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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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.

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REVIEW: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Allan Loeb & Stephen Schiff
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia Labeouf, Carey Mulligan, and Josh Brolin

There are political movies, and there are political movies done by Oliver Stone.  A man so unapologetic about his politics, he is for the fictional film what Michael Moore is for the documentary.  He aims not to provoke, but to convince.  Over the years, he has become the maker of subtle, brilliant excercises of filmmaking technique (the original Wall Street) to someone merely out to give a speech on an issue.

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TRAILER: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Allan Loeb & Stephan Schiff
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, and Josh Brolin

It’s kind of weird that with the slew of franchise reboots and unwanted fifth entries in series, Oliver Stone has decided to make a franchise out of his 80’s exploration of the costs of big money.  Even when you look at the times we’re in, it seems odd that Stone wouldn’t just make a completely different movie with different characters that explored the modern age.  But here we are, leaving one of the worst summers in recent memory, heading into a fall that hopefully lifts the year up.  Stone can either help or hinder with his oddly risky sequel, and from the looks of the trailer, he may in fact knock it out of the park.

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REVIEW: Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex
Directed by: Jim Hayward
Written by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor (screenplay)
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, and Michael Fassbender

We must face it: the comic book adaptation is here to stay.  You can bet your (kick-) ass that any character that’s ever been drawn to a page to tell a story along with words will eventually get its Hollywood due.  So step right up for Jonah Hex, yet another unknown adaptation from an allegedly brilliant source material.

Hex begins compellingly different than most of its counterparts.  We begin almost immediately at our title character’s (Josh Brolin) moment of dire straits.  Rather than have that Utopian, dull first few scenes with bright colors, giggling children, and adoring spouse, we see arch nemesis (Jon Malkovich) light them all on fire.  One thing that can be said of Jonah Hex, if not much else, is that it doesn’t bull-shit you with its pretentious morality.  The script may try to hint at a soul within our weary anti-hero, but Brolin quells it rather quickly.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Milk

Milk
Directed by: Gus van Sant
Written by: Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, and Emile Hirsch

Biopics may be one of the trickiest genres to pull off successfully.  This is because they are probably some of the most over made, over praised films made today.  It’s also because you need to tell an honest story that shows your subject’s dark side, but you also need to have some deep connection with them as well.  Gus van Sant’s Milk is so refreshing not because it redefines the biopic, but because it raises the bar impeccably, almost impossibly, high.

Thanks to a terrific cast led by Sean Penn’s bone-deep performance, a deservedly Oscar-winning screenplay from Dustin Lance Black, and van Sant’s film making moxy and deep connection to the material, Milk flies on the wings of creative passion.

This being said, it is not a perfect film.  If not for Penn’s incredible acting, Harvey Milk would almost be a two dimensional character.  It’s dangerous to have such a kind human being be the subject of a biopic.  Nothing against the kind, but they can be boring.  Luckily, Penn is a live wire, and lets us see the mischievous politician behind Milk’s crowd-pleasing rebellion.  His total immersion in the role earned him his second Best Actor Oscar of the decade, and he totally deserved it.

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