Thumbnails January 2010
by Tony Medley
Crazy Heart (10/10):
Unlike the faux singing of a few bars that appears in recent “musicals,”
Jeff Bridges sings the captivating original songs of Stephen Bruton and
T-Bone Burnett all the way through, and sounds like a pro. Uncredited
Colin Farrell sings one song and one duet with Bridges with admirable
professionalism. Unfortunately, the film is burdened by a ludicrous
“romance” between Maggie Gyllenhaal, a young single mom, and Bridges.
They continue winding up in each other’s arms, a result that strains
credulity to the breaking point. She’s young and beautiful; he’s old,
smelly, dirty, and dirt poor. He’s got nothing that would attract a
gorgeous young woman with obligations. Despite that, however, “Crazy
Heart,” is one terrific movie with outstanding music and performances,
especially Bridges, brilliantly directed by Scott Cooper.
Young Victoria (10/10):
This is an eye-opening, scintillating view of Queen Victoria as a young
woman. Emily Blunt finally gets to appear as the star of a film and as
the beautiful woman and exceptional actress she is. Victoria as a young
girl is thrust into major league politics and falls in love with Prince
Albert (Rupert Friend). Other than the sometimes surprisingly
ungrammatical script by Julian Fellowes this is very well structured and
written, and resplendently directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who lovingly
captures the aura of mid-19th Century England.
Avatar (8/10): This is
a fascinating tale, a rip-snorting romp until the final dénouement,
which goes on too long and is beyond the realm of credibility, even for
sci-fi. But what special effects! When you see an avatar or Na’vi (the
native people on the lush moon Pandora) make an eye movement, for
example, that’s the exact eye movement that the real actor made captured
on a camera before being converted to animation. The avatars and Na’vi
are such realistic creatures that one never thinks of them as
animations. The locale for the film is a lush tropical rainforest in the
mountains. While it looks astonishingly real, it is all computer
generated. The film is so enjoyable that it I tended to forget I was
watching it in astounding IMAX 3-D, which is mind-boggling.
Did You Hear About the
Morgans (6/10): The brilliant Hugh Grant carries this for about an
hour, during which I was laughing out loud. But then it slows down
enough to induce snores, saved only by a rare appearance by Sam Elliot,
in another of his smart, laconic performances.
Sherlock Holmes (5/10):
Director Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey, Jr. libel Conan Doyle’s iconic
creation, the totally intellectual Sherlock Holmes, in this convoluted
story. Downey, playing the cerebral Holmes as an action hero, and Jude
Law, as Holmes’ biographer Dr. Watson, make one yearn fondly for Basil
Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.
The Final Station (2/10):
This just goes on and on, seeming to tell the story of the inconsiderate
way Leo Tolstoy treated his wife in the last year of his life in real
time, although in reality the film only lasts for just under two hours.
It just seemed like a year.
Nine (0/10): This movie
proves that if you start out with a sow’s ear, what you inevitably end
up with is a sow’s ear. Multiple Tony award-winning “Nine” was among the
worst Broadway musicals I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen most of them. In
translating it to the screen, director Rob Marshall has exacerbated the
unmemorable, non-melodic music by casting non professionals in the
singing and dancing roles (like he did in “Chicago”) and a non-Italian,
unshaven Daniel-Day-Lewis, to play the lead, an inspiration-blocked
Italian director. The result is a miscast, poorly directed mishmash of a
movie worse than the play.