Illustration by Matt Boblet.

Review by Hanna Toda

“I just missed your heart,” whispers a young, pale-blond, piercingly blue-eyed girl, leaning over and gazes into the eyes of the person she just killed.

Meet Hanna. She is a child-assassin trained by her father, an ex-CIA agent, to be the perfect killer for one mission. With a chillingly beautiful performance by Saoirse Ronan, director Joe Wright presents not just your average action movie, but a moving drama of humanity as Hanna leaves her isolated home in the forest to experience humanity for the first time in her life.

Hanna is by far the most frightening killer I have ever seen. With a doe-like innocence in her face and a lean, graceful body, she resembles a ballerina, ready to dance to Tchaikovsky. However, the minute she kills four men in a few swift moves, blood speckling her porcelain complexion, even the fiercest of black swans have nothing on her. The juxtaposition of her dangerous nature with her innocent façade is the movie’s ultimate weapon — it will leave you clinging to the edge of your seat, anxious to see what this little girl is capable of.

When Hanna first begins her mission, her cold, blank stare provides the intrigue. Breaking necks without a blink, Hanna resembles a robot, clearly defining the movie as an action film. However when Hanna, leaving her isolated training grounds, hears music for the first time and discovers what a kiss is, the movie turns from an action film to a drama. Hanna’s stoicism disappears, and the deeply embedded “adapt or die” motto slowly fades away.

The film impressively depicts not just the superficial shock factor of a child-killer, but also the psychological complexities of a young girl torn from a normal society. Similarly to Mary Shelley in “Frankenstein,” director Wright explores a fascinating concept of humanity, as Hanna discovers what it means to be human.

With an original score by The Chemical Brothers, the film’s whimsical music phenomenally complements both sides of Hanna’s personality — a young girl and a killer.

Although the film is a major production, the unique cinematography and camera angles echo the mood of an independent film.

This movie was surprisingly different from what I would have imagined. Supported by a star cast including the unsurprisingly suave Eric Bana as Erik and a beautifully manipulative Cate Blanchett as Marissa, this film is truly one-of-a-kind and a definite must-see before the string of terribly cheesy summer movies hits theaters.



“Win Win”
Review by Mitchell Bates

Wrestling is relatively funny to watch, but that’s not the only thing that dramatic comedy “Win Win” — the newest offering from “Meet the Parents” director Thomas McCarthy — has to offer.

Paul Giamatti, known for his performance in the Academy Award-winning film “Sideways,” stars as struggling attorney and wrestling coach Mike Flaherty, while Amy Ryan, co-star of 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone,” plays his passionate and oblivious wife, Jackie. The two are surprisingly believable as a couple, but as I was sitting in the Del Mar Theatre scrutinizing “Win Win,” I found it incredibly difficult to shake the feeling that I was watching Holly Flax cheat on Michael Scott with Paul Giamatti. Despite this “Office” -induced confusion, the relationship between Mike and Jackie creates an excellent foundation for the film.

Mike accepts the responsibility of caring for an older client struggling with dementia, so that he can net a small monthly stipend. But he encounters problems when the man’s grandson suddenly comes to visit. The 16-year-old, played by Alex Shaffer in an incredible breakout performance, is fleeing from his drugged-out mother and her abusive ex-boyfriend. When the kid turns out to be a champion wrestler, Mike takes him in and puts him to work wrestling for his losing team. As assistant coaches, Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor provide excellent comic relief and are allowed enough character development during the film to successfully avoid falling into the typical roles of goofy and unsubstantiated sidekicks.

Life is improving for Mike, until his new star’s mother shows up to claim the stipend he received earlier in the movie. The conflicts that follow are relatively predictable and could have felt tedious, but instead they seemed genuinely emotional because of the excellent chemistry among Giamatti, Ryan and Shaffer.

While a very endearing film, the abrupt and unresolved ending of “Win Win” may leave some viewers unsatisfied. When the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but think, “This is it? They couldn’t have added one more scene?”

However, even considering its less than stellar finish, “Win Win” was a superb movie, equally funny and uplifting.



“Nine Types of Light”
TV on the Radio album
Review by Mitchell Bates

TV on the Radio lead singer Tunde Adebimpe intones, “You threw your hands up and walked away, so it’s strange I should feel this way,” in “You,” one of the band’s new songs.

Though he is likely singing about an ex-lover, the lyrics are applicable to the band itself. After the group chose to go on hiatus in 2009, it might have been easy to forget about them, but I at least could not. For those of us who have truly missed TV on the Radio for the last year-and-a-half or so, the release of “Nine Types of Light” has been a long-anticipated event.

Considering the high expectations for this album, it’s perhaps a miracle that it doesn’t disappoint. “Nine Types of Light” demands attention from the first seconds of album opener “Second Song” and doesn’t let go until the record’s only uninspired track, “Killer Crane.” When compared to TV on the Radio’s previous albums, “Nine Types of Light” is perhaps more laid-back, but the change is enjoyable and helps to bring the gloss and refinement of Adebimpe’s vocals to the spotlight. However, they haven’t completely abandoned their edge, and tracks like “Caffeinated Consciousness” and “Repetition” serve as a helpful reminder that the band still knows how to write vivid and original rock songs.

When viewed through the concerns of the average UC Santa Cruz student — rising tuition, decreasing standards of education, an abysmal job market — the song “No Future Shock” registers as especially relevant. Backed by a catchy beat, Adebimpe commands, “Oh dance, don’t stop, do the no future, do the no future,” and it’s hard to ignore the correlations with last year’s graduate student commons occupation.

TV on the Radio’s most recent effort may not outshine 2006’s “Return to Cookie Mountain” or 2008’s “Dear Science,” but “Nine Types of Light” accompanies relaxation sessions perfectly. It’s smooth, sexy, smart and easy to like.