Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Five Great Movie Speeches

"You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word “Watergate”. Nobody gives a $#!t. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up - 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We're under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing's riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys f@&^ up again, I'm going to get mad. Good night."

All President's Men (1976)
Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee
Screenplay by William Goldman

“You ain't gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here (points at hand). I'd hold you up to say to your mother, 'This kid's gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid's gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.' And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you're hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that. I'm always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You're my son and you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, you ain't gonna have a life. Don't forget to visit your mother.”

Rocky Balboa (2006)
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone

"There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then - a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him - tell him the way things are, but I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I gotta live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bull$#!t word. So, you go on and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time, because to tell you the truth, I don't give a $#!t."

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding
Screenplay by Frank Darabont

"There are many fine careers. This country needs good farmers, good businessmen, good plumbers, good carpenters. I remember my old man. I think that they would have called him sort of a, sort of a little man, common man. Well, he didn't consider himself that way. You know what he was? He was a streetcar motorman first. Then he was a farmer, and then he had a lemon ranch. It was the poorest lemon ranch in California, I can assure you. He sold it before they found oil on it. And then he was a grocer. But he was a great man because he did his job, and every job counts, up to the hilt, regardless of what happened. Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother. But my mother was a saint. When I think of her two boys dying of tuberculosis, and seeing each of them die, and when they died. Yes, she will have no books written about her. But, she was a saint. Now, however, we look to the future. I remember something, uh, Theodore Roosevelt wrote when his first wife died in his twenties. He thought the light had gone from his life forever. But he went on and he not only became President, but as an ex-President he served his country, always in the arena, tempestuous, strong, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but he was a man. And as I leave, that's an example I think all of us should remember. You see, we think sometimes when things happen that don't go the right way, we think that when someone dear to us dies, uh, when we lose an election, or when we suffer defeat, that all is ended. Not true. It's only a beginning, always, because the greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes when you're really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes. Because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain. So, I say to you on this occasion, we leave, proud of the people who have stood by us and worked for us, and served this government and this country. We want you to continue to serve in government, if that is what you wish. Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. And always remember: Others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then, you destroy yourself. And so we leave with high hopes and good spirits and deep humility. And I say to each and every one of you, not only will we always remember you, but always you will be in our hearts, and you will be in our prayers. And only then will you find what us quakers call 'peace at the center'"

Nixon (1995)
Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon
Screenplay by Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, and Oliver Stone

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? And well you should not, for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.”

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Frank Oz as Yoda
Screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan

I probably misnamed these "monologues" on previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Odds and Ends

1. Song of the Day: Start Again by Red. My first ever Christian song posting. I've seen these guys before when they opened for Seether in 2008.

2. A dying Christopher Hitchens on cancer etiquette.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knight and Day - B

June (Cameron Diaz) is on her way to her sister's wedding when she bumps into secret agent Roy (Tom Cruise) at the airport. On the plane, the flirting escalates but when she goes to the lavatory, everyone else on board tries to kill him. They separate after surviving the plane crash. When she doesn't take his advice and begins speaking to government officials (including Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis), her life is threatened and he comes to her rescue (multiple times). Roy is accused of going rogue, kidnapping an inventor (Paul Dano), and stealing his invention (a battery that is self-sustained as an energy producer) . . .

They squeeze a lot of action scenes and beautiful scenery into the 109 minutes. Some of the transitions (which rely on characters blacking out) are either inspired or lazy depending on if you're liking the characters or not. Cruise and Diaz have pretty good chemistry together and Cruise is as relaxed and playful as he's been in years. Dano is an unholy mess as always; Sarsgaard and Davis struggle to find depth to their thinly written characters. Director James Mangold actually maintains the comic-action tone pretty well. The film is told from June's perspective and tries to show how to make a relationship work. The plot is predictable and there's never any real tension or danger, but the leads are charismatic and Mangold stages the action scenes well. The music doesn't add anything but the cinematography is bright and colorful. This is beautiful junk food - void of any nutrition - but it is fun. Expect a long life in the ancillary markets. B

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Please Give - B

A New York couple (Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) buy old furniture from the recently deceased and sell it at their shop. Their 15 year old daughter is having a difficult time especially with self-esteem issues. They have purchased the apartment next to them from an old lady whose 2 granddaughters (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall) have very different outlooks on life and how to deal with others. All of their interactions together comprise the majority of this film - an honest, small slice of life with little ambition . . .

Keener is excellent as the co-owner who's starting to feel guilty for her success. The title mostly concerns her character's attempt to give back to the less fortunate (mostly through financial means). Hall's character works as a radiology technologist (the film opens with mammograms being taken from a variety of women - yikes) and gives back to others with security and emotion. The grandmother's character is obnoxious but she's supposed to be. If you've seen a few indie films, you won't be surprised as these flawed people try to relate to each other. It's more of a character study than a great story. The film doesn't try to achieve too much, but is very successful with what it tries to do - and is surprisingly touching at the end. B

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Monday, December 27, 2010

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 12/28/10

The American - #
And Soon the Darkness - #
Legendary - #
Resident Evil: Afterlife - #
Twelve - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray release


# - also on Blu-ray

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What to see in 2011

Interesting movies scheduled to debut in 2011 described here.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Favorite Scenes - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Hostess: Hi, thank you for coming.

Harry (RDJ): Hey, do you know that blonde gal who just left? You know who I'm talking about?Hostess: The one with the guy that beat the $h!t out of you? No. (pause) Bye. Have a better night.

Harry: She had something. That gal tonight. This quality. You know, like that girl from high school. The one that got away. Know what I mean? That haunts you still.

Gay Perry (VK): Yeah. I had that.

Harry: Ya did?

Gay Perry: Bobby Mills

Harry: Ugh. (pause) Huh. Well maybe you should try to get in touch with him. I've got 5 bucks that says you could still get him.

Gay Perry: Really? That's funny. I got a $10 that says "Pass the pepper." I got 2 quarters - sing harmony in "Moonlight in Vermont".

Harry: What?

Gay Perry: Talking money.Harry: A talking monkey?

Gay Perry: A talking monkey. Yeah. Yeah. Came here from the future. Ugly sucker. Only says, "Ficus."

Harry: (bewildered, saying nothing)

Gay Perry: Detective lessons tomorrow. Don't forget.

Harry: OK.

Gay Perry: And Harry? Come here. That girl - I know her. She's done some work for me. Try the Domino Room.

Harry: Where's that?

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Weekend Box Office: 12/24-12/26/10


1. Little Fockers: 34 mil / NEW / 48 mil
2. True Grit: 25.6 mil / NEW / 36.8 mil
3. Tron Legacy: 20 mil / -54% / 88 mil
4. Narnia 3: 10.8 mil / -13% / 64 mil
5. Yogi Bear: 8.8 mil / -46% / 36.8 mil
6. The Fighter: 8.5 mil / -30% / 27.5 mil
7. Gulliver's Travels: 7.2 mil / NEW
8. Black Swan: 6.6 mil / -21% / 29 mil
9. Tangled: 6.5 mil / -26% / 144 mil
10. The Tourist: 5.7 mil / -33% / 41 mil
11. King's Speech: 4.6 mil /NEW/ 8.4 mil
12. How Do You Know: 3.7 mil / - 51% / 15 mil
13. Harry Potter 7: 3 mil / -40% / 273 mil

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Belated Merry Christmas

from Michelle Monaghanin Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The King's Speech - B+

In theaters. Rated PG, 118 minutes. Trailer.

The King's Speech is a typical quality English period piece. Smart characters, great acting, class issues and beautiful art direction; this is a Merchant-Ivory production if I ever saw one. Colin Firth stars as England's stammering King George VI (who reigned from 1936 to 1952 and is the father of reigning Queen Elizabeth II), a man struggling with a speech impediment and the weight of history. As his father (King George V) nears death and his older brother (and heir to the throne) Edward (Guy Pearce) exhibits erratic behavior, George begins seeing various speech therapists, without success. His wife (Helena Bonham Carter) finds an unconventional therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and the king to be starts an unlikely journey. Click below for more on TKS:

Lionel's methods require equality between therapist and patient which George has a hard time accepting. After his ascension to the throne becomes clearer, he relents and gives in to Lionel's methods with some success. Their relationship grows as George slowly opens up about his upbringing and learns about the common man. George ends up on the throne after a few machinations with his brother and the film ends with a dramatic 1939 speech after the British Parliament declares war on Germany.

The film is smartly written with stylish and precise direction. There are many interesting discussions of class and manners as well as the impact of the new medium of radio (I particularly enjoyed George's father, King George V (Michael Gambon), as he describes how easy it is to be king). The art direction in the film is amazing. The foggy streets of London are a pleasure to look at, and I found the odd Jackson Pollock style unfinished walls of Lionel's office to be very pleasing and they struck such a contrast with the polished George.

I don't care for Colin Firth (odd, I know), but he is amazing in this film as he shows a panoply of emotions. George is at once humble, cocky, angry, sympathetic, snobby and funny. He has to be a student, a withering son, a bullied brother, a father, a husband and, finally, a king. Geoffrey Rush was good as Lionel, but I found his performance a
little too gimmicky and mannered (for some reason, when he says "yes you do" in the trailer it makes me hate the movie because that is such a "Blind Side" moment). Guy Pearce is his usual greatness as the inconsequential and selfish Edward (who was a Nazi sympathizer - see photo to right!). Michael Gambon is solid as King George V as does Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill. It is also nice to see Bonham Carter actually act in an adult role - in something other than a stupid Tim Burton movie.

This review reads like an A- review, but the film just didn't pack that kind of punch for me. The humor wasn't that great and the director didn't pull off the gravitas of the situation enough. I think he should have delved further into the castle intrigue and father/son issues, but the film never gets too dark or introspective.

A really good film. Worth your time.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Easy A - B-

On DVD (2010). Rated PG-13, 92 minutes. Trailer.

Easy A tells the story of a smart, quasi-moral and cynical high school girl that becomes known as the school tramp after she lies about having sex with a college boy (she didn't but she says she did). Although I am way out of the target demographic for this film, I am always interested in films that portray people that are smart and moral. To some extent, this one works, but it is way too glib for its own good, with an insulting and one-dimensional portrayal of Christians to boot. Olive (Emma Stone) is a high school senior living a typical smart girl uneventful life until the local holy roller overhears her telling her sex fib to her best friend in the school bathroom. Click below for more EA:

After that rumor spreads through the school, Olive is much more popular and becomes a target of the school's Christian group. Then, she agrees to lie about having sex with a male friend that is gay but just wants to get through high school without the ridicule. She agrees and then does the same with several other sympathetic male characters and becomes a full-fledged school tramp. At first she embraces it and wears a scarlett 'A' on her new risque clothing, but then regrets it. As she grapples with her situation, she learns a lot about people and perception and ultimately finds a way to reverse most of what she has done.

The movie gets lots of points for interesting takes on peer pressure, friendships, perception, male and female promiscuity and teenage perspectives. Her class is reading The Scarlett Letter at the same time this happens (of course), and the screenwriters try and succeed at landing a few parallels. The Olive character is interesting and somewhat sympathetic, but her lack of strong moral conviction and screwy parents (more on that later) didn't allow me to root for her. Stone is great in the role and I look forward to her role as Peter Parker's girlfriend in the next few Spiderman movies.

Indie stalwarts Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are Olive's poorly written, liberal fantasy camp parents. They are 'buddies' with Olive and her adopted 10 year old brother. Every time they are onscreen (at least 20 minutes) it was like fingers on a chalkboard for me. The other major flaw with the film is the portrayal of the Christians. I am the first to rip self-righteousness and loathe the 'holier than thou' group in any school setting, but this was just dumb. They are hateful and stupid, and they even sing and dance to goofy Christian songs before school.

The film is uneven and could have been really good with stronger direction.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


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More Odds and Ends

1. Another great video mashup of 2010 movies (more of an 'indie' feel).

2. Another. Probably my favorite so far.

3. Here's the actual 1993 documentary about Lowell, MA that is shown being filmed during The Fighter. Its got a lot of Dick Eklund and is probably among the most depressing 59 minutes I've ever spent (but I love that kind of thing).

4. Larry David writes about the extension of the tax cuts.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 12/21/10

Bounty - #
Devil - #
Easy A - #
Family Guy: It's a Trap! - #
Futurama: Volume 5 - #
Salt - #
Step Up 3 - #
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

The Matador
Once an Eagle

# - also on Blu-ray

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Odd and Ends [updated]

1. Great write-up of the year in film from AO Scott. And another from Manola Dargis.

2. David O. Russell discusses a scene from The Fighter.

3. Lawyer fave David Denby lists his top films. He rips both Inception and Black Swan...

4. A seasonal essay from Ricky Gervais on why he's an atheist. An excellent column on the role of religion in society (and the difficulty of being a Christian at Christmas).

5. I meant to put this up a couple of months ago. I could watch Eric Schmidt talk forever.

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Snap Judgments - A Quick Review of 10 Movies

Documentary filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger spent a year in the Korengal valley in Afghanistan with a US platoon. You are literally put in the middle of battles which are frightening and invigorating at once. The soldier interviews are a terrific view of their mindset and experiences. These guys have more guts than me - and have my utmost respect. Currently, it's the definitive film about the Afghanistan War - needless to say - a difficult situation with zero organization on the ground and tribes of people unwilling to take greater responsibility and leadership roles. B+

The Kids Are All Right
Maybe, but the movie is not. As lawyer pointed out in his generous review, the first 30 minutes are difficult to watch (mostly the gay male porn, but everything else including the unrealistic relationships and the superfluous drug use). It's so detestable that the film never recovered for me, even as Julianne Moore and Annette Bening give believable, heartfelt performances. Mark Ruffalo is doing his naturalistic, relaxed awesome thing, but it's nothing new. The Joni Mitchell singalong was embarrassing and supporting cast was forgettable. I'm pretty sure Ruffalo wouldn't dump a super hot 20-something for a freckled worn out 50 year old albino. The film knows nothing about men (e.g. no heterosexual man really likes Joni Mitchell). Give Bening an Australian accent and some junk, and the film is the last third of Funny People - without the insight. I'm tempted to give it a C since it's been ridiculously overpraised but it's so well-acted by the veteran ladies that it deserves better than Grown Ups. B-

When You're Strange
It's about a straightforward documentary about The Doors as you'll ever see, narrated by a borderline comatose Johnny Depp. The archival footage is a treasure trove for fans and some (if not all) of the music is timeless. B

The Crazies
Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell are a married couple in a small town whose members start turning into zombies. There are several good action scenes (especially the car wash). The movie tries to become about something (commitment, loyalty) and is successful as far as it wants to go (or can, given the limitations of the genre). B

The Runaways
The formation of the all-female band (which included the great Joan Jett) in the mid-70s is well-told early on but loses steam toward the end when it can't decide if it wants to follow the band or lead singer Cherie Currie's relationship with her sister. When it tries to do both, it becomes muddled. Still, nice ending with Jett and Currie trying to connect over a phone call. Kristen Stewart (Jett) and Dakota Fanning (Currie) are great and will be with us as long as they want to. B

Adrien Brody playing a military bad-ass is obviously questionable casting but he does better than expected. The film is a semi-remake of the original Schwarzenegger version with a group of people getting killed off one at a time within the jungle. It's watchable and easily Nimrod Antal's best film - which says nothing. The action is solid and the last fight with the Japanese Yakuza almost got transcendental. B-

Clash of the Titans
An update of the 1981 cult classic, which goes from bad to worse. Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson re-team as Zeus and his son Hades, each competing for most embarrassing performance. Wooden Sam Worthington was expected to suck and he does. C

Prince of Persia
Jake Gyllenhaal cashes a paycheck and tries to start a franchise. The ability to briefly rewind time is interesting but the whole affair is so generic and humorless, that you'll feel cheated. C

Jonah Hex
You can't have a hero with half of his face scarred off. You can't see his wife and child burned alive. You can't set a film in the 1860s and pretend there's any tension when Washington DC is threatened with destruction. You can't expect Megan Fox to show any depth or chemistry with anyone. Except her bustier, of course. C-

Boogie Woogie
Stunt casting with Heather Graham will trick PTA fans into a looksy. The "gratuitous nudity" described by the MPAA is of the full frontal male variety. The "insider" look into the art world is just as boring, ridiculous, and detached as you'd expect. D+

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Weekend Box Office: 12/17-12/19/10


1. Tron Legacy: 43.6 mil / NEW
2. Yogi Bear: 16.7 mil / NEW
3. Narnia 3: 12.4 mil / -48% / 43 mil
4. The Fighter: 12.2 mil / NEW / 12.6 mil
5. Tangled: 8.6 mil / -41% / 130 mil
6. The Tourist: 8.7 mil / -47% / 31 mil
7. Black Swan: 8.3 mil / +150% / 15.7 mil
8. How Do You Know: 7.6 mil / NEW
9. Harry Potter 7: 4.8 mil / -44% / 266 mil
10. Unstoppable: 1.8 mil / -53% / 77 mil

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Song of the Day - Ramona

By Beck

I'm still working on my mini-rave review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This is from the soundtrack. There's a much longer version, but I prefer the acoustic one.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Song of the Day: Runaway

Still angry at Kanye for stealing TSwift's moment? Well, why she's busy working on the content for "Dear Jake", you can keep hatin' him. No one's blaming you. But here's something to listen to while you do.

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The Fighter - A-

In theaters, Rated R for language and drug use.

Boxing easily makes the best sports movies. In part, it's the isolated competition with the opponent but also the competition from within. The lack of bats, clubs, and balls makes it more personal. The lack of teammates lays the groundwork for great tales of personal adaptation, triumph, and redemption. The Fighter tells the story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) which is similar to Jim Braddock in Cinderella Man: a modest career followed by a brief retirement and a broken hand; then, a return to the ring and an unlikely championship . . .

Except this time, instead of fighting for his family, Ward fights for pride. The first half of the film follows Micky as he is mismanaged by his overbearing mother Alice (Melissa Leo) and his brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a former boxer and current crack addict. They get him into matches they shouldn't and guilt him into staying close to his family instead of taking care of himself. After a brutal loss, Micky retires and enjoys time with Charlene (Amy Adams) who he has just met. She encourages him to take up boxing again. After Dicky goes to prison, Micky's training goes into overdrive after watching an HBO documentary on crack addiction, which heavily featured his brother and their hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts.At this point, the film really takes off. Initially, it's a modestly successful depiction of the working class and their self-inflicted struggles. Then, it quickly becomes the most exhilarating film of the year. Part of this is due to director David O. Russell's musical choices and part of this is the acting. Like one of Micky's matches, the film lulls you to sleep before landing an unbelievable combination of punches that will knock you flat. Russell doesn't rely on any special tricks, choosing a documentary style instead. The boxing matches are filmed on video, which helps with the authenticity, as does the 90s era graphics.

Leo and Wahlberg are fine but slightly too theatrical and stilted, respectively. I wasn't completely sold on Bale's performance during the first half, where it felt too mannered. But when he goes to jail (and gets off crack), he finds the heart of the character, beginning with a one-on-one talk with a visiting Micky. Bale's singing of Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" as he walks Micky down the aisle to the title bout is surprisingly touching and appropriate on many levels. The performance of the film belongs to Ms. Adams, who doesn't hit a false note - every expression, line, and word is perfect.

There are other flaws, including the underdeveloped sisters and audience-pandering attempts at humor. The last bout's competitor is unnecessarily and distractingly unsympathetic. But you better see a cardiologist if you're not cheering during the last 45 minutes - not only for Micky to win, but also for Dicky to prevail over his personal demons. It's a triumph - in and out of the ring. A-

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Pierre Bernard

The best bit on Conan since his return.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Film Compilation

This is a great compilation of the year in film (I love these) set to the Killers' Dustland Fairytale.

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True Grit, A-

In Theatres Dec. 22, 110 minutes, PG-13

If it is a rootin’ tootin’, gun-slingin’, horse-back-ridin’ bit of entertainment you are after this Oscar season, True Grit is your film. And if it is a study on redemption, retribution, and justice—and the high cost to be paid for any of the three—you are after, well, True Grit is your film as well. The Brothers Coen, like Clint Eastwood (whose Unforgiven was the last western that betters this one), have the commendable trait of turning out a movie nearly every year. Three years ago, that movie was No Country for Old Men, as good a film as any since. While they have released two films in the balance (Burn After Reading and A Serious Man) Grit is the sequel to Old Men in scope and spectacle. That said, spiritually it continues a conversation begun in A Serious Man, though taking a different tack.

It is worth noting that I have not seen the original movie by the same name, responsible for getting The Duke his lone Academy Award, so I am afraid you are left to your own devices in securing a comparison of the two. The plot in a nutshell is as follows: fourteen year-old Mattie Ross’s father is killed trying to help Tom Chaney, a wanted man, after which Chaney bolts for the Indian TerritorieProxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

Mattie comes to finish her father’s affairs, which include, to her way of thinking, bringing his killer to justice. This she plans to do by securing the services of a U.S. Marshall to bring him in or kill him. She chooses Marshall Rooster Cogburn for his ruthlessness and the two along with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf set off to track him.

Jeff Bridges’ Cogburn at first feels like a caricature, but there is depth to this performance and to this man who wants everyone to believe he is a mumbling, braggadocios drunk, good for nothing but killing and whiskey. The caricature is Cogburn’s creation, not Bridges’, and it is in this realization that the power of his performance is seen. It is great to see Matt Damon not in Bourne mode. His LaBoeuf is equal parts bluster and earnest, and he wrings every laugh out of the role while preserving LaBoeuf’s dignity—no easy feat. Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney is not on the screen more than ten minutes, but he brings a shifty brutality and friendliness that is its own special kind of menace. From these towering actors actual fourteen year-old Hailee Steinfeld literally rides off with the movie in her portrayal of Ross. She is the beating heart of the film, the one who indeed has true grit. And she is in danger, always more than she knows, of losing more than she can hope to win in her single-minded pursuit of retribution. Predictably, the balance of the supporting cast is outstanding. I will single out Barry Pepper as Ned Pepper since I have not seen him much in a while, he is one of my favorite character actors, and he has the good luck of enjoying the same distinctive last name as his character.

The script here is a dream. Per usual, the Coens squeeze more real (and hard) laughs out of their dramas than most comedies can muster. The dialogue makes no pretense of being authentic. It is Shakespeare for cowboys, stilted in the vein of George Clooney’s lines from O Brother, except this time those words are in everyone’s mouth. That may bother some, but this writing is rivaled by only Tarantino in today’s cinema, and they know exactly what they are doing. The Coen’s regular cinematographer Roger Deakins gives us a breath-taking film, with especially gorgeous shots of night and in the snow. The filming of a long ride across the plains on a galloping horse with a sick Ross in Cogburns arms is like nothing I have ever seen before, at the same time feverishly surreal and starkly realistic.

The Coen Brothers continue to use religion to underpin their films. While this has been documented a number of times, it may be most evident in their last film, A Serious Man, which used the structures of Judaism extensively. This film begins with a quote from Proverbs, uses significant Biblical imagery (most notably snakes), alludes repeatedly to the afterlife, and uses hymns exclusively for the soundtrack, with “Leaning on the Ever-Lasting Arms” serving as the primary theme. Whether they are using faith as a device only or actually mean to say something about it, I have not yet determined, although I am tempted to go with the latter. Of course, as they say, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

A very good film. It started as a B+ for me, but aged quite nicely over night into an A-. I am interested to see what local Coen expert Doctor has to add.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All Good Things - B-

In theaters (and OnDemand). Rated R, 101 minutes. Trailer.

Like The Social Network, All Good Things tells a slightly fictionalized account of the life of an extraordinary person. Unlike The Social Network, All Good Things is an uneven film that never quite figures out what its trying to do. Directed by Andrew Jarecki, a veteran documenatarian (Capturing the Friedmans), the film tells the creepy story of Robert Durst, the scion of a powerful New York family with deep mental disturbances related to his witnessing of his mother's suicide at the age of 7. Click below for more on AGT:

Durst is depicted ably by Ryan Gosling, who captures the undercurrent of psychosis very well. Kirsten Dunst plays his middle-class wife and Frank Langella is the overbearing father. The film doesn't really try to be meaningful, but it isn't that entertaining either, so you are kind of left out in the cold. Jarecki would've been much better served telling this story as a documentary. If you are going to watch it, don't read up on Durst to at least preserve some of the suspense. If you aren't, you should read up on him - cross dressing, murder, sawing up bodies, novelists, Galveston....its a crazy tale.

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The Tree of Life Trailer - in 12 Pictures

The high-def full trailer is available here at Apple. The imagery is incredible; I could add 100 more. Tons of sunset shots from Mr. Malick.

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"Murder a Brown Snake"

Watched this classic episode of Flight of The Conchords tonight. Click here for 2 of the best minutes of tv ever. Murray's "oh my god" at :58 made me laugh 8 times tonight.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

T.J. Miller

This guy was pretty great in She's Out of My League and was hilarious last night on Conan.

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Golden Globe Nominations 2010

Nice work by the Hollywood Foreign Press on the dramas, not so much on the "comedies". Their nomination of Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque and the Tourist undermines the whole event.

Best Picture
'Black Swan'
'The Fighter'
'The King's Speech'
'The Social Network'

Click below for the full list:

Best Picture (Comedy)
'Alice in Wonderland'
'The Kids Are All Right'
'The Tourist'

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, 'Black Swan'
David Fincher, 'The Social Network'
Tom Hooper, 'The King's Speech'
Christopher Nolan, 'Inception'
David O. Russell, 'The Fighter'

Best Actress (Drama)
Halle Berry, 'Frankie and Alice'
Nicole Kidman, 'Rabbit Hole'
Jennifer Lawrence, 'Winter's Bone'
Michelle Williams, 'Blue Valentine'
Natalie Portman, 'Black Swan'

Best Actor (Drama)
Jesse Eisenberg, 'The Social Network'
Colin Firth, 'The King's Speech'
James Franco, '127 Hours'
Ryan Gosling, 'Blue Valentine'
Mark Wahlberg, 'The Fighter'

Best Actress (Comedy)
Annete Bening, 'The Kids Are All Right'
Anne Hathaway, 'Love and Other Drugs'
Angelina Jolie, 'The Tourist'
Julianne Moore, 'The Kids Are All Right'
Emma Stone, 'Easy A'

Best Actor (Comedy)
Johnny Depp, 'Alice in Wonderland'
Johnny Depp, 'The Tourist'
Paul Giamatti, 'Barney's Version'
Jake Gyllenhaal, 'Love and Other Drugs'
Kevin Spacey, 'Casino Jack'

Best Supporting Actor (Drama)
Christian Bale, 'The Fighter'
Michael Douglas, 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'
Andrew Garfield, 'The Social Network'
Jeremy Renner, 'The Town'
Geoffrey Rush, 'The King's Speech'

Best Supporting Actress (Drama)
Amy Adams, 'The Fighter'
Helena Bonham Carter, 'The King's Speech'
Mila Kunis, 'Black Swan'
Melissa Leo, 'The Fighter'
Jackie Weaver, 'Animal Kingdom'

Best Song
"Bound to You," Burlesque
"Coming Home," Country Strong
"I See the Light," Tangled
"There's a Place for Us," Chronicles of Narnia: Dawn Treader
"You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," Burlesque

Original Score
'The King's Speech'
'Alice in Wonderland'
'127 Hours'
'The Social Network'

Best Screenplay
'127 Hours'
'The Kids Are All Right'
'The King's Speech'
'The Social Network'

Foreign Language
'The Concert'
'The Edge'
'I Am Love'
'In a Better World'

Best Animated Film
'Despicable Me'
'How to Train Your Dragon'
'The Illusionist'
'Toy Story 3'

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