Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Couple of Flicks - The Grey, Haywire, Contraband, The Divide, Shame

Yeah, I've been slacking.  Sorry...

Kimbaliano has been hobnobbing with the glitterati in Sundance and I am sure she is working up quite a wrap up post.  For now, I thought I would touch base on my last few flicks...and yes, I love the dot, dot, dot...I'm working on that as well...(dammit!)

I was on the road for a bit and I'll get to those at the tail end of this post.  Stay tuned, because included in my week of viewing pleasure was the Washington, D.C. premiere for the new Michael Biehn flick, The Divide.

The Grey
Liam Neeson continues to impress for a man approaching 60 in mere months.  Not that 60 isn't the new 50, but he's rocking it as a bad mamma-jamma and he's relentless in the role of the ass kicker (Geico Gekko: Did I just say Bad Mamma Jamma?).  Is The Grey the pinnacle in his trilogy that began with Taken, continued with Unknown, and is rounded up nicely here.

The Grey follows a group of oil drillers in Alaska, whose plane back to civilization goes down.  Neeson, hired on the drill site to keep the workers safe from wolves in the area, is faced with the very same problem for the small band of survivors.

This film is rocking solid at 77%/75% critics and user ratings and I am still hearing more bad than good on this flick.

I loved it and I thought the wolves were completely palatable.  Forget what you've heard and give this flick a chance.  The Joe Carnahan and Liam Neeson team worked well for The A-Team (deal with it) and it worked well here as well!

Stay until after the credits for a short, but meaningful scene.

4.5 of 5 Horns

This is yet another Steven Soderbergh film that is exactly like a Steven Soderbergh film.

I like Soderbergh, so I liked this film.

Gina Carano stars as Mallory, which is a great name for a badass heroine who can fight like a tigress!  She is great in the fight scenes.

The rest of the cast, almost everyone of them known by BIG name, are completely competent.  The direction as well, competent.

So why didn't I go gaga for this film?  It was very much a thinker...most of the fights were featured in the trailer, which I hate.  The trademark heavy score was ever present with the sound on the dialogue subdued and no batman like sound effects in the fight scenes.

I think that was the problem that most have had with this flick.  It sits at 44% for the user score on RT and the critics are praising it highly at 81%.  That is not exceptionally surprising for Soderbergh, as he is generally loved by critics and perhaps misunderstood by the masses.

At the end of the day, this is a short, fun movie that helped me realize perhaps I could have caught it home and been just as happy.  3.5 of 5 Horns.

If you didn't hear it, Mark Wahlberg recently made the statement that had be been on one of the 9/11 flights, he'd have fought the highjackers and saved everyone.


He should concentrate on elevating his acting game, moreso.  

This film, much like Haywire was a fully palatable film, good enough to pass some time, but really nothing that blew me away.

Wahlberg plays a reformed smuggler who is pulled back in the game for that oh so tired "One Last Job!" when his wife's brother is in on a job gone wrong.

Mayhem ensues and lots of blood is shed.

What I commend this film for, was its boldness as a solid R-rated flick.  The F-bombs were well placed and I like movies that are reminiscent of the 80's action fare.  I think Wahlberg is decent enough and Giovanni Ribisi is just plain dirty (a good thing) as his foil.  Ben Foster is also decent and we need to get this guy in more movies!  Kate Beckinsale is just plain (but looking good while being so mundane) as Wahlberg's damsel in distress, a role in a world with Underworld's Selene, she just doesn't play it well anymore.

At the end of the day, yet another passing grade: 3.5 of 5 Horns.

This is some flick.

It is a very small story about a man (Michael Fassbender) with a sex addiction whose life is upended when his sister (Carey Mulligan) pops into his life and moves in with him following a failed relationship.

I don't even want to begin to describe this film, except to say it is a) captivating and b) very graphic (and quite bizarre).

Be prepared (or be excited)...you will see more of Fassbender's penis than we saw of the giant blue penis in Watchman.

My description above sums up the plot and the story unfolds as we learn the extent of Brandon's (Fassbender) problem and how it is exacerbated by Sissy's arrival.  Yes, she is his sister, but her name is also Sissy.

If you can take the heavy sexual content with some serious penis shots (probably the only time I will ever write those words!), the see this movie!  While Fassbender was nominated for the Golden Globe, he narrowly missed the Oscar nod, I am sure.

I saw this at the E Street Theater in Washington, D.C., a great venue if you are ever in that neck of the woods.

4 of 5 Horns for this full-frontal, NC-17 outing.

The Divide
This was my second flick at the E Street Theater, a midnight outing featuring the new movie from the director of Hitman.  Yep, that's how it was billed.  What's his name?  Who the hell knows!! (Xavier Gens if you're following along.)

I will tell you that the more notable face in the flick was Michael Biehn...you know, Kyle Reece, Seal Team Commander (The Rock), Coffey (The Abyss), Hicks (Aliens), and so on and so on.  When his name showed up on the screen, the crowd went wild.

The film co-stars Milo Ventimiglia, Lauren German, Courtney B. Vance, and Rosanna Arquette.  Michael Eklund also stars and while you might not recognize the name, anytime you thought you were watching Ethan Hawke, but couldn't find it on his IMDB page, it was probably this guy.

The rough in on the story is this...

We are introduced briefly to some of the cast and shortly after the end of opening credits, bombs start dropping.  More specifically, nukes.


Everyone starts going bonkers and a group of tenants in the apartment complex we are introduced to, start heading down to the basement.  A group of them make it to the huge steel door that lo and behold is being slammed in their face by the Super, Biehn's Mickey.

Conditions are quite deplorable and panic sets in as the meager supplies Mickey has begin to run short.  Add in the fact that these people have no idea what is going on outside of the walls of their bunker.  Luckily, it is in fact a bunker...equip with a shower, a hole into an underground septic run, and enough space that when the story called for it, whoever was pissed could go off and sulk.

Now it gets crazy.

This film is deep-end, bat shit crazy and this film is polarizing to the tune of about 90/10.  I figure something in the neighborhood of 90% of the people who see this movie, will hate it.

There is a bizarre sci-fi futuristic element of this that I won't spoil, but I will say that these elements intrigued me at first, and ultimately left me wondering what the hell I was actually watching.  A super cool aspect of this film could have led to something great, instead I just left scratching my head.

Minor spoilers to the depravity of this film follows:


Heavy sound effect laden defecation.

And a woman is raped repeatedly.  To Death.


At the end of the day, I really liked this film.  More so, I really enjoyed the sum total of my viewing experience.  It was greatly accentuated by the full house who were hootin' and hollerin' at all the right moments.  I do think that most were disturbed, but in the way that is great for this kind of depravity.  This film is destined for cult movie status at best, and I predict it will get a VOD release and that its theater run may be limited to shows like the one I caught.

Throw in the emergency rations cans of "beans," well jelly beans, that the studio had sent for the screening, and this was about a perfect midnight movie in our nation's capitol.  

4 of 5 Horns for this demented, depraved, and genre-ificly enjoyable flick.  Yes, I was in the 10%, but heed my warning...you may hate this film.

The other option for the midnight movie option was The African Queen.  The theater was pretty jammed for both flicks and it gave me hope that folks outside of my home locale of KC are into movies...if only we could generate some excitement like this, KC would be a better place for film.

For now, that is all...until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

KIMBALIANO is Back...Sundance is in Effect...The Dark Knight Rises Prologue

I am just returning from a great week in DC, I must say I am most envious of my favorite Indie Girl, Kimbaliano, who is currently rubbing elbows with film glitterati in Park City.  There has been a great deal of buzz about this year's Sundance Film Festival and I am excited to get a report here and there from our girl on the streets.  Stay tuned to the back half of this post for her first update…

In the course of my DC run, I had a chance to make it to three movies, two new in Shame and The Divide, and one repeat in M:I 4, at the Smithsonian Institute National History Museum IMAX theater. 

I will post soon on Shame and The Divide, but I want to focus now on my third viewing of Mission: Impossible 4…

Yes, folks, this viewing was in a real IMAX theater (eat your heart out Aziz Ansari) and it had been so long since I've been to a full screen IMAX…I had forgotten how absolutely grand they are.  Yes, it is very evident the slight graininess that screams (gloriously) film, but that massive screen is more than enough to give the desired viewing experience.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my fellow filmgoers, Mike and Robert...fellow travelers who were as excited as I for what played before the feature... 

I have commented at length on my enjoyment on my enjoyment of the M:I 4, but this was my first run at...oh, I am excited just writing about it...The Dark Knight Rises prologue.  By God is it glorious!!

It is the most appropriate introduction to the new nemesis of the Bat that we could ever hope for.  And folks, Bane is going to be spectacular.  If you haven't seen the prologue, make it a priority now.  You will not regret it…it is worth the trip, wherever you have to go to see it.   I was truly flabbergasted at how intense and exciting it was.  Gritty and compelling, Christopher Nolan continues to amaze me with his talent and creativity. 

I will be there at the midnight screening for this, I promise.

Reel Rhino yields the floor to KIMBALIANO, who is back in the house for her favorite time of the year! 


Yep, my friend gets to live the good life for a week…a life which I envy and plan to emulate sometime in the future.  She works as a volunteer by day, taking in flicks by night.  And thank the good Lord she has great attention to detail, and once again, is willing to share her experiences!

Thank you KIMBALIANO…truly, thank you!

(reposted from an e-mail she sent me Sunday evening)

Sundance is going great!  I got here Friday night, and my volunteer shifts don't start until Wednesday, so I'm packing the movies in now.  4 yesterday, 3 today - my movie going muscles are already sore :)

My favorite so far has been MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, a small, intimate story from the perspective of the wife of a man serving 5-10 years in prison.  Really well acted, and beautifully shot.  

I've seen a couple docs - one called THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES - focusing on the family who runs the Wingate Timeshare Empire (most recently having built the PH Towers on the strip in Las Vegas). What started as a story of excess, and the building of their new house (inspired by the actual Versailles which, once built, would be the largest house in America), became a story of the markets crashing and the collapse of their fortune.  It was really promising and totally fascinating, but I'm not sure the film makers knew how to focus the heavy story that unfolded in front of them.  Overall it was a bit of a mess and lacked a point of view, but there's no denying it provided an interesting view into a life very few people lead.  

Big Boys Gone Bananas, another doc, about an amazing David and Goliath story of a small Swedish film maker who directed a film (Bananas!*) about Dole's use of pesticides in Nicaraguan banana orchards, and Dole's all out assault on the film and it's film makers.  It is a really interesting story, if only 10-15 minutes too long.

The most memorable movie so far was Tim and Eric's billion dollar movie.  Now, apparently these guys have a bit of a cult following on the Internet, and there were a TON of cameos - Will Forte, Zack Galifianakis, Jeff Goldblum, etc.   We actually left before the movie was over.  I'm all for random, quirky, edgy humor, but I just didn't find this movie funny at all.  It was just odd...and gross…and not great.  We actually held out longer than about 20 other folks who left before us.  Perhaps if you like their Internet show, this is for you, but it was not for me.

Snow has kept us stuck in Salt Lake (and sadly the film makers stuck in Park City) so the star sightings and Q and A’s have been minimal.  It’s supposed to clear up, and we're hoping to get to Park City tomorrow.  I'll keep you updated :).


Until later…take care!
Reel Rhino

2012 Oscar Nominees

Put your movie watching pants on and get out your pads and pens for some notes...this list will serve as your study sheet for the Reel Rhino OSCAR CHALLENGE -- COMING SOON!  

This is such an exciting time of year for movie lovers and for the Reel Rhino, this will be the third annual Oscar Challenge, I may add!

And the nominees, for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 84th Academy Awards are:

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Extremely Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris 
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life 
Best Actor
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Best Supporting Actor 
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help 
Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian, Moneyball
Peter Straughan, Bridget O’Connor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Best Animated Film
A Cat in Paris
Chico and Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Best Foreign Language Film
Bullhead (Belgium)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
War Horse
Costume Design
The Artist
Jane Eyre
Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Documentary Short
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Film Editing
The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker 
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen
Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng 
The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland
Music (Original Score)
The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams
Music (Original Song)
“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett
Short Film (Animated)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life
Short Film (Live Action)
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic
Sound Editing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse
Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse
Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
(The Oscars will be televised on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 26.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Absolute Best of Film in 2011 (So Says Me)

So here it is folks...I know you all have been waiting with baited breath.  Feel free to exhale for the wait is over.  

This list, as with much in life, comes with a disclaimer.  My top 15 list is based on the movies that I saw this year.  I am an 80/20 dude, you should know that from the get go.  80% of the films I see are mainstream releases, the other 20% are comprised of indies and documentaries.  Also, I rank my top flicks based on what I see in a calender year.  For example, I have not yet seen WE BOUGHT A ZOO.  Not to say that this would for sure make my list, but because I haven't seen it, I didn't even consider it.

Okay, okay...enough rules.  Get to business already!

Fine...you want it, you got it!!

REEL RHINO TOP 15 of 2011
15. Attack the Block - 4.5 of 5 Horns
Joe Cornish has created a unique film, which may have been the most fun you didn't have in the theater this year.  Yep, you probably missed this one, but you need to give it a chance.  Cornish is from the Edgar Wright camp and this is a British inner-city spin on the alien invasion tale.  This film exists solidly on its own merit and the rag tag group of dudes are part Goonies, part Ghostbusters with a whole load of British swagger and cheeky humor.  The special effects were creative and a bit campy, which gave great ambiance to this film.  Bravo Mr. Cornish, Bravo.

14. Hanna - 4.5 of 5 Horns
Joe Wright created a wholly enjoyable and unique twist on the CIA/spy thriller.  Gritty from the word go and the fantastic score by The Chemical Brothers added ambiance to this film that did nothing but make it even more great.  Saoirse Ronan is spectacular as the titular Hanna and Erik Banna and Cate Blanchett are in their prime.  Banna's Erik is a bad-ass and he seems to have passed all of his tricks on successfully to the younger Hanna.  This film is very much a chase film from start to finish, and Wright manages the action like an old pro, when this is in fact his first dip into the action pool.  Hanna is not a perfect movie, but it is cool as can be.  It was released through an American studio but it Wright's touches give it a very palatable European sensibility. The tone shifts from dark to light to dark and so on, keeping you on your toes not knowing who is lurking around the next corner.

13. Rango - 4.5 of 5 Horns
This kid's flick ain't really for kids, folks.  It is a fantastic film that is rich in characters.  It is not to be missed and while there are enough interesting visuals to keep the kids semi-happy, the adults will really see the humor and the depth that this film has to offer.  Johnny Depp himself has become somewhat a cliche of wild character films, but he does Rango true justice and yes, even though we rarely get to see Depp in any kind of subdued role, his wild eyed range adds to Rango in the best possible ways.  In most animated films, it is hard to look past the voices to see the characters.  In this film, these characters live and breathe on their own.  I challenge you to pinpoint any of the talent behind the voices, outside of Depp and a very obvious Timothy Olyphant-astic.  This film is a pure animated spaghetti western disguised as Nickelodeon fodder.  You will have a great time watching this movie!

12. Everything Must Go - 4.5 of 5 Horns
The story of a man on the edge of disaster...well actually, his life is a disaster.  He is fired from his job, his wife has left him, and he's an alcoholic.  Oh yeah...his wife's swan song...she moves everything he owns onto their lawn before she leaves the house and changes the locks.  What really made this film shine for me was Will Ferrell.  His performance was a tour de force in my book and he give a performance that proves he is more than sports spoofs and occasionally funny goofball comedies.  His sidekick, a young boy named Kenny is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace who is non-other than the son of the Notorious B.I.G.  The young Wallace has a deadpan delivery but he is exceptional in this role, only his second ever, having previously played the child version of his pops in the 2008 biopic, Notorious.  This film was somewhat depressing with an exceptional sense of catharsis head towards the finish.  The film actually inspired me to get my own business together and clear out years of hoarding stuff...a few garage sales later, and I feel I now have a lot of wheat, and a lot less chaff.

11. Red State - 5 of 5 Horns
Asked and answered counselor...see also:

Red State (POST 1)
Red State (POST 2)
Red State (POST 3)

10. Super 8 - 5 of 5 Horns
J.J. Abrams has existed as one of my favorite folks in the entertainment industry for some time now. He solidified that opinion with the wonderful reboot of the Star Trek series. I’d like to say J.J. is a wunderkind director, but he’s been in the biz for over 20 years. In the 1980’s Abrams helped Steven Spielberg repair home movies he had made as a kid. That’s a pretty good break for a young wannabe filmmaker and this was just the first of Abrams/Spielberg interactions that would ultimately lead to this project. While Abrams calls Spielberg the Grandfather of Super 8; Spielberg maintains that Abrams could have travelled this road on his own. Super 8 is something of a Goonies meets E.T. alien adventure film, that is surrounded by all the mystery that both directors love. For further reading, please see also, Abrams TED talk on the mystery of the box. Well Super 8 is loaded with mystery. For starters, the mystery of who the hell are these kid actors? If they were to remake the Goonies, I would vote these folks in. Elle Fanning is charming and a chip off the old family block. I was also happy to see Noah Emmerich and Ron Eldard back in the blockbuster feature game. Super 8 is pure adventure from start to finish. See this movie.

9. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - 4.5 of 5 Horns
Impressive is just about the perfect word used to describe this film...this extremely impressive first live action effort from PIXAR wunderkind Brad Bird.  He made his bones in the action genre with The Incredibles, but the question was, could he do it without the support of the great animators and collaborative effort that makes every Pixar film shine so bright.  The answer is yes.  And to our old friend Tommy Boy (Cruise, that is), I give you a hearty round of applause, for reascending to the ranks of proper action star.  I think that it was as important to have the Bad Robot (JJ Abrams) team on-board as producer of this flick, as evidenced by JJ's recent successes (see also: Super 8).  The IMF team assembled here play off each other well, in a comedic sense, as well as running missions like well oiled heists, making the impossible possible.  Jeremy Renner is the here and now, folks...he's the real deal.  Ethan Hunt is very similar to John McLane as a seemingly indestructible hero...it sometimes gets ridiculous, but somehow it works.  Ethan Hunt is truly the Energizer Bunny of movie heroes.  These action sequences really pop and watching this film gave me one of my favorite film going experiences of 2011.  And, oh yeah, what a joy to see some good old fashion US/Russia hostility captured sublimely on the big screen.  I'm all for world peace but the hints of Cold War conflict in this film gave me a sense of nostalgia ala Red Dawn and Hunt for Red October style of tension.

8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - 4.5 of 5 Horns
When this project was announced, I shuddered.  Literally.  I was sick that we felt obligated to further demonstrate our ethnocentric way of being in the world of film, by taking a perfectly good foreign film and remaking it in the "American Way."  My fear were mostly assuaged when I heard the picture would be handled by David Fincher, who along with Christopher Nolan, is one of my favorite working directors of the day.  Fincher lives in a dark world on film, and who better to translate the dark world of Stieg Larsson to the big screens her in the states.  He succeeded on every level and he managed to translate the cute American girl -type in Rooney Mara into a very impressive Lizbeth Salander.  Yes, Mara is something of a scream-queen, having appeared in a variety of horror/thriller flicks in the past, but she is this cute little thing, who becomes something else entirely.  Out of the gate, I feared the worst...David Fincher delivered the best product we could have hoped to get.  $83 million domestically and so far only $29 million in the foreign box office, which is quite lower than expected and likely hasn't yet overcome the budget and P&A for this film.  I hope it gets greenlit for the two follow-ups as Fincher has a very solid grasp on this world.

7. Moneyball - 5 of 5 Horns
This is not a baseball movie, nor really even a sports movie at all.  Written in part by Aaron Sorkin, one my favorite writers, this film is a character driven, dialogue driven film.  Everything about the film is cleaver and not in a pretentious way.  Brad Pitt is true acting talent and he hits way more than he misses.  Jonah Hill is excellent in this film and I think his performance is something just short of perfection, potentially even an Oscar nomination waiting in the wings for him, as well as Pitt.  The world of profession baseball is interesting enough on its own, but when you throw in the drama that this film offers, you get a movie that is fun to watch from start to finish.  I was exceptionally impressed with the young Kerris Dorsey, who played Billy Beane's daughter, Casey.  She is cute and has a unique voice that really compelled you further to feel for Billy in the various dilemma's that he faces through this film.  Young Kerris sings a song to Billy in the course of the movie and when Billy listens to it, pensively looking out his window, it really his a great emotional chord.

6. My Week With Marilyn - 4.5 of 5 Horns
This is film is excellent...the acting, direction, writing, the overall look..everything. Michelle Williams was haunting in her portrayal as the Blond Bombshell  In her first moment on screen, I saw Michelle Williams in a Marilyn Monroe costume  By the end, all I saw was Marilyn Monroe.  The beautiful thing about this film is that it is a true story, written by Colin Clark, an ambitious young man with dreams of a career in film.  His family was privileged and he had been promised a job on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier's (Kenneth Branaugh) next picture. When he showed up for a job, it was his persistence that finally paid off.  He comes to meet and know Ms. Monroe and something of a complicated relationship ensues.  How I liked this film reminded me much of the way that I liked An Education from 2009.  This is a great story and the film as a whole was executed perfectly.

5. The Help - 5 of 5 Horns
I absolutely loved this film.  It hit my top five of the year the moment I exited the theater.  This is really one of the few times that I unequivocally put a film into the mandatory viewing category. The power of film is the ability to learn from the mistakes of our past. Such an opportunity exists here, providing biting insight to the hardships faced by African Americans in the racially divided south during a truly hateful time in World history.  Mistakes...such an understatement for the topic at hand. This movie demonstrates, albeit it watered down a bit for the masses, the brutality and hate of the era. But really, the brutality demonstrated here is not so much about muscle, as it was the complete demoralization of a group of people.  As we celebrate the recent passing of the law allowing same sex marriages in the State of New York, it brings to mind that while we have made great strides for the equality of all people in America, we still have some tough roads to travel.  I hope The Help rocks the Awards season, not because it matters, but because it will help give even more publicity to a film that everyone should see.

4. Win Win - 5 of 5 Horns
Win Win is an indie drama built around the spine of a sports film, loaded with comedic wit. I have never been a huge fan of Greco-Roman wrestling...never wrestled, rarely watched it in the rare instance it made it to the TV. Of course there was Vision Quest in the 1980's, but otherwise, when it came to wrestling, I was always more of a WWF guy. As far as the wrestling goes in this film, you will want more. The film is 100% a success as a comedic drama...but only built around the spine of a sports film, it doesn't give you that "hoisted on the shoulders and carried through town" ending so many sports films deliver.  The hunger that you have for a stronger ending to the wrestling story will be satiated by the resolution of the drama.  Thomas McCarthy is an amazing filmmaker (see also: The Visitor, The Station Agent)...you may know him as better as Dr. Bob from Meet the Parents.  Yep, that guy.  This movie was amazing and Paul Giamatti shines (per normal).  A great supporting cast included Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale.  This is the first movie for Alex Shaffer, who is Kyle, really a co-starring role to Giamatti's Mike.  The filmmakers wanted a fresh face for this film and boy did they get it.  Shaffer has a dry, deadpan delivery that absolutely just works.  Also, he's a former championship high school wrestler.  He probably still would be, except for a broken L-5 vertebrae.  When asked in an interview if he will be able to keep wrestling, he said no, but probably will anyway.  His minimalistic approach works with double success as when he does get excited about things in the movie, it has that much more impact.

3. The Adjustment Bureau - 5 of 5 Horns
The Adjustment Bureau was made with the highest of production values and the city of New York is a palpable character in this film.  Matt Damon is stellar (as always) and Emily Blunt is clearly established as one of Hollywood's finest young actresses.  Don't agree with me?  Watch this movie.  Yes, it is high concept and it is full of rich characters with roots in the oldest of human literature.  It is based on the short story "Adjustment Team" by a legend in Science Fiction, Phillip K. Dick.  I have heard complaints that this is more a romance than a sci-fi, but I disagree.  There is such thing as a romantic sci-fi.  The sci-fi is overt.  The romance is overt.  The message has been decried by some as corny, but I loved it.  Hence it sitting comfortably here...in the top 3.

2. Hugo - 5 of 5 Horns
This is a movie lovers film.  Not just because Scorsese was helming, but because when it gets moving, it actually becomes centered around a true classic period in cinema and the earliest of days in film as a form of entertainment.  This all is built around this young boy, Hugo Cabret...a watchmaker's son, orphaned and sent to live with his Uncle, a drunk who seems to have found a purpose keeping the clocks at the train station running on time.  But in the opening moments of the film, you learn that the Uncle has absconded and it is in fact Hugo, the orphan, running things at the station.  Young Hugo has refined the art of the steal, lifting occasionally, toys from the station toymaker, Ben Kingsley, playing Papa Georges, grandfather in name to a young lady, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), who befriends Hugo and wants to share an adventure with him.  The adventure that unfolds is epic and the direction the story takes is wonderful.  I doubted Martin Scorsese could deliver from the trailers I saw for this.  I assumed it was some dream vanity project and it would amount to nothing short of an epic failure.  I was dead wrong.  This is rated PG and unfortunately it opened in week 2 of Twilight and against The Muppets and Arthur Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend.  It barely held its own in the box office and has made only $53 million domestically and $16 million in the foreign market.  This is a true shame.  Please give this movie a chance...see it as soon as possibly and if it happens to be playing right now in 3-D in a theater near you, go.  Go now.  You are a genius, Mr. Scorsese.

1. Warrior - 5 of 5 Horns
I gave this film a proper write-up after I saw it.  You can read that here:

Reel Rhino Review: WARRIOR - It's That Effing Good

This may not be the best movie of the year, but it certainly was my favorite.  This was the best time I've had in the theater since The Dark Knight, and probably in my all-time favorite 5 trips to the theater.  This was due in part to the impassioned crowd that I watched it with.  Their excitement was my excitement, and we shared an experience, to that I have no doubt.

This film made only $13.6 million domestically...boo.  Doing the quick math, this means using an average ticket price of $10, only about 1.36 million people saw this movie.  Compare that to you "average" $100 million dollar box office blockbuster...not an uncommon feat to reach these days...$100 mil = approximately 10 million butts in seats.  Far too few people saw this movie!  To the film's defense, the largest volume of screens it played on at any time was 1883 screens, but all factors aside, with $30 million in the production budget, it's easy to think that this movie (so far) has lost money.

This film will make up some ground over time, and while it saddens me that it performed so poorly, I have a sense of joy that I was able to see it on the big screen.

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton give heartfelt performances as estranged brothers, and Nick Nolte is as good as ever as their recovered alcoholic father.  This is a drama first and foremost..if these guys didn't bring their A-game acting chops, this film would have failed....well I mean more than it actually did!

Let me leave you with this:

IMDB: 8.3/10 with 47,120 votes
Rotten Tomatoes: 82% fresh with 165 critic reviews
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% fresh with 29,421 user votes
Metacritic: 71 of 100 rated score based on 31 critic reviews

I loved this movie...and so did most people who actually saw it!  Please give it a chance and go in with an open mind.  This movie touched me in the same way that Rocky did the first time I saw it...and let me be clear, I am talking about the Oscar winning film, Rocky...not the watered down sequels that were fun to watch but a little light on palpable drama.  Warrior is that good, I promise!!

It was a fun year and I'm glad to have shared it with you!!  I'll see you through 2012 for more adventures at the movies!  In the next week or so, I plan on doing a "what to watch in 2012" post...baited breath, folks, I know you'll be waiting!

Until later,
Reel Rhino