Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The Eagle" - in theaters

"The Eagle" is the story of Marcus Flavius Acquila (Stockard "Channing Tatum" O'Neal), a newly minted Roman commander who is stationed in crazy wild Britain. But the plot thickens, because Marcus asked to be posted there. His father was also a Roman commander, and marched into northern Britain/Scotland with Rome's coveted Eagle - basically a gold statue that they carried around on a stick. He took 5000 soldiers with them and none of them came back. And alas, the Eagle was lost.

So Marcus feels like he could make a difference in Britain, including regaining his family's honor. And he's doing a good job of it, until he gets himself injured. Because of his injury, he is sent to his uncle's (Donald Sutherland) house to heal and is also honorably discharged from the military. This is a crushing blow to Marcus, as the military is the only life he's ever known.

While he's healing, his uncle takes him to the arena to watch some gladiators kill each other, like ya do in ancient Rome. There he comes to find Esca (Jamie Bell), a slave who is fighting in the arena. Fighting is being generous; for the most part Esca is taking his beating and refusing to fight. Apparently Marcus sees something in Esca, because he prevents Esca's death. So then his uncle buys Esca for him. And hence, Esca is his slave.

The two of them seem to have a grand ol' time. They hunt, they hang out, and then Esca serves Marcus dinner. All the while, Esca says about 8 words. Then some pompous old Romans come to dinner, and start saying that some tribe native to Britain has the Eagle, way up in the north. The army doesn't want to send anyone, but Marcus volunteers himself and Esca to undertake the quest.

So they head north of Hadrian's wall, with Esca as his guide. They come across many native Britons, and Marcus steers clear while Esca speaks to them. It all seems to be going well, until they get captured by a tribe whose men paint themselves blue all over, and who know the countryside like the back of their hands.

There was a real grit to this picture. It was more "Gladiator" than I had expected, and I dug it. It was also fast-paced and full of action and suspense. I also dug Channing and Jamie; they worked well together. And let's face it: Jamie Bell is the shit. I mean, he was Billy Elliot for crying out loud! Not to mention that he wears the lowest slung pants I have ever seen a man wear. And I didn't hate it.

So on the CWeave scale, I give this movie a 7.5. Not an Oscar contender, but a fine addition to the gladiator motion picture collection.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"The Mechanic" - in theaters

I really wanted to love this movie.

But alack! I was disappointed.

"The Mechanic" is the story of Arthur (Jason Statham), an assassin for hire who is the best in the business. That is, until his company tricks him into killing his only friend, Harry (Donald Sutherland). Harry is Arthur's handler, and the company tells Arthur that Harry is into some dirty stuff. Without checking into it, Arthur shoots Harry in the chest. But unlike his other kills, Arthur feels guilty. So when Harry's son, Steve (Ben Foster), comes back into town to deal with Harry's affairs, Arthur takes him under his wing.

See, Steve has some serious anger management problems. He is a psychopath, hell bent on hurting anyone having to do with Harry's passing. But it's more than that. He just likes to hurt other people, which Arthur recognizes and tries to harness.

So it goes on with Arthur and Steve killing more people for money until they decide to go after the guys that wanted Harry dead to begin with. It's a lot of action and some brutal fight scenes, not to mention some sex scenes as well (which really have no place in the plot). Normally I dig this, but this film was grim. Hardly any laughter, and I don't think Statham smiled more than twice the entire time.

Ben Foster is absolutely disgusting as Steve. He's an angry, sleazy dude with a scuzzy beard, and he kind of makes your skin crawl. It's almost as if he was channeling his character from "3:10 to Yuma" but forgot that this wasn't the old West. Blegh.

On the CWeave scale, I rate this movie a 5. I really have no desire or need to see it ever again, even if Jason Statham kicks butt. I'd rather see him as Handsome Rob from "The Italian Job" than this joker.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"The King's Speech" - in theaters

This movie is receiving accolades out of the wazoo, and, in my opinion, deservedly so. Each of the principal actors have been nominated for Academy Awards, not to mention picking up noms for best director, original screenplay, and best picture of the year.

The story is set in England in the 1930's, and focuses on Colin Firth's character, the soon to be King George VI. But the movie begins before he assumes the throne, and we get to see a little of the history behind his ascending to the crown. When his father dies, George's older brother becomes King Edward VIII (played by Guy Pearce). But Edward has a taste for "scandalous" women, and when he takes up with an American divorcee, the entire British government loses their shit. So Edward abdicated, leaving George to become King.

But the thing is, George has a stammer that has hampered him his entire life. You can really see how it brings him such shame, because he cannot, in his own view, be a great leader and speaker with the stammer. So his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), takes it upon herself to find him someone who can help eliminate the stammer. The methods that some of the doctors use are absolutely outrageous (like the one guy who suggested that George should smoke because it relaxes the throat muscles), and George gets very frustrated by it all.

And then, Elizabeth finds Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue is an Australian-born speech therapist with a passion for acting. His methods are unorthodox, and it takes the king quite a while to get used to them and become comfortable practicing them even when in Logue's office.

Now, while that's all well and good, this movie isn't really about the stammer. It's about a friendship that forms between two men. It's about George finally realizing with a little help from Lionel, that he can be a great king in the fact of the horrors of Hitler and war.

The actors are all nominated for Oscars, so that really speaks for itself. I find it resplendent when Helena Bonham Carter plays someone not totally insane, and here she is so mild-mannered and a truly loving wife and mother. It's fantastic. And the way that Colin Firth transformed himself into this character is astonishing. I was obsessed with watching how he made his throat struggle whenever he spoke. Not to mention Geoffrey Rush, who is just a working class man trying to help another man overcome a disability. And he makes you laugh while he does it.

On the CWeave scale, I rate this movie a 10. Seriously. Go see it. It is funny, touching, and heartbreaking all at the same time. All jokes aside, this movie is the real deal.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"True Grit" - in theaters

Oh how I love Matt Damon. Let me count the ways...

I remember when the news first broke that the Coen brothers were going to be remaking "True Grit", and their insistence that it was NOT a remake. It was simply another adaptation of the book. So don't expect Jeff Bridges to do an impression of John Wayne, etc., etc.

I've never seen the original, but according to my father, it was quite campy due to the fact that Glen Campbell was in it, and you couldn't see him as a character; you could only see him as Glen Campbell. So I will give credit to the Coens that this new version is NOT campy.

The story revolves around Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a 13-year-old girl whose father is murdered by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She hires a U.S. Marshall by the name of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her track him down. In the meantime, a Texas Ranger by the name of LaBoeuf (Damon), no relation to Shia, hears of this venture and teams up with Cogburn because he too is looking for Chaney.

Rooster was chosen by Mattie because he displays what people believe to be "true grit", when in fact it's Mattie that embodies that characteristic. You wouldn't think that a 13 year old girl, especially in those times, could do what Mattie does throughout the film, and she is so determined, so focused on nabbing Chaney and bringing him to justice, that she cares about nothing else. She doesn't care that she's sleeping outside or that her mother is home alone with her younger siblings. She bargains with a salesman to return horses that she no longer needs, carries a gun, and isn't afraid of making her horse swim across a deep river with her astride. You can really see why Steinfeld was nominated for an Oscar for her performance, because it is seriously bad ass.

There were more humorous moments in the film than I thought there was going to be, which is always pleasant. Jeff Bridges is, of course, awesome in the role, and Rooster is someone I wouldn't mind having in my corner. LaBoeuf is a little slimy and devious, but in the end has Mattie's best interests at heart. Brolin is hardly in the picture, but when he is, he's so disgusting that you just want Mattie to shoot him and get it over with.

So on the CWeave scale, I give this movie a 9. I must say that this was a Coen brothers movie that I enjoyed. It almost makes me forget about "No Country for Old Men". Almost.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" - in theaters

Despite the apparent Christian undertones, I really do enjoy the Narnia films. While they also tend to drag, they remain so true to the books that it's a little unbelievable. It's a rarity for a movie to do such a thing, so I admire the filmmakers for their actions.

The third installment of the series finds Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) living in England with their aunt, uncle, and annoying cousin Eustace (Will Poulter), while Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are in America with their parents. Peter and Susan make an appearance for about a minute throughout the entire film, and this is as it should be. For the adventure in Narnia belongs to Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace this time around.

They get to Narnia through a painting, where they end up floating in the ocean and picked up by the Dawn Treader (a boat), captained by Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). They're off looking for some of Caspian's dad's friends who disappeared when things got rough. There also seems to be some evil green smoke running amok, and the only way to get rid of it is to bring all 7 swords back to Aslan's table. And wouldn't you know it, but the Caspian's dad's mates each have one!

From there, there is all sorts of adventure to be had, including battling a dragon and getting sold into slavery. While it all seems dangerous, this is a family friendly flick, so the danger is very superficial. There is never any doubt that they're all going to make it out of there alive.

As the kids get older, they get less annoying. Eustace really should get on your nerves, but he doesn't. I think it helps that he reads out passages of his diary and they're so hilarious that you don't care that he's judging everyone. Lucy is struggling with wanting to be beautiful like Susan, which is a tad ridiculous. Apparently she doesn't remember how she already grew up once before in Narnia, and that she was an attractive woman, so there's really nothing to worry about. But then again, we all have our insecurities.

So on the CWeave scale, I give this movie a 6.5. It could've been funnier in several places, plus Eddie Izzard, who was the voice of Reepicheep in "Prince Caspian" was replaced by Simon Pegg in this one. Though I love Simon Pegg, Eddie did a much better job, and I went into the theater thinking that I was going to hear his voice again. And plus, King Peter is hot, so I was sad that he wasn't in more of the film. Because yes, I'm shallow like that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Black Swan" - in theaters

Holy balls, this movie was insane.

And really, that's all I have to say about this film. I wasn't too thrilled about seeing it in the first place as I'm always a little wary of psychologically dark films, afraid that I just might not "get" it. Plus, it's the type of movie that gives me weird dreams, which I am keen to avoid.

That being said, this movie was still worth watching, if only to see Natalie Portman in her soon to be Oscar winning role. It is twisty, dark, and scary, as Natalie's character, Nina, slowly succumbs to her paranoia as the stress from her new starring role starts to get to her. At the beginning of the film, it is easy to see that Nina is a weak woman. She still lives with her domineering and controlling mother (played by a CREEPY Barbara Hershey), doesn't have many friends, and has been in the background of her profession for many years. Her break finally comes when her director (Vincent Cassell) casts her as the Swan Queen in a new production of "Swan Lake".

And thus begins Nina's descent into madness.

To be honest, I can't really give a good description of the film's plot, mostly because that'll give a lot of the movie away and I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't seen it.

I will say that the performances are fantastic. Again, Natalie will win the Oscar, because of both her physical transformation and the depths of the psychological damage she portrays. Not to mention that pretty much every cast member touches her crotch, and when it's touched that much in a movie, an Oscar is pretty much guaranteed. Mila Kunis, who plays a rival ballerina, is the one touch of normalcy to the film. She represents the level of mental health that Portman should have had.

Winona Ryder is the ballerina that Portman ousts when she gets the lead role, and she turns to booze to deal with her problems. There is an especially scary scene that involves her in a hospital room, and I think Winona really had some fun with this role.

On the CWeave scale, I give this an 8.5. I like a little humor in my films, and this was devoid of any. I'm glad that I saw that, but I really have no desire or need to see it again.