Remakes, sequels take backseat to Aronofsky’s original Black Swan
If a film includes the Coen Brothers in the credits, the film carries extra expectations.
The Academy Award winning duo took a crack at making a western, a remake of a western made famous on the screen by John Wayne no less.
The Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit is shot beautifully and there are moments of great dialogue but the film falls short of the standards set by other Coen Brothers films.
The film is about a young girl who hires an over-the-hill U.S. Marshall to find the man who killed her father.
The film features a handful of moments with action but in typical Coen Brothers fashion, the cinematography and actors is what carries the film.
True Grit has a top notch cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. Bridges plays the drunken the drunken U.S. Marshall Cogburn, a character made famous in 1969 by Wayne.
Bridges’ Cogburn, while seeming like a good fit, isn’t that compelling of a character. It’s pretty obvious that while being old, you know he’ll do whatever it takes to do the right thing.
As for Damon, he comes off as bland and forgetful. He plays a Texas Ranger that never stops talking about how great being a Texas Ranger is.
Damon’s acting would be forgivable if he wasn’t trying to be serious.
But the standout performance is by Hailee Steinfeld, who plays the girl who hires Cogburn. What makes Steinfeld’s performance compelling because she has to be twice as smart to stay ahead in an untamed adult world while trying to compress her vulnerability being a 13-year-old.
As for the cinematography, what you’d expect – great. The Coen Brothers have always had a good sense of knowing how to create tension through camera angles, which is key in a Western. It’s unfortunate that there are only a small handful of scenes with actual tension.
True Grit is a film that was entertaining enough to finish but will fade to oblivion as time passes.
Black Swan is easily one of the most bizarre films of 2010 and it’s also one of the year’s best.
People who know anything about director Darren Aronofsky know that most of his pictures are dark and bizarre, see Requiem for a Dream and the Fountain.
The film is about an aging ballet dancer Nina (played by Natalie Portman) who earns the role of the Swan Queen in the play Swan Lake. Problem for Nina is that she is perfect for half the role. She can play the White Swan but must work to become the Black Swan.
As the film progresses, the added pressure put on Nina by the people around her and herself to be perfect causes her wonder if she is losing her mind or if something much greater is happening to her.
Even during the not so weird parts, everything always feel eerie, especially with the relationship between Nina and her mother. When it seems like Nina is living a princess’ dream; the dream is really a nightmare in under the surface.
Portman is simply impressive, performing her own ballet routines and delivering the performance of her career.
This film oozes sex without showing any nudity. Her ballet director (played by Vincent Cassel) realizes that in order to get the best out of Nina, she’s going to need to loosen up sexually.
This leads Nina to a new dancer named Lily (played by Mila Kunis). Lily embodies what Nina wishes she could be, a person who dances with a sense of freedom and sexuality.
Portman has been earning a lot of attention by award councils for how she was able to portray innocent and pure while slowly unlocking her darker and sexual side in order to become the Black Swan. This role has now moved Portman beyond a category of a film star with a pretty face to a full-on leading lady.
The plot has many similarities to the play especially toward the climax when the film’s most bizarre sequences happen.
As for the direction, Aronofsky manages to put together a compelling piece of art that sucks the audience in and doesn’t let them go until the very end. The film is shot with many close-ups and is tightly edited to add to the insecurity of the characters and to their prominence.
It is not hard to see why Black Swan is a front runner at the Golden Globes and I’d be surprised if this film walks away without winning some Oscars.
In Sci-Fi sub-genre of computer films, before there was The Matrix, there was Tron.
The 1982 Disney movie Tron has grown into a cult hit over the years and more recently has been brought to people’s attention by the internet celebrity, the Tron Guy. Now Disney has finally delivered a sequel, Tron: Legacy.
For those of you that has never seen the original Tron, don’t feel threatened about not knowing what is going on. Considering how confusing the orginal film was, Tron: Legacy was able to explain the backstory well enough to understand what it was about.
The plot is about Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the son of a computer corporation giant that goes missing when he was a boy. Now 27, Sam gets a lead on his father’s disappearance and investigates his hidden office. Sam gets sucked into the digital world, called the Grid, which his father created and must find his father while avoiding the programs that have turned against Sam’s father.
Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn, Sam’s father, and also plays CLU, Kevin’s program that turned against him.
Fighting alongside Sam is Quorra (played by Olivia Wilde) a program that has become Kevin’s ally and apprentice since being trapped on the grid.
Hedlund and Wilde do a good job acting, Bridges’ portrayal of mirror’s one of his previous roles. Bridges’ take on the older Kevin Flynn is more reminiscent of his role as The Dude in The Big Lebowski than of the hotshot hacker from the original Tron. It makes you wonder if The Dude is really how Bridges is in real life when he’s not acting.
Tron: Legacy continues a tradition of being a visual effects trailblazer for era it was released in.
In all the scenes inside the computer involving CLU or Kevin Flynn in the 1980s have been digitally enhanced to make Bridges look like he did over 20 years ago. At times it looks really fake but for most of the film, it looks very realistic and has shown how digital effects have come a long way.
The rest of the film’s visual effects are simply stunning. It tastefully builds off of the classic set pieces of the original, light cycles and disk battles have been given a next generation update.
Even with amazing visual effects the best part of the film is the soundtrack.
Composed by the electronic music duo Daft Punk, the score combines electronic music with classical orchestra with bleeps and bloops from 80s video games. The electronic melody has the unshakeable ability to get downloaded into your head and will stay there long after leaving the theater. Putting that score together is near perfection and rivals Hans Zimmer’s score of Inception as the best original soundtrack of 2010.
Unfortunately what holds Tron: Legacy back from being a great film for the masses is what held back the original - explaining the universe and the plot.
The audience must be willing to have a high suspension of disbelief level in order to be willing understand this film because some elements of how the universe works is never fully explained.
This is also goes the same for the plot as well. Besides the basic goal of the characters to escape from the computer, certain elements of the plot are not fully explained such as the origin of Quorra and her potential.
If the audience is willing to forgive a few uncertainties with the plot, Tron: Legacy is an audio and visual thrill ride that will blow you out of your seat.
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