‘Hanna’ holds you tight — then drops you flat
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Saoirse Ronan stars as the teenaged title character in Joe Wright’s adventure thriller, ‘Hanna,’ a Focus Features release.
Movies always take reality and stretch it, and I was pleased that “Hanna” stayed within a fairly believable realm.
That is, until it crapped all over it.
“Hanna,” details the teenage life of Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) as she goes from living in the middle of nowhere to kicking ass and taking names in Morocco and Germany. It’s clear that her supposed father, Erik Heller (Eric Bana), has been on the run for some time, and both of them are trying to defeat Marissa Wielger (Cate Blanchett) before she defeats them.
The movie doesn’t really go into detail about why Wiegler is going after the two of them. All the audience knows is that she killed Hanna’s mother, and if Hanna doesn’t kill her, Wielger will kill them both.
Truly, for a PG-13 action movie, that’s really all you need. It’s entertaining enough to see Heller train Hanna to survive – you don’t really need specific details as to why the woman is trying to kill her, surprisingly.
Her life in the woods is unlike anything most people would ever experience. She kills her own food, shooting them in the head if she misses their heart, all while Heller trains her to be constantly vigilant. He catches her off-guard, swinging her to the ground if she’s not careful. Saoirse, who is only 17 herself, is perfect for the part, and her pale skin and piercing eyes only contribute to her portrayed wildness.
I appreciated having a movie that shows a young, spindly, curious teenager take charge and be the main ass-kicker in a movie. Most action movies (and I’m careful to call it an action movie – action enthusiasts will probably be disappointed) star big, burly men (Vin Diesel, Dwyane Johnson), normal-sized men (Matt Damon) or overly sexed women (Angelina Jolie).
“Hanna” gave you the feeling that if you were trained for years by Eric Bana in the wintery woods, you too might be able to take out multiple people without a weapon, and without batting an eye.
But then, they ruined it.
Spoiler alert: Near the end of the movie, we find out that the reason Blanchett’s character has been chasing Hanna is because she created her, kind of. Hanna was part of an experiment Wiegler conducted years ago to try and breed humans who would be perfect soldiers: a higher percentage of muscle, a lowered sense of fear, very little pity – you get the idea.
Wiegler killed off all of her other experiments, but Hanna got away.
Instead of it being all about this awesome girl, we’re suddenly told that she’s only awesome because of some genetic mutation that she has. It’s not because she was trained, because she’s smart, because she’s a normal girl in extraordinary conditions.
She’s, as she describes herself, “a freak.”
After that, I checked out of the movie. It was so much more interesting to think of this girl as a teenager, and not some altered experiment.
Besides, if she was a normal human, I’d be scouting out Bana right now – because who doesn’t want to kick ass?
Runtime: 111 minutes
‘Prom’ the biggest flop of the year?
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Aimee Teegarden and Thomas McDonell star in ‘Prom.’
I now remember why I didn’t attend my high school prom.
The movie “Prom,” starring Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell and DeVaughn Nixon, may be the worst movie and biggest flop of 2011.
The movie tells the story of several high school teenagers preparing to attend their high school prom.
Obviously, you have the typical high school drama and screaming girls. But that’s about it.
Literally, that’s all the movie consists of.
This Disney film is expected to target high school students who’re getting ready to attend their senior prom. However, the film is so out of sync with today’s teenagers that it’s not even worth renting.
I understand that I’m no longer the target of Disney films, but I’m only one year removed from high school and I know this movie was nothing like my experience.
“Prom” is simply trash.
Minus Teegarden and McDonell, the acting in the movie was horrible. The only real positive to this movie, and I had to search pretty deep, is Teegarden. The former “Friday Night Lights” star takes the lead in this movie and performs it well. She plays Nova Prescott, the school’s class president who plans the prom.
She forms a relationship with school bad-boy Jesse (McDonell), as he’s forced to help her decorate and plan the school’s prom. As the movie progresses, you soon learn that Jesse has a sweet and sensitive side, and the only reason he cuts class is to pick up his little brother from school. This just seems to be a ploy from Disney in hopes that you’ll forget how bad the movie was.
Oh, did I mention that the movie titled “Prom” only displays about five minutes of the actual prom? Seriously, they should have named this movie “Planning Prom.”
This was terrible to view in theaters, and I imagine I would only get distracted if I tried watching from home. It’s not worth the price of admission and it certainly won’t be worth renting.
Runtime: 103 minutes
‘Fast Five’ takes it to a new gear
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Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner and Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto in Universal Pictures’ ‘Fast Five.’
It may be hard to believe that the fifth film in a franchise could be the best one, but “Fast Five” made me a believer. The newest installment in the “Fast and the Furious” series takes all the greatest hits from the past and delivers a fast-paced jolt of adrenaline that left me wanting more.
Series vets Paul Walker and Vin Diesel return as Brian O’Connor and Dominic Toretto. And much like the previous versions, reality is thrown out the driver’s side window in place of insane stunts and unbelievable driving.
“Fast Five” features everything an action film fan can ask for: Fast cars, gorgeous women, a few good laughs and a plot that isn’t so ridiculous that it takes away from what’s going on.
Fans of the series will recognize the majority of the cast from the earlier films and will appreciate their relationships throughout the movie. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson joins the cast as a special-unit team leader out to capture Toretto and his posse.
I loved everything about this movie from start to finish. While I can say that the actual acting leaves a bit to be desired, I didn’t go into the theatre expecting much of a performance in that aspect.
The car chase during the final 20 minutes was worth the price of admission alone and kept me on the edge of my seat.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-watch, funny, attention-grabbing flick, “Fast Five” is for you. Be sure to stay after the credits for a shocking turn of events that wraps up the film nicely.
Runtime: 130 minutes
‘Scream 4’ doesn’t skip a frightening beat
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Courteney Cox in the Wes Craven film ‘Scream 4.’
It’s like “Scream 1,” “Scream 2” and “Scream 3” —seriously. It’s almost identical.
But that’s what makes it so good.
“Scream 4,” starring David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts takes place 10 years after “Scream 3,” when Sidney Prescott (Campbell) decides to return to the fictional town of Woodsbro for the release of her new book “Out of Darkness.”
Upon her return, Ghostface makes a comeback to try and slay the women he failed to kill in the previous three installments of the series. Ghostface follows the usual protocol of killing off several teenagers at different events before the pass is made at Prescott.
It would seem that after four different movies in the series, they would start to get boring. With the “Scream” franchise, however, that was not the case. It was just as corny and melodramatic as all its predecessors, which is what fans of the series have come to love.
The movie is full of stabbings, blood, humor and characters who obviously lack any form of intelligence.
Take for instance a scene where Ghostface is chasing Prescott’s publicist, Rebecca Walters (Alison Brie).
Walters successfully eludes Ghostface by getting into her vehicle. Instead of staying in her vehicle, Walters decides to get out of her car and make a run for the parking structure door … you can pretty much guess what happens after the door turns out to be locked.
Perhaps the best features of “Scream 4” were the twists and turns the plot takes throughout the movie. You’re left guessing who’s behind the mask of Ghostface, and the movie successfully directs you to believe it’s a certain character.
However, the ending is truly a shocker. Sure, lots of movies give surprise endings that the audience truly can’t expect, but none have done it better than “Scream 4.”
The ending was phenomenal, the characters were as dumb as ever and the movie was just as crazy as in the past. Even though it has been 11 years since the last installment, “Scream 4” didn’t skip a single beat.
Runtime: 111 minutes
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Danny McBride as Thadeous and James Franco as Fabious in adventure fantasy ‘Your Highness.’
Funny, weird, sick, engaging and classless. “Your Highness” was all over the map. Kinda like how you might feel if you’re, uh, high.
And it definitely deserves the R rating.
I realize this movie was supposed to be a spoof on medieval-fantasy flicks. But even so, the misplaced swearing, cheesy lines and displaced scenes left me dazed and confused. But don’t get me wrong, the film had its moments — every 25 minutes or so.
Co-writer Danny McBride stars as Thaddeus, the second-rate, whimpy, half-baked, pot-bellied prince, who is forced by his father, King Tallious (Charles Dance), to go on a quest with his handsome, heroic, can-do-no-wrong brother, Fabious (James Franco) to save his brother’s bride, Belldonna (Zooey Deschanel), from being raped by the “satanic” wizard, Leezar (Justin Theroux).
During their quest, the two run into Isabel (Natalie Portman), a fearless warrior on a mission, and Thaddeus falls madly in love with her. There are many epic battles along the way, including fighting a metaphoric four-headed snake to the death.
However, the vulgar jokes, inappropriate innuendos and graphic violent scenes may leave some viewers wondering: Just how far is too far?
A Yoda look-alike psychic wizard that is also a child molester gives the brothers secret information on how to solve their quest. But before they depart, they must give the wizard a “happy ending.”
A Minotaur attempts to “get it on” with Thaddeus’ male assistant in the labyrinth. Thaddeus kills the beast, severs its penis and then wears it around his neck for many subsequent scenes, making some viewers very uneasy.
Another scene includes hundreds of topless girls surrounding a repulsive, ugly male leader that is reminiscent of a soft-porn movie.
Portman mentions something to the tune of “feeling something” in her beaver.
The movie was over the top. Or should I say, below the belt?
In addition, the whole story is set on the premise of a woman about to be raped as the danger that must be averted — a notion that cannot sit well with many victims of sexual assault.
However, I’ll still give the flick a couple thumbs up. The movie was silly and exciting, and James Franco did a superb job of acting and entertaining the audience.
The action had great flow and pace even though it lacked believability at times. It’s worth checking out, but here’s a tip: It may help to be in an “altered state” when you go to see it.
Runtime: 102 minutes Rated: R
No blue feelings about fiesty, heartfelt ‘Rio’
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Rafael the Toucan (voiced by George Lopez), Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway) in the scene from 20th Century Fox’s animation adventure ‘Rio.’
Who better than Jesse Eisenberg to play a rare, nerdy bird who does not know how to fly? And who better than the Brazilian director of the brilliant “Ice Age,” Carlos Saldanha, to make a movie about Carnival and Rio de Janeiro?
With the two of them combined, plus stars like Anne Hathaway, Jamie Fox, will-i-am and George Lopez, “Rio,” the animated movie, is guaranteed entertainment for kids, parents — and homesick Brazilians.
Blu is a pet bird that did not learn how to fly. His was raised by Linda in a small, cold and safe town in Minnesota. The fun begins when Linda is convinced to take him to Rio, Brazil to mate with Jewel, the last female macaw of the Blu’s species.
There, Blu finds not only a feisty, wild Jewel, played by Hathaway, but also a Carnival-obsessed city and smugglers ready to make some money with the rare birds. Kidnapped and trying to find his way back home, Blu finds friendship, love — and his true bird instinct.
Granted, “Rio” is full of stereotypes, like Brazilians who only care about samba, soccer and Carnival. But Saldanha also includes some important social issues, highly accurate images of the city and a cute, engaging love story.
Good plot, great soundtrack and a well-done movie!
Runtime: 96 minutes
Of darkness and light, ‘The Photograph’ is more than a picture
courtesy of Yadi Sugandi
Scene from ‘The Photograph,’ an Indonesian film shown by the WCC Arts Club.
“The Photograph” is about a young woman named Sita who is supporting her young daughter and grandmother by working as a prostitute and a singer. She begs Mr. Johan, a photographer, to allow her to rent a room and to pay her rent by working for him.
Shown recently by the Washtenaw Community College Arts Club as part of the Global Lens Film Initiative, the often-depressing movie can move an audience to tears.
Directed by Nan Achnas, it contains graphic scenes of abuse. Yet, it had several redeeming moments.
There were some truly funny scenes, and it was a movie that touched my heart. The film is Indonesian, told in few words, yet it was easy to understand — even without the English subtitles.
The best part of this movie is the character Mr. Johan. It begins with him looking through some of his pictures and taking photographs. Then, he explains that he is going to die soon. Just as it is a movie about how difficult it is for Sita to survive without her family and with very little money, it is a movie about Mr. Johan coming to terms with how he lived his life.
The most beautiful scenes are when Sita takes Mr. Johan to see the beach for the last time. It brings them together and shows that although they are very different people, they care about each other deeply.
There are so many poignant scenes that convey so much through a photograph or even just a look between the characters. The acting is superb.
Though morbid at times, this movie is worth seeing. Despite its dark tones, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. It brings cultures together by telling a story that all can relate to.
Runtime: 98 minutes
‘Electroma’ asks ultimate question and goes blank
BENJAMIN MICHAEL SOLIS
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Androids wear ‘new skin’ in ‘Electroma.’
Some of the best movies are the ones in which the main characters are longing for something more than what their average lives have in store for them.
But when you get past all the soul-searching and existential dribble, the real messages of these films is that human beings just want to fit in and be loved.
So what do you want out of life if you’re a robot?
Why, to be human, of course.
Following two cyborgs on their quest to become Homo sapiens, Daft Punk’s “Electroma” explores just what it takes to step away from the norm.
Yet aside from an intriguing visual palette an awesome soundtrack, the French musicians retell a story that has existed for ages: two men are bored with their humdrum lifestyle and wish for an exhilarating change of pace. Usually this is done through some mid-life crisis, like joining a motorcycle gang.
But in “Electroma,” the struggle is augmented by a simple and tasteless metaphor: the everyday grind is for robots, and the only way to really live is to indulge all of your desires, which makes humans look like nothing more than hedonists.
Don’t get me wrong — this was not a bad movie.
It was just too surreal and cerebral to really get into.
I was also under the impression that Daft Punk would be producing all of the music for the movie, seeing as how the duo directed the film and had their on-stage costumes drape the actors who portrayed them.
This was, unfortunately, not the case.
Sure, “Electroma” featured one of my favorite Brian Eno songs, but that wasn’t enough to keep me glued down to the movie.
With the success of “Tron Legacy,” for which Daft Punk did score, the hope is that in the future, the musicians will stick to what they do best when they experiment with film — play their own music.
Runtime: 74 minutes
‘Source Code’ gives average a new meaning
courtesy of Jonathan Wenk
Actors Jeffrey Wright and Vera Farmiga star as Air Force employees in ‘Source Code.’
It had an interesting concept and that’s exactly what made the movie bearable.
“Source Code,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan, has to be the most average movie mankind has ever seen. Nothing in the movie was done exceptionally well, but nothing was done poorly enough to make me want to leave the theater.
It was just really average.
The “Source Code” is a machine that can take humans back in time, but only back far enough to veiw the last eight minutes of a dead person’s life. It’s a machine used by the United States Air Force to, hopefully, save lives for living Americans.
In this case, the machine is used to send Cpt. Colter Stevens onto a bomb-rigged train to figure out who planted the bomb and where the bomb is located, in hopes of stopping the terrorist from doing more damage.
Stevens is at first confused by what’s going on, but quickly identifies the situation. He fails, at first, but eventually is informed about what’s going on. Every time he fails, he’s briefed and sent back in to the train. This happens about 10 times.
While it would seem repetitive and boring to watch the same situation 10 times, the filmmakers actually do a decent job at keeping the audience engaged. Every time Stevens occupies the train, something new and eventful occurs, but nothing so breathtaking that it makes the audience want to see it again.
The special effects were average, the acting was average and the dialogue was average. It’s the type of film that stars one big-name actor, a few average actresses and gives the chance for a few other actors to make names for themselves, but doesn’t do anything risky enough to ruin anyone’s reputation.
In fact, before the movie even began, it’s human instinct to guess who the terrorist on the train is.
Unfortunately, the movie does a poor job at hiding it, and it was almost obvious who the terrorist was.
While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t necessarily good either. “Source Code” may as well be the dictionary definition for mediocrity.
Runtime: 93 minutes
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Actor James Marsden runs and hurdles over hedges in the movie ‘Hop.’
A bunny that talks and craps jelly beans? Really?
“Hop,” promoted as a great family movie, is really more for junior’s taste. I was filing my nails through many of the scenes, although the computer-generated graphics of the candy factory on Easter Island could be fascinating, if you get excited by the site of colorful, sugary treats.
As the story goes, the Easter Bunny (E.B.), voiced by Russell Brand, is commissioned to take over for his father (voiced by Hugh Laurie) as the next Easter Bunny and deliver treats to all the boys and girls of the world.
But E.B. doesn’t want to take the reins. He has other interests in mind such as being a famous rock star and playing the drums. He runs away from Easter Island through the super transport system and ends up in front of the Hollywood sign.
This is where he meets eye-candy man, James Marsden, who plays Fred O’Hare, a young 20-something jobless delinquent who is under pressure from his parents (Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins) to find a career. His sister (Kaley Cuoco) suggests he escape the chaos for a bit and house sit for her boss.
On his way to the house, O’Hare runs over E.B. After O’Hare discovers the bunny can talk, the two become entangled in each others’ lives.
On Easter Island, E.B.’s father is devastated about his missing son, but the sneaky chick, Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), who’s in charge of the candy factory, is actually pleased E.B. is missing.
Carlos plots to take over the factory, get rid of all the bunnies and become the next Easter Chick for the whole world.
Some of the humor in this film is just plain stupid. In one scene, O’Hare’s sister actually eats the jelly beans E.B. just pooped. Not that funny. Actually, gross.
“I thought the movie was cool, but more for little kids,” said 12-year-old Jack Douglass from Ann Arbor.
I agree with Douglass.
“Hop” is a movie for kiddies under 10. However, the mostly animated movie gets a bonus point because there are actually real human actors in the movie. Actor David Hasselhoff and late-night comedian Chelsea Handler make guest appearances in the film, which is sure to excite some.
If you’re kinda sappy, sentimental and like to watch children’s movies, then this is sure a treat for you. But if not, my advice to you is to bring your smart phone to keep you busy while your kids are enjoying the flick.
Runtime: 95 minutes Rated: PG