Hello again, fellows! It’s time for another group of my favorite films from this year!
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES!
The Dark Knight Rises is definitely a ridiculous film, almost to questionable degrees, but the heft with which it attempts to wrap up a trilogy and tell an intense story is absolutely admirable. Though I don’t consider it the best of Nolan’s work, or of the trilogy he’s crafted, it has a spirit to it that I can’t help but enjoy. In spite of all of its absurdities and mishaps with story or directing, I felt like there was a lot to like about this film. Tom Hardy’s bane, when looking past his weird vocal handicap, is a fascinating villain, which Hardy pulled off really well with about 20% of his face. The rest of the cast does good work throughout, enough so that they maintain a level of interest as they progress, especially through Joseph Gordon Levitt and Gary Oldman, whose characters are on a sort of detective mission/manhunt. I found where Nolan decided to take Batman as a character to be intriguing- I was a huge fan of absolutely breaking him down and building him back up. That left other characters to the devices of this weird terrorist, city-hostage thriller that I thought was handled really well. By the end of the film, it definitely can feel like Nolan tried to shove way too many things down the pipe. I acknowledge that this film is far from perfect, but I still found it exciting and with interesting intent.
While I agree Family Guy has run its course, I am still in the boat that says Seth Macfarlane is a talented comedic mind, with a unique voice. Ted is a good example of Macfarlane’s worth, as it is a strong comedy with many unique punches amongst predictable territory. When dealing with absurd comedy, Seth has a good self-aware step to himself, but it doesn’t stop him from having fun and going the whole 10 yards with any bit of material. Ted is no exception, as many ridiculous things come about throughout the film, and though he has a hyper-awareness of it all, it doesn’t hinder the spirit of any of it. Surprisingly enough, the script on a story level works, and has an endearing amount of heart behind it. The great thing is that none of it is ironic or with malice, despite the fact that some of the humor could be a little mean, if not intended with good spirits. I mean that’s just Seth Macfarlane. I was just pleased that he bothered being heartfelt and stuck with it. As a director, he’s got some talent! A lot of the more ridiculous moments are really well done and visually brilliant on a comedic level. I think he’s got a good career ahead of him as a comedic filmmaker and writer. Ted is a perfect example of how good Seth can be- I’d say it’s a stepping stone toward his best. It’s a strong, fun, and impressive start, and I can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeve, because this is pretty darn good.
TAKE THIS WALTZ!
Take This Waltz is a unique film about romance that highlights an inherent humanity that many of us can’t even fight, but some somehow do- everything that’s new eventually becomes old. Sarah Polley’s quiet but visually loud direction helps convey such feelings, opposing our protagonist’s shifting feelings on two loves, one that she’s growing tired of, and the other just now blossoming into something special. On one side, we’ve got Seth Rogen, who has been really stretching himself over the years, proving that he can do drama quite well. In fact, in this film, he has probably one of the harsher scenes to deal with, and his performance is tender and heartbreaking beyond words- very impressive stuff. Here, he plays the husband to our protagonist who is so comfortably in love with her, while she feels unnerved from this, almost feeling stuck. On the other hand, we have Luke Kirby as the new, more handsome love interest that enters our protagonist’s life. Playing the brooding, impressive man in the mix, Kirby does a fine job in adding humanity to this somewhat trite kind of character. He’s genuine in his advances, even though his actions are absolutely what you’d expect from this guy. In the middle of it all, we have a conflicted, very strong Michelle Williams, whose unspoken mind-state takes up a lot of this film’s runtime. Polley’s choice to just observe her with the people in her life, and see how she deals with her thoughts and choices as an individual and partner is fascinating, and very human- very portrait-like. Williams does not hold back with her performance, even when her character is aware that she’s in the wrong- in fact, catching her in confused states of peril and emotional hardship makes up for some of the more interesting moments of the film. She wields her talents wisely and like a pro. Sprinkle in some absolutely beautiful technicals, a surprisingly strong side performance from Sarah Silverman, and an intriguing story with an intriguing thought behind it, and you’ve got Take This Waltz- a film that has a perspective on love that you don’t see every day, but is even more brutally honest than your standard heart-struck tale.
Rian Johnson never makes an easy film, and I don’t think he ever will. His films are dense from story and filmmaking perspectives, and his delivery constantly sticks the landing, then immediately punches you in the face. Looper is absolutely no exception, as it has an entirely welcome sense of style that helps deliver a complicated but interesting time-travel plot with many personal trappings within it. As usual, Johnson’s pacing and sense of rhythm is entirely intact, impressively so, making all moments of action, and even the quieter ones in between feel equally as strong, without beating you over the head with lavish visuals or technical trickery. Instead, the style helps the actors play out this personal tale within a very interesting world with ease. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis both hold their own and do a good job of conveying the same character from different perspectives. As well, we’ve got a hard-ass Emily Blunt, a surprising performance from child actor Pierce Ganon, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, and Noah Segan turning in good, charismatic performances as expected from a Rian Johnson film. If anything plagues this film, its that the time-travel based plot leads to intricacies and minute details that can confuse and mix things up. Johnson can’t really be blamed, as this kind of film is a complicated one to pull off, and other than some small chinks in the armor here and there, Looper ends up actually being very good and very fun from pure entertainment levels, and as well as a strong, impressive action thriller.
I’m a self-proclaimed manly man, truth be known (It’s a joke! I’m essentially a woman), but if a movie can make me cry, I feel that means there’s something special about it (or my life is quite rough at the moment.) The Sessions’ set-up seems almost too perfect and directed toward exact Oscar bait- disabled protagonist that overcomes hardships. I’m happy to say that Ben Lewin’s eccentric but honest approach to the subject of sexuality and humanity is far from manipulative or exploitative for the sake of an award. In fact, it turns it into something very personal and beautiful, not to mention strong, especially because of the impressive feat of making sex something more than, if not at all sexy, but instead highlighting the almost tear-jerking sense of humanity and sweetness that comes in intimacy and connection. Lewin’s simple and sweet direction and script gives well deserved space to the actors, who really earn praise here. Helen Hunt and William H. Macy give strong performances that act as much more than your standard side dramatic characters- their effects on our protagonist and his story are heavy and important. Macy’s character especially is well written and performed, as a personable priest. The smaller performances here and there from the likes of Moon Bloodgood and W. Earl Brown even hit the right mark, which helps keep everything surrounding the central performance strong enough to support it.
That brings us to John Hawkes, who has been absolutely killing it career-wise recently. He’s done some very versatile work, and this is probably his most vulnerable performance to date. Playing a man living in an iron lung, with a somewhat crap card dealt from life, his sense of humor up against his own really close awareness to his own humanity and everything bad and/or beautiful around him is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, but overall purely praiseworthy. As far as protagonists that use a lot of voice-over go, this one absolutely works, considering his handicap, wherein he thinks and writes more than he does motion. Of course, his facial language is well stretched and performed as well, but the delivery of his thoughts and words is even more beautiful to hear- it’s like poetry. When it comes to him and the actual sexual sessions he goes through, wherein he learns to make love and learn about his body, the scenes can indeed become awkward, but Hawkes’ performance up against Hunt’s sweet and tender mother-like demeanor is so vulnerable and nerve-wrecking, but pays off, just like every single factor in this film, once penetration and contact is made. Like this film, I don’t mean to be crass about the sex within it, but the absolute heft with which sex is treated is so unique and special that it almost brings you to tears just thinking about it, let alone watching it through a well directed lens and performed by one of the strongest actor working today. I can’t recommend seeing this film enough, honestly. Just be open, and you’ll get the best of it.
IN ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY CONCLUSION...
Thanks for reading! Have a good night, and stay tuned for part 3!