February 24, 2010

Crazy Heart

A fine no-frills character study elevated by an excellent performance by Jeff Bridges. Bad Blake was once a successful and popular old-school country-western star, but many years have come and gone. A lifetime of alcoholism and four failed marriages has taken its toll when we meet him. Blake hits the bottom of the barrel around the time he vomits into a barrel behind a bowling alley- in the middle of a song he's supposed to be singing. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a the single mom who is charmed by his "crazy heart" and makes the mistake of falling in love. The plot is simple, the movie itself is laid-back and unpretentious. Bridges is excellent and unafraid to look pitiful- there are plenty of cringing moments, including his drunken attempts at retaining his dignity. The music is good, in fact, if it were better, or more "showy", it would distract. It's simple pleasures are an asset. The third act rehabilitation and pat ending are a little easy, but a movie as modest and honest as this can be forgiven. (Belmont Studio Cinema, with Sarah "Pickles" Hershberger)

February 13, 2010

The Wolfman

What could be more romantic for a Valentine's date night than The Wolfman? My wife and I weren't going to see Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day even before Lisa Schwarzbaum's F for "failing" grade in Entertainment Weekly, or 18% freshness rating from Rotten Tomatoes. We wanted something escapist, entertaining, and predictable. The Wolfman delivered on all three counts. (NOTE: The Wolfman got a B grade from EW and 33% from Rotten Tomatoes. the Stub Hubby gives it a B-minus.

The Wolfman 2010 is a aggresively old-school monster movie. The only concessions to the 21st century are the graphic evisceration of the werewolf's victims (oh, so THAT's what "rip your lungs out" looks like!) and some CGI effects mixed in with Rick Baker's makeup magic. Otherwise, it's all foggy English moors, decrepit estates, kerosene lamps, Indian manservants, and Gypsy travelers camping in the woods.

Benicio Del Toro, the swarthiest Oscar winner ever, is a peripatetic stage actor who returns to the aforementioned foggy English mansion/homestead when his brother is eaten by the Wolf. In residence amongst the kerosene lamps, playing his grand piano and reading his lines off cue cards, is a classically English Oscar winner who can be hired for ANY movie, Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is Del Toro's father, reprising his Van Helsing role with less scenery chewing than I would have expected (and hoped for!) Hugo Weaving is fantastic as a sharp Scotland Yard detective who's willing to believe anything. The special effects vary wildly in quality from neat CGI effects to "a guy in a wolf suit" practical effects. I was surprised to discover the boring, indifferent score was by Danny Elfman? It didn't seem like his work at all.

There's no new ground broken here, and no surprises at all, but the drama and thrills are satisfying, if familiar.