Atonement

“I found it kinda hard to believe I hadn’t blogged this movie yet. True, it would have come out before ExpDel was a thing, and for all I know, I may have written it up on my old LJ (that no, I am not linking to). Anyways this Oscar contender (and winner of one, for score) of recent-ish past is one that I absolutely love. I even read the book soon after watching.

You’d think I wouldn’t like this movie. It is, after all, frequently categorized as a romance. But for me, the romantic plot isn’t the important part. I see this more as Briony’s story of mistakes, misunderstanding, and her lifelong attempt at atonement (oh that’s where the name comes from).

Okay, let’s recap the story. Briony (played by Saoirse Ronan in one of her first roles and earning her first Oscar nomination) is a 13 year old girl in England in the mid 1930’s. On a busy day at her large estate, full of visiting cousins and family friends, she intercepts a racy letter mistakenly sent from the family gardener Robbie (a delicious James McAvoy) to her older sister Celia (a radient Keira Knightley). Briony catches the two of them in some compromising situations throughout the day, and her imagination runs away from her. That evening, when her tween cousin Lola (Juno Temple) is sexually assaulted, Briony is sure that Robbie is the culprit, and her testimony gets him arrested. From there, we fast foward a few years and catch up with an older Briony, serving as a nurse during WWII, who is desperate to set things right.

When I think about how much I love this movie, I always forget that it’s the first act that I love. There’s a reason Ronan quickly became a very prestigious and sought after actress (currently up for her second Oscar nomination), and her performance in this film is simply spellbinding. She has a fierce fire behind her eyes and the most stubborn attitude, which makes her one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever encountered. She loses a lot of that as she grows up, and I just don’t find her as interesting. The story gets a little drawn out, and frankly, there are sections of the second act that I’m just sorta bored by. However, I do think the act 3 resolution is absolutely appropriate and effective enough to justify those scenes I don’t care so much for.

Ronan isn’t the only one to give an incredible performance. These are near career bests for McAvoy and Knightley as well. Even if I don’t generally care for romantic storylines, those two sell it beautifully.

And as though it were a character all unto itself, I absolute LOVE the green dress Knightley wears. I was devastated the film didn’t win for best costumes, which it was up for (ugh Elizabeth: THe Golden Age, of course the uber period piece is gonna win costume), but I think that one dress could have had it. The image of a few slivers of green peeking out in the library is an image that has stayed with me all these years. *sigh* beautiful”

Kung Fu Panda 3

I love Kung Fu Panda. That’s the same sentence that opened my write up for Kung Fu Panda 2. Except I always forget that I love Kung Fu Panda until I watch him again. And the joy comes flooding back.

I don’t know exactly what the magic is, but I think it’s a combination of things. Brilliant casting (Po is Jack Black at his finest), genius animation, engaging story, cute characters, and most of all some of the smartest and most clever dialog I’ve ever encountered, not just for a kiddie movie but over all. While 2 was a bit of a disappointment, 3 reminded me why I love this little fuzzball.

In case the plot even matters to you, this movie finds our dragon warrior, Po, fighting his most formidable foe to date. Kai, former BFF turned enemy of Master Oogway, has crossed over from the spirit realm to steal the chi of all the Kung Fu masters. Po must learn to become a master of chi in order to defeat Kai. While all of this is going on, Po is reunited with his father (voiced by Bryan Cranston, who delivered a performance that was skilled and masterful while simultaneously sounding like he was having so much fun), who wants to bring Po home to a secret panda village.

What’s important is how many chuckles and smiles this movie elicited from me. One clever line of dialog after another, and some beautiful animation sequences (it’s the simple ones that I love). The new additions to the cast JK Simmons, Kate Hudson, and the aforementioned Bryan Cranston fit in perfectly. I’m at a point where I’m not so quick to go to (non-Pixar) kids movies anymore, but this one was worth going to. (PS-3D not so much worth it. Didn’t even notice it at all)

Kung Fu Panda 3 -\m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

The Finest Hours

“A friend of mine emailed me a few days ago to see if she could tag along for my weekend movies. I warned her that January doesn’t really have the best selection, but she was certainly welcome to join me. My hesitant first choice movies were The Finest Hours and Kung Fu Panda 3. The combo turned out to be a surprising win.

Besides the Jan graveyard release date, I think my hesitation towards The Finest Hours came mostly because it was another A-list Chris leading a big epic movie on a boat. After the disappointment of In The Heart of the Sea, I really wasn’t too keen to go through that again. For all their surface similarities, the two couldn’t have been more different.

The Finest Hours tells the true story of the most daring rescue in US Coast Guard history. A big storm in the 50’s wreaks havoc on the boats at sea, including tearing two tankers in half. When all the nearby resources are pursuing the first, a smaller crew is sent on a bit of a Hail Mary rescue mission for the other. Chris Pine stars as Bernie Webber, leader of that courageous crew of 4. Casey Affleck is the reluctant leader of the survivors of the tanker waiting for rescue.

I’d recently been thinking that we hadn’t seen anything from Ben Foster lately, a favorite I’ve followed since his days on Flash Foward when I was in junior high. On the way to the theater, I noticed a poster for the movie that highlighted him among the cast. Yay! (PS-If you want to see something incredible from him, check out The Messenger, where he plays a military man whose job is to inform next of kin when their loved ones pass). I also noticed that the ad said the film was done by Disney. It seemed an odd pairing at first, but after watching, it made total sense.

See, here’s the thing. The movie is mostly being marketed as either an adventurous action movie or a historical drama. I found it to be more like the inspirational family fare I grew up with in the 90s, most of them by Disney. It’s an underdog story about a team of real life heroes and their bravery, and it connected on so many emotional levels. And everything on the film from the cast to the effects was top notch, iffy Boston accents aside. Very inspiring film and a nice change of pace from the dark and intense movies I tend to favor

The Finest Hours – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Tribe

“I’m taking an ASL class! Have I mentioned that yet? I’ve only had two classes so far (3 by the time this posts), but it’s been really fun. I’ve had an interest in sign language for a very long time, and I’ve built up small bits of vocabulary here and there. But it was seeing Deaf West Theatre’s revival of Spring Awakening on Broadway that renewed my interest enough to sign up for a class.

So why am I talking about this? I thought this was a movie blog, not a general what’s-Dawn-been-doing-with-her-life-blog (although since watching movies is what I’m doing, is it both?) I bring it up because I noticed that the Brattle was playing The Tribe, a recently release Ukrainian film that features a deaf cast and no spoken dialog. Conveniently, the Brattle is just a few doors down from where I’m taking my class, and it’s only showing would be an hour after my weekly class. It was fated. Oh and even better, the place in Harvard Square that’s known for it’s really really good hot chocolate is one of the few doors in between the two, so I had a nice place to hang out and read The Martian in between.

Right, so this movie. It’s about students at a boarding school for the deaf, told from the perspective of a new student. These kids are into all sorts of bad: robbery, prostitution, violence, etc. For me, what was really interesting was the deaf culture, the way these kids would relate to each other. I read an article about the film that said that in many ways, they were more expressive than they ever could have been with spoken words, and I’m very much inclined to agree. I didn’t always know the details of what was happening, but the emotion was unmistakable.

It kind of went on for a long time, and there were scenes I felt didn’t need to be as long as they were, but it was still fascinating. To my knowledge, a film of this level has never been attempted like this, so it’s definitely worth checking out if it’s of interest. I will warn that there’s some pretty intense scenes though. Again, most of these kids are up to no good, and they exhibit some behavior that’s shocking in any context.

With my limited (but growing) vocabulary, I think I caught a whole two words. Then again, it wasn’t American Sign Language, so I don’t feel to bad about it. Incidentally, when watching the Spring Awakening video I linked earlier, I did catch a good 25ish% of what Marlee Matlin signed to intro it. Yay!”