commentary by Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and actor Jason Schwartzman (which was recorded in 1999). There's this pretty incredible collectible poster included inside the case and an essay by film critic Dave Kehr included in the liner notes, as well.

Criterion Collection, as you've come to expect by now, has made Rushmore look and sound better than it ever has before. The Blu-ray is a digital transfer of the director's cut, which was supervised by director Wes Anderson with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 5.1 surround sound and is approximately 93 minutes long. The Rushmore Criterion Collection Blu-ray will be released in stores and in most online retail outlets on Tuesday, November 22nd.

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Tags: Rushmore, Blu-ray, movie review, comedy, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wes Anderson
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1911 (2011) review
10/06/11 at 09:42 PM by EvilButters
Jackie Chan has been a huge part of my life ever since I saw Rumble in the Bronx in theaters back when it was originally released in the US in 1996. Jackie Chan is known for his rather amazing action choreography, his lightning quick fighting styles, and ability to incorporate comedy into nearly all of his well-known films for an experience that is pretty much entertaining for everybody. In recent years, Jackie Chan has calmed down a bit and has attempted to make the jump to more dramatic features. The move makes sense since he's well over fifty these days. The problem is that many projects Chan decides to be a part of that are genres outside of what he's known for usually turn out to be kind of stale and unfortunately 1911 falls under that category.

1911 is a rather detailed look at the last days of the Qing Dynasty as it's overthrown by the Republic of China, which is led by Sun Yat-sen (Winston Chao). Chan portrays Huang Xing, a man who has studied the art of modern warfare in Japan and pretty much takes it upon himself to lead the revolution whenever he steps out onto the battlefield. 1911 is a historical drama, which might make you groan just by its classification. Films like 1911 are capable of being well-written and entertaining, but they have to have that balance of being both informative of that era and being able to throw the viewer into the midst of a hard fought, blood drenched battle or two. It helps visualize the hell these individuals went through while also mixing up what is otherwise a monotonous exchange of politics. War movies have to have heart and/or have spectacular war sequences to really be memorable. 1911 never really gets that far. The film is just under two hours long, but it feels like it's two or three times longer than that since you're basically sitting there listening to people talk the majority of the film. Most of the war scenes are short and feel unbalanced in comparison to the long strings of dialogue. In a foreign film like this, subtitles are crucial to enjoying the feature. The English subtitles for 1911 are so tiny. When rather large blocks of text are put up on the screen it's fairly difficult to try and comprehend what's going on when teeny-tiny text tries to inform you what's occurring, especially when its presented in a white color while sometimes also being on a white background in addition to being so small. There also seems to be so many people in the film you have to try and remember. Dozens of individuals are introduced on screen along with a block of tiny text saying who they are, but most of them you never see again other than that one scene which results in most of them being rather forgettable.

Bullet shells, pocket watches, Jackie Chan showing he can still deliver what people love him for, dismemberment, and being long and drawn out are probably the only things you'll take away from 1911. Some of the imagery in the film is really powerful. Bullet shells and pocket watches are the ones that leave the longest lasting impressions. There is one scene that is really incredible. It's a Jackie Chan scene with no dialogue. It takes place in the trenches out on the battlefield when Huang Xing thinks he sees the woman he loves pass by him. A simple score kind of guides you through the scene that only lasts a minute or two. It was easily the best scene of the film. Two nurses have to cut off a soldier's leg for him to survive in another scene while Chan manages to squeeze in a fight scene that you'll wish lasts longer than it does. That’s maybe ten minutes of scenes in a two hour feature. It’s not unreasonable to try and educate people of a country’s past they don’t know much about or remind a certain people why they’re proud to be who they are. But that doesn’t make a good film. It’s as if 1911 tries to void itself of anything remotely resembling entertainment and settles for crawling at a snail's pace.

1911 is Jackie Chan's 100th film. It should be cause for celebration, but it really isn't. 1911 feels more like a history lesson than a cinematic feature. Despite being beautifully shot, 1911 is very dull, long-winded, and most of all incredibly preachy. There are a few memorable scenes that stand out, but it doesn't really seem worth it in the long run. It feels like a chore just to be able to finish 1911 and that is just so unfortunate especially since Chan also directed the feature. 1911 is a huge accomplishment for Jackie Chan, but is really just a boring experience that tries to force-feed Chinese history down your throat rather than trying to be worthwhile.

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Tags: 1911, movie review, historical, drama, Chinese, war, Jackie Chan
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Warrior (2011) review
09/04/11 at 04:03 PM by EvilButters
I'm not a fan of MMA. I don't hate it and I can sit down and watch it, but I'm not a fan of the sport. I'm also fairly certain I've never seen a Gavin O'Connor directed film until now. To be honest, the one thing that made me want to see this movie was Tom Hardy getting top billing. Hardy's been around awhile, but most probably didn't give the guy much thought until he started showing up in Christopher Nolan films. Bronson was the movie that made me admire his talent though. Warrior is fairly outstanding in general anyway, but could also give even more weight to Hardy's name.

Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) lost everything when he was a drunk. His wife died without him by her bedside and both of his sons cut him off almost completely. His younger son Tommy (Tom Hardy) shows up on his doorstep one day after being in the army wanting nothing more than a coach for the big Spartan MMA tournament coming up. Tommy is withdrawn and doesn't want to share anything about his life and it turns out that there's a reason for that. Meanwhile Paddy's other son Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is facing a foreclosure on his house and was suspended from his teaching job after being caught fighting in the parking lot of a strip club. Brendan enters the tournament in hopes of keeping his family afloat while Tommy's purpose has something to do with his army brethren. Warrior is more of a story about the Conlon family struggling to find it within themselves to forgive each other rather than who will win this massive MMA tournament.

The cast is really phenomenal in this. Nick Nolte manages to outshine both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as far as performances go. While Hardy and Edgerton are off beating the crap out of each other in the cage, Nolte portrays some amazing emotion. You can tell he's a broken man trying to get his life back on track and everything seems to be blowing up in his face. Joel Edgerton really plays up the whole underdog thing. A physics teacher in an MMA tournament? He doesn't stand a chance. Edgerton displays emotion as well, but his performance is otherwise forgettable. Tom Hardy plays the typical tough guy. Nothing is going to stand in his way. He'd rather not talk if he can help it, but he's an absolute beast in that cage. While each lead actor in the movie has their own strengths and weaknesses, they have all the bases covered between the three of them to make everything come together.

Some of the supporting cast is really interesting. This was an intriguing film to follow up leaving "House, MD" for Jennifer Morrison and it's nice to see Kevin Dunn be at least somewhat amusing and not completely irritating like he was in the Transformers movies. It was crazy seeing Kurt Angle in this though, especially as a Russian. It's as if he was playing a modern day version of Ivan Drago who took up MMA instead of boxing and never had anything to say about it.

Warrior did have its shortcomings though. It is a bit cliché and predictable. The whole movie is centered on these two brothers finally fighting in the cage and you can probably guess who's going to win; is it going to be the guy that breaks every rule imaginable with a chip on his shoulder or the kind, warm school teacher with a family that everybody loves? But the whole experience was about more than just who would win that fight though. Thankfully there's a bit of a deeper meaning to it. The camera work got really annoying at times as well though. It was as if it was attempting to go for this gritty, realistic style and it just came off as somebody not being able to hold a camera steadily or terrible perspectives that blocked more of the shot than anything else.

Warrior packs one hell of a punch. Its incredible, emotional, and powerful story is told by a talented cast amongst a flurry of knockout punches and submission holds that'll force you to tap to the spectacular journey you just experienced. Nick Nolte gives a scene stealing performance while Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton pick up the scraps and tend to take pride in delivering what Nolte couldn't follow up on. While Warrior does have its flaws, it's essentially to MMA what The Fighter was to boxing. In the end, Warrior is surprisingly heartfelt and delivers a wonderful message.

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Tags: Warrior, movie review, action, drama, sports, MMA, Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton
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Sarah's Key (2011) review
09/02/11 at 04:39 PM by EvilButters
The events of World War II have always been something that have piqued my interest. Hitler and Nazism are pretty disgusting and there's no arguing that the entire war was completely devastating, but media that was put out during that time period is something special. Cartoons from this era were put out during the prime of Warner Bros and Disney so they're well animated and hilarious while movies set in this time period always seem to strike a nerve other movies can't even scratch the surface of. Then again, there are times when a movie does everything right other than appeal to your particular interests. Sarah's Key is such a film yet still manages to leave a strong impact.

As you can probably imagine, Sarah's Key is kind of a downer. It’s safe to say that anything that uses World War II as a backdrop or setting results in it automatically having a depressing atmosphere. There's an engaging aspect to it as well though. Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance) locks her brother in their bedroom closet and tells the authorities that he took a trip to the country with their father as the rest of the family is gathered up and sent to a concentration camp as part of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942. Meanwhile a journalist in the present named Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) is investigating the events of World War II and is about to be married. On top of an unexpected pregnancy, Julia finds out that the house she's about to inherit belonged to Sarah and her family. While Sarah is dealing with trying to get back to her poor brother trapped in a closet in 1942, Julia is tracking down Sarah's current whereabouts since records indicate she was never sent back to another concentration camp.

Everything about Sarah's Key is very solid. The entire cast puts in some gripping performances. Mélusine Mayance and Kristin Scott Thomas really stand out though. They're both so emotional and driven towards their own set of goals. The writing is superb. Not only does the film transition from the past and present in flawless fashion, but the dialogue is just as impressive. Everything said feels natural as every action taken by on-screen characters seems genuine and feels like something anyone would do in that given situation. There really isn't anything negative to say about Sarah's Key and I can't really argue with anyone who praises the film or calls it a masterpiece. It just didn't seem to affect me the way it did others though. I still recognized the spectacular ending and became a bit white-knuckled once Sarah finally made her way back to what used to be her home, but I didn't love the movie. Without being able to find any flaw in the film, I can only speculate that's because it's a movie that just isn't for me. It just didn't speak to my tastes and interests as I hoped it would.

Sarah's Key is a depressing yet intriguing drama that has all the right pieces to a fantastic film and is in some ways an extraordinary piece of cinema. The past and present are unified in an extremely satisfying way and the ending is really incredible, but it comes down to personal preference in the end; Sarah's Key just isn't the type of movie that some people go to the theater for. Nevertheless Sarah's Key is a fascinating journey into the heart of World War II through modern times.

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Tags: Sarah's Key, movie review, war, drama, Kristin Scott Thomas
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