One of the areas in my movie viewing life where I’m fairly obsessive is in managing my Netflix queue with the movies that come in. After working down the massive list I had last summer of films to catch up on, I got my queue to the point where I was just waiting on the new releases to come out. Of course, Hollywood didn’t like that which is why they started introducing 30 day windows from sale to rental for several studios, so that put me behind a bit.
While I watch a whole lot of anime and I have several ongoing TV shows that I watch, movies are still my big thing. But not all of them are things that I can really spend the time writing about on top of everything else but there are ones that I want to get some word out there on because of the impact they left or just the amount of fund I had with it. So we’re introducing our Movie Queue Reviews where every week we’ll talk a bit about the movies we caught during the week, whether from home video, Netflix rental or premium cable channels.
I never saw the original movie, which apparently diverged from the source material a fair bit, and I never read the novel, but I was definitely curious to see this one based on the buzz about it. I’m not a huge fan of westerns but there are plenty I do enjoy and this one has the draw of Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, a US Marshall who isn’t quite the standup guy one would hope a Marshall would be. The movie brings fourteen year old Mattie Ross to hire someone to hunt down the man that killed her father and the one she ends up with is Bridges character. She’s a forthright kid who handles herself better than most adults do but she has an off-putting nature to her that allows her to verbally bully people to her way in a manner. The story is straightforward enough as it plays out with her and Cogburn heading out into Indian Territory to hunt down the man only to run into others that are connected to him as well. Adding to the journey is Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger named LeBouef who is also after the same man because of what he did in Texas. It’s an uneasy alliance at times that goes wrong in more ways than one.
There’s a lot to like about this film with all the performances that matter. Bridges really is a treat to watch as Cogburn, even if you feel there’s a lapse or two into Big Lebowski territory with his dialogue. Matt Damon is enjoyable as the Ranger and the way he talks things up but ends up grating against Cogburn. Hailee Stanfield definitely stands out as Mattie Ross as she goes through all of this through sheer force of will and personality and it’s easy to see a star in the making as she holds her own against such well known and solid performers. What surprised me with this film though is the cinematography. Too many movies of this nature are like love songs to the old west rose colored glasses where we get sweeping vistas and lush landscapes. Here, it’s focused far more on the characters and I don’t believe we had a serious aerial shot here that felt sweeping in nature. There are a lot of quiet scenes, small shots and the like and a few widescreen pieces that play well, such as the intense run at the end, but having it avoid the “Dances With Wolves” effect really helped to make it a more personal film.
When I saw the trailer for Rubber, I knew I had to see it. The short trailer shows off this tire coming to life, rolling around the American Southwest and getting involved with killing a few animals and a few people along the way. It’s a short movie, clocking in under ninety minutes, but I was really curious what they’d try to pull off with it. They take an interesting approach at the start by having an audience within the film that’s participatory with the story going on. That has it taking a few creative turns at times and while it doesn’t talk to the viewer, it lets it try and ease the situation a bit, such as how the players explain at the start that sometimes things happen for no reason. Like, you know, a tire coming to life with psychic powers that lets it explode creatures and people. It’s a strange movie that left you wondering when it would get interesting for a bit (and the in-film audience even says as much too) but it keeps you watching because you can’t be quite sure what it’s going to do.
It’s so fluffy! While I missed this in the theater, I saw it on Blu-ray when it first came out and liked it a whole lot. I eventually bought a copy during a sale and the kids pulled it out to watch today for the first time. They’d all seen it before as well but this movie manages to still be so cute and adorable each time you see it unlike some kids films that end up grating just in the first viewing of it. There’s a bit of meandering in the story at times but the humor hits right and really finds is groove with the minions as they add a whole lot of variety to it. The larger story here about Gru finding something more to life when he takes in a trio of orphaned children in order to use them to steal something from a competing supervillain is a fairly basic one, but the trappings to it makes you grin a lot. It does over the top comedy but knows when to pull back as well. And a lot of the comedy is fairly quiet compared to the loud and brash films like this as the minions get so much across just by expression and some nonsensical phrases. It’s also quite quotable in a lot of ways and even after repeated viewings can still keep a crowd of kids enraptured by it. It’s a rare CG movie that makes me smile like this.
I really wish I had seen this one in the theater as I wanted to, but upon catching this when it was first available for rental, I became an instant fan of Emma Stone. I’d seen her as a secondary or bit player in other films, and I knew she’s set for the new Spider-man film, but seeing her headline this feature really wowed me. Comedy can be the toughest of all the types of entertainment since it’s even more personal for the viewer, but this one does a coming of age story with a fun raunchiness to it that doesn’t actually get smutty or sexual. It’s all verbal play with some sexy costumes for Stone’s part as a rumor about her losing her virginity spirals into her doing all sorts of guys at school. She’s doing them a favor more than anything else though as she says she does various sexual acts with them for money (or gift cards) to help them with their social issues. It’s an amusing stumble into the story when you get down to it, but it ties things a bit to modern social experiences (albeit very limited) and it manages to weave in a decent little romance to it that feels very innocent when you get down to it, playing on contrast to the way she pretends to be so sexual and knowledgeable. This movie has definitely made me a fan of Stone and provided one of the better comedies of recent years that I can go back to easily already for a new viewing.