Tag Archives: The Lovely Bones

Reviewing My “Most Anticipated Movies of 2009”: How’d They Turn Out?

Last year in late August, I counted down my 10 most anticipated films for the rest of the year. Looking back, it seems like a very strange list. In preparation for a similar list I’ll be making for this year, let’s take a quick look back at how those films turned out:

Nine – A dull waste of a great cast (5/10)

Taking Woodstock – Despite the lukewarm reviews, I actually enjoyed this movie quite a bit. A bit long and unfocussed, though (7/10)

Where the Wild Things Are – The opening fifteen minutes are magical, the rest is very good (8/10)

Sherlock Holmes – Enjoyable performances from Downey and Law, otherwise forgettable but well-made (6/10)

Whip It – Mediocre direction from Barrymore, but it’s a nice little film with a good spirit (6/10)

Fame – Not seen due to critical panning

Brothers – A very underrated and powerful film from ’09. Gyllenhaal is amazing (8/10)

The Road – Not seen due to me losing all interest in it

The Lovely Bones – Visually appealing, but the narrative is a choppy mess. Wahlberg, Ronan, and Tucci are great (5/10)

Love Happens – Not seen due to me being insane for putting it on this list in the first place.

Mini-Reviews: 2009 Oscar Movies

I’ve been catching up on a lot of the big Oscar movies of the past year on DVD, so I figured that I’d do a few short reviews in one post to cover some of them.

The Lovely Bones

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Stanley Tucci)

In The Lovely Bones, director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong) adapts Alice Sebold’s acclaimed 2002 novel about a young girl, Susie Salmon (Ronan), who is murdered by her neighbour. As her family grieves and attempts to uncover who is behind the killing, Susie watches down on them from a purgatory-like “in-between”.

The problem with the film version of The Lovely Bones is not in the real-world thriller storyline. Jackson creates a nice sense of tension with Wahlberg as the father desperate for justice, and Tucci as the murderer who is living under the family’s noses without them realising it. The problem lies in indulgent scenes that take place in the reality-bending “in-between”, and the heavy-handed treatment of Susie’s attempts to connect with her family from the great beyond. There are too many flashbacks and echo-y voices reminding us of things that we’ve already seen, and Jackson uses slow-motion throughout the film so copiously that it begins lose all meaning.

Tucci, Ronan, and Wahlberg do help to prop up the flimsy, clunky screen adaptation of a well-paced novel. Tucci, especially, is creepy and fantastic as the complicated man who takes Susie’s life from her, and his screen presence is compelling as his character deals with the aftermath of what he’s done.

The film switches from a taught crime drama to meandering visual experimentation at a breakneck pace, and unfortunately, three strong performances and a handful of effective scenes is not enough to save this mess. 5/10


The Blind Side

Director: John Lee Hancock

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head

Oscar Wins: Best Actress (Sandra Bullock)

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture

One of the year’s more polarizing Oscar contenders, The Blind Side, finds Sandra Bullock playing Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy southern belle who takes in a homeless football prodigy.

As you might suspect, the main reason to see this movie is Bullock. Her feisty, warm performance is spunk personified. The supporting performers obviously take a back seat to Bullock, but McGraw, though not given much to do, is surprisingly charming as Leigh Anne’s husband, Sean.

As for the film itself, it’s a nice story that’ll probably make you feel good as the end credits roll. But The Blind Side also largely glosses over many of the horrifying things that the homeless teen, Michael (Aaron), has experienced before finding a home with the Tuohys. This cinematic self-consciousness is present throughout many of the scenes that are supposed to take a “gritty” look at the mean streets of Memphis. And the only attempts at social commentary from the Touhys’ end are a couple of lazy scenes where Leigh Anne starts to find herself annoyed by her snobby, rich friends.

That being said, the film just barely avoids painting Leigh Anne as a wholly saintly character. Just as I felt myself getting frustrated by the one-sided portrayal of the Tuohys, Hancock did a good job of flipping the story slightly, and questioning their motivations.

As far as inspirational sports movies go, The Blind Side is one of the better ones. I can understand why so many people connected with the film, and especially with Bullock’s performance. It doesn’t offer anything new in terms of story or filmmaking, but it’s an enjoyable enough film. 7/10


Crazy Heart

Director: Scott Cooper

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall

Oscar Wins: Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Original Song (“The Weary Kind”)

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

First-time director Scott Cooper examines a grizzled country musician appropriately named Bad Blake (Bridges) in this understated slice-of-life film about mortality and pride.

The story here is quiet. Bad Blake – now a 57-year-old alcoholic – finds his career stalling, until he meets a young journalist, Jane (Gyllenhaal), who takes an interest in both him and his story. But both Bridges and Gyllenhaal are magnetic enough to propel this modest story for 112 minutes. Despite the age gap, their on-screen chemistry is great, and both of their performances are unglamorous, but compelling nonetheless. Bridges embodies this broken man with such a quiet sense of desperation, and is rightly deserving of his Oscar win (even if I slightly prefer Colin Firth’s performance in A Single Man).

Aside from the acting, the story is conventional, but quite enjoyable. Nothing happens over the course of the film that you weren’t already expecting and haven’t already seen play out in other films. But the strength of the acting and Cooper’s solid (if not unadventurous) directing overrides some of the clichéd material. Without Bridges, Crazy Heart would feel far less fresh.

Another great strength of Crazy Heart is the music that seeps through in nearly every scene of the film. Ryan Bingham and T. Bone Burnett’s Oscar winning song for the film, “The Weary Kind”, is beautiful, and the rest of the film’s soundtrack is so universally good that it transcends genre. Bingham himself appears briefly in the film as one of Bad’s back-up musicians, and it’s great to see him get to take on a number on screen. 7/10

My Most Anticipated Movies of 2009

Sherlock Holmes

I have a few half-finished blog entries floating around on my hard drive, but after seeing a few rather interesting movie trailers at Julie & Julia the other night, I figured that instead of actually finishing anything, I’d share some of the movies that I’m looking forward to most this year.

 

Nine

I’d vaguely heard of Daniel Day-Lewis’ next film a while ago, but I saw the trailer for the first time at Julie & Julia. All I can say is WOW. I’m not exactly sure why I am so excited for this movie. I wasn’t all that crazy about Chicago (which was done by the same director), and while I appreciated the inventiveness of Moulin Rouge!, it didn’t quite do it for me, either. I’m not even entirely sure what this movie is about. Maybe it’s Daniel Day-Lewis, or the incredibly flashy trailer, but something about Nine has just totally captured my curiosity. It looks provocative, over-the-top and just plain exciting, which is refreshing. It’s got an all-star cast (which can sometimes spell disaster, but in this case looks promising), and with Kidman, Cotillard, Cruz, and Day-Lewis, I think it’s going to be good.


 

Taking Woodstock

Officially released this Friday (and probably never coming to a theatre near me), Ang Lee’s take on the true story of a young man whose property became the site of the legendary Woodstock festival looks like it’ll be right up my alley. The reviews are mixed so far, but I looove Demetri Martin’s stand-up (and I’ve heard that he’s quite good in the movie). The whole 60’s/Woodstock thing has fascinated me for a while (though I do believe that it has all been majorly romanticized), and the movie looks like a wonderful, vibrant coming-of-age story.

 

Where The Wild Things Are

Excitement levels have been through the roof since the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are hit the internet months ago, and I hopped on the bandwagon right along with everyone else. I love all of Spike Jonze’s work (Being John Malkovich! Adaptation! So many seminal 90’s music videos!), and it looks like he might have topped himself with this fanciful take on the classic children’s book (I’m sure it was read to me at some point in my life…) Whimsical and warm, if the trailer is any indication of what’s to come, count me in.

 

Sherlock Holmes

Well, come on! Robert Downey Jr. is proving himself to be one of the most bankable stars of the late 00’s thanks to his massive comeback in Iron Man, and Sherlock Holmes (set for a holiday release) looks like it could be another huge hit for the guy. I was initially slightly confused by the casting, but after seeing the trailer, I get it. It looks fun, charming, and exciting, and I’m definitely excited for Downey’s performance as Holmes himself. It’s directed by Guy Ritchie and co-stars Jude Law and Rachel McAdams.

 

Whip It

Ellen Page is awesome, so of course I’m looking forward to this one. It’s Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, but after being in movie’s all of her life and producing Donnie Darko, she clearly knows how a movie is made. This roller-derby story looks fun and surprisingly heart warming, and I’m glad to see Kristen Wiig getting more film work (even if it is still a supporting role). And whoever that guy is who’s with Ellen Page in the trailer, I’m keeping my eye on him!

 

 

Fame

Okay, so this one might turn out to be terrible. But for now, I will at least say that I’m “optimistic” about this remake of the 1980 classic dance film. The trailer looked good, and it feels like this is a good time for the Fame remake to be released. With the success of the High School Musical franchise and shows like So You Think You Can Dance, they’re smart to strike while the iron is hot. Fame looks a grittier and more authentic than High School Musical, and seems to feature genuinely talented teens. (Although I just found out that Fame’s only going to be rated PG? Maybe it will be lame after all…)

 

Brothers

Jake Gyllenhall and Natalie Portman are two of the most talented young actors around. And even though the plot kind of sounds like a ridiculous soap opera, I’m still hopeful about this project. Somebody finally thought to cast Gyllenhall and Tobey Maguire as brothers, and judging by the trailer, everyone’s chemistry seems good. To me, Brothers looks like it will be tense and brooding, in a good way.

 

The Road

I don’t know much about it, but this adaptation of the acclaimed Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country For Old Men) novel looks exciting and horrifying. Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron are great, and this post-apocalyptic world looks legitimately interesting, unlike some of the big-budget action movies that try to portray a similar world.

 

The Lovely Bones

I liked the book, so I’m curious to see what they do with the movie. To start with, it’s got a great cast. Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon and Mark Wahlberg are all top-notch actors. While My Sister’s Keeper and The Time Traveller’s Wife apparently fell flat when put to the big screen (though I haven’t read either book or seen the movies), I think that this one could succeed. I’m a bit iffy on the trailer (I think they’re trying to make it look exciting by focussing more on the killing than the Salmon family dealing with the death, which is more what the book was about), but I’ll still definitely be checking out The Lovely Bones.

 

Love Happens

Okay, so it looks a little sappy/conventional, but I don’t think that there are two better actors out there to pull off a this kind of big, Hollywood romance. I love Aaron Eckhart, and I think that Jennifer Aniston deserves more credit than she usually gets. And any movie that has Judy Greer as the sassy, tells-it-like-it-is friend clearly has some redeeming qualities. Love Happens looks like the kind of movie that I would typically avoid, but I guess I’m just drawn to this one.