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True Grit (2010)

10 Jan

If I told you what the exact nature of their relationship is, you wouldn't believe me. Just go see this great movie.

When I first heard rumblings of a remake of “True Grit,” I complained. Then I learned the Coen Brothers were helming the update, and I stopped grumbling. If any filmmakers are to be trusted with presenting an updated version of a beloved Western, it’s the Coens. They have displayed an appreciation for sparse scenery and restrained emotion which makes them ideal candidates for re-inventing (or perhaps reviving?) the genre. As it turns out, my faith in the Coens was well-placed. With “True Grit,” they delivered an elegant, yet entertaining, update of both the original film and the genre. Continue reading

The Duchess (2008)

16 Dec

I don't think anyone would disagree that Keira Knightley is a pretty girl, but there's something sort of glorious about her in this film.

I vaguely remember the marketing for “The Duchess.” The advertising I recall seemed to imply that the film was a light romp, a look at the It Girl of generations long gone by, a wispy bit of inoffensive nothing. The problem? Well, deceptive marketing mainly. This film is light-hearted for all of about 20 minutes before settling into a much weightier vibe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. Continue reading

Sisters (1973)

9 Nov

Common sense should dictate that an open flame shouldn't be that close to super styled hair, but Phillip is a boundary pusher like that.

So “Sisters” is a bit of a cheat. Though Criterion lumps it under its “Scary Films” header, it’s more straight-out thriller than horror. The difference is subtle; for me, a horror movie makes me feel immediate “danger.” The film seems to threaten me, personally, and so evokes that fear response. In a thriller, all the danger is for someone else. A thriller may intrigue and shock, but it never steps beyond whatever the boundary is that makes a horror movie frightening. Which is not to say “Sisters” isn’t a great film; it’s just not a horror movie. Continue reading

The Social Network (2010)

5 Oct

 

For once, I can't think of anything snarky to say. Jesse Eisenberg is just brilliant.

The irony of checking into Foursquare and posting simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter from the theatre where I was seeing “The Social Network” — otherwise known as “That Facebook Movie” — was not lost on me. It felt terribly meta, and yet it would seem strange to not comment on what film I was seeing this week. While “The Social Network” is a film about the creation of Facebook, it is also a film about why that sense of connectedness it provides is so very important, and that’s what makes this film brilliant. Continue reading

Cabaret (1972)

16 Sep

It's about decadence ... and Nazis. But mostly decadence.

It’s always kind of difficult for me when I watch a movie that I know is a beloved classic and then I don’t love it. I start thinking “What’s wrong with me? What am I not getting about this movie?” In the case of “Cabaret,” I believe it hasn’t aged well, but I’m somewhat at a loss for why, exactly, the pieces just don’t come together for me. Continue reading

The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009)

13 Sep

Don't let this photo fool you. This film is boring.

Lisbeth Salander captured the world’s attention in the wildly successful “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” The character’s complex blend of indifference, intellect and sex appeal proved irresistible for readers and film audiences alike. Unfortunately, “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” the second installment in the Salander trilogy, isn’t as compelling as the initial offering, and the marked decrease in strength of story casts serious doubts on the trilogy’s finale. Continue reading

Brick (2005)

26 Aug

And yet, somehow, he's completely believable as a badass.

All I knew about “Brick” before watching it was that Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the main character. This film won a little game I like to call Netflix Roulette: I scroll through my queue, decide upon an arbitrary variable (rating, runtime, etc.) and watch the first movie available as an instant view that fits the criteria. Had I known ahead of time I’d be watching a neo-noir set in high school, I might have hesitated. As it is, I’m glad I didn’t. Continue reading

A Single Man (2009)

18 Aug

Colin Firth and Julianne Moore are so, so stylish. And sad, too. But always stylish.

“Style over substance” is a neat, nearly meaningless statement used to detract from artistic achievement when it also happens to be somehow aesthetically outre. “A Single Man,” helmed as it was by Tom Ford, was simply begging for this hollow phrase to be tossed about. Instead, by the end of the movie, I was thinking perhaps in this case, style IS the substance.
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