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Hanna & Your Highness: Two film reviews
HANNA: (3 stars out of 5)
Hanna tries hard to be a modern version of an old Grimm's Fairy Tale. It has a heroine who grows up secluded in a cabin; An evil queen-type villainess; a young girl's coming-of-age; and a quest for revenge. It has many images associated with fairy tales (such as wolves and a house reminiscent of something out of Hansel and Gretel). The movie frequently references the Brothers Grimm. The comparison is rather heavy-handed at some points, so director Joe Wright gets no points for subtlety, but subtlety isn't the point of an action film.
At one time it would have seemed very unusual to have a shoot-em-up film with a teenage girl as the protagonist. However, after Kick Ass and the recent Sucker Punch, gun-totting teen action girls are becoming trendy. Hanna is less tasteless than either of those. It doesn't turn the heroine's violence into an adolescent male fantasy as Sucker Punch does, nor is it as offensive as Kick Ass which showed us how much the young heroine enjoyed dispatching her enemies with a bullet and a quip. In this film, the teen protagonist kills because she's been raised to believe that its what she has to do, but she takes no pleasure in it.
Saoirse Ronan is a very talented young actress who hit the ground running in Atonement and followed that up with an equally strong performance in The Lovely Bones. She has what it takes to be one of the few child performers who manages to graduate to a long, adult career. She handles her first action role with gravitas and makes her unbelievable action heroine believable.
Ronan plays Hanna, who was raised in the wilderness in the frozen North by her father Erik (Played by Eric Bana, in a strong supporting performance), who was a former CIA assassin. Erik has been forced to go into hiding after a failed attempt on his life which killed Hanna's mother. He has raised his daughter in this brutal environment, training her to be a living weapon for the day that he will send her to kill her mother's killer. Hanna dutifully practices every skill her father teaches her until the day of revenge finally comes.
The object of their venom is Marissa Veigler (Played with a pitifully bad southern accent by the talented Kate Blanchett, who is miscast here) a high ranking member of the CIA who claims that Erik is a major national security risk; however, it seems pretty clear that there are more personal motives behind her vendetta to get Erik. After her men fail in their attempt to catch Erik, Marissa is excited to hear about the young girl they caught instead. Everyone is surprised when the girl asks to speak to Marissa personally. The instant they meet, Hanna makes an assassination attempt on Marissa and then escapes the CIA facility, pursued by an army of agents. Marissa knows more about Hanna than she is saying and is determined to recapture the girl. Marrisa apparently doesn't trust her own men so she contracts out to a mercenary named Isaacs (Tom Hollander) who tracks Hanna down.
A good portion of the film is devoted to Hanna's fish-out-of-water adventures as she comes in contact with people and civilization for the first time. Hanna is alternately awed, terrified and bemused by the real world. She is befriended by a family touring the world on an extended vacation. The parents are 60s-styled hippies and the sarcastic daughter Sophie (Well played by Jessica Barden in a wonderfully deadpan performance) forms a friendship with Hanna, who experiences family life for the first time.
There are some flaws in the film, to be sure. For instance, Hanna is raised in a cabin without electricity (she is amazed when she first sees electric lights and television) and yet she knows to go to an Internet cafe and goggle information when she needs to investigate something.
Hollander is not very impressive as Blanchett's henchmen Isaacs. He is a generic character. The only characteristic he seems to have--which is supposed to make him interesting--is the fact that he whistles non-stop. However, that seems to make him rather dumb in my opinion because a killer shouldn't whistle while he's trying to be covert.
Ronan and Bana carry the film, handling both the action and the emotional scenes well. Ronan has the potential to be a major star one day, if her career is handled properly. This is far from a perfect film but as an action movie, it works.
YOUR HIGHNESS: (One star out of five.)
This movie could work as a lesson in how to waste a talented cast. Natalie Portman (Fresh off her Oscar in in Black Swan), James Franco, Zooey Dechanel, Toby Jones and Charles Dance are heavyweight talents brought low in this obnoxious, unfunny travesty that begins on life-support and dies long before the final credits mercifully role.
Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express,Snow Angles, Undertow) the film is meant to parody the Dungeons-and-Dragons genre, which consists of forgotten films like Krull. However, the film is aimed at an audience who's too young to remember when this genre actually had some life left in it. Your Highness wants to be The Princess Bride, but instead it works on the level of Cheech & Chong.
James Franco plays Fabious, the Prince of the kingdom ruled by wise, old king Tallious (Charles Dance.) Fabious has a young brother named Thadeus (Danny McBride) who is supposed to be an endearing slacker but who is, in fact, unendurably pathetic. Thadeus can't compete with his smarter and more capable elder brother and so be becomes a weed-smoking, hard drinking, wenching loser.
When Fabeous goes off an a quest to save his fiancee Belladonna (Zooey Dechanel) from the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux), King Tallious gives Thadeous an ultimatum...Go help Fabious rescue his fiancee or be cut off from the family money permanently. Reluctantly, Thadeous agrees to help Fabious find Belladonna.
The brothers get into a series of supposedly comical adventures with all sorts of mythical creatures. They get some help from Xena Warrior Princess--Oops, I mean from the warrior woman Isabel (Natalie Portman)--who can outfight either of them. Thadeous takes a liking to the beautiful Isabel and tries to impress her by finding his inner hero.
The saddest things about this movie is its over-reliance on crude humor, F-bombs and body parts jokes. While these things can be funny in the hands of someone who knows how to use them for proper comic effect (Think of George Carlin's "Seven Words you Can Never Say On TV" routine), this film uses them as a surrogate for humor, not as a source for humor. The writers and the director seem to think that these aspects are enough to hang the whole movie on, without need of a good punchline. Wrong!
It's a shame to see so much talent wasted to badly. There are no good laughs here and no likable characters. Even seeing Natalie Portman stripping down to a medieval bikini can't save this cinematic suppository.