Monday, April 18, 2011

Phil sees SUPER, YOUR HIGHNESS and HANNA at the Camera 12-April 15, 2011

Last weekend I fell extremely ill, and I stayed home in hopes that I would feel better by the end of the week. Luckily I made a complete recovery, and to celebrate, I decided to go on a film binge. I returned to the Camera 12 in downtown San Jose to see not one, not two, but three movies! That's right, three movies!! So strap yourselves in folks, and away we go!

The first film I saw was the new IFC film entitled SUPER, directed by the talented writer/director James Gunn. The film stars Rainn Wilson as Frank D'Arbo, a sad, pathetic loser who's only gleaming joy in life is his adorable wife Sarah, portrayed by Liv Tyler. But when Sarah falls for sleazy drug lord Jacques (Kevin Bacon), grief stricken Frank transforms himself into the Crimson Bolt, whose heroic antics are best left to be seen. However, he realizes that to save his captive wife, he needs a lot more training. Enter Ellen Page as comic book geek Libby, who befriends Frank and later becomes his trusted sidekick Boltie. Together they fight crime, injustice, and wreck havoc on the Jacques' henchmen, as they inform him that he's next on the Crimson Bolt's list.

James Gunn first made a name for himself as a screenwriter for the film TROMEO & JUIET, which was distributed by the world's oldest independent movie studio Troma, and directed by its president and founder Lloyd Kaufman. Later he made several film appearances in other Troma classics such as TOXIC AVENGER PART IV. His 2006 horror film SLITHER garnered him even more acclaim. With this film, Gunn returns to his indie roots, by combining dark humor, gore, and social commentary that made TROMEO & JULIET such a cult classic.

While many will say that Gunn's film is patterned after the 2010 film KICK ASS, that statement couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, SUPER is a lot darker, more edgier, and quite frankly, more realistic. The film is so set in the real world, and the reality is that if some regular average joe was pushed to his limits, this might be the end result. It's quite possible that one day we might turn on the news and we see a report on a local superhero fighting crime. However, Gunn's film takes that idea and tweaks it to the Nth degree. Saturated with grotesque language, religious metaphors, superhero sex (yes, you read that right), and over-the-top violence, SUPER has all the makings of a cult classic, one that could live on at midnight shows. A fantastic film that will live forever in infamy.

The second film I saw was director David Gordon Green's new comedy YOUR HIGHNESS. The film stars Danny McBride and James Franco as brothers Thadeous and Fabious, who couldn't be any more different from one another. Fabious is the king's favorite son, a brave knight who is about marry the beautiful Belladonna (the sultry Zooey Deschanel). Thadeous, on the other hand, is happy being a sloth, whose only purpose in life is to get drunk, get high, and to fornicate with the maidens in his father's kingdom. But when Fabious' bride is captured by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) the kind orders Thadeous to accompany his brother on his quest to rescue his love. Along the way the two princes meet the mysterious and enchanting Isabel (portrayed by the beautiful Natalie Portman). Eventually, the three warriors join forces to destroy Leezar before he can unleash a dragon that could consume the entire land.

While the film is somewhat funny, I felt that is was forced comedy, meaning that the jokes were really being shoved down your throat. Granted it has the hallmarks to become a great comedy, the film should've been more relaxed and the jokes come off more naturally. It was joke after joke after joke that often times really missed its mark. Sometimes the joke would come so fast before I knew it, the next joke came and went just like that. Too often does this happen in comedies.

While it was wonderful to see Deschanel's cleavage and Portman's assets, I found myself being annoyed with simple fact that Green was trying to hard to make the film funny. What's even more bewildering is that this is the same director who made such amazing films as 2000's GEORGE WASHINGTON, 2004's UNDERTOW, and my personal favorite 2003's ALL THE REAL GIRLS, which also starred Deschanel. One has to wonder if Green will ever go back to doing really interesting, thought provoking films later on down the road. With only a handful of chuckles, YOUR HIGHNESS fails to tickle your funny bone. Best to skip it and wait for it to come out on Netflix.

The third and final film I saw was HANNA, the new film from director Joe Wright (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, ATONEMENT). Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl who lives in the wilds of Finland with her ex-CIA agent father Erik (Eric Bana). But Hanna is not your typical teenage girls, and Eric knows this. Being trained to become a perfect, lethal assassin, Hanna is set out into the world, a world she knows nothing about, on a special mission. While exploring her new surroundings, she is being stalked by the equally dangerous intelligence operative agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett). Soon Hanna's world becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse, as she tries to solve the mystery of her true identity and the realization of her existence.

Both Blanchett and Bana's acting are absolutely brilliant. Both create characters that leap off the screen. But it is the breakout performance of Ronan that anchors the film. Ronan's portrayal as Hana is just riveting, one that will no doubt garner her an Academy nomination for next year's awards show.

Of course, one cannot overstate Wright's directing, which is superb and flawless. He deserves high praise for his directing, along with Seth Lochhead and David Farr's screenplay, which gives Ronan and Blanchett the chance to really perform with such conviction and believability. Also cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler and editor Paul Tothill deserve recognition as well. An extraordinary film that will leave you talking about it long after the final credits roll.

Overall it was a great night for me. I saw some amazing films, and it got me wanting to see more. So keep your eyes peeled here, because I'll be seeing a lot more films this weekend!!

SUPER, YOUR HIGHNESS, and HANNA are now playing nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas. To see showtimes visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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