Wednesday, January 5, 2011


There are a slew of movies that are now playing at a theater near you-- both on and off the beaten path. Let's start with the beaten path:

--TRUE GRIT is the Coen Brothers tepid take on the John Wayne classic about the gunslinger and the girl who hires him. All of the Coen brothers movies seem like the wild west: human fables with bullets and bloodied limbs flying over an untamed landscape, but this fable seems tamer and more shapeless than most. Jeff Bridges is ornery as hell as drunken U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, while a mustachioed Matt Damon is a hoot as a self-important Texas Ranger with a heart of gold and a head full of rocks. The scene stealer is 14 year old Haille Steinfeld as Mattie Ross who hires Rooster to shoot the man who shot her pa. She's smart as a whip, handles the language like a Shakespearean thespian, and has more technique than a barrel full of Barrymores. The film gallops along, but never really takes off, then keels over and dies. Looks mighty purty though.

Much More engaging is:

--127 HOURS the true story of Aran Ralston a mountain climber who gets his arm caught between a rock and a hard place while canyoneering alone in Utah. After five days, he does the unthinkable in order to free himself: he cuts off his arm with a dull blade. Director/screenwriter Danny(SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE)Boyle ingeniously fleshes out this gruesome event to a dramatically involving 97 minutes in which Aran sorts through his life, his loves, and ultimately his need for both isolation and connection. James Franco holds our focus and his as the funny frisky climber who will probably never again leave home alone.

And speaking of "home":

THE COMPANY MEN stars Boston's hometown boy Ben Affleck who loses his home when the big corporation he works for downsizes and he and his co-workers played by Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper are left swinging in the breeze while the big boss rakes in the bonuses. The plight of these men hits home despite a formulaic script by writer/director John ("ER") Wells; each man deals with the loss of income and clout in a different way depending on his character and relationship to his family. It was uncomfortable to watch--I know many people in this situation. Ben gives one of the best performances of his career, his working class Boston accent surfacing ever so subtly the more time he spends around his surly construction worker brother-in-law played in a surprising and effective turn by Kevin Costner.

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