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TRUE GRIT review by John Delia

December 21st, 2010 No comments

large posterGrit“A REMAKE MISTAKE”

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld and Barry Pepper

Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images

Running Time: 1hr 50min

Genre: Action/Adventure, Western, Adaptation and Remake

Release Date: December 22nd, 2010

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

By John Delia

Not many westerns get an opportunity for a remake, and frankly True Grit should not have fallen to Hollywood’s whim.  Outside of some brief signs of good acting, there isn’t much more to cheer about.  Even the cinematography in this outing, which was a big part of the original, doesn’t make the film any better.  If you have already seen True Grit with John Wayne, then I do not recommend seeing it all over again with Jeff Bridges.

Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross

Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross

At the center of the plot is 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who sets out for a western town to pick-up the belongings of her murdered father.  Upon arrival the undertaker reveals the killer and the headstrong girl decides to avenge her father by bringing the culprit to justice.  But, without a chance at her size and stature she hires Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) an ex-marshal who’s drinking habit is as well known as the kills he has made in the name of the law. When the two finally set out together, things start to get difficult and then dangerous.

The movie plot is a good one that helped get John Wayne his only academy award for acting. Although some say the Oscar was overdue and the award really honored his body of work, I cannot agree.  The crotchety old one-eyed Marshall that he played was head and shoulders above any of the actors nominated that year. And, although Jeff Bridges does a good job in the same role, Wayne was still a better fit.

I generally like the Coen Brothers films (No Country For Old Men), and know it sounds a little trite, but “if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it”.  And the expression holds true here.  The acting, direction and action in the original were head and shoulders above the new True Grit.  Even though it’s hard to compare something that is only available on DVD, outside of Bridges performance, the rest of the acting crew failed to make the plot believable or enjoyable.  In most of the scenes it seemed like the characters were weak and listless.  Even Matt Damon couldn’t make me believe that he’s portraying a powerful Texas Ranger.

I do have to admit that, although not on screen for very long, Barry Pepper (as Lucky Ned Pepper) was the meanest looking varmint that has been on screen in a long time. A tip of my cowboy hat to Barry Pepper’s great performance it’s a spark among the dieing embers.

The film is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Why remake a good thing, rent the original? (1.5 of 5)

JONAH HEX written review

June 18th, 2010 No comments

“IT’S A SMASHING GOOD SHOW”

jonah-hex_poster137Starring: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett and Michael Shannon.

Directed by: Jimmy Hayward

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and sexual content

Genre: Comic Book, Supernatural Thriller

Run Time: 1hr 30min

Release date: June 18, 2010

Studio: Warner Bros.

By John Delia

Comic books have infiltrated the summer box-office with films like Iron Man2, Kick-Ass, The Losers and now the supernatural thriller Jonah Hex.  While Iron Man and Kick-Ass have been the most successful getting an audience thus far, Jonah Hex may cause a strong surge in movie attendance due to it’s mystical content, PG-13 rating and school being out for the summer.

Jonah Hex (Brolin) rides away from exploding town

Jonah Hex (Brolin) rides away from exploding town

Jonah Hex puts the cowboy back on the screen, but with a grotesque character, intense violence and a vengeance filled storyline.  Although the film condenses time, looks like they left a lot of footage on the post production cutting room floor in order to get a PG-13 rating and gets slim with some important character development I found the film stirring, devilish and surprisingly entertaining.  If you are a mature male, need a blast of fantasy and like films that cut to the chase, then Jonah Hex should rope you in.

During the Civil War Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) turns on his fellow soldiers and gets branded on the face by Confederate leader Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich).  His brain fried with revenge from watching Turnbull burn his family to

Hex's ugly scaring

Hex's ugly scaring make up

death, Hex sets out to find the man who destroyed his life.  But, things have changed rapidly and news has circulated that Turnbull was killed.  Now working his way through life as a bounty hunter, Hex takes out his wrath on thieves and killers.  When Turnbull surfaces as a terrorist, Hex gets hot on his trail.

Josh Brolin puts on a great show as the vengeful gunman.  His character is so grotesque that the booze he swizzles slides out the side of his mouth.  Thank special effects make-up for the bizarre face and also CGI for some horrific facial movements.   CGI also provides some supernatural transformations as Jonah gets the dead to rise, blows his adversaries apart with Gatling guns and tears up a town.

The acting, direction and cinematography all play a

Brolin and director Jimmy Hayward on the set

Brolin and director Jimmy Hayward on the set

part in bringing the dark exciting film to the screen.  You have to like this kind of film to enjoy it however, and teens will probably eat it up.  Much like the video games they play, the comic books they read and the movies that they see, this audience will probably be very supported of Jonah Hex.

The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and sexual content.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  While not for everyone, the film does kick butt. (3.5 of 5 Palm Trees)

TOMBSTONE now on Blu-ray

April 27th, 2010 No comments

“A WHOLE LOT OF SHOOTIN GOING ON”

tombstone boxartStarring: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton and Powers Booth

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos

MPAA Rating: R for strong western violence

Genre: Action/Western

Blu-ray release date: April 27, 2010

By John Delia

Now on Blu-ray HD Tombstone, which was originally released in theatres in 1993, becomes an event rather than just a DVD.  The film features great cinematography that lends to the action and drama of this very good western.  The remarkable picture showing the old west in all it’s glory and gore is definitely worth a watch.

Kilmer, Elliot, Russell and Paxton head for the OK corral

Kilmer, Elliot, Russell and Paxton head for the OK corral

The film centers on Wyatt Earp (Russell), a retired US Marshall who along with his brothers go to Tombstone, Arizona to settle down and strike it rich in a town that borders a huge silver find.  Arriving in the lawless land they soon find that the Cowboys, a ruthless gang of killers and thieves has obtained a foothold in the area.  Lead by Ike Clanton (Powers Booth), the brutal gang tries to take over Tombstone.  When the Earp brothers won’t take any pushing around, things start to get heated up and lead to a showdown at the OK Corral.

Wyatt and his brother Morgan at OK corral

Wyatt and his brother Morgan at OK corral

I believe that 1993’s Tombstone marked the change of the western making it more realistic, brutal and action filled.  Sure you may argue that the spaghetti westerns like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly introduced cowboy violence to the screen, and you won’t be too far off. But if you go back and look at that movie director Sergio Leone captivated his audience with chilling music, a small amount of dialogue and facial expressions that could kill.  Cosmatos however, lights up the screen with his wide-angle and close-up cinematography in Tombstone, infusing special effects while depicting what led up to the historical brutal gunfight at the OK corral. His gunfights are very realistic and deadly. Now on Blu-ray the film becomes a stronger statement on action westerns.

Now I am not a big fan of films of the Wild West and maybe have two or three in my collection, but beyond a doubt, Tombstone’s acting and direction have proved a spot in the library.  The characters brought to the screen by Cosmatos are real and sometimes scary.  His ability to draw performances from bright, up and coming actors shows his brilliance.  I liked the way he introduced Wyatt, his brothers and Doc Holliday, after showing the audience the violent men with which they were about to deal.

This is one of those films that have a lot of familiar faces and a true springboard for many unknown actors. I don’t think that there has been a film that can boast the success it had in having its actors continue to successful careers. Here is a list that I consider significant to the film industry: Michael Biehn (98 performances, most notably Robert Bly in The Art Of War), Powers Boothe (58 career performances, recently Vice President Noah in TV’s “24”), Dana Delany (over 100 performances, recent stint Katherine Mayfare in TV’s “Desperate Housewives”), Billy Bob Thornton (hundreds of performances, an Oscar winner for Sling Blade), Billy Zane (in over 100 productions, recently Darius in Magic Man), Michael Rooker (one hundred plus performances, notably William Rice in Jumper), Thomas Hayden Church (notable Televison and film actor he was Oscar nominated for Sideways), Stephen Lang (in over a hundred productions, he was recently Colonel Miles Quaritch in Avatar) and Jason Priestley (nearly a hundred acting gigs, to me he’s most noted for Brandon on “Beverly Hills 90210”). It also features a fine performance by Charlton Heston (at least 200 performances in film and TV, he was Moses in The Ten Commandments and won an Oscar for the title role of Ben-Hur).

The Blu-ray disc has an above average Making Of bonus feature that is worth a look, but beyond that it’s the Blu-ray format for which you purchase or rent this film.  Tombsone is rated R for strong western violence.

FINAL ANALYSIS: ‘Yippee-Kai-Yey!’ western lovers.  (4.5 of 5 stars)