Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

What the Flick: The King’s Speech

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The King’s Speech is an understated drama interspersed with moments of wry humor, with great performances from the lead actors, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, as well as a supporting cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, and Michael Gambon.

It tells the story of Prince Albert, who reluctantly assumed the throne of England during World War II after his brother abdicated to play house with a Baltimore socialite. Albert, who would go on to become King George VI, suffered from a debilitating stutter. He hired Lionel Logue, a washed-up Australian actor with an unorthodox teaching style, as a speech therapist.

The film, directed by Tom Hooper, does a great job of making members of this royal family approachable to the common man. It also manages to bring all the pomp and majesty down to a level that actually approaches intimacy, which is why I was struck by how much it appeared to have been blocked and designed like a stage play.

Later, I did a little research and wasn’t too surprised to find that The King’s Speech had been written as a stage play, but got picked up first as a movie.

Great story, well told.


What the Flick: True Grit

December 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Some people are terribly offended by the temerity of the Coen Brothers remaking a classic western such as True Grit. But here’s the thing, folks: The original wasn’t so great.

There. I said it.

Sure, the role was written for John Wayne, and when I was a kid, well, I thought John Wayne was pretty cool. But True Grit wasn’t a perfect movie as it was, Glen Campbell didn’t make a very good Texas Ranger, and I wasn’t a big fan of Kim Darby. So, I relished the chance to see a retelling of this story by a couple of filmmakers whose work I almost always enjoy.

Their vision of True Grit didn’t disappoint. It’s darker and sadder than the original, but it also has a good deal more genuine humor, plus some fantastic visuals.

Jeff Bridges does a commendable job chewing gravel as Rooster Cogburn. Matt Damon brings some new dimensions to the role of the Texas Ranger who throws in his lot with the marshal on the hunt for Tom Chaney and Lucky Ned Pepper’s gang. Barry Pepper, who plays Ned, seems to be in the running for heir apparent Future Harry Dean Stanton. But the real star of the movie is a newcomer named Hailee Steinfeld, who plays the street-wise Mattie Ross with a sharp tongue and a keen intellect.

It doesn’t exceed Unforgiven as my favorite western of all time, but the Coen Brothers’s True Grit comes a close second, edging out 3:10 to Yuma.

What the Flick: Black Swan

December 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Devised as a companion piece to his only slightly more uplifting The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan only works for me if I pretend that everything that happens – and I mean everything – is just a figment of some crazy woman’s fevered imagination.

Otherwise, it simply comes across as an over-the-top and excessively literal character portrait that starts sluggishly and then takes a nosedive into laughingly ridiculous before it ends.

The movie does some things well, such as painting the portrait of the stress, strain, and sacrifices that ballet dancers make for their art. But, hey, we’d seen something much like this in The Wrestler. What’s new here? Turns out, the suffering of the central character pushes her over the edge into madness. The director of the ballet tells Nina to “lose yourself” in the role of the Black Swan and before the flick’s over, through the magic of computer graphics, we see her sprouting black feathers while she dances.

Like I said: Way too literal.

But I can almost like the movie if I pretend that she’s bugnuts crazy from beginning to end.

The Happening: Mark Wahlberg – Plant Whisperer

December 19, 2009 Leave a comment

In 2008, I successfully avoided all showings of M. Night Shamalyan’s homicidal vegetation epic, “The Happening.”

Tonight, my luck ran out. Unable to get Time-Warner Cable to cooperate and show me On Demand broadcasts of “Caprica” or “Mad Men,” I steeled myself for what was airing live on HBO.

It should at least be good for a laugh, I told myself.

No. Look at poor Zooey Deschanel’s face in the picture here. That look? That was pretty much on my face the whole time. When John Leguizamo makes the totally random and clearly suicidal choice to head off to Princeton, abandoning his daughter? Yeah, I had that look. When Mark Wahlberg spends about three minutes standing in a field listening to gunshots, I’m sitting there yelling, “RUN!” Eventually, he gets this idea that maybe they should…”RUN!” When Mark decides to have a soothing conversation with a fake plant, I’m yelling, “RUN!” When Mark is watching people let themselves get run over by giant lawnmowers, I’m yelling, “RUN!” When Mark and the kids are on the porch of Camp Crazy Gun Nuts and two of the kids get gunned down, I’m yelling, “RUN!”

Mark mostly just stands still and looks pole-axed. I should cut him some slack, maybe. He IS a Philadelphia public school teacher.

The capper for me in the whole experience had to be the absolutely ridiculous choice that Mark made in the end to meet Zooey and the little girl out in the middle of Death Spore Central.

Plants don’t kill people. Stupid people in stupid plots kill people. And sometimes the stupid get lucky, survive, and procreate.