Tuesday, February 15, 2011

McBone Mini Reviews; Award Season Edition

Black Swan - Unsettling, overwrought ballet thriller about a dancer's descent into mental illness.  Director Darren Aronofsky seems to want to craft his magnum opus, but just about everything feels a little over the top, from the overbearing mother to the overwhelming feeling that nothing is as it seems.  Aronofsky has made a career of twisting the knife handle.  Nothing wrong with seeing Natalie Portman peel the skin off her own finger, but the director is too single minded in his devotion to intensity, and thus takes the tiniest of steps back after his masterful The Wrestler.  Natalie Portman does fine, at times masterful work, but often looks as though she's clutching her bowels.  She will win the Oscar, though.  3.5 McBones

The Fighter - A lively portrait of family drama that ultimately devolves into Rocky III.  Relationships are the strength of this one.  To reach glory in the ring, boxer Micky Ward must first survive his family.  Watch Mark Wahlberg navigate a gauntlet featuring seven trashy sisters, a chain-smoking control freak of a mother (Melissa Leo--sublime!) and a 98 pound, crack-addicted brother (Christian Bale, looking the part).  Fun!  Along for the ride is girlfriend Charlene (the sometimes-insufferable Amy Adams is outstanding), willing to go to the mat for her man and take on the whole lot of them.  These characters are so well drawn, and the actors tear into their parts with such gusto that it's a real shame this isn't the masterpiece it could have been.  As in all boxing movies, the boxing looks super fake.  Mark Wahlberg has a sexy torso, btw.  What can I say?  3.5 McBones

True Grit - Will not occupy a place as one of the great westerns, and probably won't be considered one of the Coen brother's masterworks.  That said, this tale of revenge and unlikely friendship is a top candidate for the McBoner.  Hailee Steinfeld is a force of nature as a vengeful daughter and Jeff Bridges grunts and growls every last shred of dialogue as her cyclopic hired gun.  Along with cheeseball Texas Ranger Matt Damon, they form the most dysfunctional set of Old West comrades imaginable.  Don't miss the climax, one of the most astonishing 15-20 minute sequences you'll ever see in film--with snakes!  4.5 McBones

127 Hours - Claustrophobic, bone-crunching agony.  Rarely have I squirmed and flinched in a theatre like I did with 127 Hours.  James Franco is perfection as a hiker trapped in a cave, and Danny Boyle, pulling no punches, gives us a film that, unlike Slumdog Millionaire, is award-worthy.  Falters when Boyle tries to craft too tidy a cinematic package out of a true event.  4.0 McBones

Catfish - A New York City photographer gets involved with a uber-talented family of Minnesota bohemians.  That's all I'm giving away.  Stop wasting time and go watch one of the finest, funniest and most baffling pieces of documentary filmmaking I've ever seen, a must-see for anyone who has spent one second nosing around Facebook.  4.5 McBones

The King's Speech - An inspiring story of triumph against a backdrop of looming war.  I'm not much of a Colin Firth fan, but he and Geoffrey Rush are dazzling as pupil/mentor trying to rid a king of a debilitating speech condition and save England from the clutches of Nazi evil.  Also, I love Helena Bonham Carter.  Her presence is worth at least one McBone in any movie.  4.0 McBones

Blue Valentine - You know why Michelle Williams is about the best actor out there?  Because she never appears to be acting.  Contrast her performance with Ryan Gosling's in this small, eloquently spun tale of curdled love.  Gosling turns in a fine performance in his own rite, but one so self-conscious and full of affectations it hardly seems to belong in the same movie.  Somehow, someway, the contrasts balance and together the two leads make sweet music.  Literally.  Derek Cianfrance shows a deft touch in weaving two narratives, past and present, to show us how, in love, things change, people change and Hollywood endings are total bollocks.  May not appeal to those who dislike reality in film.  4.0 McBones

Winter's Bone - Faced with eviction and starvation, a young woman sets off across Missouri's meth country in search of her father.  A survival story anchored by the strength of Jennifer Lawrence's haunted and flawless performance, Director Debra Granik puts on a clinic in storytelling that the big studios need to observe.  Forced into the breadwinner's role, Ree traverses the remote corners of back country society in a desperate, last ditch effort to save her family from total collapse.  There she encounters characters menacing (a local clan of meth cookers), kind (an Army recruiter) or both (her uncle Teardrop, played by John Hawkes with a perfect combo of villainy and compassion).  With so much Hollywood pomp and flash bombarding us--I'm looking at you, Iron Man 2--Winter's Bone is a frightening and much needed glimpse into the lost crevices of America.  4.5 McBones


1 comment:

Darin said...

This is a good round-up. And it makes me very anticipatory for the McBone Awards! (obligatory explanation mark required)