With “The Dark Knight Rises” currently rocking multiplexes worldwide (review now available), it’s time to step away from theatrical releases and examine some of the other older/catch-up fare dominating Dan’s thought stream.
Warrior (2011) – B
A box-office disaster and non-entity during award’s season, 2011’s “Warrior” already appears to have been largely forgotten. Starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, “Warrior” is the story of a dysfunctional family set against the backdrop of an MMA tournament. Sound vaguely familiar? Well it should, the film maintaining an unfortunate amount of similarities with 2010’s superior “The Fighter”. “Warrior” doesn’t quite manage to endow its story with the same level of depth or emotional complexity, offering up an underdog tale that aims for much more predictable blows.
That said the characterization and performances are superb, enough so that they elevate the pedestrian screenplay above its generic origins. Director Gavin O’ Conner draws mesmerizing turns from the entirety of his cast, particularly a ferocious Tom Hardy. The MMA and standard training montages are handled with aplomb, and whilst the movie is only interested in drawing superficial fist-pumps from its audience, it manages the modest goal comfortably. It’s genuinely difficult not to get carried away during the film’s hectic third act. “Warrior” is entertaining fare, which deserved a wider audience when it was released last September. The Oscar snubs are a little easier to digest, the picture never quite matching the sophistication of other genre offerings that have troubled the Academy (“Rocky” & “The Fighter” just two examples).
The Thing (2011) – C
Joel Edgerton again, starring in another financially underwhelming picture from last autumn. This time it’s a prequel to John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, also creatively titled “The Thing”. When trailers surfaced for this about 18 months ago I was viciously opposed to the picture, it looked shoddy and CGI-reliant, a cheap and tacky affront to Carpenter’s arctic nightmare. In reality it’s not too bad, even managing a few moments of genuinely inspired chaos, but that doesn’t make it necessary. Large portions of the flick feel recycled from better efforts, director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. relying too forcefully on boo moments to keep the momentum trucking forward.
Edgerton is unremarkable, as are the rest of the cast (including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Eric Christian Olsen and Ulrich Thomsen) and the dialogue courtesy of Eric Heisserer(who also penned the remix of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”) clunks horribly. Still, some new innovations, a great interrogation sequence, gory effects and tight pacing prevent it from succumbing to utter uselessness. Not recommended, but hardly as bad as had been previously anticipated.
10 Things I Hate about You (1999) – B+
1999 was a great year for teen comedies, “Election”, “American Pie” and this adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” nabbing top honours. It’s a film I’ve seen a number of times, yet despite regular exposure its charms fail to wear thin. At Padua High-School, Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has fallen for Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), the crux being that she can’t date until her rebellious older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) bites the bullet. As a result Cameron recruits mystery man Patrick (Heath Ledger) to take Kat out, but y’know, he might just end up falling for her anyway.
A deliciously witty script and fine young cast (well not so young anymore) overcome Gil Junger’s at times unambitious direction, allowing romance, laughs and charm to flow freely from the final product. Ledger is the standout, the now deceased talent on full display as he playfully skitters around the picture, his crooning of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You having become a certifiably classic moment in teen cinema. Chilled out but skilfully assembled viewing that boasts an endearingly funky 90s soundtrack.
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2012