Film Review : The Hunt (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%
#136 on IMDB Top 250

Best Actor at Cannes Film Festival – Mads Mikkelsen
Palme d’Or Nominee – Thomas Vinterberg

Directed By – Thomas Vinterberg
Starring – Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, and Lasse Fogelstrøm

A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.

I picked a bad set of films to watch back to back.

This was fantastic. Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg crafts a simple and yet maddeningly complex tale of a lie traveling further than it ever should. The story centers around Lucas (Mikkelsen) who is dealing with a custody battle over his son and a new job at a kindergarten. Through the mind and maturity of a six year old comes a lie of momentous proportions and the repercussions of that lie. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say that the lie has to do with pedophilia.

The story reads like an episode of Law and Order: SVU. That’s not the driving force behind this film. One of them is Mads Mikkelsen but we’ll get to that in a minute. The driving force behind this film is knowing the truth. We’re told Lucas is innocent from the beginning and we’re taken along the ride with Lucas as he goes through the inevitable motions. These motion are not pretty. They are dark and lonely. It’s such a delicate subject that we still haven’t figured out how to deal with it as a society. Do we automatically believe the children? Their minds are still trying to comprehend the rest of the world. They can’t be tried for crimes yet can completely shatter the lives of innocent people. Does that mean we can’t listen to them? I’d say 99 times out of a 100 those children are telling the truth, but how do we know? We go through the motions and try to collect evidence and most often than not put evil people behind bars. What about the one? What about the one who is innocent? It doesn’t matter if the evidence proofs he isn’t guilty. Rumors spread like plague and reputations can sometimes never recover. Victims of wrongful accusations as serious as this are literally deer in the sights of every single person with knowledge of such accusations, and they all have rifles. The Hunt is about just that, a hunt of a target. Whether that target is guilty or not, it’s not going to stop the hunt. There will always be a hunter.

Mads Mikkelsen, who is not often asked to play a character who demands our sympathy, is mesmerizing in his role as Lucas. It’s a powerful performance that really can’t be described due to how important it is to look into his eyes on every take. They tell the story. They tell the emotion. The supporting cast was perfect in every way they needed to be. The children, particularly the accuser all help turn this disturbing yet simple tale into something special. It’s a character study on the human psyche when faced with a determined evil. It’s an important film albeit difficult to watch. It’s beautifully shot in the forests of Denmark and will most certainly be receiving awards recognition. Mikkelsen gives one of the performances of the year and the film itself is in my top ten. I just need to think about how far it will travel.


Film Review – Drinking Buddies

IMDB Score – 6.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%

Directed By – Joe Swanberg
Starring – Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston

Luke and Kate are co-workers at a Chicago brewery, where they spend their days drinking and flirting. They’re perfect for each other, except that they’re both in relationships.

First let me start off saying that I don’t understand this poster. It’s the only poster I’ve seen for this movie and Jake Johnson doesn’t have a beard, which he does for the entire movie. Odd. I guess that really doesn’t matter.

So I’ve been actively trying to see more films that delve into the “romance” genre. I’m still not going to watching any Nicholas Sparks adaptions but a balanced film resume is important because people won’t take you seriously otherwise. Some of my favorite films dive into this category (Lost in Translation, Away We Go, Slumdog Millionaire) and while Drinking Buddies isn’t going to reach that kind of pantheon, I will say I quite enjoyed it.

You’re not going to a classic story of love in this and I think that’s why I liked it so much. It felt more real than most films and there’s a very good reason for that. The film is entirely improvised. Swanberg did a very interesting thing and just let the film play out in however direction it went. The film had a basics story structure but the acting was completely improvised by the cast as there was no script. Besides Wilde, whom I’ve never really seen act besides seeing her in House and a horrible Ryan Reynolds movie I’m still binge drinking to forget, I’m a fan of the major players. Jake Johnson needs to be in more things. He and Wilde were excellent together and really seemed to make the other shine. I honestly didn’t think Olivia Wilde was going to be a good actress but she was fantastic. Her role was a little bit like Greta Gerwig’s character in Frances Ha minus the incredible amount of quirk. Livingston and Kendrick, while not in the film as much as the other two, were both very good and played their characters well considering none of them had a script to work with. What I’m trying to say is that the acting was really good on all accounts here.

Swanberg has some serious talent. I almost decided to skip this because Swanberg was a director on the awful V/H/S but if he sticks with his passion projects, which this seemed to me to be, then I think he has a bright future ahead of him. Some may think that this film is a hipsters dream. The characters work at a brewery. Some have beards and ride bikes to and from their studio apartments and the bar they hang out at has a couch in it but I just found it to be a very well made film that was highlighted by fantastic improvised performances.


Film Review : A Hijacking (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%

Directed By – Tobias Lindholm
Starring – Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Abdihakin Asgar

The crew of a Danish cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates who proceed to engage in escalating negotiations with authorities in Copenhagen.

People who watch a lot of movie notice a trend once or twice a year. It’s the trend of the doubles. Two movies, sometime three or four, come out around the same time that are about the same thing. We saw it with Armageddon and Deep Impact, Mission to Mars and Red Planet, and most recently White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen. Earlier this month I reviewed Captain Phillips and found it to be a completely good film throughout and as tense as they come. Captain Phillips, like A Hijacking are basically the same movie plot wise. They just so happen to be entirely different in every other way.

A Hijacking is not your typical action thriller. Hell, there really isn’t much action. A Hijacking is a slow burn as hostage movies come and really plays with the viewers head. Psychology when dealing with a hostage situation can get very interesting very quick and it actually took me a while to go from “why the hell won’t this problem get resolved quicker” to thinking “well, this is sort of making sense”. Piracy is not something that you can just pay to go away. You feed the monster and it only gets bigger and stronger. It takes a lot of effort not to scream at the screen urging the characters of this film to make different decisions and for that the film takes a hell of a lot more meaning than a standard action film that adheres to the guidelines.

A Hijacking was just as tense as Captain Phillips without having to shout it in my face with blaring Hanz Zimmer-esque scores and fast moving cameras. These were not particularly troublesome for Phillips but rather evidence on how different two nearly identical films can be. I enjoyed both for two different reason. If you like slow burns and completely realistic portrayals of how piracy negotiations work, then check out this film.


Film Review : Captain Phillips (2013)

At this was written…
IMDB Score – 6.9
RT Score – 86%

So I happened to scroll through my local theaters today and realized that many of them are showing a single showing of Captain Phillips a week before it comes out. I wasn’t doing anything so I decided to give it a go as I’ve heard great things about not only the film but the performance of Tom Hanks. Since only weirdos dislike Tom Hanks, this was enough for me to purchase a ticket. I swear the annoying people in a movie theater radio to each other and coordinate a game plan that involves being as close to me as possible. I had Mr. Restless Leg Syndrome sitting to my right who effectively turned my seat into a rumble seat. I had the woman midway through the film who just HAD to get her daughters doll which she dropped under my seat during the previous film. Finally I had the elderly couple directly behind me where the wife was going blind and the husband decided to just recite every subtitle after it came up on screen. On second thought…that’s adorable and I’m just being a prick. I didn’t say anything to them for the record. In all this chaos thought came something special…


Tom Hanks crushed this film. I’m not a big fan of Forrest Gump and I sadly have not seen Philadelphia yet, but I have no doubt in my mind that there is a great chance of this role being Tom Hank’s third Oscar for Best Actor. He’s that good in it. I’ll get to more of why in a minute.

The film is also very good. Paul Greengrass, as he usually does takes a very powerful and lasting story in our History and turns it into powerful and lasting cinema. This may not be as historically significant as Bloody Sunday or 9/11 but the story itself is one of emotion and intensity. The story of Richard Phillips getting kidnapped by Somali pirates was in the papers for some time. I remember it. I felt bad for the guy just trying to do his job and getting attacked by savages. The film does a great job telling this story. There were times where some points in the ordeal seemed to carry on for way longer than they should have and I feel like the story has been “dumbed” down a bit to make for more interesting cinema but these are minor flaws in an overall excellent film. I was drawn in from the moment Captain Phillips noticed the boats approaching as the film doesn’t really let up after that. Greengrass gives his signature style of low angle shots as if we’re watching the film unfold from an invisible child in the room with the actors. This gives a very “real” feeling instead of a theatrical one. The film also utilized the services of four VERY good Somali actors particularly the Ying and Yang main characters, one who speaks English and is in charge, and the other who has a SHORT fuse and is second in command. These two were fantastic as they bounced off each other with wonderful chemistry. It was fun to see.

However, the star is Tom Hanks. His performance coincides with the tone and intensity of the film. The longer the film goes on the more tense and suspenseful it gets and Hanks only gets better. All of this culminates in a 3rd act that gave me one of the most emotional rides I’ve had in a theater. Hanks in about twenty minutes gives the best performance of his career and one of the most heartbreaking finale scenes in memory. He perfectly captured what the actual Richard Phillips, or anybody in the matter, would feel being in the situation he was in. When the credits began to roll the whole theater was crying. I’ll admit I don’t have tears but it was because I was fighting them back so hard. It reminded me of the end of Zero Dark Thirty but instead of feeling like “what now” , I had a feeling of thank God that is over. It’s that much of a ride.

The film exceeded my expectations and then some. It’s a great thriller full of suspense and powerful acting culminating in one of the greatest ten minutes of acting I’ve seen. Buying a twelve dollar ticket just to see the end of this film would be worth it my book. Bravo Mr. Hanks.


Film Review – Room 237 (2012)

Netflix Instant Watch
IMDB Score – 6.4
RT Score – 92%

In my opinion, Stanley Kubrick is the greatest director who ever lived. The Shining can arguably be called his best film or at least his most intriguing. Room 237 is a documentary interviewing mostly crackpots and eccentrics who have dedicated their lives to deciphering and decoding images and scenes in The Shining. I finished this in two parts, mostly because I was dead ass tired and mostly because while there are certainly incredibly interesting points made about the film there are also a bunch of completely asinine theories that I just couldn’t stay awake for.

There were some very interesting theories such as the fact that the hotel changed shape and how Danny traversed levels on his big wheel without going up stairs or getting into an elevator. There are also some pretty evident instances where Kubrick alludes to minotaurs and mazes. There are also some ridiculous notions that Kubrick staged the moon landing and that The Shining was really about the genocide of Jews and Indians.

Overall the film was interesting, especially if you loved The Shining like I did.