You are here
The remake/update/reimagining of Red Dawn is described on IMDB as “a group of teenagers ...save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers.” Unbelievable? Sure. Ridiculous? Absolutely. But if you can get past that -- and you should -- this is really one of 2012’s great guilty pleasures.
First-time director Dan Bradley, the stunt coordinator for the Spiderman and Bourne series (among others), shows off his expertise repeatedly -- the action in this film is fantastic. Precise, gritty and adrenaline-churning, it sets the film apart from the genre’s mind-numbing explosion parties.
While perched at the edge of your seat, you can appreciate earnest performances by Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games). Both actors bring their characters to life, despite a couple of “wait, what?” moments, and prove they’re both much more than just really, really good looking. And that says something because Chris Hemsworth is almost unfairly handsome as the hometown Marine who rallies the locales when the North Koreans (look, let that go, okay? We’ll all agree that part’s ridiculous and move on) invade.
The Red remake takes major departures from several of the original plot points, which may offend some seeking nostalgia. But this modern interpretation raises timely, modern-day questions to a different generation of teens and young adults about what it means to be a patriot, a young person and a citizen. Hugely inspiring and laudably uncampy, Red Dawn deftly declares that a small group of committed individuals can do powerful things, no matter the age. It delivers a timely reminder that freedom is not (and never has been) free. Ooh – rah! (***) -- Nattida Samanukorn
Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina has been adapted ten times at least. It’s been called the greatest love story of all time, and filmmakers typically make it into a romance of epic proportions. Director Joe Wright’s (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) version is no different....yet it is. Written by Tom Stoppard (Empire of the Sun, Brazil), the screenplay is solid and closely follows the main points of the book, at least as well as it can in two hours.
The tragic title character (Keira Knightley) is unhappily married to Count Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), a wealthy statesmen whose position puts the couple in the high society circles of Moscow and St. Petersburg. She falls into a passionate affair with a Russian cavalry officer, and the era’s chauvinism and morals do not go well for her.
Keira Knightley, while a good actress, feels mildly miscast as Anna; on one hand too seemingly young to be so experienced, yet for the story’s setting she was probably past her prime. She’s no Vivien Leigh, who dynamically played Anna in the 1948 version. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as the womanizing military count, is a convincing cad, though I found his curly blonde locks and mustache distracting. Jude Law, as Anna’s cold husband, felt the most Russian of the cast.
What’s most interesting about the new Anna Karenina is the production itself, unlike any previous version and unlike almost every other film ever made. Parts of the move are set on location, but the majority of the film is set in a theater, using every hallway and back room to film different scenes. The grandest sequences are filmed in the theater, using the stage, floor and balcony to bring the story to life. At a few points, continuity was lost because it was difficult to figure out where things were taking place as the players moved from one area of the theater to another.
Because of the film’s theatrical feel, the movements of the people and of the music matched the theatrics in motion and sound. There were several intense scenes where you’re waiting for the cast to break out into song and dance, though they never do. This narrative motif adds an unexpected but enjoyable element that won me over.
Overall the new Anna Karenina is beautiful and exquisite, with stunning costumes and scenery paired with fluid cinematography. While it’s not the best cinematic adaptation of this classic love story, it’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen. (***) - Ashley Sullivan
The thing that makes the most sense to me about Silver Linings Playbook is that it was directed by David O. Russell, whose other films, Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees left me just as inexplicably charmed and confused. In this latest effort, Russell returns to mixing tragedy with humor, the ridiculous with the awful....but unfortunately never strikes that magic balance.
To be fair, balance might a lot to ask from a movie about a history teacher, (Bradley Cooper), recently released from a mental institution, who moves back in with his parents while coping with a mental illness and trying to reconcile with his ex-wife. The film’s very lifeblood is neuroses and it drowns in it. That said, Cooper does a remarkably good job of being the crazy guy you would snuggle with anyway.
Surrounding Pat during his transition is a cast of characters that reminds us that while some people are medicated, everyone is crazy. The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro deliver endearing performances, and Lawrence and Cooper have a chemistry that’s fun to watch. Lawrence in particular is the film’s bright spot, wrangling her character’s brand of neuroses into a story that draws us through tough-talking bravado yet inner soul.
In the end though, despite strong individual performances and some very, very funny moments, the movie as a whole has too many parts that ultimately don’t fit together. Eventually the schizophrenia of this part romantic-comedy, part drama, part art-house film gets the better of it. As the credits rolled, I feel literally left in the dark, unsure of how to think or feel about the movie. Some would call that subtle film-making, I call it “confusing but worth catching on Netflix.” (**1/2) – N.S.
Do we really need our childhood fantasy icons turned into superheroes? That’s what the makers of Rise of the Guardians are banking on. A tattooed, roughneck Santa Claus, kickass Easter Bunny, superspeedy flying Tooth Fairy, etc., etc., make up this pseudo-Avengers-for-tots tale, teaming up to take on a revitalized Boogeyman. The animation and 3D is top-notch, and there are some genuinely beautiful quiet moments featuring Jack Frost as he brings touches and traces of ice and winter to the areas and people he visits, but mostly this is a loud, relentless action picture that gets repetitive after about a half hour. My 13-year old daughter fell asleep in the middle, and my 10-year old said, “I liked it okay, but not as much as....” and then listed like a dozen other movies. (**) -- Tom Siebert
I walked out of Life of Pi, but not because it was so bad. In fact, it was so effectively made, it was freaking me out. Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s award-winning adventure/fantasy bestseller about a boy who survives a shipwreck and is forced to live on a small lifeboat with a ferocious tiger is epic and overwhelming -- I saw it in 3D on a massive screen, and after a while the visually enveloping experience of the tiny boat in the massive ocean began to give me the sweats and I felt sick. I’ve never experienced claustrophobia before, but I think that’s what happened. The movie is extraordinarily well-made, though I have to say I found it rather stilted and boring before the ship sank. Then it became increasingly visually oppressive and I had to get out. No idea what to rate this thing other than personally traumatic. (?) -- T.S.