Archive for the ‘Beavers’ Category

I can’t stand repetition.  I certainly don’t like to repeat myself.  But I put a lot of work into my thoughts on THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, and I know that some people who follow me on Demon’s Resume might like to have alerts on when I write elsewhere, so I wanted y’all to know about my piece for Daily Grindhouse.  I tried hard to make it worth your time!

Click here to read about >>> THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS <<< !!!

And all challenges may be directed to me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

And now here are pictures of Jamie Chung:

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True Grit was my favorite movie of 2010.  There wasn’t much hesitation there.  I saw it and I made that decision right quick.  Normally there’s a fair amount more deliberation in my mind over such declarations, but movies so impeccably mounted and  raucously enjoyable on a simultaneous basis are rare enough that it gave me the instant courage to say so.  I admit it’s a tenuous climb out on a slender limb to advocate for the greatness of a Coen Brothers movie, but that’s just me.  I take the big risks. 

In True Grit, the great Jeff Bridges plays Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn, a grouchy slob of a drunk with an eyepatch over one eye and a burning enthusiasm for frontier justice in the other.  True Grit was originally a novel by Charles Portis, and then it was a movie in 1969, in the cool-down phase of John Wayne’s long career.  I regret to admit that I haven’t seen that earlier movie, but I have read the book so I can tell you that the Coen Brothers’ rendition is eminently faithful to Portis in both spirit and text.

True Grit is the closest we’ve come so far to a mainstream, crowd-pleasing Coen Brothers movie.  It has all the virtues and eccentricities and technical brilliance that the Coens have taught us to expect from them, but it also is just a bit more conventional than usual.  The heroes are actually heroic, for one thing.  There’s the aforementioned Jeff Bridges, as charismatic and ingratiating as ever, even when he’s playing a character that often looks as lousy as he often acts.  There’s Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (pronounced “La Beef”), the uptight lawman who ends up as a reluctant teammate.   Matt Damon is hilarious in this movie, toning down his impeccable way of making an audience believe he can do anything, until he appears to be a total dunce, only to end up surprising you all over again.

But before these two guys enter into the story, and after they leave it too, there’s Mattie Ross, played by the young Hailee Steinfeld.  Mattie’s father was killed by an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she wants him brought to justice. She hires Marshall Cogburn, because she’s heard he has “true grit,” and insists that she get to accompany him in the pursuit.  (For a pre-adolescent in a man’s belchy, farty world, she’s ridiculously, brilliantly persuasive.)  LaBoeuf, already in pursuit of Chaney across state lines, joins them.  Nobody gets along. 

The confrontational banter between the three main characters is some of the most pure joy that movies can provide.  Obviously the Coens provide some of the most distinct and musical dialogue of any writers around, but it should be said that a lot of the dialogue in this film comes directly from Portis’ novel.  The Coens, as one of the most unique filmmaking forces to emerge from America in the past thirty years, aren’t exactly known for their skillful facility with adaptations, but they should be — it is a part of their resume.  Their planned adaptations of James Dickey’s To The White Sea and Elmore Leonard’s Cuba Libre have yet to be realized, but of course they reached new heights with their 2007 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men.  They also know their detective fiction; as their debut, Blood Simple, referenced the work of Dashiell Hammett, and their most popular movie, The Big Lebowski, is essentially a take-off of The Big Sleep, originally a Raymond Chandler novel.  The Coens know how to enliven the work and the influence of others while bringing their own individualistic stamp to it.  They know their pulp literature and they know their film history, and they bring all of it to bear in True Grit.

Did someone say “bear”?

Bear!

Yeah, there’s a lot of humor in True Grit, both ridiculous and profound.  The trailers and promotional materials have emphasized the pure badass-ness of the movie – and that’s there, no mistake – but it’s a wonderful surprise to discover how hysterical it is.  It’s funny even in its most tragic moments, just like real life.  There’s a black humor and a sharp tang to the unsentimental nature of the movie, and it’s totally refreshing to experience, particularly at a time of year that can either go too sweet or too sour.  The tone of True Grit isn’t too treacly and it isn’t too harsh.  It’s just right.  (There goes that bear reference again…)

True Grit is really kind of perfect, from the imagery captured by the legendary Roger Deakins, to the wonderful score by underrated Coen regular Carter Burwell, to the two memorably uglied-up and weirdly compelling villains of the piece, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned.  It should get repetitive to note how dependably watchable Matt Damon and the Coens are, but it really doesn’t.  They’re that good.  Everyone involved in this project is working at the peak of their respective craft. 

But in the end, if there’s a defining feature of this movie, it will be that unusual, indelible relationship between the two riding companions, Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross, and there are no two more ideal actors on the planet (or in the throughways of time and space) to play them than Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld.  There’s something both truly real-world relatable and movie-perfect that happens in the alchemy of casting and characters here.  The magic that occurs between the two of them make True Grit something truly special, even by the absurdly high standards that the Coen Brothers have set for themselves and for the rest of us. 

@jonnyabomb.

True Grit is now playing at MoMA, since it has been officially added to their library of notable and classic films.

  

  

As something are a bonus, here are some random thoughts and observations that passed through my head as I watched True Grit on subsequent occasions and couldn’t settle on how to edit into my main review:

  • One thing that cracks me up is that this is the Coens’ idea of a kids’ movie (*).  I completely approve, don’t get me wrong, but it brings to mind the notion of a Clint Eastwood Preparatory School For Girls.  (Actually, that very thing happened once, in The Beguiled, and it didn’t work out too well for anyone.)

 

  • True Grit is as close as the Coens will probably ever get to convention, but it’s still as unusually wonderful as any of their original creations.  It is, actually, aside from all the talk of killing, not unsuitable for younger folks.  There’s a keen moral streak running through this movie, distinctly and typically contradictingly American.  And it’s an absolute celebration of language.

 

  • Between the first and second times I saw the movie, I read the original novel by Charles Portis.  It’s striking to see how closely the Coens stuck to the original text in their adaptation.  Some of the stuff you’d swear they invented were already there, although some, like the bear suit guy and the hanging man, were Coen additions.  Much of the dialogue is spoken verbatim from the book, and how wonderful that is.

 

  • Mattie doesn’t shed a tear when presented with her father’s dead body.  She doesn’t shed a tear, until later on, when she’s handed his gun.  Then the water trickles down.  This is a distinctly American touch.

 

  • In both the book and the film, the major setpieces are more often structured around language than incident.  (The haggling over horses, the courtroom scene, the campfire scenes, etc.)  In other words, the conversations are as important and as thrilling, if not moreso, than the shootouts.

 

  • J.K. Simmons vocal cameo as Lawyer Daggett!  (Daggett is a  character with slightly more of a presence in the Portis book.)

 

 

  • The climactic snakepit scene is very strongly foreshadowed, the closer you watch the movie.

 

  • Barry Pepper (as the badman Lucky Ned) is such a great, unfairly-unheralded actor.  Just always good.

 

  • The guy who makes all those crazy animal sounds, believe it or not, is in the book.  The Coens didn’t make him up, although I would’ve sworn to it.

 

  • Tom Chaney turns out to be exactly the way Mattie had him pegged, a wretch and a whiner.  Dumb: “I must think on my situation and how I may improve it.”  And mopily repetitive:  “Everything is against me.”  (Pretty cool of leading-man-type Josh Brolin to be willing to play such a lame-ass.)

 

  • Speaking of which, again I say, how ridiculously consistent is Matt Damon?  Does that dude have to be so good at everything?  Obviously Jeff Bridges and little Hailee Steinfeld are totally incredible in this movie, but don’t take what Matt Damon does here for granted.   He lets himself be the butt of the joke, almost until you forget that he isn’t.  So well done, this supporting act.

 

  • The valiant end of Mattie’s horse just guts me, every single time.

 

  • In fact, the end of the movie is so damn sad.  Bittersweet, I guess, but seeing as it’s about how quick life can go, even leavened with humor and optimism as it is, that’s a sad topic.

 

  • Some of the all-time great lines in literature are in this movie:

“Fill your hand, you sonuvabitch!”  [Bridges’ reading trounces Wayne’s, I venture to say.]

“The love of decency does not abide in you.”

“I’ve grown old.” [Best part is the Chewbacca sigh that Bridges does right after he says it.]

“Time just gets away from us.”

“This is like women talking.”

The last one is how I plan to end most of my conversations from now on, by the way.

This is like women talking.  Just watch this movie already.

And now, my top ten favorites of 2000-2009 starts to get explosive, with

#6.  Team America: World Police (2004)

It was a strong decade for comedy, or maybe I just enjoyed comedies more because I needed them so much.  (Depressing-ass decade.)  But of the dozens and dozens of comedies I saw between 2000 and 2009, there was not a single one funnier than Team America.  The uncensored version in particular is a guarantee that if I watch it, I will literally have trouble breathing. That sex scene… The idea that world-class technicians such as Bill Pope (The Matrix, Spider-Man 2, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) spent all that time making that scene happen… It’s all simply breath-taking.

How did this movie happen?  Who let it happen?  Can we find them, and thank them from the bottom of our hearts?

Team America is a classic American action film in the Bruckheimer/Bay tradition, where Broadway megastar Gary Johnson is recruited by a top-secret anti-terrorism unit called “Team America”, who police the world.  Throughout his adventures, Gary makes friends, finds love, and learns how to use his amazing acting to save the world.  The villain of the movie is Kim Jong-Il, who, if you don’t read the New York Times, is a real person.  He’s a flamboyant dictator who rules North Korea.  It is not known if he actually owns a piano, or giant panthers.

In answer to my earlier question, how this movie happened is that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brilliant anarchic creators of Comedy Central’s South Park, are huge fans of both musical theater and weird old cartoons like Thunderbirds.  They’re also some of America’s most astute and sly social critics, and this movie is clearly their response to eight years of George Bush Jr.’s America.  How it happened the way it happened is that Matt and Trey had the power to get it made this way.  By all accounts, it will never happen this way again.  Team America is one big brilliant flash in the sky; in addition to all of the above it’s a tremendous satire of bombastic action films and absurd movie conventions.

The funniest part about Team America is realizing that guys like Michael Bay and Stephen Sommers totally didn’t get the joke – to the point where 2009’s G.I. Joe movie saw an Eiffel Tower scene that completely ripped off Team America’s!  There’s nothing better than comedy that has the balls to get right up under the nose of their targets.

This is brilliant satire, and at the same time, as immature and potty-mouthed as it gets.  Essential scene:  The “Pussies, dicks, and assholes” speech, obviously.

Oh yeah, and if you’re just hearing about this movie for the first time and you follow the link to that speech you will finally find what I have not mentioned so far but which you may already suspect:  Yes, the stars of Team America are marionettes.

As many great moments as we were given by Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, and all the other terrific comedians to emerge during the decade, those guys were all at a disadvantage, because they weren’t puppets.  If Matt Stone & Trey Parker didn’t bother to write a script for Team America and just did a shot-for-shot remake of some piece of shit like Van Helsing or Transformers 2, as long as they shot it with puppets they’d still have topped every other comedy all decade long.  Puppets are just that funny.

As I’ve been starting to prepare my “Traffic Control” column for May [read April’s here!], I’ve come across a ton of weird, wonderful, and occasionally tragically misguided movie posters, nominally meant to advertise upcoming films.  Here are some of my favorites, with my asshole commentary following each one.

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Ever since this project was announced, and ever since I started covering it for various websites (examples here and here), all I’ve really cared about is the orange chicken fish bird guy.  And here he is!  Despite my lack of interest in all things Green Lantern, I can’t ever hate on a movie that puts this thing on a poster and still expects normal people to come see it.  Really not sure that normal people are drawn in by orange chicken fish bird guys as a marketing angle.  But I know someone who is!  And he’s me!

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How much you want to bet that at some point during this movie, this monkey goes in somebody’s butt?

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Hey buddy: nice dildo hat.  Guess the reason he looks so pissy is because he drew the shortest straw of all the ladies at the bachelorette party.

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From the WTF-inducing trailer, I was worried that this movie was going to be awful. Thankfully, now we know that, in addition to cowboys, religious imagery, and badly-animated vampires, it also has nerds riding on motorcycles made out of airplane parts. So, glad we got that concern cleared up.

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This photograph was taken just three minutes before all birdkind turned on humanity, and penguins developed a taste for rubbery comedic flesh.

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Aw, fuck.

Good luck sleeping!

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Uh, before I send in my RSVP, I’d like to know a little more about the party.  No offense, I’m a big fan of Ernest Borgnine, but I’ve seen Strange Wilderness. It’s not so hard to get Ernie on the VIP list these days.

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For the three people who thought that Moulin Rouge was lacking in just two things: John Turturro, and marionettes.

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Ah, yes. The Double Life Of Walter.  Clearly a much better title than The Beaver.

Still not loving the title.  But loving the idea that a little blond moppet with a baby-fro gets equal facetime on the poster with Academy-Award-winning Jodie Foster.

You’re already asking me to go see a movie where Mel Gibson talks to a puppet. Now you want me to read, too?

Leave it to the French to put Mel in bed with the puppet.

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You’ve been Goldfingered!

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I don’t know, this poster is missing something — can we get something that looks much cheaper?  With a much sadder tagline?

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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White Guilt: The Movie.

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Kinda looks like McConaughey is rolling down the window to haggle with a hooker, doesn’t it?  Just rolling up in his limo, “Awl right, awl right, awl right!” No?  Maybe it’s the alternate-language title “El Inocente” that made it all seem so much seedier.

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Adjust the film, please. You’ve got the kids’ legs up over their heads. That don’t look (or sound) right.

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For all those who’ve been hoping to see a Smurf publicly guillotined, your day has come.

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Winner of the nationwide high school art class design-a-poster contest.  Now let’s see how the studio pros handle the same campaign.

Penelope Cruz T.F.’ing a couple swords.  Much improved.  That’s why they get paid the big bucks, kids.

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This is only here because I just found out that it exists.  Due to overwhelming demand!

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As an eternal John Carpenter fan, I can’t wait to see The Ward.  From the looks of this foreign-made poster, maybe I won’t have to.  This looks like the butchered black-market street version.  Is there a country on Earth where this poster could be considered alluring?  Here in America, you’d have to sell the DVD at bargain prices, with a packet of dick-enlargement pills and some breath mints.

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Um. What kind of movie is this, again?  Is this guy’s superhero name “The Mad Tickler”?

The King Of “Ass-Guard”?  He’ll need an ass-guard, with that Mad Tickler running around behind him.

Besides that, this Thor poster isn’t all that bad. It’s just that it reminds me of one of my favorite sad movie posters of all time…

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[For more of this kind of behavior, remember to follow me on Twitter.]