Tag: Joe Wright

Top 100 Films: The _4’s

The 4’s contain, by a lucky coincidence, the oldest and newest films on my list. They span a period of 85 years. Every movie but one is in a well defined genre, the other being mostly just a drama. Besides also containing the longest title on my list,  four of the movies are from before I was born.

94. Hanna (2011)

Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett

I just missed your heart.

A fever dream of a movie. Hanna is a coming of age tale with a dark side, told like a fairy tale and impeccably directed and acted. It is always moving forward, whether it be plot driven or character based. An early contender for the best film of 2011.

84. All the President’s Men (1976)

Directed by Alan J. Pakula. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford

You’re both paranoid. She’s afraid of John Mitchell and you’re afraid of Walter Cronkite.

When a movie about reporters figuring out a story is so compelling you know the movie is great. It takes a lot to get a movie that involves almost no action to feel so stimulating. Of course, the acting helps, as does the direction. There’s a lot of All the President’s Men in Zodiac, and even though I like the latter better, the former is still fantastic.

74. In Bruges (2008)

Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson

I’m sorry for calling you an inanimate object. I was upset.

As dark a comedy as you can get, Martin McDonagh’s feature length directorial debut is one of the best first movies of all time. Intricately constructed and immaculately detailed, it’s got a lot going on so it might take a few times to get everything. But that’s just an excuse to watch it over and over and over again. As if you needed one.

64. The General (1926)

Directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton. Starring Buster Keaton and Marion Mack

If you lose this war don’t blame me.

Buster Keaton is known for incredibly complex stunts that intensify as he goes along. Some of the action scenes here are 15 minutes long. There’s a lot to be awed by, but one of the best elements is how Keaton is able to build a character through these actions scenes. By the end of the film you really know who Johnnie Gray is and why he does what he does.

54. The Quiet Man (1952)

Directed by John Ford. Starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara

I have a fearful temper. You might as well know about it now instead of findin’ out about it later. We Danahers are a fightin’ people.

A good old fashioned love story. Full of kisses in the rain and fighting and dragging your wife across the Irish countryside. Almost mythic in how big it plays the emotions, The Quiet Man is a wonderful romantic comedy with great chemistry between Wayne and O’Hara, perhaps the only woman that could match up to Wayne’s powerful presence. If only there was a restored print that was widely available, the current dvd is a muddied mess that does no service to the beauty of Ireland and O’Hara.

44. The Social Network (2010)

Directed by David Fincher. Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield

I like standing next to you, Sean. It makes me look so tough.

When The Social Network hit theaters there was some controversy over whether the movie portrayed the truth of the founding of Facebook. There are exaggerations and outright lies in the movie. Luckily for us, it’s a movie and not a historical document. As a film it is a fascinating study of ambition and the things you lose when you get what you want. It is certainly biased but it is no less of a movie for that.

34. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Directed by Shane Black. Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer

Wow, I feel sore. I mean physically, not like a guy who’s angry in a movie in the 1950’s.

Delightfully meta and self-aware without being too cute about it. The relationship between Downey and Kilmer is the heart of this film. It makes you remember how awesome Kilmer is. Shane Black knows his buddy cop movies and works with the tropes quite well.

24. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Directed by Andrew Dominik. Starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck

Look at my red hands and my mean face… and I wonder ’bout that man that’s gone so wrong.

One of the half-dozen or so recent westerns that take a more thoughtful track than the typical good guy vs. bad guy idea you see in so many older films of the genre. This movie is about fame and adoration and legend. And it is beautiful. I can’t wait to see what Dominik does next.

14. Sunshine (2007)

Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Cillian Murphy and Rose Byrne

At the end of time, a moment will come when just man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here… but stardust.

Sunshine gets a lot of crap for its third act. Allow me to state, here and now and for eternity, there’s nothing wrong with the third act of the film. It’s a different way of explaining the same idea that runs through the rest of the film: what do we do in the face of such power? And the final five minutes are supremely beautiful in both the visuals and the themes they express.

4. Blade Runner (1982)

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer

Fiery the angels fell. Deep thunder rolled around their shoulders, burning with the fires of Orc.

The future never looked so grimy and gorgeous at the same time. This neo-noir is the best sci-fi movie ever made. It’s not perfect, there’s a romantic subplot that I don’t particularly care about, but that’s small fries when it comes to the sheer brilliance of the rest of the film. It’s telling that Ridley Scott started as an art director because the look of the movie is so singular.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section

Movie Review: Hanna

I just want her to stop saying vomitorium, alright?

What’s half fairy tale, half revenge movie, and half coming-of-age film? Hanna! And, to ruin the surprise, it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s not perfect, it’s not unimpeachable, but it’s a load of fun and has a grace and style that propels it past any negative points.

Hanna is the latest film from director Joe Wright, whose earlier Atonement had a lot going for it but never quite congealed into something great. He brings back the breakout star of that film, Saoirse Ronan, to play the title character, a girl raised by her dad (a serviceable Eric Bana) in the snowy wilderness somewhere in Europe. He didn’t just teach her how to play with dolls, though. Her lesson plan includes hunting, multiple languages, combat training, and a story about an evil woman who would kill her. Of course, she can’t stay hidden away in the frozen Tundra, so she activates a beacon which tells the evil woman where she is. What follows is a cat-and-mouse movie where the cat and the mouse change positions and sometimes chase their own tails.

The things that Atonement did right, namely the directorial flourishes and sense of pace and acting, are all done even better here. Hanna is a wild romp through Europe complete with strange campsites and even stranger abandoned amusement parks. The sense of location weighs heavy on Hanna’s shoulders. She’s never been away from her house in the woods and everything is new to her, enhancing the already strong feeling of being out of place. She never stays in the same place for long, but each spot is extremely evocative and you get the feeling that a whole movie could take place at every one of them and there’d still be more to film. In an early prison-break scene a cold-war era building gives Hanna plenty of places to hide from the bad guys and Wright a plethora of backgrounds for his frenetic and inventive camera work. This isn’t one of those super shaky action movies, but the action doesn’t slow down at all. I had no trouble following what was happening in the action scenes, which makes sense, because that’s what Hanna feels most comfortable doing. It’s during the scenes where normal human interaction happens that Hanna feels out of place, and the camera bears that out. Wright manages to get in one of those long takes in here, too, and this one is even more awesome than the one in Atonement.

The problem with Hanna is probably in the character motivations. There’s no real reason for Hanna to hate what amounts to the Evil Stepmother character, played marvelously by Cate Blanchett, outside her father’s brainwashing. Everything works from scene to scene but you just kind of have to accept everybody’s motivations from the get-go and everything will work fine from there. There’s a particularly wonderful set of scenes involving a vacationing British family that are hilarious and sad at the same time. It’s the life Hanna should have had but never will. I love the ending of this movie, also. The location, the direction, the acting, everything works. It’s a spectacular scene, one of the best of the year.

Hanna is a strong, intelligent young woman. A real role model, if such a thing exists. She’s kind of like Alice, wandering through a weird world where little makes sense. Alice with a bow and arrow. And a rocking score by The Chemical Brothers. And people trying to kill her.

Hanna – Directed by Joe Wright