Top 20 Film Posters of 2010

Here are the 20 film posters of 2010 that represent my personal favorites. The rule was only 1 poster per film. I do not claim these to be the best,  but the ones that caught my eye the most and that I personally find myself drawn to. Some of these films I’ve seen and some I haven’t. There is a shortage of great film posters these days so I hope you enjoy the ones I picked!

20. Best Worst Movie
All the green reminds me of Nickelodeon Slime; always a good thing. If you’ve seen Troll 2 or this documentary based on the making of it, it’s very fun to examine all the activity going on in it. The illustrations and the crowded composition make this a stand out.

19. Buried
This poster, which clearly evokes Saul Bass and his legendary poster art, is simple and engaging.

18. Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
Fall is my favorite season, so the leaves and the use of color in both the bottom illustration and the title of the film make this a charming piece.

17. Date Night
This is a very smart poster. It uses simplicity and its star power to make its point with a spark of creativity, without relying on common tacky cliches. No tagline. No background. No credits. Just an image to spark your interest in the  Carell/Fey pairing and the film’s title. It’s refreshing and a tease.

16. Enter the Void
Gasper Noe’s latest work has, not surprisingly, split audiences. I haven’t seen the film, but I have seen the trailer. The reason this poster made it is, not only is it eye-popping, but it perfectly represents in poster form, what I saw in the trailer. The neon and the odd angle are representative of the feeling one gets from seeing the trailer.

15. I Am Love
The film’s main poster could have just as easily been used. The reason I chose this particular one is the way it links Tilda Swinton’s character with the film’s title. It’s use of color is fairly reminiscent to the way lime green its used in the film.The simple font in addition to me being a sucker for posters involving actors facing the viewer are also reasons for this poster’s placement.

14. Athlete
Besides not being a big fan of the text, everything else about this works for me. There was an entire series of posters for this documentary that all used stark black and white to create simple but effective image.

13. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Remember how I said I’m a sucker for posters with actors facing the viewer? Exhibit B. Like Date Night, it’s the simplicity I’m drawn to. It calls back strongly to the original Wall Street but manages to create a new image that feels familiar in a good way. I found myself unexpectedly coming back to this poster again and again while compiling this list.

12. Biutiful
Exhibit C! Again with the simple background. It’s wonderful and goes perfectly with the font and colors used. The bottom half of Bardem’s face is not in focus and its really subtle and effective.

11. Let Me In
The poster campaign for Let Me In was consistently excellent. This is one of two versions of this image. This is by far the superior of the two nearly identical posters. The use of red is astonishing. The placement of Chloe Grace Moretz is entrancing.

10. A Prophet
A more subtle use of Saul Bass inspired poster art. I’m getting to the point where I feel like I’m repeating myself! The color and the composition. Exciting reasons, I know.

9. Wild Grass
This impressionist inspired poster is classic and sophisticated. This poster puts a smile on my face.

8. The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond
This is a brilliant recreation of an 70’s or 80’s VHS B-horror film cover. It transcends homage and becomes exactly what it sets out to be.

7. Blue Valentine
I love the positioning of the actors here. All the elements come together beautifully. The font and the black on the top and bottom balance out the main image perfectly.

6. Art of the Steal
Do I even have to explain why this is so great? It uses the image to give plot information within the newspapers. The image itself is more than memorable.

5. For Colored Girls
An example of a film I have no interest in seeing that has mutiple posters that are beautiful and exploit the potential of poster art. There are a lot of great posters that go with this film. This one of Akina Noni Rose is a stunning watercolor like image using a wide array of colors.

4. Centurion
Recalling smut like Barbarian Queen and Sorceress as well as male action flicks like Conan the Barbarian, this is an homage that never hides that it has violence on its mind. I love everything about this.

3. Dogtooth
I was very close to choosing another poster from this film like I love equally. I can’t shake the minimalist image here though. It shows up at the beginning of the film. I’m not really huge on this level of abstract but this struck me the moment I saw it.

2. The Social Network
This is an abrasive poster. It has an iconic feeling to it already and the film has plenty of cold and blunt moments that parallel the confrontational poster. This is a brilliant marketing piece that works both artistically and as an advertisement. It will certainly stand the test of time. It’s probably the best poster from this year if I had to choose one.

1. Black Swan
I wasn’t all that impressed with either of the widely released posters for Aronofsky’s latest. A series of 4 posters that have little distribution were released. This is one of them. Any of them could have been in this place. Only using red, white and black, these posters are exactly the kind of creativity and artistic ambition that poster art needs. I only wish these were the posters that got the wide distribution they deserve.

Leonardo DiCaprio Poll Results:

Here are the results for both Leonardo DiCaprio polls!!! Thanks to all who participated!!

Favorite Leonardo DiCaprio Performance:
Votes: 38

8 votes – Catch Me If You Can
5 votes – The Departed
5 votes – Revolutionary Road
5 votes – Inception
4 votes – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
4 votes – The Aviator
4 votes – Shutter Island
2 votes – Basketball Diaries
1 vote – Celebrity

Best Leonardo DiCaprio Performance:
Votes: 41
10 votes – The Aviator
9 votes – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
7 votes – Catch Me if You Can
5 votes – The Departed
4 votes – Revolutionary Road
3 votes – Shutter Island
3 votes – Inception

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Summary: As Harry races against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, he uncovers the existence of three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows.


It is easy to take for granted how consistent and dignified the Harry Potter film series has become. From the talent involved to its mature evolution, not many franchise’s make it to this point in such admirable condition. Having been a fan of these films and the books they come from over half my life, it is surreal to have gotten to this point. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, director David Yates continues to prove that he knows how to handle and even enhance the source material. While the result is certainly not perfect, overall it is a haunting film that carries a considerable emotional impact led by Yates’ refreshingly original filmmaking.

People going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 can be split into two groups; those who approved of splitting the film in two and those who do not. I count myself as one who whole-heartedly agreed with the choice. Yes, this allows the franchise to make even more money. However, why disagree with this particular decision when most decisions being made about big studio films are monetarily motivated? At least there is, in part, a desire to cater to the book’s fans. This brings along the next point of discussion.

One of the reasons this is not the best film of the bunch is because it is unable, more than any other Potter film, to stand alone for the casual viewer. Granted, this is not an issue I personally had, but the critic part of me could not ignore it when trying to picture those unfamiliar with the source material watching. As a film, it cannot be denied that if you do not know the story, a lot of this first part is going to feel empty. There are so many scenes that are set-up for later revelations and plot developments. Going to the house of Bathilda Bagshot, Elphias Doge’s conversation with Harry, the story of the Deathly Hallows and more illustrate entire sequences that as of yet have zero payoff for the casual moviegoer. This cannot be helped and Part 1 will most likely be enhanced by many once they have the second half to go with it. The fans are this film’s priority and, honestly, they should be. Seven films in, the majority of people watching have read the books and it’s hard to make a case for why this film should have kept newcomers in mind over the devoted.

While splitting the film in two and not paying off moments that are meant to come later are issues others have, here are the problems I did have. First, about 15 minutes should and could have been shaved off the film without losing the deliberate and effectively slow pace. The pacing problems of the book transfer over. Not much actually happens in the first two thirds of the novel. This means it would have been easy to shave off fifteen minutes and maintain the hopeless monotony that Harry, Ron and Hermione feel on their mission. Also, it was a mistake to keep the emotional manipulation that the locket Horcrux carries. It is too similar to Lord of the Rings and it also makes the raw quality of these scenes carry an artificiality that slightly diminishes the very real conflicts the locket brings out. It was a problem in the book and it would have been effortless to change it to having it naturally come from them. Lastly, using Dobby’s death as the emotional climax of the film falls a bit under its own weight. It is definitely an important moment for them but it is forced to represent itself as bigger more tragic than it really is as a precursor to Part 2.

If this is sounding like a negative review, fear not; I loved this film and just wanted to get the negatives out of the way first. First off, David Yates is the only director to improve on the books. He is able to execute the big sequences with precision and creativity as well as filling the screen with special moments that enhance character and feel genuine. The scene where Harry tries to cheer Hermione up by leading her in a dance to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “O Children” is a delicate moment led by wonderfully broken up editing by Mark Day. It’s a scene that shows Yates’ ability and desire to try new things by adding a subtle art house sensibility to the film, which can be seen throughout. There are certain scenes, like the Death Eater attack at the café and the Snatcher chase through the woods that have no score where in another blockbuster, they would. Yates uses a lot of handheld camera that builds on his techniques from Half-Blood Prince which fit this gritty road film even better than it did at Hogwarts. Eduardo Serra picks up where Bruno Delbonnel left off with beautifully vast and evocative cinematography that evokes the emptiness of the characters and the bleakness of the wizarding world.

Most of Deathly Hallows: Part 1 features Harry, Ron and Hermione. More than ever, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are critical to the film’s success, especially when its majority is the three on the run. All three actors turn in their best performances in the franchise and add the gravity needed to be emotionally resonant. Each are asked to do things they haven’t done before and they pass with flying colors.

Screenwriter Steve Kloves and Yates also make the film as dark, bleak and haunting as it was meant to be. The Bathilda Bagshot sequence is unsettling and creepy. The Hermione torture sequence is more graphic than expected. The sexual tension is jacked to the brim. The film lingers on the particularly dark material as well as the emptiness facing these characters. These are all compliments. There is no reason, this late in the game, to downplay the severity of events. It is exciting to see how far the film is able to push the intensity.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 may disappoint those who were upset by the split. It is also the most inaccessible of the films for the casual moviegoer and is almost to faithful to the original novel, which accounts for the transference of pacing problems. Mostly though, this is an exciting and bleak prelude to the finale, which is sure to be riveting. It uses inventive editing, framing and cinematography that go beyond the necessities of a mainstream fantasy film. Most of all, it shows how far this franchise has come. It has become a dark, mature story about growing up infused with a procession of moments both epic and intimate. Some people may not approve of the execution of this final tale, but it shows that money is not the only motivating factor at work here. This one’s for the fans and that’s how it should be.

The 10 Worst Film Posters of 2010

I’m sure someone else could find 10 other film posters just as bad as these. Fact of the matter is, poster art is not what it used to be. Mostly, it is yet another way for the industry to put their films in a predictable and precise box that tells the viewer exactly what to expect if they choose to go see their film. Casual moviegoers want to know what they are going into and the poster art woefully reflects the main goal of these advertisements instead of piquing interest. Here are the posters that were the worst of the many offenders to choose from.

10. The Truth

Haven’t we had enough posters with fragmented composition populated with awkward photos of actors? John Heard and Daniel Baldwin look like they don’t even know where they are. Then we have the tagline The always complicated. Rough stuff.






9. Sex and the City 2

I have never been a “Sex and the City” fan. It has always been an obnoxious representation of the modern woman even if it might have been somewhat progressive for TV at the time. The campaign for the likely unnecessary sequel was through and through atrocious. Believe me, there were other posters from this film worthy of the number 9 spot. This teaser took the cake with its terrible tagline “There are other ways to score” and that Carrie’s shoe is the only thing on this poster that has anything to do with the film. This has nothing to do with soccer!!





8. The King’s Speech

Yes, there are probably other posters that could have been here. However, for a film that is one of the FRONTRUNNERS for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, there is no excuse for this to not only be dull as dirt, but horribly executed with unconvincing photoshop work. Even director Tom Hooper is ashamed!







7. Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

The main reason this was picked over similarly painful animal movie posters like Marmaduke and Yogi Bear is because the dog and cat pictured on this poster freak me out. What is with those faces?!






6. I Spit on Your Grave

A lazy rehash of the original poster; just as vulgar and twice as dull. As if we need the knife placed near her ass to look at it. It also starts its offensive as the opening day being the “Day of the Woman”. Keep going with that desperate attempt at faux feminist empowerment bullshit that nobody buys in relation to this schlock.







5. Grown Ups

This is such a fake poster; where to begin? Everything is so poorly cropped and photoshopped. Everyone has weird faces. The sky in the background as well as the top of the slide look amateurish at best.






4. Accidents Happen

I see what this was going for. It could have been serviceable. What we have though, is a confused and awkwardly ineffective poster. Look at Geena Davis’ face. Does that make you want to watch Accidents Happen? I didn’t think so.






3. Shrek Forever After 3D

This represents the type of pop culture humor of Shrek at its worst. Taking a sexist and outdated phrase, changing one letter and pretending that this children’s franchise is on top of what’s hip. Yeah Shrek; you’ve still got it.






2. Killers

I almost admire this poster; however did they manage to cram everything I dislike about these two actors into one picture as well as reinforcing age old stereotypes that simply aren’t funny nor relevant? Katherine Heigl doesn’t like holding a gun; I’m guessing it’s because she’s a girl and not because she has any actual moral conviction. Look! She can barely touch it! Then there’s Kutcher sporting his “Come on!” face most commonly seen on “Punk’D” or..anything else he has ever been involved in.




1. Saw 3D

I would love if someone could explain what I’m looking at. For the record, I’ve always enjoyed the Saw poster campaigns. What is happening here? Machines are building a huge Jigsaw structure? Are there no people? Was there an apocalypse on Saw VI? Smokestacks? What am I looking at? What’s the concept? Big Jigsaw structure representing the release of the film being a big event? I cannot wrap my head around the logic going into this ad.

Poll: Best Leonardo DiCaprio Performance?

I’m doing a two part poll regarding Leonardo DiCaprio performances. Having acted since childhood, DiCaprio has given a wide variety of performances over the years. There also seems to be a wide variety of opinions regarding what people see as his best work. Are there certain DiCaprio performances that fans think of as their personal favorites even if they think his work in another film represents his best work? One poll asks for your favorite DiCaprio performance. The other asks for what you think is his best. Will the answers be different? We shall see.

Poll: Favorite Leonardo DiCaprio Performance?

I’m doing a two-part poll regarding Leonardo DiCaprio performances. Having acted since childhood, DiCaprio has given a wide variety of performances over the years. There also seems to be a wide variety of opinions regarding what people see as his best work. Are there certain DiCaprio performances that fans think of as their personal favorites even if they think his work in another film represents his best work? One poll asks for your favorite DiCaprio performance. The other asks for what you think is his best. Will the answers be different? We shall see.

Review: L’Enfant (2006, Dardenne Brothers)

L’Enfant (2006, Dardenne Brothers)

Note: This review was originally written May 6th, 2010

L’Enfant, directed by the Belgian Dardenne brothers, is a disturbing and engaging film told in a moderately neorealist fashion. It observes the relationship between Bruno and Sonia, a young couple who clearly care deeply for one another. Once the film establishes their relationship and their current state of poverty, it primarily deals with the consequences following a devastating decision made by Bruno. Bruno’s emotional journey, or rather, the journey to the start of an emotional journey, is what makes L’Enfant such an engaging and powerful film.

Bruno and Sonia are both very young and very poor. She has just given birth to Jimmy and the couple has to figure out how to support the child in the midst of continual poverty. Bruno leads a gang of child thieves who bring him goods which he sells, giving the children a piece of the profits. Sonia is very happy about Jimmy despite their financial situation. Bruno however, seems unwilling to acknowledge the child as if he is incapable of comprehending that he is a father. Sonia is so excited that she hardly notices Bruno’s indifference. Despite Bruno’s lack of self involvement as a father, it is clear that he and Sonia care very much about each other. There are scenes that establish the way they interact and the playfulness that they inhabit as a couple. Once Bruno makes a startling decision, the film focuses mainly on him.

The Dardenne brothers observation of Bruno and Jeremie Renier‘s beautifully underplayed performance is the main reason this film is such a success. Bruno is uniformly frustrating throughout. He is immature and irresponsible. He refuses to get a job, saying “Only fuckers work”. The lengths that he is willing to go to and the state he will continue to live in as long as he does not have to get a job are disturbing. Following his decision, the most interesting thing about the film is observing Bruno and trying to figure out what is going on in his head. When is he going to truly understand what he has done? While the events of the film all relate and are critical to Bruno’s arc in the film, his thoughts and reactions and decisions are the most engaging part. The film spends most of its time simply observing Bruno. The Dardenne’s use of moderate ambiguity in relation to our view of the main character is the strength of the film. The directors and Renier give us enough to keep us involved without making it clear what he is going through. The events of the film are secondary in that they serve the films main focus which is to observe how Bruno handles each situation.
As was stated before, The Dardenne brothers pace the film out with a very observational tone. Moments are lingered on in almost entirely handheld shots. They know how to represent Bruno and Sonja as a couple and give everything a very realistic feel. They also know how to build tension especially towards the end when Bruno and one of the kids who work for him run into trouble. Most importantly though, they know how to shoot Bruno; with distant shots, whether it be long or medium and rarely with a close up. The camera always keeps tight on Bruno though without invading his space, thus making it observational.

While Bruno is frustrating, you root for him; not to get out of the situation he is in but to make that emotional first step. We want him to be a better person. The entire film works towards this idea and once it ends it becomes clear that the point of this film is to depict the moments and events leading up to that first step towards a long term transformation into hopeful maturation. This is a heartbreaking but wonderful film that ends on an optimistic note in a perfect final scene. It must be said once again that Renier is incredible here, giving one of the best performances in the past 10 years. L’Enfant is one of the most actively engaging film experiences to come along in a while. It is emotional and frustrating but with a dose of optimism in its belief in humanities’ ability to live and learn.

Review: Iron Man 2 (Favreau, 2010)

Iron Man 2 (2010, Favreau)

Note: This review was originally written on May 8th, 2010

Iron Man 2 is all in all a pretty entertaining sequel that manages to flounder as often as it succeeds. Iron Man was a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. It offered a lighter but no less entertaining alternative to 2008’s The Dark Knight. The film is very problematic but ultimately a worthwhile experience.

In the sequel, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is now dealing with the consequences of revealing his identity. He is given a subpoena for being a weapon which is considered dangerous by the government. He is dealing with Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) who is desperate to show Tony Stark up with his own Hammer Tech. There is also primarily the matter of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a Russian with a vengeance for the supposed wrongdoing of his father from Tony’s father Howard Stark (John Slattery). Let us not forget that Tony is slowly dying from the palladium which is simultaneously keeping him alive and is nearing hopelessness at the film’s start for a harmless replacement. There is also a matter of the new assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) who Tony has a hard time getting a read on. Basically there is a lot going on in Iron Man 2; too much. Instead of a faster and busier pace, it makes for a somehow slower pace that is weighted down in set-up while failing to provide much pay off.

To start with, an intrinsically problematic aspect of the Iron Man franchise is the fact that all of the action scenes take place between CGI machinery which is ultimately not very interesting to watch. It is more entertaining to watch actual people fighting each other than to see two machines go head to head with occasional shots of Downey Jr. in his helmet. It is not something that cannot really be fixed since the machinery is such an essential element to the story. Favreau and Theroux know that the situations the characters find themselves in are what make or break an action scene and they do find little ways to tweak the circumstances. Each action set piece does satisfy in one way or another. The racetrack scene in Monaco is probably the most memorable, the party scene between Stark and Rhodes (Don Cheadle) escalates in a surprising way and is the most character driven fight sequence, a spin on War Machine’s wiring makes for a unique dynamic near the climax and yet another scene following that comes to an amusingly quick end making for a dash of unpredictability. These examples, without delving into specifics, all contribute to action scenes that are essentially more interesting than they should be. However, when you put all the scenes together and think about the time spent on them, it does not add up to anything truly interesting. The best fight scene in the film is the one involving Johansson because it is the only scene featuring actual people fighting each other.

The final face-off with Vanko is completely underwhelming. The scene does not last long and there is nothing and the situation within it is uninteresting at this point. This leads to another issue with the film which is the misuse of Vanko’s screen time. Vanko and Stark barely have any screen time or dialogue together. When the hero and villain spend most of the film apart there should be a lot of anticipation going into the final battle or some sort of past. Unfortunately there isn’t. In terms of action, their best scene together comes at the racetrack and they only have one actual scene of dialogue between each other and it comes at about the half way point and is quite short. Vanko spends most of the rest of the film interacting with Justin Hammer in what is essentially the same scene about four times. These scenes involve Vanko working for Hammer, pretending to have a language barrier and Hammer being frustrated as Vanko seemingly screws up the job he has been hired to do. Oh and also; Vanko wants he damn bird. It does not take a genius to figure out that Vanko has some tricks up his sleeve. The problem here is too much set-up with Vanko spending so much of the film working on machines and very little pay off in comparison with how little time he spends actually interacting with the main characters and taking part in the action.

A refreshing aspect of Iron Man was the banter between Tony and Pepper which actually made the love interest subplot to lend itself to the original as opposed to dragging it down. The sequel ups the banter ten-fold but does so in an misguided way. Downey Jr. and Paltrow spend all of their time literally overlapping each other with dialogue as if this were Iron Man as staged by Robert Altman. However, this is not where the problem lies; in fact the overlapping makes the scenes a lot faster and interesting. The problem lies in the content. The banter involves Pepper complaining or nagging about something and Tony brushing said problems off like no big deal. This does two things; first it makes the scenes all one-note and eventually tiresome. Second, it turns Pepper Potts, who was once a concerned but ultimately fun character into a nagging non-character who becomes a burden every time she appears on screen. Once refreshing, Paltrow’s presence cannot help but instigate the thought “here we go again”.

These complaints are all significant and problematic, however, the film is ultimately a pretty worthy sequel with many decent qualities. Overall it is more consistent than the first. While Iron Man is better, the best scene in the first was the opening scene and overall the first half was a lot stronger than the second. The sequel has equally interesting halves even if both have their own specific significant deficiencies. All of the actors perform and contribute well. Downey Jr. is as snarky as ever and while the film depends on the overwhelming personality of both the actor and character too much, it is impossible for Robert Downey Jr. not to be entertaining. Don Cheadle makes far more of a presence than Terence Howard did, giving Rhodes a better sense of character and also a more palpable feel of friendship and history between him and Stark. Johansson makes for a welcome presence especially in comparison to Paltrow’s pestering Potts. However, Johansson has never been good when she is not working with much. Seeing her on Broadway has confirmed for me that she is a great actress and someone who is truly talented. However, some people can make good, underwhelming or bad material work; she can’t. When she’s got a great character she owns it, but when she is given a thankless supporting role she sort of flounders. She looks better than she ever has here and she does a serviceable job but nothing more. Mickey Rourke does a really nice job with Vanko, making him a spectacle but never going over the top with him. Garry Shandling is fantastic in a very small role as well.

However, Sam Rockwell gives the most interesting, and I would argue strongest performance. As Justin Hammer, playing a character much younger than he should be and with a significant amount of screen time, he plays a villain only intimidating in his severe efforts to overcompensate for his own ineptitude. It’s a tough role because it is not a showy character as written and he is also not the big bad. What Rockwell does is go full force with Hammer’s levels of obnoxiousness, misplaced arrogance and awkward repetitive and impatient delivery. Every scene with him goes from being potentially tiresome to quite fascinating as he portrays a man who is in over his head but is so dead set on gaining respect from everyone that he never acknowledges it and continues to be as smarmy and aggravating as possible. It is a give in at this point that Rockwell steals any film in which he has a supporting role. Without him the film would have been too black and white.

Stark’s relationship with his father Howard, who died 20 years ago makes for an interesting aspect of the film. While it did feel like it was self-consciously acting as the film’s “deep” moments, its execution is handled so well that it ends up being one of the most successful things about the film. John Slattery’s presence does not exactly hurt either. The dialogue as written by Tropic Thunder screenwriter and actor from Mullholland Drive, The Baxter and other films, is filled with wit and energy. There are many stand out one liners that come out of nowhere and are really amusing, in particular a line with a “Supernanny” reference and another line about “two seals fighting over a grape” among others. As director, Jon Favreau smartly prioritizes by concentrating on giving each scene an energy which definitely helps the films pace which is simultaneously very weighted down in set-up. Still, Favreau’s direction is a high point and it keeps everything light and fun amidst the heaviness. Also, Vanko and Hammer make for much more interesting villains than Bridges’ Obadiah Stone who was a considerably underwhelming aspect of the first film.

Iron Man 2 is certainly laden with significant problems. However, through it all Favreau and his team somehow made a pretty entertaining and surprisingly satisfying sequel. All of the elements of the first are present and are expanded upon for better and worse. It is mostly consistent as well which made for a more even experience than the first. Also, it seems like a film to satisfy fans of the comics as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is given a couple of key scenes and the film overall succeeds in most of the elements that make an entertaining film. It is certainly not anything I would call great or even truly good, and its deficiencies are significant but considering that it was better than I expected, it is easy to simply sit back and be entertained by it. While I cannot overlook the negative traits of the film and it does feel self-indulgent in its premature celebration of itself, I can appreciate that it has succeeded in what it set out to do which is to entertain. That alone might not make it great, but it certainly counts for something.

Review: The Host (2007, Bong)

The Host (2007, Bong)

Note: This review was originally written May 3rd, 2010

To call Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host just another monster movie is a huge understatement to the accomplishment of this film. First, it is hard not to be taken aback by how thoroughly entertaining it is. Second, it is even harder not to be taken aback by all of the tonal qualities of the film and the wonderfully personal and odd family at the center. There is so much to admire here, making it of the best films of the past decade and a rare treat.

The film concerns, in what is a not so flattering depiction of the United States, a 2000 incident in which a mortician working for the US military dumps large amounts down the drain. The first scene depicts the incident and six years later, the fictional consequences make up the main premise of the film. The family is introduced in the very same scene in which the inciting incident takes place. It’s a wonderfully intricate sequence as we are introduced to Gang-Du, a lazy and largely inept but caring father and worker who is currently employed at his father Hee-Bong’s snack bar. Hyun-Seo arrives to the snack bar from school upset at her father for not being at Parent’s Day and for her uncle, Nam-Il for showing up instead with alcohol on his breath. They go inside to watch Hyun-Seo’s aunt Nam-Joo, who is a medalist archer, on television. This time is used wisely to establish the interactions between this family and how Gang-Du, Hee-Bong and Hyun-Seo function together in their everyday lives.

The main plot concerns what happens after this when the monster eventually snatches Hyun-Seo. The monster’s blood is sprayed on Gang-Du’s face making the authority figures thinking that it represents a deadly contagious virus, forcing the family to go on the run as they search for Hyun-Se who they have discovered, is still alive somewhere in the sewers.

The most unique aspect of The Host is the way that director Bong Joon-Ho plays with tone. It’s not black enough to be a black comedy, not outright funny enough to be a regular comedy and not self-serious enough to be a drama; the director understands that life has no genre and that oddly funny moments can happen at the most inappropriate times. He is also, and this is a fundamental key to the success of this film, aware that people do not radically change in extreme situations. The film works so well because the character themselves are such an interesting group to put in the middle of this crisis. Seeing these characters trying to work their way through this problem is what separates it from the pack. While they adjust to the crisis up to a point, these are not people used to solving problems. In addition to this, the crisis does not obliterate the interfamily conflicts; in fact it heightens those conflicts, except in this film that drama is much of the time oddly funny.

An example of this very special tone that Bong Joon-Ho has concocted can be explained by one scene maybe more than the rest. Shortly after Hyun-Seo is taken, the people who witnessed the incident are taken to a building where they are kept for a period of time. This is where we meet the other two key members of the family as Nam-Il and Nam-Joo join their brother and father to mourn for Hyun-Seo, who they still believe at this point to be dead. Many people are sobbing as there are pictures lined up of all the people the monster has killed with small memorials set up for each of them. Gang-Du walks up to the picture of his daughter and starts sobbing. One by one the family members join Gang-Du as they all let their emotions out. Instead of being a serious scene yet without invalidating what these characters are going through, it becomes oddly amusing. It is then taken a step further as their outbursts start attracting attention; people start taking pictures and authority figures start trying to calm them down. Then in the midst of the chaos and the arguing that has broken out between the families as they still grieve everyone falls down which is shown in an overhead shot. Now we have these characters, who still continue to sob, except they are now all writhing on the ground rolling around everywhere. It’s one of the oddest scenes in recent memory and it also might be my personal favorite in the film. The context of the situation is horribly tragic but the director takes this opportunity to show a scene unlike anything else that exists. By giving us a new take on a situation that is a recurring incident in films, a family grieving for the loss of a loved one, Bong Joon-Ho shows us a new take. He can take situations we have seen before and look at them with a different eye and show us a way of seeing things that we have never considered.

The film looks amazing as well. With an unprecedented budget of 10 million dollars, the production values are top notch and the visual aesthetic of the film is engaging as well as the beautiful string-heavy score by Lee Byung-Woo who also did the equally beautiful score to A Tale of Two Sisters. It manages to function as a monster movie as well as it is easily the only stable genre that can be pinned to this film. The monster’s design and movements are frightening as well and of course there are both new spins and homage to old conventions of the genre as well.

The film’s distinct tone also makes the film unpredictable. There are several things that happen in this that actually are very devastating including something that is unprecedented and surely going against what anyone would expect. It becomes unpredictable whether a scene is going to take a drastically amusing turn or a drastically tragic one. This keeps things interesting on yet another level and nothing quite follows any specific pattern and its structure is so refreshing, making it impossible to see the writer anywhere in this piece.

The Host is a uniformly excellent film. It is funny, tragic, fascinating, exciting and suspenseful. It also boasts an additional quality in that we actually care deeply about these characters, not just as individuals, but as a family unit. It makes for active viewing in more ways than one. Bong Joon-Ho has something and watching him further create contributions to film is going to be an absolute treat.

Top 30 Films I Want to See This Fall (Sept-Dec)

This was a list I posted on my old blog in September. It’s something I do 3 times a year. I’ve seen the films in bold. Basically, my rule is that I keep the bolded films in the spots they originally were. They don’t move, but everything else is fair game

Top 30 Films to See this Fall:

1. Black Swan
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
3. Never Let Me Go
4. The Social Network
5. Blue Valentine
6. Another Year
7. Carlos
8. Boxing Gym
9. Rabbit Hole
10. Last Train Home
11. True Grit
12. Somewhere
13.  Catfish
14. The Way Back
15. Enter the Void
16. Tron: Legacy
17. The Illusionist
18. Tamara Drewe
19. Red Hill
20. Four Lions
21. Mesrine
22. Norwegian Wood
23. Night Catches Us
24. Machete
25. 127 Hours
26. Waiting for “Superman”
27. Kings of Pastry
28. Biutiful
29. The Fighter
30. Buried