Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jonathan Goes To the Movies: Hanna, Your Highness, and Scream 4

Another great week last week at the movies: an action thriller that blows you away, a comedy that proves weed and dick jokes aren't always funny in every setting, and a horror flick that doesn't suck!

I don't know what's more electrifying: the entire 1 hour and 51 minutes of Hanna, a new personal best for Brit director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement), or the fact its young star, Saoirse Ronan is this good, this much full of raw talent at 16. Hanna's life has been the woods, learning how to hunt prey, both for food and for a personal vendetta her father (Eric Bana) has against for CIA agent Marisa Wiegler (an ice-cold Cate Blanchette) for the death of his wife. The moment Hanna flips on the switch, a tracking beacon which allows Vegler to know their whereabouts, the game is on and Joe Wright, along with screenwriters David Farr and Seth Lochhead and a hypnotic score by the Chemical Brothers, knock you for loops and dare you not to leave your seat for even a minute. As our young heroine tries to stay two steps ahead of Wiegler and her mercenary goons, Hanna begins to question the life her father has only told her through an encyclopedia and through fairy tales: who is she? Why is she such a threat to Wiegler? Why does her DNA tests she took when she escaped containment say her structure is abnormal? I'm not telling, but I will say Ronan takes the role of Hanna and gives a performance that is well beyond her years and matches step-for-step her scenes with Bana as the father with a secret, and the chilling demeanor of Blanchette's Wiegler.
***1/2 stars out of ****

Fair warning: if you think weed and dick jokes are crude and unfunny ways to get laughs out of an audience, then you won't like Your Highness, a parody of the epic fantasy quest that's filled to the brim with weed and dick jokes, with the f-bomb thrown out there in nearly every fucking sentence. Danny McBride, who plays the demented and wildly funny Kenny Powers on the HBO series Eastbound and Down, plays Thadeous, a stoner prince with two ambitions: get blazed and chase pussy, be it tall or small - literally, the opening scene has him in hot water with the midget kingdom for banging the king's daughter - while his brother Fabious (James Franco) slays dragons and goes on various quests. Thadeous has one more chance to prove he's worth a damn to his father king by going on a quest with his brother to save his the princess Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) from a dark wizard (Justin Theroux) obsessed with fucking a virgin and watching a dragon come out of her vagina (No, i'm not making that up) to control and bring the kingdom to its knees. Can Thadeous retrieve a mythical blade that can destroy this evil baddie and win the heart of a beautiful warrior (Oscar-winner Natalie Portman) with a love of fighting and taking dips into a pool in a thong (Yes, that actually happens)? Not going to say anymore, except that Your Highness tries too hard to be a spoof of the fantasy quest, but it ends up being a kind of Monty Python skit, filled with blue humor and weed, which is a shame because director David Gordon Green made a hysterical comedy in 2008 called Pineapple Express, about stoners in over their heads trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys., and it was insanely brilliant; probably the best stoner comedy since Joel and Ethan Coen trotted out The Big Lebowski in '98. His latest effort just a swing and a miss.
** stars out of ****

Scream 4, the latest installment of the popular horror series that began with Scream in 1996, is a film in which the adults and teenagers know all the rules and cliches of horror movies, yet make the same mistakes which end up making them another corpse on the evening news, which is probably the point. Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Wilkinson know how ridiculously cliched and familiar the horror film has become, so they throw out all the stops. The opening scene, involving two awesome cameos by Anna Paquan and Kirsten Bell, is one of the funniest i've seen in a while, which sets up the reunion between the three remaining survivors of the Woodsboro massacre: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and her husband, now sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette), and how Sidney's return comes 11 years after the murders and the two teen girls who end up knifed by Ghostface, the same psychotic, mask-wearing, knife-wielding baddie who racked up the body count in the first three movies. You know the drill: the main characters begin to turn on one another as the body count begins to pile up and the audience is forced to act as the detective as the teens, along with Sidney, Dewey and Gale are all on trial in the court of public opinion. Is the killer the moody and creepy Robbie Mercer (Erik Knudsen) the ex-beau to Jill (Emma Roberts), who will do anything to be with her? Could it be Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton), the earnest sheriff who likes Dewey too much? Is it the film geek (Justin Brandt) who knows horror films inside and out? Or is it Gale herself, who's looking to score one more story on Ghostface by being the murder herself? I'm not telling, and it would ruin the insane, bloody, and twisty ride that follows in its wake.

*** stars out of ****

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