Warrior | Film Review

Almost everything about “Warrior” makes me want to hate it. First of all, seeing a film about two brothers who fight UFC, have an extremely troubled childhood separately, and finally become matched up against each other in the biggest MMA fight of all time didn’t excite me at all. However, despite innumerable recycled fight-movie cliches, “Warrior” tells a real story constructed with timeless and believable characters. It comes so scarily close to a self-parody that you can’t fathom why each predictable component is so compelling. I guess it’s the same reason the Super Bowl is watched every year. It’s simply made anew.

Nick Nolte delivers a scathing performance as the disowned alcoholic father and ex-trainer who’s making his way through the 12 steps with his estranged sons. Tom Hardy is continuing to make his presence known, fitting the profile of one of his most highly anticipated characters to come, playing Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Australian TV star Joel Edgerton pleasantly surprises as the underdog brother and father/physics teacher who’s just trying to pay the mortgage after struggling to finance his daughter’s heart surgery.

It’s all set up in such an obvious and heartbreaking way, but somehow “Warrior” grows into an emotional juggernaut, holding the audience’s breath hostage during every last bout in the cage. This film forces you to respect the real dangers of MMA, and offers a front row seat to the pain.

Beneath all these layered characters, it never becomes extremely clear whose side we should find ourselves on; each player carries a tragic burden that only seems manageable with that five million-dollar championship purse. Then suddenly, as if by some cliche-busting miracle, the audience shifts focus from a climax fueled by victory to one founded on compassion and true forgiveness. This gut-wrenching spectacle comes to a close leaving everyone involved visibly exhausted, albeit palpably exhilarated.

Review by Dylan Bliss

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Attack the Block | Film Review

“Attack the Block” joins a gang of South-London ruffians on a rather busy night for the British youth. As the boys attempt to mug a woman, a visitor rockets down from the sky and into a nearby car. With regard to not spoiling the relatively basic plot, it’s needless to say the boys dig themselves far deeper than they planned and find themselves at the center of an invasion of “big alien gorilla, wolf mothafuckas” - all seemingly intent on tearing this motley crew of British badasses with a bedtime limb from limb.

Joe Cornish (Shaun of the Dead), writes and directs this uniquely contemporary take on an the alien movie blueprint, blended with elements of elder cult films like ‘The Warriors.’ Through Cornish’s witty scripts, these characters (specifically lead John Boyega) leap off the page and into a somewhat believable world of alien invasions. Transforming the audience from skeptics into believers who cheer on a rag-tag band of lowly London hoodlums as they elevate themselves from scum to heroes.

I’m somewhat reluctant to call this an “alien movie,” because in this age of film with most extraterrestrial flicks being described as Spielberg-ian and lacking in variety, it’s hard to find an alien movie that can appease all the critics. So Cornish goes simpler, he focuses of the heart - his characters. There’s no way audiences could ever care about these kids; entitled brats who curse authority but listen to their mums, weed-addled Discovery Channel junkies, and snot-nosed punks with nothing but super-soakers and dumb ideas, if Cornish hadn’t let you care about them; root for them, even.

Armed with fireworks, scooters and whatever pointy thing was around at the time, Cornish’s delinquents take on the strangest adversary London’s ever faced (the big alien gorilla, wolf mothafuckas, in case you forgot.) “Attack the Block” is a well put together alien-movie-on-a-budget, and retains all the charm of that “B movie” mentality, with A+ execution. Regardless to the seemingly niche audience it seems geared towards, “Attack The Block” has a big heart and wide appeal that will certainly blossom on DVD once it gets in the right hands; it’s one of the finest films of the year.

Review by Mitch McCann

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Crazy, Stupid, Love | Film Review

Some men have all the luck, and in the case of Crazy, Stupid, Love that man is Steve Carell. Not only has Carell’s character Cal been married to an ageless wonder, Julianne Moore, for the past 25 years but he also gets to have fling with the sexiest 45 year-old woman in America, Maresa Tomei, and several younger woman, then to top it off, the gorgeous 17 year-old who babysits his kids is infatuated with him. Even by Hollywood standards the man is pretty damn lucky.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is the story about Cal whose wife (Julianne Moore) asks for a divorce after 25 years of marriage. As is expected, this throws Carell’s life into chaos and eventually he finds himself at the hands of a womanizing guru played by the film’s biggest surprise, Ryan Gosling.  Gosling, known for his more demanding dramatic roles, not only holds his comedic own against the likes of Carell and Emma Stone, but on more than one occasion is able to steal scenes right from under them. 

The story gets away from itself on more than one occasion, whereas at least three times it looks like the film is about to wrap up only to add another element to the story, I must say it was rather entertaining and a lot of fun. It is definitely fluff and its message of “love can conquer all” should not be taken seriously, but it’s funny enough to not be a waste of your time.

Review by Greg Bright

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Transformers 3 | Film Review

There really is no film director in the world like Michael Bay. I don’t necessarily mean that as a positive or negative statement, it’s just that there is no director who understands action elements so well, I would say one of the finest, yet has no idea how to make a movie around them. And his latest film is exactly the same way. In fact, I may go so far as too call it his best film to date.

Now, don’t take that last statement as an endorsement of the film, more like the only positive thing I have to say about it. The film, much like the second one, is a jumbled mess more concerned with being cool, then being coherent. After some overdone attempts to blend historical events with its fictional story, the film starts us off with a long shot of our new leading ladies (barely) clothed ass.  An exploitation of the female body we’ve all come to accept from Bay. 

All of this should have been things I expected but my issue is that Bay promised this film was different. That he was concerned with the story and wanted to make a better film. Now I wasn’t expecting some Terrence Malick masterpiece like The Tree of Life but I was expecting it to be a better movie then, say, Transformers 2. And he promised it would be, but, of course, it wasn’t. 

I see no reason to review any more of this film other than to say why would you waste your money on this film when you can see all the action scenes in the trailers that are all over the internet and most of them in HD! And if you want to see woman wearing hardly any clothes, God made search engines for a reason people.

Review by Greg Bright

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Wide Angle Lens: Vol. 5

Today we are going to talk about great film editing.

The great American director Stanley Kubrick once said that “Editing is the only thing original in film.” I would say that is slightly over-the-top but I will agree that there may not be anything more important in film than editing.

Editing can make or break a movie. Editing is what made Inception so amazing, and what made The Green Hornet so awful. It is more than just piecing together a movie, it is creating a film. Anytime you experience an awkward moment, or feel that a movie is moving too slow or too fast that is an editing problem. The entire flow and rhythm of a movie is created in the editing room.

While a director usually gets all the credit for the film it is the editor who takes the film and turns it into a legitimate piece of art. In inception every cut and not just action cuts made the film better. In dialogue sequences they knew when to show each character and when to leave characters off screen. It is this kind of simple stuff that makes one editor better than another.

Do both characters need to be shown? Does this action need to happen on-screen? These kinds of decisions are made by the editor and really make a film great or make it suck. If it is done poorly, like in The Green Hornet, you get awkward scenes like the first scene in that film where the editor kept cutting between characters and not letting us see the reactions. This kept the scene from having the laughs it should have had.

Editing is really the foundation of a film. Everything else, the performances, the cinematography all work around what has been edited into the movie and in what order. All great films have great editing. They may not have great cinematography or great acting or even great style but they always have to be well edited. Until next time, thanks for reading!

Films to see and skip:

See: Claire Denis’ White Material – Extremely dark in its premise, the film deals with just how much a person can take before their humanity is compromised. Hard to watch at times but it’s a film that reminds you why the medium is still important.

Skip: Cedar Rapids – Speaking of editing, this film could have used it. Awkward cuts, weird transitions and most importantly not all that funny. John C. Reilly is the only bright spot. 

Wide Angle Lens: Vol. 4

Continuing my series on what makes a movie great I’ll be spending this column discussing film acting and what makes a great performance.

When you watch The King’s Speech what really sets Colin Firth’s performance above everything else about the film it isn’t the way he stutters or the way he talks to other characters, no, it is the way he underplays the role. He never shouts or exaggerates any emotions but instead he subtly uses facial expressions to show you how he feels. A slight move of the mouth or the way he looks slightly down when his father looks at him is what gives the performance its heart and soul.

That is film acting. It isn’t exaggerated like the theater and it isn’t dependent on how the dialogue is said like television but instead it is about underplaying the role and using the slightest facial expressions to show the audience what the character is feeling.

Think back on Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan. Her entire performance was based on her facial expressions. The slightest movement of her face told you all you needed to know about what the character was feeling. I would even go so far as to say sometimes she was slightly over-the-top in her expressions.

Even in their dialogue an actor must say the lines in an under-performing manner. What is the worst part about Christian Bale as Batman? It is the way he delivers his lines as Batman, it is so over-the-top it borderlines on cheesy. It’s not right because he is putting too much effort into trying to make a great performance.

That is what makes a great performance from a mediocre performance in film acting. The actor cannot make his performance known. If he is too obvious in his efforts (Bale as Batman) it hurts the performance.An actor must underplay the role so that they do not allow the audience to become aware of the performance.

Films to see and skip:

See: Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage (1973) – Brutal, bleak, and most importantly honest. It strips down a marriage showing us “scenes” over a period of ten years of a marriage. The acting is perfect and the cinematography will blow you away.

Skip: Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963) – The only real word to discuss this film is boring. I love most of Godard’s work but this one just felt stiff and dull.