Like a lot of people, I try to get to the movies during the holidays and was fortunate enough to see some good films. In no particular order:
True Grit (***1/2) – Jeff Bridges stars as US Marshal Rooster Cogburn in this Coen Brothers adaptation of the famous Western novel; its previous adaptation won John Wayne his only Oscar for the same role. Matt Damon and newcomer Hailee Steinfield turn in excellent supporting work and the great cinematographer Roger Deakins performs his usual magic for the Coens. As impressive as Steinfield is in the role of a 14 year old girl who hires the gruff Cogburn to catch the man who killed her father (an amusingly cowardly Josh Brolin), Bridges really shines here as a man whose moral compass is starting to lose sync with the times, but who is nonetheless an inspiration to one young woman.
Tron: Legacy (**) – Bridges again, playing Kevin Flynn, a cross between a zen master and Jesus after being trapped in a computer world of his own design, dully called The Grid. His abandoned son, acting upon a mysterious message from the ether, finds Flynn’s old office hidden under an arcade; the most remarkable feature of which is a disintegrating ray that sends him into the Grid, where he must battle computer games and find his father in order to escape to the real world and delete the villain. In many ways, this film is basically the same as the original, but with better graphics. There are some bright moments, such as Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen and the Daft Punk soundtrack; but for the most part I would have been just as happy watching the third season of Reboot.
Black Swan (**1/2) – much is being made of this film, especially as a vehicle for Natalie Portman to get an Oscar. I have always liked Ms. Portman, and respected her work from The Professional and Beautiful Girls onward, but I don’t think she always makes the best choices when it comes to scripts; for every average to decent film like Garden State or Closer, there are three or four mediocre ones. Then again, I also think the Oscars are basically bullshit, and from an acting perspective are only good for getting more money and better parts, and since Natalie is incredibly turning 30 this year, I am thinking that last year she watched Sandra Bullock’s name get announced, did a spit take, and told her people to promote the hell out of this movie since obviously the Oscar won’t be coming from Thor.
As for the movie itself, it was Fight Club with ballet, and I fucking hated Fight Club, so it speaks well of Aronofsky and his cast that I would sit through to the end. I always knew pretty much where it was going. I enjoyed the performances in general, I enjoyed the “edgy” sexual moments with Natalie, I continue to be impressed with Mila Kunis on the big screen, but ultimately I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It’s an average movie with a hard sell.
Astro Boy (*) – wow, what a dreadful movie. Osamu Tezuka’s classic anime hero was rendered in 3D last year and then, for some reason, dropped into the plot of Spielberg & Kubrick’s A.I. I was surprised to find that many elements of Astro’s origin story were indeed consistent with Tezuka’s, and while I respect the desire to be true to the source material, that source material is also 50 years old. Parts of it are quaint to the modern audience and parts are downright disturbing. I hope they do a better job with the upcoming Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets) film.