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Monday, February 15, 2010

Reviews: Crazy Heart, The Hangover, Humpday, Summer Hours

I've spent DC's recent "snopocalypse" catching up on some 2009 films, some better than others....

Crazy Heart (2009)

Jeff Bridges is on his way to a Best Actor for this one, and it's easy to see why. He is in almost every frame of the movie, and his performance is perfect. He's Bad Blake, a washed-up (albeit talented) country music singer who has jettisoned human connection for one-night stands and alcohol. He begins to see a different path when he meets a young music reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

For anyone who saw The Wrestler, the outlines of this movie will be VERY familiar. While The Wrestler connected more viscerally with the viewer's emotions, this movie is much more pleasant to watch. Maybe I just like music a bit more than professional wrestling. While there is a good share of heartache, there are also some really sweet moments and the music is terrific. I had a bit of a plausability problem with the age difference in the central relationship, but Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are good enough actors to make me believe.

Grade: B+

For your viewering pleasure, here's the central song from the movie:

The Hangover (2009)

After winning the Best Comedy award at the Golden Globes, I have to say that I was fairly disappointed in this movie. While it's buddy-comedy and guy-talk dialogue bring to mind the films of Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), this movie doesn't have the sweetness of the characters in this movie. There are some really funny moments (Mike Tyson's scenes being my favorites), but also some really weak scenes (tasers, Chinese gangsters). The cast is pretty good, and great in the case of Zach Galifianikis as the dim-witted brother-in-law. His lines were almost always hilarious. I wish the movie was just written with a bit more wit.

Grade: C+

Humpday (2009)

A prime example of the new "mumblecore" astehetic, low-budget, talky indie movies that focus on personal relationships. While I was a bit down on Medicine for Melancholy, I liked this one a lot. It's about two friends who decide to go ahead and perform in an explicit art project together. While the movie sounds titillating, it's a lot more "naked" about the emotions of the characters than about their actions. The three main actors are great, and the movie is simultaneously awkward and fascinating to watch. Definitely recommended.

Grade: B+

Summer Hours (2009)

This French movie is about three adult children arguing over their mother's estate, filled with artistic treasures. Do they keep the estate for their children to enjoy, or do they sell it for the money? That's pretty much the plot of this very French film. The movie is abou
t modernization, globalization, and what families lose in the process. It starts beautifully, giving the viewer 30 minutes where we understand both the beauty of the estate and the relationships of the mother and her children. The middle of the movie is a bit of a let-down, as the characters talk of their plans for the villa. The ending of this movie is both heartbreaking and beautiful, as the grandchildren have a last hurrah at the estate. Lots to think about, but I wish it had gone a little deeper in the relationships in the film.

Grade: B

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