A dark, gritty tale of a man (Casey Affleck) home from another tour in Iraq, and how he disappears after getting involved with an underground fight club overseen by a ruthless leader (Woody Harrelson). After he goes missing, his older brother (Christian Bale), fresh out of prison, becomes determined to find him even under the strictest orders by police to let them do their jobs and to not get involved. This is a story that has a lot of interesting things to say, namely about the present-day economy, the feeling of being trapped in small, working class towns, as well as the post traumatic stress that continues to haunt soldiers after they return home. Bale is phenomenal as he always is, with Harrelson proving to be a terrifying, memorable villain. The end of the movie is unmistakably harsh, but also powerful and will not leave the viewer quickly. It does not get everything right, but in terms of tone and the sheer arresting ability director Scott Cooper captures, it is still worth a view.
An intriguing, though somewhat underdeveloped story of a mercenary hunter (Willem Dafoe) tasked with the mission of finding and killing the last remaining Tasmanian devil in the wilderness of Australia. He also becomes involved with the family he is staying with, whose father has gone missing. There are a lot of interesting elements here, and the ending in particular is powerful and moving, but ultimately this movie is a frustrating concoction of family drama mixed with man vs. nature. The scenes with Dafoe out in the wilderness are fantastic, while his moments with the family seem like a slight distraction from the main meat of the story. Dafoe, as always, is phenomenal and does a lot with his very thinly detailed character, and the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. In the end though, it just feels slightly underdone, which is a shame because there is a lot of great material here.
A hugely influential and masterfully constructed samurai tale with Western undertones concerning an impoverished roamer (Toshiro Mifune) who comes to a small Japanese town ruled by two evil gangs who threaten to tear it apart. Instead of taking one side over the other, the drifter elects to in turn attempt to manipulate each group into destroying each other, although this proves not to be a plan without flaws, including a nearly fatal lesson in pride going before the fall. Mifune is absolutely phenomenal, as he effortlessly portrays a character that is committed to accomplishing what the common good is for everyone. The themes of power, pride, redemption, and equality are ones that prove to be utterly arresting thanks to the wonderful direction from legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Mostly, this is a simple movie that does not try to be anything more than it is, but ultimately, thanks as well to a thrilling finale, this is a masterpiece.
An masterfully constructed epic concerning a general (Russell Crowe) of the Roman Army, next in line to be emperor thanks to his strong relationship to the current one (Richard Harris), before he is murdered in cold blood by his own son (Joaquin Phoenix) and the son sells the general into slavery after brutally murdering his family. The general becomes a gladiator, rising up through the rankings focused on enacting revenge on the emperor, and thus becoming a power political piece the newly crowned Caesar can not kill due to his popularity with the people of Rome. A soaring epic that nails almost everything right, with fantastic performances from Crowe and Phoenix that helped make them the movie stars they are now. This is a special, unique movie about the Roman empire and the way Scott captures it is utterly thrilling.
A major disappointment from the usually reliable Darren Aronofsky on the story of Noah, his internal struggles to understand his mission from his God, and the huge task he undertakes of building an ark to spare two of every animal, and his family, from God's reckoning. What could have been an epic, superb picture instead squanders any respect it might have earned in its first two-thirds by devolving into a ridiculous melodrama in its final third. There is nothing wrong with taking some liberties with the story, namely the psychosis of Noah, but Aronofsky just takes it way too far, to a point where Noah is basically Walter White. The acting is phenomenal, notably Crowe in yet another remarkable performance, and the vision Aronfosky possesses is downright arresting at times, but ultimately he strays too far from his source material and makes the story too messy as a result.