Sunday, December 26, 2010

Movie Review - True Grit

True Grit

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and more.

Directed & written by: Joel & Ethan Coen

Premise: After her father is killed, Mattie Ross comes to Fort Smith to collect her father's body. Seeing that no one is pursuing the murderer to bring him to justice, she decides to take matters into her own hands and hires a local marshal to go after him.

Review: It's been forever since I saw the original True Grit with John Wayne so I can't make any valid comparisons with the original, so I won't. I can only say what I felt about this film on its own.

Hailee Steinfeld was spectacular! Prim, proper, with a core of iron yet still showing a vulnerability on occasion that was great to behold. She fired her dialogue with just the right amount of confidence and sharpness that made her such a fearsome force to deal with. A guided missile on a mission! One that would not be stopped.

Jeff Bridges was a total hoot as Rooster Cogburn. He was gritty, quirky, funny, rough and watching him deal with Mattie and also LeBoeuf was a hoot. Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger was prissy and stiff and a wonderful foil to clash with Rooster. Like two sides of the same coin, one shiny, one scarred both stubborn.

Beautiful cinematography. You truly felt these people were out in the middle of nowhere. Everything was desolate. The multiple layers of desolation for the landscape, the people, and their cause, it made a very nice image both visually and subliminally.

The film was a lot of fun especially in the beginning. Then as things move along it grew grimmer as they knuckle down to the task at hand. All actions have consequences. And when you push past where you should, be prepared to pay the price.

In someways that was the scariest thing about the film. Mattie Ross grew up in many ways though she was already mature beyond her years during this adventure. But the biggest lesson learned and one she wore like a badge of honor - was that all actions have consequences. There is always a price to pay and you have to want it bad enough and pay it. She did and I can't say she was ever sorry for doing it though at the time she felt some regret but there was way to take it back. It was a very poignant thing watching her come to realize the price she would pay for that one moment of triumph. A price she'd never expected and could do nothing about since it was too late. But eventually resolved there was no point crying over spilled milk. What was done was done. A lesson you got the feeling her two companions already knew quite intimately themselves.

And while you'll hold it together throughout, it's the ending years later that gets you. It's where you see just how much that short period of time made a difference in a young girls life. (Tearing up just thinking about it. I am a sucker! Heh)

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Movie Review - Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, and more

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Premise: Sam's father disappeared twenty years ago. As Sam continues trying to deal with the abandonment and pushing his father's legacy along on in his own way, he's told an old friend got paged from a phone that's been disconnected for almost as long as his father's been missing. With a little prodding, Sam goes to check it out and his adventure begins.

Review: Hubby and I saw the original Tron way back in the day. We were some of the privileged few who got to see it with the stagnant then energy infused apartment belonging to Yori when she meets secretly with Tron. So you could say we've been somewhat looking forward to this sequel.

Visually, the new film is stunning. Absolutely MUST be seen in the IMAX 3D. All the old vehicles are there with a makeover, looking shiny and new. Though no tanks were seen shooting (major bummer) and only glimpsed from afar. There were all sorts of new personal vehicles to watch being played with though - like personal fighters and wing backpacks. The planes even leave the same deadly trails as the motorcycles (though I wasn't sure that made much sense as it was not in a game scenario). The motorcycle game went multi level, but they removed the 90 degree turns that proved so deadly in the original.

Jeff Bridges and Tron (who we saw very little of per say) were taken back to their original youth by utilizing digitized renditions taken from the original film. This works, for the most part.

Plot wise, they went a weird direction. In many many ways the new film follows the same steps as the old one. Clash and shenanigans with Encom (they had the HUGE door from the original that led to the lab. I so enjoyed that!). Dillinger's progeny is there though he has nothing really to do, just a gimme of sorts - I figured since they'd bothered to bring him in they'd do something with him, but no. Dumont's name is flashed around as fan giggle fodder. Once Sam is unwillingly sucked in to the grid he is promptly captured and thrown to the games (Very nice and mechanical seeming scene where his clothes get taken and him changed: like an assembly line) - first discs and later cycles just like his father. And more. If you've seen the original film, keep an eye out and you will see what I am talking about. (Don't want to give all away!)

As if to make up for the deleted room scene in the first film, you'll get a nice long look at Flynn's place in the digital world. Though it's been humanized. They make up for this later when you see Programs bumbling about looking at the strange things he's made. (Almost like Flynn had made his own programs for his furnishings like you can in Second Life Online.

While they keep the lingo from the original film, it is used a lot less and almost thrown in as an afterthought. I was somewhat bothered by the introduction of a bar in this digital world. Somethings were turned too much into normal human things - while it fit Flynn and his home, it did not fit in the grid. These are Programs. There should have been more originality in how they differ from us in their downtime and general life IMHO.

They introduce ISOs but really don't give you much about them. (Really it's but a crutch to give us a specific turnout at the end.) Also the falling out that turned everything so nasty was very vague. Just because your interest shifts does not mean betrayal or that you aren't looking towards that end anymore. It felt lame?

So while visually fulfilling, story wise it was a little lacking. Oh, and there's no BIT. You see him as a firework and as a couple of toys, but no BIT. Was really hoping they'd have BIT in there! :P

So overall, it was entertaining and beautiful if not totally satisfying.

Rating: Visuals 4.5, Story 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby rating: worth full price of admission)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Movie Review - Black Swan

Black Swan

Staring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Ksenia Solo, and more...

Premise: Nina finally gets her big break with the ballet troop when she is chosen to play the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. And she wants her performance to be PERFECT.

Review: I will try to review this without giving things away. First of, I will never be able to listen to the music of Swan Lake without recalling this movie! Never!

I was totally fascinated by this film on a multitude of levels. One is the look behind the curtain of the world of ballet. About the last ten years or so I've become more aware about the long term effects of doing ballet. It is a truly arduous profession that normally causes long term damage if you get good enough to go professional with it. As much or more so than expected of professional football and baseball players. You catch a tiny glimpse of that here. Of the commitment, the hours, the damage. And how catastrophic an accident could be.

Another is the pressure to succeed. The power plays, the rivalries, the politics, all the things you normally get with a group of any size where there lands a pecking order are there to be seen. Even other darker glimpses like of worship, ridicule, backstabbing, and even the force of others trying to live vicariously through their children.

The last was the complicated story of Nina herself. Someone who on the surface seems to have the talent, support, and good life, but only if you're only looking at the surface.

There were moments when the camera work options chosen were not the best in the first quarter of the film (like over the shoulder moving shots), but beside those, it just got better and better the further the film went. This is also a movie you don't expect the need for a lot of CGI or special effects work, but there is. And those were fabulous. Make sure to look at faces, at mirrors, and more. Don't blink!

The choreography and the hard work by Natalie Portman and others was outstanding. Several of the practice dance scenes have such close motion between her and her partners it was amazing to behold. Like watching jet pilots when they do their graceful weaving in the skies. Just amazing but easy to overlook or forget the amount of skill involved.

Natalie Portman deserves a nomination for an Oscar if not more. You'll see, trust me. But can't say more.

The story begins with a punch. A dream that is a harbinger of things to come in several levels. Then the film slowly, ever slowly simmers upward. Little flashes and bits get doled out and if you blink you'll miss some of them. Then the whole thing builds to a crescendo to a scene that literally had me break out in goosebumps all over. And then it swoops down for a couple of more punches in the gut. WOW! (The Black Swan sequence was beyond Superb! And then there was more!)

There is a lot of sexual matters alluded to or shown though there is no real nudity, but still not a kids' movie! The deeper aspects of it are probably not for kids either. Yet the allusions to sex and even a well dressed pervert in the subway also gave it a strange dimension of reality in a way.

The film even made fun of itself by showing some people who don't like ballet. A clash of two different worlds coming together. A definite problem that would be had by these young women if they tried to date outside their circles.

My husband came because I picked the movie and he had no better preference, but he came out of this happy that he came to see it. Yes, it was that good! (He's not into ballet at all.) It's a very visual film.

This is not a feel good movie. But it will stay with you. Perhaps even haunt you. I know it will haunt me.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Movie Review - The Warrior's Way

The Warrior's Way

Starring: Dong-gun Jang, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston, Tony Cox, Lung Ti, and more...

Premise: As an assassin reaches his goal of 'greatest fighter ever', he comes to realize that reaching it means nothing. Rather than kill the last survivor of a rival clan, he let's the girl child live and escapes with her to America to start a life with more than just fighting in it.

The story of Yang is related to us as a spoken story. Like those told over a campfire or while snuggled by a fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa. So in the telling the story reaches a bigger than life quality. Which is then presented to us that way visually.

So a desolate town seems ever much more so. The sunrise and sunsets, even the night sky, are wider, bigger, more colorful. The feats by individuals and groups faster, grander, more impossible than normal. Dark is darker, color rare and brighter. The fight of light vs dark both a visual and moral thing. And it works beautifully!

Tons of battles. Guns, swords, leaps, bounds. And the greatest use for a half finished ferris wheel ever!

No, you won't find a very complicated plot here, though it does end up having several layers, but then that's not why you chose to see this film anyway. And it does spring a couple of fun surprises on you along the way, which was awesome. The great work by the cast doesn't hurt either. And unlike most American films, don't expect a all is wonderful happy ending. Yet it is one that fits the premise very well.

Overall, it was a totally fun ride. If you want to see gun fights, sword fights, assassin fu, destruction and more - this film's for you. It even had a touch of creepy thrown in - when the ship goes to America with its second cargo - some real nice imagery there. Eek! Definitely worth it for the visuals alone. Fun stuff!

4 out of 5
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