REVIEW: Bernie

Bernie
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth (screenplay)
Starring: Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey and Brady Coleman

Murder isn’t completely wrong when the person is unlikable, is it?  That grouchy old lady, who hisses at the idea of warm conversation and enjoys treating the world as if it owes her something; if she were killed, would anybody really care?

The people of Carthage, Texas cared.  Not for her (Shirley MacLaine), though, but her killer, her kind manservant Bernie (Jack Black).  Bernie is based on true events, just as almost every movie not based on a novel is.  The wonderful writer/director Richard Linklater is preceding, though, and he treats the truth as more than a novelty.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: 127 Hours

127 Hours
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Aron Ralston (book)
Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, and Sean Bott

Aron Ralston cut his own arm off to escape a boulder that pinned him against a canyon wall.  That much we know.  The rest, drawn from his hallucinatory recounting in his autobiography and combined with some creative liberties from a passionate filmmaker, is a story waiting to be told.

It’s interesting to think how certain directors would handle different source material.  A story like this could tell how Aron recovered after his ordeal, or it could show his ordeal.  If you’re looking for the gooey easy way out, the former is your best bet, but Danny Boyle isn’t going for the easy way out.

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REVIEW: Sanctum

Sanctum
Directed by: Alister Grierson
Written by: Josh Garvin & Andrew Wight
Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, and Alice Parkinson

It’s hard to remember the last time I wished death on a character as badly as I wished it upon Carl (Ioan Gruffudd).  Carl is an unconscionable douchebag; a character so poorly written and acted that to watch him in Sanctum is to experience more agony than any of the characters.

For the most part, that’s how it works in this movie, which is to say nothing really does work.  Like last year’s Unstoppable, this is a monster movie with no actual monster.  Instead, the lame-duck characters swim their way through an unexplored cave network that slowly but surely claims most of them in a series of unfortunate and completely stupid events.  It’s the latest in 3D “event” filmmaking.

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REVIEW: The Fighter

The Fighter
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, & Eric Johnson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo

Micky Ward is trapped.  Trapped by his overbearing mother, his drug-addicted has-been of a brother, and the endless cliches of boxing movies.  Fortunately, with the help of an extraordinarily assembled cast of actors and a director (David O. Russell, a name to remember) with a fairly unique vision, The Fighter kind of comes out on top.

Horribly titled to be sure, this film tells the semi-true story of an underdog boxer (Mark Wahlberg).  Blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard it all before. The biggest success of this movie is that Russell is almost in as much of a rush to get past the fight scenes and into the juicy human drama as the rest of us are.  There’s a big story to be told here outside the ring, and when it stays outside the movie is a potent, fully alive drama.

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REVIEW: 127 Hours

127 Hours
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Aron Ralston (book)
Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, and Sean Bott

Aron Ralston cut his own arm off to escape a boulder that pinned him against a canyon wall.  That much we know.  The rest, drawn from his hallucinatory recounting in his autobiography and combined with some creative liberties from a passionate filmmaker, is a story waiting to be told.

It’s interesting to think how certain directors would handle different source material.  A story like this could tell how Aron recovered after his ordeal, or it could show his ordeal.  If you’re looking for the gooey easy way out, the former is your best bet, but Danny Boyle isn’t going for the easy way out.

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REVIEW: Secretariat


Secretariat
Directed by: Randall Wallace
Written by: Mike Rich (screenplay), William Nack (book)
Starring: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, and Margo Martindale

Apparently Seabiscuit and The Blind Side weren’t enough.  According to Disney, we needed at least one more historically sugar-coated “impossible true story.”  Something savory for the whole family, with perfectly timed and safe one-liners and plot points that the company has had on repeat since it started doing live action movies.

Of course, when this company has a lack of creativity and innovation, they simply write a check.  This gives them access to the best filmmaking tools at their disposal to make this pile of garbage.  The race footage in Secretariat is amazingly well-done and even a little bit exhilarating.  It’s too bad once the horses stop, the movie does too.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: David Magee (screenplay) Allen Knee (play)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie, Freddie Highmore

Finding Neverland is the Jonny Depp film Tim Burton has attempted to make time over and time over, and has failed to create despite all his creative savvy.

It is the fairy re-tale of the classic Peter Pan story.  What makes Neverland so brilliant is that it doesn’t attempt to retell and spit out the same story with a teeny-tiny twist or different color palette like Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Instead the film looks at the story with a whole new scope, depreciating no magic or thematic value, and instead enhancing it and recreating it into a marvelous, heartwarming story worth remembering like the original. Continue reading