Tag Archives: natalie portman

Cold Mountain – Review

3 Sep

Civil War movies fascinate me because I’ve always seemed to gravitate towards World War II films so I feel like I’ve missed out a little bit. It’s a really intriguing era with a lot of potential for some exceptional production design with how America looked and functioned in this mid 19th century time. In 1997, a novel called Cold Mountain was released having been written by Charles Frazier. It went on to win the National Book Award, but I don’t really hear too much more about it. In 2003, it was adapted for the big screen by acclaimed film maker Anthony Minghella, who before this won the Academy Award for his directing of The English Patient. I had some reservations going into Cold Mountain, but it actually surprised me. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is a solid Civil War epic that deserves some attention.

With the South talking of seceding from the North, tensions in the small North Carolina town of Cold Mountain are high. Many people want the war to happen, but the new town preacher, Reverend Monroe (Donald Sutherland), and his daughter, Ada (Nicole Kidman) are staunchly against it. Amongst these talks of war, Ada finds peace with a local man she meets named WP Inman (Jude Law), and the two quickly fall for each other. Before anything can be done with their feelings, North Carolina secedes from the Union and most of the men of the town enlist to the Confederate Army, including Inman. As the years of the war drag on and hope for the South seems bleak, Ada struggles to survive in the town and only gets by with the help of a local woman (Kathy Baker) and her new tough talking friend, Ruby (Renée Zelwegger). Meanwhile, Inman is injured in a battle and after receiving a letter from Ada decides to desert and make the long journey home to Cold Mountain. Along the way, Inman sees all sorts of kinds which gives him a perspective of what he’s been fighting for and how the war has torn apart so many lives.

That was a pretty tough summary to write because there’s so much that happens in Cold Mountain. It’s a long movie that clocks over two and a half hours, which was actually one of my main worries. I’m all about watching a long movie that has a grand scope, but I’ve seen some recently that don’t really know what to do with a story of that magnitude. Luckily, this isn’t Minghella’s first rodeo and he knows just how to handle a story like this. I left out a lot of characters and subplots, because there’s no way I’d be able to fit it all in to one paragraph. This is truly an epic film and it’s one that works. Inman’s travels through the different regions is extremely entertaining because he sees so many different kinds of people. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a reverend who gets banished from his town for getting a slave woman pregnant, Giovanni Ribisi plays a man who is using the war to his advantage in treacherous ways, and Natalie Portman is a woman who’s lost nearly everything. It’s a journey that has layers and is at times heartbreaking, touching, and hilarious. This may sound cheesy, but it really felt like an adventure.

While this adventure through the crumbling South, Ada’s own personal adventure in Cold Mountain is just as interesting. It’s a town in utter despair with the casualties of war posted on a board in the middle of town. The town seems to be dying just like the men that went off to fight, and watching it happen can prove for some rough viewing. The Civil War has always been seen as a war where Americans killed their fellow men, and that macrocosmic idea is taken to just one town where the violence of the war bleeds into this area that hasn’t seen any actual battle. It’s a different kind of struggle for survival and even though it isn’t as epic a journey as Inman, it never bored me. This is another surprising thing about this movie. It’s nearly 3 hours but I was never bored.

This is a huge cast so forgive me if I can’t get to everyone. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman both do very good work in this movie and their chemistry is believable even though the amount of screen time they share compared to how long the movie is is very small. A lot of the minor characters really steal the show however. Both Hoffman and Portman are two that really stand out, but I also have to give credit to Brendan Gleeson and Jack White, of all people. The real stand out performance, however, is Renée Zelwegger, who won the Academy Award for her performance, and rightfully so. The only thing that doesn’t always work for me in this movie is the writing. It gets a little too theatrical in moments that require some down to earth dialogue. It’s a very melodramatic movie at times and sometimes it works, but sometimes I found myself cringing.

Cold Mountain was a surprisingly affective movie that I don’t hear too much about. It has an incredible cast that are part of a really entertaining, but sometimes difficult story about how war can tear a nation to shreds. The only thing that didn’t sit well with me was some of the melodramatic writing that just felt forced and was probably only necessary so they’d have a clip for the Oscars. Still, that is a minor issue that doesn’t hurt the movie to bad. It’s an epic adventure that has all the ingredients for a memorable film.

Final Grade: A-

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Thor: The Dark World – Review

14 Nov

Ever since The Avengers dropped last year, it seems that everybody is going a little Marvel crazy, and that’s just fine with me. This year alone we’ve already got to see Iron Man 3, a new show on ABC called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and most recently Thor: The Dark WorldWe’re on our way to the next Avengers movie, but for now the cinematic Marvel universe is growing and growing, with The Dark World not only being a very entertaining film, but also an important entry in terms of expanding the universe.

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Since Bifröst was destroyed and rebuilt, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been traveling through the different worlds in over to restore peace amongst them all, however, a  lurking evil is waiting for its moment to strike. On Earth, Jane Austin (Natalie Portman) uncovers a portal that releases and infects her with the Aether, a powerful substance that was locked away by Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) father Bor. Now that the Aether has been released, the dark elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) come out of hiding to reclaim the Aether and use it to destroy the universe. Facing his most difficult and personal challenges yet, Thor must team up with his brother Loki (Tim Hiddleston) to stop Malekith and save the universe.

Now, let me be there first to say that the original Thor was my least favorite of all of the first Avengers films. I’m sure many will disagree, but in my opinion, once Thor got to Earth in that movie, it slowed down way too much. Kenneth Branagh was s good choice of director and handled the Shakespearean content very well, but it just wasn’t as entertaining as I wanted it to be, which is exactly what I expect from any movie with a Marvel logo attached to it. Luckily, The Dark World fixes all of its entertainment problems, and despite some major ugliness in the plot, beats its predecessor by a mile.

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Right off the bat, this movie throws action in your face and doesn’t let up until it’s over. I can’t say the same thing about the first one, even though it did have the task of setting up the universe and the characters. This time, we know everyone and we can see exactly what they can do. Idris Elba’s character Heimdall gets more to do in this one and it’s really cool to see him kick some ass. Who really steals the show is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, this time not really playing the villain but still full of wisecracking remarks.

Still, there are some ugly, ugly problems in this movie. For one thing, the whole plot of a powerful villain using a mysterious substance to destroy the earth is a bit old by now. Wasn’t that pretty much the whole thing behind the Tesseract? Now it’s the Aether. Another thing is that there are moments in the plot where everything is solved without any effort. One scene in particular ends before there can even be any suspense at all. And finally, there are moments when the CGI looks pretty bad, especially when it’s from a distance.

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As for the Thor movies, I can say without question that The Dark World is better than the original Thor and I can also say it’s better than Iron Man 3, in terms of post-Avengers Marvel movies. Though it is not without some major flaws, I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained from the very start to the very finish. Let’s just say the movie was over before I even realized, not because of the run time, but because I just had so much fun with it.

Closer – Review

28 Nov

I love the feeling when the credits of a movie begin to roll and I feel like I just got the shit kicked out of me. That may sound weird, but it’s evidence that the movie achieved some sort of strong emotional response. That’s how I felt at the end of Closer, a brutal war of words and deception among four lovers, where love is often absent and lust is the puppet master.

After helping the eccentric Alice (Natalie Portman) after getting hit by a car, obituary writer, Dan (Jude Law), becomes romantically involved with her. Everything seems to be fine once his true lustful nature is revealed when he meets a photographer named Anna (Julia Roberts). She denies Dan at first and meets another sexually frustrated individual, dermatologist Larry (Clive Owen). Soon, the lives of these lovers intersect through their lies and deceitful acts of love and hate.

This is a dirty tango of words with dialogue that aims to stab the characters through their hearts. I would argue that this isn’t a love story, but more so, a story of hate. Many times do the characters flip between love and hate, lust and disgust. This isn’t a “romance” movie you’d want to go on a first date to see.

Across the board, the performances in Closer are intense and feel legitimate. For me, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are the real stars of the show, but this doesn’t mean that Natalie Portman and Jude Law shouldn’t get recognition. All I can say is that the scenes between Clive Own and Julia Roberts explode with passion and emotion that I haven’t seen much of recently.

What also adds to this passionate intensity is the expertly written dialogue written by Patrick Marber, who also wrote the stage play, and the fluid camera work and framing by master film maker Mike Nichols. One scene in particular is a beautiful long take through the apartment of two characters. It gives the scene a touch of realism and genuine life. It played so naturally that I didn’t notice at first. The dialogue is sensual, jagged, and rarely tender mixed together in a cauldron of unpredictability.

As an adult “love” story, you may not be able to find anything better than Closer. Well, maybe you can, but this might just turn out to be my favorite romance, if you can call it that. It’ filled with human drama and surprising emotional conflicts that keep the viewer guessing where the plot is going to go. If you can get you hands on this movie, I highly suggest you check it out.

Your Highness – Review

25 Sep

I can honestly say that Pineapple Express is one of my favorite comedies. It’s a great blend of action and comedy, so when I saw the previews for Your Highness with Danny McBride’s, James Franco’s and David Gordon Green’s names attached to it, I thought it was going to be another classic. For all intents an purposes, it’s not. But, and this is a big but, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

When Prince Fabious (James Franco) returns home from a quest with a woman, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), his younger brother, Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride), becomes fully aware of how pathetic he is. Fabious is a skilled warrior who’s been on many quests, while Thadeous is a stoner who hasn’t gone on any. When Belladonna is kidnapped by the warlock Leezar (Justin Theroux), Thadeous is forced to join Fabious on his quest to get her back before she can be impregnated by the warlock and give birth to a dragon. Along the way, they run into a plethora of strange creatures and people, including the warrior Isabel (Natalie Portman), who joins them on their adventure.

Ultimately, this is a parody of those cheesy fantasy films from the 1980s. Warlocks, warriors, and magic are all mocked, but praised in a special nerdy way. This combination of jabs and admiration actually made me get into the storyline and the action, all the while laughing at the jokes. But, a lot of the jokes fall flat on their faces in an embarrassingly awful way.

Vulgar humor is funny to me, especially when it doesn’t hold back. Danny McBride and Ben Best have written a script that is certainly not afraid to hit below the belt when it comes to scatological and anatomical humor, and a lot of it was really funny. In fact there was one point towards the end of the film where I was in stitches from laughing. Then there were times when I heard another penis joke or another f-word and it felt forced. It would have been totally acceptable to take a break from the vulgarity and move onto something else. There were so many opportunities for some funny weed jokes, but they stopped coming by a half way into the movie. Instead we were forced to hear one sex joke too many.

The action is good and actually pretty exciting as far as a movie like this goes. There’s one particular scene that I was really impressed by the imagination of it all. The special effects, however, are a little bit cheesy. It sometimes looks like a really good special effects tv movie made for the SciFi channel, and that isn’t saying too much. If you can get past how crummy it looks sometimes, then there is a good deal of fun to have with the action. It was surprisingly bloody, too. Definitely a lot more than I expected.

 

Will Your Highness be a comedy that everyone’s going to be talking about in the years to come? Of course not. Is it a great comedy? No so much. Did I have an ok time with it? I sure did. I liked it better than a lot of the comedies that are released. It knows what it is, and it sets out to offend with it’s nonstop penis, sex, and poop jokes. Unfortunately, it gets to be a bit much, but the action makes up for some of the comedic failures. Give this one a try, but I’m not promising anything.