Crazy Heart – A Movie Review

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Mar 082010
 

Jeff Bridges stars in this drama based on Thomas Cobb’s first novel about an alcoholic country singer. The musician’s career is going downhill as he watches his protégé’s star ascend, but his encounters with a journalist (THE DARK KNIGHT’s Maggie Gyllenhaal) might just keep him from hitting rock bottom. Oscar winner Robert Duvall costars and serves as one of the film’s producers.

Genres: Drama, Musical/Performing Arts and Adaptation; Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.; Release Date: December 16th, 2009 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sexuality.

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, James Keane (II), Anna Felix

Directed by: Scott Cooper

We finally went out to see a movie. We’re dying to see Alice in Wonderland, but were not about to see it opening weekend. Indeed, there were the expected wrap-around lines waiting to see Alice. We instead opted for Crazy Heart, and it was worth the ticket price.

I wouldn’t call it perfect, and it certainly wouldn’t be my vote for movie of the year. I think I would probably vote for Jeff Bridges for leading actor honors. Bridges is reserved, charismatic, and raw. Bridges’ 58-year-old Blake is one of the better performances of the year. There are obvious comparisons to  to Mickey Rourke’s work in The Wrestler, but this is unique in its own way. Bridges doesn’t overcook the role which would have been easy, he’s effortless and sings quite well. I was very surprised with the singing.

Jeff Bridges inhabits the songs he sings on screen as convincingly and seamlessly as he fits into the shambles of a life and mess of a body that is the film’s protagonist. This musical integrity is important because Bad Blake is one of those disintegrating performers whose art has not faltered, though his life has. The songs he sings are his own, and when he’s on stage, he’s alive. The rest of the time he’s lying, deceiving, or numbing out.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is average in her work. She’s coy with Jean and underplays her, but unlike Bad Blake, her role doesn’t call for it. Jean is a bruised, kindhearted, and devoted mother to her four-year old son Buddy (Jack Nation, as cute as can be), but uneven in forming her character.

Cooper’s direction is very subtle, and while the story doesn’t lend itself to action or even a lot of tension, he does let the story drag. In several scenes, he portrays the loneliness of the road showing Bridges driving his beat up Suburban over long empty roads. Effective, but instead three or four cuts, I got the message after about two of these.

The music was another bright spot in the movie. The song “The Weary Kind,” which is submission for Best Original Song for the Academy Awards, is one of the best songs written for a film in recent years. Delightful lyrics and exquisitely executed, the song is the perfect song for this film.

Updated: I didn’t get this finished yesterday, and now Bridges did get top honors at the Academy Awards last night, so congratulations to him.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 6.00 out of 10)
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Men Who Stare at Goats, The – A Movie Review

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Nov 132009
 

Men Who Stare at GoatsReporter Bob Wilton is in search of his next big story when he encounters Lyn Cassady, a shadowy figure who claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military unit. According to Cassady, the New Earth Army is changing the way wars are fought. A legion of “Warrior Monks” with unparalleled psychic powers can read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through solid walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it. Now, the program’s founder, Bill Django, has gone missing and Cassady’s mission is to find him. Intrigued by his new acquaintance’s far-fetched stories, Bob impulsively decides to tag along. When the pair tracks Django to a clandestine training camp run by renegade psychic Larry Hooper, the reporter is trapped in the middle of a grudge match between the forces of Django’s New Earth Army and Hooper’s personal militia of super soldiers. In order to survive this wild adventure, Bob will have to outwit an enemy he never thought possible.

Genres: Comedy, Thriller, Adaptation and War; Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.; Release Date: November 6th, 2009 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.

Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Rebecca Mader, Stephen Lang and Robert Patrick

Directed by: Grant Heslov

Lay and I went to see this last weekend. The movie is supposed to be based on fact (from Jon Ronson’s book) but the concept is so silly that director Grant Heslov and George Clooney  really can’t help but make fun of it, and there are some good laughs here. Just no real story.

Ewan McGregor plays journalist Bob Wilton, a jilted husband who goes to find a big journalistic adventure to provide his masculinity to his backstabbing wife. But he winds up stuck in Kuwait waiting to get into Iraq. One night he meets Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney), a familiar name to him from a previous interview he did years before about psychic-spies. Lyn was the best in what was called the “New Earth Army”, started by Vietnam-Vet Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) in the 80’s to create soldiers with super-powers who could prevent conflict. The Army was later dismantled and used for evil purposes by the movie’s antagonist Hooper (Kevin Spacey) but Lyn tells Bob he’s been re-activated, and has a secret mission to do in Iraq. Bob, thinking Lyn crazy but interesting at the same time, decides to ride along with him and go where the action is. Along the way, Lyn tells him stories of others dubbed, “Jedi Warriors.”

Most of the movie is flashbacks, beginning with Iraq War 2003 and chronicling all the way back to the beginning of New Age warfare. There are weird and crazy laughs. The lines are good too. “We tried invisibility but then worked it down to just not being seen”, Lyn tells Bob during on of their discussions. Clooney is perfectly eccentric as a guy who lives by the mindfulness-over-warfare principal and McGregor is a whiny, but solid straight-man. Bridges is also terrific as this free-spirited hippie. Only the laughs and flashbacks (which feel like a series of sketches) aren’t enough to distract from the fact that “Goats” really has no compelling narrative. The forward-moving story in Iraq 2003 has very little momentum. Spacey appears later on again as the villain but the conflict is weak and the movie has more than over-stayed its welcome.

All-in-all, it’s probably worth seeing, but I’d wait to rent the DVD.

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Movie Review – Surf's Up

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May 272008
 

Surfs UpBased on the groundbreaking revelation that surfing was actually invented by penguins. In the film, a documentary crew will take audiences behind the scenes and onto the waves during the most competitive, heartbreaking and dangerous display of surfing known to man, the Penguin World Surfing Championship.

Genres: Action/Adventure and Comedy

General Info: Running Time: 1 hr. 25 min. Release Date: June 8th, 2007 (wide) MPAA Rating: PG for mild language and some rude humor.

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Shia LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel, James Woods, Jon Heder

Directed by: Ash Brannon, Chris Buck

We had Lay’s nephews over Saturday night, and this is what they wanted to see. Lay and I decided we quite enjoyed the movie. The story has something for adults and kids, it doesn’t take itself to seriously, and it is one of the most exciting movies to watch. The waves and water look incredible, but more importantly it has heart and a great message like all movies should have. It is very different than Happy Feet. The only thing similar about them is the fact that the main characters are penguins, which I got over in the first 10 seconds, because there have been many movies that feature similar species as main characters, and that never bothered me.

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Iron Man

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May 112008
 

Iron ManTony Stark is a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.

Genres:
Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Adaptation

Running Time:
2 hrs. 6 min.

Starring
Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Leslie Bibb, and Gwyneth Paltrow

Directed by:
Jon Favreau

I heard s0me doubts that Robert Downey could pull off the part, but that impression can’t be upheld once you see the movie. He not only plays the playboy-smart-guy brilliantly he is convincing as the man in the iron suit (gold titanium alloy actually).

The movie is not dark as Batman Begins so I would say this is okay for kids to see. We took Lay’s nephews, and they certainly gave it a thumbs up. Some scary moments for kids, but nothing over the top.

Basically we are off to a great start to a new comic franchise thanks to the guidance of Jon Favreau. He has put together a great cast (Downey, Paltrow, and Howard) that gel real well together and will make a good team down the road.

The effects were great. A good blend of real props to computer graphics. Nothing looked cartoony at all.

In short, for any summer action movie buff… this is a must see. For anyone who loves Robert Downey Jr… it is a must see. And lastly if you like the work Jon Favreau has done to date… go see this movie.

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The Last Picture Show

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Mar 132005
 

The Last Picture Show (1971)

Adapted with director Bogdanovich by Larry McMurtry from his own novel, this film remains true to its source. A modern adaptation would no doubt have adopted the voice-over approach of narrative, but here each scene is played out from a more objective point of view. The book consists of a series of events played out over a protracted period of time, with McMurtry’s sparse but effective prose acting as a bridging device between scenes.

Directed by
Peter Bogdanovich

Genres
Drama

Cast
Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Clu Gulager, Sam Bottoms, Sharon Ullrick, Randy Quaid, Joe Heathcock, Bill Thurman, Barc Doyle, Jessie Lee Fulton

Adapted with director Bogdanovich by Larry McMurtry from his own novel, this film remains true to its source. A modern adaptation would no doubt have adopted the voice-over approach of narrative, but here each scene is played out from a more objective point of view. The book consists of a series of events played out over a protracted period of time, with McMurtry’s sparse but effective prose acting as a bridging device between scenes. The translation to the screen loses these links, giving the film a slightly episodic feel which runs counter to modern Hollywood film making practice. This is no bad thing, and in every other aspect the film follows the book almost literally, but watching it now does highlight the difference between the formulaic approach we are now accustomed to, with mise en scene, plot turning points and climaxes crudely and obviously spelt out, as opposed to that of Hollywood’s final golden age, where the director was given more of a free reign to stamp his own identity on the film, and audiences were more receptive to different styles. Here the spirit of the novel is captured perfectly; that of the desperation and claustrophobia of small town life, where generation after generation undergo the same rites of passage, living out the same lives of frustration and unrealised dreams. The films strength is that it never forces us to identify with any one character, evenly distributing the amount of screen time over the different generations and, almost like a fly on the wall documentary (though heavily stylised in its powerfully expressive monochrome cinematography). Coupled with some sturdy performances from all of the members of the cast, and some memorable images, ?The Last Picture’ comes across as an enchanting, evocative and accessible portrayal of a lifestyle most of us have never and will never experience. Now surely this is what the art of cinema is all about?

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)
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