December 30, 2010

Movie Review: The King's Speech

As the circa-WWII reluctant king of Great Britain, bogged down since childhood with a stammer, Colin Firth is even better than what you may have heard. No one does uptight like Mr. Firth, but, in his posture, and as much in what he doesn't say as what he does, he gives real depth to a character that could have been a joke, or an empty sketch.

(I know what you're thinking: His inevitable Oscar nomination pales in comparison to his honoring as April 2010's Man of the Month, but it's still important to acknowledge these more mundane accolades.)

As for the rest of the movie: It's essentially a bromantic comedy disguised as a period piece. The tension is all based around whether or not stubborn royalty can learn to accept help from a commoner. They bicker, they make up. Secrets are revealed, they have to decide whether or not they'll stand by one another. It's all very touching, in an incredibly familiar kind of way. The sets are gorgeous; Geoffrey Rush is a very convincing Australian; Helena Bonham Carter doesn't do much, but she does have normal skin and hair, so the Academy will probably want to acknowledge this role as a real stretch for her.

7 Twix bars!

December 29, 2010

Movie Review: 127 Hours

Yes, this is the movie about the guy who cuts off his own arm. Yes, that part is shown, and it's definitely graphic. But it's also a tiny segment - easily avoided with a quick turtle duck into your scarf - in an otherwise interesting and beautiful movie.

How can a movie with only one actor that's onscreen for more than 10 minutes be interesting? The credit goes largely to James Franco who has real, how do you say?, "presence." As Aron Ralston, a 20-something daredevil who takes a bad step and winds up pinned by a boulder in an isolated ravine - Franco isn't the space cadet you might expect. He's grounded, funny sometimes, but also somber, reflective and relatable.

(This review isn't the place for it, but someday I'd like to do a serious case study on James Franco - the go-to guy for a stoner role, who has gone from total Spiderman cheeseball to someone who makes daring projects like this one, his Allen Ginsberg project, or 'Milk' and succeeds.)

As impressive as Franco is, I'd say the real credit here goes to director Danny Boyle, who's always made a very specific kind of movie. In a word: Manic. Okay, yes: 'Slumdog Millionaire' was such an overdone, contrived piece of crap that it made 'Crash''s unexpected Best Picture victory over 'Brokeback Mountain' look positively earned. But the colorful, loud, quick thing worked in 'Trainspotting' and in '28 Days Later,' and it's working again here. Steel yourself for a bit of gore, and get yourself to see this one.

8 Twix bars!