Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rapid Reviews: Winter's Gritty Kingdom Somewhere

Merry day after Christmas everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with laughs, joy, eggnog, gingerbread, etc.

It's approximately 1:30 in the morning and I just watched a really shitty movie. As such, I'm not in the best of moods. But there's cinematic magic to do and I must press onwards! It's time for some quicker than usual Rapid Reviews before bed.

Winter's Bone is a movie I'm going to have a hard time describing or criticizing. I can completely respect what went into it, and from a pure criticism point of view, I think it's above average. But you need to understand exactly how much I hate these cliché, survival-based outdoorsy stories. It's a wonder I liked 127 Hours at all. Remember Into the Wild? Hated that one. This one's no different. I didn't even really enjoy Jennifer Lawrence--she was great, sure, but I can't really understand the fawning praise on her performance, which probably could have been done by several of today's young stars equally well. I'm giving the film a higher grade than I really think it deserves because I know my bias is playing a part and I want to be impartial, but really, I wouldn't watch Bone again if you paid me. I really, really hated it despite my desire to love it. I'm settling with begrudging respect. B

Animal Kingdom's first two acts are decidedly quite dull. It's not until the third act, the emergence of the true beast that is Jacki Weaver as crime family matriarch Smurf Cody, that the film really hits its fever pitch. Her scenes are absolutely killer, with her signature line, "You've done some bad things, sweetie," sending chills up the spine of the viewer. However, it's sad to say that outside of her performance, this is a movie of moments. There are sequences and scenes which are taut and suspenseful and show the promise of a much better film, but they are connected by the most lifeless, almost gray scenes that turn off the audience. This should have been so much better than it was. It showed such promise in those moments that it just couldn't fully deliver on. B-

True Grit might best be described as "the most enjoyable, fun Western you'll ever watch." There isn't one bit of this movie that feels forced, dull, uninteresting or that it wasn't a total labor of love of the writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen, or of the stars, particularly standout newcomer Hailee Steinfeld and her Mattie Ross' traveling companions, Jeff Bridges (U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn) and Matt Damon (Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, pronounced "La Beef"). It feels absolutely effortless despite the absolutely beautiful result. The direction feels like that of a sweeping epic. The writing is taut and unafraid of complex, spitfire language. The acting from the three principals is top-tier. The only facet that bothers me is the underdevelopment of Josh Brolin as Mattie's father's killer, Tom Chaney. But that is a minor complaint in what should otherwise be considered a rave review. Fun, exhilarating, and truly a work of art, it is the Western response to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but done in browns and grays instead of bright colors. What a phenomenal film. A-

I like to think that my criticism is usually level-headed, free of too much influence of opinion, and goes beyond what you might find on other, more basic blogs. Let's face it: I am no web designer, so I like to stand out through the precision and quality of my writing. Understand, then, how painful it is for me to write this: Somewhere sucks. There is no better way of putting it. The Sofia Coppola-helmed "meditation" on fame and celebrity is dull, lifeless, poorly-written, repetitive, and almost nothing of note happens. When you consider that this is the same woman who directed the phenomenal Lost in Translation or The Virgin Suicides, it almost makes you angry that she's doing such phenomenally bad work here. I honestly couldn't find many redeeming facets of the film, but the game performances from Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning keep this from being a failure. It's just very, very bad. D+

A high, a low, and two in the middle. Not a bad set of Rapid Reviews. What do you guys think? You know where the comments section is--use it!

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