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.
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.
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.
If you’ve never seen The Matrix trilogy before, then allow me to recommend TRON Legacy as a healthy alternative: All the shiny special effects and bogus philosophical shenanigans, but in one-third the time!
I didn’t go into this movie with any great love for the original, although the visuals were impressive for their time. I’m not a big fan of Olivia Wilde. I’d never heard of Garrett Hedlund. But, hey, it had Michael Sheen, James Frain, Jeff Bridges, and CGI Jeff Bridges. It seemed like a recipe for moderately cool, man.
But it wasn’t.
Michael Sheen spent his five minutes imitating David Bowie. James Frain was a reject from Heavy Metal. Jeff Bridges’s Kevin Flynn went from ambitious computer designer to goofy zen master – the Virtual Dude. And CGI Jeff Bridges was just creepy.
I saw the show in IMAX, which at least guaranteed that I got my money’s worth from the impressive light cycle, disc battle, and light jet air combat sequences. But the premise of a race of spontaneously generated “programs” within the virtual world (TRON’s version of midichlorians, I suppose) was just preposterous. That foolishness got trumped later when one of the programs made the transition from virtual to real world.
Kevin Flynn doesn’t want to get directly involved in a revolution because his creation, Clu, is after the info disk on his back. A secondary character mentions later that it’s possible to forge those info disks. One would think that Flynn, creator of this world, would know that. So, when he inevitably gets off his zen pillow and jumps into the middle of the action, someone steals the disk off his back. I smugly suggested to my girlfriend that Flynn probably prepared for that contingency by putting a forged disk on his back.
But no. No, he was just an idiot, allowing his disk to fall into the hands of the enemy.
I also found myself hoping that the real world plot, about the machinations within Flynn’s company ENCOM, would somehow get tied into the virtual world plot. But no. The one sighting of the ENCOM board was just to establish with clunky exposition that the company had moved on from Flynn’s altruistic mentality.
And, finally, there’s TRON himself, relegated in this story to the role of junkyard dog who turns against Flynn and serves Clu until the plot contrives for him to change alliances without any decent explanation.
I won’t call this movie an insult. I think an insult would have required more effort. It’s just a shiny bottle of noise and light. Enjoy the visuals, but don’t look for anything meaningful.