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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The King's Speech

A biopic set in pre-WWII England. A pedigreed cast. Rich, regal sets. And, it's about the royals, who, thanks to Wills and Kate Middleton, are hotter than ever. Even if it were a snoozer, this flick would have Oscar written all over it.

But, a movie about an accidental king with a life-long stutter turns out to be anything but dull. It's absolutely engrossing. And, so dear.

Here's the setting: King George V (Michael Gambon) is in declining health. His eldest son and heir to the throne (Guy Pearce) has embarked on an ill-advised love affair with a twice-divorced American. His second son, known as "Bertie" (Colin Firth) may well be called on to lead the kingdom, but Bertie has never been prepared for the duty. Even the nanny regarded him with little respect when he and his brothers were young.

As England will eventually be pulled into war with Germany, the kingdom needs a skilled orator to reassure an anxious public. A reluctant Bertie is hardly suited to the challenge.

But, he has a sweetheart of a wife (Helena Bonham Carter) who is willing to try an unorthodox therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), since all the other approved doctors and methods have failed.

Logue's approach is so unorthodox, in fact, that he insists on Bertie treated him as an equal. This doesn't set well with a monarch -- even a reluctant one. But, after initial reservations, Bertie is willing to go along with the treatment because it is, surprisingly, effective.

What happens next could be called a royal bromance, as the king and his speech therapist spar, needle each other, share childhood hurts and grow genuinely fond of each other. Firth will surely be nominated for an Oscar and is likely to give a big speech of his own at the ceremony in 2011. He'll deserve to. See it!

                                                               The King's Speech

Friday, December 17, 2010

Black Swan

While Natalie Portman gives a powerful, Oscar-caliber performance in Black Swan, the heavily hyped movie may well be the biggest cinematic disappointment of 2010.

Portman's acting and dancing are remarkable. Always diminutive, she lost a scary amount of weight to portray Nina Sayers, a physically and psychologically scarred ballerina. The music is a perfect, chilling companion to the psychosexual drama. It's the story that's the weak link here. Well, that and, it must be said, the directing.

Director Darren Aronofsky makes an interesting choice -- repeatedly -- in having the camera trail Portman. It follows her and her chignon through the apartment she shares with her has-been ballerina mother, played by Barbara Hershey; from the subway to the performance hall; through the labyrinthine corridors of the theater where she rehearses. We get it, already. She feels like she's being followed.

Along about the time Nina descends into madness, the chignon gets messy. A few of the bobby pins must've fallen out. You know, to symbolize that Nina may have a screw loose. Well, duh. She's anorexic, lets her mother undress her and get her ready for bed and has a scratching disorder.

As Nina comes undone, so does the movie. It devolves into utter silliness. I've seen movies of the week with less melodrama. In fact, the whole thing has sort of a "woman on the brink" quality you might expect in a Lifetime movie.

Aside from the four main characters (Nina, her mother, the predatory choreographer who challenges Nina to live a little -- and by that, he means, start doin' the nasty -- and her rival), the other actors may as well be props. The rival ballerina, Lily, (Mila Kunis) is all wrong. The "bad girl" shows up late for rehearsal, doesn't need to warm up, smokes, boozes it up and -- here's where it's really ridiculous -- eats. Burgers.

I guess there's a chance Lily is Nina's alter-ego. There are a few clues that Nina/Lily may represent two personalities of the same person. I'm not invested enough in any the characters to ponder it much longer. I thought this movie was going to be crazy good. Turns out, it's just crazy. Skip it.

Black Swan