Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reel Low: The Grey [2012]

Well, 2012 didn't waste any time in delivering us one helluva great movie.

Typically, mid-January to mid-February is one of those times of the year when movie studios dump their crap on us. The Oscar nominations have already been announced, hence the lack of powerful dramas and arthouse darlings available on screens at the country at large. And it's too soon for blockbuster action flicks because... I don't know... it's too cold outside to eat popcorn?

In other words, Underworld: Awaking is the reigning number one movie in America because it actually was the best of the bunch released last week.

But, in what I hope is a growing trend, the relatively new Open Road Films has released The Grey in this dead zone, ensuring that movie-goers didn't have to wait long at all for something to sink their teeth into.

Trailers for The Grey would have you believe it's a two-hour, bare-knuckle brawl between Liam Neeson and some wolves. Forget those.

Yeah, Neeson fights some wolves. But that's not the only reason why you should watch this movie.

Liam Neeson plays Ottway, a broken man who has found himself living in a remote Alaskan community as a sharpshooter protecting oil company workers from the hazards of the wilderness they are infringing upon. After a horrific plane crash that makes Lost's opening sequence feel like watching a merry-go-round spin, a group of survivors are stranded in some of Alaska's harshest arctic conditions. When they're not battling the elements, they're up against a vicious pack of grey wolves, forced to deal with each other, and must find what inner strength they have amid their own fears and weaknesses. The Grey is a gripping character study masked behind a man-versus-nature yarn of the highest order.

Joe Carnahan's direction is superb. Nearly every scene felt real. I'm convinced that all but the final scene depicting falling snowflakes were filmed during actual times of snowfall; I can't remember ever having thought that while watching a film. His approach is nuanced with very tight shots on the primary characters' faces early on, and that technique evolves into grander shots of the sprawling mountainous terrain of the Alaskan wilderness, revealing the magnitude of what force these men are up against in their attempts at survival.

Additionally, the sound is so expertly edited in this movie, you constantly find yourself put on edge. Calming moments are yanked away from you in explosion of windy fury. Peaceful silence is interrupted by cracking of branches in the dark. The terror of a party of howling wolves.

And, my god... the performances of some of this group are astounding. Of course, we all know Liam Neeson is the bomb. The man just continues to defy all conventional wisdom and has become increasingly badass in his filmography while never foregoing the brilliance of his craft.

And complimenting him is some really fine work from much of the supporting cast.

After his great turn in last year's Warrior, Frank Grillo continues to impress. It's hard for me to believe this is the same guy who played the ever-grimmacing lawyer Nick Savrinn on the first season of Prison Break. Watching that then, I never expected he'd be capable of providing so much depth to a character like Diaz, a tough-talking ex-con and constant agitator to everything around him. Also fantastic is Dallas Roberts, who was so wonderful on the ill-fated Rubicon, with his earnest portrayal of Hendrick, embodying the humanity of the group. And I can't fail to mention a barely recognizable James Badge Dale, who shines with Neeson's guidence in one of the best scenes of its type I can recall (this is a spoiler-free zone, but you'll know the scene in question when you see it).

All of this swirls into a powerful display of human emotion inner-cut with downright thrilling and suspenseful battles. I could never take my eyes off the screen.

If The Grey is a harbinger of what is to come in the theaters in 2012, count me as pumped.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best of 2011 - Films of the Year

Welcome to part 3 of Genres & Judgements' Best of 2011 lists, this bad boy is for the ten best films I saw last year.

Soooo... once again, I didn't finish this article as soon as I wanted. Hopefully you're still interested in lists of this nature this late in the game. There were plenty of movies I missed out on for one reason or another, but I know that these 10 are still worthy of being listed. May I impart once again that this is a list of what were the best films of the year to me. TO ME. Carry on.
10. Super 8
No other movie in 2011 packed as much old-school cinematic magic as JJ Abrams' love letter to his childhood did. Accompanying buzzwords "Spielberg" and "Goonies" are spot on. This has to be the best collection of young actors is some time. Extra special props go out to Elle Fanning (she isn't gonna be known just as Dakota's little sister for long). Unfortunately, those kids and Kyle Chandler couldn't save its third act from leaving quite a bit to be desired, as it keeps the movie from being entirely mint. That and those damn lens flares (seriously, dude. Stop.) But there's so much fun to be had here, I just couldn't leave it off the list.

9. Page One: Inside 
The New York Times
I didn't get around to watching any other documentaries in 2011, but this one was phenomenal and probably would've made this list even if I had seen others. This film gives an inside look at how the Times operates and how it has dealt with the decline of the newspaper industry, increasing budgetary constraints, new-found competition and living up to its own reputation. A perfect recipe for a journalism junkie like myself.

8. Attack the Block
Oh, man, this movie was fun. Going in, I was led to believe this was going to be a comedy. It does have its funny moments, but this is essentially Die Hard with aliens in the South London projects, which is so so so so much more AWESOME. The aliens aren't going to blow you away with their design, and I believe that's the point. Their makeup is the antithesis to all the Predator-esque aliens chasing their prey movies we've had for so long. While Abrams spent 2011 embracing his childhood, Attack's director, Joe Cornish, celebrates the now with these kids, some of whom are pretty hard to like at first. Coupled with some dashes of humor, we get plenty of energetic action scenes with those creepy aliens delivered with constant style. The best part is that it just never stops - just a wonderful job at pacing in a genre film. SEE THIS.

7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Yes, this is a summer-blockbuster movie. But it doesn't insult its audience or dumb much of anything down (at least not more than a movie about apes taking over a major American city has to). Look, I'm a big Planet of the Apes nerd. Like, really big. Like I had a PotA poster on my wall as a college freshman. (Still not sure why I didn't get laid often then.) So when word came out that this new installment was going to be a "reboot" of 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth and best of the original series, I was juuuuuust a bit excited. While Rise is not a full-blown remake of Conquest, it shares the similar plot of revealing the beginnings of the advanced ape population we see in the remainder of the series. Rise excels in making these intelligent apes realistic by employing the great Andy Serkis (in another CGI performance capture he's been so wonderful at in recent years) as Caesar and by utilizing modern science as a basis for the rapid advancement of the apes' cognitive abilities. All of this adds up to an intense action movie with a lot of brains behind it.
Find out my top six after the jump...

Awesome BREAKING BAD Quotes - "Face Off"

Finally, after many moons, here's your context- and commentary-free moments from this season's finale.

Episode 13, Season 4
airdate: October 9th, 2011
"I won."
- Walter White

What? You think there was a better one? Put it in the comments.

See you next season.