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True Grit (2010) Review

19 07 2011

Copyright 2010 Paramount Pictures

★ ★ ★ 1/2

I had high expectations for this film going into it; perhaps, too high.  This is the Coen Brothers take on the Charles Portis novel of the same name.  As much as it tries to be a quality adaptation of the novel along with keeping the Coen’s quirky edge, it somewhere misses the mark in being a truly great film.  It’s not a bad film, and like I said, perhaps my expectations were too high due to all the hype at the end of last year, but this film didn’t strike me as a 10 best of the year by any means.  If that’s the case, 2010 was a worse year for filmmaking than I originally thought.

As mentioned above, the film is based on the Charles Portis novel; it is the second adaptation of the book to film, the first being Henry Hathaway’s 1969 version with John Wayne.  When an outlaw known as Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders young Mattie Ross’s (Hailee Steinfeld) father over a petty gambling altercation, the young girl seeks justice.  A quick witted and intelligent lad, Mattie seeks out a man with “true grit” to help track down Chaney and the outlaw gang he has made acquaintance with in the Indian Territory.  She finds her man in dirty, drunk U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges).  He reluctantly agrees to help her; they are further aided by a Texas Ranger who has a bounty to claim himself for Chaney, LaBoef (Matt Damon).  They set out for their man and, eventually, track him down after several various altercations.

The acting in the film was very good.  Jeff Bridges delivered, as usual, and the girl, Hailee Steinfeld, who played Mattie Ross was incredible in her debut role.  Apparently, the Coen’s auditioned 15,000 girls for the part before deciding on Steinfeld.  The source material seems interesting as well; it’s bare bones and fairly straight forward in plot, but seems like a good premise for a western.  However, somewhere along the lines, this film just lost steam for me.  Primarily, I think, during the final showdown, which I thought should have a level or bravura to it to make it epic.  In reality, it seemed rushed and quickly lead into the denouncement.

All in all, I didn’t dislike the film.  It was a movie I could watch and say, “Well, that was good.”  When many critics put this on their best of lists and a lot of my contemporaries recommended the movie, however, to the point of my expectations growing very high – this movie just doesn’t add up completely.

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Midnight in Paris (2011) Review

29 06 2011

Copyright 2011 Gravier Productions and Mediapro

★ ★ ★ ★

Maddie and I bought a Groupon to Aperture Cinema a couple weeks ago.  As much as I hate to admit I actually used a Groupon, because I think they are the silliest things ever invented, it actually was a pretty good deal.  For those of you that know me, you know I am cheap; therefore, I can swallow my pride to save a little bit of money.  Anyway, we finally used this said Groupon tonight and went to see Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris.

Owen Wilson plays Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter, who is on vacation to Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents.  Very early on, it is alluded to that Gil had spent some time in Paris many years prior.  In fact, he regrets his decision to leave and become a screenwriter, having much preferred staying and trying his luck at being a novelist.  Though a successful screenwriter, he is working on a novel and would prefer moving to Paris and finishing his novel there.  Inez, however, plans to stay in Southern California after they marry and continue their rather posh lifestyle there; Inez’s parents, who are wealthy, agree with her.  Over the course of the vacation, Gil spends much time reluctantly going out to various places with Inez and her parents and her friends, Paul and Carol.  One night, not wanting to go dance and a little drunk, Gil wonders off on his own.  He gets lost on the streets of Paris, and when the clock strikes midnight, a mysterious 1920s-style car stops in front of him with an entourage of people encouraging him to get in.  After his first excursion, he continues his midnight romps and ends up finding something more about himself through the beauty and allure of his Parisian nights.

I am a huge Woody Allen fan, have been for many years, and I think this Allen’s best film since Deconstructing Harry in 1997.  I enjoyed Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream and Vicky Christina Barcelona, but this film seemed more genuine to me than any of them.  The film is most definitely a romantic comedy, but not completely an Allenesque comedy.  Interestingly, Paris itself is almost more of the love interest of the main character than anything else.

 

Darius Khondji’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful and elucidates the affection for Paris that Allen hopes to convey perfectly.  The script is solid; light, comedic and romantic, but very solid.  It also marks a chance at seeing Owen Wilson in a more serious role than he is usually accustomed.  One, in which, he actually does a very good job.  The supporting cast is very good as well, including many Oscar nominees and former winners such as Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody.

In short, Allen does a wonderful job of capturing the magic of Paris and has created a film that is as much of an ode to Paris as his classic 1979 masterpiece Manhattan was an ode to the Big Apple.  I highly recommend this film and think even non-Allen lovers could find some enjoyment out of this one.








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