REVIEW: Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, and Joey Curtis
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, and Mike Vogel

Forty pounds lighter, with their dreams still in tact,  Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) go for broke on the streets on an unnamed urban setting.  She’s aspiring to be a doctor in a loveless home, and he can’t seem to decide what he wants to do.  But they’re in love, and they think that’s enough.  Flash-forward a few years (and pounds), and these same people would tell a much different story.

Cindy and Dean’s beginning and end are at the bipolar core of Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine. In one instance, we see two hipsters full of youth and verve and in the next, he’s balding with a beer gut and she has kept her pregnancy weight and permanently embedded a scowl.

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REVIEW: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Seidler (screenplay)
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Gambon

For many, public speaking is a terrifying undertaking by itself.  When you add on the everyday concerns of an English monarch- mounting war, daddy issues, a debilitating speech impediment- it definitely doesn’t help.  The King’s Speech surrounds itself with a plethora of talented British character actors, many straight off the Harry Potter set, and has a go at the story of the stuttering King George VI (Colin Firth).  In the end unfortunately, it cannot escape what it really is: a cooly calculated period drama bred like a racehorse for Oscar season.

The set-up in and of itself sounds like something you’d hear from many of the nominees for Best Picture.  Prior to World War II, we follow the Duke of York as he becomes King of England and tackles a stutter that has plagued him his entire life.  He does this with the help of an eccentric teacher (Geoffrey Rush) and a devoted wife (Helena Bonham Carter.)  I can almost see a half-drunk celebrity reading that synopsis come Oscar night.

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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: 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: The Tourist

The Tourist
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Written by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, & Julian Fellowes (screenplay)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, and Timothy Dalton

Slicing through the frame with vintage glamor and movie star sensibility, Angelina Jolie always captures the gaze of her audience.  Whether she be in a feature film like this one or in Africa with her family, we follow her.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, we follow a man who’s been mistaken for someone else on a cross-country journey of suspense with swerving trains, diving planes, and classic automobiles.  Cary Grant, as big a movie star as there ever was, plays that man.  Here it’s Johnny Depp, but you can’t help but keep your eyes on Ms. Jolie.

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