Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaser Trailer for 'True Grit' Ponies Up

By Mike Gillis

The Coen Brothers' take on the John Wayne classic, "True Grit," is mentioned in the post below as one of the movies we're looking forward to seeing this fall. Now, the first trailer for the film, is out. You can see it right here at the end of this post.

The film stars a stable of stars from earlier Coen Brothers outings, including Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin, as well as Matt Damon and newcomer Hallie Steinfeld, who plays Mattie, the young girl who hires damaged U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Bridges in this version, Wayne in the original) to avenge the death of her father.

It's clear from the trailer the Coen Brothers are taking a... grittier approach, which, to me, suits their style (some will argue over stylized). Bridges certainly has big shoes to fill -- Wayne won an Oscar for his performance in the 1969 original -- but that seems to be no bother. Bridges is a fantastic and remarkably versatile actor. His roles, which span a wide spectrum from comedy to misery, are always more interesting and richer under his care. Pair up films like "Fearless" and "The Big Lebowski" and you'll wonder if the two Bridges are the same.

Although I would agree with the minority who maintain "No Country for Old Men" is not their most solid work -- other Coen Brothers films like "Miller's Crossing" and "A Serious Man" are better, if not nearly perfect -- I can't say it's a bad movie. That said, I think the Coen Brothers were a bit saddled by that film. All Coen Brothers films veer into black comedy, but "No Country" seemed to relish in the black a bit too much, at the expense of the narrative.

"True Grit," if one is to judge from the snippet here, may be the picture that synthesizes what the brothers do so well: character, homage, story and style.

What do you think?

See the teaser trailer here:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movies We're Looking Forward To This Fall

Sept. 22: "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger" -- strong cast, including Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin and Patricia Clarkson, speaks Woody Allen-speak. The trailer is excellent. This appears to be a new script -- one that Woody didn't take out of a drawer and dust off.

Oct. 8: "Secretariat" -- We're suckers for a good story at the track. Directed by Randall Wallace and starring the sublime Diane Lane.

Oct. 22: "Hereafter" -- Director Clint Eastwood has taken on Boston gangsters, women boxers, World War II, old age and Nelson Mandela in recent years. Now he takes on life after death with his new fave Matt Damon. With the terrific Jay Mohr and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Oct. 22: "The Company Men" -- Can Hollywood honestly capture the anxiety and humiliation of the modern worker? Director John Wells gives it a shot with Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and the Craig T. Nelson. The only woman in the cast appears to be Maria Bello, which means what?

Nov. 12: "Morning Glory" -- ONLY for Rachel McAdams.

Nov. 19: "The Next Three Days" -- Paul Haggis directs an all-star cast in a thriller whodunit headed up by Russell Crowe and the great Elizabeth Banks. That's the most interesting pairing of the fall.

Dec. 1: "Black Swan" -- Not a huge fan of Aronofsky's. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei notwithstanding, "The Wrestler" was overrated. "The Fountain" was awful. But this pic, with Natalie Portman, looks interesting.

Dec. 17: "How Do You Know" -- A curiously lackluster title, but with a great cast that includes Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson. From writer/director James L. Brooks.

Christmas Day: "True Grit" -- More out of curiosity than anything else. Jeff Bridges, an actor everybody seems to love, takes over from John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. This version is said to be more faithful to the Charles Portis book, which is told from the point of view of a 12-year-old girl. Let's hope the Coen brothers keep big chunks of the book's dialogue as did the original 1969 movie.

What do you want to see?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Mini Review: "The American"

By Lars Trodson

If you happen to have two unique parents -- in this case Fred Zinneman's "The Day Of the Jackal" and Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" -- and those two parents have a child, it would look like "The American."

The child owes a debt to each parent, of course, but it is blessed with a personality all its own.

"The American" is a beautifully made film, made sturdy with old school craftsmanship. It's got pleasures very few films offer up these days, including a pervasive and mesmerizing sense of place, and a quiet, haunted center, which is the presence of George Clooney.

See this film if you can.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Clive Donner's "A Christmas Carol"

By Lars Trodson

The director Clive Donner passed away two days ago at the age of 84. Many people, like myself, may have gotten him confused over the years with the more prolific and successful Richard Donner, director of the original "Superman" and "Lethal Weapon" franchises. Clive Donner, on the other hand, was an Englishman. His career started out with a bang in the early 1960s -- he made the wildly successful "What's New, Pussycat?", written by Woody Allen -- but by the 1970s he was mainly doing TV work. He hadn't made a film since 1993.

But he did direct one of the most sublime film versions of "A Christmas Carol" ever made. It was for TV, in 1984, and starred George C. Scott as a perfectly cast Ebenezer.

This is a gorgeously realized production, with a particularly muscular and memorable Scrooge from Mr. Scott. Donner made a beautiful movie.

If you are looking for something fresh to watch this upcoming holiday season, and have not seen Clive Donner's "A Christmas Carol", put that in your movie queue and then watch it with the family. It'll put you in that good old Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tough Guy 101: Michael Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me”

By Lars Trodson

At one point during Michael Winterbottom’s appalling retelling of Jim Thompson’s “The Killer Inside Me”, lead character Lou Ford (played by Casey Affleck), reaches up to find a particular book on a shelf.

As he picks out the book, the camera lingers long enough for the audience to see that one of the titles on the shelf is “The Basic Writings Of Sigmund Freud.” This is okay, because that book was published in 1938, and “The Killer Inside Me” takes place in the late 1950s.

Only the book jacket for this specific Modern Library edition was not available until at least 1977, when the Modern Library updated its look to the tan dust jacket with the fat brown decorative font.

I suppose it shouldn’t matter, but by this time my mind had wandered on to things that didn’t really have to do with the plot. I haven’t seen a movie so dumb and badly made since maybe the Sean Penn remake of “All the King’s Men” several years back.

But at least that stupid movie had the good sense to at least try to be respectful to the women  in the cast. “Killer” is a movie that will only get one of its two female leads out of bed so they can be beat up. Sometimes they get beat up in bed, which I suppose is Winterbottom’s attempt at economical storytelling.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Terry Gilliam’s ‘Don Quixote’ Stuck Again

By Mike Gillis

Terry Gilliam’s take on the Don Quixote tale has stalled yet again, according to Variety.

Gilliam had lined up Robert Duvall and Ewan McGregor in the lead for “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” the director’s second attempt at a silver screen treatment of the story that famously plagued and eluded Orson Welles his entire career. Gilliam first made a go of it more than a decade ago, having cast Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort. The self-destructing production is the subject of the wonderful documentary “Lost in La Mancha,” which sprang from footage captured by a television crew documenting the making of the picture.

Gilliam tells variety that “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” should be shooting now, but instead, Gilliam is laying low at the Deauville American Film Festival. "I shouldn't be here,” Gilliam tells Variety. “The plan was to be shooting 'Quixote' right now.”

Unfortunately, time away from the set may be exactly what Gilliam needs.

Friday, September 3, 2010

'Deliverance' Movie Still Delivers Nearly 40 Years Later

By Mike Gillis

The New York Times recently acknowledged the 40th anniversary this year of James Dickey’s novel “Deliverance,” a book that catapulted Dickey to fame. That celebrity was well deserved: Dickey’s novel leans on the linguistic mechanics of poetry, of which Dickey was a master, and weaves a brutal tale of four men who navigate away from the city to the backwoods of Appalachia for a respite, and, perhaps, a smattering of soul-searching. Instead, they stir up primal fear and death, and none leave the woods unchanged, if alive.

Dickey’s celebrity wrecked his family, according to a memoir he and his son, Christopher, penned, “The Summer of Deliverance.” It diluted his writing, too, he admits in the book.

It did, though, two years after its publication in 1970, lend itself to a rare phenomenon: a movie that rivals its source material.