REVIEW: The Giver

meryl-streep-jeff-bridges-giver-weinstein

The Giver
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by: Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide (screenplay), Lois Lowry
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Odeya Rush and Meryl Streep

The Giver is a bad movie, but it’s not generically bad like many of its other teen dystopia kin.  It tries to recreate the world of Lois Lowry’s middle school reading staple almost too precisely, creating a totalitarian community that feels like a futuristic Pleasantville without any humor or personality.  Color floods the black and white town as Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) experiences more and more new, human things, but the movie’s pulse rarely participates in that awakening.

Unfortunately, The Giver’s script has only a small fraction of Pleasantvilles humor, though it produces many unintentional laughs.  The way the characters talk, like programmed robots taught not to say things like “love,” just doesn’t translate well to the screen.  This is largely a failure of performance, with cast members either going way over the top (Jeff Bridges) or comically flat (Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgaard).  Brenton Thwaites, despite being much older than Jonas is in the book, finds the right tone for his emerging personality even if he feels slightly out of place.

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5 Favorite Film Fools

Last April Fools’ Day, we gave you five movies that fooled you. This year, we thought it’d be a good idea to let the viewer have the last laugh.  The annals of film history are filled with characters that we enjoy purely because of their stupidity.  They don’t know they’re stupid, and that is the root of their comedy.  Here are five memorable screw-ups who wouldn’t be better any other way.

Tommy (Tommy Boy)– Chris Farley made a career (far too short of one at that) out of playing the lovable buffoon.  His most memorable role is opposite David Spade’s dry, no-fun business partner named Richard in this now-iconic buddy film.  It wasn’t anything new when it came out, but it’s one of the funniest road films of the 90s, and arguably of all time.  Farley outdoes himself for idiocy, whether it’s pretending to be surrounded by bees to evade the cops or taking down Dan Aykroyd’s tire tycoon by pretending to be strapped with a bomb.  In the end he saves the day, but he’s not any smarter.

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SPOTLIGHT: Matt Damon

Matt Damon is one of the hardest working, most consistently superb screen actors working in Hollywood today.  He’s one of the few people working inside the modern-day studio system who has yet to fully succumb to a large pay day.  Even looking at his page on IMDB, you see he has 5 films slated for release in 2011, the first of which was The Adjustment Bureau. His name on the marquee was enough to draw studio money to a film otherwise filled with lesser names.  Since his big break in Good Will Hunting, he has evolved into a full-fledged movie star without losing his passion-project sensibility.  Whether he’s chasing down the truth in The Bourne Trilogy or partnering with Clint Eastwood, you have enough faith of his ethic off-camera to enjoy what’s about to be in front of it.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: True Grit

True Grit
Directed by: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Written by: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (screenplay), Charles Portis (novel)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin

True Grit is not about the large names behind the camera and on the marquee, nor is it haunted by the ghost of John Wayne.  Above all, it is a fatalistic Western with more dry wit than dead bodies behind its lessons.  It is a tall tale about a small girl and her quest for blood.

Don’t be fooled by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, or Josh Brolin.  The Coen Brothers know that many who aren’t drawn in by their own names will be drawn in by the names of those stars or fans of the original film that won John Wayne his Oscar.   All the hype surrounding the mystical one-eyed Marshall and his eye-patch has made many lose sight over the fact that this is indeed a film about that 14-year-old and the loss of her innocence by her own accord.

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And the winners should be…. 2011 Oscar Predictions (Matt’s Picks)

Best Picture

The Social Network
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Inception
Toy Story 3
The Fighter
True Grit

Should Win I’d be the most happy with Social Network, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  There’s no real Blind Side this year, but The King’s Speech is the least deserving… and it’s also one of the front-runners.
Will Win: The Social Network has a real shot, but so does The King’s Speech. Many have already handed it to King George, but I’m leaning toward King Zuckerberg.
Snubbed: There’s really no Blind Side this year among the nominees. However, over The King’s Speech I would’ve nominated The Ghost Writer, Enter the Void, White Material, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Splice or I Am Love.


Best Director

Tom Hooper- The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit
David Fincher- The Social Network
David O. Russell- The Fighter

Should Win: Aronofsky.  His direction on Black Swan was the best thing about the movie, which is saying a lot.  Fincher is also great, but so many other elements of Social Network would’ve worked on their own if not as well.  You can’t really say that about Black Swan.
Will Win: Fincher.  Even if The Social Network doesn’t walk away with the night’s biggest trophy, this one is a pretty safe bet.
Snubbed: Yes, yes, Christopher Nolan deserved a nomination  for Inception here over Tom Hooper, but don’t forget Danny Boyle.  His direction on 127 Hours was impeccable and his movie was better than both Inception and The King’s Speech.   I’d also throw in Lisa Cholodenko’s low-key genius in The Kid’s Are All Right, Gasper Noe’s hallucinatory brilliance in Enter the Void, Roman Polanski’s artful storytelling in The Ghost Writer and the mesmerizing work of Claire Denis in White Material.

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REVIEW: Tron Legacy

Tron Legacy
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Written by: Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, and Michael Sheen

To satisfy every little boy’s and possibly girl’s dream of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” comes the film Tron Legacy. At one point or another, or maybe this applies more to Generations X and Y, the curiosity of what it would be like to be sucked inside a computer, video game or live in a digital battleground has crossed millions of minds, including the film’s star Jeff Bridges who admits taking on the role for these reasons. But Tron Legacy, for as zippy, fun and visually creative as it may be, seems to be a tad more analog than anything else.

Nearly three decades after the first Tron film caused financial fiasco for Disney, Tron Legacy returns as a little less of a gamble with a chance to pick up on the 3D dazzling sci-fi business set up by Avatar the same time last year. Continue reading

REVIEW: True Grit

True Grit
Directed by: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Written by: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (screenplay), Charles Portis (novel)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin

True Grit is not about the large names behind the camera and on the marquee, nor is it haunted by the ghost of John Wayne.  Above all, it is a fatalistic Western with more dry wit than dead bodies behind its lessons.  It is a tall tale about a small girl and her quest for blood.

Don’t be fooled by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, or Josh Brolin.  The Coen Brothers know that many who aren’t drawn in by their own names will be drawn in by the names of those stars or fans of the original film that won John Wayne his Oscar.   All the hype surrounding the mystical one-eyed Marshall and his eye-patch has made many lose sight over the fact that this is indeed a film about that 14-year-old and the loss of her innocence by her own accord.

Continue reading