And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


X-Men: First Class (2011)

Well, this is embarrassing. I purposefully avoided X-Men: First Class for a variety of reasons I hope I’ve explained in past X-reviews. Come to find out, not only is it better than it has any right to be, not only is it easily the best X-Men movie of the series…for me, it’s also the best superhero movie of Summer 2011.

But after eleven years and four increasingly crappy movies, can you blame me for being skittish? No. Of course you can’t. Even the so-called “good” X-movies are lousy with basic plot and story problems everyone ignored at the time because we were too busy being happy they existed in the first place. Along comes First Class, a film that feels like its makers kept one eye on a gargantuan check-list of those problems…and the other on the clock. It still has the multitudinous problems of a Superhero Team Movie, and especially a superhero Team Movie made by Fox, but unlike every other superhero movie of Summer 2011, First Class feels like an actual film. Continue reading

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Winter’s Bone (2010)
Filmed on location in the region I grew up in. No, really.

Filmed on location where I grew up. No, really.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a seventeen-year-old native of the Missouri Ozarks. With her father missing and her mother nearly catatonic, Ree’s left to raise her two young siblings as best she can. Winter’s Bone opens with their morning routine and, as the Dolly children walk to school, we see Ree quiz her little sister. “Spell ‘house,'” she says, delivering the film’s theme with a level of stealth that would make ninja masters nod in stoic, reserved approval as they tugged at their obligatory beards.

Winter’s Bone is nothing less than cinematic ninjitsu: a film that carries out its missions  with careful patience, heart and soul. Based on the eponymous book by Ozark native Daniel Woodrell, the film is everything you’ve heard it is and more. Continue reading