December 22, 2010, - 3:36 pm
The year’s best movie, “The King’s Speech,” doesn’t come out until the weekend, so you’ll have to stay tuned and come back for my review of it. For now, though, there are two others, one of which is very good and the other is just horrible:
* “True Grit“: Writing this review is probably sacrilege for many, but I really liked this Ethan and Joel Coen remake of the 1969 original, which won John Wayne the Academy Award. And, for the most part, I liked it better–much better–than the original “True Grit,” which has long been considered a movie classic and great American western. I’m not normally a huge Coen Brothers fan, but this didn’t feel like their stuff. It felt like a masterpiece western, with some humor and great cinematography (beautiful to look at), thrown in.
The period movie follows a young girl, Mattie Ross, whose father has been murdered, as she and the Federal Marshal she’s hired, Rooster Cogburn, tread through the cold wilderness near an Indian reservation, hunting for the murderer, so he will face justice. They are joined off and on by a Texas Ranger, who is also trying to capture the man for a different murder.
As readers know, I have an orthodoxy against remakes. There is never a reason to remake what was done right the first time. And if it wasn’t done right, why do it again? Hollywood’s obsession with remakes is a manifestation of the death of creativity in America, the death of ideas, and, really, the death of vital, vibrant capitalism and freedom (both of which are usually met with more originality and ideas, not more remakes and sequels).
But the latest incarnation of “True Grit” is an exception–a rare exception–to my rule on remakes. It’s very good, and, again, with the exception of Matt Damon, I liked it better than the first version. I watched the original, again, after seeing this newer version. And it just doesn’t compare. I found the original to be hokey, slow, and boring, by comparison. I love John Wayne with the best of ‘em, but Jeff Bridges is far superior here. He shows, yet again, why he’s such a great actor. The only non-starter in this newer version is Damon. The uber-lefty comes off as a clown, a comical man-boy character in a fake-looking mustache, in the role as a Texas lawman, played by Glen Campbell in the original. And he just doesn’t belong in the movie. I also didn’t like the graphic dismemberment the Coens depict, involving some fingers. It wasn’t necessary and wasn’t nearly as grisly in the original movie.
The original Mattie Ross is, at times, much truer to what a rural, country girl who just lost her father would be like. Though she is tough and controlled, she has the emotion of a girl who’s just lost her father and cries at least once. She was played by Kim Darby. In this version, she’s newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who is terrific. But she is very cold. Hardly a single tear over her newly deceased father. She never even winces (not that I remember). It’s not credible, but she didn’t write the script. And for the rest of it, she’s spot on, and it’s great acting. I liked her better than the original, in spite of the coldness. She’s terrific, which is why I voted for Steinfeld among my top choices for Best Actress and Best Breakthrough Performance as a member of the Detroit Film Critics Society. But I also liked the ending of this new version, which is sad, far less than the different, positive, upbeat ending in the original.
But, other than these slight differences, this new version of “True Grit” is pretty close to the original, complete with rattlesnake and all. Like I said, the ending was significantly darker, which I didn’t particularly like. But it was shot better, the acting was better, and it moved along at a more appealing pace and tempo. It’s just better over all, despite the few negatives I note.
This “True Grit” is a great Western. It’s not for young kids. But it’s something fine to take your teens to see (though you might wanna cover their faces at the dismemberment scene in the cabin). There is nothing offensive. And in many ways, it’s a very nice journey back to a time in America that was and is, sadly, lost.
I liked it. It’s one of the best movies of the year (though, given the movies this year, that’s a relative term).
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Little Fockers“: Two words: TOTAL. DRECK. Yuck. Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller clearly needed a paycheck. It’s just awful. Stiller plays nurse Greck Focker, as he has in all of these horrid Focker movies. A pharmaceutical rep (Jessica Alba) comes on to him and hires him to be a spokesperson for a Viagra-type drug. Meanwhile, his father-in-law, De Niro, who never liked him, doesn’t like him again. It’s the fifth birthday of Focker’s twins, and they have their birthday party at the rich Owen Wilson’s mansion, while Wilson tries to come on to Focker’s wife, on whom he’s always had a crush. (Dude, why does this guy get to play Owen Wilson in every movie?)
Oh, and the pathetically annoying Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman are also mixed into this garbage stew of bad puns (“Do you want to be the ‘Godfocker’?”), unfunny bathroom humor, and jokes about poop and proctology. Where’s Don Corleone when you need him? This movie should be where Luca Brasi is: sleeping with the fishes. With apologies to Luca . . . and the fish.
Come on, Hollywood. Is this the best you can do for the Christmas holiday break?
FOUR MARXES PLUS AN OBAMA PLUS A BIN LADEN
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Coen Brothers, Ethan and Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Glen Campbell, Godfocker, Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Jessica Alba, Joel Coen, John Wayne, Josh Brolin, Kim Darby, Little Fockers, Luca Brasi, Matt Damon, Mattie Ross, movie, movie review, Movie Reviews, Owen Wilson, remakes, Robert De Niro, Rooster Cogburn, Teri Polo, True Grit