Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The Grey"

Wow. This is a record. We're only one month into January, and yet here we are with one movie that's already blown me away.

That was certainly fast, in a year where I don't expect a lot of movies to be good. So here we go.

Let's get going with today's movie.

The Grey

Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a guy who kills wolves to keep them from killing people at an outpost in Alaska. On a flight to get out of the worst weather of the year, however, the plane he is on crashes in the middle of the wilderness. Thus, he bands together with the other remaining survivors to attempt to make it out alive while battling a pack of wolves that is always encircling them.

And uncompromising stuff ensues from there. It's of course an action survival film, with some very good set pieces. While some of the cuts are a little too close for comfort, I still had a good sense of what was happening in each action scene, which is always a good thing. The action itself is also compelling, which works on itself. Sure, the CGI on the wolves can be a bit questionable at times, but overall there is still quite a bit of tension involved.

But honestly, I think the action is the least of this movie's concerns. Because there is so much more that happens in this movie than the action. Rather, it's a meditative piece that's more about the characters than anything. And what compelling characters they are. We see their reactions as they are slowly picked off one by one, and we see them think about their situation as it gets more and more hopeless. And it unfolds beautifully, because we eventually come to like all of the characters in the story. This folds back on the action, making it compelling even when it gets difficult to tell what's going on.

And without the right actors in each role, it would've completely fallen apart. Every actor here gives it their all, and while Neeson is undoubtedly the center of the show, the other actors are all up to par with him. Of special note is Frank Grillo, who has a character arc so compelling I don't think I'll ever see a character arc quite like it throughout the rest of the year in film. Everyone else is great as well, and the ensemble overall is incredible.

There's not much more to say about The Grey. If you haven't seen it yet, change that, because it boasts some of the best character drama you can find in an action movie, and it's even better that this kind of movie can do this kind of thing so early in the year. It almost gives me hope for the rest of the movie-going season.



A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

End of the Year Bonanza: Top 5 Favorite Male Performances

Hello again, and welcome back to the End of the Year Bonanza, with a bit of a late entry considering that the Oscars are getting very close to being announced. So here we go.

5) Chris Evans, Captain America

Ah, Steve Rogers. That perfect wholesome American guy who always saves the day because of stuff. This performance is on my list mostly because Evans managed to take an archetype that I personally hate and turn the character who used it into someone I actually rooted for. I didn't find him to be annoying in the least, which is what tends to happen with characters like these. Thus, for taking a character archetype I hated and making it into something I like, I think it's worth taking note of Chris Evans.

4) Gary Oldman, Kung Fu Panda 2

Ah, Gary Oldman. Who knew that you voicing an animated villain would be so incredibly juicy? Well, anyone who watched The Book Of Eli, but I'm not going to mention that atrocity for obvious reasons. But here, Oldman manages to make his villain character incredibly fun. Every so often I need my deliciously fun villain roles, and Gary Oldman provided exactly that.

3) Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

This is on this list for the sheer fact that Owen Wilson is a joy to watch. His comic timing is great, he's got command of a great character, but Owen Wilson here brings a certain charm to the role of Gil Pender that I don't think any other actor could have successfully brought to the role. This is ultimately why Wilson is here on this list, for creating a charming performance that wins the viewer over.

2) Ryan Goseling, Drive

As the old adage goes, 'less is more'. Ryan has less than twenty lines over the course of this movie, but his gestures end up being more important than anything he could possibly say. We see everything that goes down in his mind from how he acts, and somehow the gestures all add up even when he doesn't say that much. It's in this very strange way that Ryan Goseling commands this movie, as the Driver is mysterious in the best way possible.

But as you'll recall, I had a similar character type show up as my number one on the list. So who could top that?


1) Michael Fassbender, Shame

Even before I was making this list, I knew Fassbender was going to be at the top of the list for Shame. X-Men: First Class already solidified that he is a very solid actor, but with his performance in Shame... Shame is one of those movies that hinges on an electrifying lead performance, and in this Fassbender throws himself into his character. To say that Fassbender is astounding in Shame is something of an understatement, as he shows us the many complexities of Brandon's sex life and how it affects his home life, all while doing things that I imagine would make most other actors run away in fright.


So those are my favorite roles of the year. Now... Now we have to move on to other things.

Like my favorite performances from an actress.

I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

Okay, so... I decided I'll be taking a break with my end of the year bonanza, but only temporarily. Why?

Well, I had some minor catching up to do for some releases that came out at the end of the year. So here we are.

And what are we talking about?

Sexual violence, of course. Let's take it away with today's movie!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a disgraced journalist who gets contacted by Henrik (Christopher Plummer) to look into the mysterious disappearance/possible murder of his grand-niece Harriet. Mikael thus comes over to a different part of Sweden to investigate, where he eventually enlists the help of teen hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to find out what happened to Harriet.

This is... a very interesting movie. It's a thriller, of course, which requires great pacing all on its own. In that... it's kind of iffy. On the one hand, the murder mystery that occupies almost the whole film is intriguing and very well-plotted, but on the other, when the murder mystery is done the movie limps to its final shot for a little over ten minutes too long. Uneven pacing issues like this drag the film down, but the parts that do work really work. And thankfully, we get more parts that work than parts that don't work, which means that the movie is a tense, very arresting movie. Well, that is, while the murder mystery is still going on.

And this movie is also harsh and uncompromising in every sense. There's something to be said about the fact that this movie's story has tons of sexual violence in it, and in this regard this movie takes no prisoners. Graphic depictions of rape, uncompromising angles of talking about the act... it's all so tightly controlled that in some bizarre way every element works to its advantage.

And that's something I think goes for the performances. It's clear that director David Fincher has got tight control in the acting in this movie, and it works exactly how it should. Daniel Craig is of course very good as Blomkvist, though the fact that his British accent stood out amidst a sea of false-Swedish accents was a little distracting at times. Stellan Skarsgard as the main bad guy works wonderfully as the villain, giving an understated performance while waiting for just the right time to rear his ugly head. And as for Rooney Mara, I'll only say this: she's come a looooooooooooooooong way from when she starred in the abysmal Nightmare on Elm Street remake with the star-making role of Lisbeth.

So with a reasonably good plot, excellent acting, and an uncompromising vision, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a very good movie. Is it great? I don't think so: there are severe pacing issues with the third act that means that the movie kind of overstays its welcome. But when it works, it really works.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

End of the Year Bonanza 2011: 5 Worst Movies

Oh hello again. Missed me?

Yeah, sorry about the silence on my end. I've had a heck of a time here, running around doing things. But now, things have cooled down slightly, and I'm able to get back to this.

So... seeing as how I was unable to watch a movie on my last night in Boston, I thought I'd get to the chase with the end of the year show. So as with last year, I'll supply some of my best and worst lists for the year.

So I'll start us off with the movies I really didn't like. Let's get to it:


5. Sanctum

This goes relatively low on the list. While it was bad, it was thankfully mostly inoffensive. I felt the plot just went wherever it wanted to, I felt the characters were all cardboard cut-outs, and some of the interactions baffled me. But it was bad enough to warrant a place on this list, so there we go.

4. Priest

This one, was a movie I was expecting to be okay at least. I mean, it's vampires being fought by religious guys weilding all kinds of Jesus-themed weaponry! How could that not be awesome? Well, it wasn't awesome, because the plot was a mess, the characters were flat, they had a terrible, terrible screenplay to work off of, and it felt like a movie that was fighting against its rating. Oh, and the 3D was atrocious. That too.

3. Battle: Los Angeles

Aside from being noisy and headache-inducing, I just found this movie to be incredibly dull. It's a shame, because it had the potential to be so much more than it was. I was hoping it could be a movie that explored the hopelessness of fighting against an alien invasion. Instead, it became just another military-style "America f*** yeah" movie which laid on the army-related cliches, flat characters, and really incomprehensible action scenes as much as they could. The end result was a really, really dull movie.

2. Abduction

If I had to give the above three movies any credit, though, it's that they're all only boring. Abduction... Now that actually really angered me. It's a bad sign when notable actors can't elevate the screenplay they're working with, so I'll just put that out there now. But what really gets me about this movie is how the people behind it somehow didn't realize how audience-insultingly stupid the screenplay really is. The screenplay of this movie is offensively stupid, to the point where I wanted to hit the screenwriter over the head.

As offensively stupid as it is, though, it doesn't change a thing about the movie I hated most this year...

1. Atlas Shrugged Part 1

The fact that this is the first movie I've ever walked out of in my life should tell you everything you need to know about why this movie is in this slot in the list. It's not even that I don't agree with Ayn Rand's politics (which, let's face it, are a huge piece of every fictional work she ever wrote): I was able to sit through The Fountainhead and actually enjoy it even through its preachy parts. No, I hated Atlas Shrugged Part 1 because it was a completely incompetent production on every level. It was noticeably cheap, it had truly atrocious acting, it had an unengaging, flat script that couldn't make economic/political conversations interesting, and just felt rushed. I'm pretty sure that Ayn Rand herself would have disowned this adaptation simply on the strength of how bad it is.


And that's my list.

So next time? You'll be seeing another list on my favorite performances of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.