Thursday Night Movies: True Grit (2010)

Short version: A simple story, wonderfully told. Highly recommended.

Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin. Directed by the Coen Brothers. True Grit is the story of a US Marshall and a Texas Ranger, teamed up to hunt down the killer of a little girl’s father (at the insistence of the girl). Hailee Steinfeld does wonderfully in the role of the mature-beyond-her-years 14 year old, Mattie Ross. Bridges and Damon are both wonderful as the drunken Marshall and rogue Ranger (respectively). Brolin does well in a small role as the killer, and the underrated Barry Pepper has a good role as the leader of an outlaw gang.

What I personally loved about True Grit is that it simply told its own story. No ‘shocking’ twists or plot devices. We get time to learn about each of the three main characters (Steinfeld, Bridges, and Damon) so that we actually care about them as they get to hunting down Brolin, who’s travelling with Pepper’s gang. The dialogue and pacing are great, and the movie is very visually appealing, set in the Arkansas wilderness in Winter. The few scenes shot in the snow looked especially good to me.

It’s as simple as that for me. If you like a good Western, or even just a good story, True Grit is absolutely for you.

Thursday Night Movies: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Short version: Really quite enjoyable.

Mr. Scott Walters took me up on my big screen offer this week, so TNM hit the Riverview Theater for 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the sequel to 2009’s Sherlock Holmes. All the major talent returned for this one: Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock), Jude Law (Watson), Rachel McAdams (Adler), as well as director Guy Ritchie. New to AGoS, Stephen Fry played a wonderful Mycroft, Jared Harris was solid as Moriarity, and Noomi Rapace played a gypsy fortune teller/revolutionary, which actually worked pretty well as sort of a sidekick to Watson in a few scenes.

Pretty straight-forward plot in this one – Holmes plays a game of cat-and-mouse with Moriarity, who’s manipulating national dignitaries in an attempt to start (and profit from) a war. He lures Watson away from his honeymoon (subplot A) and joins with Rapace’s character because her brother is mixed up in Moriarity’s schemes (subplot B). The movie is a little light on dialogue and development, but it doesn’t really have to be deep. AGoS builds directly off the 2009 SH movie, including the slick action scenes where we see Holmes fighting out the scene in his mind, and then fighting it out for real. It’s well paced, and interesting enough to hold together.

I remember walking away from SH thinking that it could have been outstanding, but fell just short of that, which was disappointing. Perhaps my expectations were lowered for AGoS, so while I thought it didn’t come as close to being an outstanding movie, I enjoyed it from start to finish. Unfortunately for this set of Holmes characters, what the movie also showed me was just how absolutely outstanding the current BBC run of Sherlock is, in both story and cast. Especially Moriarity. Seriously, Sherlock is worth watching once JUST for Andrew Scott’s turn as Moriarity. It’s a little unfair to compare the two, but inevitable since they’re two Sherlock franchises running at the same time.

In the end, I do recommend seeing Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – especially if you enjoyed the first movie, but it also stands well on its own. …and then after that go rent the Sherlock DVDs, because seriously, everyone needs to see that show.

Thursday Night Hiatus

No movie this week. Not because I don’t love you (I do).

It’s because it’s my birthday! And I’m gonna watch the end of the Wild game (because I’m a glutton for punishment), and then start watching the first season of Community (in an attempt to finally get my sister off my back about it).

We will resume regular programming next week.

Thursday Night Movies: Triggermen

Short version: Donne Wahlberg’s finest hour.

Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all ze week. Make no mistake, this isn’t a particularly good movie. It’s a paint-by-numbers, ensemble cast, heist/gangster movie that doesn’t vary from a formulaic script. There’s some mistaken identity, and a hit gone wrong, and in the end some characters get redemption, the good guy gets the girl, and everyone more or less lives happily ever after.

However, there’s something to be said for a movie just being what it is, and this isn’t a flat-out bad movie. Pete Postlethwaite is an entirely believable crime boss, Claire Forlani (his daughter) is beautiful, Wahlberg is actually halfway decent, and I didn’t hate Michael Rappaport. The rest of the cast fill their roles well, there are no manufactured ‘shocking’ plot twists, and it clocks in at a nice, trim 95 minutes. I watched Triggermen, and while I was bored at times, I found myself, if not entirely entertained, at least not angry.

That said, there will be no repeat viewings of the movie, and I only recommend it if you want something vanilla. Official review: Meh.

Thursday Night Movies: Moneyball

Short version: they took source material that I thought would be completely unwatchable as a movie, and turned it into a movie.

Seriously. A movie about how the Oakland A’s general manager used unconventional thinking and statistics to build a winning baseball team for the 2002 season. ‘Statistics’ and ‘Baseball’ are not words that you build a dramatic movie around. I enjoyed the movie, but I wasn’t captivated by it. I feel like I enjoyed it because I am nerd enough to have enjoyed the book, and I feel like it probably has some appeal to more casual baseball/sports fans.

I do also generally enjoy Brad Pitt.

The performances were fine. Pitt was good, Philip Seymour Hoffman actually looked quite a bit like Art Howe (although he just sounded like himself), and Jonah Hill was also good. And that’s pretty much it. It was well written, and it told the story of a baseball season.

wadE and I agreed on the word ‘underwhelmed’. It’s a nice, watchable movie. Great for Netflix/Redbox prices, and a good movie for baseball/sports fans and/or people who just want to watch Brad Pitt look good for 2 hours. I’m not sure how it got an Oscar nomination for anything, let alone Best Supporting Actor In a Role about a Nerd with barely 20 lines in the whole movie. (What? It was just Best Supporting Actor? Huh.)

So, yeah. Moneyball. I suspect you already have an idea about whether or not you’re interested in seeing it, and I’m here to tell you that whatever you’ve already decided, you’re right. Stick to your guns.