Friday, January 28, 2011

Crazy Heart - 2009

"Crazy Heart" - 2009
Dir. by Scott Hooper - 1 hr. 52 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Even though the set-up is not entirely original (I think I'd be disappointed if there was ever an aged straight-edge country singer), this movie plays out well largely due to Jeff Bridges' and Maggie Gyllenhaal's acting (of course) and some clever casting (Colin Ferrell as a country singer?  Never would have guessed it, but he did a good job).  This could have been an entirely forgettable movie, but the actors elevated "Crazy Heart" beyond that into something worth watching.

One thing I particularly liked was that "Crazy Heart" avoided the "rehab as instant fix-all" trope, if only barely.  Bad Blake still has to take credit for what he did, even if he was generally north of the legal blood alcohol limit when doing it.  There's a couple of other things I really enjoyed, too.  I had no idea that Jeff Bridges could sing or play guitar, and that was a nice surprise.  The other thing had a bit to do with direction and the idea of the "west" in general.  I have no idea about where the director is from, but one of the distinguishing features of the western US is that there are vast, open spaces nearly everywhere.  There were several scenic shots that emphasized that, and it was a nice touch.  It also worked as a visual metaphor for Bridges' Bad Blake trying to de-isolate himself and reconnect with people.

3.5 / 5 - DVD

Friday, January 14, 2011

True Grit - 2010

"True Grit" - 2010
Dir. by Joel & Ethan Coen - 1 hr. 50 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I'll probably keep this one short, I saw the movie a week ago and have been trying to think about how to write about it since then.  First off, it's damn near perfect.  I couldn't pick a flaw out of it, and I don't care to nitpick until I can find one.  The Coen Brothers have developed a certain style for their "serious" movies (which seems like a misnomer, because even when they're not trying to be funny, I'm still laughing all the way through), which seems to largely to get out of the way of the actors except when surveying the scenery.  I'm not an expert on westerns - I've probably seen less than half a dozen in my life (off the top of my head, Sam Raimi's "The Quick and the Dead," "3:10 to Yuma," "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly," and the steaming pile that is "Jonah Hex" - the others that IMDB calls westerns are more genre-bending than straight up western, in my opinion).  But what we've got here is a sort of stock revenge story elevated into something more.

The easiest way to put it is that there's plenty in the story for the actors to work with, and without exception the main players knock it out of the ballpark.  Jeff Bridges does what he does, which is to say that he inhabits his role.  He got the easiest one, I suppose, getting to play Rooster Cogburn (except that everyone already knows John Wayne's version).  I found him to be amazing - he's already had a couple of roles that would serve to define other actors' careers, but there wasn't a trace of Dudeness to be found.  Matt Damon got to play the Boy Scout character, but despite the character's appreciation for law and order, it's a much more complex and human role than it might first appear.  Lastly, the 14-year old Hailee Steinfeld does the impossible, and stands toe to toe with both Bridges and Damon.

I'll cut it short here, and just say that this is another in a string of amazing movies by the Coen brothers.

4.5 / 5 - Theatre

Monday, January 3, 2011

Heavy Metal - 1981

"Heavy Metal" - 1981
Dir. by Gerald Potterton - 1 hr. 26 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I'm in the odd position of having seen the brilliant South Park episode that borrows heavily from this movie before having seen the movie itself.  Fortunately, it didn't really distract from my enjoyment of this movie.  Based on several characters from the comics magazine of the same name, this is sort of an anthology of a movie.  There's a macguffin that allows us to bounce from world to world with little explanation, which is fine, since the movie itself isn't exactly about coherence in the first place.

I'm always fascinated with relatively low-budget animated features.  It's one thing to blow $100 million and get beautiful results (for that price, you damned well ought to have beautiful results), but that also usually keeps animated features from presenting individual personalities.  HM reportedly cost a shade under $10 million to make, which is pretty reasonable in the realm of animation.  At this point, HM looks like the product of not just another time, but of another world as well.  In stark contrast to the computer (over-) rendered animation of today, Heavy Metal is clearly the result of ink and paint - real world materials.  The characters are rendered with extensive linework - also rare for animation.  Compare the smoothed-out Disney features, or the angular, modernist UPA animation against the almost itchy texture of Heavy Metal.

There's a lot I could say about the animation (it's a little clunky - the rotoscoping wasn't particularly smoothed out), but there are two bigger things to mention.  I respect the effort to do something different than other animated features, and this is a movie better seen through hazy eyes.  It's short-attention span theatre with tits and aliens, and on that basis exactly meets what it aims to do.  It's a late night movie, and I should have had a couple of drinks before starting it.  But it's still a fun romp, and I'll probably watch it again.

3.5 / 5 - NF Streaming