Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Black Swan 2010, (Grade B-)

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Any Awards?  Has received lots of nominations -- and it won some Golden Globes--time will tell if will get more.
Cast: Natalie Portman; Mila Kunis; Vincent Cassel; Barbara Hershey; Winona Ryder; Benjamin Millepied. Ksenia Solo, Kristina Anapau, Janet Montgomery, Sebastian Stan

Plot: Ambitious New York City ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lands the lead in "Swan Lake" but soon thinks her dreams of stardom are threatened by a rival ballerina (Mila Kunis). As opening night approaches and the pressure to be perfect builds, Nina's obsession descends into paranoia and delusion.  

sez says: this movie has gotten a lot of hype. I went expecting much more than it delivered.  Portman's ability to dance is impressive --but the story is really not very interesting. Mom  (Barbara Hershey), who is a littl like ALan Bate's mom in Psycho, has keep her ballerina daughter infantialized by treating her like a little girl. But she is a woman and she needs to connect to her own sexuality to bloom as a dancer in the role of The Swan Queen--and she has to overcome this problem while under pressure to be the next big thing in the world of ballet.  She hallucinates and can't tell reality from her paranoid fantasies.  Oh-hum. Original? only sort-of.  It was mildly interesting. 

mjc says:  In an effort to create a psychotic world for the protagonist, characters surrounding her were so distorted that there was no reality left to check the psychosis against--thus the film failed to move me

The Fighter, 2010 (Grade A)

Director: David O Russell
Any Awards?  Bale & Leo won Golden Globes and the movie has been nominated for lots more -- deservingly so, I might add.  Time will tell if it will win any more.
Cast: Mark Walhberg; Christian Bale; Amy Adams; Melissa Leo; Jack McGee; Melissa McMeekin; Bianca Hunter; Erica McDermott; Dendrie Taylor

Plot: Mark Wahlberg gets himself all buff to play the part of the boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward and Christian Bale plays his half brother and trainer Dicky Eklund.  It is a classic "fighter's rise from the working-class" -- this working class located in Lowell, Mass. Eventually he becomes a world-class welterweight contender--see the movie if you want to know if he wins.  After a string of defeats, Mickey rediscovers his fighting will with help from Dicky -- a once-talented pugilist battling drug addiction. 

sez says: maybe this should be renamed "It takes a village of idiots to train a boxer" That is not a joke.   Granted, it is about many other things too: It is about family--and suggests that even the most dysfunctional family operates in powerful and, sometime, wonderful ways. It is about how a focused goal can be what is needed to redeem a life.  It is about being working class Irish in Massachusetts.  It drags in places--but all-in-all it is a much better than average is Boxer Story--mostly becasue the acting is outstanding.  And the battalion of sisters...well they are unforgettable.

mjc says: brilliant performances by Bale & Leo. this in  spite of the fact taht I doubt that the world really needs another fight movie  

True Grit, 2010 (Grade A+)

Directors: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Awards--Lots of nominations & deserves to win a lot of awards
Cast: Jeff Bridges; Hailee Sreinfeld; Matt Damon; Josh Brolin; Barry Pepper; Dakin Matthews; Paul Rae; Domhnall Gleeson; Elizabeth Marvel

Plot summary: Drifter Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders the father of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld). She in turn hires U.S. Marshal Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her track down and capture the criminal.  Cogburn is said to have 'true grit', but how could that be so when he is an near penniless alcoholic. But he takes the job and we see what 'true grit' really is.  Joining the Cogburn and Hattie  is a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) who's also hunting for Chaney in, what some call are calling an 'updated John Wayne western'  -- but they are wrong about that. This it is an entirely different story in the Coen's hands.

sez says: I loved this movie-- I went and saw it twice (I have not gone to see a movie twice in 40 years).  It is about honor and doing the right thing no matter how hard it is to do it.  There has been a lot of talk about the language use in this film.  All contractions in the language are removed.   The characters say "I will' not I'll  --or 'I am not'  rather than  'I'm not;  -- or  they say 'do not' instead of 'don't'  etc etc.  I think it is clear that by using the language this way the characters are made to assert themselves and their intentions with a kind of direct honesty that is part of the theme of the story.  People need to say honestly what can be expected of them and then be good to their word--in that simple idea is the basis of what is required for 'true grit' --to be honorable, trustworthy, willing to take responsibility for doing what is right when called upon, and our drunken Cogburn does all of that-which is the true measure of his 'grit' / worth as a human being. The acting is great, the setting is fabulous and the story is enough to make you cry. 

mjc says: we saw this twice--I could go see it again right now. The images the story telling, the acting, the music, the language of the dialogue still has a grip on me.   

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Kids Are All Right (Grade A)

Director:  Lisa Cholodenko
Any Awards?  Yes Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards--and will probably get some more
CAST:  Julianne Moore; Annette Bening; Mark Ruffalo; Mia Wasikowska; Josh Hutcherson; Yava DeCosta; Kunal Sharma; Eddie Hassell; Zosia Mamet; Joaquin Garrido;  Rebecca Lawrence
plot summary : Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), are the children of same-sex parents Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore).  They both have the same father/sperm donor and want to know who he is. Sperm-donor dad (Mark Ruffalo) would be happy to become part of this ready made family--often with seriously funny outcomes. But his arrival complicates the household dynamics, and nobody is sure where or how he fits in -- if at all
sez says: here is a delight of a story--superbly acted --and universal in its truths.  What makes a family a family?  What is marriage?  What do children need?  Serious stuff and taken up with a lesbian couple who are parents-and who are treated just like ANY other married couple who are parents.  Refreshing--plus full of happy laughter--from an A+ script/dialogue.  All that all might sound a little dorky ... well it isn't--it is great 
mjc say:  exchanges between the married couple rendered authentically in the script.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Iron Man 2, 2010 (Grade C)

Director: Jon Favreau
Awards -- none that we know of and wouldn't expect any
Cast:  Robert Downey Jr.; Don Cheadle; Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Leslie Bibb, Gary Shandling

sez says:   Didn't expect much so was pleasantly surprised. A diverting romp, standard super hero fare, Robert Downey jr can be fun to watch. Edged up to stupid but never went completely over the edge. Better than expected. and a great cast

MJC:  this movie was a perfect complement to the trash thrillers that I am reading. Yes!

Bounty Hunter, 2010 Grade (F)

Director: Andy Tennant
Awards?  No way this will win any awards
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, Jason Sudeikis, Jeff Garlin, Siobhan Fallon, Peter Greene, Joel Garland, Dorian Missick. Adam Rose, Christine Baranski, Cathy Moriarty, Carol Kane

sez says:  What a sorry bit of tripe this is. I had heard that Jennifer Aniston had some comic talent. If you are to judge by this movie it just ain't so. There have been great movies made about dueling couples whose relationships have gone south but who are still attracted to each other (His Girl Friday and  Bringing Up Baby are two that come to mind immediately.)  Those movies have spunky stories, fun action, great scripts, and talented actors and they can continue to be enjoyed fifty plus years after the were made. None of the above applies to The Bounty Hunter.  It is not the genre that is the problem.  The story is a problem, the acting is a problem, the script is a problem. This is just a dog of a movie.  The plot: Neither she nor he will admit to their faults; he is apparently just a real loser  She a self involved reporter.  They have to work out their estrangement while supposedly solving a mystery. The premise is not so bad but it sure didn't work here.

MJC says:  Jennifer Aniston is pleasure to look at but the pleasure is drained away by the imbecilic plot and ridiculous dialogue of this vacuous excuse for a movie.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Valentines Day, 2010 (Grade D)

Director Garry Marshall
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner. Jessica Alba. Kathy Bates, Jessica Beil, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine. Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift.

Sez Says ... A good cast peppered with real talent but a silly movie. Love takes many forms from teenage enthusiasm to the wonders of the elderly dancing in the moonlight in a graveyard--- in case you don't get the symbolism. Not particularly funny or fun and the biggest revelation the story offers is that you true love may be your best friend and/or that a mother's love may be more substantial than romantic love 

MJC Says:  much as I am a sentimental slob this movie never took off  to send the heart strings quivering. Perhaps it is just too many movies over the years but the plot was as predictable in it's parts as in it's whole from the teenagers being discovered by mom when they plan a tryst in the girl's house to the final discovery that your best friend is the one you should be with.