Posts Tagged ‘Unforgiven’

True Grit – A Classic Western From The Coen Brothers

Posted 19 Feb 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

True Grit, USA, 2010

Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Based on the Novel True Grit by Charles Portis

The Coens' True Grit is better than the original.

If I were going to direct a Western, I wouldn’t even consider any other cinematographer than Roger Deakins. A frequent collaborator of the Coen Brothers, Deakins shot two of the best films of 2007 – the Coens’ No Country For Old Men and Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (quite possibly the best Western ever made) – and it was his painterly eye and excellent use of light that created the mournful, elegiac and distinctly American feel of both those excellent films. Now he has reteamed with Joel and Ethan for their first true period Western, True Grit, and more than their wonderfully dry humor or the excellent performances by Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, it is his work that makes the film as good as it is.

Don’t get me wrong – the Coens have created a truly classic film here, a real Western with all the best parts of the 1969 original intact and amplified, and with a much stronger sense of the other characters besides Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn (whereas the original was mainly a vehicle to showcase John Wayne’s finest performance). Bridges is utterly believable and likable as the irascible Cogburn, and Steinfeld is a talent to watch in the coming years, imbuing young Mattie Ross with a steel resolve that makes me think the 14-year-old could probably beat me in a fight. As mentioned above, the script is full of wonderfully dry humor and startlingly realistic violence (I can’t imagine what they had to cut to whittle it down to a PG-13); there is much to praise about all aspects of the film, but for me it is definitely Deakins’ work that shines the brightest. Read More

Battle Royale – An Unconventional Action Film

Posted 19 Sep 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Corey Birkhofer

Battle Royale, Japan, 2000

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

battle royaleFrom a spectators stance, I would classify Battle Royale as an action film. But the way director Kinji Fukasaku breaks the conventions of the action genre leads me to define it as mixed-genre. By obeying certain conventions but totally disregarding others, Fukasaku presents an action movie, a tragic drama, and a pseudo-post-apocalyptic film. To start off, the film earns its setting in an alternate future Japan where unemployment, student dropout rate and crime are all at an unprecedented high. To remedy this economic nightmare, Japan’s government instates what is called the Battle Royale Reform Act. Fully backed by the government, the reform act seeks to filter out Japan’s younger, unruly generation by forcing random classes of ninth-graders to take part in an annual competition. For our main character we have not one person, but rather fifty ninth-grade Japanese students randomly picked that year to take part in the Battle Royale competition. Under the impression that they are on a simple field trip, the students are gassed to sleep while on their bus and flown to a deserted tropical island, waking to realize they will be forced to take part in the annual game.

In the game students have one goal: to win and be re-granted Japanese citizenship. To create some sense of order and keep students from refusing to participate, there looms a military presence, but most importantly, instead of banding together to protest the students have no choice but to follow the last rule of the game. And the main rule of winning Battle Royale is you must be the last student living on the island. Upon watching an informational tape hosted by an anime-esque broadcast girl, students learn they each get a survival pack and random weapon. Some students get fully automatic machine guns while others get GPS locators or kitchen utensils. Regardless what each student gets, all are equal in the fact that every one of them has a collar around their neck. This collar, if tampered with, will explode if they try to swim from the island, or if they are in certain places at certain times announced by an island-wide intercom system. Which leads me to yet another essential component of Battle Royale, as it broadcasts every few hours the current updates on which students have been killed. Read More

The Proposition

Posted 17 Dec 2009 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

 

By Corey Birkhofer

The Proposition, Australia / UK, 2005

Directed by John Hillcoat

Guy Pearce Danny Huston

2005: an unlikely time to see a Western being made. Yet this Western comes with a unique twist. Not having been moved to watch a Western since Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven in the ’90s, I was excited to watch The Proposition, starring one of my favorite late-90s independent actors, Guy Pearce. L.A. Confidential (1997) and Memento (2000) being two of my favorite films from that era, both starring Pearce, I thought I was in for a treat. The trailer for The Proposition is also top-notch. And yet, there was just something about this film that didn’t quite make it the masterpiece I was led to believe it was.

I’ve been thinking about why this might be for the last three weeks while trying to put together a few paragraphs about the film for this site, and yet it’s still quite difficult for me to pinpoint why I didn’t get this movie. The film is put together very well, introducing new characters at a very natural, fluid and almost seamless pace, almost as if we already knew these individuals and are just stopping back in to check up on them. Not wasting time on introducing who all the characters are, the film gets right to the story of a trio of outlaw brothers – one too young to know the evil of his brothers’ ways, one so evil the blackness seeps out of him, and the last, played by Pearce, stuck in the middle of his innocent brother and his evil brother.

As the film proceeds, we find out that there’s been a falling out between the brothers, with Charlie (Pearce) taking his younger brother, Mike (Richard Wilson) and getting as far away from their evil brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), as possible. It’s not long until the law gets its hands on Charlie and Mike, with the gallows waiting for them. The two are basically as good as dead until Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) makes a proposition to Charlie: find your older brother and bring his head to me, and I’ll let you and your younger brother free. This seems like an easy choice for Charlie, who wants nothing to do with his older brother, until he does eventually track him down and is saved by him after being ambushed and speared by a group of Aborigines. Now Charlie feels indebted to his brother, but at the same time torn between this feeling and the need to kill him to save himself and Mike. After coming clean about why he suddenly came looking for Arthur, Charlie and his older brother scheme to break Mike out of jail. Problem is, they arrive too late, after Mike has been publicly whipped by a townspeople hungry for any kind of justice they can get against the three outlaw brothers.
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