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The Searchers

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***½

What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture? Spell it out? Don’t ever ask me! Long as you live, don’t ever ask me more.

This might have been my first, full John Ford movie.  The opening shot lives up to its billing with quite an impressive vista.  Unfortunately, the music struck me as overly dramatic and epic-y.  I also had some difficulty with the Comanche launching “murder raids.”  It just struck me as forced and done without any rationale.  I know it’s a film from a different era, but it’s worth noting.

The structure of the film was non-traditional, breaking up the story into odd acts.  I did like how the tone shifts from sad/serious to lighthearted without seeming too phony.  Unfortunately, I just do not think that this stands up against the peaks of the Western genre (like Once Upon a Time in the West or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).  This movie manages to differentiate itself from the typical Western, but fails to stay above those films.

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The Ghost Writer

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****½

Don’t worry, he’s not always such a jerk.

The first thing I noticed about this movie was the star power.  I mean, I didn’t recognize James Belushi until he opened his mouth.  But seriously, everyone plays their characters interestingly and well.  Making you wait to see Pierce Brosnan as the former-PM was great.  Having him come down from the plane like a dignitary for only 5 people worked perfectly.  Particularly since the looks on their faces varied and fit.  Moreover, when Ewan McGregor’s character delivers a movie style line, Olivia Williams (great as Brosnan’s wife) replies with the above quotation.  Even Kim Cattrall comes across as cold and sexy.  I didn’t know that she did anything besides Sex and the City stuff.  But I like how the actors keep popping up and how they’re of the highest quality (like Tom Wilkinson).

The music really helps set the tone as do the long periods of silence.  It’s a very well constructed film, with interesting bits of emotion.  Just like it has bits of comedy, without levity.  Throughout the tension really heightens each non-threatening note, whether comedic or romantic.  Only a so-so ending, but it’s still better than most.

The Bone Collector

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***½

You got a smart mouth, and it’s gonna get you in trouble someday.

This movie’s usage of music and color seems a bit over the top.  Also, it’s unfortunate the the NYPD lacks a CSI department.  Fortunately, this movie came out in like 1999, so it was only 4 more years until the success of the show CSI gave CBS the financial ability to pay for CSI: NY to show up and start investigating crime scenes.  Yet, no-one thanks CBS.

Denzel Washington had a challenging role by being stuck in a bed, mostly paralyzed.  Everyone else could move around, and thankfully the director chose a cast of good actors to do that moving around.  Angelina Jolie even did a good job, showing off a range that I didn’t know she had.  All in all, this film was much better than I expected.

Best of 1970-74

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1. Chinatown
2. The Godfather
3. The Godfather: Part II
4. Blazing Saddles
5. Young Frankenstein
6. The Conversation
7. The Long Goodbye
8. Patton
9. Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance
10. Enter the Dragon

3 of the 5 Academy Best Picture winners made my list.  Other commonalities:  7 of the films are set in the past; 2-3 are film noirs; 2 have martial arts; 2 are Francis Ford Coppola and 2 are Mel Brooks.

Toy Story 3

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***½

This is the perfect time to be hysterical.

What a pleasant and exciting cartoon.  At times I was truly concerned for those toys, and (especially at the end) I felt the emotions that people had talked about with this movie.  On the whole it’s very good, but too many jokes missed for me.  I’d say that it had the success rate of Naked Gun 33 & ⅓, but without the total volume of jokes.

It’s also worth noting that certain digital effects or objects were extremely well done.  The garbage truck really looked like a garbage truck.  It’s Pixar, so everyone expects the effects to be excellent, but they deserve credit for pulling it off once again.

True Grit

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****

I thought you were going to say that the sun got into your eyes, that is to say, eye.

What a satisfying movie.  It’s not the best movie of the year, nor the best Coen Bros. movie, but it delivered in ways that I had both hoped and ways I had not expected.  I had hoped for a gritty western and this movie certainly can be described as such.  I had not expected for the characters to be so balanced.  My rooting interests changed throughout the movie, with all of the main characters showing the pros and cons of their characters.  I expected the violence, which this film certainly had, but I did not expect the soundtrack to work as well as it did–particularly since the preview was the best I’ve seen all year.  I knew that there would be no Johnny Cash, like in the preview, since that would not be in keeping with the movie’s rustic aesthetic.  Not that I think this movie needed it, but when movies set in the past break with tradition, like 300 and Public Enemies I appreciate those risks.

Lastly, I hope that Matt Damon receives some best supporting actor nominations for his Texas ranger.  Chuck Norris could learn a thing or two about acting the part of a TR from Mr. Damon.

Ronin

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****

No questions. No answers. That’s the business we’re in. You just accept it and move on. Maybe that’s lesson number three.

Why is the blood an odd shade of red?  That’s my #1 complaint with this otherwise slick and exciting movie.  It predates Snatch by a couple of years and the Bourne Identity by a couple more, but it certainly falls into the same genre of finding humor in ineptitude while lauding competence. On the other hand, I wish that the body count were not so high.  So many nice characters and actors.  Ah well, maybe Ronin 2 will be a prequel where everyone is 13 years older…  And the bad ass chase scenes take place in flying cars, I mean, that’s how going back in time worked in the Star Wars universe.

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