REVIEW: Red Dawn

Red Dawn
Directed by: Dan Bradley
Written by: Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore (screenplay), Kevin Reynolds (story)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki

Categorizing the remake of Red Dawn as a mindless action movie is a mistake.  Typically, those modern American action films embed a sense of macho honor and patriotism as a backdrop, not as a front-and-center subject.  Red Dawn avoids this, instead opting to adopt a philosophy of mindlessness, creating a space where the call of duty is all that matters and the foreign and domestic political spheres are nonexistent.

The original version of this story rose to prominence in 1984, at the height of Reagan and in the final decade of the Cold War.  Its premise, Soviet forces invading America and a small group of Colorado high schoolers engaging in guerrilla warfare against them in their town, fed off of paranoia.  In this updated version it’s the North Koreans invading the state of Washington, but the adolescent insurgents fighting for freedom and democracy are still very much in tact.

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REVIEW: Let Me In

Let Me In
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Matt Reeves (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist (book)
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas

Cinema purists (this one included) were dreading the inevitable day they would have to sit through an American remake to the beloved Swedish film Let the Right One In. It was the vampire movie that didn’t suck, and we’d be damned if Hollywood was going to take that away from us with a big budget redo with A-list stars. Some watchers would never let this one in; never consider the possibility that it could be good.  They’d be missing out.

As it turns out, Let Me In is a surprisingly competent remake of the excellent Swedish version.  Like so many other films, this one originated in literature, though the films are more widely known.  Matt Reeves, known mostly for Cloverfield, takes the story from Sweden to Reagan-era New Mexico.  A seemingly odd choice, but setting it in a desert during winter effectively recreates the barren Swedish landscape so vital to the mood of the original.

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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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